FtpPutFile Error: 0

File transfers to my website failed last week for no apparent reason

One day last week, I noticed that the webcam pictures on my site were over 24 hours old. "That's odd," I said to myself. And therewith began the slide down a slippery slope into the rathole of troubleshooting.

screen-cap (14K) Checking my webcam software left me more puzzled, since it displayed a current picture and appeared — on first glance — to be working properly. And then I noticed the actual contents of the logging window:

04:17:53 PM Picture. Recording. Cam restarted. Title.
04:17:53 PM FTP opening ConnectedFtpPutFile Error: 0 Deconnected. Closed

Oh, oh. It should have said "Transf. OK." Scrolling back, I found the same couplets repeated every 20 seconds since 06:35:39 AM the previous day, the date and time on my out-of-date web pictures.

Great! I have an FTPPutFile Error. There's a lot of comfort in being able to label a condition, even if you don't have a clue what the label means or what to do about it.

I took this gibberish to mean that for some reason the attempt to put the new picture on the website had failed. (PUT is a standard FTP command; that much I did know.)

Perhaps I did something. Since the time of the failure was known precisely, I tried to recall if I had done something at that time that could be reversed. Dead end: I had slept unusually late that day and wasn't even up at that time. That's a good thing, because, at my age, recalling accurately is chancey at best.

Perhaps it's the webcam software. I tried to transfer files to my site with another FTP program. Nope.

Perhaps it's this computer. I tried to transfer files from another computer. Nope.

Perhaps my webhost's ftp server is down. I chatted with Bralynn at Blue Domino. Nope, the FTP server is working fine. "Are you blocking my access for some reason?" I asked innocently, knowing that I was a full 10MB over my allotment of disk space. Nope.

Bralynn suggested I try to access my site using FTP from the command line. To my surprise, I was able to log on and navigate from directory to directory. Apparently the problem was on my end. As it happens, I was too quickly satisifed, because if I had attempted to actually transfer a file (put filename.ext) it would have failed.

Perhaps it's my FTP software. As one does with so many computer problems, I thought I might fix it by reinstalling the software. Unhappily I failed to notice that I was installing an older, shareware version on top of my licensed, up-to-date copy. This meant a 24-hour delay to wheedle another copy out of the vendor. Alas, that still didn't fix the problem. Ignore, if you will, that this was a specious conclusion, because two different software programs using FTP were involved, not just one. And ignore that two different computers were involved as well.

What made all this quite weird was that I could log on to the website server, I just couldn't do any transfers. It was as if something were blocking the transactions. What could it be?

Thinking of my setup, the router lept to the top of the suspect list.

system configuration

I took the router out of the configuration by connecting my computer directly to the cable modem. Voila! I could once again transfer files. Aha! It's the router! Again, this would turn out to be a case of jumping to a correct, but incomplete, conclusion.

I dug out the manual for the router and consulted the "knowledge base" on the Linksys website. I quickly realized that I was at the frontier of my ignorance and would have to place a call to tech support. Since it was now Friday afternoon, and I didn't want to ruin my weekend, I decided to wait until Monday to submit myself to this torture. I would have a martini instead.

With trepidation, I dialed up Linksys tech support on Monday morning. After listening to an interminable "Your call is important to us..." recording for several minutes, I finally got a live person. Jason. (Why are so many tech support people named Jason?)

"Is the problem with just that one site, or all sites?" asked Jason. Damn! I hate it when I haven't considered such an obvious possibility. I quickly tried to access another site and found that I could do so without a problem. Curiouser and curiouser: a problem of the router but only with at least one particular server.

Jason explained that the router may have gotten "stuck" on that site somehow, or corrupted somehow, and gave me a list of five things to try, in ascending order of severity and difficulty:

  • Cycle the power on the router
  • Do a hard reset on router, back to factory defaults and reconfigure it from scratch
  • Put my computer into the router's DMZ (DeMilitarized Zone), leaving it exposed to the internet — Yeah, right! This might be informative, but leaving my computer vulnerable to every hacker on the planet is not much of a solution
  • Forward all FTP port requests explicitly to my computer — which meant mucking around with its IP address — Yeah, right!
  • Upgrade the router firmware, "which doesn't always go smoothly and sometimes damages the router" — oh, joy!

Predictably, the first four actions had no effect whatever, leaving me only the option of upgrading the firmware. Which went smoothly only on the second try, the first try aborting itself with an ominous Failure! warning.

And that fixed the problem. And it doesn't explain it at all. If I had done something that precipitated this problem, it would be understandable, tolerable. But I did nothing. One minute it was working, the next it was not. The failure was for no apparent reason!

Moral: Computers are capricious, cantankerous contraptions. They'll turn on you without provocation.

I understand that guy who shot his computer.