No its not about the IPL. Enough is being said about that elsewhere or if you are in India then enough and more is being said about that EVERYWHERE.
This is about domain name servers or the lack of them. A few days ago I noticed that my IP Phone was no longer registered and hence would not receive any calls. I wondered what happened to it and promptly started poking around to see if some settings had changed. Nothing had changed at all. I went as far as resetting passwords only to discover that while my IP phone could not connect to its server, my cellphone which has a SIP stack and is configured with the same credentials and service was happily able to register. This got me thinking. A little later I started getting random calls from friends and clients asking if there was an issue with â€œname your favourite site hereâ€. Mail was not working for some, SMTP not working for some, certain sites not opening at all but the rest seemed OK.
Very strange indeed.
Since most everything was working on my notebook, I decided to just change the DNS servers for my IP Phone and Voila! everything worked again.
Now for all the people calling me, I recommended the same change. Suddenly, everyone was a happy puppy again.
The magic – Simple. I changed from Airtelâ€™s DNS to Googleâ€™s DNS. The Google DNS servers have easy to remember numbers. The primary one is 22.214.171.124 and the secondary is 126.96.36.199 so things were back to normal again. Of course, that would not keep me satisfied or happy for long, I did want to get to the bottom of this. I asked casually on Twitter if anyone else had issues and got a flurry of responses. One of them was really nice, a user wrote back to say Airtel customer care actually called him and told him that there is going to be a change in DNS zone-wise and he is not affected by the change as yet. The rest of us seem to be lesser mortals, for the change affects us and we are not told or informed. Not wanting to get into an endless loop, I never bothered calling customer care.
Still not totally satisfied with my solution, I decided to check out namebench. Its an interesting little open-source DNS benchmarking tool. It tells you the fastest DNS available to you and if you change to their recommendations, you would generally experience a faster Internet. Download it, install it and keep it for a rainy day. Useful little utility, available for Linux, Mac OS X and Windows. Would be nice to see this on some phones as well since all the â€œsmartâ€ ones have WiFi anyway.
If you need to change your DNS and are clueless, check the Google Public DNS site instructions are fairly clear. My recommendation, leave the setting for â€œObtain IP Addressâ€ to automatically but manually set the DNS entries. This way no matter where you go, what network you join, you always get the DNS of your choice.
Google Public DNS
Primary – 188.8.131.52
Secondary – 184.108.40.206
And if you are averse to all things Google, then here is an alternative.
Primary – 220.127.116.11
Secondary – 18.104.22.168
In an unrelated incident, for some reason I only seem to encounter the Bloglines Plumber. Been happening since last night. Adds colour to the post. Enjoy!
Lots has been happening (apart from the fact that I am lazy), the iPhone 3G was launched in India and everyone went gaga over it. I was asked for an opinion for NDTV and I am sure what I said they would not have aired! I did actually want to blog about the iPhone but in retrospect I decided against it. I don’t much care for the device or the phone. But I will say that the iPod touch is certainly a nice gadget, A friend of mine said “if only they put a phone in it…” and I said “Thank God, it does not have a phone…” so you can see both sides of the story. A few days of intense hype and then everyone has forgotten about it. The streets don’t seem to be filled with people using iPhones, Apple, Airtel and Vodafone may need to rethink on how they are going to sell it.
Next big wave was Google’s Chrome! I enjoyed reading the comic but thats where it ended. No linux version and though it is now reported to run on wine I have not yet bothered with it. I’ll stick with Firefox for now and revisit this at some point of time. I do have access to a windows desktop, but have not yet tried Chrome or IE8 on that as yet. There are more important things to do. 😉
This morning I woke up to discover yet another WordPress update. my last upgrade was excessively smooth and painless, not that I have ever had an issue on the upgrade before. But last time I used a neat plugin which deserves a special mention – WordPress Automatic Upgrade its just brilliant. It forces you to take a backup, deactivates all plugins, upgrades from the latest WordPress and then reinstates everything. Literally, a few clicks and you are done. I just love it, since I somehow seem to be volunteered into maintaining a bunch of WordPress sites.
Finally, only 76 days to go for FOSS.IN/2008. Thats one of the things that is keeping me a bit busy and awake at night. Do keep a look out for announcements and other happenings on FOSS.IN.
In the meantime, back to work…
Last week I spent a large amount of time staring at server loads on a server which had gone berserk. Server loads on a *nix machine are normally measured as the amount of CPU being utilised at a given point in time. Simple commands like “w” or “top” normally display the load during the last one, five and fifteen minute periods. Most of the time the server in question does have a load on the higher side (just under 2.0), but last week it had gone up as high as 98.0 (almost fever). The server does have 16GB of RAM, so it was still responsive and things were working but a sustained high load did have us all worried.
We sort of knew the reason as well, it was a runaway process trying to update a database and we did not want to stop it.
The only positive point in all of this, I had time on my hands to sit around and discuss various interesting technologies and gadgets with the others who were involved. One of the favourite topics being email, and how it controls our lives these days.
I have shied away from getting either a CrackBerry device or the service. The devices until recently were terrible, they were large, ugly and overall very clumsy. Since the introduction of the “pearl” things have improved on that end but I still stayed away from it. The good thing is now that many other phone manufacturers are providing software that allows you to use the service on their devices. Eg. Most of the new business phones from Nokia have this software available.
The issue is not just with the device, its also with the service. I currently have an unlimited GPRS/EDGE connection with Airtel.I am paying Rs.499/- per month for this. The cheapest CrackBerry service is Rs.899/- per month and that too is limited to email only. You cannot surf or do other things on the net with that connection. You do get access to WAP, so are limited to Airtel Live! etc but not anything else. As far as I know, you need to pay separately for full access.
Now comes the question of push mail. On a normal GPRS connection, you can setup your device to collect mail every few minutes (eg. 5 minutes) and mail would continue to flow, but its still a pull and not a push. This is where IMAP IDLE comes into the picture. If you googled for CrackBerry alternatives, you would find lots of free alternatives available. Invariably, all of them either ask you to download and install a package on your device or just state that your device must support the IMAP IDLE protocol.
Of the three mail clients I use, I tested two of them and both supported IMAP IDLE. Thunderbird and the email client on the Nokia E-Series phones both support IMAP IDLE. Now to check if my server supports it, cause you do need to have the support both at the client end and at the server end. A simple check is to telnet to the IMAP port (143) of of your server and see what is shown in the capabilities.
* OK [CAPABILITY IMAP4rev1 UIDPLUS CHILDREN NAMESPACE THREAD=ORDEREDSUBJECT THREAD=REFERENCES SORT QUOTA IDLE ACL ACL2=UNION STARTTLS] Courier-IMAP ready. Copyright 1998-2005 Double Precision, Inc. See COPYING for distribution information.
The goobledygook above has one very important word in it. “IDLE” which means my server supports the push that I need, not that its just plain lazy!
After that its simple, on Thunderbird, setup an IMAP account with your server details and you are good to go. To test it, login to the webmail of your server and send yourself a test message, the moment you hit the send button, you will see the mail pop-up on Thunderbird.
On the phone too the setup is trivial. Setup the IMAP account, then select the option of “Automatic Retreival”. Notice how it does not mention the frequency at which mail will be collected, the reason, its now setup for push.
I have my phone setup with “get headers” and actually collect only mail that I want to read. One other thing that you should note here, your EDGE connection will now just be continuosly on. It does drain battery a bit but thats the price you pay for push mail.
Of course, the bigger price is that you will always be in email hell! Email pouring in at odd hours which you could have safely ignored and looked at in the morning will now be sitting on your phone waiting for action. Whats worse is that most senders now expect a response within seconds too!
Welcome, to the curse of “push” mail.
PS: before somebody asks, the third email client I use is Alpine.