Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Only you can prevent monthly Mailman password reminders!

It's the first of Feburary, and as with every month, people are on Twitter complaining about the flood of email list password reminders from Mailman. Apparently only a few of the many thousands of list subscribers are aware that they have the power, within their keyboards, to stop this catastrophe. Something must be done! In fact, there are no fewer than three routes to email nirvana, the nature of which I shall now reveal. . .

The Easy Way

Your monthly password reminder looks something like this:

Subject: mailing list memberships reminder   
Date: Wed, 01 Feb 2012 05:00:07 +0100

This is a reminder, sent out once a month, about your
mailing list memberships.  It includes your subscription info and how
to use it to change it or unsubscribe from a list.

You can visit the URLs to change your membership status or
configuration, including unsubscribing, setting digest-style delivery
or disabling delivery altogether (e.g., for a vacation), and so on.    
In addition to the URL interfaces, you can also use email to make such  
changes.  For more info, send a message to the '-request' address of 
the list (for example, containing just 
the word 'help' in the message body, and an email message will be sent
to you with instructions.    
If you have questions, problems, comments, etc, send them to  Thanks!      

Passwords for
List                                     Password // URL     
----                                     --------               mysecretpassword

You've seen and cursed these reminders for so many years, little realizing that they contain the keys to untold power; or at least enough power to stop the hated monthly deluge. Note the subtle hint that 'you can also use email to make such changes'. In fact, email is the only tool you'll need. Start by copying the name of the list; in this case software-users. Compose a new email message and paste in that address, followed by -request and the domain. For this fake version, we'd use Skip the Subject line, and dive right into the body of the email. You'll need these two lines:

set authenticate mysecretpassword
set reminders off

Send it off, in a few seconds (perhaps minutes) your heart will leap to see the response:

Subject: The results of your email commands
Date: Wed, 01 Feb 2012 10:21:41 -0500   
The results of your email command are provided below. Attached is your
original message.

- Results:
    reminder option set

- Done.

The Subtle Way

There is even more power lurking in the reminder email, in the form of a URL at the very bottom. Follow it and you'll be greeted with a simple login screen. Use the password that was conveniently supplied to you to obtain access, but don't be dismayed by the seemingly limited choices on the membership configuration page. Scroll down to the Subscription Options, and look for this:

Yes, that's right; you can exorcise your monthly email demons by selecting the No button. But there's more; if you have subscribed to more than one Mailman list at this server, you can set the option for all of them simultaneously! Sadly there is no universal Mailman, with hegemony over all the lesser servers, but at least this cuts down on the number of times you'll need to repeat the process.

The Noble Way

There is one user with even more power over the mailing list than you; the list administrator. The admin is omnipotent; in a single click all of the password reminders can be disabled, once and for ever. With the zeal of your convictions, surely you can convince them to think of all the other users and their silent suffering, and end the pain for all of you at once. Yes, it is more effort, but think of the good you'll be doing and the karma you must certainly accumulate.

A Moment of Silence for the Password Reminder

Should you find that in the absence of the Mailman reminders you have trouble remembering to give the dog his heartworm medication, pay the cable bill, or return your library books, you can always re-enable it; that's true even if the list administrator has been shown the path of enlightenment.

Now go and spread this word to all of the long-suffering Mailman users, whether they quietly bemoan their fate or shout their rage from the hilltops on each first day. Come to think of it, I may write a Twitter-bot that autoresponds with these instructions. . .

Friday, January 13, 2012

The IPv6 Message

I've been working with IPv6 for a long time - I started when all we had were 6bone tunnels, and to use them you had to get EFT code for your Cisco, compile your own Linux kernel and find v6-enabling patches for your applications. I've never contributed to the core IPv6 development effort, but for a significant part of that time, I've taken on the role of IPv6 evangelist within my networking community. I've taught workshops, done demonstrations, written papers and blog articles and made presentations in front of hundreds of people. Many of them were skeptical about what I was telling them, concerned about the implications of acting as much as of waiting. In all that time, though, I've never had such a convergence of events as happened in the last month.

On three separate occasions since early December I've heard people say something that I never expected - smart people, who are involved in networking and information technology, who make decisions for their organizations and are, or ought to be, in touch with what's going on in the larger networking world. I'm paraphrasing slightly, though I think you'll get the idea:

"I don't think you'll have to worry about IPv6 any time soon. Maybe in ten years."

"I keep hearing a lot of hype about IPv6. I think it's just another fad, like ATM."

"My company isn't committing to IPv6 yet, since we don't know if that will be the direction the Internet takes."

To say that I was taken aback would be an understatement. I didn't challenge the speakers - there was nothing to be gained by debating any of them. I haven't forgotten what they said, though, and it bothers me.

I don't think that I'm an IPv6 zealot, but I can't see any future for the Internet that doesn't involve v6. We can debate whether the transition should have happened quicker, whether a particular design decision was optimal. I have had many conversations about the right way to transition and the appropriate timing. Never, though, has there been any question about its inevitability.

If there is an alternative to IPv6 I think that I would have heard about it; if I've missed a memo I do hope that someone will enlighten me. I really don't think that will happen. I'm concerned, therefore, that intelligent, involved, technical people would hold these opinions. In fact, two months ago you couldn't have convinced me that anyone did; that's a big part of what makes me worried about this.

So that leads me to ask some questions. What are we, IPv6 enthusiasts and evangelists, doing wrong? What have we missed? Have we been so close to this process for so long that we've forgotten to talk about things we now take for granted, including the fact (and I do think it's a fact) that IPv6 is absolutely inevitable? Did we cry wolf too many times during the last decade, warning of seemingly imminent problems that didn't arrive on schedule, until those warnings lost credibility?

And how can we fix it, educate those who have this misapprehension, without alienating them or making them feel like fools? I think we owe it to them, because we're the ones who have been carrying the message all along. And if we wait for the future to show them the error of their ways it'll only mean more work for everyone.