[sf-lug] wish? to sole? operator/hoster of majority of ... (was: Re: spam vs. anti-spam(2))

Rick Moen rick at linuxmafia.com
Sun May 9 19:13:26 PDT 2021

Quoting Michael Paoli (Michael.Paoli at cal.berkeley.edu):

> And, relatively early along the way, the SF-LUG list got hosted on
> linuxmafia.com.  As I understand it, that was to be "temporary"
> solution/fix/resource, as somehow Jim was dealing with list somewhere
> else
> https://web.archive.org/web/20040813161324id_/http://virgilsoftware.com/mailman/listinfo/sf-lug
> https://web.archive.org/web/20051029224239id_/http://virgilsoftware.com:80/mailman/listinfo/sf-lug
> and had it failed in some manner and without backups - at least I'm
> presuming, that Jim couldn't get it going again or restore that data.
> https://web.archive.org/web/20051215145247id_/http://virgilsoftware.com:80/mailman/listinfo/sf-lug
> But, uhm, yeah, earlier, apparently nobody had backed up the list
> before it was on linuxmafia.com
> http://linuxmafia.com/pipermail/sf-lug/2019q2/014130.html

The weird thing was that Jim completely ignored me, over and over, for
years, whenever I politely inquired about what had happened -- even
though I had stepped in and saved the group's ass, which frankly strikes
me as pretty seriously ungrateful.  And then _lately_ he claimed that
there _never had been_ such a prior incarnation of the mailing list --
until I responded quoting him from 2005 on the subject about there
having been that earlier incarnation, its unexplained-by-him sudden
catastrophic vanishing and the seeming total absence of backups, and
consequent need for new hosting.

Having corrected the record (again), I (again) asked what happened back
in 2005 -- and now Jim is back to steadfastly ignoring the question, as

> Oh, and, also moved BALUG's list hosting - which had been on
> DreamHost.com - not only was there the expense there ... but they sucked
> at it, screwing up BALUG's list on multiple occasions, losing data,
> being unable to restore it, not proving a means for us to back it up, in
> addition to numerous outages, etc. ... so, yeah, BALUG got the heck off
> DreamHost.com.

Context for that:  In a nutshell, Dreamhost is a specialty _WordPress_
hosting firm -- one of a number who compete in that space (Bluehost,
wpengine, etc..  Such firms are highly focusssed on the ongoing
requirements of doing software maintenance for the
security-problem-prone WordPress PHP codebase and its large extended
market of extensions and themes.  Such firms are _also_ notorious for
sucking at other basic ISP functions, such as at doing SMTP e-mail and
hosting mailing lists.

Seeking out a specialty WordPress hosting outfit to provide mailing list
hosting isn't _quite_ as bad a decision as going to Fort Mason's Greens
Restaurant ("fine vegetarian cuisine") for a steak dinner, but IMO
nearly so.  It's a pretty good recipe for becoming an unhappy customer,
so I'm extremely not surprised that the utterly predictable happened.

> But, e.g. when that laptop is going to go out with me or otherwise not
> be available for such hosting at home ... fire up vicki and live
> migrate the VM to there (and later migrate back to kill the noise and
> save power).

I just wanted to take a moment to admire this cool whole-system
live-migration capability.

> And, as for the SF-LUG list ... theoretically the linuxmafia.com
> is just "temporary" ... 'till Jim (and/or SF-LUG) gets its act
> together to do its own hosting/coverage of that somewhere ...
> not that Rick is exactly chasing SF-LUG off of there, but does
> sometimes get rather annoyed at the "demands" made/asked of him
> for the services he graciously provides to SF-LUG of the list
> hosting....

To be clear, this hasn't been a problem _lately_ -- but, yes, my
pleading with the SF-LUG principals to please pick up the offered
periodic backup of mbox file + roster for -years- and getting totally
ignored, and _then_ Jim acting like I'm his personal servant for
delivering a backup to him while my server was down because of a
hardware failure, _that_ definitely was pretty galling.

Jim separately and additionally maligned in public my Internet operation's 
ethics, just because he had failed to understand that volunteering
to be a Mailman admin meant he'd be getting notices of held spam in the
admin queue.  That _also_ was objectively infuriating.

Nor have I ever gotten even after-the-fact apologies for any of this
stuff, just lame attempts to talk around that and justify it.

The time-honoured way of alienating volunteers is to ignore their polite
requests, then try to treat them like servants when suddenly _you_ 
have a problem.  SF-LUG has has provided textbook examples.  And then
kicking my system's reputation for running a clean antispam operation in
the teeth was adding injury to insult.  

But I haven't kick y'all's asses off.  I've merely said those things
were rude, annoying, and unacceptable -- and that "We're all just
end-users who don't know what we're doing" doesn't excuse it.

> And thanks to Bobbie for managing an off-list distribution list to
> keep the "list" happening more-or-less via email until list proper was
> back on-line.  And thanks to Bobbie and Daniel for well saving those
> emails and providing 'em to Rick, so Rick then subsequently merged
> those off-list "list" emails into SF-LUG's list archive.

I appreciate Bobbie and Daniel doing that, too.

Just to make the point once again, when I made the offer of merging in
the offlist discussion, what I said was that I'd be willing to do that 
if the mail were provided in mbox format.

How many of those couple of dozen messages were furnished to me in mbox
format as very clearly specified?  Exactly zero.  _None._

Basically, I was handed a crazy-quilt of weird message formats, not a
single one of them being mbox.  It was basically, "Oh, here's a bunch of
stuff in whatever format I happened to have.  Good luck figuring out how
to transform it into what you need."

I figured out using sed and awk, over a few days of poking at the
material and then verifying that the result of my scripting was valid
mbox-type mail, that I has _transformed_ all of that near-rubbish into
something I could work with.  But that was a whole lot of hours that I 
would rather have used to work on my _own_ tasks, rather than being
drafted implicitly into doing a bunch of work I hadn't volunteered for,
just to do the favour I _had_ volunteered for.

And before somebody says "Oh, but we had _no idea_ what an mbox file is", 
guys:  (1) You bloody well could have _asked_, or (2) Web-searching the
term "mbox" brings up a correct answer on the first hit.  (mbox is,
among other things, the native mail-storage format of Mozilla
Thunderbird and many other mail programs, and has been used as a primary
mail storage format in Unixes since 1974.)

> Other than Bobbie doing list work-around while it was down, and Bobbie
> and Daniel later providing those email archives to Rick, I don't think
> anyone else lifted a finger (though there may have been theoretical
> discussions of finger lifting).

Not even that.

> Anyway, as I do also host BALUG lists on the BALUG VM and using
> Mailman 2.x software - about the same as linuxmafia.com, thought
> I might offer to have that moved over.  That would improve the DKIM
> situation, as linuxmafia.com has older version that doesn't play
> nice with DKIM (well, DKIM really doesn't play nice period with
> lists and such) [...].

Just to be (once again) clear about the scope of the real-world problem:  
The problem gets triggered by any posting from a subscriber whose mail
domain has DMARC policy p=reject or p=quarantine.  The only ones of
those I know are Oath, Inc.'s two domains yahoo.com and aol.com (which
have p=reject), and Apple's domain me.com (which has p=quarantine).

Postings from @yahoo.com and @aol.com subscribers arrive after
transiting mailman at _other_ subscribers' domains that check and
enforce DMARC/DKIM (such as GMail) with, effectively, a request that the
receiving ISP please refuse the subscriber's copy of the @yahoo.com or
@aol.com person's posting (because the DKIM signature no longer
validates after transiting Mailman).  When that refusal happens,
linuxmafia.com's SMTP process correctly reports a "bounce" back to
Mailman, and the receiving subscriber's Mailman bounce score gets
incremented.  (The person also doesn't receive the posting, of course.)
When this happens frequently enough, subscribers' mail delivery gets
disabled for excessive bouncing, and eventually they get unsubscribed.

So, basically anyone who posts from a @yahoo.com or @aol.com posting
address shoots _other_ people in the foot, and also ensures that
affected subscribers will never see those postings.

Apple's domain me.com is an odd case.  Having p=quarantine set in the
me.com DMARC policy, by _itself_, is merely a request that
DMARC-compliant receiving domains spambox the suspect mail (quarantine
it).  Normally that would not result in receiving members at
DMARC-observing domains getting incremented bounce scores, but it turns
out that, for some reason I don't fully understand, GMail (at least) 
was 550 _refusing_ a me.com poster's mail sent out via Mailman (rather
than just quietly spamboxing it).

Anyway, to sum up, historically big providers _other) than Oath, Inc's
two (them having been the authors of DKIM and DMARC) have in my
experience been smart enough to _avoid_ declaring aggressive DMARC
policies -- probably in part because of DKIM's hapless hostility towards
(and damage) to mailing lists.  (There have been a few smaller domains
that made that error, though.)

Until that weird example of damage from a me.com subscriber posting to
the Skeptic mailing list arose, I'd never seen elevated bounce scores
from a domain with p=quarantine.

By the way, there's at least one sf-lug at linuxmafia.com stalwart who
posts from an @yahoo.com address.  John, your choice of mail provider's
entirely your affair, but you know you elevate many other subscribers' 
bounce scores, and also you know they won't see your postings, right?

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