Month: February 2010

frontier.gif:
I posted some of my initial thinking on how to integrate source code control (SVN) with Frontier’s IDE over on the frontierkernel Yahoo! Group.

I think this is going to be important if we want developers to take the project seriously, and contribute meaningful code, rather than just a patchwork of fixes and mini-features.

I’ve had bits and pieces of this working in the past, but never all in one place, and never with a rational user interface.

Any Frontier/Radio/OPML Editor types out there: Any thoughts?

Development Frontier

I’ve been using an email and file-storage service called Fastmail.fm for about the last three years. I like it because it’s cheap (about $50/year), has lots of storage (10GB), and other perks like photo albums and web hosting on custom domains. They also have great spam filters, and they’re almost never down.

I prefer it over Hotmail (a.k.a. Live Mail) because its web UI is lean and fast, and it has IMAP access so I can access my mail easily on my PC or mobile device (iPhone at the moment). I also prefer it over Gmail since I don’t really like the way Gmail handles folders/categories, plus at the time I set it up, Gmail didn’t offer IMAP access, though they do now. Of course since Google released Google Buzz, there are new reasons not to like Gmail.

I still have a Gmail account, but I use Fastmail to both read and send email for my Gmail address. It’s easy to set this up in Fastmail and Gmail — all you need is a Fastmail personality, and to forward all your Gmail to your Fastmail address. Here’s how to set this up:

Configuring a Gmail personality in Fastmail:

  1. Click on Options at the top of the page
  2. Click Personalities (near the bottom of the first column)
  3. Click the Create New Personality button
  4. Enter your Gmail address under email address, and whatever you want to under display name and name
  5. Click the Save Personality button

Now you can send email using Fastmail, but “from” your gmail address.

Note: This does not save outgoing mail back to Gmail when sent from Fastmail. If you want that, then BCC your Gmail account when sending from Fastmail. (You can do that automatically if you want, by adding your Gmail address to the BCC addresses field on your gmail personality in Fastmail.)

Forwarding Gmail to Fastmail:

The other part is to set up forwarding incoming mail from Gmail to your Fastmail account:

  1. Log into Gmail
  2. Click Options at the top of the page
  3. Click the Forwarding and POP/IMAP tab
  4. Click the radio button in the top section to “Forward a copy of incoming mail to” and enter your Fastmail email address. You probably want to “keep Gmail’s copy in the inbox”
  5. Scroll to the bottom and click “Save Changes”

Now you can read all of your Gmail on the Fastmail site. Gmail’s spam filters are still active for mail coming from Gmail — they run before forwarding. Plus you get a second layer of spam filtering from Fastmail too.

PS: Can we please someday get IMAP access to Hotmail? Thanks!

Hacks and Mash-Ups iPhone

After weeks and weeks of deadlines at work, and sickness and minor injuries at home, I finally had some time to get back to work on UserLand this weekend.

money_bag_small.jpg:
There are still too many servers running UserLand’s sites, making the hosting fees higher than they need to be, which of course limits the amount of time available to get things under control, so the first priority is still to consolidate servers. Not only does this reduce costs, but it also makes it easier to migrate later if necessary.

A couple of weeks ago, I moved radio.userland.com to the main UserLand server that hosts the UserLand.com site, and the Manila and Frontier sites. I started work tonight on another server, with an eye toward moving the sites to the same machine.

I haven’t finished this one yet, because as I was exploring what data and sites were there, I noticed a huge amount of traffic on one sub-domain for /RPC2. What on earth is this RPC handler? Well, it turns out it’s spam. The requests were all coming in to rcs.salon.com, which was the backend host for the Salon Blogs, and the RPC method was weblogUpdates.ping. Whoops!

So for years, there’s been an open ping server sitting there, waiting for spammers to send URLs to it, and posting links to their spam sites up on the web, under a prominent domain name. This had to stop right away.

Fortunately it was pretty easy to do. UserLand already had code in place to drop requests from spammers. We called it the blocker responder. Its job is to examine all incoming web requests (as efficiently as possible), and look for reasons to reject them. If the request is a “bad” one, it responded with empty content. But it didn’t know anything about RPC requests.

So I made it smarter. Now it looks for any requests that are RPC requests for the weblogUpdates.ping method, and it drops them. I also updated the responder to simply drop the request, instead of returning empty content. Hopefully this makes it more likely that the spammers will notice that it’s not working, and turn their bots off.

I should note that this responder runs only on UserLand’s servers. If this is something that you want to do on your own Manila server, let me know, and I’ll be happy to share the code with you. (It’s super simple.)

Tomorrow I’ll move the sites on this server over to the main UserLand.com server, and shut off the old one. After that there’s more old stuff to turn off, and the problem of how to generate viable static HTML from Manila sites.

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