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Medium Dawn Felagund of the Fountain

There We Stood, on the Brink of Annihilation ...

The (Cyber) Bag of Weasels

bread and puppet




"About as much fun as a bag of weasels"...when I first saw this Irish adage, it made me think of the life of a writer: sometimes perilous, sometimes painful, certainly interesting. My paper journal has always been called "The Bag of Weasels." This is the Bag of Weasels' online home.

There We Stood, on the Brink of Annihilation ...

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alex eek
... the SWG poised to tumble into the Great Internet Rubbish Bin and disappear without a sound.

Seriously, this afternoon delivered the biggest SWG-related fright I've had since the site went live some years ago. Even more than the time that I deleted all of the challenges by accident (and Rhapsody--may the muses smile upon her!--had to restore them for me). Murphy likes to mess with my life, which is neither unique to me nor news to anyone here. I came home from work this afternoon, sat with Bobby for a few minutes, and then checked my email for the first time because of my rather odd day at work (the subject of another post). The first subject heading to grab my attention:

WEB HOSTING ACCOUNT EXPIRED for: SILMARILLIONWRITERSGUILD.ORG

Eek, much?? :^S

Back in September, I got an email that the SWG account would expire in one month. I had the option to renew it then or wait for it to auto-renew in October. Bobby and I talked about it, and we decided that since we were getting ready to travel overseas, it would be wiser to wait until October.

So in the flurry of trip preparations and schoolwork and keeping caught up at work, I gladly forgot about it and trusted it to "auto-renew."

What I had forgotten was that the domain was registered two years ago, and the credit card that was used has since expired, so when the auto-renew was attempted, it failed, and the site was shut down.

I was sent an email informing me that the host had done me the favor of keeping our data ... for 24 hours. Then it would be gone.

Normally, this would not be so much of a problem. I was sent the email at 5 am; I usually sneak a look at the website by 10 am at the latest and could have taken care of it before most of our American members, at least, would even know the site was down. Of course, Murphy being what he is, yesterday was the day that I had been asked to help with scenarios at work, so while I normally could have been renewing the site, I was waving an assault rifle at my coworker and calling him obscenities. The scenarios ran all day, so by the time I got the email (as well as numerous emails from SWG members and one email from a manager at our host, who had apparently been trying to frantically call me all day to find out what was wrong) the SWG had only twelve hours left before annihilation!

Perhaps it seems melodramatic to look back on that with a touch of terror, but this is a site that I and countless others have put hours of work into over the course of the last three years, so even the thought of the site going into the Great Internet Rubbish Bin sends my heart racing.

The good news is that I renewed the site immediately upon getting the message, and we were up and running again in minutes. A close call ... too close!

The other good news is that, even if the site had gone kaput, I keep all of the files carefully backed up and Rhapsody, who has been acting as webmaster on the archive for some months now, does wonderfully for backing up the database, so we could have restored the site to its original splendor ... but neither of us really has the time right now for that kind of effort.

In all, it was a lesson learned in not trusting auto-renew when the fate of my biggest web project is at stake!
  • I will admit that the notice that popped up looked ominous, not the usual type that appears when there are typical temporary technical problems.

    Too scary for words. As you know, it’s not just your baby, but a lot of us who consider it our "home." (No pressure!)

    When I heard what happened, it reminded me a bit of a personal experience I had years ago. Was in Europe for a month (with husband, baby Laura, and little Avari). We arrived home from the San Francisco airport, after a grueling couple of connecting flights at 4:00 a.m. to a dark house and the smell of garbage. We had a house sitter for three of weeks we were gone, but as planned they had left a week prior to our return. Apparently, our check paying our electric bill (which was already late when I mailed it, not due to any lack of funds, but my own lackadaisical slovenly habits) had been lost in the mail. A large refrigerator and freezer stuffed to the gills, as I was cooking two large meals and packing lunches for each of us every day at the time, was filled with rotting food. We had to sleep in a stinking, freezing house the remainder of that night. And I had to take a couple of days off work to sort it all out.
    • Oh noes! That is really awful!

      I had a similar "auto-payment" debacle with the EZPass people. Same situation: a credit card expired and a new one was sent, and I didn't think to update the expiration date on my EZPass account. So when my account went to renew, it didn't.

      Only, unlike BlueHost and LiveJournal (who both have seen fit to notify me when payment bounces), EZPass didn't say a thing about it. So I kept driving through tolls without paying and found myself saddled with a couple of $20 toll evasion fines. Ouch. I had to fight tooth and nail to get them to waive the fees for their own oversight! (In fact, I remember ranting to a nasty customer service representative on the phone and pointing out that even LiveJournal lets their customers know when payment fails so that they may go about it using other means! Evoking fannish life to solve RL problems is always fun! :^P)

      I know that the SWG is home to a lot of people. It's hardly just "my baby" anymore: It was my idea a few years ago, but the direction has been guided by the members, and I'm not even fully responsible for important matters (like webmastering!) anymore. After the panic passed about yesterday's incident, I did feel kind of heartened that so many people noticed so quickly that the site was down. It would have been much worse to have the site go away and, a week later, maybe get an inquiry: "Wasn't there a website here once upon a time?" :)
      • It would have been much worse to have the site go away and, a week later, maybe get an inquiry: "Wasn't there a website here once upon a time?" :)

        Believe me, there was no danger of that. I even got an email from a stranger telling me she had tried to access "Maitimo and Findekano," because someone had given her a link, and it wasn't opening. And I already knew by that point anyway.
  • >I was waving an assault rifle at my coworker and calling him obscenities.

    Was it fun at least? The obscenities, I mean. And much though I hate guns, I think some coworkers/bosses/relatives deserve to have an assault rifle waved at them sometime. It's a good chance to play makebelieve and then go back to being a nice well-behaved girl.
    A friend of mine had to leave his car at a police block where he had been randomly stopped (first time ever, Murphy fully operative) because his insurance was due and the policeman did not believe him that it had auto-renewed. Actually it hadn't and he had been driving uninsured for a few days!
    • The scenarios were fun; I just finished writing an entry about them, actually! Though one of my coworkers and I doubt whether we'll be able to speak to each other in normal tones of voice after shouting profanities at each other for two hours!

      I loathe guns as well. Swords are so much more badass. ;) And guns--and most modern weapons--allow violence without aggression, which is a scary thing, imho.

      Your poor friend! That is definitely Murphy at work! Murphy seems to be pretty busy; I wonder if that guy even sleeps! ;)
  • Yikes! So glad you got it sorted. Wouldn't want SWG to go down. I've had two sites lost to hackers this past year - Slash Cotillion (which I really hated to lose) and Melethryn. It was sad to lose all that work and people's comments. *sniff*
    • Hackers are a constant fear of mine, and it does seem like so many Tolkien sites were hit this year. I didn't know of Slash Cotillion and Melethryn; at least three others had problems with hackers as well. Scary!

      The good news about SWG is that, between Rhapsody and me, we are truly OCD about backups! ;) I learned that lesson when LotRFanFic lost six months of data (including my account with them!) after a problem with their database.
      • Yeah, Stories of Arda got hit by a hacker, but was able to recouperate after a day or so. I am glad you have so many back up plans, because EEK!! is right. My dad had never had a website before, but when he did get one, it expired because they either never e-mailed him about it or the e-mails got lost in the ether (they claimed it was his fault, of course). When he discovered the problem and called them, they said something about the domain name going into limbo for 60 days so that even if he wanted to renew, he couldn't. A huge hassle, though it eventually got sorted.


        Thank you for all that you do to keep SWG up and running.
        • You're welcome! I owe a lot to the undying support and tireless assistance of my comods and volunteers as well. I'm truly lucky to have such a wonderful group of people always right there to help me out! :)

          On hacking ... HASA went offline for about a week as well because of a hacker, shortly after the SoA incident (but not related). Before that, I had been tinkering with the notion of learning more PHP/MySQL to write my own little programs ... well, after that, I gave up that idea. I don't know about SoA, but Anglachel who runs HASA is a professional programmer, and if she let a security hole slip past, I can imagine what some half-assed web developer like me could bring down on our heads! ;)

          That's a shame about your dad's experience. I absolutely cannot complain about Bluehost (SWG's host) in terms of customer service. They're great at keeping me up to date on what I need to do and when and always quick to solve problems. I know that's not true of a lot of hosts out there. :^/
  • Oh I love back-ups. I don't know what made me do that bit of archive maintenance that early in the morning, but I am glad that I just did. I just knew with that certainty and having the skins there, we would have gotten the archive up in no time (actually I could see the benefits of an utter clean install of the current e-fiction). However, the recent labour of your love (ref section...), yikes indeed!

    Perhaps it seems melodramatic to look back on that with a touch of terror, but this is a site that I and countless others have put hours of work into over the course of the last three years, so even the thought of the site going into the Great Internet Rubbish Bin sends my heart racing.

    I really can imagine that, it feels a bit like our baby and you spent so much hours of labour of love on it while we just keep on making it even more better! You know I really am impressed by Blue Host and wanting you to contact you so much, the past week I have been driven mad by our isp who I'd love to see such a level of customer service and I know for sure that the current host of my site (Dreamhost) would never ever take that extra step. *big hug*

    Oh and I'd love to have seen you in those scenario's hehehe.

    Edited at 2008-10-03 08:47 pm (UTC)
    • I was less worried about the site files themselves than the database and getting eFiction back up again. The site files are all backed up on my computer and, whenever my computer idles, they back up on Data Deposit Box as well, so it would take a failure in three places to lose them entirely! :) Restoring the site, though, is something that I don't think either of us has time to do right now, though! ;)

      I have been immensely impressed with BlueHost through two years now of having them as our host. They're always relatively quick to deal with problems and really do offer an astonishing array of features for rock-bottom prices. This last incident has really solidified for me that I hope to be their customer for some time yet, so long as they keep doing what they're doing.

      They're a huge host too--probably not as big as Dreamhost but definitely one of the larger--so their level of service impresses me even more.

      Of course, we are good customers: Aside from the SWG domain, I have four other domains registered with them and two active sites aside from SWG! I can see why the alarm bells went off when our account expired.

      I just wrote about the scenarios in my journal. It was silly and fun, though my knees are sore from being "arrested" so many times! :^D
      • Well I am at home during the evenings (we're trying to keep at least the evening meal and stuff after that as normal as we can for our kid) and the work I can or am allowed to do in the home is nearly done (no painting for me, no matter how much I tried to argue that I could with the necessary prevention in place), so I hope to sneak in some SWG time before we move, even if it is to see if we can get things to work. So for this, just with the other oopsie, I would have made time for it.

        Of course, we are good customers: Aside from the SWG domain, I have four other domains registered with them and two active sites aside from SWG!

        I am so sad to say that such a thing will not matter for Dreamhost, we had most of our stuff there, but after one bad experience after another, we started to move our sites to other hosts, Scribes of Eriador is the only one left there I think. Our site will be offline for a few days because we are just settling in (but our planning looks good), but I should get it up soon (we have a combination of e-fiction with wordpress), like in two hours or so (when that day comes).

        Edited at 2008-10-05 08:32 pm (UTC)
        • You've got so much going on, so if you don't get to SWG, please don't worry about it. :) If there's anything you'd like me to do while you're in transition, just send me a list, and I'll see that it gets done.

          That's a shame about Dreamhost. Over here, anyway, that is a hallmark of big companies: Once they reach a certain size, they simply stop caring. I suppose they know, at that point, that they can continue to do business because of the name alone. I mean, Dreamhost is the first host that web newbies usually hear about. It's familiar, if nothing else.

          I really need to email Bluehost to thank them for their attention to the matter and to assure them that, as long as their customer service stays on par with what I have come to expect from them, then they can count on my continued support as a customer, even if I can get better rates elsewhere. (And, really, I feel like I'm stealing our webspace as it is! :)
  • I'm SO glad you didn't lose SWG!!! I've been thinking of joining. :D
  • Interesting. I don't think I even have something as weird as auto-renew. If I don't cancel my domains they just go on and on and on. Thankfully, because I'm so bad with dates and deadlines...

    But I'm *so* glad the worst could be avoided. And what do we learn from this tale? Always have a backup ready:) At least then the content won't be lost, even if you still have all the hassle.
    • I've learned that auto-renew is a mixed blessing. It's not the first time it's gotten me into trouble! :)

      I'm glad disaster could be averted. We would have lost very little because we had recent backups of everything, but Rhapsody's moving house and I'm swamped with schoolwork, so neither of us really has the time to restore the site, especially for so silly a reason as an incorrect expiration date!
  • YIKES! I'm glad you were able to renew the site before the domain went kaput for real. You all have put a lot of effort and love into the place.
    • I share your relief! :) Between Rhapsody and me, everything had been backed up that day, but it would still have been a hassle to get it all back up again, and neither of us really needs that right now! :)
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