Posts Tagged‘meta’

Site Stats

Success vs Progress vs Passion.

Like most people who’ve made their career in IT I’ve spent a great deal of my spare time dabbling in things that (I hope) could potentially lead onto bigger things somewhere down the line. Nearly all of them start off with a burst of excitement as I dive into it, revelling in the challenge and marvelling at the things I can create if I just invest the time into them. After a while however that passion starts to fade into the background, slowly being replaced by the looming reality of the challenge I’ve set myself. In all but one cases this has eventually led to burn out, seeing the project shelved so that I can recoup and hopefully return to it. The only project to ever survive such a period was this blog, but even it came close to being shut down.

Site StatsShown above are the stats for this blog over the past couple years and each of the big changes tells a story. As you can see for a long while there was a steady increase in traffic, something which constantly drove me forward, to keep me writing even when I wondered why I was bothering. Then the slow decline started happening and I honestly couldn’t tell you why it was happening. Then I stumbled onto the fact that 20% of my visitors were disappearing between the search engine and my site, indicating that my blog was just loading far too slow for most people to bother waiting for it. Migrating the server to a new host saw an amazing spike in traffic, one that continue its upwards trend for a very long time.

Of course I eventually got curious as to why this was and found that that the majority of users weren’t visiting my site per se, they were just incidental visitors thanks to Google’s Image search. I had figured that this wouldn’t last, dreading the day when the hit came, and when it did the drop in traffic was significant and brutal. Indeed I had come so close to one of my personal goals (20K visits in a month) that losing it all was a big hit to my confidence as a blogger. Still the always upwards trend continued and motivation remained steady, that was until the start of this year when, inexplicably, I took yet another hit.

Try as I might to diagnose the issue the downward trend continued and, unfortunately, my motivation began to follow it. It all came to a head when my site got compromised and I inadvertently deleted my entire web folder, leaving me to wonder if it was worth even bothering to resurrect it. Of course I eventually came to my senses but I’d be lying if I said that my motivation for this wasn’t in some way linked to the number of page views I get at the end of each day.

I had mulled over writing this post for a long time, not to start a pity party or anything like that, more as a catharsis for my current situation. Honestly I had felt that there was something wrong with me as I should have been doing this for the love of it, not for the ego stroke reward that a page view is. However reading over Scott Adam’s (creator of Dilbert) treatise on how to be successful struck a cord with me, showing me that I’m not alone in being motivated by passions that ultimately get dashed by the lack of success. This blog then was the example that getting results is the way to keep yourself motivated and it should come as no surprise that it went away when the apparent success did as well.

For now I’m simply taking it day by day, continuing what I’ve always been doing and enjoying the act of writing more than the pageviews. It’s been helped somewhat by the fact that I’ve been able to make some changes that have directly resulted in little bumps in traffic, nothing crazy mind, but enough to show that I’m on the right track. It’s going to be a long time before I reach the dizzying heights that I was at just under a year ago but hopefully those numbers will be genuine, a real reflection of the effort I’ve put into this place since I began it almost 5 years ago.

 

Picard Facepalm

How Everything Went To Shit (or No Admin is Immune to Being Stupid).

This blog has had a pretty good run as far as data retention goes. I’ve been through probably a dozen different servers over its life and every time I’ve managed to maintain continuity of pretty much everything. It’s not because I kept rigorous backups or anything like that, no I was just good at making sure I had all my data moved over and working before I deleted the old one. Sure there’s various bits of data scattered among my hard drives but none of it is readily usable so should the unthinkable happen I was up the proverbial creek without a paddle.

And, of course, late on Saturday night, the unthinkable happened.

Picard FacepalmSo I logged into my blog to check out how everything was going (as I usually do) and noticed that something strange was appearing in my header. It appeared to be some kind of mass mailer although it wasn’t being pulled in from a JavaScript file or anything and, to my surprise, it was embedding itself everywhere, even on the admin panel. Now I’ve never been compromised before, although people have tried, so this sent me into something of a panic and I started Googling my heart out to find out where this damn code was coming from. Try as I might however I couldn’t find the source of it (nothing in the Apache configuration, all WordPress files were uncompromised, other sites I’m hosting weren’t affected) and I resigned myself to rebuild the server and to start anew. Annoying, but nothing I haven’t done before.

Like a good little admin I thought it would be good to do a cleanup of the directory before I embarked on this as I was going to have to move the backup file to my desktop, no small feat considering it was some 1.9GB big and I’m on Australian Internet (thanks Abbott!). I had a previous backup file there which I moved to my /var/www directory to make sure I could download it (I could) and so I looked to cleaning everything else up. I’ve had a couple legacy directories in there for a while and so I decided to remove them. This would have been fine except I fat fingered the command and typed rm -r which happily went about its business deleting the entire folder contents. The next ls I ran sent me into a fit of rage as I struggled to figure out what to do next.

If this was a Windows box it would’ve been a minor inconvenience as I’d just fire up Recuva (if CTRL + Z didn’t work) and get all the files restore however in Linux restoring deleted files seems to be a right pain in the ass. Try as I might extundelete couldn’t restore squat and every other application looked like it required a PhD to operate. The other option was to contact my VPS provider’s support to see if they could help out however since I’m not paying a terrible amount for the service I doubt it would been very expedient, nor would I have expected them to be able to recover anything.

In desperation I reached out to my old VPS provider to see if they still had a copy of my virtual machine. The service had only been cancelled a week ago and I know a lot of them keep copies for a little while just in case something like this happens, mostly because it’s a good source of revenue (I would’ve gladly paid $200 for it). However this morning the email came from them stating unequivocally that the files are gone and there’s no way to get them back, so I was left with very few options to get everything working again.

Thankfully I still had the database which contains much of the configuration information required to get this site back up and running so all that was required was to get the base WordPress install working and then reinstall all the necessary plugins. It was during this exercise that I stumbled across the potential attack vector that let whoever it was ruin my site in the first place: my permissions were all kinds of fucked, essentially allowing open slather to anyone who wanted it. Whilst I’ve since struggled to get everything working like it was before I now know that my permissions are far better than they were and hopefully should keep it from happening again.

As for the rest of the content I have about half of the images I’ve uploaded over the past 5 years in a source folder and, if I was so inclined, could reupload them. However I’ve decided to leave that for the moment as the free CDN that WordPress gives you as part of Jetpack has most of those images in it anyway which is why everything on the front page is working as it should. I may end up doing it anyway just as an exercise to flex my PowerShell skills but it’s no longer a critical issue.

So what has this whole experience taught me? Well mostly that I should practice what I preach as if a customer came running to me in this situation I’d have little sympathy for them and would likely spend maybe 20% of the total effort I’ve spent on this site to try and restore theirs. The unintentional purge has been somewhat good as I’ve dropped many of the plugins I no longer used which has made the site substantially leaner and I’ve moved from having my pants around my ankles, begging for attackers to take advantage of me, to at least holding them around my waist. I’ll also be implementing some kind of rudimentary backup solution so that if this happens again I at least have a point in time to restore to as this whole experience has been far too stressful for my liking and I’d rather not repeat it again.

 

The Code Behind The Refined Geek

New Server, New Theme, New Beginnings.

On the surface this blog hasn’t changed that much. The right hand column had shifted around a bit as I added and subtracted various bits of social integration but for the most part the rest of the site remained largely static. Primarily this was due to laziness on my part as whilst I always wanted to revamp it I could just never find the motivation, nor the right design, to spur me on. However after a long night spent perusing various WordPress theme sites I eventually came across one I liked but it was a paid one and although I’m not one to shy away from paying people for their work it’s always something of a barrier. I kept the page open in Chrome and told myself that when it came time to move servers that’d be the time I’d make the switch.

And yesterday I did.

The Code Behind The Refined Geek

My previous provider, BurstNET, whilst being quite amazing at the start slowly started to go downhill as of late. Since I’d been having a lot of issues, mostly of my own doing, I had enlisted Pingdom to track my uptime and the number of reports I got started to trend upwards. For the most part it didn’t affect me too much as most of the outages happened outside my prime time however it’s never fun to wake up to an inbox full of alerts so I decided it was time to shift over to a new provider. I had had my eye on Digital Ocean for a while as they provide SSD backed VPSs, something which I had investigated last year but was unable to find at a reasonable price. Plus their plans are extraordinarily cheap for what you get with this site coming to you via their $20/month plan. Set up was a breeze too, even though it seems every provider has their own set of quirks built into their Ubuntu images.

The new theme is BlogTime  from ThemeForest and I chose it precisely because it’s the only one I could find that emulates the style you get when you login to WordPress.com (with those big featured images at the top with a nice flat layout). The widgets he provides with the theme unfortunately don’t seem to work, at least not in the way that’s advertised, so I had to spend some time wrestling with the Facebook and Twitter widget APIs to get them looking semi-decent on the sidebar. Thankfully it seems the “dark” theme on both sites seems to match the background on here quite well otherwise I would’ve had to do a whole bunch of custom CSS stuff that I just wasn’t in the mood for last night. Probably the coolest thing about this theme is that it automatically resizes itself depending on what kind of device you have so this blog should look pretty much the same no matter how you’re viewing it.

I also took the opportunity to try and set up caching again and whilst it appeared to work great last night upon attempting to load my site this morning I found that I was greeted with an empty response back. Logging into the WordPress dashboard directly seemed to solve this but I’m not quite sure what caused W3 Total Cache to cause my site to serve nothing for the better part of 5 hours. For the moment I’ve disabled it as the site appears to be running quite fine without it but I’ll probably attempt to get one of them running again in the future as when they’re working they really are quite good.

Does this change in face mean there’s going to be a radical change in what this site is about? I’m not intending to as whilst my traffic has been flagging of late (and why that is I couldn’t tell you) this was more a revamp that was long overdue. I’d changed servers nearly once a year however I had not once changed the theme (well unless you count the Ponies incident) and it was starting to get a little stale, especially considering it seemed to be the theme of choice for a multitude of other tech blogs I visited. So really all that’s changed is the look and the location that this blog is coming to you from, everything else is pretty much the same, for better or for worse.

I’m about 20% On My Way To Mastery.

Its almost trite to talk about Malcolm Gladwell’s Outliers these days as it seems everyone is familiar with the key concept of mastery requiring a certain level of practice, on the order of 10,000 hours. Indeed the idea even spurred people on to do their own experiments to see how true the rule rang to life and the results of said experiments shows that there’s something to it, even if the hours required may vary wildly from person to person. I have unwittingly been participating in my own versions of these experiments for the past few years and a new milestone came up yesterday that I had completely forgot about.

I hit post 1000.

It seems like a lifetime ago when I hit that milestone that every blogger seems to celebrate publicly: the 100th post. Reading it again it’s clear to see how far I’ve come as the post is littered with smilies (which look horrendous to me now), the tone is completely different and it’s clear that I’m writing it directly to the only people I know are reading, I.E. my friends. Whilst I can’t claim that I’m some kind of blogging superstar now I do know my reach extends much further now than it did back then with my daily readership exceeding that of my monthly numbers back then. Back then however it felt like I had made some real substantial progress in my quest to become a blogger but upon reflection of my 1000th post it feels like I’m just starting out all over again.

Most of my posts don’t take that long to write, comparatively speaking, with most of them going from concept to draft to published piece in the space of 1~2 hours with more than a few being way above that. Putting that in perspective I’m probably about 2000 hours into the requisite 10,000 to obtaining mastery which, at my current rate, puts me at mastery some time in the mid 2020s. There are ways of accelerating this of course (I’d say that my experience writing for LifeHacker probably counts for 2x~3x the hours I spent on it due to the amount I learned whilst working for them) and I jump at the chance whenever they come my way but it’s still daunting to think that I’ve invested almost 5 years at this point and I’m only 20% into my journey.

Does that make me want to stop? Hell no! The opportunities that have opened up to me as a result of my work-daily rantings have been some of the most exciting things I’ve ever done and the more I blog the more those things seem to keep on happening to me. Whilst I’ve never attained the kind of overnight success that I had envisioned coming my way one day the slow and steady build up just never seems to stop. It can be disheartening some times when you write something you believe is brilliant and inspired only to have it fall on its face but, as the past has shown, I’m a terrible judge of what will be popular and for that I blame those little multiplying haters in my head.

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It’s comforting to know that people I respect highly struggle with the same things I do, even if our medium of choice is different. I’ve always had this disembodied version of myself hanging over my shoulder, constantly critiquing everything that I’m doing. In all honesty it’s a great thing and it’s responsible for a large part of why I’ve enjoyed so much success in other aspects of my life but it can be a real detriment, especially when it collides with my almost OCD level compulsions. It hasn’t gotten any easier as the years have gone by but I’ve developed a whole bunch more tools in order to deal with it. That’s probably the biggest insight I’ve had into this whole 10,000 hour thing as it’s more about understanding and overcoming your shortcomings more than anything else.

Unlike my myriad of other hobbies I feel that blogging is one that will stick around for good, just like gaming and software development did before them. It’s something that I’ve made a heck of a lot of progress in and the idea of giving it up just doesn’t seem to make sense like it did back when my daily viewer count was in the single digits. Whether or not it’ll morph into more or less than what it currently is however remains to be seen but I’m sure as I keep chipping away at that 10,000 hour goal more good things will come of it. I might not ever become the blogging starlet that I thought I was going to be all those years ago but I’ll be damned if it hasn’t been a blast regardless.

Arbitrary Restrictions, Deadlines and Posting Crap.

It was a long time ago now, getting near to 3 years, when I made the decision to start publishing something on a week-daily basis to this blog. I can’t really say what drove me to do that, it certainly wasn’t because I was rolling in page views and I had an audience hungry for more content¹. For the first couple months the writing came easy since I was just mostly posting my opinion on one thing or another but you can only keep posting opinions about things for so long before you feel you’ve said all you need to say on those soft issues, at least when you’re trying to write to a deadline.

I’m not the only one suffering from this either, it seems:

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Whilst I didn’t make the connection between my off days when I post inane crap because I can’t find anything better to write about (although I have been told that those off days are some of my best writing, go figure) and the mainstream media I can definitely understand it now. I had just always assumed that people getting paid to do this had a much better process of finding something to write about rather than my haphazard daily troll of other blogs, YouTube clips and news aggregation sites hoping that an article triggers that writing spark in the back of my head.

The restriction of daily posting, or it seems any deadline, is definitely what leads me to post what I feel is lesser quality work. In the beginning the wanting to write was what drove me but after a couple months of near daily posts it morphed from a routine into a habit, one that I’ve had a terrible time at breaking. It also doesn’t help that Google seems to punish me if I stray from my posting schedule, further reinforcing the behavior. I could probably circumvent the Google punishment if I tried hard enough (by writing with SEO in mind more) but I feel that’d erode the intentions of my blog further than me posting some crud every so often.

Funnily enough it seems that the solution to my problem may be found in adding more restrictions rather than lifting my current one. My goal of doing 1 game review per week for the entire year (I’ve only missed 1 week so far and have every intention to catch that up) has been an amazing experience, seeing me play all sorts of games that I wouldn’t have given a second thought to otherwise. It also means that I spend one less day a week wondering what the hell I’m going to write about in the morning, even if the time investment to getting that post there is orders of magnitude above anything else I’ve written.

It’s always nice to know that you’re not alone in your suffering, even if it doesn’t help you overcome that immediate problem. I all too often think that the problems I experience are because I was never really good at this writing thing in the first place only to find out later that no, all writers struggle with the same problems. At least then I can share in their misery and maybe even help out a little if I get the chance to, although it seems we’re much more likely to suffer in silence than to say anything about it.

Well, unless it makes for good blog fodder that is ;)

¹Indeed for the first couple months of its life I was happy that this blog would have a day that didn’t have 0 views. I’ve also been told in no uncertain terms that my initial attempt at being a blogger was crap, but usually in the same breath as saying that I’ve vastly improved since then (which I always appreciate hearing).

Marketers, PR Reps and Anyone Wanting to Promote (or Sell) Something: Read This Before You Email Me.

I’m under no delusions that I’m some kind of highfalutin blogger who’s under constant bombardment by corporate suitors looking to peddle their wares through my site. I have however been privy to some things that I wouldn’t have had a chance at otherwise had I not kept on writing for all these years so I’m somewhat familiar with the usual process of how an initial email will turn into something concrete. However it appears that there’s a lot of people out there, some of them possibly genuine, who have no idea how to contact even low end bloggers like myself in order to get some coverage. Today I’m going to lay my cards on the table and detail the response you’ll get should you ignore them.

Firstly I have a public email address that I published on this site with the primary intention of giving people an easy access avenue to me should they want to chat, comment or approach me for some kind of business related venture. It was also something of an experiment to see just how much spam I’d get through it and for the record it’s basically none (current queue is 71, all handled well by Gmail). You can feel free to email me at that address with whatever it is you want to talk to me about and I’m pretty much guaranteed to respond to it within 24 hours. If you don’t get a response it’s likely you’ve violated one of my cardinal rules, ones that if broken I’ll at best ignore you and at worst make sure I waste as much of your time as possible.

For starters you need to address me in the email, not Admin or webmaster or TheRefinedGeek or whatever your spam program uses, just me. That’s my initial sniff test to filter for carpet bomb emails but I’ve also simply deleted other emails which were possibly genuine just based on the fact that they couldn’t take the 2 extra seconds to find the About page and find my actual name. To date everyone I’ve had a successful blogging relationship with has managed to find my name without issue so if you can do the same you’re guaranteed to not get thrown into the trash along with all the other spammers.

Most importantly, and pay attention here because violating this rule will get you on the “waste this sucker’s time” list, you have to actually understand what this blog is and how you might fit into its overall picture. It seems that after I put the magical words “guest post” into my long time friend’s Call of Duty review people think it’s open slather for writing something on here. I’m am most certainly open to people writing guest posts on here but I’ve turned every single unsolicited one down so far simply because they want to write something that’s just not what this blog is about, nor I think my current audience would find particularly interesting. What this says to me is that you’ve done some kind of Google search for blogs that have posts with a title containing the words “Guest Post” and then emailed them hoping you could peddle your wares to. Just read 2 weeks worth of posts here and you’ll figure out if the article you have in mind is a good fit for here and then ask yourself why you want it here and not on your own personal blog.

These rules aren’t particularly rigorous so if you’re a real person looking to make a connection or a blogger looking for a place to show your writing to a wider audience you’ll have no problem complying with them. The spammers and idiots however will continue to trip them up, usually failing at the first “say my name, bitch” step. I might not be a bigshot blogger but I have standards and respect for the work I do and if my standards are too high for you then I’m sure you can find a home among all the other spammy blogs that will welcome you with open arms.

Site Stats

Simple Pleasures.

Sometimes it’s the simple things that can really make your day. Logging into my admin panel this morning I was greeted with this little gem.

That peak there? My busiest day I’ve ever had on this blog and it wasn’t because of some big site linking to me. That’s what keeps me going, moments like that where I realise that it’s really possible for me to build something that people like to read. Whilst I love it when I do get linked to by big sites it’s always more satisfying when I hit milestones like that off my own back.

I can’t wait to do it again :D

Giving Yourself OCD.

This blog can really be the bane of my existence sometimes. Whilst most days I’m able to rifle through a couple hundred articles in my RSS feeds and find a topic that I can blurt out a few hundred words over. However if I fail at that initial endeavour I find myself in the rather undesirable situation of not having anything that good to write about. Now this never used to be a problem I’d simply close the new post page and go about the rest of my day like nothing happened. A couple months after I decided to start blogging regularly however I found myself not being able to close the browser and move on, something was compelling me to blog.

I realised that I had just given myself OCD.

I can’t wholly blame the regular blogging dedication for my condition however as I think it’s due to a couple factors. You see I’m rather keen on hard numbers and the stats I run on this blog showed me that on the days that I don’t blog at least half of the people that usually come here simply don’t. Since the major source of visitors here are from Google I figure that’s because they kick me down a notch on off days in favour of more active content sources and it’s held true for the past couple years. Add that kind of aversion therapy to a regular habit and you’re onto a winner for developing an OCD without thinking about it. At least that’s been my experience anyway.

Interestingly though I’ve found these kind of writer’s block days that I get from time to time strongly correlate to those days that I haven’t got enough sleep. Today’s block then comes courtesy of the server that hosts this blog being a right ass again, slowing everything down to a crawl. Thus last night I was up late updating all my other blog’s WordPress installations and adding caching to them in the hopes that it’d become responsive again. It seems to have made it better but I’m still slamming the hell out of the 2 CPUs on this box, something which WordPress is notorious for doing. I’ll probably lose a few more hours on that tonight again as I try to optimize the database, which is just as fun as it sounds.

I was going to write a witty end to this, but I’ve run out of steam on this meta-rant :P

Website Performance (or People are Impatient).

Way back when I used to host this server myself on the end of my tenuous ADSL connection loading up the web site always felt like something of a gamble. There were any number of things that could stop me (and the wider world) from getting to it like: the connection going down, my server box overheating or even the power going out at my house (which happened more often than I realised). About a year ago I made the move onto my virtual private server and instantly all those worries evaporated and the blog has been mostly stable ever since. I no longer have to hold my breath every time I type my url into the address bar nor do I worry about posting media rich articles anymore, something I avoided when my upstream was a mere 100KB/s.

What really impressed me though was the almost instant traffic boost that I got from the move. At the time I just put it down to more people reading my writing as I had been at it for well over a year and a half at that point. At the same time I had also made a slight blunder with my DNS settings which redirected all traffic from my subdomains to the main site so I figured that the burst in traffic was temporary and would drop off as people’s DNS caches expired. The strangest thing was though that the traffic never went away and continued to grow steadily. Not wanting to question my new found popularity I just kept doing what I was always doing until I stumbled across something that showed me what was happening.

April last year saw Google mix in a new metric to their ranking algorithm: page load speed, right around the same time that I experienced the traffic boost from moving off my crappy self hosting and onto the VPS. The move had made a significant improvement in the usability of the site, mostly due to the giant pipe that it has, and it appeared that Google was now picking up on that and sending more people my way. However the percentage of traffic coming here from search engines remained the same but since it was growing I didn’t care to investigate much further.

I started to notice some curious trends though when aggregating data from a couple different sources. I use 2 different kinds of analytics here on The Refined Geek the first being WordPress.com Stats (just because it’s real-time) and Google Analytics for long term tracking and pretty graphs. Now both of them agree with each other pretty well however the one thing they can’t track is how many people come to my site but leave before the page is fully loaded. In fact I don’t think there’s any particular service that can do this (I would love to be corrected on this) but if you’re using Google’s Webmaster Tools you can get a rough idea of the number of people that come from their search engine but get fed up waiting for your site to load. You can do this by checking the number of clicks you get from search queries and comparing that to the number of people visiting your site from Google Analytics. This will give you a good impression of how many people abandon your site because it’s running too slow.

For this site the results are quite surprising. On average I lose about 20% of my visitors between them clicking on the link in Google and actually loading a page¹. I shudder to think how many I was losing back in the days where a page would take 10+ seconds to load but I’d hazard a guess it was roughly double that if I take into account the traffic boost I got after moving to a dedicated provider. Getting your site running fast then is probably one of the most important things you can do if you’re looking to get anywhere on the Internets, at least that’s what my data is telling me.

After I realised this I’ve been on a bit of a performance binge, trying anything and everything to get it running better. I’m still in the process of doing so however and many of the tricks that people talk about for WordPress don’t translate well into the Windows world so I’m basically hacking my way through it. I’ve dedicated part of my weekend to this and I’ll hopefully write up the results next week so that you other crazy Windows based WordPressers can benefit from my tinkering.

¹If people are interested in finding out this kind of data from their Google Analytics/Webmasters Tools account let me know and I might run up a script to do the comparison for you.

 

IIS 7.5, WordPress and WinCache: A Match Made in Hell.

This blog has had a variety of homes over the past few years although you wouldn’t know it by looking at it. Initially it was hosted on a Windows 2008 server I built myself, sitting behind the tenuous link of my ADSL connection. Don’t get me wrong this is a great way to get started if you’ve got admin roots like me but inevitably my ADSL connection would go down or people would just plain give up waiting for it to load, what with my upstream only able to handle 100KB/s. Still for most of its life the blog remained in that configuration as I couldn’t find a hosting provider I was happy with.

Of course the day came when WordPress decided to stop playing nice with IIS and started returning internal server 500 errors. Thankfully it would usually right itself after a reboot but it was always a count down to the time when it would start erroring out again and being the busy man that I am I never had the time to troubleshoot it. Eventually I caved and set up an Ubuntu box to host it, figuring that all my woes would be solved by switching to the platform that everyone expects WordPress to run on. I’ll be honest it was a good change as I could finally use all the caching plugins, and traffic took an upward trend thanks to the faster loading times.

Unfortunately that didn’t last particularly long either as whilst the blog was particularly zippy the Linux VM would sometimes stop responding to requests and would only start behaving itself after a reboot. The cause of this I’m still not sure of as the VM was still up but it just refused to keep on serving web pages, including all the funky admin tools my PHPMyAdmin and Webmin. It was around this time I found myself in possession of a shiny new VPS that was only hosting my fledgling app Lobaco so I figured a small time WordPress blog wouldn’t be too much for it to handle. Indeed it wasn’t and the blog has been steaming along on it ever since.

However the unfortunate internal server errors returned eventually and whilst I was able to get around them with the trusty old reboot a couple times they became more persistent until I eventually couldn’t get rid of them. After digging around in the event logs for a while I eventually stumbled across references to php_wincache.dll which upon googling lead me to posts like these, showing I wasn’t alone in this internal server error hell. Disabling the plugin fixed the problem and all was well with the world. Of course many months later I found myself  trying to optimize my blog again and I started looking at the things I had removed in order to keep this thing up and running.

The first was the caching plug-ins which are unequivocally the best thing for performance on a dynamic PHP site. The vast majority of WordPress caching plug-ins don’t play nice with Windows as they make the assumption they’re on Linux and attempt to write files in all sorts of whacky locations that simply don’t exist. WP-SuperCache, although still suffering from some Linux based assumptions, can be wrangled into working properly with IIS and has been doing so for the past couple months. I also found that WinCache had been updated since I had unceremoniously removed it from my php.ini file so I decided to give it another try. Again everything was rosy for a time, that was until last weekend.

I fired up my blog on Saturday to find the home page coming up fine but I was logged out for some reason. This happens from time to time so I wasn’t worried but trying to login left me with the dreaded internal server 500 error. Poking around it looked like any non-cached page was failing meaning the majority of my site was unavailable. The event logs showed the dreaded WinCache dll failing again and disabling it brought my website back around again. It seems, at least for now, that I’ll have to give WinCache a miss as the last update to it was almost 3 months ago and its past performance has led me to believe that it’s not entirely stable.

So if you’re crazy like me, trying to run WordPress on IIS and all, and you’re WordPress blog seems to take a dive more often than not make sure to get rid of WinCache at least until they get their act together. I haven’t delved into my previous VMs to see if it was the culprit back then but my most recent set of problems can be traced directly back to WinCache wrecking havoc by attempting to cache PHP objects and if this post can save 1 person the headache of trying to track it down I’ll consider it a huge success