A terrible day on GFF!
Regular visitors on GFF will have noticed an absence of the site the latest 24 hours or so... here's why.
Yesterday at this time - late afternoon, early evening - I received a mail from our hosting company, Hostgator.
In the mail they wrote that they were sorry, but GFF was hogging the server and creating problems for other customers with sites on the same server. They had shut down the site.
We are generally very pleased with Hostgator. They have been taking very good care of GFF for a few years now, and we haven't had any problems.
On the contrary.
Hostgator has delivered on all fronts. The site has been running smoothly. The few problems we've had, have been solved quickly and with excellent help from Hostgator, whose support is knowledgeable and prompt.
But yesterday they shut down the site!
So for 24 hours GFF returned a simple error page with no further explanation.
I tried to take care of the problem with a few quick fixes, and they opened again, but only for a few minutes, then they shut us down again, claiming that we still loaded the server beyond reason.
Now, let me briefly sketch the technical history of GFF. I know it's not even remotely connected to fly fishing or fly tying, but it's still an important part of the site's history. Just check out the Disk Space Blues blog theme.
The system behind the site is "home made". We have been on the air for longer than any of the many publishing systems that are available today, and I have been expanding and developing the site on the foundation of a home built publishing system.
I would never start any project based on home made software today. I work professionally with such publishing systems - content management systems or CMS's - and I know that that is the only way to go.
But the legacy of GFF is that we're weighed down by lots of custom made functions and special formats and structures.
In spite of this, the site has been milling along for ages, and although I ought to convert the site to a modern CMS such as Drupal, there really has been no reason.
Well, there might be now!
Because for no apparent reason, out of the blue, the site has been acting strangely and been shut down by the host. Twice in a couple of weeks, actually.
I have spent the last 24 hours (not all of them. I did sleep, perform a bit of paid work and cook dinner) trying to get the site to run faster with less load on the web server and database.
I had done that already by adding a so called cache-system years ago, but only caching article content and not whole pages. Now the whole pages are cached too, meaning that the first visitor to a page will invoke a function that builds the page and saves it as a simple file. After this, new users will see this static file, and the page will only be rebuilt on content changes or when the copy grows too old.
This sounds pretty smart, but actually means goodbye to a lot of fancy functions. As you might have remarked, all hit lists and counters have disappeared from the site. Random content as well as relevant suggestions based on other visitor's views are also frozen every time the page is rebuilt, and not generated anew for every page view as it used to be.
We'll obviously have to give up having these functions in order to keep the site afloat as it is right now.
One more price for all these changes is most likely that there will be lots of things that don't work. That's what happens when you meddle with things on a very fundamental level. Touch a system in one end, and it may break in the other. If you bump into things that don't work, please let me know on firstname.lastname@example.org
Hopefully we won't see too many broken things, and the slightly amputated site will work as intended.
A solution to our problems and a possible return to the old state of things, would be a dedicated server where loads would bother no one but ourselves. But unfortunately that's an expensive solution. We're already paying a lot to run GFF, and don't need further expenses.
Another solution could be a move to a modern system, but just the thought of doing all the conversion and building a new system to present all our current content can make me sleepless.
So for now, it's one step forward and two steps back. The site is slightly less smart, and not as feature rich, but the content is all there and hopefully faster than ever!