Pickabar Blog Lives!


My blog has been dead since March 17th, through no fault of my own. The company who I’ve been hosting pickabar.com with for a few years, Web Strike Solutions, was purchased by easyCGI. The email notifications I received from Web Strike assured me that the transition would be seamless and that they would be manually testing every site to make sure that it was up and running. I’ve been in IT long enough to worry, but I figured I’d cross my fingers and see how things went.

Unfortunately, my blog didn’t make it across to the new hosting infrastructure alive. When I tried to log into my blog on the new server I was greeted by a blank screen. I was using an older version of Movable Type that saved the data to a Berkeley DB rather than MySql as the newer versions require. I’d always planned on upgrading to a new blog engine as I’d had quite enough of Movable Type, but I never got around to it. Unfortunately, the new host wasn’t configured in the same way as the old Web Strike servers.

I checked mt-check.cgi, the script that tests your environment to see if it supports MT and it identified a few Perl modules that were missing. I emailed technical support requesting that the modules be installed and received no response. This was disappointing, because the guys in Web Strike support had always solved my problems in a blink of an eye. I distinctly remember submitting a ticket requesting some change to the configuration of my server, getting up to grab lunch and coming back to my desk with the problem already fixed.

I then called easyCGI on the phone to repeat my request. Three days later my support ticket was closed with a terse not that they didn’t support the required Perl modules. No offer of alternate means of assistance or even a simple apology.

Suffice it to say, I’ll be looking for a new hosting provider shortly.

At that point, I basically gave up. There was no way to even run the script to export the data that I’d built up over the course of almost five years of blogging. I was frustrated and basically came to the conclusion that I could just email my posts to Sarah’s Mom directly since she’s the only one who actually reads this blog. Anyway, who needs a blog in the age of Facebook and Twitter?

…but, there was still the geek in me that refused to accept failure. So, I decided to setup my own local MT environment. I downloaded Ubuntu Linux and created a new virtual machine using VirtualBox. Why Ubuntu? It’s free and at any rate I’d love to get more comfortable with the OS. Perhaps that was a mistake as it took me about five or six hours to setup apache, Perl and the necessary Perl modules on the VM. I’m a complete Linux noob and had to learn quite a few things during the process. Enjoyable, but slow going.

Eventually I got everything setup and I was able to run mt-check.cgi. Everything passed! Huzzah! Pickabar Blog will live! My joy was short-lived, however. All of the actual MT scripts timed out when I tried to run them. I spent about an hour and a half trying to debug the problem and then I gave up again. Who needs a blog anyway?

…but then my friend Tom Meagher posted that he was having trouble with ASP.NET on Facebook. I was able to help him with his problem and somehow, in the course of doing so, the part of my brain that writes code for a living woke back up. I’m a programmer damn it!

I’ve been writing code since I was about 12 or 13. It’s been my one consistent passion and it’s brought me a great deal of joy and financial rewards. But we’ve been taking a break from each other since things didn’t work out with my last job. I haven’t built anything real in months.

So, I decided to parse the HTML files that MT generates by hand to save my precious data. Well, it took me about three hours with a copy of with Visual C# Express, but I was able to use SGMLReader and XLinq to create a new RSS file based on the data. I then tried to use easyCGI’s control panel to create a new WordPress blog. Unfortunately, although their wizard indicated that everything had worked, the new blog showed nothing but a blank screen. Frustration! I chatted with a kind fellow in easyCGI technical support who was kind enough to correct some sort of permissions error that occurred and I was back in business.

I then imported the RSS file I had generated into WordPress and 15 minutes later the pickabar blog lives!


Remaining things to do:

  1. Pick a better theme, this default one is pretty ugly.
  2. Write a program to modify all of the HTML files from my old blog so that they link to the new blog url.
  3. Manually add an entry to the rss file for my old blog indicating that I’ve moved.

…but, that will wait for another day.