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A Big Invisible Change

Monday, March 7, 2011

Getting back to normal after completing my online cruise diary, has not gone smoothly.

For one thing, almost the very moment that I put the last paragraphs on the web, I fell victim to a nasty ‘flu.  Today, more than two weeks later, it has finally abated, but only just.

The ‘flu was bad enough that in the first few days of it, I was forced to cancel all my appointments.  I was feverish, sounded awful, coughed incessantly, and was as weak as a kitten.  I spent much of the time in my friendly and comfortable reclining armchair, under a blanket.

Oh, and with my trusty computer on my lap.

When not dozing, I enjoyed considerable email correspondence, and was touched, even a little humbled, by the flattering comments that came in from people who had read the online cruise diary.

Then a new problem jumped out of the computer and bit me.

Everything looks the same but... everything is different!

I have a bad habit of “tweaking.”  That is, when I have written something that is intended to be good literature, even though I may have already put it on the Internet, when I see a phrase or paragraph that could have been expressed more clearly, or more smoothly, I change it.  “Tweaking.”

Being immobilized by the ‘flu, I had lots of opportunity to tweak my online writings, and so, every once in a while, I did.  One day I tweaked something on one of the cruise diary web pages.  First I rewrote the paragraph; then I checked that it would format properly on the Internet; finally I commenced an “upload,” to put the revised page into the website.

An upload has two stages: the process first erases the page that is already on the website, then it installs the new one.
a page of html coding
HTML coding on a web page
These are the opening paragraphs of my Cruise Diary

I apologize to those who already know this, but if you don’t run a website yourself you may not understand that the text that you are reading right now, and all the other pages and photographs that make up my website, are not actually on my own computer at home.  They are somewhere in a large bank of computers that runs 24/7 – computers owned by a corporation that I must pay to “host” my website.  I prepare the material at home, and maintain a copy of the website in my laptop, but what the world sees is actually made available to the Internet by a business that does this for hundreds of websites at a time.

Anyone who pays for home Internet access usually gets web “hosting” as part of the contract.  In other words, webspace is made available where you can put up your own personal website free of charge.  Not a lot of people use this feature because it takes some technical knowledge, but long ago I acquired that knowledge and almost from my first day online I have been running my own website.1

MTS (Manitoba Telecom Services) has been my Internet service provider from the beginning, so for fifteen years it has been MTS that has “hosted” my little website.

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But the website isn’t actually “little” any more. Somewhere along the way it grew up, 2 until it actually exceeded the amount of space that “personal” websites are permitted to occupy at MTS.  I didn’t notice when this happened.  And for a while, the automated machines at MTS didn’t notice either.

They “noticed” the day I “tweaked” that cruise diary page!  The upload began normally, and the earlier version of the page was erased.  But when the revised page began to be inserted into the website...

...a notice appeared on my screen: “ERROR!  Disk quota exceeded.”

At first I didn’t realize what had happened, and I tried the upload several times.  Then the light began to dawn.  I checked the MTS customer support page and there, sure enough, I found that the space allotted to me for my personal website was much less than the size to which my website had now grown.

I began to get frantic.  A piece of my cruise diary had been erased!  I was getting constant visitors to the site, and now, because of my “tweaking,” they would click “Continued next page,” and get the dreaded “Error 404 - the page you requested cannot be found on this server.”

Only moments before, I had received an email from a friend saying, “I’m going to forward your story to my Father-in-Law...”  What if she does, and what if he clicks in, and what if all he gets is “Page Not Found”??

If only I hadn’t done that last bit of tweaking!!

Hastily (like breaking dishes in a kitchen), I began throwing out pages and images from the website – trying to make room for the tweaked page.  I just hoped that what I deleted was obscure enough that no one would miss it.  One page here, one photo there....  But still, I was so far over my allotted space that my upload continued to be blocked.  I began to be in danger of wrecking the entire site.

It was 1:00 AM.  I was tired and not thinking clearly.  The best option for me was to sleep on it, hoping that not too many visitors would come overnight, and that something would click in the MTS machinery, so that I might be allowed to calmly upload the page in the morning.

But in the morning nothing had changed.  The tweaked page still would not upload.  Only after I had deleted my entire family photo album, did the MTS machinery permit me to upload that tweaked page to the cruise diary.  I did it, I put that page in place (now, at least, the cruise diary was intact), but then I began to do some intensive research:  I phoned MTS tech-support, I phoned the competition (Shaw) and I checked the information pages of companies whose only business is hosting websites.

And I decided that my only recourse was to walk away from MTS.

That very morning I entered into a contract and spent some money, but within an hour the entire website – complete with family photo album, and of course my whole cruise diary – was up and running on a computer somewhere in Oakville Ontario.

Changing web hosts is deceptive.  If you do it right, your web visitors won’t even notice.  But the amount of background coding and adjusting is simply phenomenal.  So instead of me, sitting in my big recliner, suffering with the ‘flu and intensely creating the written word, there I was in that recliner madly testing codes and formats and checking how Google understands what has been done....

Now, ten days later, if you type “Tony Harwood-Jones” into Google, you will be directed to my new web home.  If you type “beginners guide to the bible,” you will be directed to my Little Bible Handbook in its new location.  If you type “Anglican Priest,” you will see, very near the top of Google’s results, the words, “Priest of the Anglican Church,” – which is one of my pages – and it’s at its new location.

It’s a strange feeling though... after all that effort, and after an expenditure of money, all I have to show for it is something that looks exactly the same as everything always was.

But my new web host 3 promises me that I can make the site as big as I like, and it won’t cost me anything extra.  And, there are some other features they provide that might appear on this site in due course... once I learn how to work them properly.

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ps. Have you bookmarked the new site yet?  If not, just put this address into your bookmarks/favorites:

...and have you bookmarked the “Currents” page, if you like to check it regularly?


1  I still have my website’s original opening page!  It was in black and white, and it featured a cartoon of me drawn by my friend Linda McIntosh.  It is still online, buried in my website.
Click here to get back to the narrative.

2  Currently my website is 16.7 megabytes in size.  That isn’t very large considering the size of some files that people have today, such as music and video.  My site has nothing like that.  It only has photos, a few navigation buttons, and text.  But, MTS has a maximum limit for personal websites: it is15 megabytes.  One day not very long ago, without realizing it, I exceeded that limit.
Click here to get back to the narrative.

3  The name of the firm won’t mean much to anyone except other webmasters, but it’s HostPapa, a Canadian company.

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