29 Jul 2002 gwolf   » (Journeyer)

Why do system administrators exist? Well, this last Sysadmin Appreciation Day (July 26), I found out: Too keep stupid users from doing stupid stuff, even if they should be allowed to do it.

I set up a small PostNuke system at my work for a small project that will be headed by students (for Biology, Nursing, Medicine, Odontology, Psychology and Optometry careers). We decided that my boss (a psychologist) would be the administrator for the site, at least temporarily, together with me and with a strangely skilled psychologist who also runs another blog at my faculty. This is the first time I played with PostNuke, and while it is a GREAT piece of work... I found out some bits in it quite exasperating for newcomers.

One such newcomer is my boss. He started playing around with the administration interface, and had been pretty happy with the site.

Friday morning: "Gunnar, the blog's broken". Shit.

Fact is, once again, I'm a newcomer to PostNuke too. It took me several hours to fix it. I went back to the three-day-old backup of my database, and diff'ed it... Interesting reading, I learnt a lot while doing this. And what was it in the end? He moved the start page from 'News' to 'Permissions', without even noticing it. He says it must have been the scrollwheel of his mouse.

Of course, no wonder it failed over and over.

But anyway, I'd love to see people writing more robust code. Why did it take me so long to find out the problem? Because the program simply died, the error was not trapped. I just got a message explaining that a file (html/modules/NS-something/index.php) did not exist, and the program was trying to include it. Why not testing for existence before including something? Or why to display such an important configuration option for something that should never be done - even more in programs such as this one, made to be user-friendly, manageable by even inexpert people?

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