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The Vagaries of Free Web Publishing

Around October 10, 2000, I experienced some problems uploading pages to GeoCities using MS FrontPage 2000: time outs and 'Server failed to respond' and some such. I suspected these were caused by my ISP's inability to provide a consistent speed on the connection to GeoCities. As I was fairly desperate to upload the latest version of my two WordPerfect macros, I resorted to FTP. All went well, the files got there and I could access them through my browser. A few days later I noticed that I couldn't access a file on my site where the actual filename and the href to it had different capitalisation. This had never been a problem before, why now?

A week later, I had some more updates to do and FrontPage failed again. I tried three different ISPs, and they all failed. I then began to suspect GeoCities itself, especially when FTP failed to upload a very small file called ALIASES.DAT with a weird error message about 'invalid extension'. At about the same time, I discovered a warning on GeoCities' site about not mixing FrontPage and FTP uploading; too late, I had already done that.

Then, using GeoCities' File Manager, I deleted my whole site and attempted to start again with FrontPage: same errors, no result. Using FTP I the discovered that Frontpage's hidden directories were hidden in GeoCities' File Manager as well. So I deleted them too, with FTP. Still, FrontPage didn't want to rebuild the site, and I discovered a note on GeoCities listing 'supported file types'; I never knew that there was a canonical list of file extensions, because I always had unusual extension stored on my web pages: .MZ, .ION, .BTM, and .DAT. So clearly, the enforced restriction to canonical extensions must have come into force recently.

Anyway, I was unable to rebuild my site with FrontPage, even when restricting myself to approved file extensions. So I resigned myself to giving up on FrontPage server extensions (not that I used many: just a counter and its 'webbot include' feature) and decided to upload everything (~13MB) again with FTP.

While that was going, I discovered a Bulletin Board on Yahoo, and one of its discussion areas was GeoCities. And the place was teeming with scores of irate users who had tales very similar to mine. One of the mentioned he might go to Tripod or Angelfire. That sparked my interest and I investigated. I found that Tripod offered 50MB of storage and allowed for FrontPage extensions. It also had web-based procedures do en- and dis-able users' home pages for use with FrontPage. It was now about 5 hours after I started my recovery operation, 1:00 in the morning.

So I signed up for Tripod, enabled my site to use FrontPage, and started uploading again, omitting all non-standard file extensions (and I started my hit counter at 8135, the approximate number when it died on GeoCities). At the same time, I made some editorial changes to my home page at GeoCities, mainly making all the links on it point to the new location at Tripod.

At this stage (14-Oct-00 14:00 Eastern Australia) I still have to find out whether unusual file extensions can be uploaded to Tripod and straighten the remarks on various pages regarding the move from GeoCities to Tripod.

15:00hrs: It seems that unusual file extensions can be uploaded to Tripod, so most of the .MZ files and all of the other ones are now back. However, there are a few other hiccups: the most minor one is that the counter doesn't work if the site is reached via (1) http://mcmbednarek.tripod.com/, only if you use (2) http://members.tripod.com/mcmbednarek/. But the latter address proved very inaccessible in the last hour, while the former worked at all times. I don't get it.

19:00hrs: The second address is now completely inaccessible and FrontPage can't publish any more, so I can't even get this very document uploaded. Must be a fault at Tripod. I wrote them on their Feedback Page, now I'll have to wait. In the meantime, I change the address references on GeoCities to the first address. On the other hand, FrontPage now works with GeoCities again, although the problem with unapproved file extensions still exists.

15-Oct-00 Wonders never cease: GeoCities seems to work again, apart from that restriction on file extensions. Here is what I did: I stored all MOZART files with the extension .mz.tmp, all other files (4DOS mainly) get the extension <foo>.TXT where <foo> is the original extension, like BTM. This works very well for the latter class, however the MOZART file behave quite unpredictably when clicked on in a bowser, depending on the user's registry setting. Mostly, the browser (I'm referring to Internet Explorer - I don't know any other) will attempt to display the MOZART file in a window instead of presenting the download dialogue. This behaviour seems to based on the fact that a MOZART file starts with a lot of simple ASCII text.
Animated Exclamation Mark (341 bytes) So, to download a MOZART file, the user has to right-click the link and select "Save Target As..." and omit the pseudo extension, or, once downloaded, remove the artificial .tmp extension by renaming the file.

Later that day: I now got some response from Tripod when I attempted to upload this site. I now hope to publish this whole site, using FrontPage, also on Tripod. Watch this space.

16-Oct-00 I hope I got it sorted now: I think I managed to get hosted (?) both on GeoCities and Tripod. To Tripod, I upload using FTP, to GeoCities I use FrontPage; as FTP seems much faster, I might change that, but it really shouldn't matter for the visitors. I hope I got all 492 files properly stored in both locations and would be grateful for reports about missing files.

13-Apr-02 GeoCities no longer supports FTP. As Tripod is still intermittenly difficult to reach, I looked for yet another free hosting service and found zerocatch. I re-wrote index.htm to point to zerocatch and will be uploading all files this afternoon.
As I don't know yet whether zerocatch will allow unusual file extensions (see above), and because I will maintain the files at Tripod at least for a little while longer, the obfuscating extensions (.tmp and .txt) will continue.
The annoying bit is that all this happened just a few weeks after I decided to get a second homepage on GeoCities because I was afraid of running out of space on the first one. I uploaded the whole Nozze section to the new homepage and changed some html files accordingly. That exercise seems to have gone without any problem.

Over the last two years, I have ceased using Microsoft FrontPage almost completely. The only useful feature left is the Include directive. Its sitemap is wrong for my site, its error checking no longer applicable, its upload facility relies on the host's co-operation and straight FTP is much faster and better to control. Thanks and kudos to JPSoft's implementation of FTP into their command processors, 4NT and Take/32.

11-May-02 The advertisements at 0catch proved too irritating. So I tried Tripod again over a few days and it seemed to be quite reliable. It has ads, too, but not quite as bad as 0catch. It also allows some Server Side Includes (SSI), which means that I can now completely abandon FrontPage as a web maintenance tool. Furthermore, Tripod seems to be more lenient now on unusual file extensions; I changed all .mz.tmp files to their proper .mz extension, and the 4DOS description files are now called descript.ion.. That leaves a few .btm batch files and a file with some definitions of aliases, which continue with a .txt extension. I also rewrote the main pages to utilize SSI.

The End

Last edited: 11-May-02 22:55 +1000