Monthly Archives: March 2008

Getting serious about email

The epic tale of how my new mail setup was born

My personal email has been on a rough ride over the years: from a reasonably nice (Microsoft based!) school email setup in 1999, which sadly got removed when Windows 98 was introduced, I went through three Hotmail accounts. I had a brief flirtation with GMail, but not being all that keen on the means of delivering advertising, I ended up back on Hotmail.

Registering dnorth.net last year at least ensured my email address would no longer change, but the technical capabilities of the two mail servers holding the mail still left much to be desired: flaky, unreliable spam scoring, no facilities for server-side filtering/sorting, sheer lack of customisability…

Last week, I finally did something about it. At my disposal was my VPS, running Debian Linux 4 (‘etch’). On the wishlist were:

  • Accurate server-side spam scoring with SMTP-time rejection of the most obvious spam
  • Sender verification
  • Sieve filters for server-side sorting into folders
  • All mail stored on the server and accessible over secure IMAP

Thankfully, none of the above is too difficult: some pretty good instructions are Out There for most of it. The ones I used were:

Please remember, I am not responsible for the content of external sites (e.g., the links above), nor can I accept any responsibility for the consequences of acting on the points below…

I ran into a couple of issues:

  • Permissions on the .sievesource files generated by AvelSieve – I needed to chmod g+w on /var/lib/squirrelmail/data and chown it to www-data:www-data in order to reach a state where Exim could read the file, and Avelsieve could write it.
  • Exim4’s native sieve implementation only has the core features in it, not the extensions defined in RFC 3431. I dodged the issue by matching the number of *s in the X-Spam-Score header using string matching, rather than numeric checks on the X-Spam-Score.

All in all, though, it’s working a treat. Email perfection at last!

Live from my sofa

Twelve months ago, I installed Linux (Kubuntu) on my laptop.

Twelve minutes ago, I got the wireless card working with my WPA-PSK home network.

A combination of the progress made on drivers over the last year, and finding which of the squillions of instruction sets out there Actually Worked has finally got things going – rather than recount it all here, I’ll point owners of the HP Pavilion dv5157eu to this page, and advise everyone else as to how I found it: do a Google search for some combination of ‘ubuntu’, ‘wireless’ and your laptop’s exact model number.

Edit: My wireless happiness sadly didn’t survive a hibernate or a reboot. Turns out the line of the page which says do ‘sudo echo ndiswrapper > /etc/module’ actually means, as far as I can tell, that you should do:

sudo -s
echo ndiswrapper >> /etc/modules

As ever, follow my advice at your own risk.

Cambridge and back

Musings on public transport, and a look round The Other University

So, full term ended yesterday, and I had to get over to Cambridge for a dinner. The X5 bus proved reasonable, both in terms of cost (£15 open return) and time, though the long stop to change drivers in Bedford lengthened an already long enough journey.

After a very pleasant afternoon being shown round Cambridge, I’ll have to begrudgingly admit to being impressed by it. King’s College Chapel, in particular, was spectacular. Even the weather wasn’t bad.

The train journey home from Oxford was tolerable, though prolonged by a needless half hour stop in Birmingham – it wasn’t so much the stop that annoyed me, but the fact that nobody bothered to tell us about it.

Yesterday only served to reaffirm my belief that public transport is mediocre at best, and ghastly at worst. Our rulers will have to try harder if they want to convince me not to use the driving licence lurking in my wallet, as soon as I can afford to…