Ming the Mechanic
The NewsLog of Flemming Funch

Wednesday, September 8, 2004day link 

 La Rentrée
picture French kids are back in school this week. That time is called "la rentrée" - the re-entry, the return. Somehow that's a real big deal in the French mind. You hear the word many times per day. Every other commercial on the radio presents something for la rentrée, and lots of people are interviewed on TV about what they feel and think about la rentrée, and it is the subject of talkshows and articles. It is not like in the US where there are also "back to school" specials and so forth. Here they seem to organize their thoughts of the whole year around that time. Which seems to last about a month. Doesn't matter if you go to school or not. La rentrée is one of the key concepts in a year. I suppose it illustrates the importance of education. The French are very serious about getting a proper education, and making sure things work right for the kids, and everything is talked through. It also shows how they tend to arrange things in blocks. In August everyone is on vacation. Toulouse was close to deserted and many shops and companies were closed for weeks or for the whole month, and if anything needed doing, the standard message would be that it is vacation time and it might not be possible. And then - la rentrée - everybody goes back to work and school and things open again. The stereotypical image is that on the first of August everybody and their families are stuck in their cars filled with tents and beachballs on the freeways out of Paris. Headed south, not to Toulouse, but further east, to the Mediteranean. And the last day of August, they're all stuck on the freeway headed back. Well, we're not in Paris, so I don't know if it is exactly like that.

Almost like regular people we had vacation in August. We were in Denmark for a couple of weeks, which was nice. And now Toulouse is bustling again. Nadia is back in Ecole Maternelle (kindergarten), now in the class for big kids. Zach is back in Lycée (high school). Seems to work out well for them. And Marie, she'll start in a restaurant school, and that's actually not before next month. But it feels like la rentrée alright.
[ | 2004-09-08 23:40 | 26 comments | PermaLink ]  More >

 Upgrades
picture I did a few upgrades on my server. That kind of thing is best done in spurts, as one usually can't upgrade just one thing, as one program depends on the other, and it easily ends up taking days to sort out the domino effects. But has to be done once in a while, if nothing else to catch the latest security fixes, and for the sake of progress.

So, I started by moving up to MySQL 4.1.3. Which is strictly speaking a beta version, but MySQL is normally so stable and bullet-proof, and I had seen so many references to cool features of 4.1 that it seemed to be time. But more of a jump than I expected. Database access suddenly didn't work in PHP, as the access libraries were different. And since I had to recompile it anyway, I might as well update some of the packages it uses. But I quickly ran into a few problems, and figured I might as well move from PHP 4.3.3 to 5.0.1 and see if that worked better. Which meant I had to upgrade some other packages it needed, and quickly they were then a version that weren't going to work with the earlier PHP, so I had to make it work. And I ended up upgrading libxml2, curl, libxpm, t1lib, libungif, libpng, ming (flash library), mod_ssl, mod_auth_mysql, and finally it all compiled properly. Oh, and apache too.

Upgrading a live server is a bit like replacing the engine of a car while it is running. The users of course expect that the car keeps running, but you have to take the engine out, and adjust a few things to make the new engine fit, and then the old engine no longer fits. And even if the new one runs, there might be hundreds of little things that suddenly might not work. It might be a little while before you discover that gif files no don't convert right, or that some little-used function just isn't happening now. In this case it wasn't too much. A version of Wordpress was crashing with PHP5 and needed to be upgraded. And MySQL 4.1 introduced some pervasive new features for dealing with character sets, which produced some strange errors until I got the configuration set right. And it removed support for the old ISAM database format. Which there still were some of, so they suddenly couldn't even be updated to the newer MyISAM format. So I needed to move them to another server, and update them, and move them back.

Upgraded the sendmail mail engine too, to get some security fixes. And suddenly the server started sending out a lot of old messages from a couple of months ago. I suppose they had been stuck in the outgoing queue undelivered. But that sure confused a few people.

Anyway, so far so good. All for the sake of progress.
[ | 2004-09-08 23:59 | 23 comments | PermaLink ]  More >

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