Friday, August 26, 2005

Setting up a Drupal site, day one

So this morning I pretty much woke up, plonked myself down in front of the PC with a glass of fruit juice and started installing Drupal. Unfortunately I didn't keep a blow-by-blow account of what I was doing, but it included:

* Reorganised my hard drive. Eh? Yes, I've discovered that these things rapidly get out of control. Modules in one place, Themes in another, multiple versions of source files, patches, settings files, hacked versions, backups... Each site of mine has its own area anyway. So now I've completely separated all downloaded (published) code from anything produced/altered by myself. Any site mirrors will go in the site folder, even if they happen to be a precise duplicate of the source code. And so on. I'm sure this is all really basic to professional coders (and one day I'll start asking about CVS), for me it's just one more tottering step to keeping the chaos at bay.

* Downloaded and then uploaded Drupal. Yeah, Fantastico is great for quick installation, but I prefer to check with the main site to confirm what version to use. In the case of Drupal, there'd been an urgent security fix a few days before, which wasn't yet on Fantastico. So I took that. Less patches, the better. Patches are a nightmare for those of us with limited shell access (only on my main account).

The Drupal installation instructions are a bit out of date at the moment, but I know my way through them now, so here's what you need to know if you're installing Drupal with cPanel. (Those programmer-types who actually wrote and maintain Drupal typically have a self-built webserver sitting beside their feet, and enjoy typing cryptic codes at a blank screen - and assume that everyone works that way. One day we'll be sending anthropologists to study their culture.)
So, the cPanel version of the Drupal INSTALL.TXT file (in the main Drupal folder) starts like this:

Do I have the requirements? Yes you do.
Do I have the optional requirements? Yes you do.
  1. Download Drupal - you've already done this, or you wouldn't be reading the file.
  2. Create a database -
    - Go to cPanel, then go to MySQL databases. It looks really complicated. Most of it can be ignored.
    - Scroll to the bottom, then look up a bit for a button, "Add Db". Enter a database name, e.g. "drupal", and click Add Db. You'll never see any of this again, by the way, it doesn't appear on the site. Important note: if your login to cPanel is "widget-network", then your database will be called widget-network_drupal. Do not forget this!
    - Just below Add Db, you have Add User. Create a user called User.
    - And the bit I always forget and get confused about: above Add Db, there is "Add User to Db", and a bunch of checkboxes and dropdowns. Select your new username, and your new database; make sure only the first checkbox is checked, and click that button.

  3. Load the Drupal database scheme. This means go into phpMyAdmin. There's a link for that at the bottom of the MySQL page that you are on. When the new window loads, select your new database in the top left corner. Then select the SQL tab in the main window. Now open the file database/database.mysql (I mean open the one on your hard drive, in a text editor such as Notepad using File>Open. You need a better text editor.) Copy and paste EVERYTHING from there into the box in the SQL tab. Click Go. Got some error messages? Did you copy ALL the text (ctrl-A)?

  4. Connecting Drupal [it means, to the new database you created.]
    - I can't help you much here. Follow the instructions in the INSTALL file. You need to be using a text editor such as Notepad and upload the edited Settings file with FTP. Or I suppose you could open the file from cpanel's Filemanager and work in that. BTW, if you are using a proper text editor, they will highlight the text in colours, so you can happily scroll through the entire settings file in seconds. Because apart from the relevant lines, it's all comments. First interesting line is on line 80.

  5. Configure Drupal. Pah. Look at Drupal in your browser. See anything? Don't worry, no one's ever made their first jump. Got an error message? Copy a relevant bit of it and google it. Got nothing? Check the Drupal user forum for "blank page on install" or similar. Check this really useful page for troubleshooting. It happens to be for Wordpress not Drupal, and assumes a slightly higher tech level than this page, but lots of "silly basic stuff" that can trip up anyone. Finally, ask the experts, or ask me. I get Comments emailed to me, you know.
The rest of my day involved jumping around setting up user permissions, blocks, theme engine and picking a theme, Adsense, forums, searching for feeds, and trying to get the News Aggregator to work, which is where I'm stuck now. Cron jobs. I know what I'm supposed to be doing now (I think) but it ain't doing it; but that's for another day.

But at the end of day one, I had a site online, with the basic "shape" that I want, and that's got a definite feel-good factor.

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