A strange couple of days

Let me ask you something. Have you ever had one of those weeks where no matter what you try, everything just seems to go wrong? Well, that’s what it’s been like for me for the last few days. You know the saying, ‘everything that can go wrong, will go wrong’? I hate that saying. It always makes me think of 20th century nihilism for some reason. I much prefer ‘shit happens’. Now there’s a saying you can live by.

Anyway, it started last Wednesday. For anyone who doesn’t know, I’ve been helping my mother get started online over the last few months. The main stumbling block so far has been netiquette, but I think we’ve got past that now (hallelujah). One of the reasons she’s wanted to get set up online is that she makes beautiful patchwork quilts and she’s been looking for a way to showcase them. She’s setting up a stall at an arts markets here and I suggested having a web address printed with her contact details so people could see them in more detail. So I set up a WP blog for her to update every now and then with news on her latest quilts, as well as a Flickr account for the pictures.

That was going well for a while, but it wasn’t quite right overall. It’s more of a blog and it really needs to be a customizable site, something with more detail and a news section she can just update every now and then. So I thought moving it to a host might be the best idea, so I could experiment with the design and layout, get it just right for what she wanted.

I started with Drupal, but I quickly realised that Drupal was just going to be too complicated; I got it running smoothly and while I know how to use it, I’m not the one who’ll be updating it, so there was no point. So I scrapped that and thought the next best thing would be a self-hosted version of Wordpress. It’s still blogging software, but really if you have the power to customize it, then you can make it into just another website. But the important thing was that the interface would be the same, so there shouldn’t be any problems.

All good in theory, but it didn’t work out that way. And this is nothing to do with my mother, btw. No, apparently WordPress hates me. It just refused to install properly. I run a self-hosted website for my book group and that was where I set up the install. I’d already installed Drupal on the server, so there shouldn’t have been any problems setting up Wordpress.

But it just wouldn’t work. I couldn’t understand it; I still don’t. I installed it eight times. Eight times! The first time was a Fantastico install and it installed, but did nothing. Well, I hate Fantastico, so I wasn’t particularly surprised. The next time I downloaded the software from WordPress.org and manually installed it via ftp. It did a full install, but it still didn’t work. And this was where it started to get really weird. When I went to the address where it should have been installed, I got the directory instead. When I actually went inside wp-admin, I clicked on index.php and that took me to the dashboard. I could make posts, add to the blogroll, select themes… but I couldn’t delete anything, change anything. I was logged on as admin, but it didn’t give me the privileges. And when I tried to see the blog, it still sent me back to directory. When I looked around a bit more, clicking the index.php file (outside wp-admin) took me to the blog. But when I clicked the individual posts, it took me back to the directory again! It was infuriating.

So I uninstalled and installed it again. It had the same effect. So I started playing around with the files. I went looking for the home.php file in the home theme, but changing that didn’t do anything. So I went looking for the .htaccess file. And that was missing. I didn’t miss it, it wasn’t there. I uninstalled again and downloaded an earlier version of WordPress; that didn’t work either. I was starting to think I needed Chloe from 24 to make any sense of it. I tried installing in a sub-directory, but that didn’t do anything. I Googled the problem and tried everything I could find, but nothing worked; I even watched videos of professionals installing WordPress (Rachel Cunliffe’s blog is a great resource, by the way, if you’ve never seen it) to see if I was doing anything wrong, but I knew I wasn’t – I’d done installs before, and Drupal had worked.

The only thing which seemed to make sense was that the webserver wouldn’t support WordPress. After 8 installs and two days of fussing around, I gave up and went to a different host. I found one which gives you free webspace as long as you don’t get more than about 20 visitors a day; useless later, but great for a test site. So I did that and it installed first time. I’ve got it running now and I’ve spent the last few days customizing it, changing things, removing the sidebar. I still don’t know what was wrong before. The other host was MDWebhosting and they’re supposed to be one of the best hosts in Aus; they claim to run WordPress without any problems, and I installed Drupal on their server just fine. It seems strange that a server could run Drupal but not WordPress, but I don’t know what else it could be.

Unfortunately that wasn’t the only thing that was going wrong during those few days. On Sunday I had a meeting of the monthly writing group I run. No-one turned up! I’d had a few cancellations, but I didn’t expect no-one to be there. So I was there for an hour waiting in the private room we’d reserved, listening to the rain and shivering in the cold. One of the waitresses took pity on me and kept coming back every few minutes to see if there was anything she could help with. We had a bit of a chat about writing and I realised a few hours later that I think she’d been hinting to look at some of the work I’d brought. Sigh. I’m an idiot. In my defence I had a migraine and I’d brought it to work on more than for for people to look at… but still – idiot.

Meanwhile I’ve been struggling through one of my worst cases of writer’s block. I finished a poem I’m still not happy with (that’s what I had with me on Sunday), and I just can’t work out how to finish Shards of Babylon. I think a lot of it’s good, but it’s changed so much from early on that I’m not totally sure it all makes sense… and I’m not sure I care. I just want it finished; I’ve only got two chapters left, but whenever I try to get started, I can’t work out where to begin. Note to any writers out there: don’t set a story in Baghdad when the world keeps changing like mad. I don’t know, I’d say I need a break, start a short story and forget it for awhile… but if I do, I know I won’t have the damn thing finished by Christmas. I’ve wasted 2 1/2 years on this already – I will not have it go into 2008 as well.

Anyway, so that’s what’s been going on, why I haven’t posted as much lately as I’d have liked… it’s been a strange few days. Not like it’s been the end of the world or anything, but it’s been frustrating. Like all my best intentions have just got stuck in the mire. The WordPress thing got to me. This is what I do in my spare time – I help people with technology, not seriously, but enough to help friends and people who are out of their depth. Why I couldn’t get WordPress to install is just bamboozling to me. But oh well – shit happens. 😉

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