Mail Server Upgraded

The e-mail server was upgraded tonight to the latest version of Zimbra — version 6.1.  Even though this upgrade is considered a “major” revision (from 5.x to 6.x), the resulting change to you, the user, should be fairly minimal.  The web interface is mostly the same, with some minor UI improvements and changes.  Hopefully nothing is too confusing.

The most annoying thing I’ve found thus far is the inability to change from the “advanced” version of the web client to the “simple” (and vice versa) while in mid-flight.  There used to be a link to swap back and forth on the main page, but that link is no longer there.  So if you prefer the “simple” client, be sure to choose it when you first log in.

Also, in case you were wondering, this would have been why you wouldn’t have been able to access your email sporadically between 6PM and about 10:30PM PDT today.

Upcoming Service Outage

As part of the Tower Network datacenter move, we need to take all services down so that hardware can be physically moved to the new location, as well as to give our upstream ISP time to migrate the circuit over to the new location.

The first outage will be *TONIGHT*, June 10, starting at approximately 4PM, lasting 1-2 hours.

The second outage will be sometime either June 11 or June 12, time to be determined.  This outage could possibly last as long as half a day, but could be less.  This is when the actual, physical move will be taking place.

During these outages, *ALL* Tower Network services will be offline.  Our offsite “disaster recovery” host, siege, will still remain online to handle DNS queries and will queue incoming email, but all user-accessible services will be unavailable.

Resolved Outage: Network Outage

At approximately 10:30PM PDT, the DSL servicing Tower Network stopped passing traffic.  It is believed to be a problem with the upstream provider, and no ETR is available at this time.  Our offsite host, siege, should be providing minimal DNS and email capabilities until the circuit is back up (and by minimal email, we mean that it will accept and store incoming email.  It does not provide any ability for users to check their email).

And yes, we are aware that because of this outage, you won’t see this post until the DSL becomes live again, but at this point it’s the best we can do.

Update: The circuit came back online at almost exactly midnight.  The precise nature of the start/end times makes this smell like pre-scheduled maintenance, but this is purely conjecture.  At any rate, the circuit seems stable for the moment, so we’re going to call this “resolved.”

Web Server Transition

We are in the process of migrating this website ( from the old FreeBSD server to a new Ubuntu server.  Consequently, there may be periods of time where certain services (Gallery, wiki, media library, etc.) will be unavailable as it is migrated from old to new.  If you run into this, check back in a couple of hours, and hopefully it’ll be back up.

Weather Alert

The weather report for this area includes low temps and very high winds (20-30mph with gusts up to 65mph) over the weekend. The last time we had a storm like this there were many widespread power outages (some of them lasted many days). We were very lucky in that the longest power outage we endured was only a couple of hours.

However, if we are not as lucky as last time and the power goes out for a prolonged period, most Tower Network services will likely go offline, including this website, email services, etc., as we only have enough battery to last about 30 minutes (sorry, no generator yet…). The two exceptions to this are incoming email delivery and DNS queries, both of which are handled on our offsite emergency server, Siege (get it? Siege tower?), so unless St. Louis (where Siege lives) also has problems the same time we do, absolutely basic functions required to keep the domain alive will still be online.

We’ll try to keep everyone informed here if at all possible, but if you are mysteriously unable to connect to any of our services, you now probably know why.

Email spam processing change

I’ve just made a change to how the Tower Family email server processes spam. Since the back-end will already automatically redirect spam emails into the “Junk” folder, there is no longer a need to tag the subject with “***SPAM***”, so that feature has been removed. Additionally, I have added a setting that tells the server to simply drop emails it is 99% certain is spam (in Spamassassin parlance, anything with a score of 19.8 or higher). Hopefully, both of these changes are things you won’t even notice!

Mail server migrated

Email services were successfully cut-over to the new server, and all users’ email has been migrated as well.  There would have been a period of 1-2 hours tonight from about 6:30-8:30 PM (PDT) where users would have been unable to log in, but all incoming email would have been successfully delivered to the users’ email accounts.

Any problems accessing email should be reported using the “Contact Us” tab found above.

Mail server migration date and details

The final date for the email server transition has arrived.  Included below is an email I sent out to all account holders on the server:

As some of you already know, I have been in the process of building a new email server to replace the existing one running your email account.  Well, after much more work than I thought would be necessary, I think I finally have it ready to go.  Assuming no major crises develop between now and then, I plan to switch to the new server this weekend (25-26)!  The actual time is somewhat flexible, but will probably be either late night Saturday or sometime during the day on Sunday.


If you happen to use a third party email client such as Thunderbird, Outlook (Express) or Mac Mail, this migration will be essentially transparent.  If, however, you primarily use the webmail client (this would be most of you), you will notice a change in the look and feel of the interface.  Do not worry, however, since the general use of the interface won’t change, and in my personal opinion, is much better designed in the first place, so that it should be more intuitive to use.  You will still log in the same way, use the same username and password, etc.


I have tried to anticipate any questions that may come up by writing a “FAQ” (Frequently Asked Questions) page that describes what is changing and how it may affect you.  Please check it out if you so desire:


If there is a question you have that isn’t answered there, please do not hesitate to let me know by writing some email to me, or by even calling me on the phone if you’d prefer “live” contact.  (Phone number removed for online post).

New E-Mail server in the works

As the title indicates, we’re working to get a new mail server configured to replace the current system.  The current system is starting to show it’s age a bit and is no longer maintained by the vendor (Sun), at least not for free.

We toyed with many different options, including the roll-your-own method, but it became apparent rather quickly that the time required to write a custom-built solution with all the features that were desired far exceeded that which was available.

What was finally settled upon was the Zimbra Collaboration Suite.  Now owned by Yahoo!, this open-source-based application meets almost all of the requirements, not the least of which is a very mature web-client for email users.    We are deploying the “Community” edition of the software, which is a fancy way of saying “free”.  The company does make a for-pay edition as well that offers a few more features, but they didn’t add enough to make the cost worthwhile.

While a cutover date hasn’t been decided on, it should be happening within the next month or so.  We already have the new server online and are doing some functionality/use-case testing along with some fine-tuning of the configuration.  However, it’s already “good” enough that we’ve decided to migrate the relatively low-used domain over to it.

Stay tuned here for further details of the migration, and as always, feel free to leave us some comments using the “Contact Us” link above.

The Tower Family Portal