When is an online forum not a forum? Answer: When some server provider cuts off service without recourse. Just like that. One minute, websites on the affected server sites are fully functioning, normal operations, the next, they are dead air and definitely offline.
This is exactly what happened to the Brits in Crete Forum on Monday, April 16.
Flashback to Britain of some years ago - the days when telephone exchanges were those rooms filled with clunking operational bits and pieces, those that clattered, pinged, crackled, hissed and overheated quickly. The days when in the event a home telephone connection seemed not to hang up at the end of a call, you would rush round to the local telephone exchange on the push bike...report the problem to a real human being, and with a bit of luck the friendly on duty engineer would immediately rush into the room where the pinging, crackling and hissing was going on. He would kick a few racks, wiggle, tug or pull a few telephone jack connections to see if the problem got solved. Often it did with a "there yer go mate, awl righ' ".
Fast forward a generation or two. Local exchanges have almost died out, replaced by strategically located outsized buildings, that house endless banks of huge framed computers that whirl away behind invisibile workings. Not a human being in sight. And through merging technologies, those same computers could also be the Internet at work and where the Brits in Crete Forum is "located".
The reasons given by domain name registrar why Brits in Crete Forum suddenly went offline goes something like this: my domain name supplier, who "hosts" the BritsinCrete Forum, was matter of factly informed by a slow mail letter that there had been a change in ownership of the firm where his server capacity was located (the outsized buildings mentioned above). That he should contact the new owners. That letter arrived the day the web sites were unceremoniously shut down.
For five days "my man" as I now call him, has been in laborious and lengthy telephone calls and e-mail contact with all parties concerned. Each willing to do their bit and no more. Fine, so be it. A new location for the servers to contain his client's websites had been found and .com domain names sorted without hassle, but not those with a .co.uk domain and that of course includes the BritsinCrete Forum website.
Now we come to automated side of the Internet and the matter of security in a system that requires Nominet, the all powerful human controller of the world wide web in UK to handle the formality of changing the server location for "my website" from the old computers, now disconnected from the Internet, to the new. But this robotic software, called "Automaton" (wiki definition = self operating machine) for whatever reason is not recognising the "pgp" security key inputted by "my man".
At close of business 5.30pm on Friday April 20 as everyone rushed home to a weekend of fun and relaxation, my web site and dozens of others like it with ".co.uk", the country code top-level domain name assigned to Britain, continue in limbo, lifeless.
And that means many of the nearly one thousand members of the Crete Forum, who, expecting to log-in to the Forum on their web browser be it IE, Firefox, Netscape, or Safari continue to get a "site not found" or similar message. Shock, horror, they find that their daily "fix" is not there!
"What is going on?" one lady put in an email to me. Another said: "It is like family" that they were missing... Well the answer is nothing is going on. Certainly not any intrigue, but a big brother glitch in the automated world of the Internet.
Ironically, visitors to the main website at britsincrete have doubled this week. The site is hosted on servers, elsewhere, un-affected.
I still believe in my push bike concept, and I continue to be filled with good intentions in my pursuit of a speedy solution, a resolution to be back on line asap. To that end, I have been able with my own phoning around, to reach the good, the bad and the helpful. I have come across the robotic sounding, human who insisted on explaining the complaint process with a malfunctioning domain name provider. "But I am not complaining!" And, to a supervisor who naturally enough could not discuss with me - a mere web site owner - the relationship between Nominet and its Domain Name issuing companies, but who did her level best to get to know the crux of the matter. She did. This resulted in a much appreciated explanatory telephone reply. As we signed off we wished each other to have a "good" weekend.
The next installment on Monday.
Labels: automated, automaton, Britain, Brits, BritsinCrete, co.uk, computers, Crete, domain name, Forum, internet, nominet, offline, online, pgp, security key, server, websites, wiki, world wide web
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