Using SNS and procmail for Amazon Simple Email Service (SES) logging


I run my own mail system on a Linux VPS for all incoming and outgoing email. I’m very experienced with email server administration, and it’s fully set up with modern encryption and authentication methods such as TLS, SPF, DKIM, DMARC. It has everything needed for a mail server to have a great reputation to maximise deliverability.

Nevertheless, it’s becoming increasingly difficult to run an email server, or cluster of email servers, in this age when more and more IP ranges are being placed onto private blacklists which aren’t publicly accessible, and which offer no facility for removal of IPs from the blacklists. My VPS’s IP range is apparently on some internal Microsoft blacklist, and my VPS provider is aware of this problem but seems unable to do anything about it. It has therefore become more or less impossible to get email through to Microsoft-hosted email addresses, despite all my best efforts. The logs show that the emails are being accepted, usually by servers whose names end with “”, but after being accepted they are apparently being sent directly to the Microsoft Hotmail and Outlook equivalent of /dev/null.

I’ve therefore had to accept that it’s become necessary to relay outgoing email via a service which can ensure the best possible deliverability, and I’m now using Amazon Simple Email Service (SES) for this purpose. However, SES doesn’t offer a simple way of viewing email logs showing the kind of information you see in logs from MTAs such as Postfix, Sendmail, or Exim, so I had to set something up for that. There are various different solutions for this, but I just wanted something quick and easy which would sit nicely alongside my existing mail logs.

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How to use Ansible for automated AWS provisioning

I’ve recently produced a series of articles aimed at startups, entrepreneurial solo developers, etc. wanting to take their first steps into Amazon Web Services (AWS) setups for app deployment:

I then wanted to move on from discussing manual setup via the GUI interface of the AWS web console, to DevOps-style command-line programmatic setup for automated provisioning of an AWS infrastructure for app deployment, i.e. infrastructure as code (IaC). I have therefore created a suite of Ansible playbooks to provision an entire AWS infrastructure with a Staging instance and an auto-scaled load-balanced Production environment, and to deploy a webapp thereon. The resulting set of Ansible AWS provisioning playbooks and associated files can be found in a repository on my GitHub, so go ahead and grab it from there if you want to try them out. Keep reading for information on how to set up and use the playbooks (and you can also refer to the README in the repo folder, which contains much of the same information).

With these playbooks, firstly the EC2 SSH key and Security Groups are created, then a Staging instance is provisioned, then the webapp is deployed on Staging from GitHub, then an image is taken from which to provision the Production environment. The Production environment is set up with auto-scaled EC2 instances running behind a load balancer. Finally, DNS entries are added for the Production and Staging environments.

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Building a Postfix-based mail system for incoming and outgoing email, capable of successfully sending one million emails per day

It was necessary to build an updated mail system for a client which would handle all incoming and outgoing email, and which could handle successfully sending out an average of one million emails per day. This was based on Postfix, since Postfix is known for reliability, robustness, security, and relative ease of administration. Building a Postfix mail system capable of handling so many emails is quite a significant aim at a time when establishing a positive reputation for independent mail servers delivering high volumes of email is quite a challenging goal.

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How to harden CentOS 7, Red Hat Enterprise Linux 7 & Amazon Linux for better security

A few years ago I wrote a quite popular post for security hardening on Ubuntu 14.04, and now here’s a new version for CentOS 7 and RHEL 7. Much of it should apply to CentOS/RHEL versions 6 and 8, with some tweaks required here and there. It should also largely work with Amazon Linux and Amazon Linux 2, although again some tweaks will be required for those.

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69 useful Terminal/CLI commands

For a long time I’ve maintained a memory aid in the form of a list of useful commands which can be used on the command line for Linux, macOS (OS X), BSD, Solaris, etc., so I thought I’d list them in a sticky blog post in case they come in useful for others. Most of these will run on any Unix-type operating system, though I’ve usually indicated where a command is OS-specific. These can be run manually for admin purposes and also scripted for automation purposes.

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SysAdmin fame at last!

I was interviewed for a careers feature in the esteemed PC Pro magazine, and my article has been printed in the latest edition:

Matt Brock - Linux system administrator

I think they’ve done a great job of editing my original monologue into a compelling description of the excitement, challenges and rewards of administering computer systems and managing infrastructure, and I hope it helps to encourage college graduates and other potentially interested individuals into the field of system administration.

In the meantime, I’ll continue to enjoy my fifteen minutes of fame…

How to monitor PERC RAID controllers and storage arrays on Dell PowerEdge servers with Debian and Ubuntu

If you have a Dell PowerEdge server with a RAID array then you’ll probably want to be notified when disks are misbehaving, so that you can replace the disks in a timely manner. Hopefully this article will help you to achieve this.

These tools generally rely on being able to send you email alerts otherwise their usefulness can be somewhat limited, so you should make sure you have a functioning MTA installed which can successfully send email to you from the root account. Setting up an MTA is beyond the scope of this article, so hopefully you already know how to do that (or you can check out my new post on setting up a Postfix-based mail system).

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