This page is a guide and a history of the free web hosting, email and other services I've used to host this site and other related ones.
I found most of my free web space by checking services like Freewebspace.net. I recommend that one because of the reviews - you can find out how dependable a site is before you invest the time to relocate there.
My primary concern in finding free web space was avoiding advertisement. I especially dislike inline banners (inserted at the top and/or bottom of your page) because I'm attached to the style of my site. I don't want banners cluttering it up. Most people hate popups more than inline banners - I didn't mind them so much, until I had difficulty with runaway popups filling my screen. To be fair, it wasn't entirely Crosswinds' fault - some of the third-party ads spawn on their own.
I have one active site at the moment, one partial mirror, and several retired mirrors:
Crosswinds was my first host for Jemima's Trek. I put my site up there in August, 2000. They swore they would never have ads, and then, in a moment of poverty, they added popups. They promised for a while to take them down again, but not anymore.
So back in December, 2000, I went looking for a host without ads. They're hard to find, but I came across Freeshell. Here's the review of Freeshell I wrote recently (June 2001) for Freewebspace.net:
SDF/Freeshell does NOT provide free FTP services. For a one-time contribution to the organization, you can get FTP. Otherwise, you have to use exotic means to upload files, such as emailing them to yourself, uploading through a telnet program (only works for files under 30k) or using funky stuff like ZMODEM. Freeshell is a free unix shell with email, webspace, other disk space, some perl/CGI support, etc, and no ads of any sort. Even more services are available for the aforementioned one-time contribution. Support exists but is rather obscure. Also, for the past month or two, freeshell has been down a lot - long overnight hours, several day maintenance sessions, and at the moment, the web server is totally out of commission. In short, it's a rip-roaring adventure in non-commerciality, but if you don't know your way around unix, this isn't the host for you.
Freeshell is up and down these days. I had to reupload my entire site after one server crash, so in June I went looking, again, for more stable, ad-free web space.
Dk3.com seemed to be a nice service. There are no ads, for the moment, and it started out serving pages pretty quickly, considering it's in Denmark and I'm not. Since it has CGI capability, I thought about putting up a wiki there. However, DK3 turned very slow very quickly (as determined by my monitoring service), so in July I took someone's advice and looked into envy.nu as a replacement. Envy.nu was pretty good, so I've deactivated DK3, for now.
(November 2001) Nowadays, Freeshell is stable, Crosswinds is out to lunch and Envy is impossible to upload to, so only Freeshell is well-maintained. I'm considering other mirror options or paying for the good service on Freeshell.
(December 2001) I finally gave up on the quest for truly free hosting. I contributed my $36 to freeshell, and made a mirror at Prohosting.
(October 2002) Things are still going well at Freeshell, although it's no longer quite free. You must contribute at least one dollar to get your free shell. Stability has been good, and cgi is still available. Prohosting is also still going strong.
(January 2003) Prohosting asked for a one-time fee for their free service, so I'm deprecating that mirror and going back to Crosswinds. This involves reuploading my entire site to Crosswinds, which deleted it at some point last year.
(June 2003) The kind folks at Irth.net found me exceeding my freeshell quota with my CSS tabs demo page and offered me free web hosting for Jemima's Trek and the FicML project. Around this time Crosswinds closed all free accounts, so I was glad to have somewhere to go. So far it's been wonderful, with PHP and MySQL support for not-for-profit websites.
One other ad-free web host I found was f2s.com. I'm currently co-webmistressing a site with a wiki there: Wikifection, the home of the C/7 mailing list. F2s.com is a bit slow for my tastes, though, and the last time I checked they weren't taking new members, temporarily.
(October 2002) I'm not sure what's become of F2S. My co-webmistress moved the site to netfirms - they have ads, but also CGI.
There's one other site with ads and CGI that I've used, Prohosting.com. The nice thing about their ads was that they were all for Prohosting, so there was some consistency to how they look. They were inline, but not very distracting. I used prohosting for another page I used to run, The JetC23 Collective, which also uses a wiki. I used it for a mirror site until they instituted a one-time charge for use, which I didn't pay.
Envy.nu has a sister site, virtue.nu.
I've never cared much about an outright hit count, but I was curious which of my stories were being read, and how people found them. So in February, 2001, I signed up at Gumball-tracker.com and installed their code. Gumball is unique in that it produces standard web log files. I use Analog to analyze them.
The information I got from Gumball, while it was working, was eye-opening to say the least. I found out that I received, as a ballpark estimate, one piece of emailed feedback per hundred people who read a story. Unfortunately, Gumball-tracker isn't tracking anymore, though there was no official announcement of a shutdown.
Now I run my own tracking script. For details, see the script page.
I used to be able to tell from my Gumball logs when my sites were up or down. Without Gumball, I decided to find a more direct way to keep track of my uptime.
Continuing my tendency toward redundancy, I signed up for two free site monitoring services. QWK.Mon Web Site Uptime Monitoring tracks one of my more fickle sites, Freeshell, checking once an hour to see that it's still up. The other service I chose was nFinite Web, which monitors three sites, but checks them only once in six hours. Both services will send email when one of the sites becomes inaccessible. In fact, nFiniteWeb was been sending me plenty of notices, despite their announcement that they'd no longer be providing free service, but they're truly unfree now. I haven't heard from Qwkmon lately, either, but since I use my email at freeshell all the time now that Crosswinds has cut off POP3, I can pretty much tell when they're down anyway.
I found both these services through 123 Webmaster, but since they're both down and out, let's call free monitoring another freebie of the past.
During the (first) hardware disaster at Freeshell, I realized that I could no longer put off getting a URL redirector, like Anne Rose's cool redirector, http://annerose.cjb.net/, so that I could redirect my visitors to Crosswinds when Freeshell was down, and to Freeshell when Crosswinds was down, both of which seemed to be happening with increasing frequency.
I sniffed around for redirector services, and before I could find the one with the highest ratings for dependability, I saw http://beam.to. What fanfic writer could resist such a tempting url? I signed up right away. (Actually, I signed up at http://go.to first, which also claims to provide email forwarding, but they never send me the registration email.)
So at this point I had a redirector. I thought I'd just play around with it, so I tried to get to one of my stories with the redirector, like this: http://beam.to/jemimap/voy/fic/long/dance.html. It's a shame redirectors don't do that, thought I, but then, *poof*, there was the story! I can use my new redirector like a real url, and they didn't even mention that in the beam.to faq.
One thing I did learn from the beam.to faq is that .to stands for Tonga. That's a country very far away from my websites.
Another thing I learned while investigating the behavior of my new url, http://beam.to/jemimap, was that beam.to worked by making an invisible frame around my pages. I don't know why it does that. Unfortunately, the next day I found beam.to sneaking popups into those frames. The last thing I want, after all my effort to avoid ads on my web hosts, is to bring them in through the redirector.
So I went to cjb.net instead. They had path forwarding, too. And ads, but you could avoid the ads by turning off the statistics and the URL cloaking. So my official URL was http://jemimap.cjb.net/. So, for example, to get to my story "Seven of Borg", you could use the address http://jemimap.cjb.net/voy/fic/short/sevenofborg.html. I try not to use the redirector anymore, because they've turned on URL cloaking permanently and that messes up my hit tracker.
Cjb.net also has web mail and mail forwarding, which I describe in the next section.
Now Jade, MJB, myself and other hostees are using subdomains of ficml.org essentially as redirectors. So please use jadeeast.ficml.org, jemimap.ficml.org and mjb.ficml.org rather than any cjb.net redirectors. Thanks.
It seems every time I turn around I have a new email address - either free with some web space or with a redirector or because I've signed up for a newsgroup posting service. Some of them will forward to other addresses, some of them can be POPped, and some are only accessible via the web. Some are moribund and collect only spam (email@example.com and firstname.lastname@example.org), while others seem to have been overlooked completely by the spambots.
Which one should I use? I now use the one at my redirector. I suppose (email@example.com) it's the coolest - it can be popped, read through the web, OR forwarded to another email address, and I can make cool email addresses like firstname.lastname@example.org.
However, I used email@example.com from when I made my first fic site there until September 2001, when they announced they'd start charging people to pop. Crosswinds mail was relatively stable - more so than the site itself - and I didn't want to miss one drop of feedback that trickled in - but I'm not about to pay for it. In your dreams, popup traitor man!
To simply things for myself, I receive most of my mailing-list mail at another address, the one that came with freeshell. I think of that one as my private email.
When I realized I was putting way too much effort into Jemima's Trek, did I stop and seek counselling? No...I decided to set up a newsletter so people could find out when changes were made to this ever-changing web site. Most people seem to use ListBot for that kind of thing, but since every single mailing list I was on had been eaten by YahooGroups, I decided to use them instead. That way I can keep an eye on the other list I moderate, and the several I'm on with no-mail, at the same time, and not have to use any Microsoft materials at all.
So now I send out a notice every few weeks, or whenever I put up a new story, whichever comes first. People can sign up for the newsletter/mailing list at Yahoo! Groups or they can just send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org to be added.
My other soapbox is a blog.