2012 – Day 2 (Tuesday)

This week I’m at, the southern hemisphere’s premier open-source conference. This year it is being held in Ballarat, about an hour’s travel from Melbourne. I’ll be documenting the trip and conference as much as I can given the limits of my enthusiasm and awakeness.

Tuesday 17th January:

Bruce Peren's Keynote
Bruce Peren's Keynote

Day 2 was full of a lot more great talks. First up in the morning was Bruce Peren’s keynote address. He talked a lot about trying harder to maintain the ideals we’ve worked for in the past. He says the fights we fought in the past, using our moral high-ground to our advantage, we might not win now because we have business groups (like Ubuntu and Redhat) speaking on our behalf… and businesses always have to put profit first.

After morning tea I saw two great kernel-related talks, the first by Jonathan Corbet and the second by Mathew Garrett. Jonathan basically gave a rundown of the Linux kernel development work that has happened over the last year, including the release of Linux 3.0 and for the first time ever, a kernel release having less source code in it than the last one (due to some cleanup work). Mathew Garrett gave a really impassioned talk on the good and evil of EFI. From what I gathered, the runtime services stuff offered by EFI is a great idea with a half-arsed implementation. On the other hand, the secure boot offered by EFI threatens to make open-source deployment to normal users a right pain in the arse… if it is possible at all. That’s a bit of a worry.

Greg Banks' "This Old Code"
Greg Banks' "This Old Code"

After lunch I watched a talk by Greg Banks (who works for Opera) on renovating old source code to get it up to scratch with modern systems. His examples came from the Cyrus IMAP server, and there was a heap of great tidbits of information there. The second talk after lunch was given by Robert Mibus from Internode, about how they are implementing reverse IPv6 DNS mappings for their customer. With a possible 4TB of mappings for each customer, they have to generate them on the fly… but no existing DNS server did this. So they wrote their own. One thing I was very interested in, being an Internode customer, is that I can request to get IPv6 reverse mappings delegated to my own DNS servers; something I have already put in a request for.

More trainspotting!
More trainspotting!

The second last talk for the day was about moving large amounts of data and essential services from one datacenter to another with no loss of downtime… an impressive feat! Given by a team from Mozilla, it detailed how they prepared for and moved thir crash reporting system from San Jose to Pheonix. The last talk I saw was given by Sarah Novotny about caching databases, and how the many caches on a system can sometimes work against each other. It covered performance benchmarking and monitoring as well, just to make sure everything is running fine.

Dinner this evening was at the Irish Murphy’s we visited the night before. While a bit unadventurous, I was with a group who hadn’t been there before, and the food was still quite excellent. I was happy. On the way back to the hotel I got to do a bit of train spotting as well, which made me quite happy. 😀

Webmail in under 5 minutes?!?!

Today, I am in awe. I decided I wanted webmail on my mail server, so that I could check my email on computers I don’t have a proper email client set up on. For instance, on a lab computer at my university. So I started looking around.

I’ve tried setting up webmail in the past, usually unsuccessful. IMP, Horde, squirrelmail, most people would be familiar with the horrors of webmail clients. Some of them even want access to the raw storage files in /var/spool/mail/etc. Which I don’t think is the proper way to go about things. But luckily today I stumbled upon RoundCubeWebmail, which I had downloaded, installed and configured in under 5 minutes.

Where’s the downside to this painless webmail? I’m yet to find one!

  • It looks nice (unlike some of the others, whose web design is stuck in 1995). A few small icons and a bit of CSS goes a long way.
  • It works via IMAP, so doesn’t require access to the raw mail files *yuck*.
  • It seems fairly configurable, but the defaults are sensible.
  • You can configure it to allow access to multiple IMAP servers, so a single installation on a web server can deal with multiple IMAP servers, no problems at all.

In all, I really like this software!

IMAP, Webmail, and the pain of Sysadmin

Last night I succeeded in setting up on my server the IMAP protocol (with the help of my sysadmin friend Hamzah). It turned out not to be too difficult, once I fixed my silly configuration mistake (setting the mail directory to /var/mail instead of /var/spool/mail). I’ve still got a bit of configuration to do, mainly editing a few security settings and such. It seems Debian comes almost configured correctly out of the box. This seems to happen with quite a few packages.

Before setting up IMAP (which is, for those not in the know, an email protocol), I was accessing the mail on my server using POP3. POP3 works well, but only if you are always using the same computer all the time. Since the email messages are stored on the local machine using POP3, it is hard to track them across computers. IMAP stores the emails on the server, and each local machine uses the IMAP server as a reference.

Now that I am using IMAP, I can access my mail from virtually anywhere, without having to drag around my laptop. In the near future, I’m hoping to set up webmail on the server as well. I might even write my own, depending on how adventurous I feel. I mean, how hard can it be?