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Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Newly-obtained AC-EMWIN IP Address Blocked...

Last week, we discovered that the Alachua County Office of Emergency Management was..."blocking" us. Well, it wasn't quite that simple...

After doing some further research, we discovered that the problem wasn't nearly so simple as one agency blocking us. Apparently, there are multiple varied sources out in Internet-land which keep track of IP addresses which spam. Then people - especially many government agencies - subscribe to these lists in an effort to try to weed out spam. Unfortunately, after a while, the spammers then release the tarnished IP addresses back into the Internet wild. Then the companies who sell them - the Internet Service Providers, or "ISPs" - turn around and RE-sell them again (now that the IPs have had plenty of time to glean plenty of bad reputation) to innocent, unsuspecting people in the general public.

Along comes now the Alachua County EMWIN Project, which just moved it's server to a better location with a generator backup and two Internet lines for the "just in case" situations. Upon moving to this new location, we acquired a "new" IP address. Unbeknownst to us, this pariticular IP address was one which had such a bad reputation that it was listed not just in one but in MULTIPLE spam-tracking databases. These databases apparently have the power to "blacklist" the IP addresses to such an extent that in some cases people were not able to receive our alerts.

When we first began to notice this was going on, it was because we were getting some emails stating that some of our alerts to some people were being blocked because our IP was being blacklisted as a source of spam. The emails weren't very clear though, and made it seem as if it might be the end user who had had us blocked. On further backtracking, it became apparent that the user wasn't responsible at all. The user's ISP was using these blacklists to block emails from so-labelled IP addresses. The County of Alachua uses at *least* one, called Barracuda Central. And when we checked, that's when we found that we were listed in about five.

We sent out a few querying emails to some computer-related listgroups in the hopes that someone might be able to shed more light on how to combat this. A few people helped out with links to places which help you find OUT how many databases have you listed. This began an effort to try to get us "delisted" from all of the blacklists.


Apparently, us end users have to watch out for this. APPARENTLY, places like Cox and AT&T aren't going to TELL you if the IP that they're selling you has a bad reputation; and APPARENTLY, they don't bother to *check*, either. So it's on us. We're assigned the "new" IP address, and we have NO idea that it's been used by someone else in a bad way. And then the nightmare starts.

I've spent the last week trying to communicate with five different blacklist databases to try to get us delisted. I think I've been successful, but it's going to take a while to find out. Apparently, like the search engines, they're all interconnected. One borrows from the other, borrows from the other, and so on. So you have to find out all the contact information, and write all the emails. Then you have to wait 48 to 72 hours for most of the databases to recognize and remove you. And in some cases, it can take even longer.

...Good lord! What a pain in the ass! I think that the ISP sellers should be the ones who "clean up" the reputation FOR you if they're going to sell you an IP address. Meanwhile, I think we've cleaned up the mess, now. What was it that the little lady said in Poltergeist, again? Oh yes... "...THIS house...is CLEAN." (poses for the camera)

Let's hope we never have to go through THAT again. :(

Sunday, September 2, 2012

Generator Backup for AC-EMWIN Server

The AC-EMWIN server is now located behind a gas generator automatic backup in case the power goes out. It also has a backup internet line, now. Should one line go out, the other will automatically take over.

With Bradford County EMA (Facebook page; area cellphone/email users) and Gulf County EMA (Facebook page) both now being supported by our system, things are starting to take on much more serious tone. Under our old setup, had the power gone out, that would have been it, and it would have been extremely embarassing. Under this new setup, should the power go out, our system will keep operating for as long as the gas holds out. And should one internet line go out, we'll have at least one backup opprtunity for things to continue.

Sunday, August 12, 2012

Cooperative Ventures, Deux!

Impressed with seeing what we were doing for Bradford County Emergency Management's Facebook page, Gulf County EM contacted us and asked if we could do something similar for their own Facebook page (see).

We are now sending various severe weather AND hurricane-related bulletins to the Gulf County EM Facebook page.

Glad to be able to help! :O)

Saturday, July 7, 2012

Dust Settled...

Looks like everything is again working. Web pages show normally. Text and graphics products are again flowing to the web sites. Graphics are again displaying on the web pages. Everything looks good. If anyone notes anything amiss with either the AC-SKYWARN or AC-EMWIN web pages, please let us know. Todd

Pardon Our "Dust"...

Our service provider is changing the server software to a newer version and as a result users of the AC-SKYWARN and AC-EMWIN pages may see some funky things for a little while. Please bear with us. May take a little while to work out some kinks which may pop up.

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Cooperative Ventures!

We're now providing severe weather bulletins to Bradford County area users.

In the spirit of public service, we're expanding our services to now provide severe weather bulletins to email and cellphone for Bradford County area users. Sponsored by Alachua County SKYWARN, the Alachua County EMWIN Project, and the Bradford County Office of Emergency Management.

What makes our service different is the customizeability that most other services don't offer, such as the ability to either BLOCK/TRASH bulletins during certain time periods, like say, overnight; or to HOLD bulletins after hours and still send them in the morning anyway if users wish, maybe because they still want to know what happened overnight.

We've already been providing these bulletins to BCEM's Facebook and Twitter pages, too, for quite a while, now.

Friday, April 20, 2012

New AC-EMWIN Server!

We now have a brand new web server!

The Alachua County EMWIN server was switched out with a newer, much faster one this afternoon and y'all didn't even know it! :) Not a beat was missed in the switchover and everything went perfectly and smoothly. In fact, I'm kinda nervous because I'm waiting for Murphy's Law to kick in at any moment. It was as simple as installing all the Windows Updates and then transferring the weather software over to the new machine. Hmm.

The old server was a chugging 1.6 GHz, 32-bit, 256 MB RAM, 20 GB HDD clunker that was completely adequate 8 years ago; but the EMWIN software was getting more complicated as it became continually upgraded over the years and we were starting to experience some occasional drags and lockups. So we went to TigerDirect and for $239 got a refurbished 3.4 GHz, dual core, 64-bit, 2 GB RAM, 400 GB HDD, 8 USB port monster-engined speedster. :) No more dragging or lockups, and everything works SO much faster.

The server serves both Alachua County SKYWARN and Alachua County EMWIN, and sends weather bulletins to email, pager, cellphone, and to listgroups at UF and on Yahoo, as well as to Twitter accounts, and to Facebook accounts - for FREE as a public service.

The old server will remain in inventory as a backup/standby server.

(Yer welcome!)

Alachua County EMWIN Project

Alachua County EMWIN Project
Free Weather Bulletins!