Updating WordPress Just got Messy. Really Messy.

As the title says, really, really messy.

It’s not wordpress’s fault. Rather, wordpress is keeping up with the times, and the times say PHP needs to be kept current.

Up until the last version of WordPress (5.2), my OpenBSD server created many years ago was OK. It’s version of PHP was old, but it worked. When I updated to 5.1, WordPress warned me that my PHP was obsolete, but there wasn’t much I could do at the time. My old version of OpenBSD did not have a simple path to update PHP. Rather, to update such things one is expected to update OpenBSD.

Then came WordPress 5.2. My existing WordPress stated “cannot upgrade due to older PHP” or something similar.

Time to update PHP, which meant a new OpenBSD.

That’s when Messy happened. The latest OpenBSD (6.4) is wonderful. It’s shiny and new and fast, but … they replaced Apache with a new program ‘httpd’ that was written to be ultra-secure. Too secure, in fact.

I spent two weeks fighting OpenBSD 6.4 and httpd, but could not get it to do what I needed. Worse, there’s almost zero helpful documents written about it. The manual is OK but dense, and the only “how to” site covered setting up the ultra-secure version, and nothing else.

Yesterday I finally gave up. Instead of updating OpenBSD, what if I just modified the firewall to scoot all the apache pages to a new server? Something like Ubuntu 18.04 that I’d recently put on all my tomcat/jupterhub servers? Would it be as difficult as OpenBSD?

I found a couple of how-tos, and they seemed utterly simple. “apt-get install apache2”. Done, and it was running! “apt-get install php”. Done, and also running. “apt-get install mysql” (this was for a virtual test server). Done and running. This was scary easy.

Even configuring Apache has gotten much easier due to the plug-and-play structure that’s been adopted (probably for some time).

The only difficult part was installing wordpress. It really wants to be in one place, and doesn’t like port forwarding. For example, if the test server was “”, then that’s where wordpress wanted to be. Port forward “http://huntrods.com:8008” and it just reverted to either or “huntrods.com” and didn’t work. Eventually I realized that port forwarding would happen when I threw the “big switch” and turned off the current (old) server.

With that in mind I did some more testing on WordPress – duplicating this blog from database backup and latest wordpress. It hated the older version and refused to run, but copying over the latest files did the trick.

Finally the big moments: install apache2 and php on the physical server, create the various accounts necessary for users, then copy all the files from the old server to the new server. Most were static web sites, but there were 3 wordpress blogs that had to come over, complete with new databases (from today’s backups).

At last it was all working locally. Time to throw the switch. On the OpenBSD server, I stopped the old apache and disabled it, then forwarded port 80 to the new server. SUCCESS, or at least partial success. I still needed to create all the Virtual Hosts from before, but with the plug-and-play Apach2 that turned out to be easy if time consuming.

Lastly I fired up the WordPress accounts, and they failed. It turned out I had to copy “latest.tar.gz’ over the older WordPress files and then everything worked.

So after two weeks of fighting httpd, I was able to get Apache2 working on an Ubuntu server, complete with full testing, in just under two days.

Success, indeed.

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