Tech Support Follies

| 6 Comments

I e-mailed two questions to Earthlink's tech support in the last couple of weeks. The way they selectively answered my questions really irritated me.

1. This blog is hosted on my free "Personal Web Space" that comes with each Earthlink DSL account. I have been wondering for a while if I could run Movable Type in that web space. Movable Type conveniently provides a sample letter, so I sent the following:

I am interested in running a weblogging content management system called Movable Type (http://www.movabletype.org/) on my account. This system has the following requirements:

* The ability to run custom CGI scripts
* Perl, version 5.004_04 or greater

And, either:

Support for the DB_File Perl module *OR* MySQL & the DBD::mysql module

Does my account on your service meet these three requirements?

This is the response that I received:

We understand that you want to know if your account meet the requirements that you have provided. We are sorry to hear your situation.

Regarding your issue, we are sorry to inform you that you will not be able to run CGI scripts on your free webspace. We apologize for the inconvenience caused to you.

Notice that I asked 3 questions and Earthlink only answered one. I still have no idea whether my Personal Web Space can support applications that require Perl and/or MySQL.

2. In the course of migrating this blog from Blogger to Radio UserLand, I tried to set up .htaccess files on the web server to redirect traffic. No file I set up appeared to function at all (no matter where I placed it), so I sent the following to Earthlink's technical support:

I would like to know if I can use a .htaccess file to redirect file requests from one URL to another.

As an example, I would like to redirect http://tweezerman.home.mindspring.com/blog/index.html to http://tweezerman.home.mindspring.com/blog2/index.html.

1. Am I allowed to use a .htaccess file?
2. What directory does the .htaccess file need to be placed in? (root? /www? /www/blog?)
3. Can you show me how the proper Redirect command should look in the file? (There are others I need to set up besides this one.)

And here's the response I received back from them:

We understand that you are inquiring about redirecting, and htaccess.

You can redirect a web page to another address by uploading the file with the following lines:
<script>
window.location='http://www.yournewpage.com';
</script>

What really ticked me off about this answer was that I specifically asked about .htaccess files, and they tell me how to do redirects with JavaScript. I know about using JavaScript to do redirects (and that's what I ended up using). If I wanted to know about JavaScript, I would have asked about it. I can only assume that Earthlink's web servers will ignore any .htaccess files I place on the server, but who knows?

Fortunately, I was able to work around with the answers I received. It sure would be nice though if tech support would answer all the questions I actually asked.

6 Comments

I have Earthlink as my ISP, and I've never gotten an answer out of their email tech support that was even remotely related to the question! However, their phone tech support isn't bad. If you don't get an answer you trust, you can always call back, or gently insist on talking to someone higher up.

I'm not sure I'd use Earthlink for web hosting, though, at least for anything of a size approaching a blog. (I've heard too many stories from people who have had problems with that, although I don't have any links on hand to give you.) If you are thinking of switching to Movable Type (or using some other blogging software with specific server requirements), you might want to look into low-cost options such as Verve Hosting (which Dean's World seems to like), Hosting Matters, or Blogomania (my host).

On the other hand, if you have moved over from Blogger to RadioUserland, you may not want to switch again.

My experience with Earthlink's telephone support has been that you need to be both patient and persistent: expect to be on hold for a while, and as you said, repeatedly call back if you get answers that don't sound right. My worst experience with Earthlink's tech support was getting my DSL set up. I think I called them at least 10-12 times before I got it straightened out.

My primary goal was to get off of Blogger. Initially, I was just trying to figure what my options were with what I already had, without having to pay any extra. I can't really justify paying for a hosted account right now (with Earthlink or anyone else) - I don't get enough traffic to warrant the cost.

I hadn't heard any Earthlink web hosting horror stories, but it wouldn't surprise me that they actually happened.

Radio Userland is meeting my needs for the moment (it got me off of Blogger and I can use it with my free Earthlink web space). If that changes, I will be looking at my options again. Since I have gotten into blogging, I try to keep an eye on what's available - some shiny new toy could pop up that I decided I have to have.

Just stumbled on you earthlink .htaccess tech support story, well i have one for ya. I to have there personal web space and I am not up to speed on this website stuff. Anyways I was doing research, as I am now and was reading about restricting access to certain pages of the site I was making with an .htaccess file. Well not knowing what i was doing, I made a file and uploaded it to my site. And wow, it worked, but too good. My page was now restricted to all traffic. I couldn't get to my site at all. I used my ftp prog to login and remove the file, and it wasn't there. At least it wasn't visible to me. So on to tech support. I chose to use their live chat tech support and finnally got them to remove the file. So i know it supports .htaccess, but to what extent, you got me. And you also said something about not wanting to pay for a hosting service to host your blog. Well in my searching on the net for something for myself. I came across one that might interest you. 35 bucks to register a domain name for a year, and free hosting. Yes FREE hosting. check it out, i couldn't believe it either, http://mister.net/
Well just had the urge to give you info.
Div

This is to balance your Earthlink spin job.

First, you only asked 1 question. Count the question marks. Second, if you can't run CGI scripts, the rest of the script issues become moot and it is a waste of resources to discuss it further.

Regarding .htacces: Earthlink was right. htaccess is not a facility for redirection. It is an access control facility. HTML redirect or JavaScript redirect is the right answer. I think you were asking your ISP for a programming tutorial, not how is it done on Earthlink Webspace.

G

First, you only asked 1 question. Count the question marks.

One question with three parts. Answering only one part is still an incomplete answer, regardless of how many question marks there are.

Second, if you can't run CGI scripts, the rest of the script issues become moot and it is a waste of resources to discuss it further.

I didn't ask for a discussion - a simple "No" would have sufficed. Is it really a "waste of resources" to give a simple answer? I am aware now that not being able to run CGI scripts does render the other requirements moot, but would it have really been such a hassle to explain that?

Regarding .htaccess: Earthlink was right. htaccess is not a facility for redirection. It is an access control facility.

So why is it that you can do easily do redirects with .htaccess?

HTML redirect or JavaScript redirect is the right answer.

I don't remember asking for an opinion on what the "right answer" is. What I wanted to do was trivial with an .htaccess file, but a major pain the ass to do with HTML or javascript redirects.

I think you were asking your ISP for a programming tutorial, not how is it done on Earthlink Webspace.

Think whatever you want. I tried setting up a number of .htaccess files on the web space, none of which worked. This told me that either 1) Earthlink did not allow user .htaccess files, or 2) they have to set up an odd way. Saying one way or the other would have been very helpful, but Earthlink said neither.

Hi! I came across your site searching for information on using Movable Type. Like you I wanted to host my own blog. Although I've been seduced by TypePad, I am still looking around for a blog with the features I like AND the ability to host it on Earthlink.

Anyway, I've got a similar story with Earthlink's customer service.

My Problem as stated to them:
"Regardless of whether I check my email via WebMail or by POP, I keep getting login errors, usually saying my password is incorrect. However, a few minutes later it will work, and a few minutes after that it won't work again. My access has been very intermittant like this for the past 4 or 5 days. I have had no trouble with my cable access, nor logging into the "My Account" website. I have tried different mail clients, and all give the same spotty access."
I went on to describe in detail that I had been using Eudora without incident for a year previous to this problem suddenly popping up without any changes to Eudora's configuration, and how it will resolve itself if I wait long enough.

Their Response:
"We understand that you are having difficulties accessing your mails via Eudora. Kindly walk through these steps to help resolve the issue." [At this point they spewed out the instructions for the initial setup of Eudora.] "Eudora 6.0 is now fully configured for email! We hope this information helps resolve the issue."

My Response to that:
"My problem is not with configuring Eudora. As I had clearly stated in my original email, I have been using Eudora previously with no problems. And the problem is intermittent. It is NOT due to improper configuring of Eudora, since it is not specific to Eudora (I have the same problem access my account via the webmail) nor is it consistent. It "fixes" itself without any adjusting of the settings. Eudora is and has been configured correctly.
Next time, before you reply to a techincal problem, please read the customer's email before wasting your time writing a useless response and my time re-stating my problem for you again."

I tried their live chat support one time and the person just told me that it was some scheduled downtime for maintenance that was causing the problem. Yea, right. Every half-hour. And then they hit me with a salespitch for their Sprint special.

Needless to say this was several months ago, and I'm still living with the problem. One of these days when I have nothing better to do, I'll have to invest some time sitting on hold, I suppose.