Archive for July, 2013

2013 Musings from Togliatti, Russia: Restaurants & Eating Out.

Eating Out in Togliatti.  When you visit a place, you don’t really want to start cooking do you? So restaurants are going to feature. However, in my experience, this is something Russia hasn’t quite got to grips with yet. We went in two places that had been previously OK that now have insect issues. One […]

2013 Musings from Togliatti: Taxis and getting around in Russia.

Getting around.

When I first went to Togliatti, when you wanted a taxi, you just stood by the road with your hand out and someone would stop. Negotiate a price before you get in and job done.

It always used to concern me the thought that any weirdo could stop and pick up women, and anything might happen. And indeed, sometimes it has done from what I have heard.

Happily, this practice seems to have mostly stopped. Now like anywhere else, you call a taxi, and a few minutes later you get an SMS that tells you what car it will be and how many minutes. Quite efficient really. Prices are really cheap still, anything between £2 and £4 takes you across town.

However, the quality of the said taxis, and the drivers, still leaves much to be desired. Most seem to be the crappiest old Ladas and other budget rubbish available. The quality of repair is terrible. Blowing exhausts, clunking suspension, dodgy brakes, etc. Interiors are generally filthy and the drivers personal hygiene leaves much to be desired. Bloody awful all round.

After the first few days of this, and trying several different firms to find they are all the same, I began looking out for liveried taxis to take a number from. There are some. But again, it often is the case that you take a number from a smartly liveried car, and the usual plain smashed up Lada arrives with foul smelling Ivan at the wheel smoking a Parliament. Cunning trick.

In one of the restaurants we visited, there were some business cards that proclaimed their taxis were “new foreign cars”. But when you call, a foreign car will be an hour, and a smashed up one can be there in minutes. :chuckle:

I expressed concern that I didn’t want my wife and daughter travelling about in a piece of smashed up crap with no brakes, even if it is £2. There must be a proper firm out there somewhere.

My wife asked a girl she knows who she calls a “new Russian” and got a number of a firm called ‘Elite’: 702 702.

And guess what arrived? A brand new Chevrolet with aircon, with a rather fetching young lady driver! And she was a good driver too – which makes a change there. So that’s the taxi problem solved. :nod:

Not all drivers at that company are women, but the cars are generally better than most and the drivers are not smoking and juggling two mobile phones and a taxi radio whilst driving. As all the cars are liveried, they are image conscious one told my wife when asked. The price was just the same as a smashed up one. That wont last…..

For the hell of it, we took a trolleybus on a couple of occasions. These have not been updated yet and are still the creaking rattling relics of yesteryear. They are ridiculously cheap. Pennies.

I suspect the new liveried taxis are where local travel is heading, and the smashed up taxi will soon become a thing of the past. As soon as the local cops cotton on to the fact that taxis in bad condition are easy targets for fines, as are people on phones, I reckon they will be forced off the road in a changing Russia.

2013 Musings from Togliatti: Russia is Changing.

Usually when you get on the road, you get the gargling paraffin taste in your throat that is the pollution. It is normally so bad that I need some antibiotics after a few days to quell my swollen throat.

I wont say the air smelled like an English meadow in spring, but the paraffin taste has gone. This air tastes somewhat cleaner than it has always done in the past.

And the road. What is different there?

Ahh yes, the ruts are fewer, the potholes not as big and while not the M1 or a Floridian boulevard, the road surface is somewhat better than I remember.

The drive from Samara to Togliatti used to take about an hour. Now it is 40 minutes as the roads are better.

Repairing the roads in Samara and Togliatti will take decades. But it is well under way and the main routes are all in the midst of being resurfaced.

They haven’t yet started on the pavements; they are still the death trap they have always been. But roads matter more IMO. Anyway, fewer people are using the pavements as more seem to be driving.

I can only guess what has caused the pollution to lessen and that is more newer cars and vans on the road. Many of the old crappy vans and trucks are now gone, as are many of the 70’s and 80’s Ladas. In their place is American imported SUV’s and modern Ladas.

Samara KUF Russia Passport Control Problems

Samara Passport Control

I always found Moscow a bit of a pain to connect internally through (although I gather it has improved since I last went through there), and the flight is shorter from the UK to Frankfurt and from there to Samara. Plus the FRA-KUF route is served by Lufthansa and not Yuri Air so is usually on time and half decent. And being a German airline, the luggage usually arrives at the same time as me. Added to which, the UK to Frankfurt and then Samara is almost a straight line on the map. It only involves a 2 hour flight to Germany and a four hour one to Samara.

If you time it right, and are lucky, the connection time can be 40 minutes. I couldn’t get these times at all this time, so I had to wait a dreary six hours in Germany. Still, they had free wifi and I can manage Bratwurst and black coffee. And I bought a nice shirt at half off. I have schoolboy German so know pleasantries, numbers and basic transactional speak in German, so I can get by without looking like a dumb foreigner who must desperately seek out an English speaker.

And while we are in Germany, what’s with all the German guys with little oriental women suddenly? Its like an explosion. For a while I thought I was in Scandinavia by mistake. :chuckle: Not sure if they are Thai, Philippine, Korean or Chinese. Those ladies don’t look all that different to each other to my eye. But for sure, German men, like their Scandinavian cousins have gotten a taste of the oriental woman. To be fair, some of the women looked pretty good catches for the average square-looking badly dressed middle aged German guy. Some of those women have pretty good fashion sense and they seem to take care of themselves. Pity the same cannot be said of the men with them.

Samara has always been a drag to enter Russia through. One agency website a few years ago specifically and emphatically advised against it and said ONLY use Moscow and connect internally to avoid being rolled for a bribe or given a hard time there.

On my old topic from a few years ago, Olga recounted a would-be corruption tale here and they tried to roll my wife on a visit in recent times too. Only that she recognised the customs guy as an ex student of hers did she get out of it – the guy ended up carrying her bags to the car outside. :chuckle:

I have always found them to be slow but you get there in the end. The more old visas you have (and they look), the more they see you are not a newbie and let you by without grief. That has always been my experience anyway.

However, in 2008 it took an age to get in. But I got in.

But last time I went there was some sporting event going on. They had nice English speaking female staff out in the foyer helping foreigners, handing out pens and helping with immigration cards. At the time, I cited this as “changing Russia” and assumed the old days had gone.

Nope. Regression has occurred.

I had no pen. I always have a pen, but this time I didn’t. I needed to fill in my immigration card as they hadn’t given them out on the airline as usual. No problem, pens will be on the counter. Nope. No problem, I’ll borrow one…….

But nobody else seemed to have one either. I identified an American by sight (and non American travellers will know how I did that – ask if you want me to elaborate). He had the big fanny pack with pens. He gave me one. It didn’t work. 😀

Not to be defeated, I asked a passing customs guy. He had one in his hand but wouldn’t lend it me. (:)

So I wandered past the queue and asked a border guard. He had a pot of pens but said no. :duh:

So I went to the next cubicle, and that guy lent me one.

Then I noticed on the immigration card, one could choose between being a “Male” and a “Famale” – I mean my god, – on an official document? If they cant get basic stuff like that right, is there any hope? :'(

So eventually I arrived at the cubicle to find a very bored and angry looking woman. The usual Russian bureaucrat behind glass. I make a point never to understand a word of Russian in such circumstances unless it behoves me to do so. But I slipped up.

“Gavarit pa Rooskie?”
“Nyet” – shit. :'( “Ummm. I don’t understand?” :innocent:
Her: 😀

Then we have the usual five minutes of her reading all my old stamps and visas.

She then starts to write the usual War and Peace on her computer whilst intermittently intently staring at the screen. After a few minutes of this, I am thinking ‘Really, how long does it take?’ I am bored by now and say “problyema?” and quickly cough, and say again “is there a problem?” (Hours in Germany plus the flights had dulled my reactions and I was ready for sleep)

She says “Da, probleyma” and then something else garbled that I didn’t get about the issuing of my visa. Well, I know this gag, this is the old in a side room and invitation paperwork and $50-$100 gag I am being primed for. So I changed tack.

“Do you speak English?”
“Nyet” (Touche – well played, love.)
“I think you do. You must in your job. My visa was issued in London, I know there is no problem with it. However, I have people waiting outside to collect me, one of whom is a lawyer, I can call him and you can speak to him on my phone to clear up any misunderstandings if that helps?” (Complete bollox by the way, but worth a shot – and I cant do that sentence in Russian.)

Long delay with no eye contact……………..

Suddenly, feverish stamping happens. :) (When the stamping starts, you know you are in and its done). She pushes my visa and half registration slip back at me and looks the other way without a word.

I take them and go to move through the gate. But it is still locked and the lights are still red. Silly game huh?

“Dyevooshka?” I said mischievously while pointing at the red lights. She does this face (:) together with a big dramatic sigh (like she had released it three times already but I was too stupid to walk).

“Welcome to Russia” I said back to her as I walked through the gate. I can feel a Tweet to Medvedev coming on…….

What do these people get out of this? Surely it takes less energy to not do all the sulking, sighing, delaying and just do your damn job! Check the visa and stamp it, What two minutes tops? Why should it take fifteen minutes and fifty overheated people behind you?

New Russia indeed……….

Choosing a Digital Camera

I have used the iphone camera too for almost everything since I had one. Cracking camera. But my wife wants one that makes that continual paparazzi shutter sound so she has about 200 of everything to choose from. Also, while the iphone camera is good; it has its limitations.

With the iphone camera, the pictures are pretty good, but the night shots are poor. Better than some digital cameras; but not that good. I find I have to switch off the flash and use it without flash to try and get a better picture. Anyone else have that problem?

Additionally, although its reasonably fast, its not as fast as you need sometimes in taking multiple shots.

That is where the difficulty starts. How is a layman to choose a digital camera?

DSLR, SLR and now ILC’s. What is better and where do you start?

The best camera is that which you carry with you.

Wandering around with an SLR is a pain in the arse. An SLR is a cumbersome waste of time as long as you only ever use the kit zoom lens supplied with the camera. (that’s what most people do!)

The signal difference between most SLRs and convenient cameras (compacts and crossovers) is the size of the sensor, in general, the bigger the sensor the better the ultimate quality of the image and SLRs almost always have larger sensors than compacts.

If you want a camera that you might actually carry around with you, that is easy to use and will give excellent results ditch the idea of the SLR and look to a camera such as the Fujifilm x-20.

You will be able to take extremely high quality pics with this camera, it has a sensor that is large for its class and the design of the sensor gives an effective increase in image quality and thus effective sensor size. While it ain’t the smallest or lightest high quality compact it knocks spots off an SLR in that respect. I was looking at its older brother the FX100s but frankly could not afford it – the x20 is probably better for most users, including myself and is a lot less costly.

If you get something very flash, you will run the risk of looking like a Japanese tourist when you go out with all those big, daft lenses you will have to trail about with.

Those lenses, in addition to being cumbersome to carry around, have their limitations. Here is what one user said:

I bought one a few years ago. I put it on my camera to take some photos of my daughter in a school musical. I think I was about 40 meters from the stage. I was able to zoom in on my daughter nicely. I knew the big zoom lenses needed real stability, so I tried to create the most stable rest I could given the setting. Unfortunately, when I printed out the photos they were very slightly blurry. I have a tripod but it’s usually not practical to bring it along with me.

Get a camera that you or your wife will carry and not leave at home.

Unfortunately, many cameras suffer from a speed problem. We take a picture and have to wait 3 or 4 seconds for the camera to “process” the picture (automatic scene recognition, colour balancing, red eye detection and removal, etc.) It’s so bad on some Fuji’s that it makes them next to unusable.

If you want a camera that does the whole Shutter clickey thing – beware. Here is what a Fuji user said about that:

I’m snapping away at the church, proceedings, and people. And EVERY time I press the button to take a picture – what do I hear? CLICK, CLICK, CLICK!In the case of our Fuji (and my HTC EVO V smart phone), the “clicking” sound ISN’T because of the D/SLR mechanism like the old fashioned 35mm cameras – it’s an electronically generated “sound” that’s played through the camera’s speaker! Even the “cheap” point and shoot cameras these days have that whole “click” sound played through the devices speaker.

My thought is – unless your a “professional” photographer (which I bet 99% of US are NOT), getting one of the $1,000 D/SLR cameras ISN’T going to make your pictures any better! And in the end, isn’t taking pictures all about the picture itself?

Another knowledgeable friend of mine had this to say when asked about cameras:

Canon & Nikon both make decent (premium) compact cameras as well (Panasonic, Fuji has nice ones as well). Not full blown DSLR ones, but in between compact and DSLR.

We have a Canon G12 and are very pleased with the picture quality (beats most compact cameras hands down still). We love the rotatable display as well.

Canon has since then released the G15 which has newer features but lacks the rotatable screen. Nikon P7700 seems to be a good one too.

Opinions are like ears – everyone has them. A good place to start I think is to decide what you actually want the camera for.

3D, extra lenses etc., will simply lead to the purchase of a second camera, the one that actually gets used.
If you want male jewellery – then own up to it and do it right.
If you want to take excellent pictures without much thought or knowledge with a camera that is small enough to not be a nuisance and large enough to do the job right then consider the Fuji x-20. No extra lenses, excellent image quality, very fast piccy clickey and a very good price.

Why buy a camera that uses additional lenses when you don’t need them?
Why buy a compact camera with interchangeable lenses when you have legs?
Why buy a camera with a lens set that means you need a tripod to use it for most of its range?
Why buy a camera with gimmicks that add nothing to your enjoyment of images and only works in a limited set of usage scenarios?

Here’s what you need in order to enjoy great pics, pics that you actually take
A sensor that is larger than most sensors fitted to cameras in its class
A zoom lens that can be handheld throughout its range. The best image stabilisers will give you about 4 stops (steps of shutter speed) of advantage. In 35 mm terms you need to be shooting at a shutter speed that is the reciprocal of the lens focal length to be reasonably certain of getting a decent (but probably not perfect) shot. The kit lens with the Nikon5100 is almost certainly soft until you stop down a couple of stops so at telephoto you will be working at an effective maximum aperture of f11 at a 35mm equivalent of 80mm with this camera sensor. You’re going to need the stabiliser to be able to get decent shots in anything other than pretty bright daylight….
A body that can fit in a pocket or purse.
No need for any extra add-on bits to make it work

For comparison the Fuji x20 I suggested has a longer telephoto lens than the Nikon as standard and the aperture is, at full telephoto f2.8, two stops brighter meaning that you can shoot always with higher shutter speeds reducing camera shake and the need to use anti shake corrections.

Bottom line, chances are that in real life you will get better quality images from something like the X20 than from an SLR, the camera will be easier to use and because it is compact (but not the smallest camera out there) there is a chance you might actually use it.

Thinking of Hostgator? Read this First!

I have been a very happy customer, and an enthusiastic exponent of Hostgator for some time. I think that is about to change.

I host maybe 20ish websites with them over 2 VPS’s. One VPS has one big forum on, the other one has a mixed bag of sites on – two are forums, an eshop or two and a few blogs and such.

In recent months, our server started going down for maybe 10 minutes at a time – now and again. I know this because I get the “nameserver failed” emails. Followed by the “automagically restarted” emails.

Then it became a couple of times a week.

More recently it is two times a day. Today four times. Well, that isn’t good enough. Nor is that the 99.9% uptime they advertise.

At Hostgator, “live help” is to be avoided for all but the most simple things (they even say that on their site somewhere) support tickets are always the way to go; and they used to be answered within about an hour. Always very efficient too.

However, over a few months, support tickets (and I don’t make many) seemed to be taking a day or more to get a reply. And that reply often didn’t solve the problem.

Maybe they are a victim of their own success. Maybe they were unusually busy that day. Um, and the next time too…… OK.

One always has the option of emailing the CEO Brent directly. Over the years we have had to do this once or twice, he always replied and the issue was fixed in a heartbeat. A few months ago he didn’t reply. Maybe he was busy……. the issue got fixed anyway so no harm done.

You see where this is going?

The legendary Hostgator service seems to be slipping over time. Probably over the last year or more I have noticed it. No one issue has caused me great concern, but the trend is now for Brent to ignore emails, and for tickets to take a day or two to get a reply, and the dreaded “live help” is usually 30-40 mins plus to get anyone. Phone? Today I gave up after 20 mins on hold to a US number.

Hostgator are now hard to reach. Patience is a must. They will get there, but it might take a few days of tickets to solve an issue. The first two replies are usually nonsense. I gather each reply moves it up the food chain a bit, and by reply three or four you get someone who knows his eggs. But that ain’t fast any more.

Last week, out of the blue, we got this.

Please read this email in its entirety, as it contains very important information regarding your HostGator VPS server, IP address: [deleted], and the impending mandatory maintenance and migration that will be occurring within 48 – 52 hours.

Your VPS server is being migrated onto brand new, upgraded hardware and will be running the latest version of Virtuozzo and CentOS.

We plan to facilitate this migration both as quickly and easily as possible, but also want to assure you that your total satisfaction with this migration is our primary objective. We will keep you updated via email throughout this entire migration. The migration process itself will result in an exact copy of your VPS container being moved to new hardware and will ensure that the most up to date information is put in place. We will then begin routing any traffic going to the old server to the new server so that you do not lose traffic or experience connectivity problems. Please be aware that there may be small amounts of downtime, however we will do everything within our power to ensure a smooth migration.Please note that this process does require a change of IP addresses assigned to your nameservers, as such it is vital that you take action in regard to the DNS settings once the actual data migration has been completed.

At this time, there are no changes needing to be made on your part.

We will contact you within 48 hours, once the migration process has started. When the migration has completed we will forward the traffic from the old server to the new server allowing traffic to be served from the new VPS.

Odd [because IP numbers can be transferred says our tech that works at a bank IT department], but fair enough. Changing IP’s is a pain but not the end of the world.

So then it happened.

We updated IP’s – our domains are with 1&1 and GoDaddy [1&1 are terrible by the way – please don’t use 1&1 people] because Googling tells me that Hostgator sometimes don’t renew domains and some people lost their websites. So having it all under one roof is not sensible. I cant risk that.

Several days later, we started getting these:

This is a follow-up notice in regards to your recent VPS server migration. Our administrators have discovered that your domains on your server still need to be updated at your domain registrar. Without this change, your sites will no longer operate correctly once the previous server is disconnected.
We ask that you make the following changes in order to ensure continued operation of your websites:

Please change ns1.[deleted].com from [deleted] to [deleted]
Please change ns2.[deleted].com from [deleted] to [deleted]

We did this two days ago.

So we check our registrar – and they were done they said.

We told Hostgator. They replied with:

Quote:
We do show the records on the VPS as updated, however, your registrar is still reporting the old IPs:

http://reports.internic.net/cgi/whois?whois_nic=ns1.[deleted].com&type=nameserver
I check the link and in different entries, both IP’s are showing. Propagation perhaps?

I open a ticket at 1&1, they check and say all is well and it is still propagating in the US probably.

And that has been rinsed and repeated for several days.

Hostgator blame DNS glue. But their site says DNS glue is done there: http://support.hostgator.com/article…rvers/dns-glue

I know nothing about DNS glue I will admit. But now advice is starting to contradict. HG Techs say it is the registrar, HG site says it is done in WHM. Who is right? I dunno…….

Next Day:

Today the server crashed four times. Maybe ten minutes each time. I opened a ticket and got this back.

Thanks for contacting HostGator! Looking at the node logs for your container it appears that it is currently running out resources periodically, we can see the instances of killed processes last night from the container running low on RAM. I have made some minor adjustments to the MySQL service in an effort to reduce the RAM utilized by it.

But hang on……..

We moved from shared to VPS to avoid crap like this.

Two quiet forums and an eshop drain a Hostgator VPS of RAM? What are we running there an 80’s Atari gamebox?

These sites are not Amazon and two DigitalPoints. These are just modest sites with maybe 50 users on at any one time on each.

Too much for an HG VPS?

Well, 30 minutes after the “minor adjustments” the [new and upgraded remember] server crashed again for ten minutes. So that didn’t work. I’ll expect crash and restart emails through the night then? Swell.

I emailed support with updated info several hours ago and no reply yet……….

Still we have the IP issue where fifteen or so sites may go off tomorrow because I cant get a coherent reply from them about DNS glue and changes relating to the unexpected IP address change they forced on us.

Today or tomorrow we may have 15 sites off the air – and nobody knows exactly why this or that pingy/DNS/NS thing doesn’t report the IP that HG changed it to.

Today I started researching new hosts. Next week we may have to migrate a bunch of sites away from HG simply because we cannot get decent support there. Because of them springing an IP change on us.

Our sites could potentially be down for many days next week!

Why don’t HG have a premium support service? Maybe $100 and you get a proper guy on the case – on the phone for an hour or something.

I know Brent Oxley, the CEO of Hostgator is a member here. I have linked him to this so he might comment. Brent, look up support ticket 23101332 please. And all the others linked to that account the last ten days or so.

I am truly at a loss as both host and domain registrar are blaming each other here. But host [Hostgator] forced us to change IP addresses, and support is inadequate and very slow thereafter. So ultimately, Hostgator are to blame.

Part Two:

My last reply to the ongoing support ticket was 7.30 last night. It is now noon the next day and I am still waiting on an answer.

Sites went down 3 times more overnight.

Another one in this server swap saga was all our domain related emails stopped working after migration. The reply to the ticket to that (after two days) was:

The issue here was that there was no PTR record set for the new IP, which I have corrected now. Please allow 4-6 hours for propagation, and let me know if you experience any further issues,

Well, I dunno what a PTR record is, but clearly something they didn’t do the first time.

Part Three:

It has been suggested to me that the RAM might be inadequate, so I asked that question. Eventually, I got this back:

Currently your account is on a L3 VPS package and does have 768M of RAM, this may be adequate to run a few sites off, or even many sites should they not require much in the means of processing or memory resources, however if a few sites are running and simultaneously receive a large bout of traffic it is possible that they could very quickly spawn many processes and exhaust the available system resources, if the sites can be optimized with caching or additional resources can be added through means of upgrade it could help to alleviate the resource exhaustion.

Well I know all that…….

Clearly LOOKING what is causing the outages is out of the question. That looks like wordy guesswork to me.

When actually asked to look, TWO DAYS later came back this:

Looking at the node logs for your
> container it appears that it is currently running out resources
> periodically, we can see the instances of killed processes last night
> from the container running low on RAM. I have made some minor
> adjustments to the MySQL service in an effort to reduce the RAM
> utilized by it.
>
>
> Jun 28 14:59:30 vps931 kernel: [10681.423958] OOM killed process php
> (pid=54629, ve=12876) exited, free=217100.
> Jun 29 00:25:39 vps931 kernel: [44650.682927] OOM killed process
> mysqld (pid=13710, ve=12876) exited, free=224235.
> Jun 29 00:25:40 vps931 kernel: [44651.925007] OOM killed process spamd
> child (pid=18136, ve=12876) exited, free=193245.
> Jun 29 00:25:40 vps931 kernel: [44652.384740] OOM killed process
> /usr/local/cpan (pid=14525, ve=12876) exited, free=193752.
> Jun 29 00:25:40 vps931 kernel: [44652.410871] OOM killed process
> /usr/local/cpan (pid=15072, ve=12876) exited, free=203360.
> Jun 29 00:25:41 vps931 kernel: [44653.323808] OOM killed process php
> (pid=12359, ve=12876) exited, free=199196.
> Jun 29 00:25:42 vps931 kernel: [44653.768923] OOM killed process php
> (pid=12361, ve=12876) exited, free=229636.
> Jun 29 00:25:42 vps931 kernel: [44654.206774] OOM killed process php
> (pid=12362, ve=12876) exited, free=252138.
> Jun 29 00:25:43 vps931 kernel: [44654.950665] OOM killed process php
> (pid=12364, ve=12876) exited, free=267756.
> Jun 29 00:25:43 vps931 kernel: [44655.368025] OOM killed process php
> (pid=12370, ve=12876) exited, free=260605.
> Jun 29 00:25:44 vps931 kernel: [44656.139057] OOM killed process php
> (pid=12374, ve=12876) exited, free=257765.
> Jun 29 00:25:45 vps931 kernel: [44656.573821] OOM killed process php
> (pid=12365, ve=12876) exited, free=283792.
> Jun 29 00:25:46 vps931 kernel: [44657.453746] OOM killed process php
> (pid=12363, ve=12876) exited, free=291716.

If this means inadequate RAM, why don’t they just say “You need more RAM mate. $15 a month extra, click here to add it, problem solved”. Better to speak in plain language than pasting me loads of crap I don’t understand.

My wife says I should be celebrating the constant server crashes because it means we have more traffic so I am doing something right. I applaud her twisted logic and optimism………

Part Four:

My main gripe now with HG is support emails taking a day each reply. That is *really* slow. That has really dropped off the boil because these guys used to be on the case.

To be fair, the advice is good if it is a fast exchange. But it isn’t any more. Their tech guys [on tickets – not live help] do know their eggs. But a half a dozen exchanges now takes a week. So it seems really slow. That is what they need to address.

A couple of years ago, ticket replies were almost instantaneous. Issues were fixed within the hour. It was all really easy. We all knew it was too good to last I guess. It was amazing for the money really……

I think we are now between a rock and a hard place. We want top notch service? It costs. We want $60 a month? Then wait on support. There isn’t a free lunch. I am in business. I get that.

If we want instant service, there are likely $300+ a month providers out there that do that.

But everyone wants cheap; and that means India or waiting.

HG *have* dropped the ball. But they may come good. I hope they do. Migrating 20 sites is a PIA.

After this, we will learn what we can really expect from HG. But I expect HG are not alone. There isn’t a holy grail of providers who are so much better than anyone else. Well there are for a while, but then they become a victim of their own success as HG has and topics like this are born.

Hostgator has been recently sold to a group called EIG – this explains the customer service falling off the cliff. No more Brent Oxley.

Part Five:

Now they have decided it isn’t RAM.

I apologize for the inconveniences and delay in responding to the ticket due to high volume of tickets in our desk.

Our monitoring department is aware of the issues with the server container. Though I do not have information regarding what caused your container issues prior to the IP change, I can confirm the issues you had been experiencing in the last one week is related to some new kernel updates pushed out by Parallels, the virtuozzo vendor. Our System Architects are working towards a permanent fix.

Note that past issues with your container could have been from the container itself running out of resources. I was referring to the recent issues with the container rebooting without it running out of resources.

I once again apologize for the inconveniences this has caused. But please be assured such server wide issues are addressed with utmost importance internally, even if we do not get to see your ticket updates immediately, due to all of our shared hosting servers and VPS being actively monitored 24×7.

Still no fix on the cards though……..

I have finally given up with Hostgator on this.

Because each time the ticket is revisited [which is only once a day] someone new looks at it, and cant be bothered to read back, we end up having circular conversations and today’s reply is rehashing stuff hammered out last week.

Because of their dire service, if I want to move container, I must open a new VPS, open a ticket to have one moved to the other, open a ticket for a pro rata refund, etc……..

I don’t think so. Enough is enough. My sites have been down most of the morning again. and a few times this afternoon. Now it is impacting sales, its time to go.

Part Six:

There are 28 sites on this particular VPS, and I really wanted to have them with a UK provider with proper support if at all possible.

I approached Nimbus Hosting yesterday after recommendations, but after an exchange of emails that started out promising, some bloke was asking me to ‘justify’ extra IP addresses and questioning the ‘need’ for private nameservers on several sites.

Not to mention Plesk control panels?

These things are all standard on any half decent reseller account – without being nickel and dimed. So that didn’t last long……

Following many recommendations on the UK business Forums, and looking at the impressive client list, I called VidaHost this morning.

An hour later, I had bagged myself a VDS:

Our most popular server, the VDS 20 provides higher capacity for larger databases, more concurrency and better caching. Typical uses are growing ecommerce sites or as an upgrade from a reseller account.
CPU: 2 Virtual Xeon CPUs
RAM: 1.5GB
Disk Space: 40GB
Data Transfer: 800GB
SLA: 99.9%

And they are migrating all 28 sites over for free, fixing a nameserver issue I couldn’t get my head around how to fix with one site.

The site claims average ticket replies in 12 minutes. I used it this evening and my replies were coming through almost instantly!

Early days, but I am well impressed up to now.

Certainly not the cheapest option out there @ just over £70 ($108) a month with taxes, but if you want proper service for a bunch of sites, it needs paying for.

We were paying Hostgator $54 plus a few add ons with zero service and sites that don’t work. So not much more money for fewer headaches.

Bye bye Hostgator……..

Part Seven:

Here is a funny and ironic ending to this. I asked Hostgator to close the tickets as I no longer had any need of “support” as we had already gone. I got this back over 24 hours later:

Unfortunately the Migrations team is currently experiencing an extremely high ticket volume and responses are much slower than we would like to see. For fastest response, you may wish to contact our live support via chat or phone as they are available 24/7 every day of the year and can answer basic questions as well as check on ticket status and escalate it, if needed, for prompt attention.
Questions regarding your VPS Migration would be best addressed directly to our Support team which typically has a much faster response time than the content migrations team which you have reached.

They have really lost it.

All my sites are now running beautifully on Vidahost.

I guess I’ll just cancel the payment. They will soon get the message that way that we have gone.

Bye bye Hostgator……..

Has Deletion Replaced Debate at TAZ?

The Admin Zone (located at theadminzone.com and known as TAZ) is a discussion forum where people who run forums congregate to discuss running forums.

Run by an amiable fellow called Howard – aka The Sandman – it has been for many years a pretty well run forum that I am (was) a Premium supporting member of.

As can sometimes happen with forums, too many chefs spoil the broth, and the constant rotating stream of moderators and administrators allow some people the opportunity to be what they are not in real life: someone with influence.

In the wrong hands, a set of moderator buttons or a delete button is a tool that can quickly alienate long term forum members. TAZ has unfortunately obtained itself such an administrator that goes by the name of AzhriaLilu.

What The Sandman was thinking of giving such an uncouth character the reigns to his site is anyone’s guess. But it can sometimes be hard to judge people accurately in Cyber Space. Ones decision can be swayed by someone who has 11,000 posts. Hard call.

Such is AzhriaLilu’s fanatical finger constantly on the delete button, that normal debate and discussion has now been disallowed at TAZ. Hence this article that is beyond the reach of AzhriaLilu.

After several recent deletions of relatively innocuous posts by the over-zealous AzhriaLilu, I chose to engage the woman (which I now know her to be) in a private section of the site with the following:

AzhriaLilu, lets do this here in a civilised manner where it can be seen. Better we exchange views here in a private area and avoid any misunderstanding.

It seems you [or someone at your behest] are quietly deleting my posts. The first being after I quite correctly highlighted your error on a facet of English usage, on a “learning words” topic no less…….

I even helpfully explained your error in order that you might learn something.

Your reply called me a smart arse [smartass]. I replied to you explaining that if you are going to try to use a word, you should certainly understand its usage. And that isn’t smart arse. That is simply correct.

My comment got deleted. As did my remark about the quiet deletion. Your comment to me stayed however. Strange, huh?

Then today you are harping on about treating others as you would like to be treated. What, like calling them a smart arse for correcting you? When you were grammatically incorrect?

Now you may think I know nothing about words and language. I have only published two books; if you happen to have have published more, or have more English qualifications than me, you may be right that I know naught compared to thee.

When someone takes the trouble to highlight a grammatical error of yours, in a topic about words, a reasonable person says thank you. They don’t insult the other person because they happened to go to school.

Might we kindly reinstate the deleted comment on the word topic, or at worst alter your comment to something slightly more civil? You cant have it both ways.

Might you stop removing my posts completely?

I realise this isn’t a huge issue in and of itself, but one-sided moderation, especially – as I suspect in this case – when it is done by the person who is the subject of the comment, is the thin end of the wedge. A trend I am starting to notice more here.

I see people here bitching today that VB discussions are not allowed. Is it also the case that correcting the grammar of a mod on a grammar topic is also verboten?

Has deletion replaced debate at TAZ?

If so, I’l let myself out. If you delete this, I will understand you are simply very sensitive. Respond or delete – your choice.

Well, it seems deletion has replaced debate at TAZ because that topic lasted only minutes.

When other staff were pressed in a support topic to explain the constant missing posts, one replied that the last had been deleted marked “not needed”.

That isn’t insulting, abusive or against the TOS. That is simply “not needed”. On a discussion forum. Where people talk.

“Not needed” actually means “AzhriaLilu doesn’t want her mistakes discussed so bye bye post”.

How much time should one spend dealing with people who want to play Tsar of their own little Cyber Kingdom? (Or worse still, someone else’s?)

I personally have no time for it, so I excused myself from TAZ today and will not be posting further there until (if ever) that woman is no longer a staff member.

An isolated incident you suspect?

Elsewhere on TAZ, we find what would be a raging topic or ten about the inadequacies of the vBulletin forum software. I have a vBulletin site myself and it truly is the most cumbersome, over-complicated and bloated piece of software I have ever had the misfortune to work with.

However, TAZ runs on vBulletin software (an old version that has been modified and improved almost beyond recognition). And it is alleged that people from the company behind vBulletin are active staff members on TAZ, so guess how topics critical of vBulletin end up?

Here is an example:

Some fellow has started a topic there called “Best forum (not TAZ) to Discuss vBulletin?”. The opening post is this:

Since all discussion of vBulletin is now being whitewashed, is there a forum anyone can recommend where all the principals involved participate, and where open and honest discussion is permitted?

There are certain vB staff who never miss an opportunity to take a swing at customers, yet we have been clearly told that we are not allowed to respond to such offences. This to me is an untenable situation. I only signed up on TAZ since it was described to me as a place where the truth was being discussed. Now that that’s no longer true, I’d appreciate any insight into a place where this is allowed.

The topic gathered legs so quickly that to delete it – as would normally happen if AzhriaLilu was anywhere near at the time – would have been noticed (and sneaky forum admins don’t like deletions noticed so much).

Post #5 on the topic said:

A few weeks ago I posted about Wayne Luke and then a few hours later that post went poof and was no longer available.

I took a look and see that Wayne Luke is a staff member here and chances are good he is the one that removed my post.

I don’t know who Wayne Luke is – nor do I care. But we are seeing a pattern aren’t we here?

Lets take a look at reply #8

I don’t mind my posts were deleted if they are really just personal attacks but one thing that I had asked but was never answered by TAZ Staff (instead my post was deleted) is that; does calling a misleading statement as it is constitute a personal attack? Where can the line be drawn?

What is this? Fastest finger first?

By the time we get to reply #14 we see this:

I’m often available on Skype to fellow forum admins who want to ask questions without the risk of one of us being banned here on TAZ.

That from a very pleasant chap who runs several large forum websites himself. He feels he cant communicate without the likelihood of being banned?

Here are other comments from the same topic:

Whats funny is that moderators and admins ask about better moderation tools for forums but usually a topic gets closed or they just deleted post instead of altering it.

How can you talk honestly about a product when the person who is in charge of that product is the one censoring things

It does TAZ no good, in fact it gives TAZ a black eye.

As I also said in my last post in my thread, which was also again deleted for no apparent reason, my opinion of this forum dropped a notch with this action. I feel closing the thread was a step too far and my post with the rehash of open questions is still important to me, as they are all valid questions for all new vB admins and the post had absolutely no offensive or attacking language or any other reason to be deleted completely. I think the thread should be re-opened. If need be, delete everything except the questions in my last post.

Why would members have to ask repeatedly why their posts are being deleted?

Ultimately you guys have to do what’s best for TAZ, but choking everything down is going to turn the vB section into a Carebear forum and most people who want to speak honestly about vB are going to just move onto another forum.

OK. Not trying to continue this argument, but now it appears that individual personal attacks are not allowed, and the “wrong way to convey a message” is not allowed.

If I don’t like a place, I leave, if there are no others like it, that I like, I setup my own

And two I personally agree with:

As I started off, there is a fine line between criticism and personal attacks and based on the tidbits I have seen – I think the staff here (objectively, as a group) have done an equally poor job in walking that line themselves.

I joined these forums quite recently because there was content that I wanted to read but couldn’t and having joined I felt it only right to contribute. I am a multiple forum owner and admin with over 15 years of experience. Forums provide my primary source of income.

A couple of days ago I decided this forum wasn’t for me because to put it bluntly, I disagree with the way they are moderated. More specifically, I feel it’s inappropriate for multiple admins to hammer home a point when it’s felt a user is in breach of the rules. Even if the user in in breach of the rules that’s tantamount to bullying in my view.

Indeed, lets look at some of AzhriaLilu’s comments from that topic:

we’re starting to come down harder on the ridiculous statements being thrown around.

you’re having a hissy-fit

it is your right to find somewhere that will accept the diatribes you persist in posting.

Look, it’s not rocket science. Use common sense in your replies

this dead horse you insist on beating is not only dead, it’s half-rotted and covered in maggots.

And the one that sums it up:

we also need our members to understand that they’re not always going to get their own way

Well that says it all really, doesn’t it?

Well, except for this comment from someone else:

Deletion of post is sure the fastest way to lose new members for sure.

Yup. I have left TAZ. The last few days I have read others have too.

I voted with my feet and money. I am married with kids and in my 40’s. I have 28 websites – three of which are busy forums. I won’t be spoken down to or disrespected by a woman from Derbyshire with keyboard diarrhoea and an over-active index finger on the delete button.

All comments welcome.

I have no horse in the vB or not vB race. And those comments are welcome here too.

Are you a TAZ exile?

Were you banned?

Are your posts mysteriously disappearing?

Do you want to discuss vB somewhere beyond the reach of vB and TAZ? Make a reply that is a vB topic and I will re-purpose it as a new post.

All comments welcome in the comment box below. Spam controls mean they do not appear immediately, but they will appear quickly.


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