This site runs on Blogger, as it has for more than seven years, but if I were starting over again today I'd probably use WordPress. That's what I recommend to my friends and relatives, so that other sites I work with, such as Simon's, my wife's podcast (as well as her personal blog), and Inside Home Recording all use it.
If you use the free WordPress.com hosting service, all maintenance and upgrades are handled for you by the fine folks who run it. But if, like me, you're reasonably geeky and need the extra customization available by running WordPress on your own server, the main hassle has been that, when a new version of WordPress comes out, upgrading the software involves:
I've gotten reasonably good at that, but it's still time consuming, especially for multiple sites. Today, while surfing around feeling gross from chemo side effects, I read about the Automatic Upgrade Plugin (via Scott Beale on Twitter). It does all of that stuff with only a few clicks.
I tried it on two websites without a hitch, even using the Automated Mode that avoids the multi-screen, "Here's the next step, CLICK HERE if you're sure you want to proceed" process—with hardly a hitch.
Then, confident, I proceeded to the third site, Inside Home Recording, again in Automated Mode, got almost all the way through, and encountered the dreaded "500 Internal Server Error" page. I tried rolling back to my previous installation of WordPress manually. No dice. I noticed even the IHR forums (which use different software) were dead, which was mysterious and a bit freaky. And when I tried putting a generic "Sorry I broke the site" HTML page at index.php or index.html at the root of the site, it still didn't work. Yikes! I'd blown up the whole website!
I had a hunch, and took a peek at the invisible .htaccess file. That's a plain old text file sitting on the IHR web server (which I think is in Texas). The ubiquitous Apache web server software it's running uses .htaccess as a list to answer the question, "What do I do with stuff on this machine when I sent it out to the Web?" It seems that either WordPress or the Automatic Upgrade plugin had added some extraneous stuff to the end of that file. I deleted the extra text and, bingo, IHR was back up.
Having rolled back to the older version of WordPress, I made sure I had proper backups again (I remind you, back up, back up, back up your stuff), then tried the Automatic Upgrade plugin once more, but this time in Manual Mode (i.e. confirmed each step). No problems on this second attempt, and IHR is spiffed up with the latest software release.
Elapsed time from upgrade to blow up to fix up? Less than ten minutes. Sometimes I'm glad I have some web-fu when I need it.
Labels: backup, blog, family, friends, geekery, insidehomerecording, lipglossandlaptops, podcast, software, web