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A simple request turns into a twelve hour job

August 28, 2010

It happens all the time. Someone asks for something simple – today it was my ten-year-old son who wanted me to help him create a website – and before you know it, a simple request snowballs into something much bigger which you would have procrastinated about had you known how significantly it would embiggen.

I asked my son to draw up his site on some paper, nice and simple, intending to impart a lesson on planning (which prevents piss-poor performance, or so I learnt in the Army), which he dutifully completed, innocently handing me a single sheet with a short list if links centred on a page.

Easy-peasy. I cracked open Crimson Editor, a nice little freeware app I prefer for simple HTML or coding work, and showed him the basic structures of an HTML page, old school.

Then I noticed the names of the links.

Pictures (private), and Blog gave me pause.

When I asked him about the private pictures, he said he wanted to give friends their own usernames and passwords, also for some other parts of the site. Okay… Well I don’t want to give him access to the main web server configuration app where I manage users, and .htaccess files aren’t an option, so he’ll need a script-based approach.

And a blog.

Right. I’ve been putting off migrating my web server to a new less-power hungry box for a while, so I thought no time like now, since I didn’t want to configure a PHP-based web-login app or load WordPress on the old one only to have to migrate it all later.

Migrating web servers is something I would usually plan and test to a fairly significant degree, as clients tend to whinge when their business-critical web app stops working, but I didn’t have that sort it time on my hands, and I didn’t want to let him down because I promised we’d build his website today.

Thus began the laborious task of migrating website, users, pages, databases, certificates, pearl, asp.net and PHP scripts, blah-dy blah blah blah.

If this was a client site and I’d done this without planning, it would surely have failed, and I’d have spent the rest of my weekend swearing at servers until it was resolved. Thankfully only minor issues ensued, specifically after a minor lapse in concentration resulted in installing mySQL to the wrong path, which cost a few hours as the darn installer kept crashing after the first uninstallation, but apart from that it went well. My new box uses less than half the power of the old one, and My son now has an internally hosted website and blog.

Now I need a beer…

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