Category Archives: web design

ahhhh! now we find out…

my newly redesigned site uses the enfold theme, which has faulty (under certain circumstances) caching and optimisation routines, so we use lightspeed cache, which doesn’t have those (particular) faults, and works better (under certain circumstances).

except, last year, prior to my site being redesigned (when i was still using the avada theme), i was told (by SOMEONE) to disable lightspeed cache, because it had some sort of incompatibility with… something…

so, i went through the site redesign with a disabled lightspeed plugin. no problem, until i put in the enfold theme, and whatever circumstances that cause the caching and optimisation routines to fail, were happening, which was the cause of the first go-round.

turning on the lightspeed cache fixed the first go-round, but whatever incompatibility i was trying to avoid by having the lightspeed plugin disabled, took effect, which was the cause of the second go-round.

which was further confused by the fact that part of my routine for fixing the first go-round was good enough that it fixed the second go-round well enough that i didn’t find out about it until it was too late.

what i found out, today, via my web developer, is that the people who make the lightspeed cache and webhost python (my host provider) have their own battle going on: on webhost python’s servers (which include mine), the lightspeed plugin causes expired transients to multiply and duplicate. lightspeed says it’s python’s fault. python disagrees…

on the record…

OFF the record, python agrees that there is a bug in their system that they haven’t found yet… compounded by the fact that it was THEIR ERROR which caused the third go-round… 😠 but it’s not for me to say “i told you so”, especially with my already somewhat precarious position with this particular host provider…

and so, i’m caught in the middle. 😒

apparently, for the time being anyway, the plan is to disable the caching modules on both enfold AND lightspeed, keep an eye on the database (which hasn’t blown up since implementing this plan), clear the expired transients manually, and examine other options for a cache.

😒

oy! why won’t this just go away?

at midnight (which was 3:00 in the morning, florida time), i got a message saying that the database was blowing up again. they said it was 183 GIGABYTES

because of the fact that i was asleep (thankfully), i didn’t actually read the message until 7:00 my time (10:00 florida time). i immediately logged into my web server, and discovered that the MySQL disk usage was lower than i have ever seen it before, which is to say 253 MEGABYTES

what this tells me is that there’s something else going on besides this whole “enfold-theme-not-caching-correctly” horseshit.

which is bad.

it also tells me that, whatever it is, we haven’t actually found it… we may have found another problem, but not the one for which we’re looking… yet…

which is bad, but not as bad as it could be.

it also tells me that, whatever it is that is going wrong, the cronjob that we put in place to solve the problem, works, REGARDLESS of the actual problem.

which is good.

but, when it comes right down to it, it is not good for me to be so stressed out about something over which i have very little control.

which is bad.

something has to be done. this is ridiculous.

oh, but it couldn’t have ended there, now, could it?

and the answer is, a big, fat, OF COURSE NOT! 😒

i woke up this morning, and couldn’t log in to my web site… at, like, SEVEN in the fucking morning, i was wide awake because i couldn’t log in to my web site.

at NINE, the web designer gets back to me. he can’t login either. apparently the host provider has disabled the config file that makes everything work — i login using SSH, and there’s the file… everything LOOKS okay, but… the host provider apparently did SOMETHING to my web site. as far as i can tell, everything works, sort of, until you get one or two pages deep, at which point it gives me a “unable to connect to database” error.

😠

so, i file a ticket with the host provider. a couple hours later, (all the while, i’m sweating bullets) they get back to me, apparently, the database blew up AGAIN. they disabled the config file so that nobody could use the web site, because the database was growing by gigabytes A SECOND.

😠😠

eventually (seriously, they took most of the day to UN-disable the config file), the web designer went in and turned off everything having to do with the built-in, screwy, does-not-work, enfold caching and optimisation routines, turned OFF “store transients”, and set a cronfile to delete three rows of a table in the database, every hour.

😠😠😠😠‼‼‼

this better be the last of it for a while, because i’m just about ready to throw in the towel.

database update

the database is fixed. 😌

what happened? that’s complex.

recently, i had my web site redesigned. the new design uses the “Enfold” theme, which uses a lot of what they call “transients” to maintain the look and feel of the site, regardless of the platform on which it’s being viewed. “transients” are sort of like cookies, except that you can’t opt out of them, and they don’t contain any personally identifying information. some of these “transients” expire immediately when a person leaves the web site, and others persist, for a few minutes to several days. they persist on your computer AND on my server… in the one of the tables in the database…

the “Enfold” theme has automatic caching and garbage collection routines that are supposed to handle these expired “transients”, but, because it’s a wordpress theme, it doesn’t do all the jobs very well… or, sometimes, at all… which is why i also use a caching plugin that actually, you know, works ALL the time, and not only some of the time… 😒

except that, for some reason, prior to my site upgrade, “someone” (and i have yet to identify who, but it was either my web designer or my host provider) recommended that i disable the caching plugin, because of some issue with the new version of wordpress… or something like that… as i said, i don’t remember. i distinctly remember disabling the plugin on someone’s recommendation, i just don’t remember exactly who, when or why. 😖

one way or the other, my caching plugin was disabled, which meant that, when i installed the new theme, it was relying on the not-working-the-way-it-should, internal cache… which, basically, didn’t work, causing the table in the database to expand beyond my disk space allocation. 🤯

it didn’t show up in my cPanel because i wasn’t looking at the SQL disk space, which is “below the fold” of my browser, and i just didn’t scroll down far enough to see it. 😕 during the nightly automatic backup, it was overwhelming the server for everybody, not just me. i had to pay my web designer for two days of poking through piles of arcane SQL code and deleting bits and pieces of it. it was not fun.

the solution was to enable the caching plugin(!), and to install a “transient manager” plugin, so that i can delete the expired transients from the wordpress dashboard, and not from the SQL database,… which requires A LOT more “knowing what to look for” and “knowing how to delete stuff without damaging other stuff” than i have on board, personally.

databases

my first direct experience with databases was in the late 1980s or early 1990s, when i got a “job”, “working” for this… guy…

i don’t remember his name — possibly “henry” — but i remember his attitudes: he was always right, nothing he thought of had ever been thought of before, he was the richest, smartest, trendiest, most “on-top-of-it” dude that ever hit the face of the planet, and GAWD HELP YOU if you EVER got in his way.

needless to say, the “job” didn’t last long. it started with him demonstrating how generous he was, by buying me a disk caddy, so that i would have somewhere to keep all of the disks i was going to accumulate working for him. then he started asking me about computers. at the time, i was NOT a “computer geek”, nor did i want to be one (my father was one of the original “computer geeks” and i DID NOT want to be like my father), but i knew about computers because i had been working as a typesetter for a few years. he asked me what i didn’t know about computers, and one of the first things out of my mouth was “databases”, so he signed me up for a week of training with “FileMaker”…

what i learned was a bunch of recycled stuff from my already ample knowledge of microslut word and excel, with a bunch of “hypercard-like” stuff which i sort of vaguely understood (but nobody i knew used hypercard for anything, so i never really knew what i had missed until years later), and, at the same time i was doing this training, i was helping this… guy… clean out his house, because he was going through a divorce, or some awful shit like that, and he, basically, had to move EVERYTHING that was “his”, out of one house and into another, that was a few houses down the street…

which is where i learned that his “rich” persona was heavily financed by several HUNDRED overdrawn credit cards — he had been using one credit card to pay off another credit card, and when he ran out of credit cards, he would just start up a new one, and use it to pay off the previous ones… FOR YEARS… — at which point i decided that working for this guy might not be such a good idea, if i wanted to get paid.

quite apart from the fact that working for him was REALLY annoying…

so, ultimately, i spent a week learning really complex software that i never got to use for anything, and that was it, until i got my job at software.com, testing email servers, in 2001.

and, for all of my work with databases at software.com/openwave, i still don’t have a really solid grasp of what they are… where they “live”, what they do, how they work… anything… all i know is that, under the right set of circumstances, you can give “commands” to a database, and it will perform certain functions with a variety of different “objects”, the outcomes of which can be used in a multitude of different ways, depending on what is contained in your database.

i get the impression that databases are a lot like the world wide web, in that they both have a lot of objects (web sites) that are linked together in a somewhat-haphazard, but definitely organised way.

so, you can imagine that it was something of a surprise when, the other morning, i woke up, checked my email, and discovered two somewhat alarming notices. the first was warning me that i had used up 90% of my disk space on my server, and the other was warning me that a “table” on my main database was malfunctioning… or something… and collecting 251 GB worth of data… which, somehow, was NOT showing up in my cPanel, which says “Disk Usage 18.43 GB / 292.97 GB”…

and, of course, it happened on a sunday, when nobody’s in the office, and on mothers day, when even fewer people are in the office, and during a PANDEMIC… 😒

so, first thing this morning, after waking up to a broken heat pump, and a wife who wrenched her back, i wrote to my web designer, who said, oh yeah, we’ve seen this kind of thing before, it’ll cost between $200 and $500 to fix it…

and I DON’T EVEN KNOW WHAT’S WRONG… 😖

deliberate misdirection

this weekend, at “some point” — which means for 30 minutes, some time between 0:00 saturday and 24:00 sunday — the Hybrid Elephant web site will be updated to a new, more “appropriate” design in which i had A LOT more say than the previous one…

see this post for as much of a reason as i ever got.

thanks to rick cano at DesignWorks NW

which means that, on monday, everyone should remember to flush your cache (all my browsers are set to zero cache, already) and buy some incense from my new web site, okay? 😉👍

now that it’s over…

i discovered that the reason i, and, significantly, my clients, including the fremont players, were getting our emails “randomly” blocked by places like @gmail.com, @hotmail.com, @msn.com and so forth, was because my host provider’s data center was a known spam haven. my impression is that everybody knows to avoid Limestone Networks — the one admin i was able to convince to talk to me, said the following:

To give you an idea of the problem Limestone is we escalated the /18 your IP is in more than 6 years ago (March, 2011 to be exact), and despite rejecting several thousand emails a day since then in all that time I am aware of exactly one legitimate sender this has affected: You.

Limestone is not the worst spam haven on the Internet, but it’s not for lack of trying.

so they do business, or, more likely, have someone else do business for them, as IonBlade. i was desperate when they stepped in and assured me that they could fix everything — it turns out that my problem was my VPN provider all along, but i didn’t know that at the time — and i was already 6 months in before anything started to seem wrong.

so, i started looking for a new host provider in january, did my homework this time, and settled on WebHostPython, which actually offers me about 5 times what anyone else has offered, for a little bit less money… a definite step in the right direction.

however, i still had to notify the VPN provider of the change in my IP address, and while they dragged their feet getting it straightened out, i went for a couple of weeks not being able to send SMTP mail. of course i could use IMAP, but i don’t like keeping potentially incriminating evidence on someone else’s computer, and, these days, you just never know what they’ll decide is incriminating evidence… my SMTP started working yesterday, which brings to a close the battle of (someone else’s) computer, once again.

webhostpython has already helped me clear up a lot of IP and DNS cruft left over from 10 years of switching web hosts and not knowing what to clean up. i’m hoping that they’re still going to be my host provider 10 years from now, because, honestly, i’m FED UP with switching host providers. 😐

wow…

i actually got my first “paypal donation” from the button on the left… $1.11 from someone who i don’t know named zach edminster. whoever you are, if you’re reading this, zach edminster is appreciated… 👍 😎

i got some more training on the web site. i also got an order for $130 worth of incense and bric-a-brac from someone in north carolina.

plotz

drumpf continues to be a gold-plated asshole. his “muslim/immigrant ban” has been halted, temporarily, but he’s still building a wall, continuing with construction of two major oil pipelines, removing restrictions on coal companies dumping waste into streams, removing the affordable care act, blatantly censoring publically funded government entities like the parks department, the department of agriculture, NASA, and the environmental protection agency, firing people who resist him, and filling all available government positions with his cronies, who he has been encouraging to do similar things. he has gone on record opposing environmental restrictions by saying that his “friends” have businesses and they can’t borrow… 😠

i am getting an upgrade on the hybrid elephant web site. should be ready monday, with no down time. i’m wondering how long i can do this before i have to go out of business. reluctantly, i’ve spent about $1,000 on my web site in around a year, and i am pretty sure the web site hasn’t provided me with a commensurate amount of income. 😒

panto check came in. $100 less than last year. i’m not sure why, but it’s still the single greatest source of income i have for the entire year. next up is moisture festival. i know of at least a week’s worth of performances with the phil, for sure, and i know that snake suspenderz is “in”, but there’s still no clue how many shows, and/or whether or not we’re going to be a “show band”. i really need to find a new band and/or get us playing more frequently. 😐

puppies are still alive. mother (sis) is also still alive. the puppies have turned into alligators, so when they’re not actually feeding, sis has to wear a t-shirt or something to prevent the puppies from biting her tits off. we’re going to either visit, or to pick up a puppy (depending on as yet unknown other circumstances) on the 11th, and if we don’t pick up a puppy at that time, presumably we’re going to pick it up on the 17th… and then moe is going to some conference, somewhere, and i’m going to be left by myself to take care of three adult dogs and one 8-week-old puppy… thrill…

more odd WTF…

there’s been some BIZARRE things going on with my old web-site designer… there was this thing, which resulted in this thing, and i thought that was the end of it…

but then, after installing a new web-site security plugin that actually logs IP addresses and usernames, i discovered that there are HORDES of cracker/script-kiddies who are trying to use my erstwhile web-designer’s username (which, of course, i deleted months ago) to try to break my site…

literally, HORDES

like, in the past two weeks, i have probably blocked at least 200 different IP addresses who tried to login using her user name, everywhere from the united states to nepal, iran, the philippines, australia, russia, israel, brazil, saudi arabia, india, greece, indonesia, italy, france, canada, britain, korea, belgium, barbados, malaysia, madagascar, pakistan, romania… moldova?!?

so, this is my working hypothesis:

i finished my initial work with her, originally, in july, when the web site had been finished.

some time between july and november, she was cracked (which is very definitely NOT a good thing, especially when the product you are selling is web design).

because of the fact that she recently finished working on my web site, she automatically assumed that the people who cracked her were related to me in some way or another (this is a prime example of the “post hoc, ergo propter hoc” logical fallacy).

i don’t actually know people who crack web sites (any longer), but that won’t make an awful lot of difference to a person who has just been cracked… they have to calm down and think logically, which a person who has just been cracked is not inclined to do.

and, of course, since i am no longer even allowed to work with her any longer, there’s no way of my finding out whether or not this is true… πŸ™

still very odd…

so i contacted a guy who was willing to help me with my web site. $200 later, i’ve got everything fixed that needed to be fixed, and had an hour’s worth of training on how to actually use it… which turns out to be WAY simpler than i imagined, although there are multiple, duplicate functionalities that, basically, i can’t remove despite the fact that i don’t use them, because they’re simply a part of the core functionality of the web site. if it were my own code, i would find some way to remove them so that they couldn’t be co-opted by evil crackers, and, if i were persistent, i could probably do it anyway, but i’m not.

i was only not able to resolve, immediately, one issue, which is figuring international shipping, and that is only because of the fact that it would cost me an extra $100 for a plugin that i don’t want to spend.

i still don’t know what offended the previous designer to the point that she didn’t want to do business with me any longer, but she’s been a good sport and “allowed” me to take her link off of my site (which i probably would have found a way to do, eventually, anyway), and i will, probably, never know how i offended her so deeply… which is too bad, because i might have been inclined to see if there was some way i could make it up to her…

the upshot of the whole miasma, apart from being $200 poorer, is that i’ve got a relatively modern version of skype on my tablet, so if you’ve got skype and can convince me that you’re someone i should talk to, now’s your chance… 😉

odd… very odd…

i finally reached the point where i have a modern version of skype that works installed on my tablet, and have enough money in my bank account to afford a consultation with the web designer who redesigned my web site back in july. so i hit up her calendly and made an appointment, which was immediately cancelled, because, and i quote:

I’m sorry, but we can not take on work from this account. We do not approve of talking down to anyone doing work on any site, especially women, in the manner which has been done.

um…

W. T. F.?!?!?!?!?

i wrote back to her and got essentially the same response… 😕

i still don’t know what kind of insect got into her bonnet, but pretty much regardless of what i say, at this point, she’s not going to listen, and i would be wasting my time trying to figure it out.

it’s pretty discouraging, though, because i still don’t know how to do basic things like create a new product page, and i’ve got a plugin that won’t update correctly… and there are some things on the back end that need to be changed, and i’m not 100% sure how to change them, and i’ve still got 4 sliders installed and none of them seem to work, and i only really need one… and this lady who very nicely redesigned my site for me, and received payment from me, now, no longer wants to work with me, and won’t even offer an explanations why…

i’ve contacted another designer, who might work out, but i haven’t heard back from him, either, despite the fact that he said he was going to send an estimate “right over”, when i talked to him six hours ago…

okay

i got the third order from the web site, which is very good. the lady ordered three rolls of tibetan simpoi, and paid $6.50 shipping, which i thought i had fixed, but when i looked through the settings, i discovered one place, on a deprecated page, that said $6.50, which was, apparently, where she was going through… so i fixed it, and then deactivated the page (because it is deprecated, and not going to be included in future versions anyway), so now, presumably, shipping will be charged correctly.

and i’m REALLY jazzed that people are ordering from the new web site. it gives me hope for the future.

wump

i got the second order from the new web site. somebody ordered $2.00 worth of incense. the minimum shipping charge was set to $5.00, and the total for shipping was $7.20.

so i updated the flat-rate shipping fee to be a minimum of $8.00, instead of $5.00. i also updated the minimum international shipping fee to $25.00 from $10.00. this will, hopefully, prevent people from ordering stuff that costs less than the amount that it costs to ship the order to those people.

i think, with a bit of fine tuning, the new web site will work out just fine, even if i don’t get to hire the web designer to teach me the things i need to know right away.

greep

so i finally got in touch with the web designer. i took care of the most urgent issue myself, and after going back and forth with her a couple of times, she offered to skype with me, so that i could share my screen with her so that i won’t have to re-create an admin account for her… except for the fact that 1) i don’t want her to fix the problems, i want her to tell me how to fix them, because, ultimately, that is what i originally hired her to do in the first place, and 2) i don’t have a computer that can run skype AND on which i can access the back-end of the web site: i have a four-year-old MacBook Pro that’s running Lion (because i don’t want to have to buy all new software AGAIN) which won’t run the current version of skype, and a linux machine, which won’t run ANY version of skype… i can run skype on my tablet, but it would take a good deal of kluging to get into the back-end of the site with any facility, and, while i could do it, it’s definitely not worth it.

she wants to charge me and i can’t afford it. the last time i had her do anything for me was right after the site went live and i mistakenly deleted all of the content (i was deleting the extraneous admin accounts that she had created and i deleted all of the content they created instead of re-assigning it to me). she had a working copy of the site, and she uploaded it and had the site up and running again in half an hour, and she charged me $126… and, to be honest, that cleaned out my bank account and i’m going to have to wait until next year before i’m going to be able to afford to hire her again.

i’m sure that, if i try, i can probably figure out the remaining issues on my own, but it’s going to take a while.

so…

i got the first order from the new web site the other day, and everything works exactly the way it is supposed to work, EXCEPT…

the customer made the order, and was presented with a payment option, which he chose, and made the payment, but it doesn’t show up on my new dashboard… it’s supposed to show up, but it doesn’t. instead, what shows up is a 404 error, and the suggestion that i might have it in “Test Mode”… except that the toggle at the top of the dashboard definitely says “Live” and NOT “Test”.

i wrote to the web site designer on sunday. it’s now after business hours on monday and i haven’t heard anything from them. they have a “commercial presence” and more than one employee, so i don’t think they won’t respond, but at the same time, the presence of more than one employee makes me suspect that they probably could have at least responded to me by this point… i’ve gotten an automated “we got your message” message, but nothing else. if i don’t hear anything by this time tomorrow, i think it’s going to be time for me to start calling and making an annoyance of myself until i get some answers.

ETA: i figured out how to change it from “Test” mode into “Live” mode by using google, but i still haven’t been able to figure out where my money is.

i’ve got a few questions about the inner workings of the web site, too… i get this customer who is in australia, and he orders $16 worth of incense. the standard shipping is to charge him $10, but when i get to the post office, it turns out that it costs $22 to ship his package. i’ll let it go this time, but that’s something that i definitely want to change.

also, i’ve got a “slider” on the front page. on the back end, there are settings for several different “sliders”, but none of them seem to have any effect on the front page “slider”. how do i add products to it, and make it actually move?

also, i’ve got a number of new products, but no clear way to add them to the catalogue. i’d like to know how to add products to my catalogue, and make them available to customers. as well, there are a few products in my catalogue that are, clearly, “default, generic” products that i don’t carry, will never carry, and don’t want in my catalogue. i’d like to know how to permanently remove them.

news

fairly soon, within the next 24 hours or so, the current Hybrid Elephant web site will go away, and will be replaced by the new Hybrid Elephant web site.

don’t be shocked, it’s actually a good thing. the old web site is made using technology that has reached its “Functional End Of Life” (as they put it when i was a tester), and, because of the fact that i’m a lazy bastard, i didn’t bother to even think about updating it until it was far too late to do any updating, from a practical point of view.

this will be the first web site i have on my server which was not “home designed”. i figured that it would take me a lot less time getting the bugs worked out of the site if i wasn’t already trying to learn the technology at the same time. it turns out that a lot of the new technology is stuff i already know anyway, which is a good thing from the “keeping the web site updated” point of view.

it also features a bunch of technologies that should have been implimented a long time ago (HTTPS, and stripe replacing paypal are the big ones), but, once again, because i am a lazy bastard, i simply never got around to it.

if previous experience is any indication, there may be some intermittent browser confusion, but that should all work itself out within 48 hours or so.

i’m excited! see you on the flip side! 😎

it’s time to get that negative horseshit off the top of my blog… 8/

OCF is fast approaching. today is the 26th of june, and i leave for OCF on the 5th of july. instead of driving, this year i’m getting a ride with michael marconi. the fremont philharmonic has several changes in personnel, and hasn’t had a single rehearsal. allegedly, we’re going to have two rehearsals with the cast members who haven’t already gone to the fair to set things up, and allegedly we’re going to have one or two rehearsals without the cast, presumably to rehearse for the ritz, which we haven’t heard from yet… in fact, i’m going to write to matt now…

i’m really trying not to stress too much about not having any rehearsal, but i guess what i’m saying is that, despite the fact that i know it won’t do any good, i’m stressing about it anyway. i’ve got two new pieces of music out of who knows how many more, and there’s a good chance that we won’t be able to rehearse this, even once, with the entire crew, until thursday evening, before we have to start performing on friday morning. it must be worse for kiki, since she is actually writing the new music. fortunately, it’s for the oregon country fair, so even if we totally screw up, it’s highly likely that nobody will notice.

i’m having the hybrid elephant web site re-designed. i decided that it would take a lot less time for someone who already knows how to use all of the new technology do it than it would for me to learn how to use the technology, and do it myself. it’s still not exactly what i want, but we’ve already put a method of payment in place that doesn’t involve paypal, so that’s a really good trade-off… and, while it is not exactly what i wanted, it largely has all of the things that i want, more or less where i want them, it’s got some really cool new features that i didn’t have in the old site (starting with a SSL certificate, so no more doing business over an unsecure network), it uses wordpress and woo commerce, so it will be really easy to add on to, and it’s going to be A LOT easier to keep up to date, so i won’t have to do this whole thing again in 5 years…