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Why is varchar(255) not varchar(255)?

Recently I was working on a clients question and stumbled over an issue with replication and mixed character sets. The client asked, wether it is possible to replicate data to a table on a MySQL slave, where one column had a different character set, than the column in the same table on the master.

 

I set up two servers with identical table definitions and changed the character set on one column on the slave from latin1 to utf8.

 

Master:

CREATE TABLE `test` (
  `id` int(10) unsigned NOT NULL AUTO_INCREMENT,
  `data` varchar(255) DEFAULT NULL,
  `ts` timestamp NOT NULL DEFAULT CURRENT_TIMESTAMP ON UPDATE CURRENT_TIMESTAMP,
  PRIMARY KEY (`id`)
) ENGINE=InnoDB DEFAULT CHARSET=latin1;

 

Slave:

CREATE TABLE `test` (
  `id` int(10) unsigned NOT NULL AUTO_INCREMENT,
  `data` varchar(255) CHARACTER SET utf8 DEFAULT NULL,
  `ts` timestamp NOT NULL DEFAULT CURRENT_TIMESTAMP ON UPDATE CURRENT_TIMESTAMP,
  PRIMARY KEY (`id`)
) ENGINE=InnoDB DEFAULT CHARSET=latin1;

 

So far no problem, I was able to start the replication and set off some INSERT statements with special characters (like ä, ö, ü, ...). But when I went to look for them in the slave's table, I could not find them.

 

"SHOW SLAVE STATUS", showed me this error:

Column 1 of table 'test.test' cannot be converted from type 'varchar(255)' to type 'varchar(255)'

 

You might ask yourself now: But the columns have the same type, what is the problem? What is not shown in the error is the fact, that there are two different character sets.

 

The log file is of no help either. It only shows the same error and tells you to fix it.

2016-05-26 15:51:06 9269 [ERROR] Slave SQL: Column 1 of table 'test.test' cannot be converted from type 'varchar(255)' to type 'varchar(255)', Error_code: 1677
2016-05-26 15:51:06 9269 [ERROR] Error running query, slave SQL thread aborted. Fix the problem, and restart the slave SQL thread with "SLAVE START". We stopped at log 'valkyrie_mysqld35701_binlog.000050' position 120
2016-05-26 15:53:39 9269 [ERROR] Error reading packet from server: Lost connection to MySQL server during query ( server_errno=2013)

 

Skipping the statement will not work, as the server will just fail again, when the next statement shows up.

 

For all those who are now running to change the character set: STOP!

Changing characters set of columns or tables containing data can be fatal when done incorrectly. MySQL offers a statement to convert tables and columns to the character set you wish to have.

 

To convert the entire table, you can write:

ALTER TABLE tbl_name CONVERT TO CHARACTER SET charset_name;

 

To convert a single column, you can write:

ALTER TABLE tbl_name MODIFY latin1_column TEXT CHARACTER SET utf8;

 

More details can be found in the ALTER TABLE documentation of MySQL. (Converting character sets is at the end of the article.)

 

Just to be clear, this is no bug! MySQL replication was never intended to work with mixed character sets and it makes a lot of sense, that the replication is halted when differences are discovered. This test was only an experiment.