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.

MySQL replication connection error on non-standard ports

or, “Why SELinux was the worst thing to happen to Linux since LinuxThreads.”

Setting up MySQL master-slave replication is pretty straightforward. I’ve done it plenty of times. Similarly, running multiple MySQL server instances on the same host using mysqld_multi, really painless. Give each instance its own server-id and port to listen on, and that’s it.

In this case, the server that was being replicated was listening on port 3307. I could connect to it just fine using the mysql client using “-P 3307” as the replication user. It was clearly possible for the two machines to communicate over TCP port 3307. But, then, why was the MySQL slave I/O thread failing to connect to the master?

*************************** 1. row ***************************
               Slave_IO_State: Connecting to master
                  Master_Host: x.x.x.x
                  Master_User: repl
                  Master_Port: 3307
                Connect_Retry: 60
             Slave_IO_Running: Connecting
            Slave_SQL_Running: Yes
                Last_IO_Errno: 2003
                Last_IO_Error: error connecting to master 'repl@x.x.x.x:3307' - retry-time: 60  retries: 86400
1 row in set (0.00 sec)

Makes no sense, right? Right! Unless, of course, you’re on a machine–in this case, Red Hat Enterprise Linux 5.7–that has ever-so-helpfully screwed you by installing SELinux policies that restrict what ports mysqld can use, and has SELinux enabled by default.

How can you tell if SELinux is enabled and its policies are being enforced?

# grep 1 /selinux/enforce

If you get no output, then SELinux isn’t being enforced. But, if it is enabled, here’s how you can tell if mysqld‘s ability to make network connections is being restricted by a policy:

# semanage port -l | grep 3306
mysqld_port_t                  tcp      1186, 3306

You can tell if this is happening if you look in /var/log/audit/audit.log and see an entry like this:

type=AVC msg=audit(1320869122.773:56478): avc: denied { name_connect } for pid=2990 comm=”mysqld” dest=3307 scontext=user_u:system_r:mysqld_t:s0 tcontext=system_u:object_r:port_t:s0 tclass=tcp_socket

(I bolded the elements to keep an eye out for.)

So, how do we remedy the situation? Personally, my first recommendation is to turn SELinux off. It is always more trouble than it’s worth. I’ve never heard of a single anecdote where it improved security or otherwise did anything useful.

Disable SELinux by editing /etc/selinux/config and change the line that reads “SELINUX=enforcing” to “SELINUX=disabled” and then reboot the system. There’s some caveats around disabling SELinux with respect to re-enabling it in the future, but you’re never going to do that if you have a choice, so who cares.

If you absolutely must leave SELinux enabled, because you’re actually burning in Hell and being tortured by some unreasonable and irrational organizational policy that requires it, then this is how you can add ports to the list of ports that mysqld will be allowed to use:

# semanage port -a -t mysqld_port_t -p tcp 3307

This command might take a few seconds to complete, and won’t generate any output if successful. You can check to see if it did what you wanted using the same command we used before, but this time the newly added port should be in the list, as well:

# semanage port -l | grep 3306
mysqld_port_t                  tcp      3307, 1186, 3306

To make sure this really did fix the problem, lets look at the MySQL replication status, again:

*************************** 1. row ***************************
               Slave_IO_State: Waiting for master to send event
                  Master_Host: x.x.x.x
                  Master_User: repl
                  Master_Port: 3307
                Connect_Retry: 60
             Slave_IO_Running: Yes
            Slave_SQL_Running: Yes
                Last_IO_Errno: 0
1 row in set (0.00 sec)

And there you have it, replication configured on TCP port 3307, connected successfully, waiting for the master to send it updates, like it should be.

Hopefully, this has helped save you time, aggravation and much head-scratching as you tried to figure out why MySQL replication wasn’t working on a port other than 3306.

Got any other good gotcha stories like this? Share them in the comments below.