When I signed up with this host originally, there were no banner injections -- that's why I signed up. They even promised never to add banner injections to the free accounts, but they did it anyway.
I never intended this hit tracking project to really be much of a project at all. The intent was to have a light weight version of the external stats tracking I already get from statcounter.com. My only gripe is that they limit you to a log that only holds the last 100 hits. Cumulative information such as hits on any given day are stored separately and not subject to this limit, but it's a real drag. This weblog is not exceptionally popular, especially since it's barely 40 days old, but some days I can see as many as 75 visitors, which fills over three quarters of my log. I wanted more, and did not want to pay for it, so I went a head and started my own external tracker.
I quickly discovered that the machine my account was assigned to had it's clock misconfigured; it was set to GMT +2, the timezone presently enjoyed by the friendly natives of Cairo, Egypt. Okay, maybe the server is actually hosted overseas. Nothing strange about that, right? A trace route proved otherwise, as the server was actually sitting somewhere in Texas.
PHP is pretty versatile, and I'm not quick to complain about free services, so I figure I'll just do some simple math in the scripts that will subtract 7 hours from any date/time columns in the database, an also the current time from the web server, rendering it to EST, my local timezone. Much to my surprise, that didn't work. I come to find that the server on which MySQL was hosted actually had it's time already set to EST, yet was also located in the same hosting center in Texas. This made things a lot more complicated than they should have been, so I sucked it up and complained to the first tech support person I could find.
"The servers are in Texas but the time is set to GMT +2. Sorry but this setting cannot be changed" he said. I was dumbfounded. How incompetent could the staff running this place possibly be that they couldn't even set the clocks right on their web servers? I fully expect any business selling web hosting to have a NTP server running in the background, constantly syncing every clock on every machine under their control to atomic clocks, subject to the timezone where the servers were physically located. It will keep their clocks accurate with sub-second precision at all times, with zero effort on anybodies part. I have a NTP server running on my home LAN, so that my home-built DVR will always have the correct time. It's easy to setup, and the benefits are obvious.
I expressed disbelief at their intentional misconfiguration of the clock on this server, and asked that at the very least, would they "misconfigure" the server hosting MySQL so they would at least be the same as the web server. The same tech came back to me with "The server is set to GMT+2 for a reason and you can change the time in your scripts using this method: http://bg2.php.net/date." Given that my experience with PHP is not the best, I was happy to learn that PHP had a function with which you could offset the local system clock, insofar as PHP was concerned, so that your script could be made to believe it was located in any timezone. I dash over to php.net to learn the syntax of this wonderful new function, only to find it has nothing to do with my complaint at all; it's a date/time string formatter, almost identical to strftime (if you don't know what that is, go to the URL.)
I express my thanks, as the tech happily reports he will speak to the administrators so that they may re-misconfigure the time on the MySQL server, and also dutifully report to him that the function he gave me was utterly fucking useless. I then complimented him on his nice demeanor, because the guy was pretty darn nice, and once again protest against having the servers time set in freaking Egypt. I ask, in an equally nice tone, what reason they could possibly have for doing this.
This is his reply:
Please wait for our next reply.
Best Regards, ..."
Well, I had enough at that point. Whatever reason they may think they have, there's no way I can force them to stop being incompetent. I had been considering becoming a customer right before I decided to complain, and I thought perhaps this would be a good test to see if their customer service was going to be of any use. As of today, I am no longer considering them for my business, and I heartily suggest that no one else does either. No hosting business that cannot even set a server clock properly deserves my money, or yours.