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Fragmented Development

Your Mission, If You Choose to Accept It

The plain red second hand of the plain brown wall clock struck twelve, registering ten thirty in the morning. It was Saturday; a single bead of cold sweat rolled down my left temple. It was time. With a few quick keystrokes, I opened Remote Desktop and type in the name of our web server.

I was ready for this, damnit. I even had a test server to the right of me, humming along, in which I had tested the upgrade yesterday. It was still there, perfectly intact, running a near mirror of the software we were using on the web server. Everything was fine - it actually went unnervingly well. Upgrades never go this well, but there it was. I had meticulously crafted a set of instructions, documenting each step. I had tackled just about everything. I even had a maintenance web site set up in IIS, one that would catch unwary visitors that tried loading the page during the maintenance window, and inform them of what was happening. Like I said, I was ready for this.

With the maintenance site in place, catching any traffic that hit the web server, I took down the main site. I clicked around the management console quickly, efficiently changing references and upgrading the script engine that our templates use. After the last component of IIS was altered to use the new version, I held my breath and re-started the main site. The maintenance web site was still catching all traffic, so I could safely test the site inside the sterile environment of our office, instead of opening it up to the world and hoping for the best. So I opened up a web browser and called up the main page of our site.

Invalid access to memory location

"Run for it rollback restore from backup move to Mexico blame it on the network guy switch back to static HTML check over the instructions just do SOMETHING!" ran through my mind as the error registered with my brain. Invalid access to memory location? What a rather vague, rather dire error message. Luckily, I knew there were very few differences between the main web server and the test server I had set up: one of which involved application pools.

On the web server, I had created a separate application pool as an attempted fix for IIS errors I keep receiving. After switching back to the Default app pool, I loaded up the site once again, praying to the secret technology deity that people don't like to talk about. The site appeared flawless, but I wasn't convinced. I loaded up a page I knew depended on scripts quite heavily, the contact scripts, and sent a message to myself. Moments later, my mail client 'dinged'. Crisis averted. We were patched, and the server now had the latest version and was a little more secure because of it.

This behind-the-scenes computer work is why I love the field of technology. The fact that anyone working in IT is fighting a secret war against crackers and script kiddies is sometimes exhausting, sometimes exhilarating. Forever patching, watching exploits, trying to stay ahead of the game. Sure, most of the work we do is thankless, but it does come with a sense of pride. Knowing that everyone else in the industry knows how hard keeping up to date is definitely gives you a vague sense of community. If that isn't enough satisfaction, the adrenaline rush after a successful upgrade is enough to keep me hooked.

Tags: php

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