Off Topic : internet connection, ISP

Simon Wistow simon at
Fri Sep 15 07:22:39 BST 2006

On Fri, Sep 15, 2006 at 06:41:56AM +0100, Dominic Mitchell said:
> MMDF , it's the spawn of Satan.  That is all.

Back when I was at college and a 56k modem was still a pretty nifty 
thing (yes, I realise that for some of the list members spam was more of 
an issue for them because the cost of smoke signals and/or wet string 
were particularly outrageous) I rigged up a Linux box in my room of my 
shared house and then wrote a program that allowed people to dial up 
from the computers in their room. It had various nifty features such as 
billing, only allowing a computer that had clicked 'dial' to get an 
outside connection even if someone else was already dialled up etc etc

It also ran fetchmail for people.

One of my housemates decided that he didn't wnat to download his mail 
obsessively and asked me to turn off his fetchmail config. Which I did. 
Except his mail still kept arriving in the mailbox of the gateway 

I checked again. Still happened. 

I disabled Fetchmail. Still happened.

I was honestly at a lost, I really couldn't figure out what was going
on. I'd had no real prior experience of adminning *nix and had just
installed Redhat on a cobbled together 'box' (it had no case, the PSU
was on the floor, the mobo rested on bricks and the graphics card was
held up by two playing cards) and then worked my way through various 
HOWTOs until stuff worked.

At one point, very late at night and slightly paranoid from too many
Jolt Colas (still available from 7-11 then) I found that, at some point
the default dial-up had been changed from the previous house owned
UkOnline account to my troubled housemates personal Demon account, 
probably during on of UkOnlines numerous outages at that time. Part of 
me seriously began to believe that my little box had become self aware 
and had somehow discovered my housemate's username and password from the 
WvDialler conf and had then extrapolated to downloading the mail 

Those of you familiar with Demon in the mid 90s will probably guess 
what's coming. Please hold the surprise until the end.

It wasn't till I found that Sendmail was installed without me 
knowing it (EEEk!) and found the log which turned out to be full of 
references to that the penny slowly began to plummet 

For those in the dark I shall repeat what another housemate who *had*
been a member of the "Tenner a month" club explained to me when I asked
him about this (via ytalk, natch).

For various reasons Demon decided that POP3 wasn't the way to go for 
customers and so distributed a program that emulated an SMTP server on 
your windows machine. By inadvertently leaving port 25 open to the 
outside world and by giving him the same username on my box as he'd used 
under Demon, I was getting his mail delivered.

In my defence I hadn't really been online long and all my experience was 
through leased lines, not dial up and, to be fair, the punt system was 
fairly unique (AFAIK).

It did lead to Marr's Razor though "Never assume that your computer has 
become self aware when a more mudane solution presents itself"

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