I had planned to Twitter my daughter’s birth. It seemed like the perfect tool for giving blow-by-blow updates in real time, and it’s easy to do from my phone.
Alas, it was not to be. Last week I suffered what I call a “communication meltdown,” where multiple technologies fail me at the same time, compounding one another and making everything more difficult. I suffer through these from time to time, and they often seem to coincide with other crises that are not technological in nature.
So here’s what happened.
On Monday of last week, my phone just stopped working. On Tuesday I took it in to the T-Mobile store, where I discovered that I actually had insurance and was told the phone would be replaced. On Wednesday T-Mobile called me back to confirm details and arrange for shipping. The replacement phone would arrive the following day, Thursday.
But on Thursday Xy’s water broke and so I spent the day at the hospital without my phone, unable to use Twitter or even to call or txt anyone. We had Xy’s phone, but her address book is limited. I wanted to tell the world, and I couldn’t.
I figured I could at least announce the birth of our child on my blog. But when I stopped home that evening to feed our cats, I discovered that rox.com was down, as well as all the sites we host on the same server, including this blog. Usually I can login and restart the server, but in this case I couldn’t. I was confronted with a new situation: Our “virtual private server” had been disabled by a sysadmin. So I quickly opened a support ticket, asked what’s up, then returned to the hospital.
No Twitter, no cell phone, no blog — I was forced to endure the most important day of my life in primitive 20th century conditions.
Thirteen hours later my webhost got back to me with this reply:
I have started the VPS. Your VPS was making the node very unstable which forced us to stop it in order to bring the node under control and to ensure the quality of service on the node. I had to stop the exim mailserver however so that your VPS does not get out of control again. I unfortunately have to tell you that you may want to consider a dedicated server or hosting your email and mailing lists elsewhere… as the amount of email you are getting is making your VPS and the node you are on very unstable.
Translation: Our website was back online, but our e-mail addresses and mailing lists would not work. The website had been down for about 24 hours and associated e-mail services would be down forever unless I supplied a solution. In the meantime I had gotten my replacement phone but without syncing it to my computer at work I did not have my address book, so I still couldn’t really call or txt anyone. I was able to post news of the birth on my blog, but anyone who sent me an e-mail during this time was speaking to the void.
Since then I’ve managed to restore e-mail services by following Simon Dorfman’s advice and using Google Apps. We’ve got rox.com and mcno.org e-mail addresses and mailing lists working again, and it’s actually even better than before.
I’m really ticked off at my webhost though. This is the second time they’ve pulled the plug on me with no warning, without even a notification. The last time was in December of 2006 during another communication meltdown. It should be noted that the “amount of email” which my webhost cited as a concern consists mainly of messages to non-existent addresses. We get a voluminous amount of this bogus e-mail. It was never a problem when we had a cheapo shared hosting situation, but it’s been a constant headache since we were forced to upgrade to a VPS a year ago. To our host’s credit, they comped us most of the fees for the upgrade. But if they don’t let us downgrade back to a shared server, we’re going to have to find a new host anyway.