the other me might even be better than this one

New beginnings

November 13, 2020 — Gideon Mayhak

How did I get here?

My name is Gideon Mayhak, and I'm currently living in Bridgewater, VA, with my wife, Sarah. We're both from Wisconsin originally; I was born and raised in Wisconsin Rapids and she was born in Merrill. A teaching job at James Madison University brought Sarah to Virginia in 2015, and I followed her when we got married on May 16, 2016. I ended up with a job at JMU, too.

I write this first post of few as we look forward to moving back to Wisconsin sometime next year. Sarah got a teaching job at WITC in Rice Lake, WI. I plan to follow a little closer this time.

Somewhere in the middle

For a couple years, I used MediaWiki as a way to publicly share what was going on with my wife and me. That was called MayhakWiki and was hosted at I liked the fact that it wasn't like a blog: I didn't have to feel pressure to post regularly to keep recent things at the top, and I could use it more like a database of information about us.

While I did keep a very incomplete and often outdated list of events in our lives on that wiki, I mainly used it as a repository of stuff I wanted to remember but also felt might be useful to someone else. For example, a page with information about how I handled a MediaWiki upgrade and a page about my video conferencing equipment setup. The best part was that even if the information became outdated it could still be a useful piece of the puzzle for someone happening upon the page.

Maybe I'd make it easier for someone to figure out that the vintage Katana-branded 28mm f/2.8 lens they have was likely manufactured by Ozone Optical.

There were three problems: I didn't end up putting all that much on there, I only updated it once every several months at best, and I didn't keep it backed up regularly. Ouch, that last one stings.

What had happened was...

You see, I ran MediaWiki on the same server I used to store a backup of all my personal files. It was a nice way to have a website that wouldn't go up and down with my Internet connection and offsite backups at the same time. That led to one critical error: not being so diligent about backing up the things that originated on the backup server.

Since the wiki content was created inside the wiki, it lived first on the remote server. Since I didn't update the wiki regularly, I never got around to automatic backups. I mean, I have a complete backup from May, but a bulk of the interesting content I added was done in the weeks leading up to The Crash.

Oh, yes. The Crash. I don't have any details, but my hosting provider had a hardware failure and they were unable to access my data. I didn't lose any important personal files, but I lost the wiki and everything that I added to it since May.

I have no motivation to start over from my old backup. Since that backup, I'd upgraded the server from CentOS 7 to 8 and MediaWiki from 1.23 to 1.34 to 1.35. Since that backup, I'd made a list of my vintage lenses. Since that backup, I'd made a page about my entry in a local photography contest. I took third place in the Animal category for what it's worth.

A chance to begin again

After quickly going through the five stages of grief and determining that I had no desire to rebuild what I had, I decided to identify the weaknesses of my old system and make a fresh start:

  • My website and my backups were on the same machine
  • My website content originated on the server instead of at home
  • My backups weren't automated

That first one wasn't the cause of the failure, but it made it sting more. The second one was a huge blindspot that meant I neglected regular backups of that information. The third one was pure laziness, but thankfully it hasn't cost me any important data.

The wiki is replaceable. My photos or documents? Not so much.

This is not my beautiful wiki

I did a few things to hopefully minimize the impact of similar events in the future:

  • Automated backups of my home server to
  • VPS running CentOS 8 and Apache hosted by IONOS
  • All content on the website originates from my home machine

That last one is huge: it means all my important data originates in the same place, and that place is automatically backed up nightly.

You'll find I used thumbsup for my photo gallery and I'm using bashblog to generate this blog. I'm typing this on my home machine, and then I'll upload it to the web server.


Like the wiki, I probably won't update this very often. If you want to know how I'm doing, you can always email me or look for "gnafu" on freenode. But also like the wiki, I hope to use this as something of a repository of things I'm interested in. Music, Free Software, photography, etc.

"But having food and clothing, we will be content with that."

1 Timothy 6:8, World English Bible

Tags: about-me, blog-info, meet-the-mayhaks, photography, server-info