I honestly don’t understand how DreamHost stays in business.

Dossy tweeting: "@DreamHostCare Is anyone actually watching this Twitter account? You're about to lose a $350/mo customer because a server migration has been going on for 6+ hours now, with no updates from your end. What are you all doing over there?"

Yesterday, a client of mine was having their DreamHost dedicated server migrated to a new dedicated server because the one they are on intermittently becomes unresponsive at 8pm ET, seemingly at random.

DreamHost’s diagnosis is that the server is on a Linux kernel version that is supposedly causing this, and their recommended solution to the problem isn’t to just upgrade to a kernel that doesn’t have this problem, which would be trivially simple, but to upgrade the entire operating system and migrating to a new dedicated server.

As a person who manages servers for a living, I get it: it can suck having to support old stuff sometimes. The old server is on Ubuntu 14.04.6 LTS, which is quite old at this point, but isn’t due to reach End of Life until April 2022. The new dedicated server they’re moving us to is only on Ubuntu 18.04.5 LTS, which isn’t even the newest Ubuntu at this point, which would be Ubuntu 20.04.1 LTS. Still, any opportunity to force a customer to do a major OS upgrade because the service you’re providing is failing intermittently, I suppose if you don’t give a shit about your customer, you make them do it.

There’s only four small sites being hosted on this server.

There are a combined total of 103.3 GB worth of files, and 7.5 GB worth of MySQL data. These numbers might seem large by year 2000 standards, but in 2020, this is trivially small; it can all fit comfortably in RAM on any modern server, or stored on a modern iPhone.

Transferring this from one server to another over a 1 Gbps link shouldn’t take more than 19 minutes, and less than 2 minutes on a 10 Gbps link. Migrating from one server to another shouldn’t take more than 30 minutes, tops, and that’s if you’re a Neanderthal and type with your fucking elbows.

A woman typing on a Dell keyboard with her left elbow.
Source: odiouswench on YouTube

Thinking that this should be a quick and easy migration, we requested the migration back on October 28th, asking for a date and time when the migration could be done. On October 30th, DreamHost responds saying the data center team would need to do some prep, and that they’d let us know when they could schedule the upgrade, “likely early next week.”

Apparently, “early next week” in DreamHost-speak takes over a month.

Fast-forward a month, and on November 28th, I send a follow-up message asking what the status is with our request. Four days later, on December 2nd, I get a response saying they’re ready to go. I respond on December 3rd, requesting the soonest available time slot, because at this point I just want to get this over with. I get a response late that night saying that they’ll schedule the upgrade for the next day, December 4th, at 11am PT/2pm ET. Fantastic, we’ve got a plan!

The time comes, it’s 2pm ET, and I’m sitting here, with the Cloudflare panel open in one tab, the DreamHost panel open in another, and the sites all lined up in 4 other tabs, ready to pull the trigger on changing the DNS to point everything at the new server to minimize whatever downtime I can. I’m prepared.

At 2:57pm, I get an email from DreamHost saying that they’re only now starting the migration. 🤦 Okay, fine, whatever. The email says I’ll receive an automated email once the upgrade is done. Cool, let’s get this over with!

… time passes …

… and some more time passes …

… I’m starting to wonder if my spam filter ate their automated email …

… and the sites still haven’t been migrated …

At 7:26pm, I send an email pointing out that at least one of the sites is down because it can no longer connect to its database. I point out that I haven’t gotten an email that the migration has completed yet, so either their process has failed or they have seriously taken four and a half hours, so far, to complete a migration that should have been 30 minutes, tops.

At 8:37pm, having gotten no response to my earlier email, and the site still being down, I send another email, asking for an update. How much longer could this possibly take?

Getting no responses to my emails, I decide to give DreamHost support’s “live chat” a shot. I queue up at 9:17pm, and eventually get connected to a person at 9:27pm. I ask for a status update with our migration. I notice that while I was waiting in queue, an email arrived at 9:16pm saying their upgrade process failed and had to be restarted.

Are you fucking kidding me?

I stay on the live chat to try and get progress updates, and see if there’s any chance this is going to actually get done tonight. Sadly, at 10:19pm, I’m told that the migration process has failed again, and that the tech who was doing it will revert part of the migration to point the sites at the databases on the old dedicated server to bring the sites back online, and that they’ll come back to this on Monday.

At 10:42pm, I’m informed that the sites should be back online and that and that there’s nothing more that will be done this evening. I confirm that the sites are back online, and end the chat.


I was a long-time DreamHost customer, myself, since 2006. But, after they changed their service offering in 2015, I had enough and closed my account.

At that time, I was just happy enough to leave and leave it at that. But now, 5 years later, seeing that the DreamHost experience has continued to get worse over time, I’ve decided that not only am I not going to give them my business, I’m not going to have my clients give them their business, either.

If you’re currently hosted at DreamHost and unhappy and want to move away, but haven’t because you’re either uncomfortable moving your site by yourself, or you’ve tried hiring someone in the past to do it and they failed, I want to help move you.

Contact me and tell me about your DreamHost experience, and I’ll see to it that you’re moved to better hosting.

Who does a boycott really hurt?

The latest social media shitstorm is about Guido Barilla saying, “I would not do a commercial with a homosexual family, not for lack of respect toward homosexuals – who have the right to do whatever they want without disturbing others – but because I don

Business meals for self-employed, work-from-home consultants

I’d like to try and crowdsource an answer to a tax question I’ve had over the years but never felt like I had a good answer to:

IRS Topic 511, Business Travel Expenses, describes qualifying expenses while travelling. It is written with a very employee-centric tone, which isn’t particularly helpful for me as a self-employed consultant who works primarily out of his own home office.

1) Is New York City “close enough” to New Jersey to consider it the same “general area” or does travelling to New York City count as valid business travel in my case?

Suppose I have a client (one of many) for whom I travel, once a week, from my home office in New Jersey to their office in New York City. Since I earn the majority of my income working out of my home office in New Jersey, I think it’s appropriate to consider New Jersey my “tax home.” But, the tax topic is worded using the phrase “general area” which is vague. How is this supposed to be interpreted?

2) What does the IRS consider an “assignment”?

Topic 511 refers to temporary and indefinite “assignments” and talks about durations less and greater than one year. For the self-employed consultant, are clients considered “assignments”? Are individual projects for a client an “assignment”? I can’t find a definition for “assignment” in the IRS Tax Glossary.

Most clients of mine are of the “indefinite” kind, ones I intend to work with for at least a year or more. Individual projects for my clients generally span anywhere from less than a single day up to several months, but never a year or more.

I think this qualifies my one-day-a-week on-site visits as “short term travel” and therefore my travel expenses are deductible, but given sufficiently loose interpretations in the IRS’s favor, it makes me nervous. How is this supposed to be interpreted?

Naturally, I can arrive at my own conclusions and interpretations of what this all means. What I’d like to know is if anyone here has dealt with the IRS with respect to these two issues, and what their official stance is.

I suppose I could try and call the IRS and try to explain this to them and get an answer, but I’m not too keen on getting a verbal one-off interpretation by some call center representative. Getting this in writing is somewhat important, for obvious reasons.

Dear Nintendo, bring the sexy back!

You know what? Playing Super Mario Bros., the vintage NES version, on the Wii, really sucks. Why? The slight lag due to the Bluetooth Wiimote just makes the gameplay not feel identical … and it bugs me. :-(

NES console with controller

Nintendo needs to release with a “throwback NES” — a game console contained inside the original NES plastic housing, with every NES title ROM ever released, preloaded on a 64 GB flash chip, with the original connectors and two vintage corded square NES controllers. It would power on, you’d select what game you want to play from a menu, and it would load the ROM off the flash memory. Sure, I’d miss the occasional blowing on the contacts of the cartridge, but this would be such an awesome product.

I’d pay $100, maybe even $150, for it. And I’d play with it a hell of a lot more than I play with the Wii.

The first sale doesn’t count

People waiting in line to enter a building.
(Flickr: dominicspics)

When I used to do freelance work, I’d focus on getting it done and wrapping it up then moving onto another project. I’d seek out projects that, once complete, had a minimal amount of ongoing maintenance. Basically, once I was done with a project, that was usually the last I’d hear from the client, despite the glowing praise that they’d give me at the end.

In other words: I sucked at sales.

But, how is that possible? I’d find clients, engage them, close the sale and deliver the goods! Sounds like I’m a great salesperson — there’s plenty of sales people out there who can’t even do this much, right? Sure, I might not be the worst salesperson ever, but I forgot the golden rule of sales.

The first sale doesn’t count.

Huh?! “Of course it does,” you’re probably thinking. “You got their money, why doesn’t it count?” Let me explain …

Many years ago, my friend Peter, who I consider to be a master salesperson, when I first started freelancing, let me in on a little secret. He simply told me, “The first sale doesn’t count.” He went on to explain that anyone, willing to do or say anything, can get just about any qualified lead to buy at least once. However, the cost of new customer acquisition makes this an infeasible, unsustainable way to do business. The real money is in continued sales with existing customers.

I totally ignored this essential rule. Basically, I’ve been a wage slave, trading hours for dollars, except this time with only myself to blame. I wasn’t building a business, I was just earning money. And, for a long time, this was okay, because I had steady income and I had no reason to do things differently.

Now that I’m doing doing this full-time, without the safety net of that steady income, I’ve spent a lot more time studying what I do, figuring out what’s working and what’s not. I realized that I have to change the way I operate — the way I do business — and remind myself that the first sale doesn’t count.

So, what do I do, then?

I need to focus on improving my up-sell and cross-sell skills. I need to find ways of turning good customers into sources of continuous, incremental revenues. I need to invest my time in creating products that can generate passive income, so I can stop trading hours for dollars. I have to build a network of reliable contacts who I can hire to do the work that doesn’t necessarily require my direct involvement.

Sure, this all probably seems very obvious, but it’s surprised me how many entrepreneurs and freelancers I’ve talked to seem to have missed learning this vital lesson, myself included. Perhaps you’re making the same mistake, or you’ve moved past it or avoided it altogether. I’d like to hear your story in the comments below!