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Tech support update (the detailed version)

Tech support update (the detailed version) published on No Comments on Tech support update (the detailed version)

The short version is: it’s fixed!

If you have any currently-cached Leif & Thorn pages from the past week, you’ll still have a stuck version. But once you reload them — or if you clear your whole cache one more time — it should be smooth sailing from here on out.

And if you’re on Reddit, please go give some upvotes/awards to this comment, which provided the pivotal clue that helped catch the culprit.

Technical details, for the curious:

So the problem, it turns out, was in the HTTP response headers.

(Sidenote: I’m not enough of a techie that I knew any of this beforehand. What you’re reading here is the best of my understanding based on a couple days of highly-motivated googling. Experienced coders, feel free to jump in if something isn’t quite right.)

You can check a page’s response headers in your browser by using the Inspect feature (or whatever it’s called — usually something like that).

Choose the “Network” tab, load a page, click the HTML document in the list it gives you (it’ll be at the top), then look under “Headers”.

Here’s what it looked like for Leif & Thorn (the browser is a Google Chrome fork):

The problem line here is:

Cache-Control: max-age=15552000

This tells the browser “If you have a cached version of the page, as long as it’s no older than 15552000 seconds, it’s up-to-date! No need to load a new one.”

I won’t make you do the math — that’s 6 months.

Hitting refresh is a manual way of telling your browser, “no, actually, load the new page anyway,” so that would force it to fetch an updated version. But the updated version would also have a header that told it “this totally counts as a current version for the next 6 months.”

(Which is why you have to clear out your cached pages one last time. Then you’ll replace it with a version where the header says “max-age=10”.)

The source of this exciting and helpful instruction was the .htaccess file, which is a configuration file in the top-level folder of your website. It tells browsers lots of under-the-hood things, like “redirect URL X to URL Y” and “forbid access to this spammer’s IP.”

And now, some process at SiteGround had auto-updated .htaccess in the /leifandthorn directory (and the one in /catperson) with a list of caching rules for different files.

Including this rule:

ExpiresByType text/html “access plus 6 months”

That has now been changed to “10 seconds”. I touched up some of the rules for other filetypes too, and I’m checking .htaccess files in other subdirectories to make sure they’re all in line.

Final notes:

The overzealous SiteGround caching process is currently disabled. I’m not switching it back on until/unless I feel sure it won’t do this again.

…in the meantime, I’m also un-recommending SiteGround as a hosting site for webcomics. Not gonna move my own site, because the issue did get fixed, but not every artist has the time/energy/code-familiarity to wrestle through this kind of thing in the first place! And you shouldn’t have to, either.

Readers, if you have any further issues after refreshing/cache-clearing, please let me know!

And, well. Since all this started before I launched the Volume 2 Kickstarter, casual readers might not even have seen any updates about it yet. So this would be a great time to help spread the news by sharing the link.

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