By Richard Rost 58 days ago
We're Back, Baby!
Update (Oct 3, 9pm): Finally... all at once... power, water, Internet... all back. Now I can finally take a shower... and get back to work for real tomorrow. [Sigh of relief]. It's been a long 5 days.
Update (Oct 3, 9am): It's so frustrating seeing all of your neighbors posting "we've got power" while we sit here with our little generator running. I can't complain though. So many people lost everything in this hurricane. I was able to stock up with propane for a couple more days, so I'm going to try to get some video recorded today. My Verizon cell service seems to be working fine now, so I'm gonna even try uploading a video later.
Since I've got fuel, the order processing database that's in my office is connected full time. Orders should process normally. One thing that this hurricane has taught me is that - especially living in South Florida - I need to make the website completely 100% self-sufficient. Right now it relies on my office Access database to process orders. The order data is collected on my website, stored (securely) in an SQL Server database. My office Access database runs on a loop. It connects to the SQL Server, downloads any information (securely), processes it, and then uploads the result (securely) back to the website. Did I mention the whole thing is done securely? Yes... I'm a database nerd. Security is very important to me.
So if you log on to place an order, subscribe to a mailing list, even change some account preferences (like your email address). That all gets processed by my back-end Access database. Why? Well... it's a long story. I started building this website back in 2002. So yeah, it's 20 years old. And since then I've never really given it a major overhaul. At first, the website just collected your data, stored it in an Access mdb file on the server (not super secure) and then I would log on and manually download it and process everything. Over the years, I've upgraded to SQL Server, fine-tuned, and made things a lot more secure. But, at the core is still my office Access database which does all of the heavy lifting. As you can imagine, my database is a BEAST! It does everything I need... but a lot of it is patched together like extension cords on Xmas tree lights. I'm still fixing things I did wrong 20 years ago. LOL. Just yesterday I found a bug and it was because I didn't have Option Explicit in a form module and I spelled a variable wrong. Doh!
The problem with this setup, however, is that I don't like having to make sure that my office database is always connected. Whenever I travel, I have to check on it constantly to make sure it's online. Sure, a little Remote Desktop and I'm in, but last year I went on a cruise, and Internet service isn't the best on cruise ships (very high latentcy). And of course if there's a power outage, I'm offline. Living in South Florida, we get power outages often. Whenever there's a typically bad rainstorm we might lose power for an hour or two. No big deal. I've got Uninterruptible Power Supplies to take care of that. They'll run everything for a couple of hours. Plus my "server" is a laptop, so it's got a battery of its own. During a hurricane when we're without power for a week, then I have to fire up the little generator, which will run my refrigerator, some fans (maybe a little window AC unit if it's really hot out), a few lights, and we can charge our batteries.
If my house's Comcast Internet goes out (like it is right now) then I can hotspot my cell phone, or (as was the case the last couple of days) my fiance's phone. She has Sprint. Different network. Why all of the carriers just don't get together and share tower infrastructure is beyond me. I just ordered Google Fi service, so we'll see if that's any better. I have a tablet that can act as a hotspot too. Going to use it for backup. I lose cell service a lot.
So over the coming months, I'm going to make it one of my major projects to get the website running autonomously without having to rely on my Access database. I know how to do it. I've got all the technology in place already. I just need to take the techniques from my SQL Server Online Seminar and apply them to my own stuff. First will be migrating all of my tables up to the website. Changing a lot of my queries over to passthru queries so they run faster. Then I have to move the millions of lines of VBA code that process everything from Access over to ASP. Sure. No problem.
Needless to say, I'm sure there will be some bumps in the road, so I appreciate your patience if you run into any bugs. OK. Enough ranting for today. Back to work...
Update (Oct 2, 9am): Still without power, water, and full Internet service, however I drove for 2 hours yesterday to get enough propane to keep my little generator running until tomorrow, and my Verizon cell service is finally back and working again, so I'm able to run everything in my office "good enough" until everything is restored. Orders and memberships should process normally from now on. Fingers crossed.
If I learned one thing during this storm it's that you can never be too prepared for a hurricane living here in South Florida.
The good news is that all of my neighbors are reporting that they are getting power. We have a Facebook group, and it seems that the side of the neighborhood closes to the main road is getting power first, and they're slowly working their way back (we're on the 2nd last street, of course). So hopefully today is the day it happens!
Since my office is powered up for the most part, I'm going to take today to catch up on a lot of emails and such. I'd like to be able to get some recording done, although I don't know about uploading it over cellular. That might take forever. But... I'll put something together. I finally caught up on the 200+ posts you guys made in the Forums over the past couple weeks.
Just Waiting for Power
Update (Sep 30, 9am): Skies are blue and sunny, and it's a cool 70 degrees this morning, but we're still without power. I've been able to process memberships and most of your orders because my fiance's cellphone is working like a champ, but I can't leave the generator running all day. Need to fire it up and let it run for an hour or two, get what work done I can, let the freezers run, and then shut it down. Only have 1.5 tanks of propane left, so with rationing that should last us a couple of days until things reopen.
I was thinking I could get some recording done, but I can't leave the generator running that long, and between having to lug buckets of pool water into the house to flush our toilets and everything else we have to do, there's little time for that.
So... I'm sick of camping. I'd like things to go back to normal now... Thanks.
Update (Sep 29, 2:30pm): Well, we survived. It was a doozy. Much stronger than Irma a few years ago. Fortunately, we only had some minor damage to the house (a few ripped screens on our lanai, and some downed trees in the yard).
We have no power, no water, and no cable/Internet service, and I have no cell service (thank you, Verizon). I'm connected via my fiance's cellphone right now (thank you, Sprint, seriously).
However, we fared much better than a lot of people in the area. Some houses along Fort Myers Beach are just gone, from what I've heard on the radio. So, I'm thankful that we're alive, we're healthy, we're safe, we've got a ton of supplies, a generator, and our puppies can go outside to poop now. So all is well on my end. During the last storm, a lot of places were without power for over a week, so we may have to rough it for a little while, but we'll be OK.
I'm going to try to connect my database server to the website and process orders that have been accumulating since yesterday. If I'm successful, you'll get your stuff shortly. If not, you may have to wait until I at least have my Internet service restored and I can properly set things up. So.. hang in there.
Needless to say, there won't be any new videos (TechHelp, etc.) posted until after I get my Internet back up and running. Connecting via cell phone hotspot is fine for processing orders or making a post like this. It's quite another thing to upload video files. I can record right now, so I'll have a whole bunch of new stuff for you guys... next week. :)
Power is Out
Update (Sep 28, 12pm): I've lost power at my home/office, so while the website is up and running, orders will not be processed until the power comes back on here. I have a portable generator, but I can't fire that up until after the storm passes. So we'll likely be without power until this evening.
We're in the Path
I just want to let everyone know that I live in Fort Myers, Florida which right now is close to the projected path of Hurricane Ian. I'm not at all worried. I've been through hurricanes before. Irma in 2017 passed right through this area. No biggy. My house is relatively new, I've got storm impact windows, a small generator, and plenty of supplies. So I'm good.
My website is hosted at a data center in California, so there's no risk of Ian shutting the site down. However, most of the "account processing" for my website occurs on my main server here in my home office. Yeah, I'm a little old-school that way.
I built this two-database myself using, guess what, Microsoft Access. So while my website will stay online, if we do lose power or Internet for an extended period of time, order processing may be delayed. What this means is you should be able to log on and watch any courses you've already purchased, but new orders may not go through right away.
Pro tip: if you're planning a binge session between now and the end of the week, stock up on any classes you want now. You know... like how all the idiots around here stock up on every last roll of TP they can get their hands on. Dummies.
Now, if it looks like power is going to be out for a while, I can fire up the generator, connect via my cell phone hotspot, and process orders that way. I'll do that if things are going to be offline for more than a day or two. I'll make sure orders are processed once or twice a day, if I can, so you shouldn't go without your new lessons for more than 24 hours. But I just wanted to let you know it won't be 2 or 3 minutes like it normally is. Because... you know... hurricane and stuff.
Yeah, one of my long-term goals is to eventually get all of the user account "stuff" on the main webserver. But what I have now has been perfectly for over 20 years. So... it's not exactly a high priority. It's going to be a lot of work for little payoff. I mean, we average a hurricane every 5 to 10 years. Then again, if we keep warming the planet up... OK... don't get me started now.
Heck, during Irma in 2017, I never lost power or Internet. Folks down the street from me had no power for over a week. And at the time, I had a whole-house propane generator... that never needed to come on! Sold that house a few years ago (sigh) and now I've just got a little genny in the garage. It's enough to keep the food in the fridge cold and some lights on. Can't wait until I can get some solar panels... which you'd think everyone in Florida would have since we have like 300 days of sunshine here a year. If our dumb government would help bring the costs down... OK... don't get me started again. LOL.
Funny story: we actually lost power here last night from about midnight until 6am. Completely unrelated to the storm. Weird, eh?
Anyhow, everyone else in Florida stay safe. I'll be checking in regularly. As long as I got cell service, I'll be able to check email, however I might not be able to get to the website's customer service section. So if you need something and I don't get back to you right away, email me. Although, if I don't get back to you right away, I might not be able to do anything to help you. Sorry.
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