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Switching to a cooler ISP (and stuff)

So, if you haven't noticed, stuff has been broken around wirewd.com lately. Why? Because I was forced to do some stuff that I've been meaning to do for a while by circumstance (or, at least, sound like Jerry Pournelle)

I'm going to save my rant about my old ISP for a later entry. I want to see how they handle refunding me my money. But, suffice it to say, they went down for an extended period of time, and I opted to switch ISPs.

Since the beginning of the year, I had made the decision that I was going to move over to a Unix-based platform (either BSD or Linux) and rewrite my site. I was also getting progressively less happy with the level of spam filtering available on my ISP.

Now, it should be noted that, some years ago when I started using IIS as my web platform, Active Server Pages made sense as a platform for database-driven web development. So I was doing a lot of ASP-based development. But right now, PHP has matured. And, because the Linux/Apache/MySQL/PHP ISPs have no licensing fees at all, they tend to be a little cheaper. So I really wanted to take advantage of this, but I was being lazy about porting things over.

When one's ISP goes down, this changes things. So I've been racing to get things working.

My new ISP is Linode.com. It seems that they've really managed to make a business model around giving those who are prepared to support themselves hosting. They are running User Mode Linux, which basically means that I pay around $20 per month for 1/32nd of a Linux box. But, unlike other ISPs, I can do whatever I want with 1/32nd of a Linux box.

So I'm running Spamassassin. Because I think it's a neater database than MySQL, I'm running PostgreSQL.

Now that I'm running my own DNS, I can tweak it to do what I want. So I'm publishing SPF records. The annoying thing is that, right now, somebody's sending really offensive EU political spam (something in German about the Turkish entry into the EU and stuff) and I'm getting bounce messages from everybody who isn't filtering on SPF (which is a huge portion of the Internet)

Which is really too bad, because SPF brings us one step closer to less spam and viruses. Remember the first crop of viruses, where the from address was the person who had the virus, so you could email them and tell them they were sending viruses? Well, SPF makes it much harder for modern viruses to forge who they are from. You know all of the phishing scams? Well, SPF will make all of those harder, too, because they won't be able to send messages from whatever@paypal.com.

The problem, of course, is that not everybody is using it yet. Which is really too bad, because once it gets widespread deployment among DNS records, there's even more that we can do with it. Like adding to the SpamAssassin score for a given message if there isn't an SPF record published.

I'm currently rewriting the backend to the site. Because this is my personal goofing around, I'm rewriting it using Ruby. I can already tell that Ruby is an interesting language. It's got the general cleanliness of Python, but it's a really compact language like Perl with a lot of power. I'm still trying to wrap my mind around the parts that allow you to sling functors around like Lisp. So I'm currently doing things mostly-manually until I figure out how to program Ruby right.

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