Say, whatever happened to

Did Nick Cho list the site as one of the assets of Murky Coffee that had to be reclaimed for unpaid back taxes? Hardly.

Did Equator Estate Coffees get tired of the continual “underachiever” label we gave them, making them hire some clandestine Web saboteurs? Nope. Though we wouldn’t be surprised if they did.

Did someone forget to pay the bills? Nope. Worse, really.

When it doesn’t pay to pay your bill

The trouble started because we did pay our bills. Our hosting provider of five years (Burton Hosting: avoid like the plague) has pretty much gutted their organization gradually over the past year as if they were having a slow-moving fire sale. Support telephone numbers were disconnected. Trouble tickets took longer and longer to answer (days became weeks). Of course, we only discovered this in full detail after the fact.

So earlier this month we paid for our annual site renewal fee. As an unplanned part of the automated renewal process, they completely botched up the DNS records for the site — causing the errors and failures you all see today. So as of Saturday, June 14, 2008, the Burton Hosting renewal system caused to go belly-up to the outside world. And dozens of emergency support tickets, e-mails, calls to Georgia and the UK, have merely confirmed just how bad things can get when a hosting provider picks its own carcass apart without telling you. It’s only a matter of time before the lights go out on all their servers.

This put us in a huge bind. While the actual coffee ratings data is safe and sound (curiously enough, it’s all generated from a database on a mobile phone), even we couldn’t access the 685 blog posts we’ve written over the past three years. Plus all the resized photo art, all member comments, etc. The network configuration was so botched, it took us until today — after 5 days of trying — to finally find the right server to “hack” to get us into the site and extract all the data and code. Our data and code.

Have we mentioned how much they screwed us royally?

Looking ahead

So the good news is that, now that we are able to “hack” into our own site, we are extracting some 200Mb of posts, reviews, databases, images and other data as we type. The bad news is that we’re going to have to be nomadic for a while — until we find a new home for it all, get things switched over from this unresponsive shell of a Web hosting company that is holding the domain hostage, and have everything configured and set up again in a new home. So stay tuned.

If any of you have suggestions for a reasonably inexpensive provider who hosts MySQL databases and PHP applications, please drop us a line.

How to access in the meantime (oh, you’ll love this)

In the meantime, there is a back door to get around Burton Hosting’s buffoonery — for the adventurous. You have to change the “hosts” file on your personal computer to do this. For Windows XP users, for example:

  1. Find the file called “hosts”, likely located in the directory “C:\WINDOWS\system32\drivers\etc”. (It’s similar for other versions.)
  2. Append the following lines to the file as follows:


  4. Save the edited file in place (or make a copy of the old version and replace it with this new one) and relaunch your browser. You should be able to hit just as fine as before this mess.
  5. …That is, until we finally move to another provider. In which case you’d need to remove the above lines from your hosts file again.

But a word of warning: don’t bother posting any comments there. They won’t make the database copy to be loaded into the new Web hosting service.

Have we mentioned how much they screwed us royally?

UPDATE: June 23, 2008
The DNS seems to have been correctly routed after a week of downtime. There has been no update to any of our support tickets — indicating that Burton Hosting probably only stumbled on the problem when all our e-mail started bouncing off their servers for the past week. So the DNS steps above can now be ignored.

Even so, the service today has been erratic — with database connection failures and other outages. We’re as committed as ever to getting off of this sinking ship.