Friday, December 02, 2016

Internal Server Error on Wordpress blog, out of the blue

I had a bizarre outage yesterday on one of my four Wordpress domains, the “media commentary” domain as documented here

I had looked at it around 10 AM Thursday morning (EST) to get the monthly stats from Jetpack.  Around 2:45 PM, I went to it, intending to do a post (for the movie “My Friend Rockefeller).  I got an Internal Server error, HTTP 500, without hesitation, on more than one computer.  On the cell phone, it was just blank.  Only one of the four domains I have with Bluehost had this issue.  

The technician at BlueHost in Chat replaced htaccess and other major files, still didn’t work.  So she restored from a Nov. 30 backup (this is lucky, it was up to date), and that restore took less than one minute.  Then the site worked. 

I had to have the tech remove Jetpack, and then I resintalled it without incident (there was another HTTP 500 the first time on Jetpack when the rest of the site worked).   I also had notice that my own Wordpress account no longer showed the “media commentary” blog under “Write”.  That link came back with the reinstall of Jetpack. 

I went into it and added the post, but then I found I could not edit the posts in Visual mode.  I can edit them in Text mode (html code).  The technician was able to see the visual mode.  I went into users, and looked at my profile, and found the “disable visual mode” unchecked.  So I don’t get why this happens.  Somehow the tech users, even with my user id, can see it.  I’ve noticed that on editing a page (as opposed to a post), that sometimes visual mode fail until you do one more update.   It has always behaved that way.

The error log for the site had shown multiple errors “call to undefined function (wp)” around 1:30 PM EST.  The best information I can find it that Wordpress is vulnerable to corruption from some plugins, or from (C++) “stack overflow” errors when the server doesn’t have enough memory or work space during automated updating (especially of plugins).  This appears to be a server management issue and not hacking, DDOS, etc, to the best that I can tell.

I found a couple of references to this problem on the web.  The Word Press forum, moderated by James Huff, seems to presume that the blogger has much more knowledge of WordPress internals and server internals than I do.  I normally expect the hosting provider (BlueHost) to handle all of this.   This is rather like the C++ bridge to the midtier when I worked at ING, that only one contractor (from Pakistan) knew inside out.  (Zuckerberg is right – we need overseas talent right now – and American users need to be much better trained in OOP coding internals – Here’s a source on stack exchange.   Here’s a source on the Visual Editor. 

Here is a site that explains common Wordpress problems forBeginners.  Wordpress probably requires more coding skill knowledge from users than does Blogger, as the product seems a bit more intricate.  

Wordpress users with hosting providers all need to be familiar with how their hosting company’s backup works.  BlueHost has Site Backup Pro, explained here.  

I make it a practice to back up my own content in image format once a month, and I back up the most critical or valuable postings separately.  These then get backup up by Carbonite, and by me on rotating thumb drives (one of which is in a safe deposit bank),  just like all my unpublished manuscripts. 

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