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cultural vandal | by maryann johanson

server issues, again, and a question for the technically minded

If I’m guessing correctly — based on the last time a comment was posted last night and the kind of traffic I might have expected on an early Sunday morning — FlickFilosopher.com was down again for perhaps as long as 12 hours, up until just a few minutes ago.

If you tried to load the site during that time, you may have gotten something that looked like a error message, or your browser may have suggested that you were trying to download a program and where did you want to save it? That happens because — this is gonna get a little technical, which is as much technical as I can manage — this one line in my htaccess file:

AddHandler application/x-httpd-php5 .html .php .htm .html

keeps mysteriously getting commented out. For reasons that my web host is not able to explain or prevent — though I do keep asking them to — if suddenly turns into this:

# AddHandler application/x-httpd-php5 .html .php .htm .html

which means the server ignores that line and subsequently does not understand how to interpret the HTML pages you’re asking for, and curls up into ball in a virtual corner and starts sobbing.

Now, my host is starting to insist that it’s my job to correct that htaccess file when this problem crops up, which would, indeed, be much faster than waiting on them to do it, except every time I’d tried to make that fix myself in the past, it would hose things even more, as happened this morning: for a few hours after I reuploaded the htaccess file I edited, it was suddenly all Internal Server Errors. So I wasted hours this morning trying to figure out why I was having such problems working on a simple text file, the upshot of which was that I ended up downloading a new program to deal with editing that file, and it seems to have done the trick.

The real issue is, however: I am not the one commenting out that vital directive in the htaccess file. And I think it’s a bit rich for a web host who guarantees 99.9 percent uptime to expect that a customer should have to babysit a site 24/7 so that she can quickly correct a problem that is none of her doing and might recur at any given random interval in order to maintain that uptime.

I’m really at my wit’s end with the whole thing.

So here’s the promised question: Do any of you with hosting/server expertise have any idea what could be automatically commenting out a single directive in an htaccess file? My host has variously blamed Apache and PHP upgrades and unknown server scripts, but no definitive solution to the mystery has been discovered. (If I were really paranoid I might suspect that someone was just fucking with me and trying to drive me crazy.) Could those do it? And if so, how do we stop it?

I really would love not to have to be my own site administrator. It takes too much time away from the real work.



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