Monday, December 15, 2003

Computer Repair #8

[This post is part of an ongoing series of posts in December cataloging how much time I spend repairing the computers here in the Brain household.]

Leigh has a website for her business, and it also handles her business email. Her email stopped working. After investigating, it turned out she was out of disk space. Her account has a 200 MB quota, and she had exceeded her limit.

To make a long story short, here is what happened. Her email addresses have been around for years and are published in books. Therefore she cannot change her email addresses and they receive a tremendous amount of spam -- something on the order of 1,000 spam messages a day, like this:

Note the number 1,140 in the upper left corner. That's a day's worth of filtered spam. Lots of other spam makes it through the filter, but this is better than nothing.

Spam filtering is the only way to preserve sanity, and the spam filtering is done on the server with SpamAssassin. The spam is put into a trash folder on the server. Unfortunately, the trash folder does not empty automatically. The tool shown above is what you use to empty the trash, but it can only handle about 2,000 messages before it times out and gives up. On Leigh's server, that means you have to remember to empty the trash every day (yet another time-wasting computer maintenance activity) or you have a problem.

We had gotten lax on emptying the trash. It didn't seem to be hurting anything, but what was happening was that the Trash folder was accumulating tens of thousands of spam messages and consuming more and more disk space, until the 200MB limit was reached. The solution was to figure out what was happening, log in with telnet, search the directories for the offending trash file and delete it. Total time spent on this repair: about 15 minutes.

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