Being blunt seems to have worked

I’ve been having problems keeping my blogs online, or at the very least active and available for the past few weeks.  The web hosting service that I use is called Servage One (though when I started using them it was just called ‘Servage’) and its located in Germany.  For the past 13 years, I’ve owned several domains, and have kept them hosted here because the price was right, it was convenient, they had a good reputation for being friendly with ‘adult’ leaning websites and they offered a good deal more than their competitors.  Too, if you brought them business, they would give you a free month of hosting for every customer that used a link you were given, so you could, in theory pay for your entire hosting based on how many customers you brought to them.  (Basically pay for a year and get a year free if you had 12 friends using their service) [Yes, I was mansplaining.  Get over it.]

In those years, my yearly bill has not gone up or down and I’ve been satisfied with the service I’ve received.  On occasion there would be a blip, but for the most part service was exemplary.  In 2006 when I first signed up, they offered unlimited bandwidth, unlimited hosted domains, unlimited emails, and 750 GBs of storage.  A few years down the road, they upped the storage to unlimited, along with all of the other amenities and then tacked on a free domain, which you would register through them and host there.  Without much warning a couple of years ago (actually zero warning) they dropped the unlimited storage option, scaling it back to the original 750 gigs.  I’m guessing this was because none of their customers were actually using that much space, and it made sense to cut it back, thereby freeing up more space on their servers for more customers.  A couple of months ago, right around the upgrade, they downgraded the available space to 200 gigs.  That was a pretty big downgrade, imo.  But, at least they didn’t up the price at the same time.  That would have been a deal-breaker, I think.

As I’ve mentioned in another post this service decided last year that they were going to upgrade their systems and do a large and laborious migration to a new storage facility as well as create a whole new hosting and support platform.  Not something cookie cutter like cPanel, something made in-house.  Have to give props when someone wants to design their own system from the ground up.  As many headaches that arise, even unexpected ones like they started to experience about 2 months ago where nearly the entire site went down for a period of 14 hours.  And stayed down.  To their credit, they kept everyone in the loop about what was going on, since email too was unavailable.   So long as you knew to check the hosting platform for updates.   Nevertheless, the outage was fixed for the most part, my domains were loading ok, but the blogs strangely enough weren’t.

At first, I was patient.  I figured there were going to be hiccups and I wanted to be a good customer, not making waves and allowing them to get the problems fixed.  However, that didn’t seem to be working very well, since the problems continued.  It would be up for a few hours, then down for the better part of the next day.  Posts wouldn’t save, pictures could not be loaded or plug-ins couldn’t be updated.  I have a service called ‘Jetpack’ that does a lot of the things that does for its customers, and since I use WordPress.ORG, I need that plug-in.  Which I have to pay for, but that’s another issue.  Inexplicably, that would disappear from my Journey blog, but the underlying files would still be on the website, so re-installing it wouldn’t work.

Finally, three weeks in, I wrote.  Squeaky wheel and all that.  Someone responded and said they’d look into the problem.  Fair enough, they apparently did and the sites started working again.  For a few hours, and then they disappeared.  Server errors galore, and the sites were unavailable for hours, if not days at a time.  Up and down, wash, rinse and repeat.  Every time I went to the hosting website, I could watch my bandwidth dwindle from 9 gigs/month to less than 1.  Traffic lost doesn’t necessarily come back.  Anyone that clicks on a link doesn’t want to wait 3-4 minutes for it to load, if at all.  They go somewhere else that’s more reliable.  That’s business 101 in a nutshell.

Yesterday, enough was enough.  I upped the volume a LOT.  I sent Servage an email and gave them a thinly veiled ultimatum, without actually saying that I was thinking of moving my circus elsewhere.  I did state quite unequivocally that I was a long-term customer, that I have been satisfied with the service I’ve received over the years, but the last two months have been incredibly difficult and I was as tired of writing them about my problem as I expect their admins were tired of hearing about it.  I received a message from one of the tech support people who said basically the admins were aware of the problem, they were working on it, and to check back in a few hours to see if things were better.  I had errands to run, but when I returned last evening, voila!  The sites loaded immediately.  At most, 10-15 seconds of wait time, not 3-4 minutes like it had been.  That’s an amazing change, and I was very grateful.  Though I wasn’t completely convinced.  I emailed them back, telling them it was working on my end, though I was leaving the support ticket open, just in case this was a momentary ‘hooray!’ moment, like all the other ones have been.

It’s been working fine for the better part of the last day.  They emailed me again to check on my experience and notify me that they were closing the support ticket on their end as they believed it was solved.  Leaving an open support ticket causes the admins to check periodically to be sure things are, or are not still ok.  It’s one less step they need to be doing.  Fair enough.  I’m hoping that things continue to work as they have been rather than what it has been.

A rude awakening

In more ways than one.  Last night our friends from NC arrived, parked their SUV in front of our house and came inside.  They’d had a long drive (10+ hours) and got settled, had some conversation, a few drinks and went up to bed.  As is my custom when I’m on vacation, I don’t always go to bed at a ‘normal’ time, it may be 3 or 4 am before I turn in.  I used to work 3rd shift for close to 20 years, so to me, night-time is just as good as day time to get things done on the computer, or in the house if I’m quiet enough.  No, mowing the lawn at 2 am isn’t one of those things.

Even after going to bed at 3:45 this morning, I only managed about 4 1/2 hours of sleep before getting up.  Seeing as I use a CPAP machine, I got some good REM zz’s and felt good enough to get up around 8:30.  Upon leaving the bedroom I could tell the guests were already up and about as the scent of bacon had wafted up the stairs and encountered my nostrils.  So they (as usual) were able to fend for themselves and were getting ready to start their day.  My wife and I headed downstairs, morning greetings were made and so on.  They headed outside to get to their car, and I settled down to accomplish some things for today and tomorrow.

Within a few minutes they were back in the house and calling for me and my wife.  Apparently upon opening their car door, they discovered someone had ‘broken into’ the unlocked car overnight and had rifled through their things.  Opened the glove compartment and had made it pretty clear they were searching for valuables.  The wife mentioned that the only things they discovered missing were a pint of strawberries intended for her sister-in-law, and a Garmin GPS unit.  After being rather saddened and shocked that they’d become the victims of thievery here, (in 18 years of visiting us, this is a first) I offered to call the local police, but she insisted that she wasn’t going to file a report, since she didn’t think her items were going to be recovered, and they were already late for going to where they needed to go.  So, waiting for the police to ‘do their thing’, wasn’t going to do much good.  (As it turned out later, the GPS unit was found in a side pocket of one of the seats, so really all the perps got away with was the strawberries)

All in all, it reminded myself and my wife that we’re not completely shielded from crime here.  Certainly I see in the police blotter at times about a home burglary here and there, or even a murder somewhere in the vicinity, but just over the weekend someone I knew in passing was killed crossing the street by a drunk driver.  Crime happens everywhere, that’s for certain.

We certainly (for the most part) take the time to lock our car doors when we park the car somewhere away from home, even at the local grocery or department store, but I don’t even think twice about locking the car when it’s sitting in our driveway.  Yes, the house is locked, but there have been times I’ve left the garage unlocked even when I made sure the small door next to it is locked, which seems rather stupid when you think about it.  There are pricey items in my garage that someone could easily wheel out of it overnight and I wouldn’t be the wiser until the morning, even then.  I don’t always make a survey of my garage when I’m leaving for work. If the car was missing, that’s one thing, but I could easily overlook the roto-tiller, or the lawn mower when I’m rushing out the door.  Not to mention some of the other items that are around my property.

In the last six months we’ve purchased security cameras, but I hadn’t had the time to put them up outside.  With the thing that happened this morning, that changed.  I’ve already put up three of them so that the main entries to the house are covered.  While we were out this afternoon doing some shopping and getting dinner, one of them got a hit when the UPS driver dropped off a package at the front door.  I’m still tweaking the system little by little, changing the angle of what’s being monitored and changing the sensitivity of how the cameras are triggered.  It’s a bit of a trial and error process, but within a few days it should be all set.  The system takes pretty good video, has infrared and night vision capability, although with the nightvision, things are a little more grainy, so it might be a bit of a chore to get someone’s features to make a positive ID if that became necessary.  “An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.”  Time for me to start curing the problem.  I have several more cameras that need to go up.

Invasive Species

We’ve lived in this neighborhood for the past 19 years.  When we first moved in, we’d not yet purchased the house, it was a ‘way-station’ (or so we thought) because our previous rental house had been sold out from under us.  Consequently we needed to find a new place to live fairly quickly, and pickings in our area were rather slim.  As it happened, we looked a bit on our own for an apartment, but quickly discovered that any apartment that we thought about renting was going to be too small for our needs.  Between my wife and myself we have a LOT of stuff, so it’s always been better to either rent or buy a house to live in (though for the early years of our marriage, we rented houses exclusively).

My wife hit on the idea of contacting real estate agencies and telling them that we weren’t looking to purchase a property, that we were looking for one to rent, or maybe even rent to own (rent the property for a time, allow it to be shown when needed, and maybe over time purchase it ourselves if it continued to appeal to us).  We found one nearby that was receptive to the idea (most weren’t) and had the agent looking locally for one that fit the bill.  We got a call from her about a week later, and she showed us a 2-story federal architecture house that was built in the late 1830s.  It had a very small piece of property (0.17 A/0.068 ha) but it was in a nice neighborhood.  After looking over the house from top to bottom (didn’t take long) we walked the grounds a bit and noticed an overgrowth in the backyard that was seriously almost taking over completely one corner of what might have been a flower bed at one point.  I asked the realtor if she knew the species, but she didn’t.  The homeowners didn’t live in the area, they were semi-retired and living in Tennessee in one of their other two homes.  I then asked the realtor if we rented the property, would the homeowners mind if we did some landscaping on our own, and she said that she would ask.  We didn’t make a decision at that point, but soon after we did, and ended up renting the property (the realtor had come back with an answer on landscaping, and the response was yes, provided we didn’t do anything major like cutting down trees)

We decided to rent it, since it was the best of the bunch of the rentals we’d either found ourselves or the agent had brought us to.  We moved in November of 2000 and in the spring set to work on getting some control of the land and the respective gardens.  The species that had concerned me the previous fall looked like bamboo, and after a little investigation, it turned out the owner of the property had planted something called ‘japanese knotweed’ and it’s considered an invasive species.  Over the last nearly 20 years, we’ve been trying to get rid of this menace.  The major problem is, while I’m seriously attempting to get rid of the knotweed on my side of the fence, of my two neighbors, one is doing nothing but letting it grow, (and renting the property to people who don’t do anything with it) and the other one is cultivating his, because it grows to 8-10 feet tall by late summer and makes a nice visual blocking agent between my property and his.  When he moved in, I called over the fence and mentioned to him about the stuff and what it was, that it wasn’t a good idea to let it grow unattended and I thought he listened to me, but apparently he didn’t care or figured it was ok to allow it to flourish.

Consequently, every spring I end up with shoots that are coming through the ground in the one corner of the property, and a forest of old growth on the property line nearby that I can’t do anything with.  So as not to kill everything in the former bed we’ve been using natural remedies rather than something like Roundup™,  which the jury is still out whether or not it’s a carcinogen.  Better safe than sorry in the long run, we’re thinking.

Even so, unless we can get the neighbors on board, it’s a losing battle.  If I eventually succeeded in getting rid of it on my side of the fence, the fact that it’s growing unabated on the other two sides, means that there’s still a root forest under the ground that’s waiting to come up on my side.  So, the battle continues.  I’m fairly convinced by the time we move on, it’ll still be here.