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February 19, 2006

My relaxing weekend

So let's recap.

1) I create a dummy blog Friday to play with some redesign possibilities, and MovableType takes that opportunity to corrupt not only itself but my mySQL database.
2) in the process of repairing the database, phpMyAdmin deletes the item in the database table "mt_blog" that is the main database definition of this blog.
3) I recreate the missing item in that table by hand. I delete the entry for the fake blog, which MovableType failed to do.
4) MovableType then fails to run. I get an error message mentioning "permissions" in the database, and referring to a particular line in a file I cannot read. I can neither post nor approve comments.
5) I go to bed.
6) In the morning and on my second double espresso, I realize that if MovableType failed to delete the dummy blog entry, it probably failed to delete references to the dummy blog. And since the error message involved permissions, I might find something in the "mt_permissions" table in the database.
7) I find a dozen entries in the "mt_permissions" table that refer to the deleted blog. I delete them.
8) Just to be on the safe side, I run an SQL query that deletes any items that refer to the missing blog.
9) MovableType works again. I enjoy an 18-hour period.
10) My web host has a space problem on Sunday morning, in which they unanticipatedly run out of room on the partition this site lives on. This is an annoying but minor problem, and Jeff fixes it within 20 minutes of my phone call to him, and that should be all that happened, except that:
11) MovableType has a known but undocumented bug that causes the software, when faced with a server space error message, to rebuild pages as completely blank empty documents, and then require reinstallation.
12) I find this out when my homepage turns up blank, as well as the page of the most recent post.
13) I do not find out about the mechanism by which the pages went missing until I rebuild the entire site.
14) I spend an hour waiting for Jeff to fix the problem, then reinstalling Movable Type, then waiting for the new version to update my mySQL database, which I at this point do not entirely trust it to do but it seems to do without incident, then rebuilding the blog.
15) I try to post this entry unsuccessfully: the "save" button won't do anything.
16) I decide I must have missed a file in the installation - possible, as I was doing a few other things at the time - and reinstall it again.
17) And then again when it still doesn't work.
18) Neither of those reinstalls was necessary, as my problem was a CSS-based incompatibility between MovableType's new update and Safari. Fortunately, I have Firefox installed.
19) Oddly enough, none of this has particularly dampened my mood for the weekend. But I sure am motivated now to find other software to use. The main contenders are Word Press and Expression Engine. I'd prefer something that would allow me to keep my old URIs intact, and whose template markup is at least moderately penetrable. Suggestions and advice welcome in the comments.

Posted by Chris Clarke at February 19, 2006 05:32 PM TrackBack URL for this entry:

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This is why I use wordpress....

Posted by: donna at February 19, 2006 06:09 PM
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Posted by: Idyllopus at February 19, 2006 06:19 PM
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jeff is a hero. and glad it is back up, but if this was my problem, it might take weeks or possibly years to figure it out.

Posted by: kathy a at February 19, 2006 09:10 PM
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Glad the your blog problems didn't get you down. I haven't used MT; I went straight from Blogger to WordPress. I'm pleased with WP, and like that it's open source code.

Posted by: Kimberly at February 20, 2006 12:17 AM
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like I said, check out b2evo!

Posted by: craig at February 20, 2006 03:11 AM
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I got to check out Wordpress when Pandagon made the switch (I helped a little). I was pretty impressed with it. The only thing I'd be nervous about is that it seemed to do nasty things to the server load of their host. I'm not sure what kind of traffic this site experiences on a regular basis, so it could very well be that you wouldn't have that problem. (Feministe uses it on the same host, if I recall correctly, and they never had any problems with it.)

Anyway, it's something to keep in mind if you decide to try out Wordpress.

Posted by: Charlie at February 20, 2006 06:54 AM
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I'm in the midst of redesigning my entire website and definitely not looking forward to the complexity of integrating the html, css, and blog software. It's the tiny, niggling little bumps in the road that can drive you blithering mad. I can't wait for it all to be done so I can just concentrate on my writing and drawing and photography again; it's been so long!

I tried out 15 different blog engines and cms's (B2Evolution, Expression Engine, Drupal, Mambo, Serendipity, DotClear, WordPress, Blog CMS, Blosxom, P Blog, Metropolis, Plone, Nucleus, MT, and TextPattern) after the MT incident two years ago. All of them, with the exceptions of Expression Engine and MT, are free. I especially liked Drupal, WordPress, Blog CMS, Nucleus, and TextPattern. I found, however, that Drupal was just too big for my needs. Blog CMS had awful documentation and plug-in support. I loved Expression Engine, but the free personal version was too limiting and the commercial version much too expensive (though if I did have the money I'd probably go for EE... it's so easy to use, has a beautiful hierarchy, and is very well supported). I decided to use WordPress for this last year because at the time it was the most developed (version 1.0 hadn't yet come out for TextPattern). After using WordPress for a while, though it has worked without a hitch all this time, it just feels messy and overly dependant on plugins and such. Whenever I did have problems with WordPress the help at the forums was so haphazard and unorganized that I kept throwing up my hands in frustration. That brought my choices for my new site down to Nucleus and TextPattern.

I love both of them, but there is something about TextPattern ( ) that makes it special. The administration interface is absolutely gorgeous and so intuitive and clean that I wonder why no one else can get it to work like this. TextPattern also works on the organizational concepts of "pages" and "sections", with the sections being like those of a newspaper, and the pages being like the articles within the sections. The markup is simple to learn (though different from MT and WP) and the code is very spare and, from what others have said, obsessively clear of bugs. Dean, the designer, is well known for trying to put together the cleanest and best designed blog software possible. I also found that the support on the forum ( ) was first rate, with quite a dedicated community very eager to help out. The documentation ( ) has been very carefully put together. Lots of plugins, themes, and help on markup is available.

Check it out. I think you'll like it.

Posted by: butuki at February 20, 2006 10:41 AM
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I'm a huge fan of WordPress, even in the short time I've been using it. The template markup is straight CSS, with the php calls embedded. The php calls in turn are pretty well documented at, so even though I'm a tyro, I could get the CSS to do pretty much what wanted.

I'm not sure about the URI question; you can do some tweaking of the WordPress URI generator to get your URI's a bit more customized, but I don't know how close you can get to the URIs that MT has generated for you.

Posted by: jsw at February 20, 2006 11:04 AM
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The issues we were having with Pandagon were due to the template, not WP (THANK GOD). As soon as I figured it out, Pandagon has been running like a dream.

I love WP and cona't recommend it enough. Plus, it's OS and new features and plugins are created daily. Good stuff.

Posted by: Lauren at February 20, 2006 01:22 PM
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I use Expression Engine (and am able to do so only because there are others around who do the PHP and mySql stuff). I really like it, it's great for my needs, extremely versatile, scaleable and all that. But if I had a site like this, I would stick to Wordpress, for ease of use.

Not that I've actually used that, but I've heard good things about it.

Posted by: Nanette at February 20, 2006 01:41 PM
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Hmm... I wrote a somewhat long comment on blog software recommendations (with some links... perhaps that was the problem?), but it seems you haven't approved the comment. I must be saying all the wrong things... even got booted off your cranky blogroll some time ago! I realize that I'm losing my youthful mirth and smooth skin, but still! (^J^)/"

Posted by: butuki at February 20, 2006 06:56 PM
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Sorry, Butuki, I decided to go out and have an actual life today.

But the rough skin is exactly why I dropped you. Also you weren't blogging. But mostly the rough skin.

Posted by: Chris Clarke at February 20, 2006 08:11 PM
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i finally figured out my own MT problem -- after five days of reading lines of code and finally dreaming about code. after a eureka moment at 3 am, i actually did fix my problem all by myself and now i am ready for anything. i am no longer an MT virgin.

Posted by: GrrlScientist at February 20, 2006 09:01 PM
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If I ever have some time again, I'm going to move to Wordpress. Back when J. set up his blog using WordPress, I started a dummy WP site to mirror Cassandra. I really, really like it, I just haven't had time to fuss with the template and get it to do exactly what I want. From his experience, though, I'm sure you'd be happy with it (you were the one who suggested it to us!) And BTW, that sounds like a hell of a weekend.

Posted by: beth at February 21, 2006 07:44 AM
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