Java Zen:Thinking Out Loud Monday, 2017.10.23
The most preposterous notion that H. sapiens has ever dreamed up is that the
Lord God of Creation, Shaper and Ruler of all the Universes, wants the
saccharine adoration of His creatures, can be swayed by their prayers, and
becomes petulant if He does not receive this flattery. Yet this absurd fantasy,
without a shred of evidence to bolster it, pays all the expenses of the oldest,
largest, and least productive industry in all history.

		Robert Heinlein, "Time Enough For Love"

2008.04.27

Mattress In The Mail

Would you send a mattress to someone via the U. S. Postal Service? Doubtful. Mostly because it’s just too darn inconvenient, on the front end, to stuff it into an envelop and attach all that postage. So, nobody does this. And think of the effect on the back end with the recipient? Their mailbox would effectively be locked. No place to put any of the other mail the postal carrier may need to deliver for you.

Yet, people send mattress via email all the time. This is so because the front end effort is negligible, but the back end effect could be just as unpleasant as attempting to wrestle a mattress out of your snail mailbox.

I had a problem brewing with my mail server for the past six weeks. It went unnoticed until the server started sending notices the vendor’s bandwidth limits were close to being exceeded. Since early March and up until April 23rd, there had been a message with an attachments exceeding 10 Mb sitting in my primary mail server’s queue. Fetchmail attempted, every 5 minutes, to retrieve the message to a secondary mail server running postfix. Fetchmail would pull the 10+ Mb message down to the secondary mail server and pass it on to postfix at which point postfix would reject the message because it’s 10 Mb attachment per message limit had been reached. And on this went every 5 minutes. The kicker came on April 23rd when an email newsletter I had, until now, subscribed to sent a 30 Mb video as an attachment!

Now things were getting ugly. For a brief period, the primary mail server was down (This was the first sign I had there was trouble.)

The total monthly traffic for this server normally runs about 200 Mb, far below the allotted 75 Gb set by the vendor. With these two stuck emails, the total bandwidth consumed by April 24th had reach 65 Gb. All this due to fetchmail retrieving these two messages with a combined size of 40 Mb every 5 minutes. After FTP’ing these messages off the mail server, the storm abated.

And sanity returned to email land.

Two lessons here.

Lesson one was for me. The two mail servers have been reconfigured to handle this situation more gracefully as this is likely to happen again. Why? Because lesson two isn’t likely to catch on: If you have a funny/interesting/whatever video for your friends to see, consider sending an email with a link to the file and not the file as an attachment. Unless you know the recipient has an email server that works like this:

Otherwise, nobody likes pulling a mattress out of their mailbox.