Tuesday, November 11, 2008

How to know when an offline website becomes available again?

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When surfing the web you must have come across websites that are temporarily unavailable due to server downtime. It happens quite often. Not every time a website is unavailable due to server errors. Some time a website may be undergoing maintenance or up-gradation work due to which it might go offline for a couple of hours. You might stumble upon such an offline website either by following a link from another website or via a search result page. In any case, the web page shows an error message and you are unable to view it. And if your luck is as bad as mine, the unavailable website will most certainly hold the most promising content.

page-cannot-display

There are two ways to tackle this. If you happen to come to the unavailable website from a search result page, then you can still view the page from the search engines' cache. Just below the link to the web page on the search results page, you will find another link "Cached", which will take you to the copy of the page saved at the search engines' database.

google-cached

The cached copy might be a mirror of the page saved just a couple of minutes ago, or it might be several days or even months old, depending upon the page content and the website. This is the easiest method to access an unavailable page if you happen to visit it from a search engine.

The second way is to bookmark the page and visit it later. But how much later? If you happen to use Firefox, you can take advantage of a very useful addon called Mr Uptime. When you come across a web page that is temporarily offline, add the web page to Mr Uptime's watchlist. Mr Uptime will silently keep accessing the website in the background, and as soon as it becomes available it will notify you either by opening the page or showing an alert box.

Mr Uptime

Now sometimes, the server status code might be OK but still the page might be not working due to say, a database error. In such a case, Mr Uptime will be unable to differentiate between an OK page and a page with a working database, on it's own. You can then specify a keyword that shouldn't be there on the page, i.e. the error message. Mr Uptime will then tell when that keyword isn't on the page any more. Very smart.

Update: Mr Uptime now works with Firefox 3, so the following hack is not required

Mr Uptime is not compatible with Firefox 3 and so you will have to force it to make it work. For this, follow these steps before installing the addon.

  • Type about:config into Firefox's address bar and click the "I'll be careful, I promise!" button.
  • Right-click anywhere. Choose New>Boolean. Make the name of your new config value extensions.checkCompatibility and set it to false.
  • Make another new boolean pair called extensions.checkUpdateSecurity and set the value to false.
  • Restart Firefox.

Now install Mr Uptime.

Related: Get notified when your favorite website is up again

1 comment:

  1. that's pretty cool. I've been using a monitoring service called http://www.internetuptimemonitor.com for my sites but it doesn't monitor other people's sites that go down. Neat idea.

    ReplyDelete

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