Archive for August, 2006

Apache SpamAssassin sa-update channels for SARE rules

The SpamAssassin Rules Emporium (SARE) has a bunch of rules for SpamAssassin. Many of them are good rules. Some of them get updated regularly. To update these rules Chris Thielen wrote, and continues to update, a bash script called rules_du_jour that automatically downloads and when necessary updates a server’s SARE rules.

The rules_du_jour script works fine and has been in use by thousands of people for quite some time. One problem, though, is that it only runs on *nix systems. It also needs to be updated when new rulesets are released. Not a significant task by any stretch, but it does add to a mail system’s administrative load.

Apache SpamAssassin 3.1.1 and beyond includes sa-update, a cross-platform Perl program that manages updating rulesets available via “channels” in a light weight fashion using the DNS to track ruleset versions and HTTP to download updated rulesets when necessary. SHA1 sums and GPG are also used to verify downloaded rulesets.

So far the only sa-update channel available is the default channel published by the Apache SpamAssassin Project ( In early July I created my own channels containing up to date SARE rulesets to gain experience with sa-update and to automate rule updates on my own systems. For some reason I have never used rules_du_jour myself. I think it’s size and need for updating when new rulesets released turned me off of it.

After much discussion about “rules_du_jour vs. sa-update” in early August on the SpamAssassin users’ list in this and this thread, I decided to make my SARE sa-update channels public. The discussion was largely a debate between long time users of rules_du_jour who were discounting the utility of sa-update and the SpamAssassin development team, along with a number of Windows users who can’t use rules_du_jour. I figured making the channels public would attract enough users to either quash fears about sa-update or identify any problems with sa-update. I’ll be happy with either result.

So far there hasn’t been any problems reported. There’s only been a couple people that have reported their satisfaction though. Numbers often tell a better story. In the last week there have been a few hundred diverse IPs that have download files from one or more channels (each SARE ruleset is in its own channel). Browsing the server logs it appears that a number of noteworthy engineering and computer networking organizations have been using the channels on their mail clusters too. Since no one has complained yet, I’m assuming all is well. I know, myself, I haven’t had any problems in the last month or so.

For those interested in using these sa-update channels, a brief how-to is available here. I was planning on writing some more detailed documentation, but it really is as simple (on *nix systems at least) as stated in the how-to. If anyone wants to contribute documentation for use on Windows or other systems that the how-to doesn’t seem to cover it would be welcomed.

Add comment August 19th, 2006

People, the public and line-ups

I’ve always known that if you want to identify the most self-centred assholes in society all you have to do is ask people to wait in line. Even knowing that, this week I was surprised at just how little some people care about others.

Friday night, back at the drive-in theatre again, I found the theatre owner, who was in the box office selling tickets at the time, having a stroke. Even though about 50 cars had gone through, nobody had bothered to mention this to the staff or call for help. When I arrived one did have time to immediately complain that the line was moving to slow and that they were going to miss the movie. I, of course, ignored them and opted to call an ambulance instead.

So in anticipation of the ambulance actually wanting to get within a block of the scene, I start asking people to move their cars out of the way of the entrance. There were cars all over blocking the road because, of course, it’d be just to easy to line up orderly (this is a problem that has been getting worse over the last few years — see this post) so that you’re not blocking traffic. So I’m going car to car explaining that we’re making room to get an ambulance through and what do no less than five people tell me (all people who thought lining up their car in the middle of the road was the best plan of action)? “I’m not moving, I might loose my spot in line and miss the start of the movie.” Two people even told me that if we hurried up and sold tickets faster that they’d be soon out of the way. Both of these people could see the guy lying on the ground waiting for his ride in the ambulance. So, as many many years of dealing with the public has taught me, if you really need them to do something and being really nice about it hasn’t worked, swear at them. Cursing ensued and I’m now positive my Irish ancestors would be proud.

So the ambulance arrives and the attendants start doing their thing. In order to keep the owner from trying to get up off the ground to go back to selling tickets I start selling tickets, which is something I do really fast. Nonetheless, as each person pulls up (right beside the ambulance no less) nearly 25% of the women proceed to bitch me out about wanting them to pay for the full ticket price ($7). After all, they’ve missed at most an additional 8 minutes of the first movie of the double bill that they’ve already shown up late for. All of this in ear-shot of the guy on the ground, who the complainers can plainly see less than 10 feet from their car. Some of these people are lucky it’s too hard to climb through the box office window to kick their ass. Others vow never to come back to the drive-in again. I thank them all, the drive-in will be a better place without them.

Intermission comes, no more complaints, except for a few waiting for popcorn (line-up!). Interestingly, and this has happened a few times in the past to me, a number of the husbands of wives who previously bitched me out find me to apologize. Weird. Not one guy complained to me the entire night. Maybe they all thought “that could be me”?
Two nights later, back in the box office again (I’m now working every night until the owner’s family can take over), people start stopping their cars in the middle of the road in the line-up instead of lining up down one side of the road like any sane person would do (and have done for 25+ years). No more than 3 minutes after me going out to the road to tell people not to stop in the middle of the road like an idiot, and being told “what do you know”, one of these cars gets hit by another car going by. What do I know? That you’ll probably get hit by another car if you park in the middle of the road. Especially a back road where people normally do twice the speed limit, including the Southern Georgian Bay OPP.

Another two nights later, Tuesday now, people start lining up on the wrong side of the road (the correct side is obvious from the 50 cars lined up there) again. Once again, I go out to the road to tell them to stop being idiots and to proceed to the back of the line like everyone else. I even tell them that blocking the road isn’t a good idea since getting an emergency vehicle in would be, as I found out earlier in the week, next to impossible, and that you’ve got a good chance of getting hit by another car when stopped illegally in the middle of the road, which I’ve seen many times. Some responses, “That won’t happen” and “I’m not worried about that”. When I respond that, regardless, it’s not very nice of them to cut ahead of 50 other cars in line I get responses of “I know what car was at the end of the line when I got here, I’ll pull in then” and “I don’t care, they should have shown up earlier”. WTF! If you knew where the end of the line is why didn’t you go there. Cutting in at what you’ve determined to be the appropriate time isn’t going to go over well with the good people who got in line. This isn’t grade school anymore, no more of my buddy showed up early to save me a spot crap. And to the person who declared they just don’t care. Why don’t you go see your movies somewhere else. I know that you’ll be the one giving the staff a hard time about stupid things later and they just don’t need it. If you do decide to come back why don’t you show up on time.
People are good. The public is not. Line-ups separate the public from people.

Add comment August 17th, 2006


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