dns

Setting up a Pi Hole for whole-home ad/tracker blocking

Pi Hole - Admin DNS query request dashboard page in Safari

Pi Hole is a nifty open source project that allows you to offload the task of blocking advertisements and annoying (and often malicious) trackers to a Raspberry Pi. The installation is deceptively simple (a curl | bash affair), but I wanted to document how I set up mine headless (just plugging the Pi into power and the network).

Set up Raspbian Lite

I bought a Raspberry Pi model 2 B along with the official Raspberry Pi foundation Case. Then I bought a Samsung Evo+ 32GB microSD card (which comes with a full-size SD card adapter), and did the following steps on my MacBook Pro to set up the Pi's OS:

How to get your server's emails through Gmail's spam filter with Exim

There's one thing that most first-time server administrators have in common: they have to either learn a lot about how email and spam filters work, or they offload email delivery entirely to a third party.

The latter option is often the best option, since successful email delivery is a crazy complicated endeavor. I know, because I've worked on two separate medium-volume email delivery systems in the past (over 1,000,000 emails/month, to hundreds of thousands of recipients), and for both of them, I spent likely 1,000+ hours on email delivery problems.

But for many smaller sites, non-profits, and side projects, there's no budget for a reliable 3rd party email delivery service.

Recently, I was rebuilding a personal photo sharing website (just used for myself and my family and friends), and I decided to wipe the server clean and start over with an Ansible-based configuration that I could deploy locally and to any cloud environment. For email delivery, I decided to install Exim on top of a CentOS 7 minimal base image, and I used Drupal/PHP's mail functionality to pass messages to Exim.

Shuttering isthereamoduleforthat.com

I registered isthereamoduleforthat.com on 2010-08-19 for fun—but after three years, and little traffic (besides bots and the occasional Drupal user popping over from an old link), I'm shutting down the site, and will let my domain registration expire.

Is there a module for that dot com screenshot

If someone is interested in the domain, let me know how you'd use it in the comments below, and I'll consider transferring it to you instead of letting it expire and a squatter taking over.

Using FeedBurner? For the sake of control, enable MyBrand service

We use and recommend FeedBurner for RSS feed stats, podcasting, and the other helpful services it provides. However, one downside of redirecting your website's users to your FeedBurner feed is the fact that you have no control over FeedBurner's URL for your feed.

Say, for instance, you burned a feed at http://feeds.feedburner.com/midwesternmac. If, in a year or two, you need to change the shortcut, or you would like to switch back to your own feed, you can cancel your FeedBurner account, but FeedBurner will only give you 30 days during which they'll redirect their shortcut to your new feed address.

Unfortunately, a lot of people won't switch their feed reader to your new URL, and you'll be stuck with a bunch of subscribers who unwittingly abandoned your RSS feed. Additionally, any feed aggregation services like Catholic News Live won't be getting stories from your site anymore unless they manually update your URL, since there will be no redirect after 30 days.

Trouble sending emails from localhost or MAMP? Check your SPF

Email is hard. In fact, it's so hard that I probably have five or so blog posts half-written on this blog that I've abandoned simply because I don't think I could distill them down into something worthy of posting (I like being able to explain things understandably or not at all!).

I don't think there's anyone involved in administering a domain name and email who hasn't gotten burned by SPF (TXT) records at least once. Here's a good overview of how to build a proper SPF record for your domain. SPF records are used by many (if not most) ISPs these days to evaluate whether an email is coming from a particular domain or not.

Email providers like Google, Apple, Hotmail, etc. will evaluate every email they receive against your domain name's (example.com) SPF record, and if the email didn't originate from the IP address specified, or doesn't match up to any other SPF parameters, the email will be silently deleted. And this will cause you to pull your hair out.

Simple MAMP/MAMP Pro VirtualHosts in Parallels / Windows XP

(This tip should also work similarly with Vista, Windows 7, etc.).

After browsing around a bunch of different forums, the MAMP site, and Parallels documentation, I was still flummoxed by Parallels' weird Shared Host networking behavior, which seemingly didn't allow me to access virtualhosts I set up with MAMP for developing sites locally.

After much experimentation, I found that the simplest way to be able to type in 'local.example.com' (or 'dev.example.com', if that's your style) in Internet Explorer on Windows, and get a virtual host running via MAMP on my Mac, is to do the following:

Bad / Annoying IP Addresses

From time to time, there is a very disobedient/annoying computer or set of computers that annoy the heck out of me online—usually by attempting to bring down one of my websites, or by trying to access hundreds of vulnerable locations (which makes my server return a bunch of 404s) on my server.

For information on different IPs, I use the online IP information lookup tool at robtex.

Anywho, to cut a long story short, I will list the IP addresses and reverse DNS information for them on this page. Anybody that feels inclined to block these IP addresses should do so without a pang of conscience.

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