No, I'm not selling pills

—Monday, October 02 2006

If you’ve tried to visit Encytemedia over the past few days, you probably got a nasty ad page selling you natural male enhancement and everything in between. I never knew there was a problem though because the website loaded fine for me, but why?

Genesis of oblivious

When I was working to move this site to a new server, I had to change the name servers for Encytemedia. My ISP was extremely slow at updating their DNS records, so I needed to take action before I could, uh…take action. Without hesitation I opened up my hosts file and added an entry for and pointed it to the new ip address and poof, I was in business. Little did I know this would come back to bite me in the ass later.

Problems? No. It’s just Mongrel whacking out

A couple days ago people started emailing me letting me know my site was down. It turns out that it was down. When I checked on the site I was seeing 503 errors. I’ve been having a couple hiccups with Mongrel that had been causing this, but I knew how to get it back running with no problem. So I did just that, and everything was back sailing smooth once again.

Hey dude, you starting a new business?

The next day I start getting more emails and seeing more comments saying that my site was still just a crazy ad. I checked it, and I was still seeing the blog as it was meant to be seen. Racking my brain in panic as I look at mint showing almost no visitors the past few days I’m trying to figure out what the hell is going on. Then it hit me! I modified my hosts file. This was the reason I wasn’t seeing the problem. Once I changed the hosts file back, to my horror my domain name was pointing to one of those catch-all ad pages.

Then it hit me! I modified my hosts file.

Cause and Effect

Why was my domain pointing to an ad page? I had no idea so I head over to my domain registrar and see that it doesn’t expire for some time, then I see that the name servers are no longer there. I try to change them back only to get an error message telling me that my domain name has expired. The fear had really set in now, and I thought that it’s possible that I have just lost the life blood of my online presence; the domain which drives my business; the blog which I’ve put so much energy into; it could all be gone if the domain name I was tied too was no longer mine. It’s like getting to the last level of a very hard video game, having the power cut off, and realizing you never saved your progress.

It’s like getting to the last level of a very hard video game, having the power cut off, and realizing you never saved your progress.

I quickly called my registrar and talked to someone who knew what they were doing (which is rare nowadays). The guy quickly fixed the problem, and about 10 minutes later everything was back the way it was and I could finally breathe a sigh of relief.

I was in such a state of shock and panic that I never asked what caused the problem, I just hung up the phone and crossed my fingers that it would start working again. I was glad it did and that my domain name never actually expired.

Moral of the story

If you modify your hosts file in relation to a real domain name, make sure you change it back after your done doing what you need to do. Panic == Productivity.