July 22, 2002
The transition

I've had some requests for details on the steps it took me to transition everything to the new domain and blog editor. I've still got a number of things on my to-do list - importing my Blogger archives, getting categories working, getting a bio and FAQ in place, adding a search function - so this will be a status report with more to come later.

You can't run Movable Type on Blogspot, so the first order of business was getting a web host. I could have put this on my personal home page (which is also in transition right now), but I decided that I'd rather have my own domain. That meant registering the domain name as well. Some web hosts will do that sort of thing for you. Dreamhost, the web host I settled on, did that work for me but gave me the rights to the domain name. I liked their price and their knowledge base, so I signed up with them.

Once the domain was ready, I downloaded the Movable Type install and FTPed everything to the server I'm on. I decided to install MT and the blog files into a subdirectory instead of having the blog index file at the root of offthekuff.com. I figured I might eventually want something else as the domain index, but I may change my mind on this.

I had to grab a couple of Perl modules from the MT web page, as the mt-check.cgi file said they were out of date. I ran into a snag setting permissions on all of the nt*.cgi files. I knew I needed telnet to run the chmod command, but I'd set up my default domain login as an ftp-only account. Once I changed it to be a shell account, I was fine.

During the MT install, I ran into two problems. One had to do with the default database. MT lets you use either a Berkeley db or mySQL. In reading their documentation, it looked to me like mySQL was their future path, so I followed the instructions for that. Unfortunately, MT was assuming that you already had a mySQL database configured and were merely giving it the details to access it. I assumed that MT was taking the information I gave it and creating the database for me. Once I realized my error, after a discussion with Michael Croft, I switched to the Berkeley db and got past that problem. I had a different issue with some MT subdirectories that had the wrong case. Fortunately, the MT install instructions made this error easy to catch and fix.

After everything was installed, I did a couple of test posts (which I ought to delete one of these days). When I saw the blank, featureless result, I realized that MT lets you get started without choosing a default template. So, back to the MT homepage to pick a style sheet. After the blog went live, I got some feedback from Josh Trevino, another recent MT convert, that I needed to add "height:100%;" to the #links and #content sections of my stylesheet. Not having that caused IE6 users to be unable to see any content underneath my blogroll.

Finally, Ginger and Ann alerted me that my permalinks weren't working. Since the Blogger permalink bug helped spur me in this direction, that was a big deal. Turned out I'd simply configured the path to my arhives incorrectly in the blog config. I could swear I'd copied the results of a "pwd" command, but either I'm mistaken or something changed on my web server. In any event, once I realized the error it was easy enough to fix.

So that's where I stand. If you're already on a web host and you've got all the right Perl modules already in place, installing MT shouldn't be too bad. It's got so many features, and it makes you think a lot more about your configuration than Blogger does, so the install and first posts are not necessarily anywhere near the end of the story. I expect this blog to mutate and morph over time, though the basic look of the front page is unlikely to change too drastically. I like fooling around with that sort of thing, so it's more of a treat than a chore. Obviously, YMMV on this score.

I'll post another update once I've got my Blogger archives and a few desired features in place.

Posted by Charles Kuffner on July 22, 2002 to Administrivia

This is why I doubt I'll ever make the leap away from blogspot. It sounds like an ordeal(and I don't get much traffic anyway). I like your new design, though. Much more reliable and pleasing to the eye.

Posted by: Owen Courrèges on July 24, 2002 2:38 AM