Category Archives: Site

Migration from DreamHost to DigitalOcean

This past weekend, I felt like undertaking an old school nerd project. I decided to see if I could host my websites on a $5/mo DigitalOcean VPS as well as I can on my $10/mo DreamHost shared hosting site. Turns out to have been a huge success.

DreamHost has been just fine for my purposes. I signed up ages ago and have a $10/mo unlimited account. Unlimited disk, traffic, domains hosted, etc. It has worked just fine. But, I don’t know if I’m getting $120/mo worth of value given how much (or little) I actually use it. At one point, in the mid 2000s when blogging was cool, I hosted sites for a few friends and family members. Over time, that’s all faded to black. All that’s really left is this site and the database remains of the others – domains long since expired.

DreamHost offered a good one stop shop for everything related to getting a site up. But, as virtualization and things like Infrastructure as a Service have started to shake up the landscape, a shared hosting service isn’t as awesome as it once was.

I looked at moving to Squarespace, but the $8/mo service for one site wasn’t giving me any value. I’ve been using WordPress for years, and (at the time) didn’t want to undertake a full blown CMS/platform migration. I wanted to lift and ship my site.

I spun up a 512MB/20GB Debian box on DigitalOcean, locked it down security-wise, and installed Apache, PHP, and MySQL. I setup the core config for running virtual domains. I rsync’d over my site, exported my database and imported it, and ta-da!

If only it was really that simple. I kept running into issues where the underlying file system path was embedded in configurations that I didn’t know about, generating random 500 errors on the backend that presented itself as a blank page in the browser. Sometimes it would load. Sometimes it wouldn’t. Time to start Googling….

The super cache plugin really did not care for being moved. It was the core of my problems. I ended up having to delete all of my plugins and reinstall them to get everything working. And that’s when I ran into a screen I had never seen before. An hour here, 45 minutes there, and it seemed to be working as well as ever.

Given that I have 512MB of RAM on my VPS, I started evaluating what I could do to streamline things further. I decided I needed to dump Apache and go to Nginx. Nginx is designed to be light and fast and not fall down under load. Just what I need!

After this point, it was normal “learning new software” hiccups. The homepage would load, but the categories would throw 404s, etc. It all came down to a few settings in the site’s nginx config file to get it to pass everything to WordPress that it should. By Sunday, everything was fully running, and I had updated my DNS and all that fun stuff.

Later, I’ll talk about Cloudflare and moving to SSL-only.

I’ve been messing with the backend of the site for the past week or so. Today I noticed that my oldest posts are from 2005. Here’s to 10 years of running a blog without posting to it except for about once a year!

New Theme, Complete with Page Header Graphic

Disclaimer: There are a lot of links in this post. I suggest that anyone who reads this views each and every one. You will be a better person for it, and will understand why I’m drooling about this like a small child.

Some of the links may contain items which may be considered “not safe for work.” Be advised.

As you may have noticed, the theme has changed again for the site. I found one I really really like, and I’ve been able to make it my own. Now, you’ll see a title graphic on the pages of a string bassist. The photo is by Chris Weeks, a superb professional photographer whose work can be found all over the place, and you probably don’t realise it. Here’s a sample from his gallery at Deviantart. Keep digging, and once you get past the photos of the celebrities of the moment, you can see what I really love about his photos: the realness. This photo of two older men playing chess… or the things he’ll notice and shoot that most people would miss… nevermind the amazing depth of field he can pull out of a shot. I wish I had a millionth of his talent and ability behind the camera.

Anyway, thank you, Chris, for allowing me to use your beautiful picture on my site.

It’s done.

Well, I moved it. Hooray. I have a sneaking feeling that I’ll be doing this one or two more times for the others. :) But, that’s okay, because I enjoy it in a kinda sick, twisted way. Hooray for WordPress. Let’s hope I don’t find something I really hate in the next few days. :)

Replacing Movable Type with WordPress?

Will I replace Movable Type with WordPress? Maybe. They’ve made a lot of progress with 2.0 of WordPress. It’s a lot cleaner than I remember. They’ve tossed in a bunch of AJAX and the like that makes the interface a lot smoother. The themes are a lot easier to manage (picking preselected themes, that is) than MT. Plugin management is also better.

As for downsides, there are always some. First, the templates are more complex in WordPress. Movable Type’s templates are like editing HTML. Here, it’s editing PHP. Second, MT allows multiple blogs per installation (not that it matters with my current setup). Also, there’s the comfort level. I’ve become comfortable with Movable Type over the past year-ish. It’s a big step, but, it’s one I might have to take.

I’ve shown this to one of my other users and they like the WordPress administration side better. So, we’ll see.