Saturday, June 17, 2017

Trials and Tribulations of ASP.Net Hosting Services Migration

Warning: Super Boring Stuff Ahead.



If you're not into the Technical Geekery of Web Hosting feel free to ignore this post. But it is part of the process I am going through to establish Elthos.com in the world, and so I think it's fair game to post about it.  After all, it's directly related to the successful implementation of Elthos. 

And besides, I have a question for you Geekmeisters out there...

What is your impression of the Technical Support as demonstrated below?

A) Not bad.
B) Not great but average for the industry.
C) Pretty bad, but it can be lived with.
D) No... This is the Proverbial Red Flag - Don't walk; Run to the exit!

Some additional factors to consider:

When I called for phone support the technician informed me they only do technical support by phone in the case of emergencies.  He also mentioned that they only have 5% of their users on the Windows hosting platform, and they are 95% geared towards supporting Linux based implementations.  He also dropped that "Windows always has problems, but everything with Linux is simple and easy."

That leads me to wonder if they have any support staff who actually knows what they are doing with Windows Servers.  Sure it's different than Linux, granted. But a competent Windows Admin can handle Windows based issues just as well as a competent Linux Admin can handle Linux based issues.  It's a matter of knowing the domain.  I got the impression they offer ASP.Net hosting as a second though, and have very little experience with it.

On the other hand it has been a struggle all along to find a non-EIG hosting company that even attempts to support ASP.Net, let alone one with the various services and features that InterServer offers, especially at their price of $5 / month, which is very reasonable. OR ... is this one of those "too good to be true" scenarios and I should bag it, stick with (EIG owned) Arvixe and just plan on spending more than I want for SSL, and plan on migrating sometime before Arvixe implodes (EIG does that to web hosting companies - I know, I've gone through 4 of them... all consumed and destroyed by EIG one after the other).

What do you think?  Would you stick with these guys?  Or stay with your current (soon to perish from asphyxiation) host and keep looking around?  Thoughts?  Recommendations?  Laughter?

Anyway, here's the text with the important technical bits redacted... For the record:


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Posted on: June 17, 2017 1:36:39PM

Thanks for the update

Please let us know if you need any further assistance

Techie 2


Vbwyrde@yemail.com

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Posted on: June 17, 2017 1:35:10PM

I guess that is the best InterServer can do. I will decide what I want to do about this later this evening when I get back to my office.

-- Techie 2 3S
InterServer

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Posted on: June 17, 2017 1:19:59PM

We can solve your technical errors through our ticket system , such technical issues should not be solved over phone support

Yes to install Let`s encrypt SSL certificate you need to point your website to our dns servers

Techie 2


Vbwyrde@yemail.com

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Posted on: June 17, 2017 12:52:27PM

The issue is that I need to work through whatever issues may be pending with the ASP.Net site which is the MythosMachine.elthos.com subdomain. I would prefer to do this before switching the domain to your dns servers if at all possible in order to mitigate downtime on the site.

The problem is that when I try to use this link to test the ASP.Net site

http://xx.xx.xxx.xxx/plesk-site-preview/mythosmachine.elthos.com/xx.xx.xxx.xxx/

I get the bad gateway error:

Bad Gateway
Web server received an invalid response while acting as a gateway or proxy server.

So it seems from what you are saying there is no way I can test the site before going live with it. This appears to be due to the fact that the subdomain is an ASP.Net site which requires SSL, but SSL can not be installed without changing name servers. This puts me in an awkward position. I am concerned that even after we change the name servers, and install SSL, I will then be facing any number of configuration issues with the site, that each will need to be resolved in order before the site can function properly. I think we are not that far from resolving the remaining configuration issues, but it could take a few laps around the park before everything is setup correctly. My biggest concern is that the turnaround time for the tickets ranges between 10 minutes at the best to 6 hours at the worst, and I fear this will take more than a few more corrections on the ASP.Net site before we have everything correctly in place. I'm wondering if there is anything you can do to expedite this process? For example, could I get dedicates phone support to drive through any remaining issues with the ASP.Net implementation? Or can you suggest any other means by which to expedite the resolution process? Thanks.

-- Techie 2 3S
InterServer

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Posted on: June 17, 2017 12:40:37PM

Your website is loading at preview URL http://xx.xx.xxx.xxx/plesk-site-preview/www.elthos.com/xx.xx.xxx.xxx/

To install let`s encrypt SSL , You need to point your domain to our dns servers

xxxxxxxxxa.xxxxxx.net
xxxxxxxxxb.xxxxxx.net

Techie 2


Vbwyrde@yemail.com

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Posted on: June 17, 2017 12:38:00PM

-- Techie 2 3S
InterServer


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Posted on: June 17, 2017 10:45:45AM

Your website is loading at preview URL http://xx.xx.xxx.xxx/plesk-site-preview/www.elthos.com/xx.xx.xxx.xxx/

To install let`s encrypt SSL , You need to point your domain to our dns servers

xxxxxxxxxa.xxxxxx.net
xxxxxxxxxb.xxxxxx.net

Techie 2


Vbwyrde@yemail.com


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Posted on: June 17, 2017 8:00:48AM

Hi Techie 2,
So I'm not sure how to handle this. At this point I can not preview the site to ensure that it's working. Apparently in order to do so I need to have Let's Encrypt installed. But I can't do that because, if I understand you correctly, the site is still pointing to the Arvixe servers. Is that correct? If so, I'm not sure how to handle this efficiently. I don't want to point to the new servers at InterServer until Ive tested the site to make sure it works properly, but apparently, from the sequence of instructions so far, I don't see how to do that. Can you offer advice on what steps to take at this point? Thanks again.

-- Techie 2 3S
InterServer


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Posted on: June 17, 2017 5:42:53AM

In order to install Let's Encrypt certificate, domain should be resolving to the IP of the server from where the certificate is being installed.
As I can see, the domain elthos.com is still pointing to different dns, however it actually resolves to IP xxx.xx.xx.xxx

Techie 2

-- Techie 2 3S
InterServer


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Posted on: June 16, 2017 11:10:57PM

We will update you once SSL installation completed

Techie 2


Vbwyrde@yemail.com


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Posted on: June 16, 2017 11:07:20PM

Ok. I look forward to getting this finished. Thank you.

-- Techie 2 3S
InterServer


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Posted on: June 16, 2017 11:05:14PM

We will look into this let`s encryot installation error with Plesk technical support

Error: Let's Encrypt SSL certificate installation failed: Challenge marked as invalid. Details: Fetching http://www.elthos.com/.well-known/acme-challenge/ Timeout

We will update you once it is fixed

Techie 2


Vbwyrde@yemail.com


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Posted on: June 16, 2017 10:08:24PM

I tried adding Let's Encrypt first to Elthos.com. I selected both checked options for www and email. I got this error:

Error: Let's Encrypt SSL certificate installation failed: Challenge marked as invalid. Details: Invalid response from http://elthos.com/


Vbwyrde@yemail.com


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Posted on: June 16, 2017 10:04:05PM

Thank you for your advice. Much appreciated. I will go ahead and add it as you suggest.

Techie 4
InterServer


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Posted on: June 16, 2017 10:00:02PM

Hi

You need to install the SSL certificate separately on each sub domain. For ASP.NET sites, it is possible that the web.config file might cause issues for Lets Encrypt to parse the verification file for issuing SSL certificates. Hence, you can temporarily rename web.config before enabling Let's Encrypt for this site


Regards,
Techie 4,
Support team


Vbwyrde@yemail.com


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Posted on: June 16, 2017 9:55:39PM

Ok perhaps that will resolve it. I will try. But I have a question. Since I have elthos.com as a wordpress site, and mythosmachine.elthos.com as an asp.net site which is the subdomain for elthos.com ... do I install the Let's Encrypt only on the elthos.com site, and it propagates to the subdomain, or do I need to install it on both? Thanks again.

-- Techie 2 3S
InterServer


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Posted on: June 16, 2017 9:51:05PM

Your subdomain is loading at http://mythosmachine.elthos.com/

You can install free SSL (let`s encrypt) in Plesk panel

Kind Regards,

Techie 2


Vbwyrde@yemail.com


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Posted on: June 16, 2017 9:25:56PM

Yes, after 45 minutes the browser is still "waiting for response from mythosmachine.elthos.com..."
I tried re-cycling the Application Pool and stopping and starting it again, but that does not appear to have worked. I do get this error however:

This site can’t be reached

The webpage at https://mythosmachine.elthos.com/ might be temporarily down or it may have moved permanently to a new web address.
ERR_SPDY_PROTOCOL_ERROR

-- Techie 2 3S
InterServer


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Posted on: June 16, 2017 8:51:55PM

You are welcome

Techie 2


Vbwyrde@yemail.com


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Posted on: June 16, 2017 8:46:17PM

Thank you Sam. Will do.

As for the MythosMachine.Elthos.com link ... I am no longer getting the ASP.NET State service error ... however, when I attempt to load the page it hangs on "waiting for MythosMachine.Elthos.com..." ... I've tried several times in three browsers. It simply hangs indefinitely without error, but also without loading the page. I've waited about 20 minutes. If an error does come up I will send it along, but in the meantime, do you happen to know what might cause that? Thanks!

-- Techie 2 3S
InterServer


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Posted on: June 16, 2017 8:33:37PM

This login to Plesk panel , Please create your custom FTP login in Plesk panel

Techie 2


Vbwyrde@yemail.com


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Posted on: June 16, 2017 8:30:49PM

In the email I received when I created the ASP.Net Windows Hosting plan I got these credentials for FTP:

Your UserName : xxxxxxx
Your Password : xxxxxxxxx
FTP URL : ftp://xx.xx.xxx.xxx

However, I do not seem able to log in with these credentials either by ftp program nor command prompt. Can you verify that these credentials are correct please?

-- Techie 2 3S
InterServer


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Posted on: June 16, 2017 7:54:38PM

ASP.NET State Service should be and running on your server

Techie 2


Vbwyrde@yemail.com


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Posted on: June 16, 2017 5:47:44PM

Ah. ok. I see. That works.

I get an error about the ASP State Server.

System.Web.HttpException: Unable to make the session state request to the session state server. Please ensure that the ASP.NET State service is started and that the client and server ports are the same. If the server is on a remote machine, please ensure that it accepts remote requests by checking the value of HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\SYSTEM\CurrentControlSet\Services\aspnet_state\Parameters\AllowRemoteConnection. If the server is on the local machine, and if the before mentioned registry value does not exist or is set to 0, then the state server connection string must use either 'localhost' or '127.0.0.1' as the server name.

Techie 4
InterServer


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Posted on: June 16, 2017 5:38:41PM

Hi

You will use the sub domain mythosmachine.elthos.com in the browser and it should point to the new IP address (overrides DNS resolution due to the hosts entries) and verify if the site is working

Regards,
Techie 4,
Support team


Vbwyrde@yemail.com


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Posted on: June 16, 2017 5:36:33PM

I changed the host file as directed. However, that did not resolve the issue. I still get the same error message:

Bad Gateway

Web server received an invalid response while acting as a gateway or proxy server.

http://xx.xx.xxx.xxx/plesk-site-preview/mythosmachine.elthos.com/xx.xx.xxx.xxx/

I have double checked the hosts file to ensure the change was saved correctly and it was.
Techie 4
InterServer


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Posted on: June 16, 2017 5:13:12PM

Hi

I see that the sub domain is using ASP.NET pages, the preview URL function uses the default plesk application pool for the website. Hence, I would suggest you open c:\windows\system32\drivers\etc\hosts file (Windows) or /etc/hosts (Linux/Mac) as administrator/root user on your computer and add the below entries to the file.

xx.xx.xxx.xxx mythosmachine.elthos.com

This will point the sub domain to the server temporarily without changing the Ip address for the sub domains. When the sub domain works, you can remove the entries from the file and update the Name servers or Ip address for this sub domain

Regards,
Techie 4,
Support team


Vbwyrde@yemail.com


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Posted on: June 16, 2017 5:01:27PM

Thank you. It is working now. I'm not sure how that happened, but thanks for your help. Much obliged.

I have one more problem with the MythosMachine.Elthos.com com in preview. I get this error:

Bad Gateway
Web server received an invalid response while acting as a gateway or proxy server.

http://xx.xx.xxx.xxx/plesk-site-preview/mythosmachine.elthos.com/xx.xx.xxx.xxx/

Thanks again for your help.

Techie 4
InterServer


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Posted on: June 16, 2017 4:49:57PM

Hi

I reset the database user passsword to aDC=xxxxxxxxxx and the site is loading now


Regards,
Techie 4,
Support team


Vbwyrde@yemail.com


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Posted on: June 16, 2017 4:23:15PM

I have confirmed them. Please see what you can make of it.

db: xxxxxxx
user: xxxxxxx
password: xxxxxxxxxx

Techie 4
InterServer


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Posted on: June 16, 2017 3:59:41PM

Hello

Please confirm the database user name, password and database name you set up in wp-config.php so we can try correcting the database details


Regards,
Techie 4,
Support team


Vbwyrde@yemail.com

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Posted on: June 16, 2017 2:30:06PM

PS - the preview URL is:

http://xx.xx.xxx.xxx/plesk-site-preview/elthos.com/xx.xx.xxx.xxx/


Vbwyrde@yemail.com


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Posted on: June 16, 2017 2:29:17PM

Hi Techie 2,

Thanks. I figured out how to get the ProfessionalGamemasterSociety wordpress database installed and that is now working in preview. I'm currently working on the Elthos wordpress database but having a problem with it.

First when I tried to create the user account, the original password for the account wasn't accepted due to disallowed character in the password string (it will not take a quote " as a character, apparently). So I changed the password and was able to both create the user and then load the database and fill it. I can query it with the mySql administration utility and it works fine and I can see the data.

I then went ahead and changed the password for the database in the wp-config.php file and saved that. It now has the new password for the elthos user.

However, when I go to preview the site, I get the same message as before:

Error establishing a database connection

As the ProfessionalGamemasterSociety is working, I think I have the correct steps, and I'm wondering if having to change the original password to a new one may have caused a problem. I'm hoping you can help me resolve this issue. Thanks.

-- Techie 2 3S
InterServer


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Posted on: June 16, 2017 9:59:33AM

1-You need to restore your wordpress database backup , backup zip files are giving error to open from our end

2- changing db name will not affect using Enterprise Manager but you need to change db name in web.config database connection string if any

Techie 2


Vbwyrde@yemail.com


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Posted on: June 16, 2017 9:43:24AM

Just so I'm clear on this ... are you going to do the database restore for the word press site? Or does the free migration only include file transfers?

As for the Import. I followed the directions given in your link. I know it shouldn't change the database name. That's why I'm asking about it.

You didn't give me any information on how I should change the name at this point. Does it matter if I use Enterprise Manager on my end to change the name? Or will that mess up some back end feature and screw things up for the site?

Thanks for your help and advice.

-- Techie 2 3S
InterServer


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Posted on: June 16, 2017 9:38:17AM

1-Restoring SQL backup should not change SQL db name

You need to follow steps here https://www.interserver.net/tips/kb/import-mssql-database-windows/

2-Error in your website "Error establishing a database connection" , It seems that your wordpress database is not restored and connected yet



Techie 2


Vbwyrde@yemail.com


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Posted on: June 16, 2017 9:12:56AM

As for the ProfessionalGamemasterSociety.com site, when I try to preview it I get the error:

Error establishing a database connection

http://xx.xx.xxx.xxx/plesk-site-preview/professionalgamemastersociety.com/xx.xx.xxx.xxx/

What needs to be done to get this site up and running?
Thanks!


Vbwyrde@yemail.com


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Posted on: June 16, 2017 8:13:30AM

Thank you Techie 2.

Question: Any idea why the import process changed the name of my database to ElthosCo_ ? And what the best / safe way I can change that to it's correct name, Elthos_ODS? I don't want to change it in Enterprise Manager (which seems to be the only way available that I can find so far) if that is going to corrupt the view in Plesk (ie - I don't want to risk inadvertently mess up any backend systems by changing the name in Enterprise Manager). Thanks.

-- Techie 2 3S
InterServer


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Posted on: June 16, 2017 5:47:55AM

You will be able to access MyLittleAdmin after pointing your websites to our dns servers

xxxxxxxxxxxxxa.net
xxxxxxxxxxxxxb.net

Kind Regards,

Techie 2


Vbwyrde@yemail.com


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Posted on: June 15, 2017 11:14:08PM

Hi Techie 2,
I have imported the first database. That went ok. however, the process of importing the database renamed it to elthosco_ for some reason. Also when I try to get into the MyLittleAdmin I get this error:

This site can’t be reached

The connection was reset.
Try:
Checking the connection
Checking the proxy and the firewall
ERR_CONNECTION_RESET

That said, I can access the database via Enterprise Manager with no problem. I'm simply not sure if I should rename the database to the correct name via Enterprise Manager, or wait until we resolve the MyLittleAdmin issue and use that to (I would expect) rename it that way. What do you think?

-- Techie 2 3S
InterServer


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Posted on: June 15, 2017 10:45:30PM

After creating your SQL databases in Plesk panel

You can connect remotely to your MSSQL database using SQL server management studio

Download SQL Server Management Studio

https://www.microsoft.com/en-us/download/details.aspx?id=29062


xx.xx.xxx.xxx\MSSQLSERVER2012

Authentication : SQL server authentication

Techie 2


Vbwyrde@yemail.com


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Posted on: June 15, 2017 10:38:57PM

Thank you Techie 2. Can I link to the SQL Server instance from my Management Studio? Or can I only go through the Plesk interface at this point?

-- Techie 2 3S
InterServer


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Posted on: June 15, 2017 10:28:32PM

1-We are not able to open any of your SQL databases zip files

a) Elthos_ODS.zip
b) Elthos_ODS_A.zip
c) Elthos_YAF.zip

2-To restore your MSSQL databases backup , please upload it in .BAK format to your home directory using ftp and we will restore for you

How to import MSSQL database in Plesk panel

https://www.interserver.net/tips/kb/import-mssql-database-windows/

3-You need to create your SQL databases in Plesk control panel https://pleskxxxxxxx:xxxx with the same SQL usernames and passwords

Techie 2


Vbwyrde@yemail.com


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Posted on: June 15, 2017 10:10:32PM

Thank you Techie 2. Will you also be restoring the three Databases as listed below?

Set up 3 SQL Server 2012 Databases:
a) Elthos_ODS.zip
b) Elthos_ODS_A.zip
c) Elthos_YAF.zip
Please ensure the user accounts are working.
Please send me required credentials so I can link to the SQL Server 2012 using MS Database Management Studio and administer my 3 databases.

Also, as the ProfessionalGamemasterSociety.com is WordPress site, is it working in wordpress at this time, or does further configuration work need to be done on the server for that?

Same question for Elthos.com

Thanks again!

-- Techie 2 3S
InterServer


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Posted on: June 15, 2017 9:23:12PM

Your websites files transfer completed and restored to home directory

elthos.com to >> \httpdocs

professionalgamemastersociety.com to >> \professionalgamemastersociety.com

mythosmachine.elthos.com to >> \mythosmachine.elthos.com

Techie 2


Vbwyrde@yemail.com


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Posted on: June 15, 2017 5:21:45PM

ok thank you.

-- Techie 2 3S
InterServer

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Posted on: June 15, 2017 5:15:28PM

Your websites elthos.com and professionalgamemastersociety.com files transfer started to our server

Backup files are not opening

I will update you once transfer is completed

Techie 2


Vbwyrde@yemail.com


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Posted on: June 15, 2017 4:59:22PM

Lastly is the ProfessionalGamemasterSociety.com site which is also wordpress and goes into the ProfessionalGamemasterSociety.com domain on InterServer.

ftp://xxxxx@ftp.xxxxx.xxxxxx.xxxxxx/professionalgamemastersociety.com

Also using the same username and password as the other two.


Vbwyrde@yemail.com


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Posted on: June 15, 2017 4:54:00PM

The previous link is for the Elthos.com wordpress site.

This link is for the MythosMachine.Elthos.com subdomain which is the ASP site.

ftp://xxxxx@ftp.xxxxx.xxxxxx.xxxxxx/elthos.com

They both use the same user name and password.


Vbwyrde@yemail.com


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Posted on: June 15, 2017 4:50:33PM

the control panel at Arvixe offers a way to zip the files for download. I used their method and those files you have are the result. So I'm not sure if they are using a zip compression that is not longer compatible with Windows or not, though on my machine here they open without any problems (Windows 10).

That said, you can use the Arvixe control panel here:


ftp://xxxxx@ftp.xxxxx.xxxxxx.xxxxxx/elthos.com
user: xxxxxxxxx
Psw: xxxxxxxxx

Perhaps something got corrupted in the transfer. Does that happen with all of the files, or just the one you showed in the png image?

Techie 3
InterServer


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Posted on: June 15, 2017 4:05:55PM

We are getting an error on some zip files:

--- Screenshot -- Windows Can Not Open Zip File - Error ---

Any where we can redownload them from?

Techie 3
InterServer, Inc


Vbwyrde@yemail.com


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Posted on: June 15, 2017 10:42:44AM

I should also mention that this ticket is part of an ongoing migration. The original ticket was passed over to billing (instead of a new billing ticket created) which caused me to have to create a new ticket to continue the migration. Due to a lack of coordination I am now having to re-initiate the migration instead of it continuing as a smooth process. This has caused a delay overnight while the migration has been paused due to this. The original Migration ticket number is: XXX-816-18899. I will hope that you will coordinate this so that there are no further delays. Thank you.


Vbwyrde@yemail.com


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Posted on: June 15, 2017 10:39:04AM

Call In Pin: XXXXXX
Last Invoice ID and Amount: XXXXXX $54.00

Techie 1
InterServer

Posted on: June 15, 2017 1:25:57AM

Hello,

To initiate migration please provide one of the following for verification :

- Account PIN (located on your account homepage in https://my.interserver.net)
- Last invoice ID and amount



Kind regards,

Techie 1
InterServer, Inc


Vbwyrde@yemail.com


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Posted on: June 15, 2017 0:45:10AM

Due to a billing issue the prior ticket with these instructions is in the Billing queue. Please continue with the migration as per these instructions:

As for where to go from here:

1. Set up the Elthos.com website (this is a WordPress Site)
--> Files: Elthos_bak_20170613.zip

2. Set up the MythosMachine.Elthos.com (subdomain) (ASP.Net 4.0)
--> Files: MythosMachine.Elthos_bak_20170613.zip

3. Set up 3 SQL Server 2012 Databases:
a) Elthos_ODS.zip
b) Elthos_ODS_A.zip
c) Elthos_YAF.zip
Please ensure the user accounts are working.
Please send me required credentials so I can link to the SQL Server 2012 using MS Database Management Studio and administer my 3 databases.

4. Set up IIS 7 Configuration (I may have to do that part, I need a long session timeout for this application)

5. Set up the ProfessionalGamemasterSociety Website on the ProfessionalGamemasterSociety.com domain (it is a Wordpress site)
--> PGMS_bak_20170613.zip

Thank you very much! I look forward to getting this up and running!

Friday, June 16, 2017

Story Maps - Why I Find Them So Useful

~~ Spoiler Alert! ~~

If you are one of my Players, you are in the wrong place. Please back away slowly and no one will get hurt.  Thanks.
:)

(Don't worry folks, as it happens my players never check my blog - it's ok ... shhh ... it allows me to post out here for you people while we play).  hee.  Later they'll be like "omg". shhhh.
For some time now I've been going on about Story Maps, and how I use them and I why I think they're lovely little things and I wouldn't want to GM without them.  This here is a Story Map...

Elthos RPG - Whitewode Campaign - Story Map - June 14, 2017
So I'd like to take a little time to talk about this one.  What it shows, in not so many words, sketches and glyphs, is where my current Whitewode Campaign is at, where the Main Characters are relative to one another (as always, they've split the party 3 ways from Sunday), what the Main NPCs are doing and where they are, as well as significant events, magic items, and any other tidbits I felt it is a good idea to keep in mind for next game.

The way I use these Story Maps is as an in-game cheat sheet.  With a single glance I recall all of the most important elements of my sprawling and absurdly complex Campaign. As a mnemonic device it really does a spectacular job.

And no, to answer a recent question from one of my friends out there in Googlelandia, I do not draw these during the game session.  Nope.  No way.  I wouldn't have time for that.  I'm a busy GM at the gaming table.  No time for this kind thing.  Instead, I draw them over the course of the next week after the game play, distilling down the most important elements of the game, and projecting as to where things seem to be heading, and adding all kinds of clues for myself as to what may be important next game.

For example, in the lower right hand corner is what appears to be a cat wearing a weird cyclopian helmet with an antenna on top.  Yep.  Except that's not a cat, but a Cat Man, and his name is Tintasha, and he's an NPC that dropped out of view three game sessions ago.  But he's still around, doing interesting things that my Players have no idea about (unless you're reading this, Milo!  Stop that!  Hehe.)

In fact, one fragment of the Party happened to fall from that treacherous cliff-side trail leading up to Black Wind Cave, and only survived because Arcturius happen to have selected Gliding Fall as one of his Mystic Powers, and got lucky with casting it, threw all of his Mystic Points into the damn thing, and managed to haul the other two characters tethered to him by rope such that they landed without too much damage waaaaay down on the edge of the Troll Fen.  Lucky them.

At this point they started exploring around a bit, and decided to head to the base of the cliff (good choice) and found the Old House (a really really old house made of Incan-Style megalithic stone).  Then they began to poke around and managed to discover the tunnel.  They made it all the way up to the secret passage, which because Delvin has the amazing power of Depth Perception, they discovered and opened.  They didn't go far inside at all.  Delvin, Star and Arcturius are in the secret passage discussing whether or not that should continue to follow the cat-foot paw tracks leading through the dusty tunnel, or turn around and go back the way they came.  Ahead... well, you can see clues about what's ahead down that passageway.  Nothing good.  And nothing you'd even remotely want to tangle with.  And if they make it past that, there's the next cavern in which the Tower of the Cat Men stands like a giant cat scratch in the dark.  My guess is they will turn back and try to find another way up the cliffs.  Just a hunch.  However, if they do forge ahead, overcome (or sneak past) the guardians at the gate (the first chamber), they will find that the Cat Men have a very odd hobby.  Those Cyclopian Helmets are ... well, let's just say "Interesting" and leave it there (are you still here Milo?!).

Anyway, this is the kind of thing I put on these maps.  It's a great deal easier to glance at one of these than to try to keep index cards or notebooks with all my notes on them.  This is a visual quick list cheat sheet of all that is important to me for next game.  It doesn't determine the direction things will go, but it helps me to remember what happened most recently, what direction the various party members are heading, and gives me instant appraisal of the overall state of the Campaign.

And they're a lot of fun to draw, too.

Ok, no more spoilers, Milo!
(heh - actually, there's really only a .0001% chance that Milo or any of my other players will see this before the next game. They just totally don't track me on Social Media at all.  Zilch.  ... if they only knew ... mwahahaha!).


Sunday, June 04, 2017

The Mystery of Kobolds

On a recent post by David Guyll he mentions

"During the 5th Edition Dungeons & Dragons development and playtest I discovered that the mythological source was almost always more interesting than the D&D take, so I figured why not go with the original (when it was more interesting of course)? The hard part is that while doing research we've found vague or even contradictory information, so sometimes we have to make shit up and/or choose a version that we prefer."

This sparked some thoughts regarding my own game, and how I have always endeavored to bring the original myths, fairy tales, folk lore, and legends into my world. The question for me has always been ... How to bring the old world mystery and awe into a modern RPG? What I wrote in response became too long to publish on David's thread as a comment, and I also felt like I was impinging, somewhat impolitely, on David's intended point. So I decided to write up my response here instead because the points are of interest to those who are curious about this question. So, here we go:



How to bring the old world mystery and awe into a modern RPG? However, that may not be David's intention at all in referring to the original sources for mythic creatures in 5th Edition. I suspect in fact that it has very little, if anything, to do with his objectives.

The difference between us, if I'm guessing right, is that his objectives have to do with the sales of rules and supplemental settings books*, whereas my objectives have to with bringing old world mystery and awe into my personal homebrew game for my players. That distinction makes, in my opinion, a huge difference. David and I, while doing essentially the same thing (drawing from original sources as inspiration for our World's creatures), are attempting to solve very different problems.

In the case of creating rules and supplement books you need to include Stats as that's what your GMing customers expect and need in order to run your monsters in their games. The old perennial problem for GMing such things is that the players have access to that information because they can buy the rules books just like anyone else, and often do.  My impression is that the solution for most GMs has been to ignore it and just roll with it.  In other words simply accept that the Players are privy to the Stats of the creatures in the World and take that as just a part of the nature of the game.  Which causes the game, intentionally or otherwise, to lean towards the Gamist style of play.

In my case, though, while I certainly have Stats for everything in my World, and properties, and everything else that might appear in a D&D monster manual ... I don't share that information with my players. Since mine is a homebrew system, my players actually have no way of accessing those details unless I reveal them. In fact, however, I studiously avoid doing so. So they're not privy to them, and yes, they're pretty much flying blind through the World of Elthos. I've been playing this way since 1978 and it's worked well for me and my players thus far.

And so to answer David's question ("So your players have no idea what an elf or kobold can do, or how to defeat them?"), I'm sure that if I ask my players (and I will next Friday if I remember) "How do you kill a kobold in Elthos?" I believe they will hem and haw for a little bit, and then conclude by saying, "It depends". Which would be the correct answer, actually.

What this answer reveals is that while they may have some ideas, they are not really sure.  Nor should they be. Because I have never revealed exactly what kobolds are, nor how they operate, nor what magic they use, nor what stats they have. All they know about kobolds is what they've been able to glean from the encounters they've had with them. And this knowledge is split among various players, some of whom know some aspects but not others. In other words all their knowledge of kobolds my World is purely anecdotal.  And while their experiences have provided a certain amount of knowledge, it's hazy at the edges, vague of detail, and excludes quite a bit that they have yet to learn.

And so when my players run into kobolds, they have a tendency to stop, and worry, and make an effort to carefully plan what approach they should take in dealing with them depending on their circumstances at the time. All they really know is that kobolds can be exceedingly crafty, sometimes helpful, sometimes lethal, and are indeed Other World creatures.

And that limited knowledge is as it should be, in my opinion. They are, traditionally speaking, Other World creatures and they are therefore inherently mysterious and ought to instill a sense of wonder and awe, and even fear, in those who encounter them.  I try my best to GM them that way.

So I'm not saying that other world creatures shouldn't have well defined Stats. Far from it.  But once the players know their Stats ... the mystery of such creatures necessarily evaporates, and that sense of wonder and awe that might have been becomes nigh on impossible.  So my point is that it is the fact of the publication of the Stats that is the problem I'm contending with, rather than the existence of the Stats themselves.  If the GM can hold those Stats close to the chest, then all is well and good so far as the potential for Immersion is concerned.

Which isn't to say that players can't have fun, in the "Gamist" sense, dealing with creatures of which they know all the Stat details. Yes, there will still be danger to that player character who is down to 1 Hit Point and facing off against a well known Kobold of D&D. And yes, that can definitely be fun and exciting and the sense of danger quite real for the player since a bad die roll in that situation can kill off the character. I'm not denying that.

What I am denying is that under those circumstances the player will have much chance of having any sense of the original mystery and awe that embodies the essence of Kobolds as known by our ancestors (ie - what it actually is that makes those original creatures more interesting than their D&D versions), and as a result they are likely deprived of the essential element that makes for an immersive game so far as I'm concerned. To get immersion requires that the players not know / focus on the Stats and such, and instead are allowed to focus on what is actually happening in the game world. Which is to say the words and deeds of the creatures, rather than their Stats, spell lists, weapons damage, etc.

I have solved that problem for game by not using the standard D&D books for my world. Instead, I grown my own, and I don't provide those details to my players. And that goes a very long way towards maintaining the necessary atmosphere of mystery that allows for Immersion.

I understand that publishers of Monster Manuals and such will probably find my point on this topic antithetical to their purposes and probably a bit irksome. After all, on behalf of Immersive Play I'm kind of bashing their industry. Sorry, sorry. I don't mean to rain on anyone's parade.

But still, I think my point is nevertheless valid, and I'll even go further and add to it that from my point of view a lot of what was published in the past 30 years of RPGing has been to the detriment of Immersive Play in most cases, and has lead to a predominance of focus on the Gamist side of the thing. To me, that's been an endless nuisance because as a result most players now expect that they should be privy to the Stats of every creature in their GM's World. A number of players who have come to my game in recent years have had to ween themselves off of such expectations, and it's been a bit jarring at times along the way.  Those that managed it, however, are now happily immersed in Elthos... most currently in the dreadful glooms of the township of Whitewode.


* Note: this is a big assumption on my part, and based on David's OP, and not confirmed by further research on my part. I could be entirely wrong in David's case, however that doesn't actually matter to the points I'm making because these points apply generally to all published rules and settings books in the world of RPGs. I'm pointing to a general problem, and giving some information as to what my long standing solution for it has been.