Recently in Blog Stuff Category

New blog database

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This is a test entry; just checking that the new DB is working.

OK, of the four problems I noted last time, I've made progress on three of them. Plus I got permission to delete all empty blogs on the system and stop automatically creating a blog with every new user account. That in itself is going to make a big difference.

Luckily, I have a semi-automated procedure to create new blogs, so if anybody is offended that their empty, unused blog was wiped without their permission, I can recreate it in under a minute. Well, OK, luck has nothing to do with the fact that this procedure exists. It's there because I created it. All these after-midnight workdays have to count for something, you know. (No I'm not whining... late nights mean I get to come in late in the afternoon. Yes, my schedule is weird. Yes, my boss is very generous and forgiving. And yes, it's late at night and I may later regret being so glib.)

Anyway, progress on the specific problems:

  • The permissions issue was actually caused by a misconfiguration on the old server that gave it too many rights. The new one is set up correctly (and much more securely) but this means that some old blogs that were set up under the old, too-loose security rules won't work now that things are the way they were supposed to be all along. (No, I will not explain exactly what was wrong and how it's right now, sorry. We can't give out detailed security info.) Anyway, I still need to go in and fix some of the blogs, but the major ones have already been taken care of.
  • The style problems happen because the upgrade didn't change the templates on the existing blogs. The company says "User data is sacred and we never change it", which is really just a nice way to spin "We couldn't possibly upgrade the actual contents of your blogs without messing them up really bad." Luckily, I found a way to upgrade the templates on an existing blog; it's been successfully tested on two blogs, and now I need to apply this fix to everybody's blog, except those which were so highly customized that the owner doesn't want their templates converted to the generic MT4 versions. Those people probably aren't going to be applying the canned styles anyway, so this problem won't affect them.
  • The random logouts were caused by a subtle error in the code I added to the blog server to make it compatible with the WOUportal single sign-on system. I just found that and fixed it... or at least, it seems to be fixed, because I'm not getting logged out anymore. And, oh yeah, logging into the WOUportal automatically logs you into blog admin, too.
  • Then there's the blog stats widget thing. I have no clue here, sorry. Of course, that widget didn't even exist on the old server, so I don't consider it a gigantic tragic loss.

Anyway, back to work....

Blog server update woes

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Known problems with our upgrade:

  • People with blogs outside their public_html folder may encounter permission errors when rebuilding (eh, they call it "publishing" now) their blog
  • If you apply a style to your blog, it will completely mess things up and your blog will look like the computer puked. (That's the technical term, anyway)
  • You get randomly logged out when administering your blog
  • the blog stats widget doesn't show anything

I have yet to figure out why this is. I can fix the permission errors when they are reported to me, at least. And newly created blogs won't have any problem with styles. I just wish we didn't have 42 million blogs on our system (well, OK, I exaggerate. It;s really a bit over 13,000, of which fewer than 500 have even one entry.)

FeH. OK, I need to get back to working on this thing instead of complaining about it.

Next MT upgrade - problems

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Ever since the Movable Type upgrade, we've had problems with the StyleCatcher and WidgetManager plugins. I haven't had any luck fixing them; nobody else has reported the type of problem we're getting, or at least they haven't reported it in anyplace that Google can get to it.

Tonight I tried upgrading Movable Type to the next version, hoping it would solve the problem. This was supposed to be a much easier upgrade than the last one since it doesn't involve any database changes. But it didn't work. Apologies to any of you who got errors; the server was only down for a minute when I tried the upgrade, and less than a minute when I tried the second time.

The existing version is running normally. I'll need to do some more research before trying this upgrade again.

Also, there probably won't be much of an FAQ this week as I'm feeling under the weather.

Deleting blogs

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I've had my head buried in blog server code for the past couple of weeks. One thing has become clear. We have too many blogs on our system and some of them will need to be deleted.

We need to do this because the server cannot display or set people's permissions on various blogs. When I ask it for even a single author's permissions, the server churns and churns for five minutes (I timed it twice) and then gives up. The server is working great for everything else, but not for this, and I think it's no coincidence that out of all the tables in the blog database, the permissions table is the biggest.

We have over 13000 blogs on the system, only a few of which are in use. I plan to delete blogs belonging to students who have not been enrolled since Fall term. I will preserve any blogs that actually have entries, though. After that, we'll see.

Who knows how many of you will find this interesting, but I'll talk about it anyway. I've been delving into the database that holds all the blog server's data - all the blogs, their settings, entries, comments, all the users, security permissions, and all that.

Ahhh, junk filter!

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Wow, in just the few days the new version has been up, I've already seen a major reduction in the amount of spam comments I get. It used to be a few hundred a week, but in the last couple of days I've gotten a grand total of thirteen, eleven of which were automatically sent to my junk list. Looks like I may need to tinker with my junk filter a little bit in order to catch ones like those last two, though.

I'm not sure what happened to the other eighty-some spam comments I was expecting, though. My junk filter isn't set to actually delete anything, so where did they go? It would be too much of a coincidence that a bunch of spammers just happened to cut down their blog spam right exactly when we upgraded, so it must have something to do with the upgrade itself.

I wonder if they can detect the version of a Movable Type server before spamming it, and don't send as many to recent versions that have the anti-spam features? Though that's probably doubtful, considering that all along we had the nofollow plugin that makes spam links useless for improving google rankings, yet the spammers kept on firehosing us. It's probably more effort for them to target their spam in any way than simply to spew it out it blindly.

But whatever the reason, the amount of spam on my blog is way, way down. Now if only I could do that to my email...

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