What Fools We Be

Every time I think I’m becoming technologically literate experience teaches me otherwise. This weekend was certainly a point in case.

When I was unable to link pictures I’d uploaded to blog entries, I had no real idea what could be wrong, though I knew it had to be related to my ISP’s transferring my site since that was the only unknown variable.

That made me suspect that somehow the permissions had been changed in the process, perhaps because I’ve had permissions changed when I’ve had to move files. I discovered then that some programs automatically set permissions, though they didn’t bother to tell the user that unless he read the program’s fine print.

I became doubly convinced when I tried to use WordPress’ upload feature and got the message asking “Is its parent directory writable by the server?” Questions like that usually mean that permissions aren’t set to allow writing to a file.

With that mind set, I set out to check all the relevant permissions, and spent much of the day reading WordPress Codexes. When I checked with my FTP program, Transmit, I found that most of the permissions were correct, but there were a few that were different from what WordPress suggested they should be.

So I used Transmit to change all the ones to the recommended permissions. Nothing happened. I never managed to get a picture to appear in a blog entry no matter how hard I tried. I was totally frustrated, at one point questioning whether I really wanted to blog enough to put up with this kind of frustration.

Finally, I broke down and asked Shelley Powers, Burningbird, to look at my site and see if she could see where permissions were wrong. She managed to set up WordPress’ uploading function, and I could post pictures that way, though it took considerable editing since it posted pictures in different sizes than I usually use.

Finally she told me that she couldn’t see the photographs I was trying to post. They were clearly there, at least if I were to believe Transmit, my ftp program. I sent her a screenshot showing the files. It’s then that she realized that Transmit was the problem. Transmit was apparently working from the cache, or something, and files it showed as being on the server weren’t there at all. Either they were on a different file at my ISP, or THEY DIDN’T EXIST AT ALL, except in Transmit’s cache.

Shelley’s ftp program showed what was actually there because it didn’t have a cache of earlier versions of my files. In other words, it didn’t presume that certain things were there because they had been there before like my version of Transmit did.

I suspect that I could have spent another 100 to 200 hundred hours working on this problem and never discovered the cause. When a program you use regularly and trust tells you something that’s not true, it’s nearly impossible to recognize that unless someone with more expertise shows you the error of your ways.

I shudder to think how many other imaginary truths I may be operating from.