Fully unqualified sys admin

Finished the Wedding site side project.  It’s a nice big group of different skills I was trying to learn, so I’m happy with it.  Set up on a digital ocean ubuntu server, used a google form to submit rsvps right into the google doc spreadsheet we’re using to track items (hijacked it a bit to use custom styling).  Little jquery homepage styling.  Bootstrap modal integration.  A (pretty basic) parallax scrolling pictures page (with appropriate fallbacks for mobile devices).

All in all, a nice project for learning, and no failures so far- seems to be working.

The one major ingredient not yet mentioned, which should have been super simple, but was not: the php-driven email contact form.  I installed the php sendmail module on my server.  I configured my php.ini file to make sure it worked.  I set up the php script to send the mail to my gmail account.  All was right in email land.  This should have been the cherry on top of my pie (do people put cherries on pies?)- but instead, this one damn task took me from a 4 week, couple hours each week type project to a tear-my-hair-out trial and error google every possible problem type project.

You see, the contact form itself was beautiful.  Slide down modal with simple, clean fields and easy to use (even on mobile) submit/cancel buttons.  When submitted, you’d get a nice fade effect, and a confirmation message/image (or failure message/image if something went wrong).  The modal would then fade out and the user goes right back to what they’re doing.

But the damn thing wouldn’t submit.  More accurately- it would do nothing for 60-90 seconds after hitting the ‘send’ button.  No loading, no notice, no nothing.  If I waited the minute or two, it would finally submit (and successfully), so I knew my php code was fine.  The trouble was with the server.

I had almost no experience running a server.  I have xampp installed on my laptop for testing.  I can restart our dev server at work when something breaks.  That’s about it.  So many an hour was wasted Googling, then changing a file in etc/mail/somethingelse/andsoon.  Then restarting the server, crossing my fingers, and trying another form.  It took a damn long time before I found the right guide (thank you to the genius who wrote: https://github.com/DigitalOcean-User-Projects/Articles-and-Tutorials/blob/master/set_hostname_fqdn_on_ubuntu_centos.md).  I had been making the correct edits to have a fully qualified domain name, but had been doing them to the wrong file in the wrong directory.  When I changed the right file in the right directory? Email submitted instantly!

So maybe I’ll never be a sysadmin.  I do love the js-html-css-serverlanguageofchoice stuff though!


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