Let the Drupalization Begin

Slovak Train Washroom Signage

You’ll notice some drywall dust around this blog today, all part of a renovation project that I’m just tentatively taking the wraps off now.  After 10 years of maintaining this blog in a masking-tape and baling-wire codebase that started life as something called “the Catherine Hennessey engine,” I’m migrating everything to use the open source Drupal system,

To longtime readers this may come as a surprise.  Certainly it’s surprising to me.  Or at least to 1999 me.  I’m a coder at heart, and the notion of using someone else’s code to maintain as something as intimately connected to me as my words was, for the longest time, anathema.

But for the last six months I’ve been knee-deep in Drupal, part of a large website migration project for one of our clients.  I’ve been churning out custom Drupal modules, learning the ins and outs of “the Drupal way,” slurping content out of myriad ye olde CMS into Drupal and helping a team of editors and designers make Drupal their home.

Along the way I started to love Drupal.  To love its quirky yet powerful undercarriage, its rich collection of modules, its open community of developers.

And in the end I realized that if I was going to be writing code, I might as well be writing code that could help more than just, well, me.  There’s a lot to be said for drawing from and contributing to the open source well, and that well seems enough like home now that I’m comfortable with it as a place for my words.

In this spirit I’m migrating somewhat before the “okay, everything’s done” stage has been reached.  You’ll see evidence of this from the very basic design of the site (I started with the very nice Basic theme and am working along from there; I’ll keep working), from some broken links here and there (although I’ve spent a lot of time trying to ensure that nothing breaks), and from some missing content (I haven’t yet brought over the 17,000 comments that have been written readers – coming soon).

Also in this spirit I’ll be writing a lot about some of the challenges I faced in migrating from the old homebrew system into Drupal.

In the meantime, some technical notes:

  • the URL for the site’s RSS feed is now ruk.ca/rss.xml – but the old URL should automatically redirect.
  • the rukapedia is, at least for the time being, over at wiki.ruk.ca – the content there might end up here eventually; still thinking about that.
  • things like my Twitter feed in the sidebar wil return soon.

Lots more to come.


Peter Rukavina's picture
Peter Rukavina on July 16, 2009 - 02:38

Well, that was fun: I flipped the switch and 10 minutes later our Apache server completely melted down.  I was eventually able to login to find it running with a load average of 116 and a whole whack of httpd processes humming along.  This could be completely unrelated to the switch flipping of course (the best meltdowns are), but I tuned up Drupal a little before turning things back on (turned on caching, CSS and JavaScript optimizing, etc.) and we’ll see what happens.

Peter Rukavina's picture
Peter Rukavina on July 16, 2009 - 02:55

I’ve traced the cause of the Apache meltdown back to a flood of results, all for the same URL, from spinn3r.com. I’ve robots.txt’ed them out, and we’ll see if that helps.

Peter Rukavina's picture
Peter Rukavina on July 16, 2009 - 03:37

I tried robots.txt, I tried .htaccess, but Spinn3r wouldn’t stay away.  Finally I resorted to filtering them out at the routing level:

# route add -net gw lo
# route add -net gw lo
# route add -net gw lo

This seems to have stopped the errant spider for now.

Dan Misener's picture
Dan Misener on July 16, 2009 - 14:01

the URL for the site’s RSS feed is now ruk.ca/rss.xml – but the old URL should automatically redirect.”

Works fine for me in Google Reader, still pointed at http://ruk.ca/rss/index.xml

Good luck with the migration.

Paul Belliveau's picture
Paul Belliveau on July 16, 2009 - 20:39

Well my friend, it puts smile on my face to know that I have presented an opportunity for you to drink — and then consume ravenously — the Drupal koolaid. This coming from someone who can barely spell Drupal but may soon be printing t-shirts with the phrase “Just Drupalize It”

So I have a question about ReCaptcha…if the idea is to have the “captcha” world using our visual acuity to translate books, how does it know you’re entering the correct information? Doesn’t this defeat the reason for having captcha?


Peter Rukavina's picture
Peter Rukavina on July 16, 2009 - 20:53

From the What is reCAPTCHA? page:

But if a computer can’t read such a CAPTCHA, how does the system know the correct answer to the puzzle? Here’s how: Each new word that cannot be read correctly by OCR is given to a user in conjunction with another word for which the answer is already known. The user is then asked to read both words. If they solve the one for which the answer is known, the system assumes their answer is correct for the new one. The system then gives the new image to a number of other people to determine, with higher confidence, whether the original answer was correct.

Robert Dawson's picture
Robert Dawson on July 17, 2009 - 01:59

Good luck with the conversion. I’ve been using Drupal for two years and I’m still constantly learning about all the great features it has. Have you ever thought of using Disqus for your comments? Does a good job of spam control and has a lot of other options.

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