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What Caused Bluehost’s MASSIVE FAIL

Click '+' for an email from Bluehost's CEO on Friday, April 18. Too bad he couldn't be bothered to say anything earlier.
Click '+' for an update from Bluehost Support which, ironically, arrived 24 hours after yesterday's 1pm outage.

An unknown number of Bluehost servers went down yesterday, April 16th, at 1pm central time. This may have been limited to their Dedicated (which I own) and virtual private servers (VPS) but that’s unknown too. It’s also unknown what caused it, even approximately when it will be fixed, or other pretty basic items a paying customer wants to know when a service is failing.

In this post I will tell you about two fails Bluehost made: them communicating to customers about the outage and what caused the outage in the first place.

BLUEHOST COMMUNICATION FAIL

Outages do occur at webhosts…they just do. But why so many unknowns and a clear reluctance to be transparent? Because Bluehost has failed dramatically at THE MOST BASIC customer relations item: communicating with customers about why something isn’t working as promised. Rather than have a status page at Bluehost.com that either has status updates on it or embeds their Twitter and Facebook feeds, they ask people to follow them “and check our Twitter feed and Facebook page for updates.” How incredibly bush-league.

A few cut-n-paste tweets from Bluehost Support

For hours and hours and hours they have been telling people essentially, “I dunno” which is unacceptable. Not only is this impacting an untold number of people (the tweets are numerous) this is a PR disaster and customers will undoubtedly flee. Especially those who have clients on Bluehost due to their recommendation, one that now makes those recommenders look like a bunch of clueless imbeciles.

I’ve also been evangelizing Bluehost’s new Dedicated server offering since it has been very fast and their Level III tech support access the best I’ve ever had with any host I’ve ever used. Several of my clients have purchased Dedicated servers (and yes, ALL of them pinged me about where they should go next because they are absolutely getting off Bluehost!).

From 1pm Wednesday April 16th through today, Bluehost Support can only tell customers “I dunno”

From 1pm Wednesday April 16th through today, Bluehost Support can only tell customers “I dunno”

Will I continue to evangelize? Nope. I might have cut Bluehost some slack IF they had been communicative. I may continue to evangelize IF Bluehost provides recompense for my server downtime and IF they provide a plan on how NOT to repeat a fiasco like this in the future. If they say or do nothing I’ll take my business and that of my clients elsewhere.

But here is what caused the outage.

[Read more...]

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Adobe’s Bizarre Digital Publishing Approach

Adobe Systems is clearly the leader in print publishing with InDesign and all of the supporting tools it ships. But their digital publishing approach is like saying to you, “Oh…if you want to send your print job to a printing company that uses a digital press than you have to spend A LOT more money.” 

One of our businesses publishes a six-times-per-year print newsletter and multiple ebooks (i.e., PDF-based) as trend publications for the home furnishings industry. After weeks of research I’ve determined that the best solution is Adobe’s Digital Publishing Suite and it’s what drives many major publications who have made the switch to digital tablet publishing.

The good news? Adobe’s Digital Publishing “Single Edition” is $395 (or you can join the “Creative Cloud” and get ALL of Adobe’s apps as well) and you can create and ship “unlimited iPad apps” publications.

The really bizarre bad news? To publish multiple issues within one of those iPad publications — or to publish to Android or Kindle — one needs to step up to the “Professional Edition” which costs $495 per month!

While I appreciate that Adobe thinks that their position in publishing will enable them to escape disruption from others who will deliver tools to cross-platform publish, this is ridiculous. If I was going to just publish to the iPad I wouldn’t pay Adobe a nickel. I’d much rather use the far more robust and easier to use iBooks Author from Apple.

I suspect Adobe’s strategy is to to make the on-ramp to digital publishing simpler for their print publishing designer base. I hate to be the bearer of bad news, Adobe, but most of them have gone on to other gigs like house painting or selling insurance. It’s a stupid strategy to make the Single Edition affordable and the price delta to go “Pro” like moving up from a Honda Civic to a Ferrari.

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Comcast Web App Fail

Shouldn’t someone in charge of web applications for a major company like Comcast review error messages and customer processes? I sure thought so until today when I attempted to set up my wife as a user on our Comcast account and it wouldn’t accept my password attempts.

Here’s what happened and why Comcast failed me as a customer (though their social media support caught me). The reason why it failed will surprise you. Why should you care about something as mundane as an online password issue that happened to some guy who blogs?

Because the issue I just experienced goes beyond a simple online password process that didn’t work very well. You should care if you, like many of us are, responsible for overseeing web and mobile app creation and care about customers and their experience with your company or brand. You should care if you are a user of web or mobile applications and give a damn at all about password security. You should care if you don’t want to invest your personal time, energy and effort in dealing with password security when the web or mobile application is broken and has been that way for years.

Here is what unfolded in the space of 15 minutes:

  • Logged on to Comcast.net (their consumer site) and went to add my wife as a new user on our account
  • Completed the username info, password and security question
  • Received an error message that the password was incorrect and was informed that, Your password must be 8 – 16 characters. It must contain at least one letter, and at least one number or special characters (!”#$%&’()*+,-./:;<=>?@[\]^_`{|}~), may not contain your first name, last name, User ID, username, and cannot contain spaces.” 

No-shit-Sherlock…I do this all day, every day and know how to create and use secure passwords and usually can grasp the underlying algorithms and how they work (if they’re done correctly, that is).

  • Tried again. And again and again. 
  • Used a different browser with zero cache (cookies, etc.). Didn’t work.  [Read more...]
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Chrome ‘Gorges’ on RAM

Starting last night and concluding very early this morning was my main production machine upgrade to OS X Mountain Lion. Everything went smoothly — I did a ‘clean install’ so cloned my startup drive, installed, and then migrated everything over — which took HOURS but fortunately was pretty much working without my involvement.

Coming back after my lunch meeting, I was somewhat surprised to hear my hard disk whirring and crunching. Not in a bad way, but that there was a lot of disk activity going on. Since I’m someone who typically has fourteen tabs open in one window (all my ‘workspace’ stuff like Gmail, Docs, my hosting provider CPanel, etc.) but typically I’ll have a second window open with client’s work in it. 

In addition, like you probably do there are numerous other apps open and running: Photoshop, Skype, maybe Firefox or Safari (or both), Keynote and others. 

OS X’s Activity Monitor showing all the Google Chrome processes loading and running in system memory. Yikes. (click for larger view)

But Chrome was acting like a guy at a Coney Island hot dog eating contest: with all the tabs open, Google Talk running and so on, Chrome was using OVER 4GBs OF RAM! Wow.

Fortunately my MacPro has 10GBs in it and I know enough about how my machine runs that I know when something is awry and I manage it (e.g., closing that second window full of tabs!). While I love have sessions open in other tabs — and that Google Chrome was architected from the beginning to have each tab be independent so a crash in one wouldn’t crash the entire browser and all tabs — it still sucks up so much memory that I have to shut Chrome down when I’m doing any other intensive task like video editing, screen recording and the like.

So if you are experiencing machine slow downs, or if you have 2GB, 4GB or so of RAM in your machine, either run just a few tabs or quit it altogether when things get slow. Hopefully Google will find ways to optimize Chrome in new ways so this will quiet down and not shove RAM in its mouth like that contestant above!

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Google Locks Me Out of Gmail. Seriously?

UPDATE: Two hours after locking me out I’m reinstated. What happened? Who the buzz knows but of course, that’s the point.

While at lunch today I checked my email on my iPhone but it wasn’t working. Tried the Gmail client on my iPad and it wasn’t working. I thought, “Gmail is probably temporarily down.

It wasn’t. For some unknown reason Google locked me out of Gmail apparently for “Unusual Usage – Account Temporarily Locked Down.

The ONLY thing that could be possible is “3. Being logged into or synchronizing Gmail on many computers, clients, or mobile devices.” But isn’t that the point of a cloud-based solution Google? Especially in a day when an accelerating number of people like me have a desktop, laptop, iPad and iPhone? Is it because I logged in at the office on another computer as well?

I use Google’s 2-step verification too. The main problem for me is that Gmail is my communications hub. I have 8 email accounts all managed within that hub and purchased the 25GB upgrade to my account as well. As such, I’m locked out of three email accounts I use daily for business. With dozens of emails per day I need to manage, the likelihood of me missing something important is incredibly high.

I’m not the only one. This guy had the same issue but so have hundreds of others and there is NOTHING WE CAN DO!

Gotta tell ya, if THIS is how Google treats a long time user like me — someone who uses multiple of their services (even ones like the lame G+) — then organizations considering Google Apps should seriously re-consider. My suspicion? This is a veiled attempt at scaring the beejeesus out of people in order to get them to buy in to a Google Apps account. Having one (and paying for it) is the ONLY way to have an actual human throat-to-choke when bullshit like this happens.

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Apple’s MobileMe Still Having Issues

Don’t get me wrong….I love Apple and the stock I bought at $33 many years ago has been very, very good to me. But for a company all about great user experiences, the MobileMe one is so laughingly bad that I’m stunned they don’t apply more resources to make it great (or at least work).

I’m so infrequent with my use that when I do log on (about 4-5 times per month) I’d guess at least one of those times something is wrong: the site loads slowly; everything loads except for my account settings; or it works like today, nothing comes up including the account settings.

Hopefully spending some of their cash like they’re rumored to be doing with this $1B data center will enable them to do something other than iTunes that’s cloud-centric and do it well.

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Lou Reed at Web 2.0

Right now I’m in the ballroom at Web 2.0 and Lou Reed is the AOL-sponsored musical guest…very cool. (plus it’s fun watching Tim O’Reilly let loose and dance!)