Work in Progress: This Site Has Moved

I recently moved my site from DreamHost to Joyent. Why I didn’t do this sooner? After all, I’ve been working for Joyent for over two years, and one of the company perks is some free access to Joyent services.

The reason is: I’m not a typical Joyent customer. After 12+ years of keeping my own site running in various formats (and, more recently, running sites for friends and family), I know just enough to keep things going (most of the time) and mess things up (occasionally), but I have neither the skills nor desire to run websites for a living. I’ve had my site on Dreamhost for about 7 years now, for most of which I was a very happy customer. Part of Dreamhost’s service is to automate things that I would otherwise have struggled with, such as installing and running all the software needed to run a blog (Apache, WordPress, etc.) – Dreamhost made that very easy.

I knew that I could learn how to do those things if I really needed to, but I wasn’t keen to dedicate the time and brain space to the project – my life is busy enough without taking on the technical administration of a website that barely earns enough in advertising to pay its own bills. I was happy to pay Dreamhost to make that easy for me.

I began to have trouble with Dreamhost in 2010, when fell victim to the pharma hack: malware that redirected searches to my most popular pages to “Buy [Penis Drug]!” sites. The effect was not visible to me at first because, if you came to the site from a direct link (ie, you followed a link from me on Twitter or in my newsletter), you would get the page you expected. But eventually I realized that something was wrong because my website visitors dropped off drastically; 80% of my traffic usually comes from Google searches, and when those were led astray, I started losing traffic (and advertising money, such as it was).

Dreamhost support, after one or two pokes at it, essentially threw up their hands and said it was my problem. Very fortunately, I could call on one of the best minds in tech to solve it (though I hated to ask, because I knew exactly how busy he was).

Even for Brendan, it took two months to isolate the attacks to the point that he realized they were coming from another domain I was running on the same account on Dreamhost. We were never sure how I got hacked in the first place, but it seems likely that it was the result of a malicious WordPress plug-in that I had downloaded from – my assumption that WordPress vets those things turns out to have been naive.

Things ran fairly smoothly after we finally got that infection cleaned out. Until a few weeks ago, when I realized that my site had become very, very slow – up to 20 seconds to load the front page. In several exchanges of email with Dreamhost support, they blamed the problem on me (Brendan thought otherwise). Their suggestions for fixing it demanded far more know-how than I had. If I was going to learn all that, I preferred to learn it on systems where my arduously-gained new skills would at least be useful in my day job – that is, on Joyent.

The move was not easy; my blog is largeish, and had some old installation quirks that made it tricky. I had to learn a lot (with much more still to learn), as well as have extensive help from Brendan and my colleagues at Joyent support – I’m still not the typical Joyent customer, and may never be. I will save the story of how we did it for another post.

In the meantime, as Google is probably still re-indexing the site and some things have temporarily moved or been deleted, you are likely to hit broken links and missing images. Please feel free to let me know about these, though I probably won’t be able to fix everything quickly. I still have a busy day job.

Also: if you were or want to be a subscriber to the very-occasionally-published email edition of this site, I have moved that as well (thanks to my friends at ListBox!), and you can sign up here.

And if you were looking for my home page, click on the big title at the top of this one, or click here.

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