- Neon's Glow – The Blog of John DeArmond - http://www.johndearmond.com -

On the Road to Blog Heaven Part 1

I’ve always tried to stay on the trailing side of the bleeding edge of technology. Close enough to the edge to feel the whetrock occasionally but not out there getting chopped up.

So it’s been with web siting and blogging. Even though I’m an old hand at the net from way back before it was the Internet, I didn’t put up a web site until about 5 years ago. I wanted to let the browser wars, bandwidth and server issues settle down. And frankly, had Microcruft won, I’d have skipped the net and waited for the Next Great Invention. They didn’t so here I am.

I’ve spent most of my awaking hours over the last three, yep count ’em, three months getting to this point – where I can actually write some stuff without having to play admin all day. I’m going to be writing about my experiences, likely across several articles, in the hope that it’ll help future bloggers get started AND maybe catch the attention of some web and blog hosting companies. I went through 5 before I found THE ONE, a company that offered all the essential ingredients in one package – Dreamhost.com [1]. BTW, I don’t make a dime or even get a discount on hosting for plugging this outfit. They’re simply the best I’ve found.

My first website was for my old micro-chain of BBQ Restaurants. CHITCOL [2]I was literally a babe in the woods and some of my early pages show that :-)

<–Click that bad boy to see the site

I didn’t know anything about hosting so I looked around and found that one of the companies making the most noise was GoDaddy. They looked simple enough. Give ’em some money and everything is set up automatically. And then give ’em so more money to get other essential services that others throw in with the package.

Despite Godaddy’s incessant high pressure marketing even AFTER they have your money (I expect the high pressure ads to stop after I pass the login and password screen!), I was pretty happy for awhile. I’d get a complaint now and then of bouncing mail but not enough to really catch my attention.

I tried their “instant web pages, just add water” thing and didn’t at all like the result. Sooo, time to learn web authoring. I looked at a LOT of so-called web authoring packages. I tried really hard not to find anything other than a Microshaft product, I really did. I ended up with FrontPage. Most a testament to how bad the other packages were than how good FP is.

I got johngsbbq.com up and running and things were fine. Then I decided that I needed a personal page too. I go by “neon john” on Usenet so that was a natural. In short order, GoDaddy has some MORE of my money and I had neon-john.com registered. Fire up Front Page again and start writing web pages.

I wanted to transition my personal email from johngsbbq.com to neon-john.com for obvious reasons. Problem was, most of the incoming mail to neon-john.com got dropped on the Internet floor, so to speak. Just disappeared. No bounce message, no nothing. Just gone. I couldn’t even email from johngsbbq.com to neon-john.com.

Godaddy’s tech support emitted a soundless drool – what I learned would be their standard response to most any problem. I poked around a little, trying to see if may be the previous registrant was a spammer and had gotten black-holed. Nope, no sign of it. Being busy with other things, I let it drop. Gave up on using neon-john.com as an email destination.

In the process of registering neon-john and johngsbbq.com, I’d also registered the .net and .org versions. I wanted them all to point to the same place as the .coms. I set that up in the Godaddy forwarding screen. Easy enough. Except that it didn’t work.

Every time I tried to connect to a .net or .org version, I’d get a “connection reset by host” error. I spent literally days trying to figure that one out. The problem was, it wouldn’t do it to all readers. IE would usually make a connection. FireFox and Opera would connection-reset. I ask friends to check. Some could get through and some couldn’t.

GoDaddy’s response was the familiar silent drool. Upon my pressing the matter the droid on the other end suggested I do a tracert (trace route) back to them. I’d already sent pages of that kind of stuff when I reported the problem. Can anyone over there actually read their email!?!

I was in the mood for blogging so I registered johndearmond.com. Go for name recognition, yeah, that’s the ticket. Same thing happened with .net and .org only with a twist. Now johndearmond.com was connection-resetting about half the time. Straw that broke the camel’s back.

I had set up a little starter blog using WordPress [3] at GoDaddy. I used it enough to know that I liked its combination of ease of use, power, ready-made templates and ease of hacking the templates to get just the desired look. WP was one of the “free” installs that Godaddy provided.

I decided to go the other direction, see what hosting companies the guys at WordPress recommend. That page is here [4]. I pretty much went down the list.

I was getting so backed up with work that I asked a 15 year old whiz kid friend of mine for some help. He recommended a couple of hosting companies. More on that in another post. Executive summary: 15 year old whiz kids have the knowledge but not the experience to make such recommendations. My fault, not his.

I ended up spending over 3 weeks going through 5 other hosting companies before I found The One, Dreamhost.com [1]. In each instance I’d go through the laborious process of moving my web site’s contents (over half a gig’s worth) to the new host, only to run into a show-stopper. Dreamhost has everything I need and some things I didn’t realize I needed. Tech support is quick, is manned by genuine Americans (nerds, if I’m to guess) and is accurate.

As it stands now, everything is moved to DreamHost except my domain registrations. GoDaddy, for some reason, doesn’t make moving registrations all that easy. I wonder why?

In part Two I’ll look at specific examples of hosting problems and then details everything that makes hosting a breeze.

In Part Three I’ll review off-line Blog editing software. I’ve spent over a week trying out all the packages I could find. Executive summary: do some of these publisher ever actually use the software that they publish? Sheesh. Kinda letting the cat out of the bag, the winna is BlogDesk. [5] Like much of the best-of-class software these days, BlogDesk is free.