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17 September 2004

What Happened To Mindriot?

Location : Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.

This is a detailed entry post about the events that led to the extremely long downtime of my blog from the 6th of July to the 6th of September and about the domain name change from Mindriot.tk to LittleNomad.com. It is a pretty long narration so if you are really not interested to know, it's advisable to skip this entry post!

The History
When I travelled in the past, I always used to write everything I encounter/feel/see/experience in a journal. Then one day it hit me - why don't I simply write it all down on a website? It would definitely make travelling lighter because I'd have less to carry and whenever I needed to refer to any detail, I could just hook up to the Internet and look it up on the website anywhere, anytime, instead of digging through my messy room looking for that journal. Furthermore, storing it all on the Internet is SAFE because data is always backed up and administrators would always be on the lookout for abnormal activity on webservers 24/7. Moreover, all that information collected would be a reference not just for me, but for friends, family and whoever it interests. So, an idea was conceived - to run a weblog(blog) to record my travel exploits. I called the blog "Mindriot" and chose to use a free domain forwarding service albeit rendering the URL of my blog to be http://mindriot.tk which actually redirects all browsers to http://edwinchong.com/mindriot/

The Webhost
The initial relationship between my Malaysian webhost and I was totally business. Choosing a good webhost was important to me so instead of signing up through the Internet, I made the effort to visit the office to gauge trustworthiness because any website can be made to look corporate and professional. But unfortunately, the guy I met, Tim, had only just started renting the place. Having spoke with him for a while, he seemed like a proper young professional who's a true geek at heart. I signed up with him anyway because he seemed like a person I could relate to if I ever needed any technical assistance. After a couple of hangout sessions, we became mates.

The Terminologies
In the world of webhosting, I learned that the set up of webhosting companies can differ quite a bit :-
There are webhosts that run and own webservers. Then there are webhosts that are known as resellers - these guys rent webspace in bulk off a company that owns servers in order to get good pricing. Resellers break up this bulk webspace into smaller packages and sell it off to consumers with a profit margin. Then there are webhosts that own webservers(as in the hardware itself) but outsource Internet connection to the webserver, possibly provided by another webhosting company with better resources. This service is known as co-location and Tim was such a person - he owned the webserver but used another webhost(i.e.Integricity) that provided co-location services(Internet connection) to his webserver. I suppose there could be other possible setups too as companies today strive to survive in a competitive world by outsourcing. If I am wrong in any way, please correct me.

The Story

Alex Lam of Integricity.com - provides co-location services to Agonus
Tim Yang of Agonus.com - my ex-webhost
Me - a customer of Agonus.com

Tim decided to use a nameserver service from Alex for which he decided to discontinue after 3 months because Alex's prices were exhorbitant. But despite giving Alex many notices, he continued receiving invoices. Tim claims he even called the accountant of Integricity, spoke to him personally and still he was continually invoiced. It only seems to imply that it's really easy to sign up with Integricity but takes a mammoth effort to discontinue - I'm sure we've experienced this at least once in our lifetime. In July 2004, Tim's contract with Integricity was coming to an end and Alex was starting to chase Tim to pay up for the nameserver service for which he "owed" 9 months worth. Tim claims he has the receipts to prove his payments for co-location services were up to date but admits to avoiding payment for the nameserver services. Tim decides to ignore Alex and I kind of understand Tim because if it were me, I would be angry over the situation too(but I wouldn't have let it go on for 9 months). This is what happens when you mix business and friendship because if Tim was just my webhost and not my mate, there would be no sympathy involved.

Since Alex couldn't contact Tim, the bastard decides to disconnect Internet connection to Tim's webserver taking every website on Tim's webserver offline. This was done without notice to any of us(the customers of Agonus) and none of us knew what was happening, not even me. This happened at the worst time possible because I'd just left on a long surfing trip out of Malaysia. Alex sticks up a webpage on all our domain names asking the customers of Agonus to call him. If I was running a company website, how embarassing it would have been for my clients to see that. When we call Alex, he claims that Tim has not been paying for co-location services provided for a few months, Tim cannot be contacted and offered his webhosting services instead to "help" us get our websites back and put it online. Initially, I was furious and reacted without tact - I accused Alex of holding my website hostage(to which he never denied) and providing no other solution to recovering my website except by signing up for a year with him. Already my website was taken offline before my webhosting services expired but the idea of not being able to choose who I wanted to host with REALLY pissed me off. The right thing to do would be to return the websites to their respective owners because that is intellectual property that doesn't belong to him. Instead, he decides to use the websites to force us into signing up with Integricity. I was drawing up plans on how I would react to this :-

1. Lodge a report with the Ministry of Domestic Trade and Consumer Affairs.
2. File a complaint with the Ministry of Energy, Communications and Multimedia.
3. Blowing the whistle to Information Technology publications and all conventional media channels.
4. Relating my story to online forums, webhosting reviews and related websites.
5. Legal action - according to my legal attorney, not much damages can be claimed because my website doesn't generate any profit. Therefore, not much losses except for website content (which is priceless only to me).
6. And if it ever gets personal, to spread news of his questionable business tactic to members of his *church congregation.

*Alex makes it known that he is Christian on his company website at the "About Us" link - http://integricity.com/article-1. He derived his company name from the word integrity in a sermon given by a pastor defined as "what you do when no one is looking" which in this case, is precisely this - arm twisting for monetary gain. I bet none of his church members know.

I was caught in a spot because I was not in Malaysia and no matter how much I pleaded with him to get my website back, he was adamant about receiving payment. I've never backed up my website because I only use a slow dialup connection to access the Internet but mainly, never ever have I expected my online data to disappear into thin air. I don't take much back from my trips except for memories, my online journal to help me keep them intact and pictures. So my blog was priceless to me because of all that I have spent to travel the last 1+ years and even if I had to do it all again, it would be different. My experiences were irreplaceable. Alex's webhosting services were already exhorbitantly priced but if he knew how much my website was worth to me, I'm sure he would have demanded a lot more.

The Solution
Naturally, Tim lost a majority of his customers to Integricity because they probably run businesses that couldn't afford any website downtime. In this matter, I disagree with Tim because I would not have allowed a simple billing issue to ruin my business but I guess the disconnection of his webserver took him by surprise too. I do not know if it was taken offline before his contract expired. Moreover, I think everyone of us would have handled it in a different manner. If it were up to me, I would have tried to acquire a gun and settle this dispute amicably over a cuppa tea. =) Despite initially having no remorse over the loss of my website(because he "did" all he can to stop being invoiced), Tim relented and sensed my loss. So he came up with a solution which is to come upfront with some money(so I didn't have to return to Malaysia) as partial payment to Integricity to assist me in getting my website back online. The partial payment for a year's webhosting services was agreed by Alex after a lot of sweet talking, negotiating over many emails and convincing him that I would pay the rest when I return to Malaysia. The moment it went back online, I backed up all my entries.

The Disappointment
My website contains of 3 main parts - the blog which is powered by a self-installed content management system(CMS), the guestbook and the photo album. To release my website back online, Alex decided to move my data files from Tim's webserver onto his own webservers. That migration caused my CMS to screw up because after preparing my post, the HTML webpages couldn't rebuild so the main page remained the same as what I last posted before it went down. Alex and his team spent some time trying to bring Mindriot back to working order but they failed - it gave me an idea of the technical expertise behind Integricity. They insisted on going about the file transfer and they could not even do it properly. After many man-hours of constant emailing and communication with Integricity, a lot of money spent on Internet access, transportation, a lot of stress and missing a couple of surf sessions trying to fix the website, I gave up. From the time Mindriot was down till the day I gave up, I couldn't post on Mindriot for one full month.

The End Of The Road
Mindriot almost died an untimely death. And since Integricity screwed up my content management system(CMS) on their servers during the transfer and they couldn't bring it back to normal, I'd have to reinstall the whole website from scratch. I decided that if I had to do that, I might as well get a new domain name. Although I loved the domain name mindriot.tk, I've always lusted after a .com so I enquired what it would cost me to buy mindriot.com and the squatter on that domain offered it to me at USD750, no less. The result is littlenomad.com - nothing much has changed on the website except for the domain name. Entries from Mindriot are still in the Archives so if you are looking for an old entry, you will find it there.

The Lessons
My experiences with Alex Lam of Integricity.com were the most ruthless of a businessman, unprofessional of a webhost, un-becoming of a Christian, loser with an obese amount of pride, absolute wanker that I have ever come across. If I was him, I could not live with myself. What he did was the desperate act of a merciless man who had no soul. He shouldn't run/own a company called Integricity because this man has NO INTEGRITY. I disagree with some of Tim's decisions because it should never have come to this somewhat ridiculous and highly unprofessional outcome. Professionalism is already an issue that is severely lacking in the majority of Malaysian society, let alone Malaysian webhosts. Having said that, I don't think I know what my decisions would've been unless I was in Tim's shoes. Perhaps if I only had some kind of warning from Tim, I wouldn't have suffered endless nightmares because I would've backed up my website before leaving Malaysia. Nevertheless, I am appreciative of Tim's role in recovering my website from Alex's control and I would still remain being mates with him. Just no more business involved. I also realised that my little website is no more little to me - it's a bloody huge website to maintain and backup! And it takes up a lot of my time. The last and most important lesson I've learnt is that never again will I ever assume that everything I have online will never disappear. Broadband Internet has become a must.

Remember : You are reading this based on ONE person's opinion and experience when there are 3 parties involved. The other 2 parties are not around to defend themselves so please only take this post as.....reading material? =)

Note : The full text of the email correspondence between Alex and I can be found here but before you read it, know that I am normally more of a gentleman. I regret having to bring myself down to a level where I divulge private email correspondence but in my opinion, I am only behaving in the same uncivilised manner as Alex. This story would not be complete without the emails. Everything is here, I have not much more to say or hide and you can judge for yourself. It is also for my personal record and for anyone who might deal with him in the future so that they may make informed decisions. Also, notice how low I stooped to acquire my website back. =)

Posted by Ripcord at September 17, 2004 10:21 PM

Comments

I didn't realize there were different types of hosts and what they have control of seems like you got caught in the middle and while they were battling you were effected by having your site down and then having to pay more to be hosted by Alex instead of Tim, even though you had already paid Tim... then having your files screwed up during the transfer and then deciding to buy a new name because of that... You spent alot of time and money on this. I'm glad all that is over and now you have a new habit of backing up your files, but still... :(

Posted by: Aurora at September 18, 2004 04:58 AM

viva la resistance'!!... and to add to this extremely long yarn, after feeling sympathy for Ed, only weeks later my own webserver is taken down by the untimely merger between 'Intergrishitty' and Nerraw.net. The gimps at either end, I'm not sure which, but them being gimps I'm sure, screwed up the server migration and my entire website disappeared!

Not only that my account went right along with it as well!

It was only after hours of ICQ'ing and email ping-pong with Patricia ("God bless you!") from Nerraw, was I able to get my account and web site back online. Thankfully, it was a DNS issue more than anything so the data was always there... doesn't really explain the account going missing but hey, I'm just glad I don't have to go through the hours that Ed has(!).

Alex Lam... time to buck up dude??
Learn this word and learn it well - G.O.O.D.W.I.L.L.
Got some??...

Posted by: grim at September 18, 2004 09:19 AM

Holy crap...better get my blog backuped.

Posted by: Kevin at September 18, 2004 01:10 PM

aurora : yeah, i even contemplated giving up on the whole fiasco. u should backup your entries after every post, if you value what you wrote.

grim : a man who doesn't have a soul sure as hell doesn't have goodwill.

kevin : yeah, and tell every blogger! =)

Posted by: Ripcord at September 20, 2004 12:05 AM

hell hath no fury like a man and his site scorned... ;)

hugs, jin

Posted by: erinnys at September 20, 2004 02:08 AM

It looks like Movable Type(the CMS that manages LittleNomad.com) has screwed me over. All of a sudden, there is an error message on my login screen and I am not able to log into the system at all. After some research on the Net, it seems that the error might be a bug in the system that hasn't got a solution. So it will probably be some time before I make the next post(minus the last 3 posts). I might have to reinstall the whole CMS and import my entries into it again.

My website woes are neverending....

Posted by: Ripcord at September 20, 2004 03:47 AM

tim is ur fren?

Pity you to be stuck in the middle of the war...
however, it is over now, and can't wait to read more about your travel tales......CHEERS!

Conclusion : Alex and Tim, irresponsibles

Posted by: zbjernak at September 20, 2004 01:34 PM

well sometimes I don't know whether to pity Tim or to be pissed at him over what happened. No doubt it wasn't entirely his fault, but he should have been prepared than to let Interassity invoice him for 9 months even after telling them he doesn't need the nameserver service. As a result of that I had a 1 week downtime at my workplace. Thank god my boss knew nuts about the internet and he couldn't give a fuck about what happened. I'm still with Tim now, with a new provider. Hoping things would improve for him.

Posted by: LoafeR at September 20, 2004 05:46 PM

I'm looking for a host myself and don't know which one should I use. Damn these idiots!

Posted by: grease-bar at September 20, 2004 05:54 PM

Hey! please start blogging! Bout your travels and social observation...cepat!

Posted by: Theroadie at September 21, 2004 12:56 AM

theroadie : will take note of the request but at the moment, i am busy trying to figure out why my photoalbum management system won't allow me to log in as administrator. only recently managed to solve the CMS problem stated above. lotsa things happening in my life at the moment - life altering decisions! will try to blog regularly as soon as i can...

Posted by: Ripcord at September 21, 2004 08:45 AM

btw ed, you want a gmail account?

Posted by: LoafeR at September 21, 2004 10:29 AM

I just finished reading your email correspondence with alex. got a headache now.
eee takutnya.. how do I back up my blog? Have to copy the entry one by one kah?

Posted by: elisataufik at September 21, 2004 11:25 AM

went to mph yesterday and snooped around those travel-log books...

your tales sit better with me :)

what's the life-altering decisions, mate? wasn't the plan to just continue a nomadic lifestyle for another 2 years? i remember Scotland -*grins*-

laters!, jin

Posted by: erinnys at September 21, 2004 11:40 AM

dude, photo gallery still work in progress? thot you were going to use MT mod to make it happen?

Posted by: grim at September 22, 2004 01:25 AM

loafer : thanks for the offer but i have 10 email accounts too!

elisa : your blog is managed by a third party so i don't know how it would work on modblog but it's work checking out if you cannot afford losing your entries. look for an export/import feature on your control panel?

erinnys : scotland is still in the plan if my visa is approved.

grim : decided against using movable type to build photo album because i would have to go through lotsa coding everytime i upload pictures and i cannot afford that time on the net while travelling. going back to using gallery but the new version doesn't allow me to login as administrator unless i go through configuration so that's holding me back. about to take a break and forget about the photo album for a while...

Posted by: Ripcord at September 22, 2004 04:06 AM

ripcord: roger that.

enjoy the break!

cheers!, jin

Posted by: erinnys at September 23, 2004 03:12 AM