WordPress 2.6 and Firestats

WordPress 2.6 was released late last week, so I updated my test blog to check that everything worked before updating my live blogs.

The upgrade was straight forward and all my plugins activated without any apparent issue. However, when I checked my stats, the page wouldn’t load any details, just a blank page. I have used FireStats since migrating to WordPress and had got used to the results it gives, so I headed over to the FireStats site to see if there was an upgrade. I found version 1.5.12 and so downloaded and installed it. To be on the safe side, I installed to a new database so that I didn’t have to upgrade my existing stats database. This didn’t resolve my blank stats page issue and gave me some messages about features needing a higher version of MySQL than my host 1and1 provides, so I uninstalled it and reinstalled my previous version 1.4.4.

I then tried turning all my plugins off, and brilliant, Firestats worked! I then started turning plugins back on and came to the conclusion that it worked fine with all except if AskApache Password Protect or WordPress Database Backup plugins were activated. Not so good, these were important plugins to me.

I looked at some alternate stats packages, but they weren’t FireStats, so yesterday morning I raised a ticket with the bug I had found on the FireStats site. Within minutes I’d had a reply from the developer, Omry Yadan, who suggested that it sounded like a memory issue and pointed me to a wiki entry about this and how to resolve it. After some more testing when I confirmed that Firestats, AskApache Password Protect and WordPress Database Backup would work together, I just couldn’t have all my plugins working and get to the admin/stats pages of FireStats, I had to agree with Omry. I tried increasing the memory limit using .htaccess as described in the wiki, but this caused a server 500 internal error, so that wasn’t an option. I then created a php.ini file with the memory limit statement in it and uploaded to the root of my test domain. According to phpinfo() this did increase the memory limit setting, however it didn’t resolve it.

I was unable to get to the server error logs, as 1and1 don’t allow access on shared hosting. Firestats tools showed that I had a memory limit of 40MB set even though I thought I had set higher in testing, so it didn’t look as if my settings were having any impact. I used the 1and1 code for creating my own error log to try to gather the error message when I was having the problem, and although I did get some logging, it wasn’t occuring when I was having the problem. The logging I did get was the same whether or not FireStats was allowing me access to the admin/stats pages (turning off other plugins to get access).

This needed a different approach to work around the problem. Even though I was unable to access the admin/stats pages on my test blog, the page views and hits were being logged correctly into the database. I have all my blogs set to use the same database tables for FireStats with different ids for each source, this means that from any Firestats interface I can view all statistics anyway. So I have installed a standalone copy of FireStats pointing to the same database and am able to view my stats from there.

The way I had worked until that point was a full install of FireStats in each WordPress blog, which I then configured to use the same database tables. This meant that each time I upgraded FireStats, I had to upload it seperately to each blog. The one downside of Firestats is its size, 3MB, so that’s a lot of upload time for multiple blogs. In a follow up email conversation with Omry, he suggested I install in satellite mode. This involves an install of Firestats seperate from WordPress (just done that -check), then instead of a full install of FireStats for each blog, it just needs 1 file in the plugins folder. This is configured in options to point to the standalone install and it just works. Any updates in the future only have to performed on the standalone copy and the new file put in plugins for your blogs. Brilliant.

I was very impressed by the support that Omry gave and will be following his advice to upgrade to version 1.5, which will be much easier now there is only one upload to do.

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