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Planned downtime update: Saturday, June 12th

May 20th, 2010

On Sunday, May 30th Saturday, June 12th we will be taking AmbitiousLemon down for six to eight hours to reinstall the operating system. The server will go down at about 11:00 AM Pacific time and will stay down until we have full functionality restored. We have full backups of data stored on the server, so while data loss is a possibility it is very unlikely.

We have been working on resolving our intermittent downtime issues and have decided that our attempts to band-aid the issue have not been successful. For this reason, we are going to install a fresh build of Linux. In addition, we have seen some attempts to break into AmbitiousLemon. Rebuilding the server from the ground up allows us to add additional layers of security to ensure that future attempts have less chance of success.

One of our admins is has had a family emergency and will not be available on Sunday, May 30th. Accordingly, we are rescheduling our downtime to ensure the reinstall goes as smoothly as possible.

Update #2:
The downtime is being delayed again. We are delaying to ensure that we are in the best position possible to reinstall with minimal downtime and to ensure that the experience is as seamless as possible for our users.

Downtime on 5/8/10

May 9th, 2010

We were down for about eight hours today. The downtime occurred while we were upgrading system software trying to address the downtime and related issues from the past week. This was caused when a system component got upgraded before a planned kernel upgrade was completed. Unfortunately, this left the system in a state where we needed to be on-site to work on it.

After getting to the unit, we were able to diagnose and fix the issue, and while doing so completed some additional upgrades to the machine.

We are continuing to investigate the cause of our downtime; the server has not been performing as it should and we are investigating how to best and most effectively fix it.

Downtime this morning

April 22nd, 2010

We experienced approximately 3 hours downtime this morning. We are still investigating the cause.

Open for requests

April 19th, 2010

We have reopened for new hosting requests. This new request window will close on 7 May. If you apply during this window you can therefore expect a final response between 15 and 24 May.

During this past admissions window we admitted 5 new members.

If you are thinking of applying please take some time to read through some of my posts filed in the Prospective member advice section on this blog.

Planned Server Downtime – March 27, 2010

March 26th, 2010

On Saturday, March 27th, I will be taking AmbiousLemon down for a hardware upgrade. I will make every effort to minimize downtime, but the upgrades will require the server to be offline for a minimum of one hour over the course of the day.

Hardware upgrades are complete.

Tips on completing your hosting request

March 23rd, 2010

The Question: I often get emails asking for tips on getting a membership with us, or from people who have been denied membership wanting to know what they can change in their request to get an account in their next request.

In General… My number one response is that they need to wow us. Make us want to host your website. It is important to remember that you are requesting something of value for free, and that free thing is costing us effort and money. The people providing and evaluating whether to give you an account gain nothing but a warm fuzzy feeling from giving you an account, and have spent years of volunteering work and donating money to give you an account. Should you receive an account your next door neighbor on the server will be cancer charities, children’s basketball clubs, and many hundreds of other sites that in very obvious ways help other people. With that in mind, we ask that you show respect for the process by taking your time to thoughtfully and completely fill out your request.

Some Specifics

All of that aside, I can give some more concrete advice. I can currently think of 6 things our our review committee looks for while reading over and discussing requests:

  1. Sites do not violate any of our rules.
  2. Sites will not consume more bandwidth and storage space than we can spare.
  3. Sites do not require any software or server privileges that we do not provide.
  4. The requester has the skills to use the hosting account.
  5. The requester is able to articulate a clear vision of their website.
  6. The last thing we are looking for is a bit more vague. We want to host websites that resonate with our mission. We want to host sites that provide some sort of service to a larger community. The requester needs to feel excited enough about their concept and its capacity to do something special that they are able, through their request to us, get our review committee excited about hosting them. The service aspect is checked by the resources potentially used by the proposal. If a site will only use a tiny bit of bandwidth and storage space the bar to wow us is low; if a site has big resource needs then we need to know that the site’s use of so much community resources will be used for something truly inspiring and worthwhile.

Common Errors

Some common errors that people make in their requests:

  • Providing us with such terse responses to our question and answer section that we can’t evaluate their site and also feel like the requester does not value or respect our service.
  • Not informing us why other hosting services would not be more appropriate. Often people just want a simple blog. WordPress.com, Blogger and other services would be more appropriate for people just wanting to dip a toe into blogging. Many students don’t let us know why their school’s hosting is inadequate. Most school districts and Universities provide hosting to their students (In fact one of our systems administrators built the system his high school district now uses). We want to know that a student has explored these options first and has come to a logical conclusion as to why our service is the best place for their site. Some software developers don’t tell us why services such as sourceforge or github would not be the best place for their site.
  • Wanting to use our service as a sandbox for development. Since we provide such a variety of development languages, frameworks, databases, and other software we get many requests from people who want to learn some of these technologies we offer and use our hosting as a testbed or development environment. That sort of work should be done on a person’s local machine not on a production server actively serving thousands of websites.
  • Wanting short term hosting. Our service is not for short term hosting. We often get requests from students who want/need to post class projects online for their instructors to evaluate. This short term hosting is not something we do, and frankly we feel instructors who require this of their students while not providing the hosting resources are being unreasonable.


March 23rd, 2010

We have reopened for new membership requests. The application period will end 9 April. We will begin to review requests on 9 April and typically come to a conclusion on all requests within 2-3 weeks.

Membership Open

February 21st, 2010

We have reopened to new member requests.

Postgresql/Django issues resolved

February 2nd, 2010

We have received a number of reports on postgresql issues, particularly with Django sites. We are currently working to resolve the issues.

The issue centered around Python and Django being unable to access Postgresql. The issues were a symptom of our method of upgrading Python, which left older versions in place for compatibility, and pathing issues within Python, which made the install and use of eggs fail.

Once we determined the apparent underlying cause, we removed all older versions of Python and reinstalled it, along with all the Python eggs we use.

At this point issues with Django sites should be resolved. If you are still having issues, please get in touch with us.

Basic Django configuration

January 19th, 2010

We’ve recently added support for Django. To help all our new Django-happy members I’ve taken the time to put together a quick tutorial on how to start running a site using Django.

The Django application folder (here, we’ll use ~/mysite/ as the example) should be placed inside your home folder on the server. This is the same folder that has your public_html folder.

Within the public_html folder, create a file called .htaccess. Inside this file you’ll want to have:

PythonPath "['/home/MYUSERNAME/' ] + sys.path"
SetHandler python-program
PythonHandler django.core.handlers.modpython
PythonOption django.root /
PythonDebug On

MYUSERNAME would need to be changed to your username. MYAPP will need to be changed to your Django application name.

Settings.py will change slightly based on what kind of database you’re using. The DATABASE_ENGINE will be set based on the database you’ll be using. The DATABASE_NAME can be gotten via our admin interface, under Virtualmin Virtual Servers ➝ Your Domain Name ➝ Edit Databases. When your account is created, the MySQL and PostgreSQL users are created with the same password. Your database password can be changed by accessing the Edit Databases, then clicking Password. You can reset your MySQL and PostgreSQL passwords separately.

DATABASE_HOST and DATABASE_PORT can both be left blank, as we run PostgreSQL and MySQL on the default ports.

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