Hello Slicehost!

Ever since I started looking into using Mephisto for my blog and reading about the various ways of deploying a production Rails site, I had heard about the company Slicehost and how it was an excellent hosting company that was among other things friendly to Rails development. Later, when it came time to develop a website for some aquaintances I ran across Slicehost’s name again and continued to read good things about them, but their price range and my acquaintances’ needs didn’t fit with what Slicehost offered.

But the prospect of having a virtual dedicated server with full root access and complete control over the system right down to the responsibility for the security and maintenance of the box along with complete control of the ports was quite alluring. I kept returning to the Slicehost page hungry for a Slice of my own.

Everytime I looked, I could never really justify the cost for my own modest needs, i.e. this blog. But then, I started getting back in touch with a local anarchist group whose website had become stagnant. They were hoping to some new things with it and I was planning on helping them out. When I saw the hosting plan that the group currently uses and considered the kind of site that the group really wanted and needed, I thought that a hosting upgrade for their site was definitely in order. While considering options for their site, I thought that perhaps if I had a Slicehost account then perhaps I could offer the group free hosting for their website.

Which set wheels turning in my head…

I knew that my friend Josh was running into difficulties with his family blog and his wife’s photography business site because his ISP had started blocking various ports. The same possibility loomed over my blog as it too resided on a home based server that was fully at the mercy of the Charter Cable powers that be.

So it occurred to me that Josh and I might together have enough needs to justify splitting the costs.

Fortunately, Josh agreed with my idea, and so we purchased ourselves a 256slice and have been quite happy with the results! So for the last two months, this blog has been happily running on our new Slice instead of a Virtual Ubuntu Feisty server running on top of my old Athlon 64 2800 Windows box.

This move actually fixed several problems for me. First, my Windows box has always been pretty flaky. I purchased it from a local shop that puts together systems, and it has exhibited all sorts of problems including the motherboard burning out two sticks of RAM and one catestrophic failure to boot that led to an OS corruption and a complete reinstall. It’s been fairly stable for awhile now, but it does have two persistant flukes: the front USB port appears to short circuit and cause a shutdown of the machine if used and whenever the house experiences a short power flicker, the computer shut offs and requires me to unplug and replug it in before the power button will successfully boot the machine again. Thanks to this last issue, I would more often than I like find my blog down during the day and not be able to fix the problem until I returned home.

Another problem was that the DynamicDNS service that had mapped theweatherses.org to my home network did not offer the free email forwarding that my domain registar had offered when we were using its DNS servers. As a result, the email aliases that my wife had set up suddenly stopped working when I began to point our domain to our home machines. I had gotten around this problem by running my own mail server, but then one day my ISP decided to start blocking port 25.

Now with the Slicehost, I no longer need to pay for the DynamicDNS service that mapped my domain to a server. Instead, I have returned to my registar’s DNS servers and the email aliases have become functional once more. Problem solved!

The only lingering issue was connecting to my home network via a static domain now that theweatherses.org no longer pointed home, but fortunately, I could now simply make use of a free DynamicDNS service to map to a less spiffy domain that is just as useful for the simple purpose of providing a static means of connecting to my home network.

So far the Slicehost has been a wonderful experience! It’s nice to have a spot on the Internet with which one can pretty much do anything.

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