The Great Outage
The Great Outage was the period between March and June 2001 during which all Free Spirits and FPC resources were offline. While Free Spirits had certainly experienced service outages before, none lasted as long as the period described here. It is unclear where the term "Great Outage" first originated from or who coined it but it was clearly in use on BoyChat by July 2001.
On 13 March 2001, BoyChat was subjected to a distributed denial of service (DDOS) attack. This attack was well planned and very vicious. One Free Spirits technician reported there were about 250 zombies involved in the attack and it suceeded in keeping all Free Sprits operations unavailable for over 16 hours. As a consequence, the ISP that was hosting Free Spirits and FPC had their connection to the internet dropped by the upstream provider. Rather than fight the attacks, the upstream provider decided it was more prudent to just drop the client giving them the most trouble.
On 13 April 2001, connectivity was restored by utilizing another upstream provider. All Free Spirits and FPC resources were operating once again. Unfortunately, this was short lived as political pressure and false accusations by Mike Echols contributed to the upstream provider once again dropping the connection to the ISP. On 25 April 2001 all Free Spirits and FPC resources were once again offline. On 27 April, Free Spirits released this statement ensuring the community of the intent to return services.
The events during the next two months are likely to be forever debated and disputed within the Free Spirits community by those who were either directly or indirectly involved in the planning and implementation of Free Spirits services. Despite the real or imagined events there are some basic facts that can be used to reconstruct a generic telling of those events.
There was a consensus among the Free Spirits Committee that choosing an ISP which had a higher position in the chain of upstream internet connectivity would be ideal. The fallout from this decision left Free Spirits without a Treasurer and without a treasury by May 2001. This left doubt that the planned solution announced on 27 April could be carried out.
Several members of the community then stepped forward to offer ideas and most importantly, seed money to allow Free Spirits to begin operating once more. By June 2001 there was a solid hosting plan in place and work began to restore the server for duty.
On 20 June 2001, Free Spirits was back online and many celebration and welcome back posts were made on BoyChat and other Free Spirits forums. In addition to the euphoria of the posters, there were many controversial posts made in reference to the cause and reason of the extended outage and who might have been responsible.
Since FPC had not returned as a resource of Free Spirits, the message boards Jungsforum and La Garçonnière, previously hosted by FPC, decided to join Free Spirits. At the same time, Jongensforum moved to Free Spirits from its previous hosting arrangements at Parsimony.
On 22 June 2001, the message boards BoyChat and MetaBoyChat along with the resource BoyLinks were removed from the internet based on another complaint made to the upstream provider. This new complaint was again attributed to the above mentioned Mike Echols. The sites were removed pending a decision by the upstream provider as to the legality of these sites. It is not clear why there was no request to remove other Free Spirits resources and they were allowed to remain online.
After what seemed like a very long 11 days, the three sites were deemed to be legal under Canadian law and returned to service on 3 July 2001. Then Webmaster of BoyChat, Ford Prefect, made this statement on the main index of BoyChat.
Since 3 July 2001, Free Spirits resources have remained online and have provided the longest uninterrupted service period ever in its history, with the exception of the lesser outage at the end of 2006.