a little news story more info than you normally get around here

by Kabir Akhtar

The entire site was deleted by someone who gained unauthorized to the server.
This note was posted to the front of the site until a backup was uploaded.

[08/03/01] - The toolshed manifesto, or, "What Now?"

As the six year anniversary of this site approaches, the place is a shambles. The whole thing has been stuck in a perennial redesign for almost a year, two years, or six years, depending on how you look at it. It got shut down at the beginning of July for two weeks as a new server/host was acquired. It got hacked into two weeks later and modified, though it seemed by friendly-enough hackers who left backups of original pages. I got a chance to put the page back up, and even offered a link to the site of the hackers in question. Oh, and then the whole thing got deleted - presumably by someone else. Eight little characters it takes in a Unix environment to wipe out a site that someone obviously felt was getting a little too big for its britches. Though a security team apparently mobilized at the host company, this machine was the last to get fixed, and suffered the most damage.

Awfully convenient that this happens while the guy who runs the site (me) is on vacation, and has no way to upload a backup of the site. How does one know I'm out of town? Gee, it was posted to t.d.n News, and that only so people would know why news updates were not happening, not so people could take a pause in their day and reflect on Kabir's personal life. But still, along comes somebody and takes advantage of that and no doubt is very proud of themselves for exploiting a weakness in an imperfect operating system, and for victimizing a free site which has no corporate sponsorship and no 24-hour tech support division to rescue it.

A setback such as this is really devastating because it makes you wonder why you bother. It's additionally troubling getting feedback stating that "all your site does is rehash news from toolband.com and elsewhere - it used to be much better." For much of the last few years, as the site grew in popularity, personal requests came from the band to not post certain information. So then what do you do? You know about X, you figure a lot of people like you would want to know about X, they all mail in asking about X, but then a singer you admire asks you to sit on X. Now you have two choices.

1- You post about X, and everyone is very happy that "toolshed was first with the info", and the site's reputation stays solid. Except now the member of the band you communicate with gets (justifiably) upset. And that's no good. Or else, 2- You don't post about X, and stay quiet until you see X printed somewhere else in the media. At which point your relationship with the band stays good, but now "all toolshed does is rehash news from elsewhere", "isn't on top of things", and is "slipping, man." It's a vacuum cleaner situation - either way, it's really neat, but it sucks. The fact is, I've found that I feel more comfortable hearing slag from peers than from a bald guy we all know. There's a balance to be found there, and toolshed is still working towards it.

Turning it over to someone else doesn't strike me as an option. It is tempting - especially when the whole site gets deleted by a hacker (cracker?) who seems to not understand why burning down a corporation is different than burning down a small concert venue - to call it quits. Then again, it always seemed to me that it was really lame in 4th grade when one kid caused trouble and then nobody was allowed to go out and play. The whole situation is a little weird, but I think t.d.n will likely muddle on through as usual. It tries to be playfully professional, and takes turns falling short and kicking ass. I suppose that's what you should expect from such a nonprofit endeavor. Thanks to all the people who wrote in with words of support this week (especially all the people who said "think of the children!"). It's very cool to see such a rally of support for a site that is the result of a community made up ! of actual individuals.

I obviously can't guarantee this won't happen again, and I obviously hope it doesn't. If you have any idea who's responsible, I hope you can talk some sense into them, because they are obviously a very disgruntled Backstreet Boys fan who wants their #1 spot back from Tool badly enough that they hacked a fan site and left no self-congratulatory message. But their weakness is their own. This place is going to stay on course. This was not some plugin-required banner-ad popup-window hit-counter Windows-only carbon-copy here's-the-weather useless dot-com.

This was The Tool Page, and it still will be. §


The above text is posted here so you can get a sense
of what happened after t.d.n was deleted by the mystery hackers.


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"Your pal" Kabir Akhtar | kabir@toolshed.down.net