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Monday, January 23, 2006

The benefits of careful reading

So, I'm trying to install some new forum software to handle user questions for my software company (my fun job, not the one I hate), because the one I am currently using is giving me some problems.

The new stuff installs OK, and then I try to import the old forum posts into the new forum setup. There's a utility that comes with the new stuff that's supposed to handle this, and it does, mostly. All the posts and all the users and accounts and everything gets imported nicely, with not too much hassle. I'm impressed. But, all the dates on all the posts show up as Jan 1, 1970. Now, all you programmers will recognize that date as a timestamp of 0 - the beginning of time for Unix systems (and all that copied the Unix time system), so I sadly realized that the forum importer was just failing to get a valid time, and as default, was setting all timestamps to zero. Oh well.

I thought I'd re-import the old posts, with some different settings, to try to fix this date issue. But, I couldn't find a way in the new system, to erase all the stuff I had just imported first. So, I went for a re-install. I started the installer, and it said "Hey, you already did this. Do you want to write over the existing stuff (possible problems ahead!) or do you want to delete the old stuff and create from scratch (warning! you'll lose all your old stuff!) ?" Well, of course I went with the "from scratch" option - I wanted to lose the old stuff, it was wrong.

But, if I had read a little more carefully, I would've seen that the warning about the "from scratch" option was warning me that it wasn't going to just delete the database tables associated with the forum software... No, it was going to delete all the tables in the database. What? You mean even tables that the forum software shouldn't even be looking at? Yup.

So, kaboom. And it's gone. Goodbye database! Goodbye new forum. Goodbye existing forum. Goodbye website back-end. Goodbye customer registration data. Goodbye ability to add new customers. Hello tech ISP support - got any recent backups? Yeah, we have one from 4 days ago. That'll be $75, please.

Again, if I had read carefully, this wouldn't have happened. But then again, software really shouldn't do things that are both unexpected and calamitous.

Fuck. Fuck. Fuck. Not what I wanted to do tonight.


After twelve hours of panic (and even a few scary dreams about data-eating viruses destroying my home PC), it's all back to normal. They restored my db file, with only 3 days of data missing; and I can fix that by hand. Now I'll run a full backup of my own, create a new db for the new forum to live in and try it all again.

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