Since Sunday, I have been living in what is commonly know as “Tech Heck”. Okay, gloves off, “Tech Hell”. Yes, I said hell. And I’m proud of it. Careful, or I’ll say frick or darn!
This one is going to be long. Bear with me or skip to one of the more light-hearted posts.
Okay, the scenario:
I’m a tech guy. Yes, I know you know me as your gently subversive, sometimes humorous, often scintillating writer guy, but I also do tech. Both sides of the brain and all that. Many of my clients have their web sites hosted at a company called Bluehost. (I recommend HostGator instead, but they are both very similar.)
On Sunday, I was working on one of my clients’ sites, which was hosted on Bluehost. It was taking anywhere from 45 seconds to (gasp!) over five minutes for pages to load! (That’s not an exaggeration, either. I actually pulled up my iPad stopwatch and timed it.)
I tried several of her other sites that were on that same hosting account and they were all slow. I tried a few from other clients who were on Bluehost and they all seemed fine. So, it seemed it was a problem with that one Bluehost server. (I know, I’m getting all tech language. You can skip over this entire post if you want, I just need to vent a bit.)
Got on the phone with Bluehost. The fellow I talked to was pleasant, patient and gave me advice on how to fix the issue that made absolutely no sense whatsoever. What he wanted me to do was update some of the core programing on this account, stuff that could, potentially, stop all my clients’ sites from working.
I resisted, and tried to live with the issue for a while. Then I called back. The second tech fellow I talked to was also pleasant, patient, and gave me a completely different set of things to try, no relationship at all to the stuff the first guy suggested, but that made just about as much sense.
I figured I’d try again. The third tech was pleasant, patient and actually tried to recreate the problem on his end. He was unable to do so, so he had me run a trace route (more tech jargon, it is a test to see, when you enter a domain name, where you are “hopping” to around the Internet before it gets to the site. There are usually several hops. It usually happens so fast you aren’t aware of it at all as you blithely surf away.)
I sent him the result. He was puzzled and tried several other thing. After about an hour on the phone with him, he could come up with no possible explanation and no possible solution.
On the next call, I explained what the issue was, what the other techs had done and this fellow, quite pleasant and very patient, put me on hold for a bit, then came back with an explanation. That particular server was suffering from a “Denial of Service” attack. (That’s where a bunch of bad guys keep sending millions and millions of bits of traffic to a server so they can, basically, shut it down. It happens to the big guys often. Not usually to small fry.)
Bluehost had detected the attack and put things in place to stop it. Those things could, possibly, be causing my delay.
How long will those things be in place, I asked, innocently. Usually an hour or two, but he’s seen them last for as long as two days. And why didn’t any of the other three techs tell me this? Well, I was informed, I was now talking to a senior tech who just happened to come in on Sunday to help out on the phones, so he had more knowledge of how shit worked. I mead stuff, of course.
He suggested I be patient and wait it out, that it would resolve itself. It was Sunday. I figured I could do that.
On Monday, I tried again. The sites were still limping along like a 57 year old heavyset writer/tech person after trying to run to catch a train. I figured this was one of those “it could take two days” deals, so I waited again. In the evening, I decided I really, really needed to get the stuff done on my client’s site, so I went in and braved the delays. What should have taken me about 45 minutes took 5 hours. (No, I didn’t charge her that time. It isn’t her fault I’m obsessive and can’t leave well enough alone!)
Got the page done and went to bed.
The next morning, the sites were STILL slow, so I call Bluehost back and explained the entire thing, including the denial of service attack. I was put on hold by another pleasant, patient tech guy, who came back, told me that the attack had been resolved, that he couldn’t recreate the issue and suggested I might try my Internet provider. (Oh, joy. I’m with TimeWarner. Their techs are rarely pleasant!)
I called several friends to see if they could load the sites. All but one could get in in seconds. That one? On TimeWarner Cable Internet! I may have an answer!
Called TimeWarner support. I explained the whole thing and asked if TimeWarner was blocking that server for some reason. The fellow with the very heavy accent looked and found no block on that server address in their system. He kindly tested the site, but couldn’t recreate the delay. He suggested I bring my computer to a cafe or other place with a different Internet provider to test it. I told him I was working on a desktop computer and wasn’t about to bring that to a cafe. He said he meant bring a laptop and I explained that I couldn’t do my work on the laptop and he got snotty and told me that was all he could suggest.
So I hung up and called again. This time, I got a pleasant woman with a strong accent. She tried it, but couldn’t replicate it, but told me their call center wasn’t using TimeWarner as their Internet provider (!), so if it was in that system, it wouldn’t affect her. After trying several things, she sent me to “Level 3 Tech Support.”
The Level 3 Tech support was pleasant, but not very patient. He tested the problem and it took a minute or so for the site to come up. Finally! Someone else sees it and I’m not crazy.
Then he told me that, to fix it, he’s have to send a tech out to test my server. What!?! I don’t have a server. He said, no not your server, the server outside. I explained that the server in question (Bluehost) was in Utah, not outside my apartment. He told me (rather snippily) that he was aware of that, but they had to test the outside server, then come in to my place to make sure it was up and running correctly.
After several attempts to make him understand that 1) if he was having the problem, it had nothing to do with my setup, and 2) there was no “outside server” at my place, he very snottily told me there was and that was the only way to handle it. So I relented (he’s the level 3 tech guy, after all, and by this time the fight had entirely left me.) He scheduled the repair tech to come out between ten and eleven this morning.
When I went to bed, I started getting an anxiety attack that the repair tech was going to show up and either scold me for scheduling a house call for an “outside server” when there was no such thing and then charge me for his time, or, even worse, bringing along a server to install that they would then charge me for, even if I didn’t let them actually install the damn thing.
Yes, my brain can do funny things. I’m a professional neurotic and have honed my over-reacting abilities over many years of diligent practice.
This morning, I was awakened by a phone call, an automatic call from TimeWarner Repair Center about the appointment. Did I want to (push 1) confirm the appointment, (push 2) reschedule the appointment or, if everything was working correctly now, (push 3) cancel the appointment. I was sleepy so I pushed one and the computer voice thanked me and hung up.
Then I reconsidered. And I fired up my computer. And I tested the site. It loaded in seconds. Glorious seconds.
I did a trace route. No skipped or timed out hops. None at all! I swear, I heard a chorus singing. Not a particularly good chorus. Perhaps it was only car tires screeching as they sped around the corner on the Boulevard out front.
I called TimeWarner and canceled the appointment, glad that I wouldn’t get scolded or have some tech ape try to foist a server on me.
I have two theories about what might have happened.
1.) Someone in TimeWarner tech support read the notes from Mr. Tech Level 3, realized he was an idiot and it was a simple matter of there being some block somewhere in the vast TimeWarner system, possibly even having been distantly related to the Denial of Service attack that was happening earlier in the week, cleared the block and all was well with the Internet.
Or 2.) The Internet Gods interceded.
I’m leaning heavily toward #2.