Monthly Archives: June 2003

Case #: 108688087, The Evil AOL

A problem has cropped up with moving my email server in-house (literally) as I mentioned last time. No, my email server is working great and my configs are impeccable. The problem is with the evil postmaster at Although we no longer have any problem getting our mail server to send mail to people it seems that the evil powers that be at aol don’t want anyone at AOL to get email from us. I never noticed the problem as I don’t typically communicate with people that use such an inferior service and pay such inflated rates, unfortuantely my Mom has a bunch of friends that haven’t yet discovered the joy of brodband or the locally-owned (and less expensive) alternatives.

After digging around for some time I discovered that AOL has decided to block all incoming email from servers that do not have static IP (business class) addresses. While this effort may seem prudent to block spammers sending massive quantities of spam through home email servers, in fact more spam gets through to AOL users than almost any other service and my legitimate email does not. I was able to track down a phone number for sysadmins with problems sending mail to AOL (imagine having a phone number for just that problem) of course it was long distance and not an 800 number. After getting a postmaster from AOL on the line I was asked (interregated) as to why I needed to run a server from home, I explained that my ISP provided unreliable mail services, they proceeded to tell me that I needed to upgrade my broadband to business class service (more than twice what I pay now per month) or I needed to relay my mail (hmm interesting they suggest doing the same thing spammers do to hind where the mail really comes from) I found both solutions totally unacceptable.

I proceeded to call their standard customer support 800 number as if I were a customer (my parents are) of AOL who could not receive mail. I got some poor lady in India who tried to tell me first I had mail controlls set up on my AOL screen name preventing the mail from getting through. Finally I got her to beleive this was not the case and shoe could hardly believe this was the case. Eventually she opened a trouble ticket with the real engineers who would “look into and promptly solve my problem, very promptly” of course I had no faith that this would happen. To add insult to injury before she let me off the hook I “needed to talk to a ‘benefit’s specialist’ about getting $35 free in my AOL online shopping account” the “benefit’s specialist” was someone playing pre-recorded messages trying to get me to sign up for some service, when I made a comment such as “no thanks” they would hit a button saying “if you would take a moment to reconsider this valuable offer from AOL…” it was an endless and vicious cycle, I finally gave up and said “I am now terminating this call” what kind of psycho organization tries to sell you something when you finish with a tech support call? This is stooping to a new low, even for AOl…it was entertaining though.

In the end I gave in, sort of. I have set Postfix to route mail going to AOL.Com and only AOL.Com email addresses through my ISP’s unrelaible mail server. It’s not the best solution, nor the internet standards based correct one, but after all someone has to help these poor AOL users see the light, next project… Tag all messages to AOL addresses with a link to this post so everyone we send mail to at AOL understands why AOL really is an evil corporation that just won’t play with the same internet standards everyone else does.

Internal Email

Another quick note… You may also find it interesting to hear that I’ve moved my email hosting to a server here at home. I was having too many problems with the uptime from my hosting providor (they have great web service, but not so great email) so I woke up on Saturday and decided enough was enough (it had been down most of the week) and I had recently received an old Dell PowerEdge 4200 Series Server which I had installed Debian/GNU Linux and the Postfix MTA on. It took most of the day to get it up and running to my satisfaction (including installing SpamAssassin and some other goodies) but I’m much happier now , and as an added bonus I now have a backup MX in case my connection goes down (I have a mutual backup MX with a company who I did some work for) and I have total control over the system including SpamAssassin settings.

Cleaning My Desk

I’ve finally been getting around to some unpacking from school and been able to get my desk mostly cleared off and my room, well my room is better than it was, but I still have a few piles of books and a box of stuff to go though. Anyway… I got this email tonight from a reader of the site and thought I would share my reply as well in case anyone else finds this site and has experianced simialar problems.


I came across your web site stating that you had bought the above DVD RAM. I am having an issue, and you being a tech type, I thought I might be able to get some insight that Panasonic’s useless tech support could not help me with. First of all, I am running Windows XP Pro, 512 meg of DDR RAM, 1.5 Ghz Athlon based system.

What is happening is really odd. The system perfectly recognizes the CD-ROM and DVD-Ram capabilities of this drive, however, when I try to access it, it says it can not access the drive due to an I/O error (not insert a disc…). I have the recommended 80 conductor/40 Pin IDE ATA 133/100/66/33 compatible cable on it. And the other CD-RW I have works perfectly (a Creative Labs CD burner). Windows XP reports the drive is working fine and sees no conflicts.

The drive does work intermittently. What would you recommend as far as first things to check. It may even be a mild software conflict. Any help you can provide is appreciated as Panasonic has proven they can’t help much at all.


====My Reply====
Hi David,
The driver for this drive is built into Windows XP so it would be highly unlikely to be a software conflict, unless the problem only appeared when burning a disc. After reseating the cable, trying another cable or possibly trying another IDE port on the motherboard (or better yet in a different system) I would report it as a hardware drive failure to Panasonic. My gut feeling is you got a bad drive but it’s worth checking the drive in another system if you have access to one. I’m using my drive in Windows XP and Windows Server 2003 without any problems so I doubt greatly it’s a simple software fix. Best Luck and thanks for visiting my site. If I can offer any more help please let me know.

–Ben Franske

and the good times roll

Wow it’s been a long time again since I’ve had time to update this. I finished out the school year with only two day’s of finals a few weeks ago and promptly packed and returned home, quickly unpacked just to pack again! I was off for the weekend to Ohio to attend the biggest amateur radio conventions in the country. The Hamvention was a lot of fun, I flew out with one of my professors from school and we stayed at his father’s house near the Hamvention. I did end up purchasing an Icom mobile radio and antenna there as well as enjoying the experiance and seeing an interesting presentation on the upcoming Icom D-Star digital radio system. We flew back home Monday the 19th and I started my internship the next morning.

So far I’ve been having a great time at State Fund Mutual the people I work with are great and I’m enjoying what I’m doing and the insight into the business environment as well. We’re in the process of replacing a fairly large percentage of older leased PCs in the office with new purchased ones. I’ve also been able to sit in on some of the meetings reagrding a new phone system, including the possibility of voice over IP which is another thing right up my ally.

Last week was also my big CurrentJam concert week so I basically got up, went to work, came home, ate quickly and headed off to work at the concert, got home, went to bed and did it all again the next day. It was certainly a lot of hard work but was also a very enjoyable experiance again this year and I’m already looking forward to next year.

All in all it’s shaping up to be a great summer, although I still haven’t unpacked, gotten my hair cut or any of the other couple dozen things I have on my to do list. One of my sister’s is graduating from high school on Monday but after that it should (hopefully) calm down for a while so I can get my list whittled down some. Well I best get back to that list, catch you later!