on Jan 17, 2011
Welcome to 1996. Please enjoy your internet.
I’m sure you’ve noticed that my site tends to go down a lot. It turns out this blog is a resource pig. According to my webhost, I had an entire machine to myself and it was still going down on a regular basis. About two or three times a month the machine would be overwhelmed for a few hours and the site would vanish. I could never get a definitive answer out of them if the cause was bandwidth or CPU usage. Bandwidth seems unlikely – this site isn’t that popular. I’ve survived simultaneous links from Slashdot and Make. But if the cause is a PHP script that runs amok, I’m at a loss to find it.
But last week they moved me to a new server, in hopes that this would improve things. I also installed supercache, which might help lighten the load. I’m very disappointed that web hosts track bandwidth usage but don’t give you any way of tracking CPU usage. It means I’m working blind and have no way to really look for problems.
But anyway. The site moved. This meant a new IP address. Which meant we needed to wait for the DNS to sort out.
But then you need a system of looking up domains and seeing what IP they have. A kind of phone book for the internet. Since the network is headless, keeping everyone on the same page can get messy. Your ISP generally provides a domain name server that does this looking up for you. So when you look up Twitter, it looks up the IP for you and sends you the result.
This DNS is only supposed to store the IP for so long – if you ask for the same site again tomorrow, it’s supposed to look it up again, just in case the site moved.
Now, the last time this site moved the DNS sorted in a couple of hours. But this time it dragged on for over a day. Other people were having the same problem. A lot of people. I switched to using the Google DNS servers, which fixed things for me. But other people still couldn’t reach the site for days.
As far as I’ve been able to learn, this is 100% the fault of rotten ISP’s. If you couldn’t reach my site for more than a day, it means your provider was ignoring the proper DNS procedures and giving you my old IP, even days later. As of yesterday, I was STILL getting messages from people who couldn’t reach the site. This is ridiculous by any standards, and even the internet of 1996 was more robust than this.
So that’s where the site went. I imagine that this should all be sorted out eventually. Sorry for the downtime. Hopefully we’ll see less of it in the future.