Sunday, April 25, 2004

Quote of the year candidate

"The room was spinning, so I decided to sit up and drink."

Getting Started with m0n0wall

I have been working on setting up a new, much more sophisticated firewall for our little home network. I'm using software from an Open Source project called m0n0wall, and it's a wonderful piece of work. If you've thought of getting a SonicWALL or a WatchGuard network security appliance, you should check m0n0wall out. (If you don't know what a SonicWALL or a WatchGuard is, forget I mentioned it.)

One of the few weaknesses of the project is that there is little-to-no documentation for it. So as part of the process of teaching myself how to configure my m0n0wall system, I started writing some. The first piece is Getting Started with m0n0wall, a guide to the first few things you need to do to configure m0n0wall, once you have your hardware running.

It's a very rough draft, with a lot of pieces missing, but I thought I'd publish a link to it so Google would find it, so new m0n0wall users might be able to find some help.

Save me from the bounces

I have over the last two years implemented, I think, a dozen different anti-spam technologies to protect my Inbox. (I'll total them up and summarize my thoughts in another post.) Today I finished implemented yet another, called SPF, or Sender Permitted From.

The idea is, if my e-mail address is "michael a-t", then there are only a few servers on the internet that are likely, or permitted, to send e-mail for the domain. When you receive an e-mail from that address or domain, if you knew which servers on the internet were legitimate senders, then you could reject messages from all other servers.

This is useful because it's common practice by spammers to forge the From: header of their spam messages, and because they are almost never able to send those messages from the real server for the domain. (This is why bouncing spam back to the sender just makes the spam problem worse.)

I had incentive to do this because one of my e-mail address domains,, has been forged heavily recently (though not quite "Joe Job"ed), with thousands of e-mails being sent out with forged from addresses like "" and "". When the spams bounce back, they come to my Inbox. Thousands of them.

Now, SPF isn't a panacea for this problem, mostly because there has not been a lot of deployment of the technology yet. But that's coming; AOL recently began trialing it, and if it's successful I am sure the other big ISPs will do so soon.

When they do, I'll be ready to reap the benefits.

Spam Counts

With Q1-2004 coming to a close, I thought I'd take a look at my spam situation, which has been escalating out of control. Since 12:01am January 1, 2004 I have received 22,255 spam messages via e-mail. That's more than 250 a day, every day, for the last 89 days. Earlier in the year, the daily average was lower, which means that in the last couple weeks it's gone well above 250 per day.

Filtered Mail
- 13565 Good Messages
- 22255 Spam Messages (62%)

SpamSieve Accuracy
- 21 False Positives
- 197 False Negatives (90%)
- 99.4% Correct

Showing Statistics
1/1/04 to 3/28/04

Quote of the year candidate

"My wife. She needs constant supervision."

What, it only took you six years to figure that out???

Quote of the year candidate

"I'm bored. I need to either go to bed, or ratchet it up."

Heard when there was no ginger ale in the house to make Randy Scotsmans (Scotch and ginger ale).

Quote of the year candidate

While discussing whether we should go to an upcoming high school reunion:

I think I'll pick out the most boring jackass there, latch on, and just Rochelle all over him.

Isn't that what you did when you married me...?

Painting painting sanding painting painting painting...

It started with the idea of replacing our 12 year old (hideously cat vomit-stained) carpet. After searching for a while, Rochelle finally found a great carpet that should be durable and look terrific. (Rumors that we color-matched against current stains can neither be confirmed nor denied.) But then, the real scope of the project became, if not clear, at least a topic of discussion. We would need to paint all three rooms that were getting the new carpet. And the hallway.

This past weekend was phase 1 of what will surely be a 5+ phase project. Colors were chosen, paint and tools acquired. Rochelle took Friday off, and we emptied our bedroom, and started prepping the walls. Which led to the second unfortunate discovery, that the wallpaper under the paint was sagging and bulging in places, and basically came off like peeling a bad sunburn. Three hours later, we had stripped off two of the four layers from half the bedroom, and sensibly called a halt to further destruction.

(Side note: the first unfortunate discovery came weeks earlier, when Rochelle went to start stripping off the wallpaper, and discovered she was peeling the paper off the front of the sheetrock that had replaced one wall. After she'd peeled half the wall. We became convinced there was no wallpaper in the room. We were wrong. The only place without wallpaper was where Rochelle started peeling. Unfortunate discoveries are a part of home improvements if your home is a Victorian...)

Saturday David arrived, took charge, and made us start painting what we could. Nothing is more motivating than seeing fresh paint on your ceiling and walls, and we got a lot done (while also going through three bottles and one magnum of sparkling wine).

Sunday, supposed to be the last day, it was back to the damaged walls. Lots of Fix-It-All and sanding. And dust. Lots of dust. This was a lot of work, and while we put a second coat on the ceiling and picture rail, and a first coat on one wall (which looked terrible, because we stupidly decided not to take off the last layer of wallpaper), we didn't paint much.

Monday Rochelle went back to work, and I finished stripping walls, and then painted like crazy. Finally the room was starting to look good again. Tuesday saw the "final" coats of paint, followed by some hole patching, that will require, you guessed it, another coat of paint. I am very, very tired of painting.

Tomorrow I'll paint one last time, one wall and some touching up, and tomorrow night, barring more unfortunate discoveries, we'll move our bed back into the room, which should make the cats, if not happy, on the road to happy. (Ironically, the cats have not been taking the project well. Billie was so stressed out the first night that she, you guessed it, puked on the floor.)

Then it's on to the parlor and office, both of which are bigger than the bedroom.

I think 2004 is going to be the Year of Paint.

Working Again, Kinda

My unemployment benefits ran out in mid-February. Not entirely coincidentally, I've found some medium-term work (sub-contracting for a small consulting company), that I hope to be able to continue doing for the foreseeable future.

It's not full-time or permanent, so I make less and will have to pay self-employment taxes, etc. But for now, it gives me a lot of flexibility. And while I pays less than I was making in my last job, it pays way more than unemployment benefits.

Anyway, it's going to have something that gets me up and out of the house most days, and pays some bills.

Another site for Michael

My real weblog can be found at:

Aldoblog::Michael Alderete's Weblog

Exorcising childhood demons

Let me begin first by saying that my mother is a very good cook. Some of her dishes (spaghetti sauce, veal scallopini) are still among my favorite foods, and not just because they are childhood favorites.

That said, as a kid I was a picky eater, and there were some dishes that I just detested. "Tuna Nuna Casserole" -- the ubiquitous noodles, cream of mushroom soup, canned tuna, and crumbled potato chips -- was among the ones I hated the most. To this day, the memory makes me shudder.

Well, that may no longer be a problem. Last week Rochelle and I made a version that made the bad thoughts go away. We started with a Bechamel sauce (flour, butter, milk), then added creme fraiche to make a cream sauce, then added cheese and mustard (plus salt, pepper, etc.) to make a classic Sauce Morney. Tossed some noodles with peas and good tuna, and added the sauce. Lays on top, with more cheese (and more Lays, and more cheese). Then baked for 25 minutes until the top was all bubbly and crisp.

We pigged out and ate a third of the pan right then, and then spent four days eating the rest. Pretty fucking good!