About the author.

Welcome to The blog of whall

Come on in and stay a while… laugh a little. Maybe even think. Read more...

Hi, This is Wayne. This is my site, my stuff, my blog, blahblahblah. The site itself is powered by WordPress and the Scary Little theme. I thought it was cool, and I still do.

I’ve hit my head against the virtual wall (whall?) more times than I can count over the past few years on something that I suddenly “fixed” recently, and I wanted to blog it for the masses.

In short,

If you’re running WordPress or any PHP-based application on a host that has both PHP 4.0 and 5.0 installed, append the following to your .htaccess file for that application:

Options All -Indexes
AddType x-mapp-php5 .php
AddHandler x-mapp-php5 .php

As an added bonus, I also detail how to upgrade MySQL 4.0 database to MySQL 5.0 on 1 & 1 hosting (see extended entry below).

I use 1 & 1 for my internet hosting, and have since, oh, 2003 or so. For the price I pay and the service I get, I’m very happy. There have been a few glitches, to be sure, and I’ve blogged about a few of them. But overall, I’ve been a happy camper.

I mention 1 & 1 because on all their shared hosting packages, they install both PHP 4.0 and 5.0. Ever since I can remember, I’ve had the dreaded “Internal Server Error 500” on a few things on my blog, like exporting my blog to XML as a backup, or similar tasks. Sure, I can always do the manual MySQL backup because I’m a geek, but it annoyed me that I couldn’t do the XML backup. Also, some plugins just wouldn’t work right, and auto-upgrade almost NEVER worked.

This inability to auto-upgrade also frustrated some of the people I host blogs for. Yes, I host blogs. For those special few in my life (heh) I will set up, install, configure and host a wordpress blog so they don’t have to worry about it. I typically only have them pay for the domain name ($10 a year or so) and I host the site for free. I host more than a hundred domains, including personal blogs, commercial blogs, non-profit websites, and I use WordPress, Joomla, Drupal and even raw HTML (the shock and awe!), wherever appropriate. It’s not a money maker for me, and I only ask that if someone I host gets wildly popular and makes millions of dollars, that they kindly remember me on my birthday.

On every WordPress blog I hosted, the authors weren’t able to consistently install or update plugins, or perform the auto-update feature inside of WordPress. It would either give that infernal Internal Server Error 500 or it would just hang. So, they’d email me, I’d procrastinate, they’d nudge, I’d forget, they’d ask politely a fortieth time, I’d promise to do it, and then eventually I’d manually upgrade their plugins a year later.

I’m happy to say that the above .htaccess file changes have completely eradicated the auto-upgrade errors, and I can perform the XML backups all day long without a problem. Not only that, but my blog actually seems faster. In case you care, the .htaccess lines tell Apache (the web server running on the host) to use PHP 5.0 to process all the files ending in .php instead of the default of PHP 4.0.

I’d do a happy dance if there weren’t so many adoring fans surrounding me, restricting my movements.

For the big WordPress 2.9 upgrade that I’ve been putting off, I was also challenged by the fact that my personal blog as well as a few blogs I host used the older MySQL 4.0 databases instead of the newer MySQL 5.0 databases. WordPress 2.9 required a later version of 4.0 than 1 & 1 had installed, and I was wary of diving into the “upgrade MySQL 4.0 database to 5.0” process.

Until last night.

The database upgrade went quite smoothly (this post was most helpful). In fact, I got it down to a science – take the values from the wp-config.php file (database name, username, and host name) and put it into the mysqldump / mysql commands to pull from the old 4.0 database and insert into the new 5.0 database.

My steps, for those interested and the inevitable Google searches that will land here, are documented in the extended version below.

Once I upgraded my MySQL Database to 5.0 and added the .htaccess lines at the top of the post, the WordPress 2.9 auto-upgrade was a cinch. Not only that, but several of the plugins that wouldn’t auto-update updated without issue. It was so easy and fun that I upgraded a few dozen blogs and their plugins as well.

Needless to say, I was quite pleased with myself. I’m celebrating by actually taking time to blog about it so you can be pleased with me, too!

If geekiness of this nature doesn’t please you, then maybe this Tom Tom Darth Vader behind the scenes video will.

Enjoy 🙂


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September
11
2008
2:41 pm
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ALERT! ALERT! ALERT! ALERT! ALERT! ALERT!

ALERT! ALERT! ALERT! ALERT! ALERT! ALERT!

This is another one of those semi-technical posts about my blog. Proceed at your own peril.

Question: Would you complain?

I mean, let’s say you have a blog. It’s not a business, you don’t rake in donations for the homeless, and people on breathing machines don’t depend on your site for their next life-giving gasp of air. Its. Just. A. Blog.

Despite the monotonous blogtitude of it all (it’s a blog every day, day in, day out, it’s never anything but a blog) of your blog’s existence, it still has a yearning to, well, exist. It (the blog) really doesn’t like it when it, um isn’t. Isn’ting isn’t a very cool thing to be. IS is where it’s at.

The Blog Is. I Am. We Are (the world). That’s what she said.

Anyway, where was I? Oh yeah, Is.

For a long long time, my blog was. It was up. It was around. It was on. Then, a couple of times recently, it was broken. So what do you do? Do you call your ISP and complain to them “hey, like, hey man, like my blog. Something’s wrong with it” and then they say “it looks fine to me!” and then I’m all like “whoa, man, like, you’re RIGHT. It is cool. That’s a trip.”

And so on it goes.

However, I have a little thing in my back pocket called MONITORING. I work for a nationwide ISP who prides itself on uptime, customer service, and actually proving if things are up or not. One of the products we used to have is called NetCool ISM, and we still have it around, although it’s a very old version and probably not supported any more.

The rest of my troubleshooting, replete with pretty eye candy, graphs, technical jargon, and unix stuff, is in the extended entry below

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Happy Labor Day!

PS: do the unemployed celebrate Labor Day? 

Don’t forget – LOLcats are at the end.  This week I have two semi-long stories.  They didn’t start off that way.. in fact, they started off empty.


Crucial contradition

Does my pinky look fat to you? 

My parents had an older laptop that wasn’t suitable for use within their business anymore, but probably would be fine for internet browsing, email, chat and homework, so I wanted to see if it would work for my 14yr-old daughter.  It’s an older (> 4yr old) Sony Vaio (Vaio’s are so cool!).

So far, it’s proven to be an excellent laptop for student use.  The CPU is fast enough, it has decent battery life, it has wireless, etc.  It has 512MB ram on it, so I wanted to see about upgrading it.  The online manual says it can go to a gig, which should be plenty good enough (and in all frankness, the 512MB really is good enough , but if it’s only $15-20 I’d like to get the upgrade).

So I go to crucial’s site and have it auto scan the system.  And I’m confronted with a contradiction:

sony vaio crucial ram tester upgrade

On the one hand, it says my system already has the maximum amount installed.  Then it says I have 512MB installed with a capacity of 1024MB.  Then it says I have 0 available memory slots.  I CAN’T TAKE IT!

FAIL.   So I’ll have to dig into the manuals and figure out what I really can do.

The second thing I wanted to mention about the laptop is that I could probably never use it, at least for any length of time.  They keyboard is so incredibly hard for me to use!  The shift key is miniscule and all the keys I use frequently (end/home/pgup/pgdn) require the use of a function key.

sony vaio laptop keyboard is too small shift fn function key

As I was using it to run updates, install anti-virus, anti-spyware, etc, I found my pinky constantly hitting the up-arrow button instead of shift. 

I had no idea my pinky was so fat!


Wayne: 1;  1 and 1: 0

Once again I feel compelled to write about 1&1, my ISP.  I’ve done it before, and it’s not always a good thing.  Just now I realized that LAST Labor Day, they screwed up as well (complete with a WHALL LOLcat photo).

On Sunday, I got an email from the President of our Astrological Society asking if our website was down and sure enough, I checked and there was the dreaded Internal Server Error – 500.  After a bit of troubleshooting (it’s what I’m really good at), I determined that Apache, the web service software, was running fine, but PHP, the “scripting brains” behind WordPress and many other types of web sites, was not. 

Since this is a hosted service and not a dedicated server, I have extremely limited privileges on the machine.  All I can do is call them up and beg for them to look at it.  After a phone call that basically verified that the person answering the phone doesn’t know what they’re talking about, I at least got them to do, quote “reset the web service.”  Ah, is that what the kids are calling it these days?  He said to call back in 30-40 minutes because that’s how long it took (Wha???).  I was increasingly frustrated but it’s all I could do.

An hour later, nothing was fixed so I called back in.  This time the guy had a different answer that was even more absurd than the first.  He put me on hold for a bit and then came back and said “is it working now for you?”  I verified that it was and asked what the deal was.  He said “there were too many processes running on the server you were on, so we killed a few and it’s working.”  I had assumed he meant someone else’s hosting package because I don’t run anything but wordpress and drupal, and it’s all web-based.

Then the next day I got a twitter letting my know my blog was down.  Same problem: Internal Server Error 500.  I was mobile, so I emailed 1&1 support letting them know the problem was back; here’s my case number from yesterday, please fix it, and tell me what is causing it a second time in a row.

The response from 1&1 is so bad it’s laughable.

We have checked further your issue here. We need to ask more information form you. What website application are you using when you build your blog site? Is it thru wordpress or thru your 1and1 blog?  If your answer is wordpress you need to upload .htaccess file to the home directory file, yet make it sure that you have back up file for your existing .htaccess file. After which you need to parse the php to php 5.

All you techno-neophytes out there – don’t worry if you don’t understand the above paragraph.  The paragraph makes no sense, AND it’s completely wrong.

I called in to support and let them know that the email response I received was inaccurate and unacceptable.  After talking with them for a while (and holding forever), the guy told me that I had too many processes running.  Specifically, he said I had too many PHP connections open.  So naturally I wanted to know – “how many connections?  What’s the limit?  How do they know they’re mine?  How can I determine this myself so I prevent the problem in the future?

He had no answers at all.  He just kept talking himself into a hole, using terms he had no business using.  I wish I could have recorded the conversation.

I also responded to the email:

I just called in and got a completely different answer than what you just put in the ticket. Your response portrays a significant lack of knowledge on the service you provide.  Please escalate this to the next level and explain to me how I’m using too many processes. Is it a load average issue? Inodes? Number of running processes? Ram consumed? Is there some quota that I’m subjected to that I’m exceeding? I need my hosting service to work and I need to know what arbitrary limitation has been placed upon my package recently that is causing this issue.

And guess what response I got…. yup, completely unrelated gibberish

We thank you for providing us the necessary informations. As we have checked on the websites whall.org/blog and astrologyaustin.org , we can see that both websites are working fine. We have also checked on the server where your websites are being hosted an it is also working fine.  Please try to clear the cache and cookies of the web browser that your using or use another web browser.

I almost wish the hosting package wasn’t so inexpensive, or that the cost of transferring 100+ domains wasn’t so prohibitively costly.  I’d consider switching if otherwise.


Best of LOLcats

I want you all to know that I’m not so closed-minded that LOLcats has to be restricted to cats. 

lolcats omg that dress ick dog

 

lolcats surprise eggs dude not yet

lolcats make da voices stop

 

 

Today I became the slave to my domains.

By the way, in case you didn’t know, this is what it looks like when I’m frustrated:

(side note: this is also what it looks like if my laptop were filled with flour and it exploded while I was sighing.)

I did a boo-boo on 40+ of my 100+ domains and didn’t know it until today. Metalmom asked me a question about an email she received about her domain last night. The email itself puzzled me a little, and just for grins, I checked her website from my blackberry while riding the bus this morning and I couldn’t reach it.

Then I tried another one of the websites I host, http://jennefer.net, and it had the same problem. And another site? Same problem. Even simple redirects to Blogger/Blogspot sites like I do for Sourpuss was hosed.

As I checked them, I discovered that all had “parking pages” on them, not the blogs or redirects I had so lovingly set up. Then it hit me – a couple of days ago. I was in my 1 & 1 account cleaning up my domains. I had specified for the domains to not be auto-renewed, but what I didn’t know at the time was that by doing so,

  1. 1&1 would change the DNS settings to their own parking pages
    Result: breaking whatever sites I had on them at the time
  2. Domain registration would be set to Public vs Private
    Result: my personal information such as home address, phone, email, etc would be revealed in WHOIS
  3. I would lose the ability to manage the domain from my control panel
    Result: I would panic because I couldn’t fix it myself, and instead I have to wait on 1&1 Billing personnel. Metalmom remains whimpering in a fetal position while her blog is “down” for some.

This is very frustrating.

To be fair, the “cancel auto-renew” process did alert me at the time that I would lose private registration, but I thought that would be for when the domain period expired, NOT immediately. And they absolutely did not indicate whatsoever that they would be changing all my DNS settings for these domains to a parking page, which is the Big Bad Part.

However, even after four phone calls to support and billing, the requirement is upon ME to fax them with my customer ID, contract ID, package name, PASSWORD (what tha?) and the list of domains I want put back on auto-renew. I still have no idea how long it will take for them to fix the problem, but I at least was able to fix Metalmom’s site, and hopefully it won’t take too long for DNS to propagate through teh internetz.

I’ve sent the fax and am now waiting for them to fix the problem.

Waiting.

Waiting.

September
4
2007
11:20 am
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I still like what I get, in general, from 1 & 1.  The prices are great, and the package is awesome (3TB/transfer per month, 300GB storage, 1000 email accounts, etc).  But sometimes they just plain suck.

They suck like a hoover.

First, back in December 2006 they caused me much grief.  Four days of grief.

Then, just this last month I actually got to guest post on an important person’s blog and I was down again – THE DAY OF THE GUEST POST.  This is the biggest day for a small-time blog like mine where people see the guest post, and if they like it, they visit the author’s blog.  Worst.  Timing.  Ever.

Yesterday, I was down (all my email, all my websites) from about midnight Monday morning until just a few hours ago today.

Here’s how it all went down:

  • About a month ago, I get a notice that my credit card on file for billing is going to expire in October, so I should update it.
  • I go online to do so, and Paypal is recommended.  I thought “whoa, they take paypal now?”  I’ve been a paypal user since, oh, 1999 or so, and I use it all the time.  I like how I can use multiple funding sources AFTER it uses up my paypal balance.
  • I get a confirmation that the new payment method has gone through. 
  • Midnight on Labor Day (yesterday as I write this), all my email and domains stop working.  I have 132 domains and 149 mailboxes.
  • I call in and Tech Support says “your domain is locked due to a billing issue”.  I say “well then let me talk to billing – I had just made a change from my old credit card to Paypal, so something’s messed up”.  They say “Due to the holiday, the billing department is closed.”

WHAT?!?!?!?  They can take actions such as locking an account but they can’t fix their own mistakes?

After I complain and escalate for a while, the guy tells me that there is something they can do to “bounce” or “retry” the account and I should wait 3 hours.  I ask if I should put my billing back to a normal credit card instead of paypal because maybe their paypal processing system is down.  I just want my domains back on.

He keeps informing me that the Billing Dept is down and that there’s nothing Tech Support can do to unlock the account.  This is so incredibly frustrating.  It’s like 1 & 1’s tech support is taught to just delay, hold people off for a couple of hours, or stall.  Lie if you have to.

I trusted him for a while but I was still down last night so I just went online and changed my account to normal credit card and WHAMMO, 3 hours later everything starts working again.

I hate liars.

ooooh!  and today I get an email asking me to take a survey for my customer support experience!

December
27
2006
3:38 pm
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As you may have seen in my previous post about my sites being down at 1&1, I was waiting for a response to my complaint letter. In summary, my internet hosting was inaccessible (ie, “down”) for 4 days while I made numerous attempts with their support department to understand and ideally resolve the outage. I was handed “The Support Runaround” baton approximately three million times and in the end, the resolution was what I had suggested to them the first day (me being a Unix admin myself).

My complaint letter is below in the extended entry, as is 1&1‘s reply. I must say, they surprised me. With some of the other customer experiences I’ve seen on some forums, blog posts, and some dissatisfied rants, I was expecting AT BEST a “we’re sorry this happened, oh, that’s terrible, here’s a free month of hosting and we’l try not to do it again. kthanxbye!” My actual expectation was more along the lines of being ignored or maybe being dropped for being a vocal complainer.

Instead, I received a response that was actually very nice. In fact, it had the following qualities:

Specific Quality of Response Letter What it showed me
Written quite well someone there is competent.
Lengthy and detailed enough they took my complaint seriously
Addressed my explicit concerns they heard me
Went into full disclosure of the breakdown on their end they are honest about their mistakes.
Assured me that my experience is irregular gave me confidence about staying
Expressed understanding and shared frustration at what I went through they have empathy; increasing confidence
Offered compensation via service credit they put some teeth into the apology
Were gracious with generous offer they’re humble and polite enough

So in general, I’m happy again. I’m glad 1&1 is going to make it easy to stay a customer.

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December
19
2006
10:58 am
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I’ll post more after while once I calm down, but finally, my sites are back up, including my blog. Argh. 4 days I was down.

December
15
2006
12:47 pm
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So as much as I like 1 & 1 for hosting, this morning I had a problem.  Most, if not all, of my sites were down.  Including this one you’re reading.  When I ssh’ed in, it showed no files in my directory.  I couldn’t FTP.  I couldn’t log in.  Did I mention my sites were down?  Not good.  I have 113 domains on my account

I called in and got straight through to an agent.  Cool!  I explained the problem, he went checking and put me on Hold.  The music was not your typical music.  I didn’t recognize the artist, but it was an honest-to-goodness song.

So he came back, he said it would be fixed in about 30 minutes or so, and gave me a case ID.

Now it’s a couple hours later and it’s still not fixed.  I call in, but get to the queue.  Here’s where, even though I’m a little perturbed that my problem isn’t fixed (my blog site is back up, as you can see here… and my sql database seems fine, but all my other sites are down and I can’t ssh in), the hold music had “While My Guitar Gently Weeps” by George Harrison.  After that, it was Hotel California!  I’m listening to that Eagles classic now as typing, and I hope I’m not on hold for too long.

I love it when hold music is awesome!


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