Is DH for "beginners"?

An advanced PC or MAC user could very well be a rank novice on Apache. An experienced Apache developer can get fried brains trying to pick up Joomla! with no Mambo experience.

So this issue becomes what are they beginning?

My point, as a beginner in Apache and Joomla, is that DH is not as much of a bargain as it would appear.

If you need support, you are not going to get phone support unless you join a plan that costs about $20 per month and is otherwise, for all practical purposes the same as the cheap true bargain plan.

I use two other systems that do give phone support. for domain registration and forwarding issues, and another host with a similar to DH plan that gives phone support. I had to move to this host when I had such miserable support problems with DH that I just needed to talk to a person! So now I have some redundancy, but my actual site is hosted on DH and I have a lot of video files on the other system. (I do not feel it is fair to name it in this context.)

There have been only a couple of occasions when I really needed phone support during the past 8 months that I have been on DH. They were panic moments when I did something wrong in Apache that brought my site down… trying to follow instructions on an .htaccess file re-write, some configuration.php, mirroring, etc.

The problem was that I did not know the language with which to explain the problem. I will clarify: I did not know what computer teminology to use to explain the problem. Even though I have been usiing computers for decades as a film maker and was one of the first on the block to go to nonlinear editing, it was all PC based. I never needed to know the difference between a domain, a relative path, alias, a subdomain, etc.

If you are in the same boat, let’s say like me you came over from very easy to use blogging hoss like or, and you want to get into something more sophisticated or stream media files, I have real problems in recommending DH until they improve their email support and get some kind of realistic phone support such as a $1/minute pay as you go or something similar.

When I first started they had just switched over from their KB to a wiki for support. Talk about thong skimpy, that wiki was lewd!

And when DH has service problems, the 24hr customer support slips and the answers are very cursory. The kinds of questions I have wanted to ask could have been answered very briefly if someone had been able to talk me through what were confusinig screens on the customer panel.

I have not been badly bitten by the service bugs, but I have had a few glitches. And it is clear that the pricing for just about unlimited storage and bandwidth is a wonderful bargain, particularly for video people like myself. I do not, however, have access to figures for bitrate (at least that I know about or understand) in order to compare it to other providers.

My experiences with, one-click install for Joomla! and the MySQL database were wonderful and went through flawlessly even with updating.

So it’s a trade-off. And it depends if you are a beginner with Apache or mainframes…


(I do not want to promote myself, but I also do not feel that posts on this subject should be anonymous)

I would have to agree. Dreamhost is not the best place for beginners to host, there are better (and more expensive) alternatives out there. But if you know your way around HTML, FTP, PHP, SSH etc. and are not afraid of getting your hands dirty, there arent many hosts that can compare to Dreamhost for value or features.

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Well, any “experienced Apache developer” I’ve ever met would find all this stuff less than trivial - I mean these are the guys that actually write the webserver software, and none of this stuff will phase them in the slightest :wink:

That said, I think I understand the point of your post. You make good observations here and I think you might be “right on the money” for some kinds of “beginners”.

As a counterpoint, though, I think it is important to note that there are other “beginners” out there that greatly benefit from the power and flexibility of the DH environment. If one is particularly interested in learning their way around a webserving environment at a deeper level than punching links in cpanel, Dreamhost cannot be beat.

The Dreamhost provided ability to work from the shell, and the freedom to modify and tweak so many aspects of how your site(s) will work, is very rare on shared hosts. It provides a unique environment in which to learn; for some “beginners”, that is important (it was/is for me!)

For these types of users, while the wiki continues to grow and become more and more useful each week, the web itself, as seen from google, provides the best documentation. Most anything anyone has tried to do on Dreamhost, given the number of sites it hosts, has been tried before and has been written about somewhere. For the curious beginner, tracking down this information, and related information as needed, is all part of the learning process. This forum, which has many true experts as regular participants, is also a fantastic resource if used correctly. Of course, it helps to learn how to Ask Questions The Smart Way in the forum, but even questions that are not “well formed” and that use the “wrong” language usually get a helpful response.

As you pointed out, knowing the “language” and “terminology” of the net (and there is a lot to learn) is a big part of the problem, but one will never learn any of that from within a cpanel type of environment, or from a “hosted web application” like blogger, etc. These are great for those who just want to “git 'er done” and don’t want to be troubled with the technology, but there are others that really want to understand this stuff and expand their capabilities.

You have personally experienced part of that process, as you described being one of the “first on the block to go non-linear editing”. Surely you felt that the learning curve involved in doing that was worth the effort :slight_smile: . I think many beginners approach the process of web development the same way, and thrill to the discovery of new power available in an environment like Dreamhost.

Your points are wll taken, and I am only trying to present another side to the discussion. If a beginner’s goal is the quickest, simplest path to getting a web page up, I agree that Dreamhost may not be the best recommendation. If that beginner wants to do more than that, or understand what is happening, or grow his “page” into a full-blown site as he learns, I think Dreamhost is highly recommended!

The combination of power, storage space, bandwidth, flexibility, shell access, and price is phenomenal at Dreamhost.

As with all this stuff, YMMV is the operative caveat. Rarely is a thing a “perfect fit” for everyone and “one size fits all” doesn’t (fit all!)!


Of course, I have to agree with most of what rlparker wrote. I say I have to out of consistancy. I bought my first computer when it used a Z-80 cpu and had a TOTAL RAM of 64K to cover both program, dat, and the cpm operating system. An Exidy Sorcerer. Every heard of it? So of course I am used to hacking and experimenting with software. I’ve been doing it with computers for 35 years!

But this Internet stuff introduces a new element. The Public. When you have a web site, you are putting it up for the public. That is a whole new level of responsibility. I am far from a C-panel “git er done” type and have been willing to place myself on the bleeding edge of a lot of technologies. But when I put a site up and invite the public to visit it --whether or not it is commercial – and then I crash it because of my own ignorance, I feel bad and responsible. And when I thrash around and ask for help but don’t know how to ask the questiions “correctly” and get a brush-off, I get frustrated and a bit angry. Particularly when I have to wait for a 24 hour cycle to rephrase it!

In order to do a Google search – are you implying that I haven’t spent days this past week trying to solve a problem through Google, various forum and discussion lists and gotten some bum advice which caused me to crash the site? I have been very frustrated by my inability to both use the terminology to do the Googling as well as understand the results of the search.

If DH is going to thrive in the new world of developing bloggers and content generators who would like to take advantage (as I have) of something more flexible than, it has to meet them half-way. Or a little less. But at least make them feel welcome.


By allowing customers to attach a screenshot of a problem page or panel that they do not understand.

By having limited phone support like any number of hosts already do.

By having novices “screen” the instructions in the Panel. Not for everything, but for basics. And the DH wiki…

I could go on and on, but I felt I should respond to you because you clearly care about these issues and took the time for a considered response.

When I get http://www.hestakaup running the way it should in the proper path or url or whatever it is called, I am tempted to cobble together a series of responses I got as “help” from some of the searches and forums I have been struggling with.

In the meantime, thanks for caring!


DreamHost is for anyone who can take a bit of responsibility for themselves, in my opinion. Yea, newbies too…I know … I was one.

However, there are a couple types of people I think will not be happy here. Those who are lazy* and those who know little-to-nothing**. I mean these terms with no disrespect, please don’t hang me on it.

The former may find themselves wasting their (and support’s) time with issues they could have fixed ‘in-house’. Of course, in the mind of the customer, the wasted time is the fault of the host.

… and the latter…oh the latter… :wink: This reminds me of the many open source communities I call home…there’s always someone making complaints that stem from their own lack of basic knowledge, such as FTP, for instance. Well, those complaints are moot in my book. Would you take a car-body & engine-kit and plunge ahead without some basic skills? And then if you screwed it all up, would you have the nads to complain about it? Yea, me neither. :smiley: To be able to successfully use the ‘rich stuff’ (Yea, Goonies!) you have to invest some time in reading or at least clicking. There’s almost no excuse to not know about web hosting technologies to (at least) some degree if you’re using them…and even moreso, if you’re selling the services.

I came straight from a FrontPage-only background…and I couldn’t setup Outlook Express without a cheat sheet. There it’s outta the bag. But 5 years ago, a client who had DH required that I learn the panel; best damn favor someone ever imposed on me. :smiley: Fo shizzle… And since then, …and via a great deal of knowledge and great hosting package I’ve gained through DH…, I’ve made enough money to take Zend’s entire PHP Training, buy an actual licensed copy of PhotoShop … um… :smiley:

Anyway … just wanted to throw out my .02 on it, having been a newbie. These days, I’m a ripe ol’ 5 year vet…and DH has been great for me.


  • Alar
  • “…lazy…” being those who never click through their panel and see what they can (or can’t) do.

** “…who know little-to-nothing…” meaning those who are over their head outside of FrontPage-type applications. ie, “OMG, my site just went all Server 500 and the only thing I did was add an .htaccess file and what could be wrong!?! Please hurry and press the reset button because if my email can’t get through, I’m sunk.” ; ) Ok, maybe that was exaggerated…but then again, I’m thinking not.

Yes! I have heard of the good ol’ Exidy Sorcerer! My first was a Timex/Sinclair ZX, followed, as soon as I had the money, with Morrow Micro Decision - also 64k, CP/M, 2 SSSD (186kb) floppy drives, and an RS232 terminal. I totally understand what you are saying about “hacking and experimenting with software”.

I also understand, and truly appreciate, your sense of responsibility when it comes to hosting “public” technology - I wish more web developers felt the same way, as we all have enough frustration in life without it being exacerbated by “badly behaving” websites.

Absolutely not! My comments about the web “as seen by google” were solely directed at pointing out the “greater scope” of documentation, outside the wiki on Dreamhost, that is available to “beginners”, and should only be viewed in the context in which it was written. It wasn’t about you, it was a general observation. Of course, googling is “hard” if one has trouble with the terminology, and does become a bit of a catch-22 at times. Like looking up something in the dictionary if you don’t know how to spell it, and then finding the entry, but not understanding the definition. :wink:

Your suggestions about how Dreamhost can best “thrive” are worthwhile; I think you should consider sending them to DH as “low priority/suggestion” support ticket so you know they will see them (I am not a Dreamhost employeel just a customer here like all the rest!)

One of the nice things about the wiki is that anyone can contribute. By its very nature, most of the initial entries get written “by techies, for techies”, but there are starting to be several more simplistic entries now, as “new” users share their experiences and discoveries. What is especially nice is that the “wizards” that serve as “siki gnomes” can edit well-intentioned but “not quite correct” entries to help cull “bad information”, and everybody benefits.

The “tech” culture can be a bit rough, and different personalities react differently to both “noobishness” and the hackish “abrutness” sometimes offerred as a response, as is clearly evidenced by the posts in this forum, but I think once one gets a grasp of the terminology, there is a lot of help to be had in this forum and on the web in general. It also helps me, when I am frustrated with a “curt” response, to remember that the response was solicited by me, and given freely at no cost to me - whatever is beneficial in the response is “gravy”, and whatever is not is worth exactly what I paid for it! :wink:

Hang in there on the url struggle, and you will get it sorted.



… sorry if my post was one of those curt ones …

Sometimes I hate to post things on the net because you lose so much in the translation. It was well-intentioned though, and apologies if anyone was offended. My remarks were general in nature, based on my own experiences, and not pointed at anyone in particular.


  • Alar

John -
That is a gracious follow-up post; I’m sure many readers appreciate your clarifications. For what it is worth, I agree with much of what you said, and understand that you were not directing your comments toward anyone in particular. :wink:

Your description of certain types of “lazy” users and those that know “little to nothing” are accurate enough. Like you, I’m easily frustrated by both those types of users. The implied attitude of the “lazy” ones, that act as though their time is so much more important/valuable than those they solicit information from, is hard to deal with sometimes. The sense of “entitlement” of those who, really, have no business attempting some of this stuff until they have attained at least a “basic” understanding of what’s involved, makes it hard to keep a “cheery” disposition when trying to help them, while they whine about everything they don’t understand as though it is “someone else’s fault” that they “don’t get it”.

What makes it all worthwhile, though, are those times when someone is actually able to build on the help they are given to acheive what they want to do - that is cool, and is why I (and many others, I’m sure!) take the time to try to help when we can. :slight_smile:


rlparker, thanks.

One thing I’ve noted through my travels is that those who demonstrate that they’ve read/tried things to solve problems for themselves almost always get faster and more support.

I’m still green with some things and know how hard it is to ask the right questions, especially when you’re not up on the lingo, but if I do my best to explain what I have done/tried/failed/etc, someone always jumps in and helps out. These days, I do most of my asking at…gotta love it!


  • Alar

I remember the Exidy Sorceror too… it was one of the models being considered for purchase by the school I went to back in the late '70s; they ultimately went with an Apple II.

– Dan

I remember lusting after the Sorceror. Unfortunately, due to being a teenager with not much cash, I had to make do with my Sinclair ZX-80, which had a whopping 1K of RAM and used the idle cycles of the 1Mhz Z-80 CPU to generate the display, meaning the display (an old B&W TV) went blank everytime you ran a program.

I later progressed to more powerful systems, but the old ZX-80 still holds a special place in my memory :slight_smile:


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Should you expect your webhost to teach you about open source software for publishing your web content or just maintaining the infrastructure and web servers?

Joomla, PHPbb, PHPNuke, and all the rest of the fun open source software out there has documentation, support forums, and people you can pay to help you.

When I look for a web host for my business I look for one thing - up time and Service Level Agreements for repairs/fixes/critical outage resolution.

When I look for a web host for everything else that I can live without for a while - I look for price/features.

Dreamhost hits my second point stright out of the ballpark. When I’ve had technical issues with my site (not software related) I’ve asked for help - and they’ve fixed it quickly. When I have technical issues with my site related to software - I don’t bother the techs, I go find my own answer because its something I need to learn and recognize I’m not paying for support of my software.

Maybe I should expect more - but I’m comfortable paying $8 a month for 200GB of storage and fixing my software myself.

To answer the original question - no, I don’t think >webhosting< is for beginners, period. But if you want to learn, having shell access gives you a whole new level of control.

And to rlparker, who I’ve seen around many posts - I’m a grizzled veteran of support desks and tasks. I’ve answered the “it ain’t werkin’ now when ya gunna fix it?” calls for many years. Thanks for the cheerie disposition :slight_smile: