Category Archives: slicehost

Denial of (advertised) Service Attack!

Last spring, I posted this tutorial on how to use rsync to upload data to a Dreamhost server. It’s still the most popular article ever posted on that blog, even more popular than my liturgical poetry, if you can imagine.

The result was 25 new dreamhost customers who signed up through the link in that article.

Dreamhost then altered their terms of service to prevent this sort of thing, and made a big stink about it on their support site. I was willing to suffer through some of the downtime, the server chokes, the high load times and stick it out with them because of the huge bandwidth pipe and large dump truck they were offering.

Now, they’re limiting how we can use that bandwidth and data. Apparently, they didn’t really sell me a chunk of storage and a chunk of bandwidth, what they sold me was the ability to do one specific thing (host a website) up to a certain size and distribution load. What a load.

The new Terms of Service (TOS) now specify that you may not use Dreamhost for anything that’s not primarily related to one of your hosted websites. Here are some of the things I use my Dreamhost account for that, apparently, are no longer considered acceptable usage.

  1. Off-site backup of my studio computer. Ok, I get it. This is a pretty big strain on your system. Even though it was one of my reasons for maintaining such a large account, I’ll quit doing this and find another solution.
  2. WebDAV transfers between my students and I. I teach at a University, and I have a WebDAV folder setup for them to use to pass projects back and forth to me. It’s unclear to me why Dreamhost even offers WebDAV under the new TOS, since there’s no way to access that folder from an HTTP or PHP request. It is, by definition, unrelated to web hosting.
  3. WebDAV synchronization of my iCal calendars between my wife and I. Our lives would be a mess if we couldn’t sync calendars. Again, not related to web-hosting, now an illegal use of Dreamhost.
  4. FTP transfer of media files between my clients and I. I record and produce music, frequently music to video, which means I rely on the ability to transfer large media files to and from clients. One of the reasons I bought a Dreamhost account was to setup an FTP transfer account for this. Again, not related to web-hosting, not legal under their TOS.
  5. Mirrored backups of sites hosted elsewhere. I host many, many websites with other hosting providers, in addition to my sites with Dreamhost. I do regular rsync backups of these sites to Dreamhost, complete with intact folder structures and database archives. If one of those other hosts goes down, I can switch to Dreamhost and take that backup live. Is this a violation? I’m honestly not sure. Until I actually make the DNS switch and serve the data from Dreamhost, the files sitting on the server are, strictly speaking, just backup data, the kind of thing explicitly prohibited by their TOS.
  6. File Server for podcast files. I host a podcast with about 2,500 daily subscribers, and about 10,000 downloads per episode – I need it to be up 24/7, and Dreamhost seems to be able to provide about 22 hours at a stretch, before their central networking router goes down. So, I host the actual website at There I have my own dedicated virtual server, no downtime, snappy response, it’s basically perfect. But the podcast uses about a terabyte of bandwidth a month, and that would be prohibitively expensive through slicehost. Instead, I host the actual podcast files on Dreamhost, and I reference them from the site on slicehost. Is this illegal? It sure seems to be, since I’m not hosting the site itself on Dreamhost, but I don’t know.

I think what the new Terms of Service boil down to is this: Dreamhost is no longer interested in working with power users. If you need to host a simple LOLcats homage site, by all means, come sign up with us. If you’re looking to actually USE the services we advertise though, like rsync between servers, WebDAV file sharing, FTP services, any backend sharing of data that doesn’t relate to your LOLcats site, then don’t bother. We’re not interested.

For those who feel unduly constrained by those limitations, let me be the first to invite you to Slicehost. Get your own dedicated bandwidth, your own chunk of harddrive, and then do whatever you want with it. Check out their Terms of Service: as long as it’s not illegal, hackerish, or spam-a-licious, they don’t care what you do with your server.

Come live the dream.

distro fever

I got my slice! I got my slice!

True, I had to wait in line for a week to get it, but that’s how it is when you sign up to hang out with the cool kids. You have to wait in line, and give them your fruit roll-ups at lunch. And do their homework.

Step 1: choose which linux distribution you want to install on your server.


I thought it was just linux! You know, like Windows, OSX, Linux … what the hell is a distribution? Hi-ho, hi-ho, it’s off to Google I go …

chrooting your awesome up onto our technologies

After searching for nearly a week to try to find a hosting plan that made sense for me, I realized that I don’t really need a full-blown dedicated server. Even though I run one very high-bandwidth podcast, and one fairly active blog, most of my traffic is static (the blog is cached, so the PHP stuff isn’t sweating too hard). What I really need is something in-between shared hosting, which had started to drain the life out of my soul, and dedicated hosting, which seemed likely to drain the life out of my wallet.

Enter the brand new hotness, VPS. Basically, you buy a slice of a server, and it runs under a virtualization host (Xen seems to be everybody’s girlfriend these days). You have a chunk of harddrive, you install your own operating system and build it out in whatever way you want. You get a guaranteed minimum amount of RAM at your disposal, with the ability to spike over that amount if no one else on the server is using it.

Perfect. It’s not shared hosting with 3000 porn sites, it’s shared hosting with 4, 8, or 16 people, depending on the size of the slice you buy. Nothing they do can jack up your mojo, and you get to setup the server in whatever way seems good to you.

There are a lot of new hosting companies offering this kind of setup – I went with slicehost because their website just screams, “screw fancy designs, we’re too busy chrooting your awesome up onto our technologies, yo!”

And that’s what I want in a hosting company.