January 2004

Save me from the bounces!

by Michael Alderete on 1/31/2004 · 1 comment

I have over the last two years implemented, I think, a dozen different anti-spam technologies to protect my Inbox. (I’ll total them up and summarize my thoughts in another post.) Today I finished implemented yet another, called SPF, or Sender Permitted From (now renamed to “Sender Policy Framework”).

The idea is, if my e-mail address is “michael a-t alderete.com”, then there are only a few servers on the internet that are likely, or permitted, to send e-mail for the alderete.com domain. When you receive an e-mail from that address or domain, if you knew which servers on the internet were legitimate senders, then you could reject messages from all other servers.

This is useful because it’s common practice by spammers to forge the From: header of their spam messages, and because they are almost never able to send those messages from the real server for the domain. (This is why bouncing spam back to the sender just makes the spam problem worse.)

I had incentive to do this because one of my e-mail address domains, alderete.com, has been forged heavily recently (though not quite “Joe Job“ed), with thousands of e-mails being sent out with forged from addresses like “Tammeravxryawwv@alderete.com” and “Glenniedatjklcjyknai@alderete.com”. When the spams bounce back, they come to my Inbox. Thousands of them.

Now, SPF isn’t a panacea for this problem, mostly because there has not been a lot of deployment of the technology yet. But that’s coming; AOL recently began trialing it, and if it’s successful I am sure the other big ISPs will do so soon.

When they do, I’ll be ready to reap the benefits.

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Getting Started with m0n0wall

by Michael Alderete on 1/24/2004

I have been working on setting up a new, much more sophisticated firewall for our little home network. I’m using software from an Open Source project called m0n0wall, and it’s a wonderful piece of work. If you’ve thought of getting a SonicWALL or a WatchGuard network security appliance, you should check m0n0wall out. (If you don’t know what a SonicWALL or a WatchGuard is, forget I mentioned it.)

One of the few weaknesses of the project is that there is little-to-no documentation for it. So as part of the process of teaching myself how to configure my m0n0wall system, I started writing some. The first piece is Getting Started with m0n0wall, a guide to the first few things you need to do to configure m0n0wall, once you have your hardware running.

It’s a very rough draft, with a lot of pieces missing, but I thought I’d publish a link to it so Google would find it, so new m0n0wall users might be able to find some help.

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USB beverage warmer: crazy or brilliant?

by Michael Alderete on 1/15/2004

I don’t know what to make of this USB-powered beverage warmer. On the one hand, it’s a weird use of a computer to power something distinctly non-computer related. And god knows I seem to get low-power warnings whenever I plug in anything but a mouse and keyboard into my computer via USB.

On the other hand, my coffee cup is currently sitting three inches from a USB port, with the remainder of my morning coffee, too cool to drink…

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The Fancy Food experience

by Michael Alderete on 1/13/2004

A year or so ago, Rochelle and I went to one of the Fancy Food shows held in San Francisco. All kinds of luxury foods, just waiting to be sampled. If you go only for one day, it’s impossible to sample all of them, or even half. We tried anyway.

Our experience doesn’t even begin to compare with what Joe Bob Briggs went through at a Fancy Food show in New York. Recommended reading, unless you’re hungry.

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Selecting the LG VX4400 mobile phone

by Michael Alderete on 1/5/2004

When choosing which of the dozen mobile phones offered by Verizon that we should get as our new phone, I spent (too?) much time researching the issue. I had a few criteria that were important:

  • Flip phone (or Rochelle’s purse dials randomly)
  • Can connect to my Mac OS X system (Windows-only not acceptable)
  • Tri-mode (digital and analog)
  • Customizable polyphonic ringtones

Several phones matched enough criteria to merit consideration. The LG VX4400, Motorola T730, and Samsung SCH-a530s all seemed fairly equivalent in most of their features. The LG VX6000 had a camera and a groovy OEL screen, but no analog capability, plus it was the most expensive. The LG VX3100 was the cheapest phone (by far), smaller, and had better battery life, but was B&W instead of color, and didn’t have analog or customizable ringtones.

In the end, it came down to the VX4400 and the Motorola. The LG had slightly better customer ratings, but the Motorola was on Apple’s list of iSync-compatible phones.

What swayed me to the LG was the vibrant communities of owners/users I came across, and an Open Source data synchronization utility called BitPim, which only worked with the VX4400, and had just recently been made to work on Mac OS X. While BitPim isn’t as polished or usable as iSync, it does one thing iSync does not: load custom ringtones and wallpapers onto the phone.

So far I’m pretty happy with the phone. Reception has been great, especially outside our house (which is a mobile phone dead zone). The form factor is excellent when in use, but a little big to carry around (I still love my Nokia 8860 best for the form factor; truly, an amazing phone that 4 years later has not been exceeded in that area).

And BitPim, while not pretty, was easy to install and connect to the phone, and has enabled me to download a great collection of ringtones (things that sound like a phone ringing, not rediculous classical themes and minuets), and a few custom graphics for visual ringers.

I still need to pick out a couple good games and use Get It Now to download them to the phone, so that when I’m 45 minutes early to a movie (I like to get a good seat), I have a distraction in my pocket that I can play with in public. Ahem.

What’s funny and gratifying is that Consumer Reports just this month released their latest reviews of mobile service providers, plans, and phones (subscription required to view). They liked Verizon best for the providers (unless you live-and-die by Push-to-Talk, then go Nextel), and the highly rated LG VX4400 was one of three “quick picks” that they selected as recommended phones for Verizon users (the LG VX6000 was another, and too expensive for us; the last, the Motorola 60p, wasn’t offered when we signed up). I would bet that the folks at Consumer Reports did even more research than I did!

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