Too harsh on the recruiters?

I just rejected a recruiter’s job advert from the linuxjobs moderation queue because it had a useless subject line (“Job Posting”) and was in HTML. I requested that they repost with a useful subject line and in plain text.

They have just responded with:

Thanks for your email but apologies I don’t know what you mean by “plain text”!!

Their post wasn’t really against the rules of the list, so maybe I should have just approved it? Maybe them not being able to write a good ad is just their problem to work out between themselves and potential candidates?

Actually the only reason why I got the chance to moderate it was because they weren’t subscribed to the list. If they’d been subscribed then they would have been able to post with the useless subject and the HTML anyway. And I’d probably have just sighed at it and thought no more. So was it right to moderate it away?


One for the paramilitary wing of the FSF

Paging Matt Lee…

From: Federal Buyers Guide <>
Subject: British Linux User Group listing update - DoD Buyers


   Complete or update information to list British Linux User
   Group, as a supplier available for Department of Defense
   bid and sales opportunities in the 2009 Department of
   Defense Buyers Guide.  The information on your company
   and products will be accessed by Federal and military
   purchasing agents and buying facilities.

New-look launched: some thoughts for its future

After a tremendous effort by a few of the other admins and volunteers, the new-look has been launched.

I’m not going to go into massive detail as plenty of other blog posts have been written about this already, and I wasn’t one of the admins doing much work on it. However I am really impressed with what has been achieved and very happy to see the back of the old site and server it was on.

It will be interesting to see what we can come up with in terms of managed services for our users in future. I would like eventually for all new accounts by default to be given only restricted access and a prearranged list of customisable applications, instead of the current full shell account and free use of PHP/CGI that they have had previously. Whether we should ever (again) offer anything more is something I am not convinced about.

The vast majority of accounts do not require anything but the most simple web hosting, and supporting the legacy environment would be a challenge for even a commercial hosting company. I think that providing complex custom hosting for free is not our remit and groups desiring that should be looking for a commercial hosting provider. It’s also my opinion that providing hosting services should always remain a relatively minor part of what we do — okay, mailing lists are essential but most LUGs can scrape together some web hosting for themselves if they need to. What we are primarily there for I believe is to help with cross-LUG communication and publicity, simply keeping track of which LUGs exist and how to find them and so on. The new site should help us do that but there is always room for improvement.

Another issue we’ve done a lot of talking about but not managed to make much progress on is the issue of incorporation. To date, has been run by individuals, services have been donated and we’ve never really accepted monetary donations. In the last couple of years we’ve faced having to buy decent hardware, because no company was interested in donating something suitable, and begging for it was time-consuming and soul-destroying. We also now have a recurring cost for hosting which is basically being paid for by a couple of us as individuals. It would be nicer in some respects if we could formally incorporate as a non-profit society / club / charity / whatever, so that it could have its own bank account and pay its suppliers.

We’ve made a couple of stabs at the charter that would be required for this — Hugo in particular has spent a lot of time on it — yet we’ve never managed to come to an agreement amongst the active admins over responsibilities and burdens it would place on us. I hope we can resolve this one day soon. In the meantime we should probably just add some sort of donations page.

A number of the admins including myself will be at FOSDEM for the next few days. If you have any ideas for or just want a chat please do seek us out! We’ll be wearing t-shirts but if you’re having no luck finding us then the phone number in my contact details will work.


I’m at the Hampshire Linux User Group Extraordinary General Meeting in Southampton today. It’s an EGM because the “proper” annual general meeting a month or two ago didn’t get enough people to be quorate.

I don’t usually physically attend Hants LUG meetings given they take place (naturally) in Hampshire and I live in Feltham, near Heathrow! This time though there was an item on the agenda to be voted on which I felt rather strongly about, so I thought I should make the effort to help reach quorum and get the amendment passed.

The amendment in question was regarding opening the mailing list archives. Traditionally, Hants LUG has had a “closed” list archive in that only members of the mailing list can view the archive. This meant that no archiving by major search engines could take place, and therefore none of the pearls of wisdom posted to the list were being published outside the confines of the LUG. When this topic was brought up on the list it was rather contentious with a clear divide of opinion — some people just didn’t like the idea of their posts to the LUG’s mailing list being publically visible and archived.

Graham Bleach had stepped forward to propose an amendment to the LUG’s constitution that would see the mailing list archives opened up, and it’s one I was eager to support. Happily the amendment was passed something like 23 to 3.

Tony Whitmore had also taken the time to write up several other amendments related to who can vote, when meetings will take place, etc., which were all sound ideas I was happy to support. I am rather concerned that this will pave the way to Internet voting for Hants LUG which is something I am vehemently opposed to; I can quite easily see the LUG dominated by people like myself — keyboard heroes who are quite happy to pontificate digitally but rarely get off their arse to actually do anything in the local Linux community. These sort of movers and shakers are exactly what the LUG depends on, they’re the people in shortest supply, and they are the people who will be disenfranchised by an indifferent voting population. Time will tell.

While here we’ve also had a very productive chat about what we’re going to do about the hardware for and I hope we’ll see some movement on that front in the very near future.

An election took place for the officers of the LUG, the main news being that Adrian Bridgett is the new chairman. It’s certainly not a role I envy but I’m sure he’ll take it in his stride!

I think we’re going for a curry later. \o/ is dead (again)


You may be looking at this because you have a web site or mailing list hosted by and you are wondering where it went.

At just after 01:00 GMT today, Sunday 25th June, the server suffered some form of hardware hiccup. The following was seen on its console:

hda: lost interrupt
hda: dma_timer_expiry: dma status == 0x61
hda: DMA timeout error

and it locked up.

Over the last few weeks we have had similar problems a few times, but they all involved /dev/hdc and the server always came back after a power cycle via Black Cat‘s APC masterswitch. Last Wednesday I went to the data centre and replaced hdc for a new Western Digital drive in an attempt to cure the problem.

This time involves /dev/hda and the machine isn’t coming back after a power cycle. I expect the worst to be honest, but if we are lucky it’s simply the case that hda is dead and the BIOS is refusing to boot from hdc.

All this means that I need to go to the data centre later today, as soon as I am able, and assess the situation. We could be in for a long, possibly permanent downtime.

I know this sucks, but before complaining too much, please consider that we have no budget and our existing setup consists of desktop-quality hardware being used in a 24×7 hosting environment. If anyone is prepared to donate a decent 1U server that can take two IDE (PATA) drives and 3x1GB DDR RAM (from the existing hardware) then that would be really great.

I will update as soon as I know more.


“e107 website system” — please die in a chemical fire

Earlier today I noticed something odd in the Exim mainlog on a machine, so went hunting. I found a user’s website that uses something called the “e107 website system.”

This appears to have a feature whereby an existing news item on the site can be emailed to an arbitrary email address with arbitrary extra text added by whoever sends it. Anyone can send these emails. It appears to have been used to send 46 spam emails since June 9th.

This feature is mind-numbingly stupid. I have no idea if it is a standard feature of e107, or some idiotic plugin, but whoever wrote it has not the first clue of what they are doing.

Couple this with our need to shut down another e107 site in the last few weeks due to it being filled with comment spam and bringing the server to its knees with poor SQL queries, and this fun read:

I cannot stress enough how much I recommend people not touch this e107 thing with a barge pole.

The operating systems that spam you

Someone recently asked on the Sussex LUG list about whether most spam comes from malware-infected Windows machines or misconfigured Linux/unix mail servers.

The question as posed is difficult to answer, but as it happens I have for the last 10 days or so been running p0f against all port 25 connections to, the mail server that sits in front of all email addresses and

If you weren’t aware, p0f is a passive operating system fingerprinting tool which makes an “educated guess” about the operating system at the other end of a TCP connection based on the characteristics of SYN packets sent. It’s a bit like nmap‘s fingerprinting, but it’s totally passive, i.e. it works on data the other side normally sends to you, without making any sort of probe itself.

What all of this means is that I have a very good idea of the operating system of every machine that has tried to send an email to users in the last 10 days.

The rest of this article can be read over on the wiki, but the executive summary is: during the ~10 day period of monitoring, over 90% of unique IPs sending mails that scored 10.0+ in SpamAssassin were associated with hosts running Windows. progress

I’m very pleased to finally be able to report some progress has been made recently on improving‘s services.

For a very long time, all of was running from a machine kindly hosted in Leeds by Energis Squared. We (well, Alasdair) had made an attempt to install Xen on it but there was something clearly not right in the networking functionality of the kernel because connections were randomly stalling for minutes or hours at a time. Most noticeably for our userbase, emails were sometimes taking 12 hours to go through the server and out to the lists, and the web sites were often unusable.

Continue reading “ progress”