I am the Master of MySQL! (sorta, and not drupal… yet…)

I’ve spent far too much time since last Monday trying to figure out how to install drupal on my Macintosh computer in my office. I’m interested in working with some kind of CMS for departmental things– to make some documents easily available, maybe even to be the “front end” fo the writing program web site. Drupal seemed like it might be a good idea.

I of course realize that I could use Drupal for tons of other things, but I’m not interested in changing my ways too much. WordPress works just fine for me in terms of a blog (and, as I’ll get to in a moment, it might end up being my choice for a CMS too), and I plan on continuing to use some combination of ol’ fashion web sites and eCollege for my teaching. As I’ve said before, eCollege isn’t perfect, it isn’t nearly as customizable as any open source/do-it-yourself product, and I think the interface is kind of ugly. On the other hand, eCollege is the system supported by Continuing Ed at EMU (and it is quite well supported, too), which means that the technical stuff is someone else’s problem. And this last issue is way important.

Anyway, I found some instructions at a sight called Mac Zealots for installing drupal on a Mac. BTW, a great site, and, as far as I can tell, it’s written and run by a couple of undergrads at Purdue. Now, no fault to the Mac Zealot guys, I had two basic problems following these directions for drupal. First, I am a “Mac guy” specifically to avoid opening “Terminal” and typing a lot of crap like this:

/usr/local/mysql/bin/mysql test

Second, in order to install drupal (or any of these other open source content management systems), you really have to install and vaguely understand MySQL and PHP. This is a level of computer geekdom I have not yet reached.

Now, when I’ve raised some of these issues with people who know better than me, and their general response is “you should talk with your local system adminstrator.” Well, here’s the problem: when I mention things like “Content Management Systems” (and to be perfectly honest, even stuff like “Open Source”) to the local system adminstrator types, they clearly have no clue as to what I’m talking about. There is a way to work with MySQL on the university’s main web server, but I think they are very stingy about access to this and when you ask for access (which I have– haven’t heard back yet), they make it clear that you’re basically on your own.

In short, when it comes to this sort of thing (e.g., anything that ICT doesn’t already understand, even if it is something that they should understand), I am the local system administrator.

Anyway, I figured out the other day that I had installed the wrong version of MySQL before Thanksgiving break and didn’t really figure that out until yesterday. An easy mistake, IMO, because there are about 100 different versions of MySQL and the “right” version for things like drupal and WordPress is kind of old. So I had to go through the process of un-installing MySQL, a somewhat scary step since it again involved the dreaded Terminal function and the script I found for uninstalling MySQL comes with warnings like “make sure you know what you’re doing or you’ll have to reinstall everything on your computer.” And basically, I think that I did get this version of MySQL to work.

So, everything’s great? Not quite.

I tried to get drupal to run with no success. Then I tried to install WordPress, and, after a few minor glitches, I got it to run, as you can see here (though there really isn’t anything there yet). I would still like to get drupal to work, and maybe I’ll try to monkey around with it when I get a bit more free time in the office. But for the time-being, here’s what I’ve learned so far:

  • While WordPress might not be nearly as powerful as drupal, it’s a hell of a lot easier to configure and use. At least to me. And a CMS in the hand is worth more than two in the bush.
  • I feel like I am approaching the place where I’m going to have to buy one of those books I see in the computer section that suggests it can teach me MySQL and PHP basics in a week.
  • Finally, Apple– or somebody else developing software for the Mac– needs to come up with a CMS/blogging software that is all icon/menu-driven. I want this to be an icon I click on, and, as long as I have Personal Web Sharing set up on my Mac desktop (which can be set up with a few clicks, btw), then, I want this to work too. I want ti to have a lot of features along the lines of what I would expect in a word processor or a good HTML editor. And I want it bundled with the operating system– maybe OS 10.5? If I were in charge, I’d call it iBlog.

Interestingly enough, there is a software that does a lot of this stuff called iBlog. I haven’t used it, but the reviews are pretty mixed.

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7 Responses to I am the Master of MySQL! (sorta, and not drupal… yet…)

  1. jeff says:

    That’s too bad about the local folks. It took me until only recently to find an admin who would work with me and who would trust me. He gave me access to our mysql interface. The interface is very simple. I don’t know anything about mysql other than what it does, but with the interface, I just click to make a database and then I type in the name. That’s it.
    Much of this speaks to the disconnect that often exists people faculty who aren’t computer geeks but who know something/and admins who worry over security (which is important) or who don’t trust us. When we find middle ground, it is rare but great.

  2. Steven D. Krause says:

    Well, I shouldn’t speak too badly too quickly about the local folks. I might be able to get access to the MySQL stuff yet. We’ll see. But there is unquestionably a culture here (and I think at most places) where the likes of me is presumed a “security threat” until proven otherwise.

  3. Just thought I’d join in a moment of solidarity here as I’m currently working the exact same channels. I’ve gotten Movable Type running using something called the Bekeley database–the instructions say this is not the best way to do things and that mySQL is available from the University Web space, but my request is floating in the same command chain fog as admins try to wrap their minds around why someone in English might want to get access to the inner workings of the server. It’s encouraging to know that if the human connection can be made, the interface won’t be that tough. Definitely working the administrative channels is the way to go and I’m with you on not wanting to have to go up to the elbows in code.

  4. cbd says:

    What’s so bad about reinstalling everything? I do it all the time :)

    If you are learning MySQL and web stuff, phpMyAdmin is your friend. (If you can get it to run on the EMU server. I suspect this is what Brother Rice is talking about.

    However, there’s almost no way to set up the kind of things you’re looking for without a little command line work. So grin and bear it. Really, it won’t kill you, and my guess is the geeks on your campus will trust you a lot more if you show a little command-line savvy around them. Learn a little more than the basics, and you can make WordPress do whatever you want.

  5. Steve Krause says:

    Three thoughts on all this:

    * phpMyAdmin is, IMO, a PERFECT example of all that is wrong with open source software like this. I suspect this would be a useful application *if* I had more than a beginning clue about PHP, MySQL, and what the heck this software can do. I am confident that I could figure this out, but I’ll need to study up first on PHP/MySQL, which might happen over x-mas, but not before.

    * I’m not afraid of doing “a little” command work, but it’s always a question for me about how much I need to/should do. A few commands in terminal mode on my mac? Sure, no problem. CSS? That doesn’t bother me much. The level of commands I need to do to make drupal work? Well……

    * Bro. Rice’s comments to me (and follow up in an email) when I asked him about getting wiki software to work on his end of things about running a wiki said you need to get MySQL and PHP (check) and then you need the help of your local and friendly sys-ops/ICT guy to help. And that’s the problem, because at this current stage of things, I am my own ICT guy. Deep sigh….

    I’m hoping that this last bullet point changes. Stay tuned for details.

  6. cbd says:

    I didn’t have a clue about PHP or MySQL when I installed phpMyAdmin. That’s how I learned both of them; it displays SQL queries and will generate PHP code for manipulations done with its graphical user interface.

    Feel free to email me specific questions about this stuff; I’ve been dealing with it a lot lately, so I might be able to help.

  7. Pingback: Steven D. Krause’s Official Blog » Blog Archive » writing.emich.edu : A server in the making…

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