I try to be a patient man, but sometime towards the end of June, I had finally had enough. I decided to make a break from hosting services, and just do it by my damn self.

For those of you who don’t know what I’m talking about, let me give you a little background. Anyone can purchase a “domain name”. In the case of this blog for instance, I own jimsantosblog.com. However, just owning the domain does not get you very far. Now you must choose someone who is going to manage the domain – in other words, tell computers that type in “jimsantosblog.com” where to go to retrieve the blog files. Or, when someone mails info@jimsantosblog.com, where to direct the email. Using this site again as an example, the domain is managed by a company called Bluehost. Any changes in this routing information is done via their customer service or web portal.

Next, your site has to be “hosted” somewhere. It needs a server to reside in. The name “server” is very appropriate, because it “serves” the information up to all valid requests. This site is currently stored on servers run and managed by a company called WordPress, a big name in blog sites.

Do you need to use these companies? Well, technically no. Anybody with the proper knowledge and equipment can host a website, run a mail server, file server, whatever – it is just generally easier to let someone else handle things.

Except when things don’t work correctly.

I taught computer and networking certification courses at Hagerstown Community College for a couple of years. I became certified myself in not just the various Windows operating systems, but also Novell, MAC, and Linux. On the network side, I had not only the basic CompTIA certs, I also acquired two much more difficult Cisco certifications. I taught classes in Basic Linux, and even designed a course for Installing and Configuring Apache Web Server (don’t worry if most of those words mean nothing to you – the gist is, I know some stuff).

Furthermore, I spent years setting up and troubleshooting networks for homes and businesses, not to mention being a Senior Network Engineer assigned to the US Senate for eight years.

I mention all of this so you might understand why I feel a little annoyed when, for example, my internet at home is not working and I call AT&T support to be told “try turning the router off and back on again”.

Thanks Dilbert, but I already have determined that since I can ping my router from my MAC, I can ping external web sites by IP address, but I cannot ping them by domain name, that there is a problem with the DNS settings on the router and I just need you to tell me what they should be, or give me alternates to try.

But no, instead I have to go through a script where they want me to try rebooting everything, try from different computers, reboot the computers, try with my left hand rubbing my head while my right rubs my tummy, etc., until reluctantly concluding there seems to be a DNS problem, please hold while I transfer you to senior support.

Maddening.

Back to the blog site now – a couple of months ago, I noticed that whenever I posted something and the automatic emails went out to subscribers, about a third of them were being returned as undeliverable. I quickly determined that I was on a blacklist (some machine had determined I might be a spammer). I provided the evidence to the appropriate agencies, but next time they bounced back again. I came up clean this time on the blacklist, so now the fun begins.

First, I sat on hold with Bluehost for almost an hour. After explaining the issue twice to two different layers of support, I was told it wasn’t their issue, I should talk to WordPress.

Two hours and three layers later, WordPress told me it the problem was the email plugin, I should update that, and then check with the developer.

One update and a phone call later, the developer is telling me that since all the emails are sending correctly, the problem cannot be in their plugin (which I knew, of course), that I should report the problem to Bluehost or WordPress.

More time on the phone, multiple descriptions of the same problem, repeated assurances that yes I have tried that, and finally WordPress admits it must be a problem on their server. They will open a ticket, and get back to me.

Three weeks later, I check back with them, and they still do not know what the problem is. They suggest I follow directions they email me for force-updating part of their software. I follow the directions, and the first step says to “Download the management interface software”.

I go to download, and it says “You must have a management account to access. Follow the procedure to setup account”.

Grrrr.

A person lying on the floor  Description automatically generated with medium confidenceGive me strength …

That procedure tells me to go to my blog management software, click on this button, and choose that menu. It even has handy images to show me which menu item I need to select. Only problem is, that menu item does not exist on the screen they directed me too.

Another phone call, another hour, and I’m told, “Oh you have to update the software to get that option.”

THAT’S WHAT I WAS TRYING TO DO, NIMROD!!!!!!

So that was it, that straw had finally broken this camel’s back. I decided that there was no option for remaining sane other than setting up my own server and managing everything myself. Why not? I’ve configured web, mail, list, and file servers in Windows and Linux before, and it might be fun to dust off the Linux skills and get to work.

Of course, it all depends on how you define fun ….

More to come ….