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February 24, 2018

We’re back
Posted by Patrick at 01:42 PM * 56 comments

As I best understand it, the machine we’re hosted on abruptly melted down; Hosting Matters scrambled to migrate the sites on that machine to other servers; this had to be done in a tearing hurry; in the process somehow an old index page became the front page. I didn’t have the spoons to deal with it because see below. This morning, our intrepid friend Sumana Harihareswara, with our grateful permission, dived into the back end and fixed it. All honor and glory to her; also, many many thanks.

The “see below” from above is that Teresa and I are moving house. We take possession of an apartment in the Brooklyn neighborhood of Park Slope on March 1. It has slightly more space for living, and a lot less for storage, than the place we’ve lived in since 2004, so the move involves a great deal of Getting Rid. Expect more from us when we emerge from all the boxes, sometime late next month.

Comments on We're back:
#1 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: February 24, 2018, 02:22 PM:

Good luck with the getting-rid-of-things! (I have far too much *stuff* and need to do the same.)

#2 ::: Tom Whitmore ::: (view all by) ::: February 24, 2018, 03:19 PM:

Karen is working on having me get rid of stuff before it becomes a crisis -- and the money we're spending on storage lockers might seriously be better spent. Besides, some library could probably use my large collection of uncorrected proofs much better than I can....

#3 ::: Theophylact ::: (view all by) ::: February 24, 2018, 03:47 PM:

It took Marcia and me more than half a year to shrink our stuff down to where it would fit into a 1500 sq ft apartment in a retirement community, and what's left is still oozing out around the edges. The worst part was getting rid of several thousand books, and that was done over a rather more protracted period.

When I moved from Cambridge to Berkeley in 1962, my possessions mostly fit in the trunk of a Peugeot 403.

#4 ::: Angiportus Librarysaver ::: (view all by) ::: February 24, 2018, 04:14 PM:

Glad the crisis was averted. I was worried. I too am in the throws [yes, throws] of cleaning house, because I might need to move one of these days. I have the smallest hoard of any of the family, by choice, and it is still a daunting prospect.

#5 ::: oldster ::: (view all by) ::: February 24, 2018, 04:33 PM:

When I first pulled up the old index page, I had several moments of rejoicing, followed by the realization that it was old news, followed by disappointment.

Rejoicing: "oh look! Lots more posts by PNH and TNH!"
Disappointment: "drat--they're several years old.

Rejoicing: "Hurrah, William F. Buckley has died a *second* time!"
Disappointment: "darn--only once. Ah, well--I can still celebrate the first death a second time, I suppose."

#6 ::: Madeleine Robins ::: (view all by) ::: February 24, 2018, 04:53 PM:

Not that 2008 doesn't look pretty good from 2018, but I'm glad you're back in the present. I think it's rather piquant that the first post on the broken page was "Restoration Drama," about the site being down and then restored. Is this a once-a-decade sort of thing?

#7 ::: Stefan Jones ::: (view all by) ::: February 24, 2018, 05:05 PM:

Best of luck to TNH and PNH with the decluttering and move.

Freecycle is so freaking great.

(Last night, anticipating getting a new headboard for my bed, I was mentally composing a post describing the old one. Which is pretty much useless at being a headboard, since it is composed of a few swooshy pieces of metal tube with a big gap directly behind each place where an occupant might place a pillow. I dumpster dove it and just dealt with it until I got my tax refund and thought "the time it right.)

#8 ::: Erik Nelson ::: (view all by) ::: February 24, 2018, 05:09 PM:

Hooray. I am glad to see you're back.

#9 ::: Cory Doctorow ::: (view all by) ::: February 24, 2018, 06:01 PM:

Congrats (and also on the move!).

I'm in Australia touring Walkaway with Poesy, and we're viciously jetlagged and having the weirdest dreams -- this morning, Poesy woke me at 4AM from an epic dream in which I was trying to help you recover your backups for ML, with a million dreamlike problems, and this weird chorous of "I note with some disapprobation that no new posts have gone up on ML" (this being a conversation we had in like 2005 or so, in which the top post on ML for months had opened with the line "I note with some disapprobation...").

#10 ::: Dave Harmon ::: (view all by) ::: February 24, 2018, 06:51 PM:

Yay, welcome back! Also, congratulations and well-wishes on your coming move!

#11 ::: Sumana Harihareswara ::: (view all by) ::: February 25, 2018, 01:08 AM:

I'm super glad I was able to help!

As some people had suspected (including in comments in the current Open Thread), yes, the fact that the errant front page was from around the time of the last outage was a useful clue. I spent time checking a few red herrings, but here's what it boils down to, as far as I can gather and conjecture:

Throughout the Decade Timeslip Week, if I understand correctly, if you navigated explicitly to , that worked just fine to give you a properly updated front page; Movable Type, the content management system, puts fresh content into index.html whenever there's a new entry, comment, and so on. But usually you don't and shouldn't have to provide that explicit index.html in the URL; usually, when someone goes to , the web server software (Apache in this case) knows that the user probably wants the index.html file that lives in that directory, and serves it up.

But! during the 2008 outage, perhaps as part of some testing and iterative "does this work? how about now?" troubleshooting, someone made a front page file in that directory and named it index.shtml. And I conjecture that, when the hosting folks rebuilt the machine, Apache's configuration got updated with a preference saying, "if there's an index.shtml in this directory, then use that as the front page! And if not, then the next-best thing to serve up is index.html, so do that." So suddenly the spotlight swerved to this May 2008 file which, dismayingly, was deeply unready for this revival.

Once I figured this out (and yes, my comments in the open thread were part of my investigation), my solution worked. I updated index.shtml and verified that now served that up. Then I renamed index.shtml to a very different filename, which got Apache to ignore it and focus its attention on the good old reliable index.html that had been there the whole time, plugging away, doing its job. I have new respect for that workhorse!

(You know what made this process faster? Making Light has frequent, consistent, automatic, comprehensive backups, and I spot-checked the latest one and verified that it included recent entry and comment data. That meant I was less worried about accidentally Losing Everything. If you set up automatic backups, that means your friends can help you faster and with less stress!)

#12 ::: tykewriter ::: (view all by) ::: February 25, 2018, 07:14 AM:

Welcome back! And any advice on decluttering would be as welcome. We have a garage full of two late mothers’-worth of stuff! (Not sure of the hyphenation.)
Grateful thanks to Sumana Harihareswara from an occasional delurker!

#13 ::: OtterB ::: (view all by) ::: February 25, 2018, 10:53 AM:

Sumana Harihareswara, thanks for the fix and for the explanation at #11. That explains why my bookmark to Making Light kept serving up the 2008 version while others apparently got through.

It's nice to see everyone back.

And good luck to Patrick and Teresa on the move and decluttering. We have no current plans to move, but the house we have now lived in 18 years badly needs decluttering.

#14 ::: Nancy C. Mittens ::: (view all by) ::: February 25, 2018, 11:48 AM:

Thank you Sumana, and best of luck to the NHs in their moving.

Tykewriter, I'd do a fast run through and ditch anything I could tell I didn't want. If you want the memory without storing the object, you can take a picture of it, and purge the object.

I've found these ideas from Marie Kondo useful:
- collect the same category of item and go through it all together- it really helps to know you have 247 blue pens, and how many do you need or have storage space for?
- keep the things that make you happy to have around.

I consider how replaceable something is if I change my mind about it after I've given it away. A copy of Jane Eyre is replaceable. The one signed by my grandmother isn't. Something that costs $1,000 to replace will have a higher bar to give away than a thing I can replace for 2 bucks at any drugstore. This requires trust that you will be able (have the money) to rebuy things at a later date.

One of the hardest parts for me is admitting to myself that I don't read much poetry, won't learn Chinese brush painting, etc., so I should let the associated stuff go. If I change my mind, I will replace what I need to start right before I actually start- I don't need to stockpile.

I hope this is helpful to you. I've moved for borderline hoarder to very cluttered, and hope to declutter more.

#15 ::: Lori Coulson ::: (view all by) ::: February 25, 2018, 12:21 PM:

I am facing a major de-clutter here -- there are THINGS that need to be done in my bedroom, which means finding a place for, or getting rid of, objects that I'm not using...

Good luck on the move, and I'm glad we're making light once more!

#16 ::: TomB ::: (view all by) ::: February 25, 2018, 03:10 PM:

What does "shtml" mean, anyway? I assume it's Yiddish for something.

#17 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: February 25, 2018, 03:18 PM:

A fast trip through Google says "server-parsed HTML".

#18 ::: KeithS ::: (view all by) ::: February 25, 2018, 03:19 PM:

Hooray, everything's back the way it should be! Thank you, Sumana, for the help and the write-up.

TomB @ 16:

Not Yiddish, unfortunately. It stands for Server-side-includes HTML. SSI was an old way of making sort of dynamic web pages by having the web server replace certain special strings in the file (e.g. to include headers and footers, put in today's date, run a program to generate output). It was rapidly superseded by better ways of making templated webpages, and also PHP.

#19 ::: Xopher Halftongue ::: (view all by) ::: February 25, 2018, 03:25 PM:

So glad you're back! Do you need any moving help?

#20 ::: Tom Whitmore ::: (view all by) ::: February 25, 2018, 03:58 PM:

Thanks from me also, Sumana -- I was wondering what the problem was, and you explained it in a way that made very good sense to me.

#21 ::: Steve C. ::: (view all by) ::: February 25, 2018, 05:01 PM:

Very glad to see this place back. Good luck on completion of the relocation.

#22 ::: Devin ::: (view all by) ::: February 25, 2018, 05:29 PM:

A definition which confused generations of yiddish-speakers.

#23 ::: HelenS ::: (view all by) ::: February 25, 2018, 06:08 PM:

If you don't know anything about html (like me), maybe you should just keep shtum and shtumble along.

#24 ::: janetl ::: (view all by) ::: February 25, 2018, 07:45 PM:

Well done, Sumana!

Best of wishes on the deaccessioning and move. When I moved across the country 4 years ago, I felt like I was purging my books fiercely. As I set up bookcases in the new place, I questioned my soft heart.

Advice from my move: Put a small package of "soothing stress reading" books in a safe spot, where they won't get packed up.

#25 ::: Serge Broom ::: (view all by) ::: February 26, 2018, 08:01 AM:

Welcome back.
Ah, the joys of moving...

#26 ::: Janna Silverstein ::: (view all by) ::: February 26, 2018, 09:46 AM:

Best of luck with the move - and congrats on the new place! One of my projects over the last six months has been attempting to downsize. It can be painful but, in the end, enormously satisfying.

#27 ::: Jacque ::: (view all by) ::: February 26, 2018, 10:24 AM:

Yay! Backness! I was also amused that the post the server picked as the front page was an old one announcing a server failure. Something entertainly...recursive? about that. I discovered pretty quickly that the "lates 1000" page was up-to-date, so that was what I was using for access during repairs.

I've been in the same 940 square feet for 24 years. I (largely) stopped accumulating books about ten years ago; nevertheless, I need to do some digging with the Heap so I can figure out what Bujold needs updating/replacing. (Just figured out there's a whole Penric series I haven't read. Oh, the ecstacies!!) (I finally doped out that, contrary to aspiring to the "new look" of storing books spine-in, if one orients one's incoming heap spine-out, one might be able to tell, from across the room, what books one does, in fact, own.)

This is not to say, however, that my place isn't massively cluttered. Mostly with guinea pig supplies and kit, and also art supplies and kit. I keep waiting to have a couple-week holiday to sock in and do a good dunging-out, but that keeps not happening....

#28 ::: Benjamin Wolfe ::: (view all by) ::: February 26, 2018, 10:32 AM:

Glad to see that Making Light is back, and commiserations on the suck that is moving!

#29 ::: Clifton ::: (view all by) ::: February 26, 2018, 11:03 AM:

Hurray Sumana!

#30 ::: CHip ::: (view all by) ::: February 26, 2018, 12:25 PM:

Cheers for the return, and to Sumana for making it happen and explaining it -- I've seen vaguely similar problems in completely different systems (e.g., "Which copy of the translated messages do I read from?") and wouldn't have known where to start with this.

Also sympathies to P&T (and everyone else contemplating) on needing to condense -- especially on needing to condense quickly. (You were missed at Boskone, but life has to take precedence.) My partner's slowly-progressing medical issue has led them to make us look at which books we really want to keep, so others can go to the local club or to the public library (fortuitously located directly across from one of my choral-rehearsal sites), so we can take smaller/flatter living quarters; however, since we think we have years before we'll have to move, we can do it one bookcase at a time. (Plus we probably don't have nearly as many maybe-I'll-try-that books as some MLers -- guess I'm just dull....)

#31 ::: Tom Whitmore ::: (view all by) ::: February 26, 2018, 12:28 PM:

CHip@30: Dull? Who are you, and what have you done with CHip?

#32 ::: Jon Meltzer ::: (view all by) ::: March 01, 2018, 10:33 AM:

I was wondering about that last-crash date. Surely, I thought, they had backed up since then?

That index.shtml is just the kind of thing that gets into a software update as a "minor change that shouldn't affect any users" :-)

#33 ::: Kip W ::: (view all by) ::: March 01, 2018, 07:05 PM:

By coincidence, the New Yorker today sent me a mailing that included a cartoon of a woman working in a closet, telling her husband, "I've decided to purge our material goods, starting with your crap."

Best of luck de-cluttering. It be hard. How often I have wished Mr. Spock could come and put his finger on my head and then tell me which books and such I was never ever going to look at again.

#34 ::: CHip ::: (view all by) ::: March 02, 2018, 07:35 PM:

Tom Whitmore @ 31: Dull? Who are you, and what have you done with CHip? A question I've been asking more and more, recently, and taking desperate steps against. The latest: singing in 3 choruses in parallel -- just for a few weeks, so I finally get to do Chichester Psalms with an orchestra (having blown a chance 43 years ago).

and thanks.

#35 ::: Sumana Harihareswara ::: (view all by) ::: March 06, 2018, 05:00 PM:

I'm currently working on having Making Light default to HTTPS. I had the hosting provider set up a certificate via Let's Encrypt and I updated the Movable Type site URL, a bunch of templates, and the Mosaic face entry, to point to or include HTTPS content. Please speak up if you see any issues. Right now, if you specifically choose to visit , I think the front page should be fine and practically all of the autogenerated links (such as individual entries, View All By, monthly archives) should now point to HTTPS links.

Known issue: I know that now hitting Preview or Post on a comment will give you the "hey, this is an insecure connection, you sure?" warning, which I will try to fix now.

I experimented just now for a few minutes with a redirect to make the server point people to the HTTPS version of the site, but things got a bit wonky in a way I'll investigate later. For now I'll wait and see whether people report any technical issues with the changes I've already made.

#36 ::: Sumana Harihareswara ::: (view all by) ::: March 06, 2018, 05:56 PM:

I have not been lucky in getting the comment form to properly use HTTPS. I've poked at the comment form's moorings to try to figure out why it keeps wanting to go back to the HTTP version of the site, but no cigar. The warning

The information you have entered on this page will be sent over an insecure connection and could be read by a third party.

Are you sure you want to send this information?

is accurate while not terribly helpful in this context, since for the past decade-plus, everyone had to comment over an unencrypted connection; it's just that now it's more noticeable. I'll try again fresh tomorrow.

#37 ::: Singing Wren ::: (view all by) ::: March 06, 2018, 06:23 PM:

Sumana @ 35/36:

Ah, would that explain why the links in the recent comments sidebar were no longer showing as visited?

#38 ::: Sumana Harihareswara ::: (view all by) ::: March 06, 2018, 06:58 PM:

Singing Wren @ #37:

Yes, correct.

At the moment people should expect a varied experience, where sometimes they'll see HTTPS content but the page includes some HTTP links to other bits of Making Light, and on many archive pages, a reader will see some embedded HTTP images (which cause a browser to warn you of "mixed content"). There are many handmade artisanal links on Making Light, including links to past comments and posts, and at least for now I am leaving those alone.

#39 ::: Dave Harmon ::: (view all by) ::: March 06, 2018, 09:14 PM:

Sumana Harihareswara #35: Thank you for your efforts, and good luck wrestling those recalcitrant electrons!

#40 ::: Mary Aileen ::: (view all by) ::: March 06, 2018, 09:20 PM:

Sumana (35): I don't know if this is related to what you're doing or not, but the comment pages are now taking a long time to fully load. That is, when I click through from the Recent Comments list, the entire page is loaded, but the swirly thing* is still going and it doesn't go to the correct comment for a minute or two.

*Sorry, technical language is not my, um, thingy.

#41 ::: Mary Aileen ::: (view all by) ::: March 06, 2018, 09:21 PM:

Follow-up to #40: It posts pretty quickly, but the page still looks like it's trying to load. It all appears to be there, but something isn't resolving right away.

#42 ::: Stefan Jones ::: (view all by) ::: March 07, 2018, 09:13 PM:

FYI age:

Teresa's Twittering today includes shots of their impressive wall-of-bookcases, and of Patrick loading them up with books. (35 boxes today.)

#43 ::: C. Wingate ::: (view all by) ::: March 07, 2018, 09:33 PM:

There also seems to be some formatting issues with the "view all by" pages, possibly a CSS issue.

#44 ::: Sumana Harihareswara ::: (view all by) ::: March 11, 2018, 10:57 AM:

I see the "View All By" CSS issue too -- I'm sorry for it. Today I'm actually helping Teresa & Patrick move but in the coming week I will address the "View All By" styling problem.

Mary Aileen, are you still experiencing the problem you mentioned in #40 and #41? And if so, what browser (such as Chrome, Firefox, Safari, Internet Explorer, etc.) and operating system (such as Windows or Macintosh) do you use? Thanks.

#45 ::: Mary Aileen ::: (view all by) ::: March 11, 2018, 01:24 PM:

Sumana (44): It's still happening, but only on my home computer. Windows 7, Firefox 57.0. It's fine on the computers at work, which are Windows 10 and also Firefox but probably a slightly later version.

The comments all load pretty quickly; if I hit the Stop button (X), it jumps to the correct comment.

#46 ::: Joel Polowin ::: (view all by) ::: March 11, 2018, 01:24 PM:

CHip @34: The latest: singing in 3 choruses in parallel

Impressive! I haven't made much progress merely trying to hum/vocalize and whistle in harmony.

#47 ::: xeger ::: (view all by) ::: March 11, 2018, 06:36 PM:

Woo! Glad we're fully back again -- and much appreciation to Sumana for the work!

One of my biggest problems with decluttering is finding a good home for things that I no longer need, but fall squarely into the obscure or unusual category (eg: something like a gladiron equivalent similar to this one, which got responses from scrap metal hunters off of craigslist, but is still in perfectly good working order)

#48 ::: Sumana Harihareswara ::: (view all by) ::: March 12, 2018, 02:40 PM:

Thanks, Mary Aileen. I'll look into it.

I'll take this moment to thank Teresa and Patrick for all their donations to the Tiptree Award benefit auction which they gave me yesterday. I'm happy to take some stuff off their hands and sell it in an entertaining fashion in a few months at WisCon!

#49 ::: Mary Aileen ::: (view all by) ::: March 12, 2018, 03:26 PM:

Sumana (48): I just checked the computer on my desk at work; it's also Firefox 57.0, like the one at home that's having the problem. So the only difference there is the operating system. I'm not sure what version of Firefox is on the other work computer that I use, although I can check it in about 45 minutes.

#50 ::: Mary Aileen ::: (view all by) ::: March 12, 2018, 03:57 PM:

following up to my #49: The other Windows 10 computer that I use at work has Firefox 58.0.2. I just checked yet another work computer, with Windows 7 (like I have at home) but Firefox 58.0.2; it's also fine.

So it sounds like something specifically wrong with my home computer/connection. Maybe I need to clear the cache or something?

#51 ::: C. Wingate ::: (view all by) ::: March 13, 2018, 05:32 AM:

re 48 et seq: I'm seeing the same thing (never finishing) with FF 58.0.2 64 bit on Windows 10.

#52 ::: OtterB ::: (view all by) ::: March 14, 2018, 06:23 AM:

Data point on the "not finishing" problem. Also happening to me on Firefox 58.0.2 on a Mac running MacOS 10.13.1, on home wifi. It's been intermittent, but it may not be happening while on the hardwired network at work.

#53 ::: CHip ::: (view all by) ::: March 17, 2018, 08:28 PM:

Joel Polowin @ 46: not that kind of parallel, unfortunately; in fact, I'm not very good at concurrent processing, and am impressed that you can hum & whistle simultaneously.

#54 ::: Joel Polowin ::: (view all by) ::: March 20, 2018, 03:07 PM:

Humming/vocalizing concurrently with whistling isn't hard: start doing one, "put it on automatic" (so to speak), and start the other. Doing both on the same note isn't too hard, even while changing that note; the brain-to-muscle-memory for pitch is fairly automatic. And I can change the pitch of one while holding the other constant, to a limited extent, but it takes a lot of attention. But getting harmony at all, holding things static, is pushing my limit. Doing a tune is well beyond me.

#55 ::: Xopher Halftongue ::: (view all by) ::: March 20, 2018, 10:22 PM:

I used to be able to sing two notes at once. One was the vibration of my vocal cords; the other was made by shaping my mouth etc. to make one of the harmonics sound as a separate note.

Pretty much lost this after my hemiglossectomy, alas.

#56 ::: C. Wingate ::: (view all by) ::: March 21, 2018, 08:53 PM:

I can hum and whistle in harmony with each other, with independent melodic rhythms, and because I at first could only whistle while inhaling, I can whistle continuously for very long periods.

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