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My Netfirms Site Moves Went Fairly Well - Fri, 8 Jul 2011

Back on June 3rd, I wrote that Netfirms was going to be migrating my site. The migration stared a few days before that. I know I’ve got a fairly complicated account with 4 websites and 6 mySQL databases and many PHP scripts. They had two methods - automated (let them do it) or manual (I’d do it). I really didn’t want to get involved in that unless I had to. I wanted to see how well they’d do, so I chose “automated”.

After the migration “started”, I went to my Netfirms control panel at least once a week to see how it was going. I was able to see where they were in the process of migrating. It listed the scripts they ran and the files they updated. For the first few weeks, about 100 files were listed and the sample side-by-side page (old site/new site) which had GenSoftReviews home page only showed “future home of…” on the page.

The last few weeks I’ve been busy (I’ll tell you why in the next blog post I write), so I hadn’t bothered to check what was going on and almost forgot about the migration. Then two days ago, I had some glitches in my email (and my family’s email as well who also use @lkessler.com). I use MailWasher to preinspect mail on the server and delete spam in advance. I saw I had a number of emails to download. I downloaded them, but they all came in as blank emails. Strange. Since I had prescanned them, I knew the only important one was someone who filled a GenSoftReviews feedback form. So if you’re reading this and you’re the one who sent me that feedback on July 6th, then sorry I didn’t get it and please resend it to me. My wife had an interesting situation where she had about 40 emails in her account dating back a month. When she downloaded, they were duplicates. At the time, I thought it was just a one-time email glitch and I’d check into it if it happened again.

Then today, something a little more alarming. I saw that someone had purchased Behold yesterday, but they did not get into my database of Behold users. That had never happened before. I went into my database and when I tried to edit that person’s record, I got a “could not connect to database error”. Hmmm. That was bad.

So now I signed into Netfirms and … Surprise! The new control panel. Aha. The migration was completed. That probably is the reason for the mail glitch and the current problem. Overall, everything looked pretty good. They got my WordPress blog and bbPress forum working okay. There’s some really funky addins that I custom modified to my liking, and they were all okay. GenSoftReviews also was working with no problems.

So now it was just a matter of tracking down why the sale was not recorded. I first thought it was the settings to access the mySQL databases, which the “cannot connect” error seemed to indicate. But I saw that Netfirms did a good job updating all the scripts properly.

I really ended up being very lucky finding this problem so quickly. It was nothing like what I thought it might be. I had a PHP variable named “mysqlhost” that was set to the new host name. This is one of the values that Netfirms had correctly changed. Then I tested that it worked properly with a test program they create for me in their control panel. The critical statement was: “mysql_connect($mysqlhost, $user, $password)”. The test worked as they wrote it, but some of my own critical PHP programs that had the same code didn’t work. The luck involved seeing that in my calls that didn’t work, I had: “mysql_connect($mysqlHost, $user, $password)”. The difference was that I had an Uppercase “H” in “mysqlHost”, but the variable that was set had lowercase.

Now I knew what happened. Long ago, I made that case error, but the webserver my site used to run on was a Windows server. The new site is a Unix server. Windows allows mixed case PHP variable names. Unix does not. Solution found and fixed in about an hour.

There was only one other slight problem I found and corrected. They left a bit of junk at the top of just one of my PHP scripts that looked like this: “session_save_path(”/home/users/web/…/cgi-bin/tmp”);
session_start();” Fortunately I have a copy of all my websites on my own machine, and after doing a BeyondCompare comparison of the two, I easily saw that it should have been simply: “php session_start();”. I changed it and it worked fine.

So I’ll give Netfirms an A- for their automated conversion. The conversion itself was good, and the mistake I made they really couldn’t be expected to catch. But the biggest complaint would be that they weren’t sending me emails to inform me where they were in the conversion. And they should have especially sent me one when the conversion was done from their end to inform me and ask me to check that everything works. I never did get any emails like that. Netfirms: if you’re listening, communication with your customers is essential when they have a website that needs to remain functional.

But I am very happy that this is now done and over and went very smoothly. Hopefully the Behold site will run even better than before and it will be ready to handle a Digg of activity that could happen once some announcements come out regarding Version 1 of Behold and thereafter.

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