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January 2020
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Wednesday, 1 January 2020 Dereel Images for 1 January 2020
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Another decade!
Topic: history, opinion Link here

2020 already! 50 years since the Epoch! My ninth calendar decade! How time flies.


Email server: worth the trouble?
Topic: technology, general, opinion Link here

A while back I got all the wrinkles sorted out in the email configuration on lax.lemis.com, my external server that also answers to the name www.lemis.com. It took hardly more than 3 months.

Why so long? I've been running an email server since March 1990, not quite 30 years. I've written a book including information on how to configure sendmail and (later edition) postfix. But somehow things are much more complicated now. Still, it's working.

Then I came into the office this morning and read:

66BFC285F3      747 Tue Dec 31 05:46:30  groggyhimself@lemis.com
(host mx01.t-online.de[194.25.134.72] refused to talk to me: 554 IP=45.32.70.18 - A problem occurred. (Ask your postmaster for help or to contact tosa@rx.t-online.de to clarify.) (BL))
                                         gabribohn@t-online.de

What's that? Clearly asking my postmaster is circular, and how can I send email if they're refusing to speak to me? But what does the message even mean? “A problem occurred”. Clearly a clever system. Did a bit of searching and found this page, which wasn't that much help, but gave me the option of filling out a web form to ask them to fix their configuration.

But wait, there's more:

Dec 31 05:46:36 lax postfix/smtp[35092]: D02D4285C6: to=<callum@dab.com>, relay=smtp2.dab.com[160.83.84.104]:25, delay=7.7, delays=0.21/0.01/7.4/0.07, dsn=4.7.1, status=SOFTBOUNCE (host smtp2.dab.com[160.83.84.104] said: 550 5.7.1 Rejected: 45.32.70.18 listed at http://www.mail-abuse.com/cgi-bin/lookup?ip_address=45.32.70.18 (in reply to MAIL FROM command))

Now isn't that a clearer message? Off to look at http://www.mail-abuse.com/cgi-bin/lookup?ip_address=45.32.70.18. Reputation: bad. So were all the adjacent addresses. OK, I can apply to have it taken off the list. Or can I? It seems that the owner of the address block has to do it, and that's Vultr. So I did it both ways: apply anyway, and raise a ticket with Vultr.

Quick reply from Vultr:

Thank you for your inquiry. Third party blacklists are free to add any IP addresses as they find necessary and we try to work with them in an attempt to remove our IPs in a timely manner.

For this specific list you will be required to do so as they require rDNS entries to be setup for the IP and will require your input as the mail server administrator.
https://spfbl.net/en/delist/

An alternative is to use a third party SMTP service such as Sendgrid or Mandrill.

That doesn't address my problem. The URL they mention is unrelated, and the reverse lookup records exist. It looks like a standard reply. And apart from the third party SMTP services, there's an alternative: forget Vultr and stick with RootBSD.

So maybe it's a good thing that I didn't close down the old server at the end of December, as I had planned. Changed my local configuration to point to that server, and the email went through.

Why is this so difficult? Should I maybe really use a third-party server? How about Aussie Broadband? The problem is that I then don't have access to the server logs. But it's tempting.

The good news: in the evening the block on the IP had been removed without comment, and also got mail from t-online confirming that the block had been removed, though it's not clear whether they did anything or it just worked because the block had been removed.


Where's that bushfire?
Topic: general, opinion Link here

Yesterday's bushfire was only 1.6 km away. Or maybe it was 11 km. Or maybe one of three other places that they chose on the map.

Where was it really? Off down Mount Mercer Road (3 spottings) to take a look. Nothing to be seen. Even the real fire down the Mount Mercer-Shelford Road was barely visible. My guess is that there was only one, somewhere in the plantation timber about 4 km east of here. I wonder if there's a “satellite” view of the fire regions.


More uses for quail eggs
Topic: food and drink, opinion Link here

Husfrusill this evening, with quail's eggs:


https://lemis.nyc3.digitaloceanspaces.com/grog/Photos/20200101/big/Husfrusill.jpeg
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Thursday, 2 January 2020 Dereel Images for 2 January 2020
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Reducing bushfire danger
Topic: general, animals, opinion Link here

It's clear that this year will be one of the worst bushfire seasons ever. Normally the worst fires occur from mid-January to mid-February. It's only the beginning of January, and already it almost looks as if there's a single fire all the way from northern New South Wales to the Gippsland coast, about 1200 km long. It's comforting to see that Scott Morrison has received the reception he deserved when visiting the disaster area. Somehow he seems to be emulating his idol even in this kind of situation.

Fortunately we're not nearly as endangered here. But Yvonne is very nervous. Nevertheless, it took a certain amount of persuasion to get her to help remove the long grass to the west of the house, which poses the biggest danger in case of a fire round these ways. She had wanted to keep it for later in the season to save on hay. A lot of good that would be if it burns anyway and we end up living in a tent. So finally she got Chris Bahlo to bring over a few horses, who should get rid of it pretty quickly:


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She came with her sister Melanie, and later with still more horses, not to be left here:


https://lemis.nyc3.digitaloceanspaces.com/grog/Photos/20200102/big/Chris-and-Melanie-Bahlo-6.jpeg
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Fixing spam blockages
Topic: technology, opinion Link here

Yesterday's ticket response from Vultr didn't help much, but it did mention one thing:

For this specific list you will be required to do so as they require rDNS entries to be setup for the IP and will require your input as the mail server administrator.
https://spfbl.net/en/delist/

That's nonsensical for two reasons: firstly, the rDNS entries are there, and secondly they're Vultr's responsibility. But it was worth going to https://spfbl.net/en/delist/ to see what they say. Yes, no rDNS. Did they check? I did, and it was OK. But they say:

 
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Suspicion? Suspicion? I suspect that somebody there can't pass the Turing test. But they offered to unblock it, first sending a badly formatted HTML message to postmaster@:

 
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Bloody CAPTCHA! But then, modulo a race condition, all worked well. So it seems that this particular crisis is over.

Or was it? Mail from Vultr asking me for a response to their message. What kind of response?

On Thursday,  2 January 2020 at  2:02:47 -0500, support@vultr.com wrote:
> Dear Customer,
>
> We are awaiting for your reply on this ticket:

OK, I'll bite.  What reply do you expect?  I don't see a question, and
your response doesn't really address my issue (which you neglect to
quote).  Based on your apparent lack of interest, I was considering
going elsewhere.

Ah, it seems that this was also just a standard action:

We were simply setting the ticket to feedback in the event that you had any other questions.  That being said, as was mentioned, our abuse team regularly submits de-blacklist requests for any affected IP ranges andshould do so to DUL as well. Please note that this typically takes time as we are at their mercy to de-blacklist and success is not guaranteed.