Murphy’s Law Alive and Well

Why read when you can listen?

“Anything that can go wrong will go wrong” – and it did. Murphy’s Law is certainly very much alive and working well, as I found out over the last couple of days, when my websites started playing up as soon as I paid for advertising.

No sooner had I set up an ad on eBay and Gumtree for my hosting, than I noticed one of my sites giving me an error when I tried to do something. It said I didn’t have write permission for a particular file. So I checked all my sites and some simply went to an error 500 screen and would not even let me in.

Something strange was going on and it was affecting all my sites. They had been working fine last time I checked. So I raised a support ticket with my wholesaler asking them what was going on.

I didn’t get very far, with them suggesting it was my fault and it was not their job to fault-find WordPress installations. But it was affecting every site, even ones I had not been working on recently. I knew there must be a common thread, but what was it?

After much trial and error at changing and fiddling with things, it seemed WordPress was seeing file permissions at one level below what they actually were. For example, it would not write to a file with the 644 permission. I had to make it a minimum of 666. The same was happening with folders, with 755 being reported as not writeable.

By this stage, I was starting to panic. I was not able to do anything on my sites at all. By removing some entries from the .htaccess file, I could get rid of the error 500 and at least have the front end working, but I was unable to do anything in the back end. This meant that if someone bought hosting from me, either through the eBay ad or directly from my site, they would have the same problem.

There was much to-and-fro activity on my support ticket, but the blame was still being pointed squarely at me. So I had the brilliant idea of adding a new cPanel account and letting Softaculous install WordPress by itself, meaning I played no role in how it was set up. Sure enough, the same problem occurred.

WordPress 5.3 has the Site Health module installed, so I was able to send my wholesaler a screenshot of it saying there was a file ownership problem and to contact your hosting company. At last, they agreed something strange was going on. But they had no idea what.

Eventually, they agreed there was a server-wide issue, that would not have affected just me, but anyone else on that server. But no one else was reporting any problems. They were unable to find the cause and had to raise their own support ticket with cPanel. The answer came back that cPanel had accidentally removed a module in their last update. The wholesaler added it back and the problem was solved.

It has been an interesting exercise in communication. Trying to explain things in text is never easy. You have to include the necessary information, without adding extra stuff that could throw people off track. You have to ensure your message is coming across loud and clear, and stand up for yourself.

It has also been an interesting insight into the “chain of command”, with me having to identify the symptoms, the wholesaler understanding the issue, their inability to fix it, and the need for them to seek help from further up the line. All the while with me hoping I don’t have someone purchase hosting!

My background in electronics has taught me how to logically look at problems to be able to objectively see things as they are, without getting emotionally side-tracked. I have had many faults over the years that made no sense, and it has always been the ability to think laterally, or “outside the box” that has enabled me to pin them down.

This same ability can also be used with mental health issues. It took me a lifetime to see how anxiety was my root problem. I blamed my symptoms, and how I coped with them, such as by drinking and did not see the actual fault was the anxiety. Once I saw the link and, more importantly understood it, then I could accept my anxiety and not let it dictate how I behaved. I know my boundaries now and what I can and cannot handle. I understand I cannot fix the problem, only manage it.

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