Here’s an idea! Let’s add a new feature called Greylisting, set the default to be on, and push the update out without a word. What could possibly go wrong?

Back on 3/25/2021 at around noon I sent an email to a pimp I keep in touch with. (For those that don’t work in IT, person at consulting firm. They arrange a date, collect a fee . . . you get the idea.) I called him a few hours later because I was surprised he had not responded. He didn’t get the email. I got a phone call from him early the following morning telling me that email showed up at 1am.

A few days later there was another pimp talking to me on the phone pushing me to get a signed RTR (Right to Represent) back to him so he could present me to the client. Well, “signed” is a bit of an overstatement in today’s world. They send an email and you reply with “I confirm.” We were talking on the phone. I was replying to his email which had just come in. About half an hour later I forwarded his email to my almost never used GMail account. Replying from there got to him right away.

This morning was the last straw. I bought some stuff on eBay about 7am. I had been buying other stuff on eBay this past week and the sale confirms showed up right away. It was well after noon and I had seen nothing. In the words of Popeye “That’s all I can stands I can’t stands no more!”

CPanel menu

The boys and girls developing CPanel decided to add a new feature called “Greylisting.” This shiny new feature randomly hangs onto email from, apparently, every source that isn’t Gmail until the wee hours of the morning. They pushed this out with basically a word to no one. I didn’t find out about it until I chatted with support.

The default is ON for all domains managed by your CPanel.

What could possibly go wrong, right?

So, log into your CPanel account. If you are like me that means logging into your hosting service then choosing CPanel from their menu. You are looking for that little envelop with the exclamation mark in it that says “Configure Greylisting.” It’s in the email section of your CPanel menu. Click it and turn Greylisting off for all your domains.

If you want to read more about technical recruiters (pimps) you can start here.

How to Set Up Mutt to Work With Email

Every now and then you are going to need to send email from the command line. In the world of OpenVMS we did it from batch jobs all of the time. Yes, there were abort routines which would notify all operators currently logged in and who had typed REPLY/ENABLE at their terminal, but, you still sent email just in case. OpenVMS had a robust email system long before we had an Internet, indeed, long before personal computers.

Yes, even you Web only children will find yourselves in need of sending email from a back end process. The simplest way is via a batch job which some people in that world call “shell scripts.” In my case I was testing the blog-via-email plug-in on this site. You see, the HTML editor in Thunderbird was and is nowhere near ready to create blog posts. Could not get it formatted correctly with images. This meant editing an HTML file and sending from command line.

I have many editors. Most of these editors could have easily let me hack at the code level creating a pure HTML document, but I wanted to test one which was a bit more WYSIWYG (What You See Is What You Get) so I pulled down the latest version of Blue Griffon. I must say I was impressed. This editor has come a long way from its humble (and extremely buggy) nVu beginnings. It still has quite a ways to go, but it is getting there.

Some things I noticed:

  1. You can select a bunch of stuff on the screen then click a toolbar button to “wrap” the selected stuff inside of a list of HTML tags. It’s a short list though. It includes span but does not include div. I needed div so I had to drop to code to wedge it in. I could insert a div tag via a menu option, but, if you are in the GUI display you can’t actually get inside the div tag to add content which kind of defeats the whole purpose.
  2. There are many formatting buttons on the left. You can choose left, right, center and full justification. They were missing a button for style=”float: left;” which is what you need to put an image on the left side of the page while allowing text to be on the right, assuming you don’t wish to deal with all of the problems a table creates.

I’m doing this with LinuxLite, but it is a YABU (Yet Another uBUntu) based on 16.04.

roland@roland-HP-Compaq-8100-Elite-SFF-PC:~$ lsb_release -a
No LSB modules are available.
Distributor ID:    Ubuntu
Description:    Linux Lite 3.2
Release:    16.04
Codename:    xenial

I installed mutt from the package manager and it installed some dependencies. During the install a dialog with combo box will popup asking you to configure a few postfix settings. Just remember to choose Internet, which is the default. In short, take the defaults. Once installation is complete open a terminal and edit the .bashrc file found in your $HOME. Add this line somewhere it will always be executed.

export MAIL=/var/mail/<user_name>

Be sure to replace <user_name> with your own user name. Save and exit, then we need to tweak a few things because mutt and postfix are still keeping the Linux traditions of “dark art – expert friendly” alive.

NOTE: I use an IMAP server for email, not POP3. I have no idea what one does for POP3 if you are still using such an email service. Most people have moved to IMAP because it allows them to access email from any device while POP3 pulls it down to one machine and that is where it lives.

Open a terminal window and edit .muttrc. You should have to create it.

set realname = "My Name"
set from = "<your_email>"
set use_from = yes
set envelope_from = yes

set smtp_url = "smtps://<your_email>"
set smtp_pass = "<your_password>"
set imap_user = "<your_email>"
set imap_pass = "<your_password>"
set folder = "imaps://"
set spoolfile = "+INBOX"
set ssl_force_tls = yes

I will assume you figured out things in <> need your values.

Once you save this file reboot. Open a terminal to type the following commands.

:~$ echo $MAIL
:~$ sudo touch $MAIL
[sudo] password for roland: 
:~$ sudo chmod 660 $MAIL
:~$ sudo chown `whoami`:mail $MAIL

You can test everything by typing mutt and watch it start pulling down your mail, then you can hit ‘q’ to quit. If you happen to have an html or text file laying around you are ready to send your first batch email.

mutt -s "testing mutt" < "Farmer Fred and the IRS.html"

The -s identifies the subject and the message will consist of the contents from the other side of the <. Yes, there are many things one can do with mutt, it is a full text email client you can use in the terminal. Yes, I could have spent even more time and got postfix to work with the regular linux mail command, but, I had no idea what the dark art configuration file was called or how to change the settings in it. There seem to be dozens of .muttrc files littering the Internet and the variables are easily named. The only difficult part was finding this link with the correct port numbers and server names.

If you want the email to actually go out as HTML ad:

-e "set content_type=text/html"

after setting the subject.

If I Only Had Time to Focus

How many times have we all said that? I would complete “thing x” if I had time to focus on it. Sadly, it is a lie we tell not only ourselves, but to others.

Today, October 30th, 2013, we had yet another HughesNet outage. No matter what those commercials say about Gen4 and its “customer satisfaction” I can tell you J.D. Edwards never talked to me or anyone I know. The phone number for HughesNet customer abuse…I mean “care” is (866)-347-3292. You really need to keep it written down on a sticky stuck to your monitor. It’s too late to look it up once your Internet goes down.

HughesNet sent a flier in the mail the other day touting their voice over IP unlimited home phone service. My first thought was “gee that price is a bit high.” My second thought was “How the (^)(*&)(*7 can I report yet another outage if you are providing my phone service too?” After that I realized their failed master plan. If all HughesNet customers had local phone service provided by HughesNet they could get rid of the stumbling-broken-English-make-up-for-it-by-talking-really-fast crew they have hold up in some third world country since nobody could call them to get customer abuse…I mean service.

I might as well finish ranting about the customer abuse center and Web site before I continue with this post. If you are lucky enough to have a secondary Internet provider (or manage to call someone lucky enough to have cable or dial-up Internet) there is no point in going to the customer abuse Web site. Even when they know with absolute certainty they have an outage, you won’t find it mentioned on the site.

I was out of state several months ago and got a phone call from home asking why the Internet wasn’t working. I went to the Web site and found nothing. I called the customer abuse number (866)-347-3292. I spent the time on hold with a cell phone, what a joy that is. Eventually, just before I burned through the last of my roll-over minutes waiting I’m pretty certain, I got put through to yet another individual trying to stumble through a language they don’t naturally speak. They have to read through the script. This ensures you burn at least another 20-40 minutes and increases the odds of you hanging up without them having to do anything. After they go through every-possible-payment-problem-on-the-planet, they ask what is wrong.

I was then put on hold after I asked them to check on outages the company knew about. More thumb twiddling and solitaire playing occurred while waiting. When they returned to the phone they told me in broken English that the company was experiencing an outage which was effecting my area. When I asked for an ETA on the fix I was told “the engineers have ordered equipment which was supposed to arrive on site at 8am the next day. One of their transmission stations had been flooded by the storms which had been on the news for days.”

Does anyone else see the problem here? Engineering knew about it. They had enough time to order replacement equipment and schedule workers to be on site the next morning. Nobody in the customer abuse center knew about it. Everyone who called in was forced to go through the same script which had nothing to do with the problem. 90% of the calls coming in could have been handled by a prerecorded announcement stating “We are experiencing a service outage in the following regions…” Didn’t happen. No post on the Web site either so people like myself all wasted our time by visiting there first like we are supposed to do if we can.

At any rate, today we have yet another marathon outage. It started around 7am and it is still going strong at 2pm. I expect it will last a day or two. Have I called the customer abuse center? No. I’ve called there enough to know I’m pretty much on my own. I wrote it off to the fog this morning, yes, any time it gets foggy you won’t have Internet. Pretty much any time it rains as well. I bet this service is a big seller in Seattle! There are people who expect me to respond via email at some point today, but that’s not going to happen unless I dig out a modem or drive into town. Then again, without a printed list of NetZero dial-up numbers, what good is finding a modem?

Just think, if I had voice over IP I couldn’t even dial 911.

The fog has dissipated but still no Internet. I can see over a mile. Have I sat down and written the VMS based prequel to “John Smith: Last Known Survivor of the Microsoft Wars” which has been on my to-do list for about a month? No. Have I written the “fast vs. slow calorie” post I have had on my to-do list for over a two weeks? No. Have I went out and taking the steering wheel off of my beater Jeep and re-aligned it? No.

Why am I mentioning the above task list which you care nothing about? Those items and many more fall under the category of “if I only had time to focus on it.” Did I seize the distraction free (no email or surfing) day to do those things? Not yet. I pretty much spent the morning trying to get a DataJack pay as you go wireless modem connected to the Internet. No dice there. Sprint’s wireless coverage (the provider for DataJack or at least this DataJack modem) sucks even worse than Gen4.

Many years ago the BBC did a remake of “Around the World in 80 Days.” Not the movie. They actually had a travel writer and camera crew trying to follow the path. I watched only one episode of it, but that episode had the writer taking passage on a cargo container ship bound for America from some place like Japan or China. They showed the room he got. He had meals with the crew. The big stack of books he brought to read he didn’t touch. He even made a point of stating he brought along books and other things he had always wanted to do because he would have time to focus on them. He didn’t.

Up until today I had the misguided notion that it would be cool to sit in my cabin and finish writing a book while crossing the ocean without Internet or at least with severely limited Internet access. During my younger days I would only connect to the Internet a couple of times per day to check email and only surfed when I physically needed to do research. Of course during those days I used to imbibe nicotine and could burn 8+ hours playing a DOS based game like “Lords of the Realm.” Today LOR won’t even install under Wine and I do not have the immense joy known as nicotine. Now that I’m old enough to need to watch my sugar I couldn’t even spend the week getting liquored up and eating junk food.