Tag Archives: hosting

A server transition

The main physical server (we call it giant) we’ve been using at Haxx for a very long time to host sites and services for 20+ domains and even more mailing lists. The machine – a physical one – has been colocated in an ISP server room for over a decade and has served us very well. It has started to show its age.

Some of the more known sites and services it hosts are perhaps curl, c-ares, libssh2 and this blog (my entire daniel.haxx.se site). Some of these services are however primarily accessed via fronting CDN servers.

giant is a physical Dell PowerEdge 1850 server from 2005, which has undergone upgrades of CPU, disks and memory through the years.

giant featured an Intel X3440 Xeon CPU at 2.53GHz with 8GB of ram when decommissioned.

New host

The new host is of course entirely virtual and we’ve finally taken the step into the modern world of VPSes. The new machine is hosted by the same provider as before but as an entirely new instance.

We’ve upgraded the OS, all packages and we’ve remodeled how we run the web services and all our jobs and services from before have been moved into this new fresh server in an attempt to leave some of the worst legacies behind.

The former server will not be used anymore and will be powered down and sent for recycling.

Glitches in this new world

We’ve tried really hard to make this transition transparent and ideally not many users will notice anything or have a reason to bother about this, but of course we also realize that we probably have not managed this to 100% perfection. If you detect something on any of the services we run that used to work or exist but isn’t anymore, do let us know so that become aware of it and can work on a fix!

This site (daniel.haxx.se) already moved weeks ago and nobody noticed. The curl site changed on October 23 and are much more likely to get glitches because of all the many more scripts and automatic things setup for it. Both sites are served via Fastly so ordinary users will not detect or spot that there’s a new host in the back end.

Rockbox services transition

Remember Rockbox? It is a free software firmware replacement for mp3 players. I co-founded the project back in 2001 together with Björn and Linus. I officially left the project back in 2014.

The project is still alive today, even of course many of us can’t hardly remember the concept of a separate portable music player and can’t figure out why that’s a good idea when we carry around a powerful phone all days anyway that can do the job – better.

Already when the project took off, we at Haxx hosted the web site and related services. Heck, if you don’t run your own server to add fun toy projects to, then what kind of lame hacker are you?

None of us in Haxx no longer participates in the project and we haven’t done so for several years. We host the web site, we run the mailing lists, we take care of the DNS, etc.

Most of the time it’s no biggie. The server hosts a bunch of other things anyway for other project so what is a few extra services after all?

Then there are times when things stop working or when we get a refreshed bot attack or web crawler abuse against the site and we get reminded that here we are more than eighteen years later hosting things and doing work for a project we don’t care much for anymore.

It doesn’t seem right anymore. We’re pulling the plug on all services for Rockbox that occasionally gives us work and annoyances. We’re offering to keep hosting DNS and the mailing lists – but if active project members rather do those too, feel free. It never was a life-time offer and the time has come for us.

If people still care for the project, it is much better if those people will also care for these things for the project’s sake. And today there are more options than ever for an open source project to get hosting, bug tracking, CI systems etc setup for free with quality. There’s no need for us ex-Rockboxers to keep doing this job that we don’t want to do.

I created a wiki page to detail The Transition. We will close down the specified services on January 1st 2021 but I strongly urge existing Rockboxers to get the transition going as soon as possible.

I’ve also announced this on the rockbox-dev mailing list, and I’ve mentioned it in the Rockbox IRC.

Bye bye Crystone

or, why we should give up on service providers that don’t treat us well enough.

We co-locate

We (Haxx) have a server (technically speaking we have more than one but this is about our main one that hosts most of our public stuff). This server is ours. We bought it, installed it, configured it and then we handed it over to a company that “co-locates” it for us. It means they put our hardware in their big server room and we pay them for it and for the bandwidth our server consumes.

It also means that we have less control over it and we need to call the company to get access to our machine and so on. Ok, so we’ve used Crystone for this for a long time. They’ve been cheap enough and they haven’t complained when we’ve greatly overrun our bandwidth “allowance” for many months in a row.

A bad track record

We did have concerns a while ago (August 2009 and then again in March 2010) when they had power problems in their facility and we suffered from outages and server down-times. Crystone was then really bad at communicating with what happened, what they do and we started to look around for alternative providers since it started to get annoying and they didn’t seem to care for us properly. But we didn’t really get around to actually moving and time passed.

Maybe they had fixed their flaws and things were now fine?

A Saturday in May

Suddenly, on the early morning Saturday May 22nd 2010 our machine didn’t respond to network traffic anymore. We didn’t find out until we woke up and tried to use our services and after having tried a few things. we contacted Crystone to hear if the problem was theirs or if the problem was ours – we’ve had some troubles lately with the network interface card and we feared that perhaps the network might had stopped working due to this flaky hardware.

The customer service at Crystone immediately said that they were experiencing problems due to their move of the server park to the new facilities (they moved from Liljeholmen to Hammarby, both different locations within the general Stockholm area). They said they had network problems and that they were working on it. They did not give any estimation of when our machine would be back online.

They also said that they had mailed their customers about this move, and yeah we felt a bit bad about not having noticed such a mail so that we had been prepared.

The entire day passed. No network. Their web site mentioned problems due to this particular server move. We waited, we got no further info. We were unhappy.

Saturday become Sunday

How big problems can you have when the down-time for your customers exceeds 24 hours and you still haven’t fixed it nor told us what the problems actually are? The Sunday passed and they updated their web site a few times. The last update mentioned the time 16:03 and it said “most customers” are now back online and that if there’s any remaining problem we should contact their customer service. I spotted that message a couple of hours later, when our machine still wasn’t available. And what did customer service have to say to us about it? Nothing, they were closed. Our server remained dead and inaccessible.

Monday, now beyond 50 hours

In the wee hours of the Monday we passed 50 hours offline time and when the customer service “desk” opened in the morning and answered our phone call, they could get our machine back online. By rebooting it. No explanation from their part why our machine was like the only one that suffered this long.

A search in the mail logs also proved that Crystone never mailed us to tell that our server would move. Isn’t that odd? (not really, as we would find out later)

We won’t stand it

Already during the weekend we had decided we are fed up with this complete ignorance and crappy treatment. Down-times and problems happen, but the complete lack of information and care about us – their customers – is what made it clear we are not suitable to be their customers. We had to go elsewhere.

Crystone offered us a month fee worth of deduction on the hosting charges as a compensation for the troubles we had. That was nice of them, but really this service isn’t expensive so it’s not the cost of this that is burdensome. We just can’t stand having a service this unreliable and working with a company that is this uncommunicative.

This big server move was Crystone moving a lot of equipment over to the facility that is owned and run by Phonera, another ISP, and the one that we happened to have an offer from since before when we were looking for alternatives. Handy – we thought – perhaps we could just go there and carry our server over from one shelf to another and we’ll be fine. Phonera is slightly more expensive but hey, perhaps we’d get peace of mind!

“We don’t steal customers”

Phonera was first glad to accept us as customers, but surprised us greatly when they turned around and declined getting us as new customers, since they claimed they don’t want to “steal” customers from Crystone (that are now themselves customers of Phonera). Baffled, we simply sent off another request to Portlane instead and within minutes we had a decision made and a contract signed.

Later that afternoon, a Phonera guy got back to us and had changed position again and said that perhaps we could become customers anyway. They had figured out that none of them would gain by us going to a third company, but in any case it was now too late for them and we had already made up our minds about going Portlane.

“Sir, your server is not here”

On Tuesday 13:00, Björn (as co-admin of the server) had an appointment with Crystone to extract our server from their care to take it over to its new home. When he appeared in Hammarby at the new facility to get the server he was up for (another) surprise. It wasn’t there. Now Crystone could inform us that our server is still left in the old facility in Liljeholmen. It was never moved!

Glad our business with these guys would soon be over, Björn  handed over our 1U of server to Portlane and within a short while it had found a new home, with a new IP address and a new caretaker.

We could once again take a deep breath of relief and carry on with whatever we were doing before again.