I took a peek at the top, right-hand corner of my computer screen. That’s where the clock is on a default installation of Ubuntu GNU/Linux, version 6.06, which I was using at the moment. 3.28pm. Barely two hours left to fix this mess I made.
This wasn’t the first time that I had got burnt attempting to do too many things at the same time. I was working on a website, www.primesoilnig.com, and I was on a tight schedule. I always was on a tight schedule. I never could convince clients to leave enough time between signing the cheques, and getting the goods delivered. I needed to upload the most recent changes made on my local copy of this website to the remote, Internet-accessible host whence the rest of the world could view it. I also needed to make corrections on the job-descriptions I had previously uploaded to my company website in a hurry, since the word was already out, and at any moment, thousands of job-seekers could be stuck wondering whether their computers were corrupt, or a brand that literally looked like it had no chink in its armour put some poorly formatted job descriptions up on its nifty website. I couldn’t take responsibility for that.
Good thing this GNOME desktop made it easy to multi-task. I hated that word, but hey, I was working here. Open Places, connect to server, ftp://layer3.cc. I’ll just set this primesoil upload running, then I can attend to the matter of the corrections.
"Make sure the printer’s powered on, and there’s paper in it!" I yelled, rather than said to a colleague who enquired why his print job wasn’t out of the printer yet.
A few seconds later, I’m uploading. "Internet access is so much better here in Abuja" I ponder, as a dialog pops up asking me to confirm overwrite of the previous index file. Strange. I don’t remember having an index file earlier. Oh well, maybe I’m just exhausted. "Overwrite without asking me again".
A new browser instance pops up. As I key http://layer3.cc, A stark realisation dawns on me. This is the same host I specified in the previous dialog! I switch windows quickly and find out that my company’s Index file on their main website has been overwritten by…
Back to the browser to verify that I wasn’t just dreaming, I key in the website address. I’m greeted with black text on a white background: "Internal Server Error…". I take a few deep breaths. This cannot be! Just yesterday, I botched a simple project, and the client canceled it. Granted, there was a little sympathy on my side, but to add this… Wait, count to ten. After the emotional battle that followed yesterday’s failure, I have to calmly think out a solution to this problem. I can write code after all. I should be able to resolve this.
Ok, first, call my boss.
That went better than I expected. I should be able to reconstruct the index page by looking at an old copy in the Google cache. Thank goodness there was a cache! As long as I could fix the issue in good time, the boss wouldn’t have my head.
That was a good first step. Next, find the fastest way to resolve this mess, even if it means reconstructing the index.
I fire up my editor, and check the Google cache. Satisfied with what I see, I put in the first few lines that normally go up a webpage. But wait, something doesn’t feel right. This is not a regular website, It is a content management system. Reconstructing the look and feel of the index page won’t guarantee that all the other components of the website will fall in place. This is a bigger mess than I think it is.
A few fruitless Google searches later, I’m convinced I need to talk to someone with more knowledge than I have. Now, where to find such a person. I’m easily the only webdeveloper on this 6-floor, 2-winged office complex. My company is the only company in this complex whose activities cut across web development. I could try my luck, but I don’t think those good-looking TV reporters down on the third floor will have a clue. Focus… this isn’t the time for jokes.
I have been hanging around #ubuntu (on irc.freenode.net) a lot lately recently. #ubuntu is an internet relay chat room where Ubuntu users, developers and lovers alike hang out, helping each other fix their computing woes. It crosses my mind that the content management system that powers my company’s website is Open Source, the same way Ubuntu is. Its quite likely that they have an internet relay chat room as well. I will almost certainly find someone to shed more light on my situation there. After a couple of minutes, I end up in #joomla. A few minutes, and a few questions later, someone suggests I seek the same version of joomla that powers my company’s website, and replace my corrupt index file from that source.
Ten minutes later, I was breathing a lot more easily. I could have spent days chasing the wrong leads, if there was no Internet to connect me with far more experienced people.
fortune: Once upon this midnight incoherent, While you pondered sentient and crystalline, Over many a broken and subordinate Volume of gnarly lore, While I pestered, nearly singing, Sudddenly there came a hewing, As of someone profusely skulking, Skulking at my chamber door.