DreamHost MediaWiki update problem
September 24th 2008

I recently updated the MediaWiki installation in one of my DreamHost domains from 1.12 to 1.13, and I started to see the following error messages when trying to edit/save pages (the capital letter triplets used for privacy):

Database error

A database query syntax error has occurred. This may indicate a bug in the software. The last attempted database query was:

(SQL query hidden)

from within function "Article:getHiddenCategories". MySQL returned error "1146: Table XXX.YYY_page_props' doesn't exist (mysql.ZZZ.AAA)".

After a Google search that yielded only two results, I checked a mediawiki.org page talking about the subject. The (maybe obvious) reason for my error was that I hadn't run the MediaWiki update script, as one should after any upgrade.

The procedures is outlined in this other mediawiki.org page. However there is a little catch: the PHP version (at least in my case) accessible in the shell of the server where my wiki is is 4.4.8, but the MediaWiki update script needs PHP5. No problem, I checked the DreamHost wiki, and found out that for PHP5 I could use the following executable: /usr/local/dh/cgi-system/php5.cgi.

Running that executable on the corresponding update.php script (after setting up AdminSettings.php as told to), everything was OK again.

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DreamHost makes me happy again: free backups
September 15th 2008

Perhaps you are aware of my first (and last so far) gripe with DreamHost: as I wrote a couple of months ago, they wouldn't let me use my account space for non-web content.

Well, it seems that they really work to make their users happy, and probably other people requested something like that, and read what the August DH newsletter says about it:

In keeping with my no-theme theme, uh oh, I think I just made a destroy-the-universe-LHC-style self-contradiction, here's a new feature that pretty much has nothing to do with anything I said in the introduction!

https://panel.dreamhost.com/?tree=users.backup

Now, you know how we give out a LOT of disk space with our hosting? Well technically that space is only supposed to be used for your _actual_ web site (and email / database stuff) .. not as an online backup for your music, pictures, videos, other servers, etc!

Well, just like every other web host does, we've been sort of cracking down on that some lately, and it seems to catch some people by surprise! Nobody likes being surprised, especially in the shower, which is where we typically brought it up, and so now we offer a solution:

You CAN use 50GB of your disk space for backups now! The only caveat is, it's a separate ftp (or sftp) user on a separate server and it can't serve any web pages. There are also NO BACKUPS kept of THESE backups (they should already BE your backups, not your only copy), and if you go over 50GB, extra space is only 10 cents a GB a month (a.k.a. cheap)!

Thanks, DreamHost, for showing me that I made a good choice when I chose you!
Update: apparently only SFTP works (or FTP if you are idiot enough to enable it), but not scp or any SSH-related thing (rsync, ...). I hope I find some workaround, because if not that would be a showstopper for me.

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First DreamHost disappointment
July 11th 2008

I will simply copy&paste an e-mail interchange between DreamHost and me, with a few extra comments (some data substituted by "xxxxx"):

DreamHost:

Dear Iñaki,

Our system has noticed what seems to be a large amount of "backup/non-web" content on your account (#xxxxx), mostly on user "xxxxx" on the web server "xxxxx".

Some of that content specifically is in /home/xxxxx (although there may be more in other locations as well.)

Unfortunately, our terms of service (http://www.dreamhost.com/tos.html) state:

The customer agrees to make use of DreamHost Web Hosting servers primarily for the purpose of hosting a website, and associated email functions. Data uploaded must be primarily for this purpose; DreamHost Web Hosting servers are not intended as a data backup or archiving service. DreamHost Web Hosting reserves the right to negotiate additional charges with the Customer and/or the discontinuation of the backups/archives at their discretion.

At this point, we must ask you to do one of three things:

* You can delete all backup/non-web files on your account.

* You can close your account from our panel at:
https://panel.dreamhost.com/?tree=billing.accounts
(We are willing to refund to you any pre-paid amount you have remaining, even if you're past the 97 days. Just reply to this email after closing your account from the panel).

OR!

* You may now enable your account for backup/non-web use!

If you'd like to enable your account to be used for non-web files, please visit the link below. You will be given the option to be charged $0.20 a month per GB of usage (the monthly average, with daily readings) across your whole account.

We don't think there exists another online storage service that has anything near the same features, flexibility, and redundancy for less than this, so we sincerely hope you take us up on this offer!

In the future, we plan to allow the creation of a single "storage" user on your account which will have no web sites (or email). For now though, if you choose to enable your account for backups, nothing will change (apart from the charges). If you want to enable backup/non-web use on this account, please go here:

https://panel.dreamhost.com/backups.cgi?xxxxxxxxxxx

If you choose not to enable this, you must delete all your non-web files by 2008-07-16 or your account will be suspended.

If you have any questions about this or anything at all, please don't hesitate to contact us by replying to this email.

Thank you very much for your understanding,
The Happy DreamHost Backup/Non-Web Use Team

My answer:

Dear DreamHost Support Team,

I fully understand your point. Though apparently sensible, a detailed analysis shows that the policy you cite from the TOS makes little sense.

Right now I have a 5920 GB/month bandwidth limit, and a 540 GB disk quota in my account, both applied to web use. My current use in this regard is less than 4 GB disk space (0.7% of my quota), and my estimated bw use at the end of the present billing period will be around 0.2 GB (33 ppm (parts per million) of my current (and increasing) bw quota).

Now, on the other hand, I have some 50-100 GB of data (less than 20% of my disk quota!!) that I want to keep at the servers (for whatever private interest, that I do not need to disclose, but I will: backup and data sharing among my different PCs). Keeping this data up to date could cause between 1 MB and 1 GB worth of transfers per day (30 GB/month at most, or 0.5% of my bw quota).

All of the above raises some questions:

1) Why on Earth am I granted such a huge amount of resources that I will never conceivably use? Maybe just because of that: because I will never use them?

2) Why am I prevented of using my account in the only way that would allow me to take advantage of even a tiny part of those resources?

3) In what respect is the HD space and bw used up by a backup different from that used up by web content? Isn't all data a collection of 0s and 1s? How can a Hosting Service, ISP, or any other provider of digital means DISCRIMINATE private data according to content?

4) Regarding the previous point, how is DH to tell if I simply move the backup dirs to the isilanes.org/ folder? I have to assume that if I make my backups visible through the web (which I can prevent with file permissions), then it makes them 100% kosher, since they become "web content" that I am allowed to host at DH?

It seems to me that you are renting me a truck to transport people, then frown at me if I take advantage of it to carry furniture. Moreover, you are advising me to keep the truck for people and rent small vans for the furniture.

[snip irrelevant part]

Believe me, I am willing to be a nice user. I just want to be able to use the resources I pay the way I need.

Iñaki

Their answer:

Hello Iñaki,

1) Why on Earth am I granted such a huge amount of resources that I will never conceivably use? Maybe just because of that: because I will never use them?

Some people will. Admittedly, very few do, but to be perfectly blunt, overselling is actually a vital part of our (and ANY) web host's business model:

http://blog.dreamhost.com/2006/05/18/the-truth-about-overselling/

2) Why am I prevented of using my account in the only way that would allow me to take advantage of even a tiny part of those resources?

That's an exaggeration, to be honest. Anyone can use up to the entire amount of their bandwidth and space, providing they use it for the purpose intended. If we ever open DreamStorage, you'd be welcome to use that space for backing up your data.

3) In what respect is the HD space and bw used up by a backup different from that used up by web content? sn't all data a collection of 0s and 1s? How can a Hosting Service, ISP, or any other provider of digital means DISCRIMINATE private data according to content?

Well, just as we have...there's a ton of data in a non-web-accessible directory. That's a pretty good tip that something's up. By your argument, we couldn't take down someone for copyright, or even child porn violations, as it's just "a collection of 0s and 1s", and who are we to "discriminate"? Our Terms of Service, which you agreed to 2008-02-22 at 3:39pm. If you didn't agree, this simply wasn't the service for you.

4) Regarding the previous point, how is DH to tell if I simply move the backup dirs to the isilanes.org/ folder? I have to assume that if I make my backups visible through the web (which I can prevent with file permissions), then it makes them 100% kosher, since they become "web content" that I am allowed to host at DH?

Honestly, we're not going to let you off on some weak technicality. If you don't wish to comply with the ToS, we've even allowed you the option of receiving a prorated refund, regardless of how far out from your 97 day guarantee you are. We have no desire to lose your business, but your truck analogy is almost there. We're offering you trucks for transporting furniture...and we're doing it at a nice low rate. But we do require you actually use them. We count on the fact that very few people are going to be moving furniture 24/7, but if someone wanted to use it to it's fullest, they could. However, that doesn't mean you get to rent the truck, park it somewhere, and use it as a free self-storage unit. We want the truck if you're not using it for it's intended
purpose.

[snip irrelevant part]

Let me know if you have any other questions.

Thanks!

Jeff H

My final answer:

Hi Jeff,

Thanks for the kind answer! This kind of support is what gives DH an edge over other hosting providers. Keep it up.

What I say in my second point is not an exageration. It's the plain truth: if not for backups, I will never use 1% of my quota. I mean *I* won't. Don't know about others, just me.

It seems a little unfair that some guy with 500 GB of HD use and 5800 GB/month of bw use is paying 8$/month as I am (I don't recall the exact amount), while I am using 4 GB and 0.2 GB/month. Then I want to use 80 GB and 30 GB/month and I have to pay an extra 16$. That's a total of TRIPLE that of the aforementioned guy, while I'm still using 6 times less HD and 200 times less bw.

I would love to pay for some resources, and administer them as I like, be it for web, backup, svn, or whatever. What I meant with my third point is that 100 MB of my backups "hurt" the system as much as sb else's 100 MB of web content, so I can't see the reason to make the user pay a separate bill for "backups". Just make ftp traffic count against the disk/bw quotas and that's it! You could then stop worrying about "fair" use.

But that's pointless ranting on my side. Thanks for the attention. I will consider what to do in the light of the information you provided me.

Iñaki

I just want to point out how ridiculous their answer to my third point above is. DH tells me that they should be able to discriminate my data according to content (or use), because the opposite would supposedly allow me to break the law with copyright violations or child pornography. To follow with the truck metaphor, I am renting a truck from them, to carry furniture around. Since I don't use up all the space in the truck, and I have a fridge I want to move, I put it into the truck. Now DH wants to patrol what I carry in the truck, and tell me that the fridge is not allowed, because it is not "furniture". When I complain, and say that what I carry in the truck they lend me is none of their business, they answer that it is, because I could well be using the truck for drug smuggling. That's really lousy reasoning. If I use the truck for carrying something illegal, then the police will sort it out, not the renting company. It is the general Law that will tell me what I can use the truck for, not the renting company.

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11 Comments »

Me 0 - DreamHost 1
March 31st 2008

Yesterday evening I boldly decided to upgrade WordPress (the software this blog runs on), to version 2.5. DreamHost, my hosting service, provides easy click-through installation and upgrades of software, so I used it for the upgrade.

Sadly, and probably for some mistake I did, everything ended up screwed, and my blog experienced some problems like not showing any post at all! I proceeded to contact the support team, and the response was awesome: they answered incredibly fast, and the solution was concise and correct.

I have to say that DreamHost has surprised me very positively!

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