May’s Magniloquent Sausage

(This post went to Patronizers at the beginning of May, and to the world at the beginning of June. Not a Patronizer? Sign up at

This month was better than last month. If you look at April’s Sausage post, you’ll see that is a terribly low bar to clear, but I’ll take it.

The “exciting” news on this is that I’ve set a up the Run Your Own Mail Server Kickstarter. I’m not excited for the Kickstarter itself, but I’m curious how well it will work out and that curiosity carries its own excitement. RYOMS is the most heavily-sponsored book I’ve written. I suspect this is less about the topic, and more because the sponsorships were open longer than any other book. (You can thank me catching covid for that.) In theory, the groups of “people willing to advance me money to write this book” is not the same as “people willing to preorder directly from the author.” Perhaps I already pillaged my public support and this Kickstarter will fail. Well, no, it’s not going to fail. I’ve set a goal of $500. I had many sponsors for OpenBSD Mastery: Filesystems, and got a few dozen pre-orders even though that book had sponsors.

Wait–I keep ranting about the importance of disintermediation, and I’m switching from direct pre-orders to Kickstarter? What gives?

Processing fees on Paypal and Stripe are about 3%. (Yes, it’s more complex than that, but it’s close enough for this discussion, so hush.) Kickstarter fees are 5% plus processing fees, or basically 8%. The question is: will the social aspect of Kickstarter make up for that 5% fee? There’s only one way to know, and that’s to try it. I love experimenting. I love trying new things in my art, my craft, and my trade. So that’s exciting.

The curious among you are welcome to look at the campaign preview.

One thing about this campaign pleases me. I started the 60 Seconds of WIP podcast to better learn to speak on microphone. Recording this Kickstarter video took only eight takes where it would have previously required fifteen or more.

RYOMS is the longest Mastery title, twice as long as Networking for Systems Administrators and 125% the length of SNMP Mastery. I think I’m going to price the ebook at $14.99. This means the Kindle version won’t be available on Amazon, just like OpenBSD Mastery: Filesystems. The OpenBSD people have no problem with avoiding Amazon, but this book is for a wider audience. I’m curious to see how that works out as well. I can imagine someone uploading pirated versions to Amazon, but I’m ready with my complaint letters and DMCA takedown notices, as always. Yes, my publishing checklist includes “prepare a template DMCA takedown” for the book. Always preload your pain.

RYOMS is also back from tech edits. If you haven’t sent me your comments, it’s too late. I’m churning through the manuscript to get everything updated, so I can get it to copyedit before the Kickstarter opens on 20 May. I’m also preparing a four-hour course based on RYOMS for BSDCan. Four hours is not enough to go deep into the entire book, but nobody wants to sit through eight hours of config files, so I’m focusing on knowledge integration. That, plus setting up the new BSDCan mail server, is forcing me to go through the manuscript one last time.

I’m also converting TLS Mastery into a four hour course, but I can finish that after RYOMS goes to copyedit.

All of this is taking longer than I expected, forcing me to face something rather unpleasant. Covid dented me. I’m not one of those poor bastards with crippling long covid, but my energy is certainly not what it once was. I’m clearly functioning at about eighty percent, though, and that seems fairly constant. I clearly can’t afford to catch covid again, and am no longer waffling about my conference mask policy. Masks do not protect you, but they protect the people around you. The people most likely to spread covid are the least likely to wear a mask. EuroBSDCan in freaking Dublin seriously tempted me, but I have too many books left to write to catch this crap again.

That’s the thought dragging me through these tech edits: when I finish, I get to write again!

But writing the tutorial is making me double-check everything. The book will be better for it, but I still hate it.

Whenever I release a tech book, I create a file for keeping notes about stuff I missed. This helps me decide if a book needs a second edition. I’m at the point where Networking for Systems Administrators has accumulated a few critical gaps. The appearance of Let’s Encrypt means the book needs TLS coverage. I should discuss special address ranges like It talks network sockets, but I should add some comments about local sockets and their evil twin, Windows pipes. Speaking of Windows, I need to confirm all of the PowerShell commands are actually PowerShell. A faint breath of nmap. Other detritus. And the cover needs updating.

Some of this I’ll need for my next big Unix book as well.

I’m contemplating a crash revision. These are all simple topics. I could kick off a two-week sponsorship window after BSDCan, while RYOMS is still in copyedit. Disconnect the Internet and spend eight hours a day revising the book. Another round of tech reviews would be the longest part. Once I get the book to copyedit, I’d do either a ten-day Kickstarter or a preorder on my web site. I haven’t done a crash book like that since you maniacs sponsored Ed Mastery. It would be fun.

But then there’s that “I’m running at 80%” factor.

We’ll see.

“Run Your Own Mail Server” Kickstarter Update

Pessimism is the path to happiness. Either you have the pleasure of being correct, or you are delightfully surprised.

I had hoped that the Run Your Own Mail Server Kickstarter might bring in several thousand dollars. I dreamed that if I was lucky, over the twenty days it would raise as much as the Prohibition Orcs Kickstarter. After all, this book had been heavily sponsored. I had exhausted my market.

But Kickstarter is a discovery platform, and was worth trying.

One week into this thing and it’s raised $29,731 from 719 people.

I am stunned. And my family can sure use the money.

Anyone who backs the campaign at $15 or more gets not just RYOMS, but ebooks of Networking for Systems Administrators, Ed Mastery, and $ git commit murder. At $32,500, I’ll add an ebook of PAM Mastery.

I would appreciate folks sharing this Kickstarter on their social media, discussion boards, chat rooms, IRCs, or whatever y’all use. It’s one heck of a deal.

People talk about “life changing money.” This isn’t that. But it will let me take a long, deep breath and relax.

Thank you.

“Run Your Own Mail Server” Kickstarter is live!

Run Your Own Mail Server is the most heavily sponsored book I’ve written. Mostly that’s because sponsorships were open for longer than any other book. This gave me doubts about running a Kickstarter. Was I going back to the same people? Would anybody back it?

I launched the Kickstarter at 7:04 EDT today, and just had to update the banner image.

So, yeah. The people who will sponsor are not the same as the people who will back on Kickstarter. Though it occurs to me that during the backer survey, I should ask folks if they want to be on my sponsor mailing list. And my nonfiction mailing list.

April’s Anguished Sausage

(This post went to Patronizers at the beginning of April, and the public at the beginning of May.)

Well, this last month officially blows.

I just got news that Craig Maloney finally lost his fight with cancer. Craig was a regular in our Patronizer Zoom hangouts. The guy had the usual IT cynicism, but it floated on this bed of optimism and hope. I’ve known him for decades, but he supported my work for years before that. The first entry in my title index was a tabletop RPG published in 1992. He bought it when it came out, and it wasn’t until he’d known me for ten years that he realized that I was that Michael Lucas. I gave a talk at MUG shortly after that discovery and he brought his twenty-year-old marked-up copy. Despite that, he had no trouble calling me on my bullshit. He was all about connecting people together and unabashedly loving creativity and art.

Craig made the world a better place. I don’t know if there’s a next world, but if so he’ll do the same there. Plus, there’s a bunch of metal bands out there who can use a drummer. What happens if your drummer explodes in the afterlife? Craig would have loved that discussion.

The cough I mentioned last month? Yeah, it put me off work for three weeks. I avoided classic chronic-fatigue long covid, but my one bout damaged my body in ways you don’t hear much about. Mask policy or I don’t show up. “Cough and you’ll black out–oh, and you have to cough every thirty seconds, even when you sleep” is not fun. Having doubts about my 100 books by 2033 goal, but all I can do is keep plugging away. And not write stupidly complicated books about multiple intertwined stupid protocol stacks, like email.

The good news is, I was able to cram the two thousand words I needed to finish Run Your Own Mail Server into those three weeks. They’re not great words, but they they exist. The book is out for tech review. I’ve requested reviews by 15 April, because that’s also Tax Day and I prefer to pile all my suck into as few days as possible.

The recent vultr rights grab that they insist was not a rights grab has me moving hosting providers. I discovered that has great deals on dedicated systems, for about what I pay for hosting all my VMs now. They specialize in gaming servers but 6 cores, twin 500GB SSDs, and 64GB RAM for $99 a month is enough for web and mail servers. Thanks to the glories of zfs send I’ll be replicating my VMs as jails. Some of those jails will have nested jails. It’ll probably lead to a new edition of FreeBSD Mastery: Jails eventually, although it’s clear I’ll need to update the storage quartet before I can write that. Sigh.

Oh, and a proper poudriere jail. That’ll go in there. FreeBSD Mastery: Packaging, anyone?

I’ll still need one tiny VM on a different network as a DNS server. Yes, I know people would offer to host secondary DNS for me, and I appreciate it. But I want the option to switch between the primary server between hosts, so that I can better cope with outages and unplanned migrations. Yes, the hosting company could pillage the authoritative DNS data. I’ll have to take that risk, and laugh in their face if they try it.

But first, I have to finish getting BSDCan infrastructure ready. I agreed to manage the new mail system and promptly fell over. That shouldn’t be too hard to set up, as I now have the core mail knowledge. Migrating from the old BSDCan mailman will be an educational sysadmin adventure, but hopefully with very little screaming into the abyss. (Remember: if you’re not screaming into the abyss, you’re not learning.)

I’ve been focused on tech this year. Sold a couple short stories by invitation, but I can feel my literary brain starting to freeze up. Part of that is my three-week outage. I’m still planning to get the giant fiction epic done this year, and I’ll be starting promptly on a big non-Absolute book for No Starch Press. Amidst that, I have bits and pieces for a second edition of Networking for Systems Administrators. I’ll be doing Kickstarters for Run Your Own Mail Server, a new collection of the FreeBSD Journal Letters column (Dear Abyss), and late this year a weird off-brand book I’ll discuss later.

I’ve also discovered the stupidest WordPress incompatibility yet. I use Woocommerce for my bookstore, where some of you are reading this post. I use Jetpack there, so that Patronizers can subscribe by email. Jetpack is owned by Automattic, a big WordPress firm. There’s scuttlebutt that Automattic is pondering licensing the content of all sites that use Jetpack for AI pillaging. I’ve been keeping an eye on that, and looking for replacements.

A few people have had trouble with their credit cards in my store, however. Thanks to a Patronizer who generously donated their time in reproducing the problem, I discovered that the problem is Jetpack. I must accept credit cards. Jetpack is turned off. Which means that those of you who subscribe to Patronizer updates by email rather than RSS won’t get those emails.

It seems there should be a simple replacement plugin for “allow email subscriptions,” but they all run through third party services. I have a mail system. If you subscribe, I can send you mail. But nooo, as far as I can tell nobody’s written that plugin. I would welcome pointers and suggestions for automating this, but for now I’ll be sending an email to all direct Patronizers whenever I publish the monthly posts.

Sigh. Computers were a mistake. But if you’re reading this, you already knew that.

That’s pretty much it. Thanks for backing me. And please stop dying, folks.


“Run Your Own Mail Server” Kickstarter prelaunch up

Pretty much what the subject says. The Kickstarter page is up. If you do Kickstarter and want to know when this goes live, hit the button.

Why do both sponsorships and a Kickstarter? Different people have different comfort levels with different options. Some folks want to make the book exist. Some folks want to get the book as soon as it exists. Some of you want a vague awareness that the book exists so yuo can more easily avoid it.

If the Kickstarter does well enough backers will get an online launch party/Q&A, additional ebooks, and more. Rewards will include the book in ebook, paperback, or hardcover, signed or unsigned, Eddie Sharam’s original cover art, or (for the truly deranged) a complete set of all current IT Mastery books.

I will not be doing direct sales off my web site, the way I did with OpenBSD Mastery: Filesystems. Trying this instead, to see if the social element outweighs Kickstarter’s 8% fee. Even if you’re not a Kickstarter user, I’d appreciate you sharing the link with those who might be interested. Thank you.

New Prohibition Orcs novelette out

The Prohibition Orcs Kickstarter offered a stretch goal of “I will write an orc baseball story.” The story went to backers at the end of December, and now I’m releasing it to the public. As with all my standalone short fiction, it’s exclusive to my store.

“Fair Balls” contains baseball! Found Meat! Pure orcish wisdom, shared beneath the Sun. All in the name of that darkest of arts: “reading.”

What’s a novelette? Too long to be a story, too short to be a novella. The weird midrange crap that trad publishers sneer at.

Penguicon 2024 Schedule

I’ll be at Penguicon this weekend. Come by, say hello, buy a book or heckle a talk. All talks are fifty minutes.

Friday, 26 April

  • 5 PM: hang out in bookstore
  • 7 PM: Reading (Orcs? Tech advice column? Nonfiction? Who knows?)

Saturday, 27 April

  • 10 AM: The Good, the Bad, and the Yikes: 20th-Century SF (panel)
  • 11 AM: How I Make a Living Writing
  • 1 PM: How to TLS when You Don’t Know TLS (my talk, given by Bagel Garrison)
  • 2 PM: BSDCan Concom Call (Not a Penguicon event, but it’s where I’ll be)
  • 3 PM: Run Your Own Email Server
  • 4 PM: Prying Money Out of an Indifferent Public: Self-Promotion for Creators (panel)
  • 6 PM: It’s Always DNS, and What to Do About It

Sunday, 28 April

  • hang out in bookstore

The “hang out in bookstore” blocks are actual work, sort of. I watch over other folks’ books, they watch over mine. If you want to buy a book send money via Paypal, show the watcher your receipt, and walk out with the book.

I’ll have a select, uh, selection of books, the sort of stuff that usually sells at Penguicon. If there’s a particular title you want, let me know in the next few days. I’ll bring a copy with your name on it. Otherwise, I might not be bringing that book at all.

March’s Malformed Sausage

(This post went to Patronizers at the beginning of March, and the public at the beginning of April)

Last month, I mentioned blood pressure problems.

The good news is, I have the blood pressure under control. The bad news, it’s given me a cough so fierce that I occasionally fall over. People have told me I work to hard, so now I’m taking a thirty-minute break every four hours around the clock for a breathing treatment that leaves me wheezing and quivery but functional. It’s an opportunity to prove the maxim “sleep is for the weak,” and I needed to develop my abs and rib muscles anyway. The doc changed my meds yesterday, so I’m hopeful I can exchange these side effects for less inconvenient ones.

This is all covid damage. I’m not risking developing more problems. You want me at your events, enforce a mask policy. I got too many books to write to put up with any more symptoms.

I also failed to finish Run Your Own Mail Server last month. See the above cough. I’m down to one technical issue, MTA-STS, and a few social issues that only require spewing words. I was tempted to wait on this post until I write those, but that’s pretty much a guarantee that I won’t complete either. You folks are my strongest supporters, and I need to give you the attention I agreed to. (Not the attention you deserve, of course. I don’t have that much attention.)

One of the headaches in this book has been its constant violation of one of my usual writing rules: do the hard part first. When I approach a new project, I rank the contents in order of difficulty. Usually, there’s at least one thing I haven’t previously done. Those are the things I need to write first. Writing the stuff I know how to do is pretty straightforward, but the unknowns wreck my plans. RYOMS could only be written in one way, though. The services must be set up and documented in a particular order, without shortcuts. If the book said “This is wrong but we’ll come back and fix it later,” I know perfectly well that none of you would go back and fix it. We have to set it up right the first time. Which led to some extra work. I use pyspf-milter so I wrote about it, but rspamd turns out to be a wiser choice. Retreat, refactor, rearrange, try again.

On the fiction side, I sold a new Rats’ Man’s Lackey tale to a magazine. The RML tales have a strange publishing history; every magazine or anthology I’ve sold one too has collapsed before they could publish my tale. Once a story destroys a publication, I put it up on my bookstore. I’ve written enough of those to release a collection, but a few buyers are still in business so I have to wait for them to implode–uh, publish. Publish.

I’m most of the way of a massive Terry Pratchett Discworld reread, not just studying his craft but how he improved his craft. There’s something fascinating about reading a large body of work in the order it was written. The quality of Pratchett’s early work was borderline, but some editor saw something unique in his craft and decided to give the kid a chance. You can see him improving with every book. At a technical level, there’s a certain fascination in saying “Oh! This is where Sir Terry discovered cliffhangers!” “Hey, he learned the difference between description and setting!” “Ooooh, he figured out how to stop violating drifting point-of-view, thank you Om.” This binge gives me hope for my own craft, because nothing Terry with his craft did was magic. The art expressed through his craft was magic, but art is not craft. I started reading Pratchett when The Light Fantastic came out, and in retrospect I can honestly say he taught me how to improve my craft.

Note that you can’t binge-study James Patterson. This kind of study requires examining the work of someone who writes their own books. You also can’t binge-study Ayn Rand, because she never got better.

Anyway, this binge study leaves me feeling validated about my method of deliberately practicing one skill per project. That’s a dangerous feeling; I don’t study to see what I’m doing write, I’m looking for ways to improve. I’ve found a few, but I still suspect I’m missing something big. Oh well. I guess, in a year or two, I’ll have to… study Pratchett again.

I’m going to cut this a little short, because the coughing has backed off and I desperately want to finish RYOMS this week. Thanks for supporting me, everyone!

xz backdoor vs “$ git commit murder” sale

I’ve gotten half a dozen messages on various forums declaring that the xz backdoor is eerily reminiscent of a major plot element of $ git commit murder.

I’ve been a sysadmin for decades, and hanging around with operating system developers nearly as long. I came up with a plan for a “difficult but achievable” hack. I checked with various actual developers to see if it was realistic, and adjusted the hack based on their feedback.

Target a userland tool. Hook it into the operating system core. Proceed from there. The plan is easy, the execution fiercely difficult, the coincidence unsurprising.

I can say that if Dale had developed this hack, it would not have damaged the host’s ability to serve SSH requests. He would have caught that and fixed it before deployment.

I feel compelled to acknowledge this similarity, however. Coupon code xzhack gets you 50% off $ git commit murder and $ git sync murder at my store. This expires 8 April 2024.

To all the sysadmins who are having a bad weekend because of this hack, I offer my sincere condolences. Just because the blast missed me this time doesn’t mean I don’t feel your pain, or that I won’t be caught next time.

To the author of the hack I would like to say: you are a dick.

Vultr backed down, but so what?

(Quick note, because very busy day.)

Vultr had a rights grab in their ToS. They just took it out, after community outrage.

So, is everything fine?


This is exactly what Findaway tried. I’ve read the whole ToS. There is no misunderstanding.

The CEO has said that users are not lawyers. I am not a lawyer, true. But I deal with a lot of intellectual property contracts. My books are intellectual property, and I have to read ToS and contracts for every one of them. When reading a contract, you have to assume that the other party will be sold to a complete bastard who will exploit the contract as far as possible.

It’s highly unlikely that Constant Contact (Vultr’s parent firm) would use a book stored on my site to make a film. But suppose their parent company did so. A film I didn’t want made would come out, destroying the value of any film I might have made. I could sue, spending my money to fight a much larger firm. This is a losing proposition.

Perhaps Vultr’s lawyers are merely incompetent.

But their parent firm is a content company. And many content companies are doing rights grabs.

Rights grabs are becoming more common, though. I believe that the only way to stop them is to stop doing business with any company that attempts one. Backing down from a rights grab is too late.