Where Did The Digital Tavern Go? <br>Domain Nightmares & Fun!

We're here. Never really went anywhere.

If you have tried to visit this site in the past few days you might have imagined something terrible happened to The Digital Tavern.

Did it go up in smoke? Hacked by teetotalers? Kidnapped by terrorists? Or abandoned by a wayfaring troubadour more interested in curing his wanderlust than feeding words into the internet zone.

I'm happy to say the tavern is here. Has been here along. And will always be here. But read on. You'll get perhaps a bit too much information. But at least you can live vicariously the fun I've had over the last three days.

As many of you know I create The Digital Tavern on weblog software and hosting provided by Radio Userland. The desktop application is Radio and the hosting is located at weblogs.com. But because the Radio Userland blogging service doesn't support personalized blogs (the real location of this blog is http://radio.weblogs.com/0108247 for example). I know many of you rely on your address book or caller ID for phone numbers so I can't expect you to remember the “true” address of this weblog.

For this reason, I've registered the domain “digitaltavern” with Register.com and have secured a simple no frills $1/month hosting arrangement with Hostica. So Hostica has been forwarding or pointing the digitaltavern.com address to the “true” address at weblogs.com. And this has been working beautifully for more than two years since the doors of the Digital Tavern were opened.

To be sure, Register.com is the Neiman Marcus of domain registering (called a registrar). And they charge the maximum that can be charged at this point: $35/year. Now Hostica also acts as an agent for registering domains and will register or renew a domain for a mere $9. Quite a difference.

So having lost a domain that I owned due to my own negligence when I was riding the bamboo rafts of the Li Jiang River. The domain expired and someone snapped it up. And I'm battling with the opportunist who did this to negotiate a fair return of a domain I've owned since 1994. That's another story, but it's important to understand for my motivation for securing this domain (digitaltavern) and others.

So I went about the process of transferring the digitaltavern domain to Hostica. One year of domain registering fees at Register.com would give me nearly 4 years at Hostica. Brilliant I thought. Move the domain over to Hostica and secure it for 8 or 9 years so that when I'm negotiating the Karakorum Highway in near the Pakistan and China border in 2006 I won't lose my domain — again.

Sound like a good strategy? You betcha. But here's where it went all wrong. Upon transferring my domain to Hostica a new account for the Digital Tavern was created. This wouldn't be so bad if Hostica hadn't migrated its web servers to new machines and software about a year ago. As a no frills service (you get what you pay for at $1/month) the onus to move websites to the new system is on the customer. I never knew this. But the old Hostica servers still served up pages, but customers looking to leverage more features, easier to use control panel for domain and website management and more performance had to move their websites to the new servers. I never did.

Guess what happened? When the new Digital Tavern account was created it automatically set me up on the new Hostica servers (called Hsphere) and cancelled my existing account and space on the old servers. All of a sudden visitors trying to get to The Digital Tavern via the http://blog.digitaltavern.com were served a domain parking sign from Hostica. The DNS forwarding instructions for sending visitors to the “true” website were gone.

Meanwhile, the transfer of the domain created its own set of problems by disabling MX records so my digitaltavern.com mail couldn't be accessed by anything but a bad webmail interface through Hostica. By now I'm definitely going nuts and after a dozen emails back and forth with Chris and Frank at Hostica, nothing was resolved. Well, not exactly.

Chris tells me to create my own domain alias using the Hostica Hsphere system. He sends me an email that points me to a nice movie that walks through the process of creating the alias or domain pointer. Simple enough. But not really. Hostica's control panel for creating a domain alias does not accept directories only base URLs. This means I could point to radio.weblogs.com but I could not point to http://radio.weblogs.com/0108247 — the bad character is a slash ( / ).

Another dozen emails and I still have no resolve. I'm told that due to the domain transfer DNS info could take 72 hours before domains are pointed in the right direction anywhere. Duh! These guys at support weren't getting the fact that the domain and subdomain for digitaltavern were going to the Hostica servers but instead of then pointing to my weblog they were defaulting on domain parking pages (a generic page saying something like coming soon).

Three days have passed. And many of you may have thought The Digital Tavern went up in smoke. Those of you accessing through the direct URL have kept up with the activity.

All of this has compounded problems I've been having with Radio's servers, BlogLet and retrieving my other long lost domain. Must be something in the water.

I'd like to recommend Hostica. But I can't. They made a ton of mistakes here. I realize this is a cheap service. But the original account that worked fine up to a few days ago should never have been automatically cancelled. Therein was the root of all these problems. I will be looking to move to a new hosting company (recommendations?) when I've made a decision on what blogging platform I'll migrate to next.

Certainly there are other ways to forward URLs. Domain Direct and 2Ya are both good services. But these would require another 72 hour waiting period. I as determined to get Hostica to get this to work.

As I write this post Hostica still hasn't pointed the domain or subdomain anywhere. Instead, I created a home page (index.html) that is creates a frameset that contains a link to the real URL — the “true” Digital Tavern blog. I should've thought of this solution earlier. I knew something like this was possible. I just didn't know how.

Now I do.

So if you've missed any of my posts from late August click here and scroll through. I think you'll enjoy catching up.