Aug 182012

I’ve been doing the IT thing for a bit now.  In recent years, I’ve found more job satisfaction in finding solutions for complex problems (usually with budget constraints), workflow optimization, and consulting work.  Inevitably, I wind up doing the occasional repair or virus/malware removal job.  Malware removal is probably the type of work I like the least.  Malware removal on older machines (say 4+ years) is especially tedious, given the number of reboots typically required.  While awaiting system reboot, there is plenty of time to contemplate the source of the malware “infection.”

I would say that in the small business world, where company e-mail addresses are used for personal and business purposes, the bulk of malware code introduced to PCs comes from unsolicited e-mail.  It’s amazing how easy it is to trick an unsuspecting user into clicking on a link.  People are so rushed in their work that they miss obvious characteristics of spam e-mail that should be dead giveaways: Spelling and grammatical errors; attachments in .zip format; missing content such as letterhead/company logos, etc.

Since I’ve finally got spamassassin working on the new e-mail server, I’m seeing that our heavy users receive an average of 6 – 8 spam messages an hour during the day.  That explains some malware I’ve had to clean up in the last 18 months.  I guess it’s all the more reason to bring our e-mail in-house.

In conclusion, I would recommend that every small business adopt the following guidelines for use of company e-mail:

  1. Request that users only utilize their company e-mail addresses for company business.  Keep the jokes and topless beach photos to your personal e-mail accounts.
  2. Implement some sort of server-side spam filtering technology.  While client-side filtering allows users to more easily find messages they are looking for, downloading the spam to the e-mail client still leaves the end user vulnerable to malware.

I suppose you could get a little bit more draconian about it and remind users that everything the send/receive via e-mail is the company’s intellectual property…

Aug 142012
"***JUNK MAIL*** "

So I’ve been playing around with the idea of an in-house mail server for awhile.  I have setup Microsoft SMTP service for outbound mail on one of the Windows servers in an effort to log outbound mail.  After adding an additional MX record, mail is being received on outside domains (reverse DNS records were already in place).  Our current mail host does not support SPF records, and they have a tendency to get their own SMTP severs blacklisted from time to time.  I setup a VM image of Windows 2008 with Exchange Server.  Installation took forever and a day, but implementation was far more intuitive than I expected.  Still the cost and overhead makes it the wrong choice for us.

I’ve been a big fan of OSX for some time now.  The more I learn about it, the better I like it.

There is, however, one aspect of Apple culture that is absolutely abysmal.  Product documentation.  What documentation can be found is virtually useless.  Tier 1 technical support; also useless.  At first glance, OSX 10.8 Server has a simple and elegant interface.  After about five minutes, the glamor wears of and you realize that virtually everything you want to do has to be done from the command line.  That would be fine if I didn’t come from 20 years of DOS and Wintel product experience.

So what I’ve learned to date is this:  the 3rd party open source products built into OSX Server do not seem to be as customizable as one would hope.  Tinker around with the settings of amavisd.conf too much and you won’t be getting any mail.  Attempt to configure admin notification and spamassassin will no longer change subject line on processed spam.  Mess with…  get the picture?  I’ve gone back and forth with this for a week now.  I’ve learned a tremendous amount about the back end, and am growing increasingly proficient at linux/unix commands.  (That should prove useful on my Ubuntu boxes…)  Still, it would be nice to have a manual that documents which options you can change without breaking the system.

"***JUNK MAIL*** "

Will it work this time?

Aug 022012

Well it seems I’ve successfully managed to move my WordPress site from HostGator to the Mac Mini in my living room.  Following setup of DDNS, MySQL and some other fun stuff it appears to be working.  All except for my favorite theme, that is.  Somehow the theme no longer seems to know its’ left from right.  For now, I guess I’ll roll with this.  I simply don’t have the time (nor desire) to troubleshoot code at this time.  I’ll be spending some time looking at the differences in server capability between 10.7 and 10.8 in the very near future.  I’m starting to think that Snow Leopard Server was a better overall package, given the GUI removal of ftp management and the stripped down offerings RE: e-mail server.  The single point of management is nice in 10.8, but the more I get into it, the more I’m disappointed in the lack of ‘basic’ features.  For example, no server support for away messages in e-mail?  Wow!  That’s pretty weak.


Anyway, this concludes my test post to on my Mac Mini…