I just upgraded the Movable Type blogging software that powers Windpundit from version 4.01 to version 4.21. I did it for all the usual reasons—better, faster, stronger…
No, maybe not stronger.
Movable Type is supposed to be easy to upgrade. Just download the gzipped archive of the latest version and dump it right on top of the existing MT installation. Then I just login to the control panel and it kicks off the automatic upgrade process which integrates the new data files, updates the database, and so on.
Everything seemed to go pretty smoothly. I did the upgrade early this morning and Windypundit was back up in a few minutes.
Then I tried to log in and post something, and all I got was a missing-file error. No menus, no posting interface, nothing.
I poked around and couldn’t find anything, so I logged a support ticket at Six Apart, who make the Movable Type blogging engine. I also logged a support ticket with my web hosting provider, Downtown Host, in case they saw anything unusual on the server.
The Downtown Host people got back to me pretty quickly, and we exchanged a few ideas, but they couldn’t find anything. An hour later, Six Apart sent me a message back asking for information and pointing out that my support agreement had expired.
The Six Apart support agreement costs $99 per year, but I decided to renew it because last year they helped me with a problem that I never would have found myself. After renewing, I answered their questions and told them I had renewed my support agreement.
Two hours later, they asked a couple more questions.
After another hour, they suggested the problem might be in the ImageMagick toolkit used by MovableType. I had found dozens of 25MB core dumps from the perl interpreter on the web site, indicating that perl had crashed while trying to build the main user interface dashboard.
I asked Downtown Host to reinstall ImageMagick for me, and they did, but that didn’t help.
After this, I tried something on my own. I dumped the fresh Movable Type 4.21 install into a separate folder and renamed the folders so that the fresh install would run Windypundit. Then I tried to login to the publishing back end again.
This time it worked. Of course, without all the custom templates and plugins I use, the main Windypundit front page was totally hosed up. But I had proven that the problem was with something in the Movable Type software folder—as opposed to a database problem or a server configuration problem—and it was some file that my old folder had in it that was different or missing in the fresh install.
So I put my upgraded MT folder back and downloaded both it and the fresh install to my PC, ran a comparison between the directories, and spent started poking about temporarily deleting or changing files on the live website until I finally found the change that made it start working again.
Movable Type is indeed mysterious. I don’t know how, and I don’t know why, but all it took to get Movable Type working again was to delete one small image file sitting in the
Here. Take a look at the culprit: