NOTE: Dawn Stover has an update on this problem, see end of this post.
Increasingly, as Chris O’Brien recently wrote in the San Jose Mercury News, Twitter search is rivaling Google as a top choice to find out what’s happening right now. However, apparently some people who rely on HughesNet for broadband net access via satellite may be, at the moment, unable to use Twitter search.
I was tipped off to this by Dawn Stover of Popular Science. Dawn lives in a rural area of Washington state, and relies on HughesNet for satellite broadband. Today she wrote to me:
I can hardly ever click on Twitter Search without getting an error message: Status: 500 Internal Server Error Content-Type: text/html
I have searched Twitter Help to no avail. Googling suggests that this may be a problem unique to people who use HughesNet as an Internet service provider — satellite being our only option here in the hills. It doesn’t matter what browser I use. I’m not sure whether it is restricted to Mac users.
I’m wondering whether you’ve heard of others with this problem. It is REALLY frustrating because it makes Twitter almost completely useless.
I’m curious: Are many other HughesNet satellite customers are also experiencing this problem? Does it happen in some places and not others? Does this also happen to people using other satellite broadband providers? What’s causing it?
In the meantime I recommended that Dawn try Realtime Twitter Search Results — a Greasemonkey-based Firefox plug-in that incorporates the latest Twitter search results right into a regular Google search. I’ve been using it for a few days, and like it. (Hat tip to George Kelley for recommending it.)
UPDATE MAR. 10: Dawn Stover wrote me this morning…
I contacted HughesNet about the Twitter Search problem by email, and they referred me to the dreaded tech support phone line. So I wasted Â 45 minutes this morning going through all the normal diagnostics, power cycling my modem, yada yada yada. All the while trying to explain that IT’S NOT ME! Or at least it’s not JUST me.Eventually this seemed to fix the problem (though not in Firefox, which is the browser I use most):
- in the Safari menu, click on Preferences
- click on Advanced
- click on Proxies: Change Settings
- check the box for Web Proxy (HTTP)
- change Web Proxy Server setting to 126.96.36.199 : 3128Now I can access Twitter Search in Safari, although it is slow to load.I don’t know whether this fix would work for other HughesNet subscribers. It might be specific to Mac, or Safari, or my specific modem or dish or site ID… but I guess the good news is that there probably is a way for other users to fix the problem by changing the proxy server setting. I never did find out what “500 Internal Server Error” means…I wonder how many HughesNet users will be patient enough to go through all these steps rather than just giving up on Twitter. The folks at Twitter should be just as concerned about this as HughesNet. Even if this problem only affects HughesNet subscribers who use Macs but not Internet Explorer, for example, that’s still a sizable group of people.
And then later, Dawn reported:
After a day of living with this “fix” from HughesNet, I can’t recommend it to anyone else. It has made Safari unbearably slow at loading pages. All pages, not just search.twitter.com. So now I can’t use Safari for anything except Twitter. Better than nothing? I’m not sure anymore.