Hardware- and software-related technical problems have popped-up one after another for the last week in working on this site. It all began on Tuesday, March 14, 2017 when I noticed I was having problems with my backup software for my Windows 10 desktop computer, which is the machine I use for most of the work on Southern Maryland Food & Drink. Troubleshooting the backup software led to finding my hard disc was full of bad sectors, meaning it was likely to fail sooner than later. It was also causing programs to respond slowly, as they were having trouble reading and writing to the hard-drive — a technical problem I couldn’t readily fix myself.
On Wednesday the 15th I took the desktop into a computer-repair shop to get a new hard disc installed and all my files and programs cloned to it. After dropping off the machine, I headed over to Blue Dyer Distilling Co. to video an interview with the founder and Master Distiller Ryan Vierheller. I had been there twice before. But those times were during visiting hours, when the space (a large, high-ceiling warehouse space in an industrial park) had a number of visitors milling about. With just the two of us, the acoustics were not great for sound-recording, because of a large industrial fan running in the background.
Vierheller was able to turn off the fan for a bit. Eventually, though, it had to kick-on again for the distilling process to continue its proper course. The sound quality on the recording, unfortunately, went from OK to lousy — yes, another technical problem. Now I’m working on transcribing the video into an interview. In the past, when I’ve been able to work with a professional video crew, there’d be one person running the camera, another doing the sound, and all I had to worry about was being the reporter. But as a one-man band, my resources are much more limited, to say the least.
The computer shop called me first thing on Friday morning to let me know the machine was ready. When I got it home, it took a little fiddling to get it all setup and running properly, but the good news was that I wouldn’t have to re-install my programs and files — they all got properly transferred. Next I had to get the backup program running again, so that my future work wouldn’t get lost. Along with the back-up to the cloud, I also have it setup to make a mirror copy on an external hard-drive. I called technical support for the backup software that I use and they did a remote-connection to my computer and pretty much set everything up for me, so that all looked to be in good shape.
Software technical problems
On Saturday morning, I went to use the machine and all looked well and good. I logged into this site and began to check things out. I’ve used several Content Management Systems (CMSs), such as Joomla! and Drupal, but for this site I use the WordPress CMS. In addition to the primary software package that is the CMS itself, you then have lots of different add-on pieces of software that they call plug-ins. Every so often, a plug-in will get updated, and you get a notice that you have an update to install, which is what I found awaiting me that morning for a typography plug-in I use. I just clicked-on the update and off I went. Unfortunately, it turned out the update had a major bug in it and this site became incredibly slow and pretty much unusable — for hours. With help from my web-hosting service, we eventually got things back under control after about 5 hours. Basically, we had to shut-down that plug-in. I notified the plug-in makers of the problem and waited for them to fix it. They announced a fix within 24 hours, but I waited until Monday to run the plug-in again, just to be sure additional bugs hadn’t been introduced.
I found out about the fix when I checked things on Sunday morning from my iPad. Since things now seemed to be fine, I headed into my office to get some work done, and found that my desktop machine had crashed overnight and could no longer see its new hard disc in order to start-up. I knew that meant it had to go back to the shop on Monday morning and in the meantime, got out a laptop to work on things (I can do some work on the iPad, but typing is not it’s forte).
Whereupon I came across the next problem: another plug-in was acting-up on this site (the plug-in that created the links to related stories at the end of each article). It was using large amounts of the resources of the central-processing unit on my host computer, again slowing things down. The day before, the technical support folks at my web-hosting service had pointed to this other plug-in as a possible problem during our trouble-shooting sessions, but once we found the big problem with the typography plug-in, we thought things were OK. What were the odds two plug-ins would go bad at the same time? It happened. So I shut down the second plug-in and went in search of another to do the same job. I tried a couple, but the first few didn’t seem to make very relevant links. On the third or fourth try, I finally found a replacement that seemed good for the job; it wasn’t a resource hog, and the related stories links it created seemed to actually be fairly well chosen. So, that’s what’s running on the site now. Whew! For now, the technical problems with this website seem to be solved.
Hardware problems resolved
Come Monday morning, I drove over to the computer shop. Fortunately, the problem was a fairly simple one, and they were able to fix it while I waited. I got the computer home, set it up, and worked to get the backups running again. As it turned out, the backup to the cloud had been working fine between Friday afternoon and Saturday night, but the local mirror backup to an external disc hadn’t been working. I got back on the phone with tech support for that company and they again initiated a remote-connection, took over my machine, and after about 45 minutes got things running. As it turned out, they had to erase the old mirrored files, format the external drive, and re-start the mirroring process from scratch. It took a little over 48 hours to complete the mirroring process, but since then all has been well.
After all this, if I thought knocking on wood, or crossing my fingers would help, I might do both. But I’m not superstitious, so will just keep slogging away. Back to creating food & drink content! (Hopefully, with no help from the technical gremlins.) ♦