The new kid on the Drop

Submitted by Larry on 9 October 2008 - 4:40pm

This site has been running Drupal 5 for over a year now, even though Drupal 6 has been available since February. I kept meaning to update it, but never got around to it. Of course, then along came Acquia and a pressing need to try out the new kid on the block (for purely professional reasons, of course). So, armed with proper backup tools and a fast Internet connection, I set about to sacrifice my blog on the alter of experimentation. Onwards!

The documentation, available right from the downloads page, is a fairly extensive and thorough PDF. Of particular note, it goes out of its way to specify PHP 5.2 and MySQL 5.0 as minimum requirements. Thank you, Acquia! (For RHEL 5 users, who are stuck with PHP 5.1, it does point out that most of Drupal will work but, for example, Date module will have reduced functionality.)

The documentation includes lots of screenshots. Database setup is guided through phpMyAdmin, which makes sense as it's the most likely tool that all users will have available on their host. It also goes out of its way to highlight edge-case caveats, such as "Safari 3 will extract the download files for you" and "remember that .htaccess file that most FTP clients don't!" Command line instructions are provided, too, for the l33t crowd.

For those migrating from an existing Drupal site, instructions are only provided for Drupal 6. They are extensive, however, and follow through the process of moving modules around to "prepare for Acquia" (that is, making sure you don't have copies of modules Acquia provides, as then Drupal gets all confused). Of course, I'm upgrading from Drupal 5 so I decided to be adventurous. (And to make copious backups, of course.)

After jotting down all the modules that I actually use, I took this site offline and did a simple replace of everything except .htaccess, files, and sites. Actually, I did that twice as Acquia released their 1.0.1 version literally as I was uploading the 1.0.0. The 1.0.1 includes the Druapl 6.5 upgrade, about 24 hours or so behind the official release of 6.5. Not a bad turnaround time. I then removed any modules from my sites/all directory that were already included in Acquia's distribution, and dropped in the Drupal 6 versions for the rest.

So after totally trashing my entire install, what did I get? A page not found error. Surprise surpirse. :-) When I went straight to update.php, however, I got the normal update screen. Running that resulted in "only" 2 errors, both from update #5200 of the image module. Why image module was giving me errors I don't know, as it was not, in fact, installed to begin with. Again, feeling adventurous, I went ahead to the administration page. It loaded!

Quick, to the modules page! Apparently Drupal had figured out where all of my modules went, as even after submitting the modules page there were no more updates to make. Nice.

What's not so nice is that most of my Views seem to have gone missing. I'm not entirely surprised at that, however, as Views changed so much between Drupal 5 and Drupal 6. Views includes a converter (that is separate from the updater) that was able to resurrect the 3 or 4 I had in the database. They needed some tweaking, though, and the process wasn't perfect. For instance, it kept defaulting to "Published: False" for no reason I could figure out. Fortunately they were simple views so I was able to restore them fairly easily, and trick them out with the "Use AJAX" checkbox (the coolest feature in all of Views 2).

Well, that wasn't so hard. Of course, in practice all I have now is a Drupal 6 site with a lot of modules I don't need. What about Acquia's services? Fortunately Acquia is offering (for now) a free basic subscription, so I signed up on their web site and purchased one. The purchase process was quick and painless (and cost-free), and the system didn't freak out at the idea of a purchase for $0. I then enabled the "Acquia agent" and "Acquia site information" modules, which promptly gave me links to the next settings pages to visit to set up the account. Nice. Acquia's subscription also provides Mollom keys, but since I already have my own I just continued to use my existing account.

Acquia's control panel on their site isn't bad. It's a bit confusing that the tabs at the top of the page are actually sub-navigation for the "Site selector" on the left, but once I figured that out it was reasonably self-explanatory, if extensive. Because I already have cron running through my web host I told Acquia I'd take care of it, and that I'd run cron every 2 hours. (It actually runs every hour, but I don't want it to panic if it's off by a minute or two.) To Acquia's credit, the "messages" section also has an RSS feed for those of us who never actually bother to log into anything.

I guess we'll see how well Acquia does of notifying me of a new release in 3 days or so, whenever the next CCK RC is released. I'm not sure yet if I'll be using Acquia or Drush to handle the update. I guess we'll see how easy Acquia makes it.

Acquia Drupal also includes a new "Marina" theme, which I'm going to try out for a little bit. I can't say I'm too enamored with it so far, but I'll give it a few days and see if I still dislike it. Already I can say that the left and right margins are way too large, causing my body text to squeeze unpleasantly. As a result it also looks really bad in the admin. (And not just mediocre; the alignment for fieldsets is absolutely horrid and the main admin page ends up being a single shifting column.) On the other hand, it makes really good use of the new theme settings API.

For now, though, happily running on Acquia, and not noticing that big of a difference. The whole process took around 2.5 hours. I'll dig through the code of Acquia's modules and the Marina theme to critique those later.

Woohoo, congrats on the upgrade!

As far as Marina goes, I understand your issues with it -- if you're coming from a fluid width theme, the fixed width with two sidebars will probably drive you batty. And the way the right sidebar is inset, it's really only intended for a smaller couple of blocks in text content, thus definitely not well suited for an admin theme :)

A fluid width setting has been requested by a few people so we'll consider it for a future release, plus there will be more Acquia themes included down the road to choose from.


It strike me odd that you didn't have the Image module running, yet when you ran update.php it also ran the #5200 update for the image module. Is it possible that you had loaded the Image module at one time (perhaps with Drupal 4.7) and at some point in time removed the Image module's directory without disabling it through the admin/build/modules page? This likely would explain why an update.php updated a module that you thought you didn't have running.

I spent some of this week wrestling with the Image module during a Drupal 5 to 6 upgrade. With the module still in alpha, let's just say I got know the Image module a little bit more than I had expected.


I have no idea what I was using it for, but I went back and looked at my original post when I first moved to Drupal. Apparently I had installed image module originally, and never actually used it. It probably went MIA when I upgraded to Drupal 5 and pruned my module list.

Well now that I've got it again, I'll have to see about getting rid of it properly. :-)

I see from the comments that you were once in 4.x so maybe you are a good person to ask. Based on your experiences with upgrades and Acquia, do I have any hope in going from 4.6 to 6.x? Do you recommend acquia? Is there anything you can share?