“Run Your Own Mail Server” print/ebook bundle available

You can now preorder “Run Your Own Mail Server” at tiltedwindmillpress.com.

The last time I did a print sale (for OpenBSD Mastery: Filesystems), I offered options. From that sale, I learned that I am easily confused and should not offer options. This time I’m keeping things simple.

You can order a paperback or a hardback. It’s slightly more expensive than retail, because managing shipping is actual work that takes me away from writing.

When the books are ready to print, I will close this sale and order the sponsor, Kickstarter, and direct order copies in one gigantic heap. I will send out the ebooks a day or two after that.

Books will be shipped to me. I will open the boxes and sign them one after the other. I will print shipping labels, stuff books into envelopes, and request the post office schedule the Pickup Of Doom.

That’s it. Nothing fancy. No extra books, sorry.

This is the only way you can now get a signed book without finding me in meatspace. I am looking at ways to integrate drop-shipping print books into my web store, but none of them are quite satisfactory yet. Several printers are close–but not quite there. Either they have great Woocommerce integration but only ship from one location, or they dropship globally but have terrible integration. It’s very frustrating.

I should probably also mention that, while Kindle-friendly versions will be available from several retailers, Run Your Own Mail Server will not be on Amazon’s Kindle store, for the same reasons OpenBSD Mastery: Filesystems is not. This is a larger Mastery title and ebooks will retail for $15.

48: Three Pounds of Skull Pudding

My next book will be Dear Abyss: The FreeBSD Journal Letters Column, Years 1-6. Seeing as each column was written in a one hour burst of bile, I’m going through them and polishing off the missed opportunities for rage.

The annoying thing about asymptomatic system failures is that they’re asymptomatic—but no less real than the kind with noticeable symptoms. Some user makes a call, an actual voice call where they’re spewing random words in some language from their food-hole and you’re expected to parse that babble with your ears, when even Hollywood knows that sysadmins are artisanally optimized to receive information via their eyes and extrude alloyed sarcasm and results from their keyboard-callused fingertips. Any one of these users can at any time disrupt the meticulously assembled hallucination of whatever problem you’re working on and demand that you turn your three pounds of skull-pudding to the fact that their web browser jittered, actually jittered, when they played a cat video off the fileserver or they got a “File not found” error when they know darn well that they saved their proposal under that name just last night on their son’s computer.

Kickstarter has the prelaunch page up. I’m afraid that the ridiculous success of the mail book there has trained me to launch absolutely everything through Kickstarter. Even the stupid things. I expect this to do much less well but hey, those nickels spend.

“Run Your Own Mail Server” Kickstarter finished

All I can say is “what?”1966 backers. $76,833.
I have never received that much for a single title in a single lump. The Absolute books might each $40,000 over their publishing lifetime, spread over years, occasionally boosted by Humble Bundles and the like. This is stunning.
My gratitude to everyone.
Some comments, in no particular order. I could put them in order, if my brain wasn’t fried from screaming NUMBER GO UP! NUMBER GO UP! all weekend.

  • 31% of pledges were referred by Kickstarter. I suspect that’s from the “Project We Love” algorithm.
  • The dashboard gives referrers for incoming links. 55% of incoming traffic was “Direct traffic or no referrer information. The big social media sites like Facebook and Hacker News show up as referrers. So, what’s that 55%? It’s some sort of web site. I suspect it’s the Fediverse, aka “Mastodon and friends.”
  • What the heck? What the absolute heck??? How did any book I write bring in this kind of money?

The catch with Kickstarter is, of course, that I don’t get to keep the money. Half of it goes to fulfillment. Half of what remains gets held back for taxes. What remains is a nice chunk of cash, but I need a new car and some roof work. (I’m 57 years old and the roof is a 45-degree slope, I no longer climb up there.)

This has convinced me to run every single dang book through Kickstarter, though. Because lightning does strike twice.

If you missed the Kickstarter and want to preorder a print/ebook combo, I’ll have that up on tiltedwindmillpress.com in a few days.

Kickstarter Madness: Run Your Own Mail Server

So, uh, this is a thing.

$51,097? The world has gone mad

Admittedly, about half of this will go to fulfillment and half of what remains will be held for taxes. (Taxes will probably be less than that, but self-employed people must always have tax money on hand. Always.) Still, I’ve never had a chunk of money this large for a single book hit my account all at once.

Thanks to backers sharing the word and saying nice things about me, all backers will get six books: Run Your Own Mail Server, Networking for System Administrators, $ git commit murder, Ed Mastery, PAM Mastery, and Sudo Mastery. Plus another “book,” but we don’t talk about that one.

That’s a lot of ebooks for $15. Or print, for a bit more. How much more? Depends on where I have to ship them.

There might be more. That depends entirely on other people, I have no control, so I don’t know.

The Kickstarter ends Sunday, 9 June 2024, at 8PM EDT–or, if you prefer, 0:00 UTC. Which you do prefer, if you’re the target audience for this book.

47: Agent of Desertification

Here’s a snippet of the next Letters column for the FreeBSD Journal.

We’ve all seen the propaganda on configuration management. Deploy dedicated-purpose, highly tuned servers with a single command! Adjust computation clouds with a simple playbook! Seamlessly and transparently migrate from server to server! Containers! That’s fine for people starting from a green field in the last few years, but most system administrators work in environments best described as “baroque” if not “antediluvian.” I find myself with a green field only when I myself raze the earth and wait for the clover to grow. Not grass. Lawns are a climate atrocity. Unless you own sheep. Or goats, but if you own any kind of goat you won’t have a lawn for long, which demonstrates that any force for good is also an agent of desertification. Besides, who wants to wait for clover before installing a datacenter? Build in the ruins of that razed kindergarten and get on with your work.

I wonder if anyone noticed I missed last week?

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 https://patronizemwl.com.)

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.

46: The Innumerable Things I Detest

Run Your Own Mail Server is at copyedit and live on Kickstarter, so I’m working on my TLS course for BSDCan. The course is stolen from the pages of TLS Mastery, of course, because I’d rather skip the conference than actually research a new topic for a talk, so that’s what you get this week.

Of the innumerable things I detest about information technology, first prize goes to the word “security.” Not the concepts behind it, the actual word. The definition of “security” wobbles drunkenly all about the dictionary depending on who’s speaking, who’s listening, the context, and the distance to the nearest brute squad. It’s a transcendental state where everyone is perfectly safe from everyone, but it’s not inconvenient or intimidating or incomprehensible in the slightest. Security is Happy Fun Land, where everybody eats hot fudge sundaes all day every day without developing diabetes or gaining so much as a gram.

The only way to make this word even slightly meaningful is to tightly define the context. That’s one advantage Transport Layer Security (TLS) has. What it secures is right in the name. And even then, it’s misunderstood.

Of the many things I had to do to perpetrate a TLS book, one of them was actually not malignant. Take a look, and reload the site a couple times.

“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.

45: Abusing the Protocol

Kickstarter next Monday so RYOMS has to be at copyedit before then, and my wife broke her leg last week. I’m glad an episode exists, at all.

Email uses several protocols, but only one will routinely give you fits. You control both ends of a Local Mail Transport Protocol (LMTP) connection. You can set up oddball clients to duplicate a user’s IMAP configuration. DNS, TLS, these are well-understood headaches. But the Simple Mail Transfer Protocol (SMTP) underlies all of email, and you can’t possibly build test systems that replicate every whackadoo environment you communicate with. The protocol’s simplicity is a huge part of why it’s so successful, and why it’s so abused. To run your own email system you must understand SMTP’s weaknesses all the way down to your marrow. We’ll start by using the protocol, proceed to abusing the protocol, and discuss status messages, greylisting, block lists, and forwarding.

The Kickstarter’s at https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/mwlucas/run-your-own-mail-server, by the way. Tell you friends. Back early, back often.