Jun 23 2008

Migration complete

I changed ISP’s and thus web and email servers and it’s been quite an adventure in technology stewardship (supporting myself in this case)! Here are a few of the steps along the way:

  • I decided to reduce costs and increase my site’s flexibility, foregoing the wonderful, bullet-proof services at Easystreet a few months ago. As I mulled the conversion process, I realized that I could use myself and my transition as a dress rehearsal for a similar, but more complex, move I have planned for CPsquare (although CPsquare’s move is not really optional, like mine was).
  • There are so many themes out there, with with so many subtle differences. Wow. After a lot of browsing, I chose the Connections theme by Patricia Müller, installed it and started making modifications. Previously I’d found recommendations for Firebug — a tool that helps you with the editing process. I decided to use Firebug.
  • I downloaded and installed the Firebug add-on, noting that there were different versions for Firefox 2 and Firefox 3. Thinking that Firefox 3 had just been released the previous day, I decided to be conservative and stick with Firefox 2. When I fired up Firebug, I found that I was missing “DOM Inspector.” So I downloaded Firefox 3 and then un-installed Firefox completely and then got Firebug working and then, finally, set about working on my site.
  • I decided to change the header picture on my website. I broke down and got a new copy of Snagit, version 9. Wow, that made pasting the photos together so easy!
  • I used WordPress’ nifty XML export and import feature to move all the pages over from the old site. A small problem: the site was too big to import. I looked at the import file with a text editor and found that there were tens of thousands of “post meta tag” records, all of them identical, all of them looking bogus. In retrospect this was a bit foolhardy, but I went onto the old site and deleted all of the post meta tags, operating directly on the SQL database. After that, the export and import files were a lot smaller and presto! all of the content from one site appeared on the other, including pictures! (I think I did loose the categories on postings in the new site, so I’ll have to go back in and classify everything by hand, which is probably not a bad thing to do, but is very likely to not get done, what with all the other projects I have going.)
  • I figured out URLs that would remain functional before and after the domain name switch (or at least I thought I figured them out). I got to where I was ready to flip the switch (even though there are many pages that remained to be replicated on the new site). This involved telling WordPress that the new site’s name was something ugly like http://pdxwebsitehosting/~accountname.
  • With that subterfuge in place, I added content and fixed parameters on the new WordPress-powered website. I even made the theme “Widget-aware” thinking that when it came to CPsquare’s move, one of my goals is to make it easy for other people to maintain and modify the website. That yielded little insights such as “PHP scoops up a file named ‘functions.php’ in a directory if it finds a reference to a function that has not been defined, and executes it without a whimper.” Of course, everything you learn on an expedition like this is tentative, subject to future disproof.
  • When I was more or less ready, I found my password for the domain name registry and flipped the switch. Nothing seemed to happen. Except that I could no longer use the ugly name to fix the messy loose ends on the new site, since “learningalliances.net” still pointed back to the old web server on Easystreet. The hours passed. As my nerves jangled, I looked around and discovered that my new email server was already receiving email, although I could only send email via the old email server. It occurred to me to go down the street to a coffee shop and, using their wi-fi, I discovered that the switch had occurred, although Easystreet seemed to over-ride it with a local domain-name table. (This was confirmed by one of the very helpful help-desk folks at Easystreet, who also said he could not over-ride it, so I’d have to wait for the change till the expert arrived on Monday morning.) So I spent the weekend receiving email on the new site with a browser-based email client and sending email out via the old site using Outlook.
  • By Monday morning at around 10 am, the new site was working, email was working, and I think I can even post to the new version of WordPress!

What did I learn?

  • Everything is connected to everything, and you change the pieces to understand how each one works with the others.
  • This kind of change involves a lot of just-in-time learning and is nerve-racking.
  • The tools for doing this kind of job are really impressive.
  • It’s time to get my head out of the computer and start working on a long list of things that have gotten deferred in the meantime.

4 responses so far

4 Responses to “Migration complete”

  1. Lynn Tveskov says:

    Well, you invited us, so just stopping by to wave.

  2. smithjd says:

    Lynn, you stopped by at just the right time. It took forever to figure out how to get comments working without opening the sluice-gates for SPAMers. 🙂

  3. […] complex move to the same set-up in the near future. It was kind of agonizing (my little report on my success turned out to be premature, since the agony continued for a few days more). But today I discovered […]

  4. Bev Trayner says:

    I find it absolutely fascinating to look over your shoulder and see what you’re doing. Those little things which add up to a surface picture of “I’m working”. Maybe that’s also why twitter is interesting .. it gives you slightly deeper snippets.

    Think I’m going to do something similar on my blog.

    p.s. We were talking to you from Munich!