Back to School

Well yeah, I haven’t posted in a while … Sometimes I would think about when something in particular came up that I thought would be a neat topic to discuss, but I just didn’t get a round tuit … I think I used to have one, but I don’t remember where it is … and yes, by my standards, I have been busy …

The vLog … I have been creating vLogs for the OctaneCrew site … Got into this when monitor guy Alex started it, and I thought it was a much better way to share thoughts than typing up a storm such as I’m doing now … Then light guy Dave made a vLog of which he’s the video guy and he set our standards much higher … I have got into some pretty interesting video editing …

Octane has been working and working and we just came off a fun weekend … They played 3 all original shows … Friday they opened for Staind, Three Days Grace and Soil at The Electric Factory … Sunday they opened for Three Days Grace and Blackstone Cherry at House of Blues in Atlantic City … Saturday was an extended set at The Grape Street Pub in Manayunk … I guess in all instances I was on some pretty neat boards … Staind travels with the PM5D and HOB has a 5K … Grape Street has an A&H ML something or other … HOB sounded awesome …

Have been watching Eagles preseason … They look good … I remain, as always, optimistic and I will leave it at that …

Saw the season premeire of House last night … Still a good TV show so let’s see where they take it this year … Lost starts October 4th …

October 5th is the date I am supposed to be able to renegotiate my T1 contract and you can bet your booty that I will be on the phone first thing in the AM … I have been paying a T1 cost that is outrageous and was locked in three years ago … They would not renegotiate the contract until this one was up … I am in the process of determining if whether since they did this to me that I ought to switch providers … My opinion was that since the price dropped a couple hundred dollars per month that they should have renegotiated me at that time … Instead they told me that I had to wait and there was no recourse but to pay the contracted amount whether I stayed with them or not … Meaning, I could drop them at anytime, but I still owed them the contracted monthly payment … Funny thing is, one of the prices I got about 8 months ago was from them so I attached that email and sent it to my account representative saying that those two should talk … They stuck to their guns and continued to extort the additional money from me …

I cleaned up my hosting database substantially … All the domains that I no longer hosted I removed from my database … All the billing history, all the customers that no longer existed … While I tried to collect from them, it never happened so I decided to strike it up as a loss and to concentrate on those people that are part of the program and do pay as scheduled etc … I wrote a bunch of code in the last week to straighten out my DNS according to my domain database and removed all the discrepancies and found some things that were not right … Sometimes people get things by me, and this code stops that easily by painting a very clear picture of what’s going on … I need to expand this into email and actual disk residences, but DNS is certainly going to stop the traffic …

To sum up those last two paragraphs, with the T1 pricing and the coming and going of hosting customers, hopefully this will once again even out … I have been paying a lot of money to keep a connection active that isn’t necessarily supporting itself … For whatever reason, those people utilizing the service have chosen to stop what they’re doing or go elsewhere and I don’t claim to know exactly why … I can only assume … First, I can assume that someone else is cheaper … I have tried a 1&1 site for a little while … I have even started moving my domain registrations to another registrar … The second thing I could think of is service and where I try to be awesome in service, there are those times that my SmartJack got wet or I have had things such as my DNS server crashing … All interruptions were fixed as soon as possible, but for the 1 year uptime, that 1 hour makes all the difference … So what you were up 8,760 hours, that one hour was when I *really* needed my email … I changed the DNS servers at 1&1 and am pointing everything to me … I didn’t like 1&1’s interface etc, and I don’t like their junk mail … Back to the original reason I started hosting, to be able to do things my way …

Anyway … that’s an update on what I’ve been up to, maybe I will be able to get back to posting here regularly? That would be special …

Power Supply fries in Windows Server

I am awake now because a power supply failed in a Windows server. I should be sleeping now preparing for my weekend, but these things take priority. My wife woke me up when she said there must be something wrong with the computers because several people were calling … Sho’nuff, I see that Mr. Windows 157 isn’t responding to requests … The green power light is glowing, but the fan ain’t blowing … (Johnny Cochran I’m not) … I try to power off from the rear and power it up … Nothing … If the fan were bad, but not the supply, I could have replaced it at a later time … Anyway, slide that puppy out of the rack and spinning screws to put in a replacement power supply … Booted up, and it seemed to me to be slow to get to the BIOS banner, but who knows, I was across the room when it powered on and things work weird through the KVM … So, I will definitely have to cycle it after a boot … Since I am going to have to cycle it, I put on the current available maintenance if any exists … Just so happens there is, so I put this on all other Windows servers … Cycled and all is well …

What really stinks about this? I was sitting here all night running side by side ‘net installs of SuSE 10.1 and Fedora Core 5 … I had all this down time of waiting where if I had known that server wasn’t responding I could have had the supply replaced well before morning prime time … C’est la vie … I am going back to sleep … Long sleepless weekend ahead …

AOL Postmaster: Revisited

Spoke too soon?  AOL still blocks my FreeBSD mail server …  After a third party originally got the ball rolling with AOL last Friday night, and my follow up and resolution Saturday afternoon, the problem persisted into Tuesday morning …

I again called AOL Postmasters and this time they say that the ticket opened that day by the third party was opened and closed at 2/28/06 12:50 EST … They say that whatever happened Saturday was referenced by this new ticket as it did not “take” and that the 48 hour wait time started at this new time of 12:50 …

I asked what they were going to tell me Thursday when I called back …

AOL Postmaster

I recently spoke directly to an employee of America Online whose job it is to manage the ability of outsiders to send AOL users email … The employee said that they are the “red headed stepchildren” of AOL … They are for the simple reason that stopping the ability for a legitimate host to send AOL users email seriously screws up that person’s business …

I blame drunk people … and the reason I blame drunk people is due to the fact that all of my problems dealing with the inability to send AOL email stems from people that signed up on a band or bars email list and then report those messages when they come in to their inbox as a Terms of Service (TOS) violation to AOL … They say that the emails they’re getting are unsolicited email … The fact is, these people requested that they receive those emails … Rather than click on the unsubscribe link (which I never do myself), they shove the email over to the TOS …

The reason I myself never click on an unsubscribe link is because in most UCE, that link is simply a ruse to verify your email address and will do nothing but generate more SPAM … But in the case of the band or bar, I think those users should realize, hey, I was at that bar, or I saw that band, and it’s quite possible that I signed up for an elist that I really don’t want … In this case, having the familiararity of that band or bar ought to be enough to verify that the unsubscribe link isn’t in fact a ruse, but a legitimate way to stop the flow of email to that person … But we are talking about AOL users here, and drunk ones at that …

So, taking this many steps further, those drunk AOL users that willy nilly report these emails as SPAM and get my mail server denied access to AOL’s mail servers completely screw up the ability of a person I host who has nothing to do with bands or bars and don’t even drink that regularly at all … Maybe a cocktail at a holiday party to get warm and fuzzy for a little while … So Susie who hosts a simple site to display the photos of her new children can’t email Mom and Dad (who access AOL across the country) to tell them that there’s Day 5 pictures posted … Why?

Because AOL empowers their users to shut off my mail server even if it’s because AOL users are stupid idiots … What did the AOL employee have to say about that? That AOL receives fees from their customers and will do whatever their customers tell them to do because they’re paying them to do it … Oh! Well, guess we should bake them a cake? … But what about Susie’s parents? They never asked that their daughter’s email be shut off to them … Oh well … The AOL employee agrees that there are certain users that probably shouldn’t be allowed access to a computer …

Here’s another way I get screwed … An AOL user wants their own domain … They now have web space and a mail server … Instead of taking the time to learn that new mail server and all of the wonderful features that it provides, they simply set up one email address and forward all of that email to their AOL email account … Then, when SPAM comes through their domain and forwarded to their AOL account, they TOS that SPAM … Well, where did that SPAM come from? Their domain hosted on my servers, so basically *I* am getting blamed for that SPAM, and again, I am being shut down by AOL due to a stupid AOL user … bah!

With coding comes satisfaction

I’ve been coding an update to a web application I developed in mid 2001. I originally wrote it in ASP and since I’ve scrapped that proprietary language for the more versatile PHP, this is the direction I’ve taken … Along the way, cleaning up the code is happening as well as adding more features to the application … I’ve already implemented a completely new user authentication system … While working on this code as a whole, other things have come up that required me to implement them into other projects, so I go off on tangents a bit … The overhead flourescent got turned off and I’m back in reflected off the ceiling incandescent bliss … My kids and wife came to the dungeon and asked why I had shut the light out … Each one of them individually … I told them that I didn’t shut the lights out, just switched which lights were on …

Anyway, I have already begun using the application although not finished … Handling receiving of payments has been completely rewritten so it is much easier on me … This is normally what held up the completion of each month’s cycle in the past … Due to this update, that should not ever be an issue again … I also merged the application … Whereas I used to log into a system separately and let the registered users into their own version of the code, I am merging the purposes of the files to serve those privileged and those that are not … I am also asking for input from the wife as I hope she can start to get into doing things on the computer rather than the occasional lookup on the web for driving directions or something … Would like to get her into full fledged email and computer understanding …

Finally what will happen is that I will write system level scripts to be run automatically by the computers … This way things that need to be run at a certain time or date will happen … I will also add the running of these scripts to run more often and I will start bugging people more often than I have in the past … This should help me in many ways … Along with those scripts revolving around this application to be run on a scheduled basis, I will also have the scripts within the application leave breadcrumbs around for other scripts that will be run on a schedule act according to those breadcrumbs … This should take a bunch of administration out of my hands and automate it for me … I should have done this a long time ago … How crazy I get with it has yet to be determined … I don’t know what snags lay before me …

D.I.Y.

So our home phone no longer had a dialtone … We called for service and they came out … I was asleep at the time … Wish I wasn’t cause the guy royally screwed it up … He told my wife that things were screwed up outside … That he hooked it up properly and didn’t know why it wasn’t working … He traced some of my internal lines and couldn’t get to where some of them went and marked where the line came in and was working … That I would have to take it from there … What this guy did was rewire it at the pole so it came in on my defunct DSL connection … WRONG! … Being that that’s where it was, I figured out how to mount those wire in the demarc and get the line working internal to the house … I’m not happy about the connection now coming in that way as it’s now accessible on the back of my house whereas the other 7 or 8 lines come in on this big black cable … I’m not using all those lines anymore, they were for the now defunct BBS I had running when I moved in … The Internet took care of that …

This past Wednesday, February 1st 2006 Octane opened up at the TLA for Pray for the Soul of Betty which is Constantine from American Idol‘s band … Considering all of the concern prior to the show, it went fine for me … I made Octane sound good and everybody was happy … I didn’t meet the guy, but I was in his presence and that was interesting enough for me … I didn’t attempt to meet him either as I wouldn’t have had anything to say to him except that I saw him on TV … Still the highlight of my Octane career has been meeting Gene Simmons whereas I did have a conversation at length with him and he signed a copy of his book for me …

ICUHost.Net Billing went out and I also sent out a newsletter … After reading the letter and rereading it, I emailed it out and I missed a blatant misspelling … Damn! … I have started developing a replacement billing application that will replace the ASP one I wrote years ago … I am writing the new one in PHP … I am also using a different authorization system than I normally use for other sites I’ve secured up … This one does hash checking as well as email address verification through links and stuff … Pretty cool … Needed something like this for keeping tabs on customers and verifying new ones … I can’t tell you how many people I just didn’t set up because they were from out of state … Even though they signed up and everything, when I didn’t get back to them, they didn’t get back to me, so I guess I was pretty good in sniffing out the fakers … So hard to trust anyone on the Internet these days … Anyway, along with the new authorization methods, the new billing application will be able to verify domains via different databases and I’ll have a way better handle on billing and domain management … There have been domains that I’ve set up but never assigned to a user and they got a free site for months … When I started verifying DNS against accounts, this won’t happen … I’ll be able to check balances and anything past due I can update the DNS records and inactivate the site … Writing it in PHP allows me to utilize the command line and schedule the billing to run as I see fit … I think I will end up running something weekly if not daily … It will check many things for me that I have not been able to check on a regular basis … Right now, I have someone who moved their site, name servers and everything, but I see that they’re using my mail server and other stuff that I haven’t inactivated … I don’t think that’s right, and with automation, these things won’t happen …

Anyway … no time … need more time … We didn’t win PowerBall … We will this Saturday though …

It’s all in the config

After a couple weeks of toying around with the installation of a FreeBSD 6.0 PF firewall using PF, the key was unlocked by a member of the freebsd-pf mailing list … It was as I suspected a simple couple lines in rc.conf to bring the interfaces of the if_bridge “up” … I have documented this installation on my projects page here

Maybe FreeBSD 6.0?

FreeBSDHmm … Maybe FreeBSD is the way to go with this project? FreeBSD 6.0 was “released” November 4th … That’s the new logo over to the left there … I had played with it a bit after setting up the FreeBSD 4.11 firewall, but I wasn’t satisfied with the results … Also, when upgrading the source, it didn’t seem there were any updates available … So it’s still pretty new …

Working on the OpenBSD machine, I was getting frequent errors … The machine would halt, and I would be left with booting … This was an intermittent problem, and seemed to be related to the network interface although I did seem to get a video error once or twice … I am just speculating as I have no idea what the error messages are reporting … I can only guess by Googling and sampling like results … Waiting for the machine to boot and go through the Raid controller boot was a pain too …

I built the OpenBSD machine on a Proliant 1850R, so rather than blow away my work, I simply swapped out the drives to try the FreeBSD 6.0 solution … I am using two 18G drives in a Raid 0+1 setup … This will save my ass down the road … As you can see, I sort of go back and forth in my work … Each time going through it, there may be something new I find or an option that I may have changed my mind on … I currently have the FreeBSD 6.0 installation to the point where it’s a working server … Running an SMP kernel and having Apache 2.0 with PHP4 installed …

My ultimate goal is to have an IPless filtering bridge with a network card behind the bridge for machine management. I mapped out this configuration in a drawing here … I sent this off to the freebsd-pf list requesting advice … Many of my searches didn’t return reliable information, and the stirring on that list didn’t bring back definitive answers, but that it’s possible … It seemed to me that OpenBSD was going to be a better solution … So I will go back and forth and see which works better for me … I think I know how to thwart the OpenBSD halts now since I had a similar situation on the FreeBSD install … I installed FreeBSD 6.0 via FTP … It also seems to me that FreeBSD is sort of getting comparable to OpenBSD in its distribution in this manner as well as attempting to implement tried and true solutions only available on OpenBSD until the release of FreeBSD 6.0 … I think I am on the bleeding edge, and I am documenting this as I go and have already started a document on it in my testing area …

There are three reasons to get this working in this manner … One is that having the card in there that can talk to the network will enable me to keep the machine current with easy access for cvsup’ing my ports and source … Two would be that the firewall will report to me nightly … Previously having the IPless firewall without network access, I didn’t know if there were problems developing on that machine since I didn’t receive the nightly maintenance messages … and finally, having access to the machine and running an Apache installation on there, I will be able to produce pretty graphs to display the firewall’s activity …

OpenBSD 3.8

OpenBSDI’ve been playing with OpenBSD again … This time I hope to get further … When the FreeBSD firewall machine went down, I created a brand new one using FreeBSD 4.11 … I upgraded the sources to p13 … Almost immediately after, I received the notice that FreeBSD 6.0 was officially released, and a visit to their web site showed that there is no more FreeBSD 4.11 …

I started building an OpenBSD firewall, but gave up pretty quickly since it wasn’t comfortable … It didn’t feel like FreeBSD, so then I started working on a FreeBSD 6.0 solution which has ported a lot of OpenBSD features over … I have been running into some walls there, so I decided I would try OpenBSD again and see just how far I could get even though it doesn’t have conveniences that I’m used to … I’ll keep this bLog posted with what goes on … It’s just starting …

It’s been hell!

My weekend with Octane ended on Sunday morning … I got home about 6am from The Ocean Drive … I left to go there about 10:30am Saturday morning … That was after getting home from Reed’s at about 6am Saturday morning … So that’s what, 4.5 hours shy of 24 hours for The Ocean Drive job on about 3 hours of sleep … sheesh … Sunday was pretty much slept away … So I come down to the computers Monday, and during the course of the day I’m hearing “dink” … “dink” … “clunk” … If you’ve ever heard an IDE drive going south, this is that noise … I had two 40G WD drives in my personal workstation … The original 40 that filled up using W2K and the new one with XP on it that was pretty much full too … How can I tell which drive is dinking and clunking? I run the ol’ chkdisk and determine that it’s the newer of the two drives … The dinking and clunking gets worse, so what do I do? Turn the machine off … Have to get another drive in there and get the data off before it goes away for good …

I get this brainstorm that I ought to just get a new computer … My personal workstation has been a P3 1gHz for a couple years now, so it’s time I should go to a P4 for myself … I’m worth it … So I go to another machine and browse Circuit City’s web site to see if they have any spiffy deals on desktop computers … While I am browsing, I get the message that Firefox can’t find circuitcity.com … I refresh … I force a server refresh (Shift+F5) … It can’t find the site … Hmm … I look to the router … Stuff is trying to go out, but nothing is coming in … Aren’t LEDs awesome?! The phone rings … a guy from a band says he can’t get to his site and another that he knows I host … Yup, the connection is verklempt, I have to place a call … But, the support number is filed away nicely in my Email client in the Savvis folder, but my personal workstation was taking a dive, so I had turned it off … A reseller from the city calls … yes, I know … another reseller from West Chester calls … their customers are calling them, can I email when it’s back … yes, sure thing … (But I don’t have my email working now) … finally my oldest reseller calls and he wouldn’t have called me (cause he hates to bother me) but one of his $ clients called him …

I finally get the support number by firing up my clunky workstation … in loading the email client, it tried to get mail, but with the connection down, I can’t even communicate internally … I actually like this feature sometimes … I call them and they say they know and give me the Master Ticket Number for this issue since it is wide spread … It was ticket# 465020 if you’re interested … In total the connection was down from about 2-3pm … One tiny hour, but it was as if the world had ended … People go nuts without their Internet … I mean, I do too … Anyway, the explanation was that it was some sort of AT&T problem and they had to restart a device or something, but whatever, the connection was back … West Chester called me back and asked me if it was back for good … How can I answer that question? It could go down while I type this entry … I just have to trust that it stays up 24/7/365 … So I can only say that since it has been up more than 5 minutes, it seems they have cleared their problem …

So now back to getting me up and running again … I have an idea what Circuit City is selling so I go to my ol’ reliable local computer dealer and see what he has and can do for me … I usually go in there and buy the bare essentials and come home and piece something together from that … This time, I went full tilt with a complete system … DVD and a DVDRW … two DVDs in one machine … That’s like Surf & Turf for me … P4 2.6, 200G SATA (this new thing he thought I should check out) a pretty case and 1gig of RAM … I also picked up a couple spare power supplies (always need them) and a new optical mouse … The ball mouse that was in the KVM got dirty a lot and I have grown tired of cleaning it … Stupid dust … Everything else is on the motherboard … sound, vga, NIC … whatever … so I plunk $725 in his hand and I am off to install hell … Little did I know the hell that awaited me when I got home …

I pull up to the house and the wife comes running out … ‘You have to come inside right now!’ … okay, scare the crap out of me, what happened to one of the kids … who called … what is going on? Remember that kid who had his 3rd birthday back on October 10th last year? Well this same kid was allowed to go to the bathroom by himself … He flushed the toilet and somehow replayed the events of his birthday party … The same toilet overflowed and the water followed the same path down to, you guessed it, the SmartJack that brings the T1 connection into my location … She said she ran down when she realized what was happenning and felt the box, it was wet … She then said she heard it pop and sizzle … So I am on the phone to Savvis telling them that it’s the same exact thing that had happened 10/10/04 … Verizon has to come out and pop in a new card … Why didn’t they move that box? This time the phone only rang once … Another guy from a different band wanting to know why he couldn’t get to his site … I also got an email when I finally got to emails from a guy at like 11pm … I always kinda think the emails are funny cause you’d think if someone couldn’t get to their site that they might think that I couldn’t get emails … So I replied to this email and didn’t specifically place the blame on my 3 year old son … The pressure would certainly be too much on him …

So as I sit and wait, I figure I can begin the installation of the new machine and stuff … I have no Internet to get updates and stuff, but no matter … I now have the spiffy firewall in place where I am already protected from the nasties before I even install whatever operating system I choose … Since this is my workstation, I still use a lot of Windows based software, so this will be a Windows based machine … I have to complete hooking up the internal wires and things … The computer guy did most of the mounting of stuff … I had to hook up the LED wires … the external USB ports that are on the front of the box, etc … So I get it all together and boot it up … Setup goes through its normal startup and when I get to the part where I tell the installation to begin, it tells me there’s no hard drives to install Windows to … What?! Hmm … guess Windows doesn’t know about SATA when this was released … Okay, no problem, I will press F6 when the Setup begins and let it know with the SATA drivers … So, I do that and when I select to read the drivers from the CD that came with the motherboard, Setup informs me that I have no floppy drive to read the drivers in from … Uhm … I didn’t get a floppy drive cause I never use them anymore, and I have about 30 machines that have floppies in them that I didn’t need one in this new machine … Bah! Exit the setup again … so I figure I will go to Microsoft’s web site and look up how to install onto a new SATA HDD … Guess again, I have no Internet … So what to do? Screw it, I steal a 6G IDE out of another unused machine and decide to install the Op/Sys there and once up and running get the 200G up and running for storage … and that’s what I ended up doing …

Almost 7 hours after reporting my 3 year old’s adventures, Verizon shows up and I am running within 5 minutes … I asked the guy if I could cover the box or something and he said that would be fine … He didn’t seem into moving it or anything, so I will have a plastic bag covering that bad boy within 24 hours … Maybe some gaff tape with the plastic draped so anything will run off and I can leave the sides and bottom exposed … If I tuck it over, I think something may be able to get into the back of the unit, so I will create sort of like a gutter instead … This box is locked and I have no access to it at all … So there you have it, I knew it would only take 2 minutes to put that card in cause I knew what the problem was … Of course he had to go through his diagnostics and pinpoint the problem … It’s also always nice to have someone come in and admire my mess … It’s neat to watch someone else climb through all the boxes and crap that’s all over the place …

So I have the Internet, I begin Windows Update … While I update, I play some Counter-Strike to pass the time … I also moved some machines around since I was down and there was no one accessing them … Some of the machines that I recently developed, and when I say ‘recently’ I mean within the last year, I moved into more permanent spots and got them out of my way … I was also going to replace the firewall’s power supply, but it seems to have lost that rattling noise that it used to make … It was blowing air just fine so I will just keep an eye on that one … In the coming days I will re-vitalize the old Windows MySQL server into a new FreeBSD server with one of the new power supplies …

After all the updates are complete, I immediately go for the essentials … Firefox and I had always been meaning to switch from Eudora to Thunderbird, so here was my chance … got those both installed and working and I started getting the email accounts set up … I am using POP3SSL and SMTP-AUTH TLS for sending … all using the main hostname of the mail server … so far so good … I installed my CorelDRAW 12 upgrade, and it didn’t even ask me for an old disc … Weird … I know both DVD drives are working as I played Revolution-OS in there (a fitting first movie in this Windows machine) … I resurrected my brother’s old Creative Labs powered speakers for this machine … I decided I wanted better sound than the little cheapo speakers I’ve had on my workstation for some time … Already I am getting used to Thunderbird … I had over 350 messages to root from the BSD machines … No complaining from the Windows machines … I don’t think they even knew the Internet was unavailable …

A couple hours of sleep in my chair here, and I am back at it … Typing in this entry a reseller called for a new domain and asked about yesterday … They didn’t even realize the down time from last night … See, it only matters between 9 to 5 I guess … Although I am sure there were many puzzled faces during the outage last night … Right now the mail server is being converted to the SCSI drive that was installed almost a week ago … It spun in there just fine for that time, so now it’s ready to go into production … I also bought EditPadPro for the new machine … It was about time I got a registered version of that … It’s the best editor I have ever used, and I was getting tired of the slow response times of the older version … This new version is much better …

So! With the power outage from last week, and the AT&T outage coupled with my 3 year old’s potty training outage and my workstation’s hard disk crash, this has GOT to be it for a while, yes? I most certainly hope so …