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Author: Subject: Recent forum unreliability
Polverone
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[*] posted on 30-4-2009 at 10:04
Recent forum unreliability


Many of you have surely noticed that the forum has been offline more than usual lately. The initial problem was just our web host, Micfo, moving the forum to another machine within their data center and associated DNS update delays afterward.

Unfortunately, it appears that the machine we have been moved to is much less powerful than the one we were hosted on before. It is frequently under high load. The shared MySQL instance appears to suffer more frequent errors under these high-load conditions. When there is a MySQL problem the forum is down until I or a Micfo technician can manually fix the problem. In the last couple of outages I have discovered the problem in the morning after waking up, which meant several hours of frustration for members in other time zones.

There are a few options open. I can just keep fixing problems as they arise. I can ask Micfo to move the forum back to a more powerful machine. I don't know if that request would be honored, and if it were honored it would mean yet another interruption of service during the migration. I can start looking for a new web host, but it is very difficult to distinguish good and bad hosts before you actually become a customer. Jumping to another host might not actually fix the problem, unless I paid for a virtual dedicated server or some other more expensive hosting solution that would grant me more control over the software/hardware environment.




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[*] posted on 30-4-2009 at 12:06


As it is we are getting daily interruptions of service lasting from half an hour to several hours, most usually in the wee hours of the morning to late morning EST which is afternoon and evening for me.

If this is self inflicted gratuitously by the host, I would complain if I were you but I do not know what sort of relations you have with them.

The main site and livrary are unaffected, just the forum. HTTP 500 Server error is the norm. Sometimes a mesage says config.php is invalid,




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[*] posted on 30-4-2009 at 13:06


Yes, it's mildly disconcerting but I'm sure you'll soon have things back to normal.
The E+W forum seems to suffer a lot of outages. . .
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[*] posted on 4-5-2009 at 03:32


I got the same error message as was given in these times when the server was down when I tried to upload an 1.2MB attachment today. Two times before I gave up and posted without the attachment.
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[*] posted on 7-5-2009 at 12:27


OK so I am having some issues accessing the site, they don't seem DNS related.

When ever I try to visit the page I get a '404 not found' error, yet when I use a proxy (using one now) I can get to the page. If it is of any use I'm in NY state and the proxy that worked for me is in canada...

http://i97.photobucket.com/albums/l223/ssdd534/Screenshot-2....

Any ideas?

-ssdd




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Polverone
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[*] posted on 7-5-2009 at 14:15


The screenshot shows an effect of DNS problems. Since the site you are being sent to is not actually the server running sciencemadness.org, there is no "/talk/" directory on it.

The DNS problem we had today is the 3rd spontaneous DNS screwup we have had this year. We also had one more excusable screwup when the site was being moved between servers in Micfo's data center.

While I was getting a technician to fix today's DNS issue, I also asked about moving SM back to a more powerful server inside Micfo's data center. I was informed that I am now a "lifetime customer" and all lifetime customers have been pushed to the less-powerful server we are now on. It appears that Micfo is no longer offering the package that I previously used to host Sciencemadness. Their current paid plans are either too expensive or too stingy of resources for Sciencemadness. The good news is that I apparently get nearly-free hosting indefinitely, should I choose to use it. The bad news is that the quality of service is so poor that I don't think we can stay here. Even if I were willing to pay the higher new Micfo prices to return to a more powerful machine, the DNS problems that have plagued the site started before we were tossed into the "lifetime customer" rubbish heap.

Sciencemadness outgrew its first web host and it looks like we have outgrown the second too. I will be looking for a new host. Please be patient. My job takes up most of my days and finding a reliable, affordable web host is not easy.

If you think you know a good hosting company, you might want to post about it in this thread. The host should run Linux, offer ssh access, have recent versions of PHP and MySQL, and offer at least 10 GB of disk space and 100 GB of data transfer per month. We will need a dedicated IP address in order to offer SSL. Apart from these bare stats the host should also not overcrowd their servers so that there is constant sluggishness from disk/cpu/bandwidth contention. I have received a suggestion already from undead_alchemist to investigate iweb.com.

I am comfortable being my own sysadmin if there's a good VPS package available, but those arrangements were a bit expensive the last time I looked. When I last got a package through Micfo I believe it was $20/month for 12 GB disk and 500 GB monthly data transfer, but I had to pay up-front for 2 years.

[Edited on 5-7-2009 by Polverone]




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[*] posted on 7-5-2009 at 15:47
What About Donations?


Why not ask for some donations? I wouldn't hesitate to give $10. I have been reading this board everyday for the past three or four years. It is one of the big bargains in my life. I am a 60 year old CPA. I felt like I was getting old so I was looking for a new horizon in my life. I found it when I stumbled onto SM. What a find! This place has opened up my mind. I bought a scale, a bunch of glassware on Ebay and put a lab in the basement. I scoured drug stores, hardware stores and the net for chems. With instructions here and elsewhere, I made many on my own. I learned how to distill, separate, crystallize, sublime, titrate and all sorts of wonderful things. As far as I am concerned, chemistry is magic. I can mix a few chemicals, add a bit of heat, give it an acid environment and actually move electrons around and create new compounds. Take a scrap of silver, some nitric acid and some alcohol and get an explosive. Wow. A little aspirin, methanol, H2SO4 and I get wintergreen. Double Wow. I started with the inorganic chems, plating, crystals, etc. Then I moved onto organic with alkanes, enes, ines and then rings and all sort of interesting things. I read the Lab Survival Manual at night in bed. I have made diethyl ether, P, Na, chloroform to name a few. I am now reading Organic by Morrison and Boyd. If a good host costs $30 per month or $360 per year, I am in for $18 or 5% of the total. Let's get real about this. SM is a wonderful resource to have. I enjoy it every single day. I take my wife to see a crummy movie and I spend $30 with popcorn. If you are worried about the implications of accepting donations, register as a 501(c)3 and file a postcard with the IRS each year as long as you receive $25,000 or less. If you want, I will prepare an application for recognition as a non-profit organiztion, gratis. Or if the forum stays unreliable, it's still one of the most enjoyable, interesting things in my life.
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Polverone
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[*] posted on 7-5-2009 at 16:31


Oh, people certainly have donated before, and it has enabled me to run the site for the past few years with relatively small out-of-pocket expenses. There is actually a thread about donations in this same subforum... unfortunately, this latest version of XMB causes the Paypal donation form to render wrongly and I have not yet put a workaround in place.

But the most immediate concern is one of time, not money. I need to find an affordable shared web host with reasonably accommodating policies. I contacted iWeb earlier and their shared hosting plans have very stringent limits on CPU usage, which they refused to clarify further citing "security concerns," and they do not offer ssh access for shared hosting either.

I suppose you could say this is an issue of money, since if I were able to get (e.g.) managed VPS from a well-established company this could be resolved without much more time spent. But I fear that the expense to go the "gold plated" route is too great to raise from donations, and even if I could get it all from donations I do not know if it would be a wise use of funds. I do not want the site to be persistently unstable but neither do I want to overpay because I am in a rush to find an alternative.




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[*] posted on 7-5-2009 at 17:39


Polverone,

Do you have any idea what the costs would be to upgrade the forum hosting?





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Polverone
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[*] posted on 7-5-2009 at 20:41


It looks like it may be possible to get an adequate VPS for about the same price as Micfo cost, 19.95/month. I am looking at linode.com. I could maybe go to $30/month but that's about the limit of my comfort zone. There are cheaper offers also, both shared hosting and VPS, but you can get burned trying to go too cheap.

I have pretty much ruled out going to another shared host. Too many have restrictions that aren't obvious up-front, and many pack so many customers to a box that the site suffers (like we're currently suffering on the overcrowded Micfo machine). I don't relish handling more sysadmin type tasks, but just about every problem I've had with shared hosts has been because of some mistake on the host's end. I don't think I will get into too much trouble if I have to manage more functionality myself.




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[*] posted on 8-5-2009 at 00:38


I'm hosting with these guys and they're very reliable, no downtime for over a year now and I'm currently on an offshore server somewhere in the USA (I think). They no longer offer the package I'm on which is comparatively dirt cheap but as yet I havn't been tossed aside like you have.

http://www.afrihost.com/linux-hosting.php

Not sure if they're allowed to host non-SA sites but maybe they could taylor a package for you if you contact them.




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[*] posted on 8-5-2009 at 03:30


Well Polverone- if it comes down to dollars I'm sure many members are prepared to help out.Basically I've been here to learn,without much substantial to contribute to academic debate,but I'm certainly prepared to chip in a few bucks for reliable/better service.
$360.00 per year isn't much spread out amongst us.Perhaps a new thread with a targeted amount to see us through the next year or two.




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[*] posted on 8-5-2009 at 07:48


I agree with starman and will be glad to contribute to a fund. My goal is to minimize the time that Polverone has to spend on system administration and get him back in the lab.
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[*] posted on 8-5-2009 at 21:05


So are you saying that the host changed the terms of your plan whilst you were on it, without the option of cancelling? In Australia at least, we have recourse in the Telecommunications Ombudsman, who would visit upon them great vengeance and furious anger etc.



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Polverone
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[*] posted on 11-5-2009 at 08:57


They changed the terms of service, but stopped charging for (most of) the service. I still have to pay separately for the dedicated IP address but not the basic hosting. I have not suffered any financial damages and I am not locked into any contracts. The forum has just become unreliable and made me think of moving elsewhere.



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[*] posted on 11-5-2009 at 16:43


O be the lord,

When I made some posts in Modles and ........section I was promptly taken back to the Sci.Mad screen with the picture of the 'Pestle and Morter on fire' page

Very very very annoying (not for me though as I have developed the habit of selecting and copying my posts just before I hit the 'post' button so I was able to save my (not inconsiderable inate ramblings) into a text file for future prosterity).

Dann2
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[*] posted on 12-5-2009 at 06:11


Quote: Originally posted by dann2  
When I made some posts in Modles and ........section I was promptly taken back to the Sci.Mad screen with the picture of the 'Pestle and Morter on fire' page
This just happened to me. After a bit of testing, it appears to be triggered by putting invalid markup (BBCode or HTML, I can't tell yet) into the message box.
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[*] posted on 12-5-2009 at 15:25



Your right.
I cannot put in an equation with sup's and sub's (in angle brackets). This is what was causing my problem.

Dann2
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[*] posted on 14-5-2009 at 13:34


Be careful to avoid the use of HTML codes not only in the posts but also in the U2U messages. Seems like since the software upgrade, these otherwise useful codes to which many got accustomed to, cause the messages to be lost and the front page of the site to be shown instead. This happened a few times to me before I learned to copy the text prior to clicking either Send or Preview.
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[*] posted on 26-5-2009 at 06:58


Tried reaching the forum earlier and it was unavailable. Anyone notice any downtime around 10 AM EST?



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[*] posted on 26-5-2009 at 07:30


It was down When I checked it about 7:15 EST. All's well now though.



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[*] posted on 26-5-2009 at 07:38


Yep i couldn't reach sci either.
It thought it was my browser, but after deleting cookies and such still nothing.
I got an error which i cant recall exactly.




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[*] posted on 26-5-2009 at 13:29


I got a database connection error around 11 AM GMT+1.



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[*] posted on 19-7-2009 at 16:55
Use square instead on angle brackets for html


Quote: Originally posted by Nicodem  
Be careful to avoid the use of HTML codes not only in the posts but also in the U2U messages. Seems like since the software upgrade, these otherwise useful codes to which many got accustomed to, cause the messages to be lost and the front page of the site to be shown instead. This happened a few times to me before I learned to copy the text prior to clicking either Send or Preview.


HTML code seems to work OK if you use square brackets instead of angle brackets to inclose the commands (is that the proper term?)

angle-bracket-here strike angle-bracket-here stuff to be striked out angle-bracket-here /strike angle-bracket-here
This sends you back to the front page of sci Madness with the post lost.
Using square brackets works nicely like this
cross this out please

have not tried other html delights
Dann2

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[*] posted on 30-9-2009 at 09:16


I have been experiencing the difficulties Dann2 and Nicoderm mention. I often write the text offline before posting, especially if it's long. I used to do this in Word to catch typos and merely export the .doc. I've also tried .txt. If I write directly in the box no problem.

One cannot switch off HTML code can one? What's the work around?

Regards, Der Alye
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