Problems with SiteGround

I recently ditched all but one of my dedicated servers and decided to switch to shared hosting for all my PHP / WordPress sites. First I tried TMDHosting, had a serious issue, cancelled that, and then switched to SiteGround. I prepaid for 2 years. Might have been a big mistake.

Site disappeared

First, an entire site disappeared from their server. I had a copy in an old backup, but otherwise the site files and database had disappeared. Their support had nothing useful to say, and suggested it had to be my mistake. Possible, but highly unlikely that I accidentally deleted both the files and the database.

Sites offline

Yesterday I had an issue with permissions. There were 4 .well-known folders in my sites directory that were owned by root. I noticed because the letsencrypt installer didn’t work. Created a ticket, they fixed permissions on 1 of the 4 directories I had listed. I updated the ticket. They replied saying they’d fixed all 4. Many of my sites went down. 403 error.

Solution

I’m travelling in Seville. I was out. I turned around and went back to the apartment, jumped on live chat. They told me that somebody would reply to my ticket within 20 minutes and there was nothing else they could do. I logged in, checked permissions, found one site that worked, and fixed the problem.

Turns out that on several of my htdocs folders, the “other” r-x permissions had been removed. Evidently nginx was unable to access my sites. Today I see a reply to the ticket saying that they didn’t change anything, and they’re glad my sites work again. WTF?

What do I do now?

Two serious failures. The second caused real downtime, albeit a few minutes because I fixed it myself. Any recommendations on a good shared hosting provider? What do I do about my 2 year prepayment?

AutoEurope / Hertz Scam

Just returned the car I booked through AutoEurope, delivered by Hertz at CDG. They informed me that there would be a €60 charge. When I asked why, it turns out that they wrote in the small print on my voucher that there would be a €40 “airport surcharge” and then €3 per day tax.

Of course, nobody mentioned this when I picked up the car. It’s a blatant scam.

Avoid AutoEurope like the plague, and be especially careful if you see the name Dollar or Hertz anywhere on the rental. They clearly participate in this scam with their policy of charging “fees” only upon vehicle return.

OlinData are awesome

I received an unsolicited email from Walter Heck and his team at OlinData. Before I’d even read it, I had another email apologising for the mistake. Then I actually got a second mistaken email, but at this point, I’m so grateful for the apology and the responsible attitude, I don’t much care. To make matters even better, Walter posted on their blog explaining the mistake.

I decided in contrast to previous rants, it was time for a praising post. Thanks Walter for your responsible email behaviour, I salute you sir.

Micha Dettbarn / Offtime is a spammer

I’ve no idea how he got my email address, possibly through BeWelcome, it seems we might move in similar circles. But somehow, I’ve been added to his mailing list talking about some nonsense product I have zero interest in, never signed up for, and don’t ever want to hear about again.

Ladies and gentleman of the internets, be warned, Micha Dettbarn is a spammer, don’t ever hand over a business card to this person, that’s my best advice.

Oh, and if you want to tell him what you think of spammers, he’s on twitter or you can email him directly to micha.dettbarn@gmail.com. Rest assured, I already reported the abuse to MailChimp, who will hopefully block his account.

Kevin Gao is a spammer

Apparently some dude named Kevin Gao, having taken my email address from this web site, has decided it’s ok to spam me until I respond. Not only that, he’s sending me 5.3MB attachments every time.

Kevin Gao, stop spamming people. You suck dude. Seriously.

I encourage you to email Kevin at kevingao on the domain comm100 dotcom and tell him what you think about spammers. Ask him to give it up. Ask him to go legit.

SolarHome.org – abysmal service

I’m researching solar technology. In my cyber travles I came across SolarHome.org. I spent some time on their site, it seemed big on sales technique small on useful information, but I compared some prices nonetheless.

Having found a potentially good deal, I took the time to write to them. I used the technical questions form on the site. Almost immediately, I received an auto-reply:

Thank you for contacting SolarHome.org Due to the volume of technical questions we have recently recieved we are unable to assist you. Please utilize the following free resources and again we apologize for not being able to help.

The message went on to link to the forum they operate and suggested I ask my question there. Feeling strong rage, I decided to call them and ask why the “contact our tech people” feature still existed on the site, if they did not, in fact, answer questions.

Their supposed “customer service” telephone number kept me on hold for a minute or two and then dropped me onto voicemail.

Next I wanted to email them, until I read this on the contact page:

We read every email we receive and follow up promptly if there is a match. Due to the quantity of inquiries we receive, we’re afraid we cannot answer emails for which there is no match.

WTF? A company that apparently doesn’t want to hear from me. Outrageous.

I’ll choose to give my business to Affordable Solar, Ben’s Discount Supply, or one of the many other solar equipment retailers.

Unsubscribing from AirAsia

I cannot unsubscribe from AirAsia’s email newsletter. They say email unsubscribe@fly.airasia.com to be removed from the mailing list. That email address is dead. Likewise unsubscribe@airasia.com is also dead.

I’ve tried contacting their customer support department, nothing.

AirAsia’s emails appear to be handled by dartmail.net. Whois shows that this domain is owned by Google. The first result in a scroogle search for dartmail is a service from ClickZ / Double Click.

All in all, I’m feeling some frustration. If it comes to it, I can simply block all email from AirAsia, but that would mean I cannot fly with them. Not ideal. Does anyone out there have a suggestion or solution?

Update at 15 Jan 2009: ccd5 said the unsubscribe address now works, I tried again and it worked for me.

Smile: debt pimps

I called my bank today to dispute a transaction. After dealing with that, the representative asked me how many times I log onto the smile web site per week. Then he said that I had been pre-approved for a loan of up to £14’000. I told him in no uncertain terms that consumer credit is like crack cocaine and I had no intentions of returning to my previous crack addict ways.

Smile and the Co-operative are billed as the “ethical bank”. They have an annual ethics survey which I recently completed. It asks questions about what type of businesses they should invest in, and what they should avoid investing in. Arms dealers, polluters, child labourer exploiters and so on are not eligible for funding by the coop bank.

Yet the survey made no mention of ethical practice with their consumers, their customers, their members in fact. I’m disappointed by the relatively “hard sell” tactics I experienced from Smile today. I expected better from an ethical bank.

The “most relevant” CC licensed picture on flickr.com for the search smile:

EasySpace Suck

I’ve just been advised by EasySpace that the VPS I rent from them cannot access torrents. They block all torrent traffic on their network.

I’m sorry but Easyspace do not allow connection to torrent trackers on our network. There is the potential for the service to be abused so it is forbidden entirely.

Uploading/Downloading torrents will also greatly increase the bandwidth usage of your server and potentially cause problems for other users on the network.

Outrageous. If it wasn’t that I need a UK IP I’d kill the service immediately. Outrageous.

Any recommendations on a good UK VPS host? I’m looking around £25 a month for a reasonably spec’d box (probably 512MiB RAM). I’ll be happy to switch if I can find a better alternative.

Google Government

Google have launched a browser. It’s called Chrome. It’s an interesting move from a company that started out as a search engine. It has started me thinking, what is Google now? Is it a search engine? A mail service? A browser? A mobile phone company? It would seem it is all of those things.

What is Google’s core offering then? What does Google do better than anyone else? Again, it would seem many of those things. Google seems to do well in every market it enters. Gmail is generally regarded as the best free webmail service. Google search is surely the dominant search engine. Google Docs is hard to beat. If other companies create competing products, they’re typically bought by Google. YouTube, FeedBurner, and so on.

So what is Google? Where is it going?

It seems like Google is becoming the major supplier of information to a large portion of the people using the internet. That is, for many people, Google is their primary conduit of information. Google delivers access to all other websites via search and advertising. Google delivers personal messages via Gmail. Google provides news. With the launch of a browser, Google takes the next natural step in extending that reach.

Google is surely synonymous with the internet. For many people, Google is the internet. Google provides them with information, information they trust and believe.

It has been shown that all news networks have a bias. This is most obvious with political campaigns like the current presidential election in the US. Each network has their preferred candidate, or party. That has a significant impact on the voters who watch / read / consume the news from that network.

I wonder, what are Google’s biases. How does Google influence the web.

The internet is a largely unregulated territory. It is global, borderless, and largely lawless. This is seen most obviously in activities like child pornography. The internet spans almost every legal jurisdiction in the world. It is therefore almost impossible to prevent something from being available on the internet. That is both a great weakness and a great strength. It is very hard to quash freedom of speech online, likewise it is very hard to quash child pornography online.

Conversely, Google has massive censorship powers on the internet. While they can’t stop you from accessing something you already know exists, they can stop most people from finding something. As the global gateway to the internet, that is an immense responsbility for one company, and ultimately, one board of directors, to carry.

Typically, roles of such significance to the populution are carried out by governments. In the west, these governments are largely elected, and at least in principle, answerable to their people. Google has no such restriction. As a corporation it answers to it’s shareholders. A corporation’s stated and legally required purpose is the creation of wealth for it’s shareholders. Period.

So where does this leave us, the public? Google is arguably more able, better resourced, and far more global than any of our elected governments. Who then, can judge Google’s activities? Who can hold Google accountable? It would seem, at least currently, that Google is largely unaccountable. The corporation operates in famous secrecy, keeping all it’s technology hidden from prying eyes.

Ultimately, I believe, in time, all things answer to the people. Every empire, no matter how benign of tyrannical, falls eventually. Every great organisation dies. Death is what defines life.

It will be interesting to watch as Google grows. Microsoft, one of the technology gians of old, is now 33 years old, and has arguably had it’s day. Five days before it’s 10th birthday, Google reigns as the new king of technology. With the ever increasing pace of technology, how long will this king sit before it is replaced? With the ever growing size of the global market, how big will Google’s kingdom be at it’s peak?

These are both intriguing and worrying times. I choose to avoid Google where I can, but I will be interested to see how Google continues to shape the internet over the years to come.

Media Template – outrageous bandwidth charges

Cog clock - taken by balakov on flickrI’m pissed.

Happy Cogs recently did some work on the admin upgrade for WordPress 2.5. Through them, I found the hosting company Media Template. The pitch was appealing. They seemed professional, personal, all the things you’d want from a hosting company. That is, until I started digging.

One of their virtual server products costs $150 per month, and includes 2Tb of bandwidth. Excess bandwidth is charged, per Gb, at $2.56. Or, if you pre-purchase 1Tb, at half that price, $1.28 per Gb. That means that your first 2Tb cost $150, while your next 1Tb would cost $1’310.72, or 17.5 times more than your first 2Tb (1’748% to be precise).

Astounded by this absurdity I contacted their sales team. I was expecting the response to be in line with their website. Intelligent, considered, rational. I was sadly disappointed. It felt like the typical, corporate, monkey follow order, response you’d expect from Hewlett Packard or some other Indian outsourced outfit.

Not content to let matters lie, I have started a campaign. I have described my outrage at GetSatisfaction. Then I posted it to digg. Now I’m posting it here. Then I’m going to email all the links to the CEO and see what happens. Maybe, just maybe, I’ll get an intelligent response. Otherwise, I’ll publicise the fact that their ticket system allows you to view the email addresses of people who contact them.

Excess bandwidth charges in Australia

What is bandwidth?

A quick explanation for non-techies. Think of an internet connection like a water pipe. You can choose what size of pipe to order. The bigger the pipe, the higher the water pressure. Internet is the same. But as well as the speed / size of your pipe, you also have to think about your total usage. So how many litres of water you pull through the pipe. In internet terms, that’s bandwidth usage.

Typically, in the UK / Europe / US / Canada, you choose your size of pipe, and that’s it. You can run the water almost as much as you like. If you leave all your taps on all the time, the company will complain. But otherwise, you’ll be fine. Not so in Australia. All connections charge you per litre, or in internet terms, per gigabyte. It’s the same in South Africa.

It’s not such a bad deal. The more water (or bandwidth) you use, the more you pay. Seems fair enough.

Australia

You choose your quantity up front. So you might pay for 2Gb or 4Gb or even 40Gb. The pain comes if you should go over your pre-ordered usage. Your pre-ordered bandwidth will cost you anywhere from $2.50 to $10 per Gb depending on how much you buy. Once you go over that, the excess charges are typically described as “15c per Mb”. That’s $150 per Gb.

Your first 6Gb cost $10 each, then use one more by mistake, oops, here’s a bill for $150. Arrrgggghhhhhh.

In South Africa when you run out, your connection shuts off. Then you can call your company and pay for some more. At a little over the regular price. In Australia excess bandwidth costs 15 to 60 times more than standard bandwidth. If I were an Australian citizen I’d campaign to have this type of excess charging banned.

I can no longer bear CSI Miami

I tried to watch a recent episode of CSI Miami last night. It was too much for me. I barely made it through twenty minutes, while doing other things, before I had to turn it off. Personally, I hold Jim Carrey responsible. Every since seeing this little gem on YouTube I can no longer take David Caruso seriously. 🙂

For the cunning linguists amongst my readers, I hope you enjoyed the barely bare bear! 😉

My First Unconference

I’m at BarCampMontreal3, it’s my first ever unconference. I’m gutted, they’re calling it an unconference but it’s not an unconference at all. Simon Law just introduced the event saying it’s an unconference, there are no organisers, then he proceeded to introduce the person controlling the schedule, the person responsible for timing, and so on.

The speakers were set in advance, the topics were set in advance, the timing was set in advance. Unconference my ass. It’s just a series of presentations organised by Wiki. Bah. I’m disappointed.

Goodbye Rsync.net, Hello Amazon S3

Update 27-Nov-2008: In the end I stayed with rsync.net.

Today I’ve decided I’m fed up with my current backup provider, rsync.net. The service they provide is pretty solid, I’ve been using it for a few months now. The main reason I chose them at $1.80 per Gb instead of Amazon at around $0.30 per Gb is the support. They guarantee to have a real, live, intelligent engineer answer my questions. That’s worth more than a few bucks a month.

However, the service of late has been abysmal. As soon as my questions got beyond “How do I plug my computer in”, it took 5 days to get a response to tell me there’s a problem with their system, it should be fixed soon. Another five days later, and still no response to my question “Will you tell me when it’s working?”.

Given that the support I thought I was getting is apparently a myth, time to switch I think. I also discovered that they won’t automatically expand my account. So if I need more space, I have to email them to ask for it. Bah.

Goodbye rsync.net, I’m afraid it’s been a little disappointing.

Canadian Pricing

Camera Canon SD1000I’m considering buying a Canon SD1000 (IXUS 70). I saw it in a shop today for $279 CAD plus tax ($318). I decided to resist the impulse purchase, do some reading, and check the price online. Dell USA sells the camera for $165.99 USD while Dell Canada sells exactly the same product for $299 CAD.

Has nobody told Dell the Canadian dollar is worth more than the American dollar? The camera is 45% cheaper in the USA! I’m only 2 hours from the border! It’s outrageous.

Needless to say, I’ll be buying it in the states if at all.

Password Security

There was some discussion on the BeWelcome developers mailing list recently about OpenID and passwords, encryption and so on. Today I received an email from UKReg (aka Fasthosts) to tell me that somebody may have stolen their customer data and may have access to the account passwords.

Fasthosts suggested I change my password. I couldn’t seem to log in, so I clicked the “Forgotten Password” link. They then sent me an email containing my password.

It struck me how ridiculously insecure that is. That means they store my password in plain text. They can look it up if they want to. That’s outrageous. In almost all systems, the password is stored in encrypted (technically hashed) form. If you lose your password, you can’t recover it, you need to create a new one.

Of course, the biggest problem with passwords is always the same. Damned users. It never fails to amaze me how many people use the same password for everything. Otherwise intelligent people, who damn well should know better.

So, go change your passwords. Even writing them all down in a book is still more secure than using the same password everywhere.

Dirty, Dirty Apple

My bro got a couple of iPhones today. He told me that the headphone jack is recessed so only headphones with a very thin plug (like the apple headphones) fit into the jack. A regular set of headphones won’t fit.

Apple have also released a firmware update which bricks an unlocked iPhone. This means if you circumvented Apple’s network locking, and then update your phone, it stops working.

Apple repeatedly play these dirty, dirty tricks on customers. Yet we still buy their products. I say no more. F$#& them. I’m going to get rid of my iPod and replace it with something else. No MacBook for me.

Fighting Bank Charges

Thanks to James for introducing me to the Govan Law Centre and their Unfair UK Bank Charges information. I’ve taken up the fight. I’m writing to Smile demanding the refund of £430 of charges and to Bank of Scotland demanding the refund of £110 of charges.

If they are unwilling to refund my charges I plan to take them to court in 14 days. This is war. It’s on. Bring it…

Note: I have not provided links to the aforementioned banks websites because I believe those banks suck and I do not wish to offer them any sort of web-recognition!

YouTube in Thailand

I had heard about it, but I still laughed out loud when I tried to load YouTube in Thailand today. It is blocked. I’m living in a censored democracy.

I absolutely deplore this type of censorship, particularly when it becomes so stupid as to block a site as general as YouTube. I have heard, purely anecdotally, that YouTube is blocked because somebody published a video critical of the King of Thailand. Ironically, I’ve also heard the King himself objects to such censorship.

So, here is my open invitation to anyone in Thailand. If you would like to access YouTube, please contact me and I will personally give you access to a proxy that will allow you to bypass the censorship. Vive la revolucion!

Here’s the current top rated video on YouTube for your viewing pleasure (if you’re not in Thailand of course!):

The Private Medicine Business

I need some work done on my teeth, a root canal and probably a crown. Given that I’m going private here in Thailand, I decided to do as a good consumer does and shop around a little for the service. Comparing a few factors, price, professionalism, proficiency in English, standard of care, etc.

Were I shopping for a car, the process would be fairly simple. I’d go to see a few shops, meet a few salespeople, have them talk me through the pros and cons of the various vehicles they had to offer, then make a decision.

Were I shopping for a new accountant, likewise I’d meet a few professionals, discuss my particular circumstances, make some judgements, and then choose a practitioner.

However, not in the medical business. I’ve already been advised that I need a root canal and then a crown, so my questions are fairly straightforward. How much will it cost, and how professional do I think you are. Today I went to visit BNH hospital’s dental clinic. When I booked the appointment I said I don’t want to pay anything, I simply want to know how much it will cost.

Upon leaving the dentist’s office I was informed that my bill was 720 baht. After much debate with an overweight, rude, abrupt Thai woman, I finally accepted to pay 300 baht for the consultation as they’d already wasted too much of my time discussing it. I notice security had been stationed outside the door lest I should decide to run out on my ten pound bill!

In what other business do you pay for a professional service practitioner to attempt to win your business. Honestly, these doctors and dentists have got a scam going. Well, no more I say, to hell with BNH, they just lost potentially 30’000 baht of business for 2% of that. Rant over.