A Tale of Two Servers.

I’ve spent the last 4 days lost in a technical limbo. On Saturday I was making good progress with Geon and left it to spend the night out with a bunch of my great friends and to see Inception (well worth seeing by the way). However Sunday morning saw me stuck on what seemed to be the most simple of problems, wasting at least 5 hours trying to get past this point. To make matters worse my web server decided to give up the ghost and just stop serving out PHP pages and neither upgrades, reboots or the hours of troubleshooting I threw at it would bring it back to life. Since you’re reading this now you know that I’ve managed to fix it, but it wasn’t an easy journey.

You see I was running this blog from IIS 7.0 which is Microsoft’s web server. For the most part it’s pretty good, the administration tools are top notch and it only took me a couple weeks to get my head around the whole idea of hosting a web site. Before starting up this site I’d never really tried any web stuff, preferring to stick to my cosy little offline world. Still I knew when starting this blog that I was using the least preferred web server on the market and the tutorials I found for getting it all started seemed more complicated than they needed to be. But I had been given a free copy of Windows Server 2008 and I didn’t really feel like re-educating myself with Linux, which had burned me in the past.

For a long time everything was good, the site was always up (pending my Internet connection of course) and seemed to be quite responsive. Over the course of almost 2 years though I’ve added quite a lot of things to the site like photo albums, sexy comments and all manner of behind the scenes stuff. About 6 weeks ago though I started getting PHP timeouts on this site, but all the others were running fine. The weekend just past saw all of the sites die a similar death and nothing I could do seemed to revive them. I was then faced with a choice, either move this site to one of my external providers or rebuild the server completely. After considering my options I went for the rebuild and 2 days later I’m back online serving this page to you from an Apache web server running on a freshly minted Ubuntu server.

Now I’m no stranger to the world of Linux. I spent quite a good chunk of my University years programming in Linux and my time at the National Archives of Australia had me administering a couple Linux servers that were powering the Digital Preservation Project there. Still I shyed away from it mostly because it was always a pain to administer when compared to its Window’s cousins which I always able to get functioning after 1 or 2 Google searches. To its credit Ubuntu made this process far less painful that it had been in the past and the tools have matured to a point when even a Windows administrator shouldn’t feel out of place. Last night saw this website resurrected in all its glory and hopefully I’ll figure out how to get my other hosted sites up and running sometime soon.

So you might be wondering: what happened to your old server? Well it’s still there, sitting alongside it’s new Ubuntu brother on my ESXi box and it won’t be going anywhere for quite a long time. You see, as great as Apache is, it’s still not IIS and with all my code relying on many things that IIS provides I’ll still need it in some form for quite a while to come. Additionally I had it set up as my Microsoft SQL box, again for development, and whilst I could use MySQL or PostgreSQL to achieve the same end the integration with the Microsoft tools just isn’t there yet. Plus I get it for free because of my Technet subscription so the cost factor that usually accompanies it is a non-issue.

Hopefully the move to the new server will mean the site will load faster for you, won’t cause me anymore administrative headaches and will reacquaint me with the Linux world I once knew so well. It’s a load off my mind to finally see this site back up and running again, especially after 4 days of feeling like I couldn’t make progress in anything technical. We’ll be back to our regularly scheduled programming tomorrow and I hope to see you guys back here then :)

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