WestportNow’s website has been having problems: pages not loading on the first try, veeery slow load times, etc. ValueWeb, where westportnow.com is hosted, told us the only way to stop the pages from throwing off “too busy” notices was to move it to a new server because the server it was on has too many domain hosted and since it’s so crowded, things are not working as quickly as they should, and the move would be seamless, I won’t notice a thing except the site will suddenly start working again ... I thought this was a load of horseshit, but what am I gonna do?
Well, the move was not transparent, and the problem became ten times worse. So I get on the phone to Florida. Big talk-talk about how the tech is referring it to The Administrators so they can troubleshoot and find out why it’s so messed up. After hours of allegedly examinatin’ the problem (sorry, Three Stooges is what’s running through my mind right now ... ), they tell us “The script is making too many calls and slowing down the whole server, so we had to restrict some of the calls. The only solution is to fix the script, move to one of our dedicated servers, or switch to our [illegible] platform which would require the nameserver to be change.
Fix the script? ExpressionEngine runs just fine on thousands and thousands of websites. “What,” I foolishly ask “do I need to fix in the script?” Well, they don’t advise on how to fix a script. So, I asked, can I get a copy of the log or something to find out what is going on with the script? “Sure,” the ass lied, “I’ll put in a ticket right now and you’ll have it in 24 hours.” Yeah, right.
I asked if moving it to one of their dedicated servers or moving it to the new platform, whatever the hell that is, would solve the problem. Since the answer was “We don’t know,” I knew it was time to leave this bulk hosting farm where customer service is bunkum.
I did find out what the problem is ...
Of all the things that are involved in making a website, the one and only task I loathe is building a form. I’m talking about a standards-compliant form that is as pretty as a form can be. I always forget all the tags: label, fieldset, etc. etc. So, wanting to speed things up when I needed to make a reservation form for a site we’re working on, I googled “standards compliant form generator” and hoped. And I found The Form Assembly, which is a breeze to use despite it being built in AJAX, which I’m trying to decide if I really like or if it is a solution in search of a problem. At any rate, here is the URL: http://www.formassembly.com/ At The Form Assembly, brainchild of Cédric Savarese, you can build as many forms as you like for free.
If you don’t want to worry about setting up form processing software and just need to compile the responses, you can set up an account where the form is processed on TFA website and results are posted in your account plus emailed to you. This is priced at 12 cents a response, which you buy in blocks of credit or pay a monthly fee.
Since I already have great form processing software from Will Bontrager, which also builds a database as well as sending out email, etc. (and I need a database for this particular application), I don’t need to subscribe. But I plan to give the subscription component a whirl on an upcoming website that doesn’t need a database.
TFA needs some more finishing—some “Under Construction” pages there and some of the Help is sparse, but it looks like it’s going to be a great site. It already saved me a couple of hours of mind-numbing markup.
Every once in a while, I take a peek at the list of search terms people used to end up on my website. Some of them are very strange:
infant twitching (1 time, thank goodness)
stanley home design serial crack (2 times. WTF?)
tube head ads (2) (I don’t know what a tube head is)
pinkzoo (1) (?)
why am i bummed? (1) (You need a search engine to figure that out?)
using outlook express with walmart (1) (does walmart offer email?)
home depot fatalities (1) (!)
tattoo basset characteristic (1) (a type of dog?)
tom delay business leader scam (1) (this used to show up a LOT more)
can food get caught in post nasal drip (1) (eeeyyyyewww, yuck)
dog gagging after surgery (1) (ditto)
self-absorbed friends (1) (we all have those, right?)
euro boobs (1) (are those really really tiny ones?)
colorized mulch process (1) (makes my brain bleed to think about this one)
resurrection of evil serial number (1) (must be an adobe user)
intravenous photos (1) (suffering for art)
And a lot of other terms that deal with stuff I actually wrote about. Heh.
Today, well, yesterday, was one of those days where you’re ahead of the game if you just don’t get out of bed.
I was a little tired because I’d been up very late the night before trying to deal with connecting via ftp to a client’s site on a ValueWeb server so I could do some updates. But the server crashed and somehow I’ve been locked out. I wrote to ValueWeb before I called it a night.
When I came downstairs this morning, I was all set to tackle the ValueWeb problem since I assumed I would have email from them, and then get started on finishing up the last bits and pieces of a humongo site that’s just about ready to launch, and troubleshoot a site that’s displaying a little weird in Firefox. Stanley had gotten back from his echo cardiogram (to check out his heart murmur) and, as soon as I walked into the office, he said, “the server is down again.”
Boy was it ever. Our webserver provider, Netsonic, told us that the kernel was toast, the later told us we’d been hacked and that’s what wrecked stuff. Our server was down almost all day, and they had to restore things from the last good daily backup, which was the January 4th backup. Which sucks, because we lost data and email stored on the server (and I lost two posts I like a lot and will recreate one of these days), but better a day’s worth of data than everything.
This is costing us hundreds of dollars to resolve, and it will be several hours before it’s completely resolved. The main problem, the entryway or what have you, has been fixed (at least for this method of gaining entry for hacking). Using a password that is the same as the user name is an incredibly stupid thing to do—the equivalent of handing out your card and the pin number, and this was done by people who should know better. Maybe the guys at Netsonic can tell us how to disallow this kind of username/password combo at the server level. They’re pretty sharp, and are putting what they can into place. (Oh I how I miss the spam filter!)
So we lost a day dealing with this—it was hard to concentrate on anything but dealing with this. To top it off, ValueWeb has not been able to solve the connection problem—I called, spent 30 minutes doing this and that, and basically was told that it would magically resolve itself in six hours when the server purged its hashes or some such crap like that. Didn’t happen—so it was a waste of time. Maybe it’ll get solved some time this month.
The only good thing in all this is I just discovered that Google cached my lost entries—happy happy joy joy. So I guess I’ll get those back up now. This year hasn’t been a very good start for us—the server frying, health, and a couple of other things. Maybe we’re just getting all the bad stuff over with early. Hah.
It was not my intention to launch this version of neurotwitch until I had all the templates set up and everything working the way it should be.
However, comment spamming on Movable Type blogs—for those of us still stuck on 2.6x versions because 3.0+ versions are either too expensive or inadequate—has gotten so out of hand that today some comment spamming moron hitting a MT blog on our webserver caused our server to go down.
So, I decided I can’t risk using MT any longer and, while I COULD just turn off comments, I really don’t have the time to shut down comments on more than 600 entries. Adam ripped mt-comment.cgi right out of his configuration. Because I had already exported everything to Expression Engine, I knew I wouldn’t lose any comments if I just turned off MT and turned on neurotwitch v2 and THEN ripped mt-comment.cgi out of my configuration.
Comment spamming isn’t supposed to be a problem with EE because a human has to enter the letters they see in order to post. If, for some reason that stops being enough of a barrier, I can choose to require registration or to moderate comments, or both. There are also controls where I can set the interval required between comments from the same source (which I did). So we’ll see how it goes. It’s not like I get a lot of comments, anyway.
Will just have to work faster on getting this all working right. I hadn’t planned on it until the weekend since I have a lot of work to do. dammitall.
Sent: Monday, August 09, 2004 1:59 PM
Subject: Welcome to Aplus.Net Web Hosting
Dear Stu Jones,
Welcome to Aplus.Net Web Hosting!
Please save this email as it contains important information regarding your account.
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Thank you for choosing Aplus.Net!
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Sent: Monday, August 09, 2004 3:12 PM
Subject: Re: Welcome to Aplus.Net Web Hosting
The name is:
Please either correct your records, or cease communication immediately and permanently.
Sent: Monday, August 09, 2004 5:28 PM
Subject: Re: Welcome to Aplus.Net Web Hosting
I'm sorry but I cannot make any changes or divulge any information unless you can verify that you are the account holder by providing the account password or last 4 digits of the credit card on file. You can view or update any of your account information (billing statement,email address, credit card number, billing address, etc...) at http://cp.aplus.net Log in using your registration number and account password and then click on the "my account" tab at the top of the page.
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To assist us in tracking your problem, please include all previous correspondence in your emails.
Sent: Monday, August 09, 2004 11:47 PM
Subject: Re: Welcome to Aplus.Net Web Hosting
This is very unfortunate.
I spoke just this day with one of your people, Dan Beauchamp (apols for any misspelling). He will confirm this statement; indeed, he provided his direct phone, specifically, 858 320 6639, in aid of my acquiring further information about your company's services. Very helpful chap, very enjoyable conversation.
The account, inactive at present, has the id 'xxxtnt'; a password was not assigned Because I require more information than Mr. Beauchamp was able to provide immediately, we agreed that the account would be activated in some 30-60-90 day timeframe, hence, no credit card # was preferred.
Please understand this, right now -- I don't deal with bureaucrats or morons, save under threat of penalty at law. If you, sir or madam, are too bloody stupid to A) check with your fellow employee and ascertain the accuracy of this message AND the previous one, B) acquire sufficient information as to be able to understand what transpired in our discussion, particularly regarding my acquiring further information, and C) have the simple common courtesy to spell my name correctly after a direct request to do so (never mind the level of incompetence demonstrated by NOT having the name spelled correctly AFTER I expressly spelled it for Mr. Beauchamp), then you're too dumb to breathe unaided, and you may go merrily to hell.
Your next communication with me WILL contain an apology for your being a general ass and dumbshit, else there will be no further communication between us under any circumstance, and, in such case. you are hereby assured on the very best of authority that not only will I not become a client of your company, but I shall spread this communication thread far and wide. This is not a threat; this is a guarantee.
In any event, I daresay your services can be had elsewhere, but it's a VERY strange company indeed that would toss out a (presumable) long-term client by simply and arrogantly refusing to spell his name correctly. I trust you've at least the wit to understand this small point.
If your response to my previous request is your firm's concept of ''support'', I rather suspect you'd be better off manufacturing brassieres for 6-year-old girls.