Monthly Archives: September 2005

Little By Little Turns Into a Torrent

“Little by Little, the new Harvey Danger album”: is now available for free, online, in official form. The “download page”:, has high-quality MP3 and OggVorbis encodings available via “Bittorrent”:

The album is “also available in CD form”: in really cool looking packaging, complete with a lyrics booklet and a bonus disk for a “nice price”.

All the new songs are in the torrent, in their full glory, including “Cream and Bastards Rise,” “Little Round Mirrors, and “Happiness Writes White.” “Check it out!”:

Stupid iTunes Toolbar Trick

I like to keep my Windows taskbar on the right-hand side of my screen, rather than in the default position across the bottom. This arrangement lets me easily scan the titles of a lot of open windows and pick the one I want to switch to in a single click. The default arrangement only provides easy access to a handfull of windows. It also gives me as much vertical space as possible, which is generally more useful than a lot of width when working with text.

Unfortunately, a lot of software is only designed for the default behavior. “Microsoft’s antispyware used to have a big problem”: with this until they finally fixed it.

I just noticed that iTunes has a toolbar that fits in the taskbar. Unfortunately, it doesn’t work very well with my arrangement. Very frustrating. I’d really like easy access to iTunes in my toolbar. The popup menu in the system tray isn’t very easy to use.


Stupid iTunes Toolbar Trick

Looking at the screenshot, I realize that its even dumber. The icons on the buttons and for the volume control are all oriented properly but the rest of the toolbar is rotated.

Taking Advantage of’s New Antispam System

If you are a customer and you use the e-mail provided with their web hosting accounts, you should make sure you are taking advantage of their new antispam/junkmail filtering. My experience is that it really works. If it isn’t working for you then either they haven’t convereted your server yet, or something is wrong.

If your server has been converted but your junk mail hasn’t fallen off dramatically, here are a few tips:
# First off, you might need to wait a couple of days after they upgrade your server. They use DNS changes to make sure your mail goes to one of their “mailwash” servers before it arrives at the server that hosts your mailbox. This DNS change can take a couple of days to propagate. Until it does, Greylisting, which cuts down a lot of spam, won’t work.
# If the number of spam mails you receive doesn’t taper off login and make sure Greylisting is enabled.
# Also make sure that you have junkmail filtering enabled for your mailbox and any mail recipies that end up in your mailbox.
# Check the headers of some of the spaml to see if your mail is being delivered to a mailwash server before it gets to the server with your mailbox. If it isn’t you’ll probably see a line like this in the headers: "X-Greylisting: is whitelisted." which probably means that the MX records for your domain are still pointing to the server hosting your mailbox. This can happen if you have custom DNS enabled on pair, or if you are using someone else to host DNS for your domain, like pairnic, godaddy, or network solutions. The solution is to figure out your mailwash server. It should be obvious from looking over the headers, the name will be “” where XX is a one or two digit number (thanks for clarifying, Luke). Once you’ve figured out your mailwash server you should update your DNS so that it is the highest priority mail exchanger.

Please post other tips in the comments.

In my experience, greylisting has cut spam off dead. The only spam I’ve received in the past few days looks like it was sent using my old MX record that hasn’t expired from cache. As a result, I haven’t even bothered exploring the other antispam features.

Seemingly Spam Free For The First Time in Years

I get a lot of spam, or rather, I used to get a lot of spam. I used to get easily a dozen per day, compared to 2-3 pieces of legit e-mail.

I’ve been dutifully training the adaptive filter in Thunderbird for years, but even though I don’t see many false positives, I’ve never quite trusted it enough to have it automatically dispatch the messages it tags as junk. I also turned on the Spam Assassin feature on my mailbox at my hosting provider, but again, I didn’t trust it enough to have it deal with the messages it flagged automatically. The only thing that really worked was retiring an e-mail address I’d been using since the mid 90s, and that worked for a while, but the new address has leaked out.

I’ve been unwilling to use GMail or Yahoo because I’d rather be in more control of my own mail, but I haven’t been eager to spend a lot of time setting up and tweaking specialized filters either.

Instead, I’ve been waiting for “”:, who provides web and e-mail hosting for, to roll out a new anti-spam system they announced months and months ago. The new system added support for mailserver blacklisting (which refuses mail from mailservers that various groups have identified as spam havens), adaptive filtering and mailserver greylisting.

Pair has allowed its customers to configure their accounts for the new system for months, but Pair has hundreds of servers, each hosting a hundred or so customers, and they were going through them in small batches, often with long delays to work out newly discovered kinks. I’d gone in and turned on greylisting. Greylisting temporarily rejects e-mail from questionable mail servers and counts on legit mailservers to retry again after some period of time. Spammers are usually in a hurry and won’t retry. I was less confident in using blacklists since they can be overaggressive in their stance. I also decided to skip the adaptive filter, at least for now, because I didn’t want to take the time to train it, and becasue I still have concerns about false positives.

I was beginnning to wonder though if I’d ever get to try out the new features before I choked to death on a growing torrent of spam. It took a long long time for them to finally upgrade my server to the new system, and at first, it wasn’t obviously better. I kept getting spam. Most of it was getting tagged, but when I inspected the message headers, it looked like the greylisting feature wasn’t being triggered at all, even for e-mail that clearly originated from someone’s cable modem somewhere.

After a bit of digging I discovered the problem. The old mail handling system had mail delivered directly to the server that hosted my mailbox. The new system relied on a new “mailwash” server to do all the spam filtering before passing the message to the machine hosting my mailbox for final delivery. The delivery destination for outside mail is determined by a DNS MX record. I’d done custom configuration of my DNS record and so Pair hadn’t automatically updated the delivery destination for when they upgraded my server to the new antispam system. As a result, mail was still being delivered to the server with my mailbox. This server saw that it hadn’t been “mailwashed” yet, so it would hand it over to the mailwash server. The mailwash server would see that the mail came from another pair server, rather than some cable modem connected box somewhere, and pass it along through.

So, I updated the MX record for to point at the new mailwash server and over the course of a day or so, that information made it out onto the wider net. Now all my mail is going through the mailwash server first, and it seems to be successfully turning away bogus messages before any of the other filters even come into play.

It’s pretty sweet not to have to deal with a few spam messages every time I look at my e-mail. It’s also a bit disconcerting. I keep wondering if my email is working.

Tagging MP3s for Online Distribution

I spent a little time this weekend figuring out best practices for tagging MP3 files for online-distribution. I was hoping to find an article online, but didn’t come across anything great. 43folders has some great general tips in “Five Mistakes Band & Label Sites Make”:, but they don’t go beyond the important but obvious tip to fill in every tag field you possibly can.

So, instead I’ve done some independent research, which I’ll be compiling in this article.

First off, not everyone is using the same media player on your desktop. iTunes is popular, WinAmp is well entrenched, Windows Media Player is bundled with Windows, and Real Player and MusicMatch can’t be ruled out. For the time being though, I’m focusing on iTunes, WinAmp and Windows Media Player.

Recent versions of all three support the ID3v2 tagging standard, but not identically. WinAmp has a field for URLs that iTunes lacks. Windows Media Player supports the addition of 3 different URL types, plus additional user defined URLs, but doesn’t seem to do anything with them in the UI.

When it comes right down to it, the one item supported on all three is the comments field, but they don’t all handle it consistently. iTunes will only display 254 characters of this field, even if more are available in the file. WinAmp and WinMP will support many more (though I didn’t nail down how many more). Adding to the confusion, each package has different display charactaristics for the field.

iTunes displays 4 lines of ~80 characters without scrolling. WinAmp shows 3 lines of 35 characters without scrolling, and WinMP shows 11 lines of ~37 characters without scrolling.

My advice is to keep the whole comment under 254 characters, to make sure the URL fits within the first 4 lines on iTunes, and to make sure that the most important info fits in the 3 lines available in WinAmps tag viewer/editor. This may result in the URL not showing in WinAmp, but that’s fine, as long as you fill in the URL field too.

Lastly, go through the files in WinAmp and edit the comment in the ID3v1 section, which is all users with older media players will see. This is limited to 30 characters, so put your URL there. Leave the http:// and the www off if you have to.

Note:This entry, unfortunately, is a little incomplete. I haven’t gotten around to updating it with suggestions like being sure to add a bitmap of your URL to any embedded image files so that people will see it who might not check the comment tags, that, and other stuff I’m sure I’ll do a better job of remembering when I’m better rested.

Another Note:If you have punctuation in your song titles, album title or band name, strip it out of your filenames before you post them. Commas, quotes, apostrophes, colons, exclamation points and the like can cause all sorts of problems. In our case we had to redo all the downloads and get people to seed the new torrents because commas in the properly punctuated name of the first track (“Wine, Women, and Song”) caused some Zip programs to fail to unpack it, compromising the integrity of the album.