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Some tech notes on the server move

Some notes on my new hosting situation, so I have somewhere to point to in case one of these issues causes a problem in the near future. Probably only of interest to the technical-minded among the readership:

No hosting solution comes without a downside. I picked Xepher because it's a free host, run by an owner I trust, and unlike Comicgenesis it allows users to use PHP. Business-wise there are two potential downsides to the 'free' aspect: one is that it's very restrictive about what advertising you can use, and the other is that when you start making money from your art, Xepher takes a percentage. The former is really an upside, as it means that annoying or tasteless ads are disallowed server-wide. The latter is a downside I want to be hit by as hard as I possibly could, in pretty much the same way as I'd love to be in a higher tax bracket.

You can already tell that Xepher runs a tight ship, right? He made short work of my Movable Type installation when it became the target of a comment spam attack of DOS proportions. Then he started looking for solutions to enable Movable Type to run safely. (Unfortunately, I had unrelated problems with Movable Type preventing me so far from bringing back the comments.) That's his approach: finding ways to make potentially dangerous software safe to use on a small server that hosts several hundred sites. Mithandir grumbled a bit while installing the CMS about the way PHP runs as CGI on the server, but that too is a security measure implemented as a response to someone's PHP scripts turning out to be unsafe to use. I won't go too deeply into it because I don't have the expertise to understand how that works. PHP scripts work, with some tweaking, and anyone, no matter how inexperienced, who has a Xepher account can use PHP.

Two more recent potential gotchas: Xepher posted on the forums recently that

MySQL service on xepher.net is offically "deprecated" as of this post. I will continue to run the service for a while yet, but will not be upgrading to the newer releases of the MySQL package. There are several reasons for this. First, it's a royal pain to manage and maintain. Secondly, there's now a very viable (and much more portable) option in the form of SQLite. Third, the overhead and resources for the mysql server could be better spent elsewhere. There's a reason most serious MySQL installations are on dedicated machines, seperate from the webserver.

What this means though, is that web applications that rely on MySQL (such as phpBB) will need to be either replaced or upgraded to something that supports another method of storage. I personally have to rewrite a lot of the backend software for xepher.net itself to move away from MySQL, so this a headache for me as well.

Again, I don't know enough about SQL implementations to tell how hard it will be to move the CMS over to SQLite, and I'm glad it won't be necessary immediately.
But it may cause trouble several months down the line.

What won't cause problems for me but is worth noting is that PHPBB on Xepher.net is also to be "deprecated". This is something I do know something about, from Joey Manley's semi-public hairpulling over the PHPBB installation at Talk About Comics. PHPBB, I've been reliably informed, is a nightmare to administer. Phasing it out is a good idea.

That's it for now. Any new tech notes will be added here in updates.


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