Dysmey Post Archive > Pages for 2002 > Late November 2002 Edition

Late November 2002 Edition

the web server and the firewall: why they can't get along

I originally wrote this as some filler for the web site in my computer. But there will probably be no web site there for reasons given below.

I have had problems with Windows XP Home, that had forced me to reinstall it thrice this past weekend and twice the weekend before. I decided to take notes on the last two installs. The chief reason was the rau rau rau rau coming from my hard disk.

At first I thought it was because of a newly-bought McAfee VirusScan Professional 7.0 overdoing it on the scanning. To stop it I was forced to wipe the partition table (not a full hard disk wipe—that takes six hours) and start over again.

As it happens I traced the problem to the Apache web server. No matter what order you install Apache and a firewall (whether ZoneAlarm or McAfee Firewall—I tried both), Apache immediately generates scores of the same type of error:

An operation was attempted on something that is not a socket. :winnt_accept: AcceptEx failed. Attempting to recover.

What's happening here is that Apache makes copies of itself: an initial number specified in the httpd.conf file, plus one for each request for a web page. These pass signals to the main Apache program, to let it know what they are doing. They would, that is, unless something comes between them. And it seems firewall software interferes with Apache's ability to talk to its child programs.

Apache HTTP Project does not support using ZoneAlarm, or other software firewall solutions in conjunction with Apache

Quoth the Apache web site. This means it is futile to send a bug report about this to the Apache folks; they will do nothing with it. So, I sent a report to Zone Labs and see if they can do something. I just received a response from Zone Labs: Sorry, but we don't support ZoneAlarm and Apache on the same box, either.

This is so stupid, because hooking a WinXP Home box to the Internet is sheer folly without a firewall. Apache is the only web server for WinXP Home; it's that or buy WinXP Pro with IIS. To not work out the Apache/firewall problem is to say the only way to use Apache is to stay off the Internet. This pretty much keeps the majority of WinXP Home users from ever using Apache.

Needless to say, I am well frustrated!

Anyway, if the time comes when Apache does work with a firewall, installing Apache is a breeze. You will need to set it up as a public service (Port 80), even if you plan to use it privately, because it is the only way you can get the Apache Monitor. You can change the port settings to private (8080, usually) by editing the httpd.conf file. (And be careful doing so; mess up httpd.conf, and you will have to reinstall the server.)

As for my WinXP box, I did the final install (for the time being) without Apache. It has VirusScan 7.0 (the home version), ZoneAlarm, and Norton Utilities 2002. It is working fine. The Norton keeps my box from croaking on its own; the VirusScan and ZoneAlarm keeps others from helping it croak. And everyone is happy. And no rau rau rau rau.

list server purgatory

I had a nastier title for this, which deals with my sister's troubles with a certain mailing list company. But I will not even mention the name of the company itself, lest it disrupt the deal it cut with my sister.

My sister Vickie the freelance editor moderates a mailing list for freelance publishing workers and suchlike. Some time ago I helped her evacuate the list from Yahoo, which was about to impose more restrictions on large groups. Vickie chose the current mailing list company because it looked better than Yahoo.

Last week Vickie got a bill from that company The bill was horrific! The reason was even more outrageous. The saleswoman for that company misunderstood that, while my sister functions as a business, the mailing list is not part of my sister's business nor a business in itself. So my sister unknowingly bought a business mailing list, which charges for even attempted deliveries of messages to the list—and the list has hundreds of subscribers.

(The saleswoman has since left the company—no love lost, as she was an obvious incompetent.)

Attempts to get the company to explain why she was being shafted after being misled were brushed aside. My sister then vented her outrage in a web page for her fellow freelancers. The mailing list company was promptly flooded with angry complaints and threats to tell the national press of its practices. Evidently the company did not look at the title of the mailing list—freelance publishing—and realize that angering such an architypically sociable group of people would get them in deep kitty ditty.

So, the company struck a deal with my sister: Pull the vent page, and maybe post an apology, and we will waive the charges. So she did, and then they did. The list is now in their not-for-profit area.

Now the situation has settled into an ill status quo. The mailing list company is recovering from a public relations black eye that could have gotten worse. And they still do not give a clear explanation (at least on their web site) of how they charge for service and bandwidth. (They do explain, but you have to dig for it.) Another PR explosion awaits them. Someone else is moderating the web page. And now comes the task of finding a substitute for that company.

mailman—freelancers going postal

Declaring that she will never again be dependent of others for her mailing list, my sister has decided on a home-brewed server for the list. This temptation to run one's own list and free oneself from the dependency of a company-run service has its drawbacks. You will need at least a DSL line to handle the traffic. You will need to set up the server yourself, and unless you're a Linux hacker, that may be beyond you.

The size of the mailing list leaves out even our mutual web hoster, Hostway, as a mailing list provider. Hostway provides a free mailing list service, Mailman. However, for reasons of resource allocation Hostway puts a cap on subscribers at far less than the number of freelance-editing subscribers.

But just because Mailman is capped on Hostway does not mean the mailing list program itself has an innate cap on subscribers. In fact, larger groups than the freelance publishers' list use Mailmain.

Mailman is the GNU/Linux mailing list program, based on the scripting language Python. Once installed, it can use any mail server, and can be set up off a web browser. Thus Mailman needs a Linux box with the latest versions of Python, a mail server (QMail is best), and a web server (Apache, naturally).

Sometime this week, I plan to install Red Hat Linux 8.0 on an old Gateway GP6-333 as a test machine, and see if I can configure it as a Mailman server with all that it needs.

bitty box

My sister Tina brought the box of my niece Erin, expecting me to bring it back to life. She thinks the power supply is fried. It's likely, given its a bitty box from TigerDirect. The power supply is so weak (200W) and there is so much disk capacity in there, that burnout is fated.

I tried to transplant a used power supply from one of the out-of-warranty boxes at work, but it is too big. So, I ordered a 300W power supply from Zone Computer. I also ordered a XMas gift for my niece, but I am not free to reveal it yet. (She might be reading this.) Let's just say that, when I am finished with the computer, it will be a power box able to take all the abuse my niece can sling at it.

the guy in the mirror

The personnel manager at my company has a habit of putting quotes in the position e-mail ads. One such is:

The biggest troublemaker you'll probably ever have to deal with watches you shave his face in the mirror every morning.

Yeah, I can imagine my mirror image would call me a big, fat loser or even a Homer. But then it would also say stuff like "George Bush? He's a great guy!" or "Those old-line Prots are such good people".

See how much trouble my doppelgänger would be? George Bush is not OK—not when he acts like his father, Ol' Linguini Spine. In fact, all our political and social elites are drooling morons. That does not make the rest of us look very good, since this is a country where the elites supposedly can't rule without our tacit consent.

Neither are the old-line Prots OK. Why else would the Episcopalians, Presbyterians, Lutherans and the like be losing members by the tankful since the 1960's? Then there is the attempt by the Methodists (the most numerous of the old-line Prots but also losing the most members) at recruitment. It is centered on an effeminate image of the Christus from the 1800's, composed of images of people who are almost all white. Think on that, folks, and ponder whether the Methodists will survive their old-line Prot brothers.

I had thought of something rude and embarrassing, that my mirror image could say about my long-term devotion to a certain stage actress. I decided to drop most of it, except to say that she is a far better performer than some of those Hollywood parades as their brightest stars. And that it is perhaps a good thing, that fame has not discovered her—given what fame has done to Michael Jackson, Pamela Anderson, Madonna and the other mutants of the earth.

Copyright © 2003 by Andy West. All rights reserved. Last updated 30 November 2003.