SpamAssassin issue resolved
#31 Henry, Sunday, 03 January 2010 1:07 AM (Category: Email)
(Tags: spamassassin)

I searched online for the SpamAssassin problem I was having. I was not alone. There is a date test that looks for dates "grossly in the future" and triggers if the date is past 2010. This started being triggered on all emails once 1st January 2010 came along, and added about 3 points to the spam score. This was enough to tip a couple of emails over my threshold and turn them into false positives.

Here's the rule that was causing the problem:

FH_DATE_PAST_20XX: Date =~ /20[1-9][0-9]/

and the description is:

The date is grossly in the future.

There are two suggestions to fix the problem. First, turn the test off by adding this line to /etc/mail/spamassassin/local.cf:

score FH_DATE_PAST_20XX 0.0

Or push the problem ten years into the future by changing the file /usr/share/spamassassin/72_active.cf so that the rule is now:

Date =~ /20[2-9][0-9]/

SpamAssassin conducts a whole range of date tests, and this is just one of them. I looked through my test batch of spam and realised what it is trying to achieve. One trick that spammers use is to set the date of the spam email way in the future, so when you view your email (usually in reverse chronological order), that spam email is always jammed at the top and in your face because it's set to 2030 or 2050 or something. This test helps eliminate those gross abuses, so I can see that it is a useful test to have and I would rather not do without it.

Therefore I opted to use the second solution and still look for grossly in the future dates, which now means anything past 2020.

To make the change take effect, I restarted SpamAssassin with:

/etc/rc.d/rc.spamassassin restart

That's specific to Slackware. Other distributions will differ.

The only emails affected were ones that Anne sent from iPhoto to herself locally. They were the only false positives, and she has already worked around the problem by using a description and not just the filename.

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Time Capsule is live
#30 Henry, Saturday, 02 January 2010 11:18 PM (Category: Apple)
(Tags: wifi apple)

It was time to get the Time Capsule live.

I turned off the D-Link WAP I've been using for years. I made space for the Time Capsule, plugged it in, started the Airport Utility and was faced with options. I sighed at first, because this is usually confusing where the vendor uses terms that don't mean much. But I was surprised by Apple's approach. It was common sense, didn't introduce new jargon and led me very simply through it. The questions were easy and worked. The one thing I was worried about was DHCP. I did not want the Time Capsule to handle DHCP. I do that myself elsewhere. They asked if I wanted that, indicating they would set up the Time Capsule as a bridge. That worked. It saved its configuration several times, and then it was live.

I got my iPod Touch working with it. Easy. Got the two Tivos working with it. Easy. Got the MacBook working with it. Easy. Got the two Mac Minis working with it. Also easy. Then I ran into a problem with the Airport Express.

I use the Airport Express to hook into my stereo. I use the Remote app on my iPod Touch to control iTunes on my Mac Mini, and push the music out to the Airport Express. The system works really nicely. I had set up a nice playlist for New Years Eve and played great background music all night, and that was just a few days ago, so I knew it was working. But now the Airport Express would not connect to the Time Capsule. I eventually figured it out. I pulled the Airport Express out of the stereo, brought it into the computer room, and hooked it to the network with an Ethernet cable. Then the Airport Utility saw it, and I could reconfigure the wireless network in it. Unplugged it, took it back to the stereo and reconnected it, and it fired up and everything is working nicely.

So it's done. My wireless network has gone from 802.11g to 802.11n. I can already notice the laptop speed increase.

And I set up my MacBook to backup (Time Machine) to the Time Capsule. (Don't you just loathe all the cutesy names - Time Machine, Time Capsule, Airport Express, Airport Extreme.)

One more step towards Apple domination in the house.

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SpamAssassin urgency
#28 Henry, Saturday, 02 January 2010 10:35 AM (Category: Email)
(Tags: spamassassin)

I've been meaning to upgrade my mailserver for a while, but now there is urgency. I just noticed that SpamAssassin started triggering a rule I haven't see before:

3.2 FH_DATE_PAST_20XX      The date is grossly in the future.

Any 2010 date triggers this and adds 3.2 to the spam score. Oops.

Must make that upgrade a priority now.

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UPS changes
#29 Henry, Friday, 01 January 2010 2:35 PM (Category: Hardware)
(Tags: ups)

I have a number of UPSs in the house. In the server rack, I have an APC 1400VA 2u rackmount UPS unit. It's been great having this protecting the servers for the last few years, but batteries don't last forever. Last month, the load lights on the unit started flashing wildly, and it made me realise that a battery upgrade was required. But replacement batteries are about $370 for this model.

I didn't feel a sense of urgency about it, I did some research, I looked for cheap alternatives. The day before New Years Eve changed that. The light indicating that the batteries were bad and needed replacing finally lit up. And the unit started going into 5 minute beep frenzies every few hours. The first time it happened in the middle of the night and scared me considerably. Then it got boring. I needed a replacement ASAP.

While buying alcohol and food for the New Years Eve frenzy, I stopped at Office Max and Best Buy and checked out home-grade UPS units. I bought one and took it home - APC Back-UPS XS 1500. It's not a rackmount unit, but it's 1500VA, has enough slots for plugs in the back, and even has a nice display. I charged it up overnight, and on New Years Day when the alcohol level had subsided enough, I switched the servers to the new UPS. Nice.

The display on front is very nice. I can see that the unit is not overloaded, and that it will keep my servers running for 22 minutes before they turn off. I like that. Once I get the mail/web server upgraded, that will reduce the number of servers on it, and they will last even longer. I like this unit so much, I might get another one. I'll see if I can trade in the rackmount UPS and get another one for my desktop.

Once again, my computer room is silent, with no screaming alarms.

And if the alarms ever do go off, there is a button on this unit to mute them. Bliss.

APC UPS display showing 22 minutes

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Time Capsule
#27 Henry, Wednesday, 23 December 2009 10:10 PM (Category: Apple)
(Tags: apple wifi backup)

Just bought an Apple Time Capsule. This is a device that lets you back your Macs to it wirelessly, and sync to MobileMe. And provide 802.11n wireless in the house. With separate guest network. And some other things I will soon find out.

Haven't deployed it yet, but I will do that Christmas Day.

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