22 March 2009

Ever Excellent Mia

Thankfulness seems to be in the air at the moment. A couple of weeks ago, I offered some public thanks to the good people behind Evernote, an excellent note-taking program I have long used.

And then after that, there was radio silence, so to speak. The blog went dead because Blogger (owned and operated by Google) decided it no longer wanted to publish my material. Just like that.

Which is why I want to offer a huge public thank you to the good folks at Mia.Net, which has served as "host" for my websites and all-things-internet since the mid-1990s. They are terrific, helpful, patient (particularly with my mother), and they get things done. If you are looking for a company to handle your domain, website, e-mail, or server needs: talk to them.
More back story: I spent the first week of this blog "silence" trying to dig through the mountain of disorganized and largely useless "support" materials offered by the folks of Mountain View, CA, to try to figure out why - out of nowhere - Blogger had decided it didn't like me. I was getting a series of error messages that indicated Blogger couldn't publish to my server except, oddly, it could publish updates to the home page just fine. If during this period you happened to land here, and happened to see content coming and going, that's why: I could get the home page to publish, but not the sub-pages. In other words, it wasn't that Blogger couldn't publish, it just ... didn't want to.

Here's the thing about "free" anything: it has limitations. We live in a world increasingly riven by the fight between free and pay-per-use items, like the argument between free software versus paid, or free news content versus paid-for content. Items on the "free" side of the balance sheet have been winning the long war, as the state of the newspaper industry clearly indicates.

What "free" anything often lacks, however, is the help that is sometimes needed. I use (and love) Mozilla's Firefox web browser and Thunderbird e-mail client, and likewise use (and love) OpenOffice.org's suite of office software tools. Fortunately, I have had few problems with any of these tools and so have not had to put their equally free support systems to much of a test.

Blogger is also free - and problematic. Over the years, it has stopped working for me for days at a time. And each time, as I have gotten near the limits of my frustration, it has magically started working again, and so here I remain. This time, however, more than two weeks went by and it didn't fix itself. The error messages I was getting contained no helpful information, and searching Blogger's support systems based on those error messages generated nothing useful either.

And good fucking luck trying to get in touch with an actual person at Blogger or Google. Like many companies, the page on their web site that says "Contacting Support" is really just an endless loop back to the same page, with lots of detours to the same unhelpful information one has already seen.

I started looking for alternatives, like WordPress. What I wanted was something I could pay for, at reasonable cost but with enough financial motivation for the company that I could get actual support service when I actually needed it.
In comes Mia.Net. Blogger.com's problems are not their problems, to be sure. At Mia.Net, my sites have been on the same server, with the same set-up and the same ports and bells and whistles and do-hickeys for years. It wasn't like Mia.Net changed something and didn't tell me.

To the contrary, it seems like Blogger changed something and didn't tell anyone. I shared my problems (and error messages) with Mia.Net and they poked around and proposed a solution for us to test. They decided to switch me to a different server, one running Linux, as a means of perhaps solving the problem. So far, it seems to be working (and in the process gave me access to a whole new set of bells and whistles to control my sites).

So, this is why I am grateful: I am grateful that Mia.Net exists; that they have a well-run business; that I was able to reach them when I needed help; that they responded,;and that they helped me resolve the issue. Mia.Net is very affordable, but not free. And I don't care. In this case, free didn't help me - while the service I paid for was responsive and responsible.

In case anyone has any doubts: that's worth the price.


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