New life for old games

Quake Live beta is a nice idea. It’s the old Quake III Arena family of games but via a web browser.  This version rates you and attempts to pair you up with people with similar skill levels.

quake-live

It’s also popular: wait times to login are around 30 minutes! I like the idea but I re-purchased all my Quake games on Steam a long time ago. And lately I have been playing FEAR 2 so I don’t really want to wait around for the Quake Live to let me on.

Maybe after I’ve completed FEAR 2 I’ll give this some play time.

Double-Opt in for Subscribe to Comments plugin

A few weeks ago, my hosting service received a complaint that my blog was sending spam. I don’t spam, so I checked out what was going on.

I had been using Mark’s Subscribe to Comments plugin which has one flaw: the released version does not support double-opt in. At the time I replied to my hosting company with an explanation and I disabled that plugin. I also went onto SpamCop and replied to the complaint with what I had done to resolve this.

Being tagged a spammer is serious stuff.

Double-opt in is when someone signs up for an e-mail and the first and only e-mail that goes out is one that says “Hey, someone just signed you up for this. If it’s really you, please confirm by clicking on this link. If it’s not you, then please ignore/delete this e-mail and the system will never send you an e-mail again.”

Until the subscriber clicks on that double-opt in link, the person is NOT subscribed. It’s e-mail subscription etiquette 101 and should be adhered to. I am NOT a bulk e-mailer but you have to be responsible on the Internet. SpamHaus has a good explanation here under “confirmed opt-in”.

This is a known issue and now the SVN copy of that plugin now supports Double-Opt in. I got my copy by using this command in my wp-content/plugins directory:

cd wp-content/plugins
svn co http://svn.wp-plugins.org/subscribe-to-comments/branches/development stc

That put the svn copy into wp-content/plugins/stc. I went into the admin portion of the plugin and enabled Double-Opt in. A quick test later confirmed that it’s working. Once the 2.2 version is released, I’ll stop using the SVN copy and sync up with the WordPress.ORG copy.

One last item was that I deleted the e-mail of the subscriber who complained and now people who leave comments and want an e-mail on follow up comments will now work in a responsible way.

Senator Roland W. Burris: It just keeps getting better

This guy needs to resign. Not because he’s corrupt but because he is a really bad liar.

First it was he did not get asked to raise money.

Then it was he was asked to raise money. But not by the Governor, it was his brother that asked. But he turned it down and did not try to raise any money. And it was the Senate’s fault that they did not ask specifically about the Blagojevich’s brother.

Now he did try to raise money! But it’s okay, he’s really bad at it.

From the NY Times article:

At a Presidents’ Day dinner in Peoria, Mr. Burris again denied any wrongdoing. He said he had been treated unfairly by Republicans and by the news media. “The media now is almost destroying my character,” Mr. Burris said.

The state of Illinois is having a rough time.  Their junior senator is an idiot.

Games for Windows?

The moniker “Games for Windows” always makes me laugh.  When I first started playing FPS like Castle Wolfenstien and the original DOOM series it was on a 386SX PC my brother had. Windows was not even on that PC and Windows was just a shell for running DOS apps. Games for Windows? What was that, Solitaire?

The idea of making games for Windows is still funny. Windows is just too unstable to reliably play a hardware intensive application on. Some games run really well; I can play Unreal III and usually not have any problems. Other games such as Far Cry 2 randomly exit back to the desktop anywhere between 5 and 45 minutes of play.  I’ve just gotten used to pressing F5 for quick save and I don’t even think “wow, this sucks” anymore.

I’ve been conditioned by the lousy experience of these newer games. I like Far Cry 2’s game play but seriously don’t buy this game. $50 for this badly written software is not worth it; mine came bundled with my video card.

I’ve been going back and playing Far Cry 2 even though I beat it already.  The second time around, I am trying to max out my buddie missions. That was a bust, when I got to Act 2, all my upgraded safe houses were all reset. Might have had something to do with the fact that all my buddies from Act 1 were no longer around.

Now I’ve just purchased FEAR2: Project Origin.  The original game was spooky as all else. When played late at night and in the dark it was like being in a horror movie. Looking at the original games graphics, I see that visually it was not as good as current games. At the time it looked great but now compared to Unreal III and Far Cry 2, the first FEAR game looks clumsy.

I’ll install it tonight. I’m hoping that the FEAR2 game continues the horror feel but has updated graphics.  Not too updated; I do want this to feel like a continuation of the original game. Also I hope that it does not crash too often.

Moving some users to Google Apps for mail

I host the domain dembowski.net and also handle the mail delivery.  The mail ultimately ends up in Stefan’s house via his DSL line.

That DSL line has been prone to problems so I played with the idea of moving the mail to another server or VPS. But handling spam and keeping my web mail software up to date is a pain. So I wanted to move my whole domain to Google Apps for mail handling. Google is much better at distributed web mail systems and spam fighting than I am.

This was not universally accepted by all of my users. So I found a way to selectively send mail to Google Apps on a per user basis.

1. Sign up your domain for Google Apps

Okay, that one is a no brainer.  I authenticated my domain by inserting a Google supplied CNAME record into my zone file.  That established that I was the one in charge of my domain. Google lets you use it at no charge for up to 50 users.

In Google Apps I added another domain to my profile called app.dembowski.net.  This way mail from Google gets delivered as user@dembowski.net and Google will also receive mail for user@app.dembowski.net.

2. DNS changes

I set up a sub-domain called app.dembowski.net.  The DNS records for this domain are pretty sparse and only contain MX records that Google provides for users to point their domain to.  These came straight out of Google’s instructions. In my zone file I bumped the serial number and added these lines:

app.dembowski.net.      MX 10 aspmx.l.google.com.
app.dembowski.net.      MX 20 alt1.aspmx.l.google.com.
app.dembowski.net.      MX 20 alt2.aspmx.l.google.com.
app.dembowski.net.      MX 30 aspmx2.googlemail.com.
app.dembowski.net.      MX 30 aspmx3.googlemail.com.
app.dembowski.net.      MX 30 aspmx4.googlemail.com.
app.dembowski.net.      MX 30 aspmx5.googlemail.com.

Then I created a couple of  A records for mail.dembowski.net pointing to two servers I run Apache2 on. More on this later.

3. Postfix recipient rewriting

The magic happens on my two Postfix MTAs. When the primary mail server goes down, mail queues up on my secondary mail server.  It will stay there until the primary comes back. That sucks; last time we had an outage, the mail server was down for almost 24 hours.

The solution is to have Postfix receive the mail, rewrite the address to the sub-domain, and send it along for delivery.

In my /etc/postfix/main.cf file I added this line

recipient_canonical_maps = hash:/etc/postfix/recipient_canonical_maps</pre>
In the file /etc/postfix/recipient_canonical_maps I had something like this:
<pre lang="text">user1@dembowski.net  user1@app.dembowski.net
user2@dembowski.net  user2@app.dembowski.net
user3@dembowski.net  user3@app.dembowski.net

This let me turn on Google mail handling on a per user basis. I ran postmap hash:/etc/postfix/recipient_canonical_maps and restarted postfix on my servers.

Now if my mail server tanks again, as long as the secondary is up, I still get my mail via Google Apps.

4. Lazy web mail URL

The two servers that are being pointed to as mail.dembowski.net? I created an Apache2 vhost on each one for that server name. In the root directory for the new vhost I created a small index.php with the following content:

<?php
header("HTTP/1.1 301 Moved Permanently");
header("Location: http://mail.google.com/a/dembowski.net");
exit();
?>

I’m lazy. I can remember http://mail.dembowski.net easier than http://mail.google.com/a/dembowski.net.

Update: Or I could follow the directions and in my Google Apps dashboard just set a customized URL for mail.

After setting that up in my dashboard, I updated the mail.dembowski.net DNS record to be a CNAME pointing to ghs.google.com.

5. Test everything

Using an IMAP client (after I turned IMAP on in my Google Apps mail) I sent and received mail with my primary server’s postfix shutdown. That worked perfectly.

I also had other people in my domain send and receive mail just to make sure I did not bork that up too. All was good and we were all able to send and receive mail.

That’s it. As long as I create accounts in Google Apps and maintain the recipient_canonical_maps file, I’ve got a good solution for fighting spam with a good web mail client without impacting my other users.