Author Archives: Ventz

If you just want the good stuff (configs, how-to’s about this), check out:

If you want to read my full story behind why I even went this route, please continue bellow:

Recently I started looking at getting rid of as much physical infrastructure as possible. My reasons, among it being a pain to maintain, everything surrounding having your own infrastructure is a downfall. Let’s face it — you can’t afford what is really needed to have 99.99%-100% uptime. There are tricks that you can use to join multiple sites, but again, when you really get into it, it costs money and it takes time. Other than having an ESX server as a personal “lab”, I’ve realized that I spend just as much time dealing with physical infrastructure, as I do creating services, hosting stuff, automating things, and programming. This is just wrong! Also, hosting your own infrastructure means dealing with power, bandwidth, static IPs, etc… Anyway, so with that in mind, I started looking at getting rid of my biggest service which had the fewest users — Email.

I hosted a Zimbra server (which I absolutely love) for almost a year, and before that I hosted for 7+ years (and still do at different locations) mail servers running Postfix+Dovecot+SpamAssassin with Some webmail client (Squirrelmail or RoundCube). The problem with hosting your own email server (i’ll use Postfix synonymous with email server) is that everything is a hassle and a half. At the end of the day, if you have one Postfix server, this is fine. If you have 50+ Postfix servers, not so much. And yes, you can ease it by using puppet and common config management like svn+rsync, but it’s still a hassle. The other problem is that common needs like push email, exchange, blackberry BES, calendars, notes, and others simply do not exist as a “one in all” solution that attaches to Postfix. I realized that while being extremely efficient, and while procmail being simply priceless, it is not economical at the end of the day. Users want ease of use, convenience, pretty UIs, and no spam without any effort on their behalf.

This led me into looking at Google Apps (I’ll use Gmail synonymous). It seemed like the perfect solution — off site, fully managed, relatively cheap (or free), common UI which almost everyone is familiar with, and virtually no spam. It provided smtp(s), imap(s), pop(s), and other common services. The few problems that should be brought up front are: privacy, security, space, and limitations. With “GMail”, (free google app), you are limited to 7-7.5GB per user, 25 users, and “some” advanced SMTP features. You can always pay $50/year/account in order to 25GB with unlimited users and some more programmable/API features. The thing that really attracted me was the ability to get an “all-in-one” solution that was extremely easy to deploy for multiple users. The reality is that most users just want their own email at their own domain, with some storage, some web UI, and no spam or viruses. This was something that I was doing with my “Postfix setup”, and I had scripted quite well infact, but with Google Apps, it was a matter of 15 minutes per account.

Now, the main two problems were: how do my users who use mutt (myself being one of them) get to their email, and how to existing services AND “dumb services” (storage devices, vCenter, etc…) communicate to the “Gmail” servers. The first — mutt — turned out to be much easier than I thought. If you are already using mutt with any authenticated IMAP/SMTP server, you have probably already stumbled onto: msmtp. With a little more work, and you can get this piece of software to work perfectly with Gmail. If you need some help, check out: The second problem turned out to be relatively easy, after doing some research and a bit of trial and error. The main idea is that you create a simple “relay” server in a way. A lightweight Postfix installation which only auths and forwards/relays all the emails to Gmail/Google Apps/any IMAP server for that matter. I went the extra step and configured it to be able to use different SMTP servers with different auth based on different user/email accounts. You can get all the technically details at the top of this post. Good luck, and I hope this saves you some time.

There have been many interesting things happening in technology lately, but I’ve been really busy lately, and I just haven’t had time to post interesting articles. That said, there was an article about ATT and the iPhone that really caught my attention. The article started with:

“As the carrier with the highest number of dropped calls, lowest customer satisfaction rating, and smallest 3G coverage area, AT&Ts lifeblood over the last few years has been its iPhone exclusivity.”

This is the first thing that caught my attention. Everyone praises how reliable ATT is. They say that the dropped calls are really minimum and that the 3G coverage is very large. Finally, they say that customers are perfectly satisfied. From my opinion, first of all, I’ve never ever had as many dropped calls on all the carriers combined, as I’ve had with ATT. Second of all, the customer service is terrible. Now that said, I had the business customer service, from which only 30% of the people are incompetent. The last thing is about the 3G — I personally do believe that they have a “relatively large” 3G coverage, but the 3G coverage is extremely poor in quality, very unreliable, and 5bars could mean a 2MB/s download or a 200KB/s download.

The next part in the article said:

“AT&T CEO Randall Stephenson spoke about the issue at an investor conference in New York, saying it’s unlikely the customer base will drop AT&T just because the iPhone goes to another carrier. He said that 2/3 of all iPhone owners were previous AT&T customers. So somehow this Stephenson guy thinks 1/3 is a small number, and if 1/3 of all iPhone owners dropped AT&T it wouldn’t be a problem. Umm, most people would disagree with that.”

Are you crazy? First of all, you think losing 1/3 of your customers is OK? This should tell you once again how much ATT cares about their customers. Second of all — I think ATT will lose a lot more than 1/3 of their customers. What Randall is assuming is that the other 2/3 will stay because they are “happy”. The main problem here is that nothing better existed at the time. This has drastically changed. The reality is that 2/3 or more of the people would’ve already left, if it wasn’t for the iPhone.

“Now, of course, no one is expecting that the moment a Verizon iPhone arrives, there will be a mass exodus of AT&T customers.”

From Verizon alone? – no. From Verizon, T-Mobile, and others — Yes. The point is, when there are alternatives, especially cheaper ones (T-Mobile), people will gladly make the switch.

And at last, my favorite part:

“By all metrics it is the worst of the four major carriers in the US. And Stephenson just doesn’t get it. Of the millions of people who now have an iPhone in the US, 33% of them were not AT&T customers before. That’s a big number.”

What’s interesting about that is that it’s 33% of one million! Yes, ATT just said it’s OK to lose 330,000 customers. The second part, and my personal favorite because I’ve been saying this for a long time — ATT is the worst carrier by all metrics!

All this said, something you should know about me: I’ve used all 4 major carriers in the US, at least twice each. I’ve also owned 3 iPhones (1 on Tmobile), 3 blackberries, 3 treos, >5 other smart phones, and a few other regular phones. I personally HATE ATT. And yes, I own an iPad too.

If you want to read the article, you can find it at:

I have a Twitter Dilema, and I am very curious what people think. Here’s the problem:

If you make your tweets private (which is what I have done right now), you are not forcefully followed by spammers, BUT when you add friends, if they don’t add you back, they will not see your replies.

If you make your tweets public, you are force to deal with the 13 year olds which are trying to get 50,000 followers and 2 million tweets.

I personally think that this is a bug with twitter. If you have protected tweets, and think that someone is ‘safe enough’ to follow, twitter should automatically allow that individual to see your tweets, even though they are protected. This only makes sense. Heck, enable an option to toggle this.

What does everyone else think?

Hey There, Welcome! I finally brought up a new website. It is far from complete, but a little by little, it will get there. Recreating all of the documentation will take a long time, so please be patient and check back often. My website needed a redesign for a very long time, and I kept putting it off since there was never enough time. I thought long and hard about how this website should look and feel in order to be simple/minimalistic, and clean, while offering  very rich and detailed information — mostly in the form of documentation and “what’s new or on my mind” articles.

What started this was my realization that it was time to migrate everything away from PmWiki. While PmWiki was a great replacement for my original static site, I slowly outgrew it. I started using it (no, I actually used about 7 other wikis first until I stumbled onto PmWiki) because I wanted a quick way to add documentation while I wasn’t near a terminal. After wikis got popular and the spammers started hitting them, I quickly password protected it. Then, a little by little, I kept adding more plugg-ins/mods, themes, and custom code. A little by little, I realized that other than the dynamic text entry, I had re-written or customized almost everything. It got to a point where I spent more time maintaining the wiki around upgrades than the actual documents and articles.

Due to this, I started a blog — using WordPress. My initial impression was that WordPress was very heavy and bogged down, and very ugly. I did not like my initial experience. I switched to another blog suite — textblog. After a few months I realized that I needed more functionality, so I deployed a simple php blog. After a few more weeks I decided to give WordPress another chance, since I had just read an article that they were going to release a new “ajax” management interface. This is what hooked me onto WordPress. However, as time went on, I realized that maintaing PmWiki *and* WordPress was almost a full time job. I spent endless nights trying to customize the code on each one in order to make them fit a common theme. I finally gave up and decided to just shut down my website. After a few months, I came to the conclusion that the documentation and articles I had were not only useful to others, but to myself too, and I actually missed having them up to date. This brought on a new goal: use a documentation source and a dynamic article software under one common system. I looked at WordPress’ ‘Pages’, and liked them for the most part. While not amazing, they suffice. At last, it was decided: I was going to use WordPress to replace my Wiki and Blog.

Before I started head on, I looked at some content management systems (CMS) like Joomla, and Drupal. I had actually used Drupal at a previous job, and I hated it, and Joomla simply reminded me too much of Drupal. I looked at a few other ones, but the story was the same. The reality is that the documentation pages are static for the most part. They get written once, and stay the same for the most part, with small changes here and there. CMS’ on the other hand are more like portal drop-ins. This is also why they require a lot more work. I had already been on the side of maintaining things, and I just wanted something that “worked”.

Here we are now, with WordPress as the documentation system (via Pages), and the dynamic article system (via the blog engine). I did have to spend a good 4-5 hours getting everything configured and customized, but with the exception of a small piece of code, all of my customizations will not be impacted all all by upgrades. This is it. I will keep this theme, look, and feel for a very long time. My main goal is provide lots of documentation in a few categories: Network Services, Smart Phones, Security, Programming, and at last, Operating Systems. Each of those has many sub-categories, but you can find more from the Pages. I will also provide any and all files/scripts/programs that I either come accross, or create.

At last, everything is free for grabs. You may take, modify, and/or share anything from this website — of course, at your own risk. I would prefer if you give credit and put a link to my site, but you are not required to. Thanks, and I hope you find all of the information here useful.