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Server woes

Things are still amazingly hectic here. I got calamity (9500+G3/300 running Debian, serving as the primary MX, IMAP, list and webmail server) back up last night on DSL in my parents’ new house in Boston, after its outage since mid-August because of Verizon’s incompetence. For weeks, Verizon assured both my father and our ISP that the line was turned on when it simply wasn’t, and it took a long time to get everything fixed from a distance, even when the DSL was enabled, since the house is still being renovated and my parents are busier than I am. Right now calamity’s behind an AirPort Extreme base station NAT, which will be replaced by hamton (Pentium Pro 200 running FreeBSD) next time I visit.

The whole MX saga was fun, too. This time last year, calamity lived on a reasonably-reliable cable modem in Cambridge, and arnold (Ultra 2 acting as Web server, backup MX) on reliable SDSL in Virginia. Arnold’s host moved to a more remote location and was stuck on a cable modem, with incoming port 80 blocked and outgoing port 25 restricted; not so good for a server. With the Web server down, at least it was able to spool mail while we waited for calamity to be reconnected, until Cox’s DHCP server assigned it a nonroutable address while its host was on vacation in China. Luckily I had set up another backup MX on my roommate’s OpenBSD box, but the Sendmail configuration turned out to bounce the messages as they were received. After fixing this, the messages once again got bounced when arnold came back up and postfix decided that it didn’t want to hold them any longer, either. Maybe Exim does a better job of this? I found the available options in postfix pretty inadequate for the situation.

After efforts to get a T1 or DSL for arnold failed (thanks to Qwest and Verizon once again), we compromised on “business” cable modem service, which removes the port blocks. Hooray for trying to use consumer-quality Internet services to run servers. The Boston ISP gives us 1.5Mbps/768Kbps DSL to a single static IP on a tiny subnet, which is perfect for my parents’ needs, and should resolve some of the VoIP quality issues we experienced with the cable modem’s more restrictive upstream.

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