There’s no lack of boastful articles about the benefits of open source software; I have not come here to bury them (or praise). They can do wonders and sometimes they just can burn your energy.

I’m still a fan.

But it takes work.

In a current project I am responsible for setting up three open source academic web applications on a cloud server (look at me ma playing a system admin!). And just for rounding, they are written in three different P languages – PHP, Python, and Perl.

Oh P.

After 4 weeks (well I am getting paid for about 5 hours per week)… I am finally 3 for 3. Just to get them running.

I could not even do this were it not for searching and so many helpful responses in various stack exchanges and individual blog posts. I’ve been sudo apt-getting like mad. You enter suggested cryptic commands and watch screen and screen of progress fly by. Then you test. And it fails. Then you realize it probably needs an apache restart. Still fail. New error. New search. Try a different module.

It’s a game of sorts.

But then there are these things…

The first one had maybe 14 messages back and forth in a GitHub issue thread. It was suggested I installed wrong, or that I did not understand the code (that’s definitely correct). That my settings were wrong. Then in the end… “Our setup script had the wrong directory for a default”.

Now while I can whinge about this, on the other hand, I had the person who knew the code in and out helping me one on one. He or she just kept suggesting things, even if they were not helpful, in the end, the thing is running.

For the second one, it actually set up good, but we found errors in use. And after a good chunk of time finding the error, it turns out they did not recommend the correct version of PHP. Installing it was not hard, but there was a mad cycle of figuring put how to get apache to use the one I wanted.

I notified the developer.

One of the contributors to the assessment interface code decided to use those [new capabilities only in PHP 7.1].  I should update the readme, thanks.

Even with this, I have to be thankful I can communicate directly to developers, and usually before I do that I can figure out the answers elsewhere.

And it does give me some more empathy for people who use my pile of SPLOT code and stuff. I am sure people use my stuff and get stuck where I’ve made errors or forgot to document something.

And for all of this, I would rather have open source code as is (well open can be better, always), then not. And people who respond to my half informed questions and others who freely offer solutions elsewhere.

My hair is ok.

Featured Image: Added “oops” text and Wikimedia Commons Open Source Initiative image shared under Creative Commons CC BY to Old Man Pixabay image by Pexels. Also cropped image to be mostly “head”.

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An early 90s builder of web stuff and blogging Alan Levine barks at on web storytelling (#ds106 #4life), photography, bending WordPress, and serendipity in the infinite internet river. He thinks it's weird to write about himself in the third person. And he is 100% into the Fediverse (or tells himself so) Tooting as


  1. I spent quite a bit of time yesterday trying to figure out-utf 8 encoding issues in php and wp_mail when the problem was that Mail Hog had a bug in displaying email subjects.

    I happened on this post when looking to see if you’d ever written about wp cron. It didn’t help me there but I read it anyway. 🙂

    1. How refreshing to read an actual blog comment, even if my post showed up on a search for “cron” because it used “acronym”. Language is funny.

      I honestly had to read my own post twice to recall what the heck I was writing about.

      Glad you sorted your utf-8 bugs. I think I only used wp-cron for triggering the publishing updates for the daily create theme, but apparently never wrote about it.

      Fun times.

      1. I got a lot of acronym results on here from that search. This balance between irritation at the free thing and thankfulness was right in line with what I was feeling at the time.

        I’m writing a function to send email reminders that occur the day before an Event Calendar Pro event that I have people registering for via Gravity Forms. I probably should have just stuck with their registration plugin but I really thought it was way too complicated for what we were doing. I think we get enough traffic to rely on wp_cron. I hate testing time-triggered stuff. It drives me crazy waiting even 1 minute.

        I spent an angry 10 minutes trying to figure out why emails were not sending before realizing I’d commented that portion out for testing (11 minutes previously). Programming, the art of me proving I’m an idiot in various ways.

        1. I’d guess you got it figured out. I had to scrape some memory dust from my code for the Daily create. I have an hourly wp_event trigger that tells… er told it long ago to check the Twitter API for new responses. I had another one similar to what you are doing that would be triggered two hours ever the daily publish time toi check if there were more than a specificed supply of new scheduled posts. It seemed reliable.

          I’d be anxious to talk about Event Calendar Pro, I had it in play for Open Education Week (I admit we had a contractor do some customizations), but there are some funky things under the hood.

          1. Maybe . . . I feel like I’ll only know after a couple weeks of actual use.

            Happy to talk EVP. I know . . . pieces of it and have created a few custom template over-rides over the years.

            I’d like to be outsourcing chunks of this to a contractor. 🙂

  2. If you end up with time this week, it’s our spring break so I don’t have much for meetings. I’m talking to Maren on Thursday.

    If not, let me know some times/days in the future. I’m generally not too scheduled anyway.

    We can also continue this via email, but the blog comments always seem like presents and emails are usually weights accumulating to drag me down.

    1. I will do my part to avoid adding to the email weights. I’d love to catch up and most of the time I am not all that scheduled, but oddly enough I am traveling for the first time in months and in fact will see Maren next week. I’m headed to OER24, then skiffing down to visit my sister and visit my childhood haunts, so am not back in the work saddle until after April 7. But let’s line something up! Maybe old school Skype.

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