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My first clue that something was wrong was intermittent trouble with FTP. This meant that sometimes I was unable to update my blog for several hours and caused me to delay a few articles. I could log in to FTP, but couldn't transfer files. Tech support consistently claimed it was something on my end, despite the fact that I blog from a Red Hat Linux 7.0 system that hasn't had any significant software updates since 2001.
My first report of trouble — in February 2004 — was dismissed when I said that FTP worked fine on a different computer. They ignored the fact that the problem mysteriously disappeared later with no software change (not even a reboot) on my end, and that the trouble was correlated with unusual error messages transmitted by their FTP software. "Customer service that just blows off legitimate and serious complaints is not doing the customer a service."
The problem recurred in August. And again in December. And again in April 2005. This time tech support discovered (shock!) that something was wrong, and I learned this:
And shortly thereafter, they added:
The active/passive thing was bogus. But after they performed this mysterious hardware change, the FTP problem went away permanently. I was finally happy. (Not to mention vindicated.)
I was happy until January 16th, when I noticed that my blog was down over lunchtime. At this point you need to know that my sister has a web design and hosting business and that I set up my blog as a client of hers, so she's my link to technical support. (She's really good — all the sites she designed look great; this one's ugly because I didn't let her make it pretty.) I sent my sister this note:
That evening I sent her the following sitemeter graph that illustrates the outage. I grabbed the image around 9:00PM, so there's no data after that time:
Usually my traffic is fairly level throughout the workday, so it appears that service degraded gradually over the morning and failed completely over lunchtime. Things were back to normal by 2:00 that afternoon.
My sister contacted tech support on my behalf (accidentally stating Sunday instead of Saturday for the outage; but as you'll see this didn't matter) and got the following Shocking! Outrageous! reply:
I was livid. This is tech support at its most arrogant and customer hostile. This kind of response is totally unacceptable. The message was sent with the following attachment, which tech support believed absolved them of any culpability (my blog was formerly hosted on the indicated machine):
I wrote back to my sister:
Sitemeter works by logging traffic generated from an image link on the web page. I place it at the very bottom of my pages. That means that sitemeter will only record a hit if the entire page is transmitted. If it begins to transmit but doesn't complete — i.e., exactly the behavior I was experiencing over lunch — it won't record a hit, because the client's web browser never reaches the point in my source file that loads the sitemeter image.
The sitemeter server that I connect to appears to be geographically located in Florida. I'm in Oregon. This rules out the hypothesized trouble at a peering point involving my local ISP.
PagePlanet tech support gave me (1) an obviously wrong explanation and (2) attitude. So they're fired. Tech support needs to be like this if you want my business.