[MediaWiki-l] MediaWiki-l Digest, Vol 147, Issue 3

Daniel Bishop aerosatar at gmail.com
Wed Dec 16 03:34:42 UTC 2015

I usually don't weigh in on these conversations, but I feel like I should speak up here too. I must also mention that, while I am not a developer, I *am* a reasonably technically capable user.

All that being said: Mediawiki is hard to upgrade. That is a fact. It is the *only* software I have ever come across where the Official upgrade instructions are, essentially, "make a backup and do a completely fresh install, run a script, then re-customise".

And before anyone says that isn't true, these are taken from the Mediawiki upgrade page:

"You should put the decompressed tarball in a new and empty folder on your server. If you instead extract the new version directly on top of your old version, rather than in a new directory, you should follow the instructions described in Back up existing files and the database: otherwise, if you've made any customizations you may erase them in a way that leaves you with no reference to re-apply them from. Extracting a tarball over top of your live copy of MediaWiki can also leave behind files from the old version of MediaWiki which may interfere with the upgraded code. It's recommended that you unpack the new files into a new directory, and then apply customizations to the new directory (restoring LocalSettings.php, images folder, extensions, and other customizations like custom skins)."

"If using Git, export the files into a clean location, and then copy the old customized files into the new location as described in the previous section."

Simply dismissing people's completely valid comments about this with "your case is not normal" (and similar) is not conducive to the continued life of your product. (Yes, Mediawiki is essentially open-source freeware, but it is still a product.)

There are a lot of software packages out there that update more frequently than Mediawiki does (in terms of official releases), but all of these have few- or no-click updates. Why does Mediawiki require a completely fresh install every time? Why can a new installation and update method not be developed?

Jan, and many others, have made a lot of valid comments on this discussion. So why have they all been summarily dismissed with such... complete lack of consideration?

We are not all developers. We do not all have that level of skill.

We are not all able to devote large amounts of time to keeping the software 'up-to-date' with the current (rather involved) method.

We are not asking for the more edge-case scenarios to all be covered in every way possible (a gap of several years *should* require/be best served by a fresh install).

We are simply asking for it to be easier to upgrade our Mediawiki installations so that we can make use of the features, improvements and fixes that the developers put time into doing. (Which, incidentally, would also likely vastly reduce the number of edge-case installations out there.)

The fact that this whole debate was started over a question about PHP versions (i.e. software dependencies) is also rather interesting.


P.S. FWIW, my install is 1.26a (559e61e) running on PHP5.6.4-4ubuntu6.3 (fpm-fcgi). 

P.P.S. Apologies if my thoughts are not entirely coherent or do not make complete sense... I usually stay out of such conversations for a reason. ;)

-----Original Message-----
From: MediaWiki-l [mailto:mediawiki-l-bounces at lists.wikimedia.org] On Behalf Of Jan Steinman
Sent: 15 December 2015 21:33
To: mediawiki-l at lists.wikimedia.org
Subject: Re: [MediaWiki-l] MediaWiki-l Digest, Vol 147, Issue 3

> From: Tim Starling <tstarling at wikimedia.org>

All good points, and yet:

> Your case is not normal. That
> is the price you pay for upgrading MediaWiki as often as other people 
> paint their houses.

That's a useful analogy. One doesn't hire a staff painter to be on-hand, touching up little nicks here and there as they develop over time unless painting is but a small part of the operation. For most people, one waits until it actually needs painting.

I have farm plants and animals to take care of, and a not-for-profit organization to run, and I volunteer for numerous other organizations. I don't have time to baby-sit a computer.

This is not an easy thing to hear nor understand for those who spend all their time baby-sitting computers for a living. I know -- that was me in another life!

So, one *could* say, "Hey, if we made upgrading as easy as paint drying, more people would keep up!"

Or one can self-righteously blame the victim for having a life beyond keeping up with every little upgrade.

(Postscript: I composed that message a week and a day ago. Then I felt guilty, and proceeded to go on an "upgrade binge," bringing my OS up from 10.6.8 to 10.10.5, which would have given me -- among other things -- PHP 5.6. End result: my email and website were down for a week as I struggled to get my server's environment back, and I never did get a working upgrade installed. This is coming to you from a restored backup. I feel vindicated.)

    Jan Steinman
    EcoReality Co-op, http://www.EcoReality.org
    2152 Fulford-Ganges Road
    Salt Spring Island, BC V8K 1Z7 CANADA
    +1 250.653.2024

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