New ‘disposable email’ service: Mail60

Mail60 is a ‘disposable email service’; perfect for receiving confirmation emails from places you don’t trust not to spam you in the future. Mail60 mailboxes are automatically erased after 60 minutes, so you can simply create one, use that email address somewhere, receive the email(s) you’re expecting, and then simply forget about the mailbox. For more detail, see the FAQ.

The idea for it came from reading the comments, about a week ago, in PZ Myers’ wonderful blog Pharyngula, where people were talking about an internet poll they wanted to vote on, but the site required registration, and it was a right-wing paranoia site, so it wasn’t a place they really wanted to be members of. One commenter, then, suggested using a “disposable email service” such as Mailinator. That was the first time I heard of those. I found the idea intriguing, and thought about how I could implement such a thing. It looked doable, so I started programming it in my free time, and Mail60 is the result.

I intentionally wanted to keep this simple, so I didn’t go for features such as “create a mailbox automatically when receiving mail on a non-existent address” or “forward email to a real mailbox for X days and then stop”. Also, since mailboxes are so ephemeral, features such as filters, address books or folders don’t really make sense. And, of course, the only way to allow instant creation of mailboxes with no verification whatsoever and yet prevent abuse was to disallow email sending. But for the most common use I foresee — receiving confirmation emails –, that’s not a problem.

For the techies out there, I’m using PHP, MySQL, Postfix, DBMail, and Hastymail for accessing mailboxes. The (virtual) server runs FreeBSD.

P.S. – yes, this is the “new project” I mentioned a few days ago. :)

Upgraded to Ubuntu Natty, and nginx troubles

Just upgraded my home server (where most of my sites are, though this blog is not among them) from Ubuntu Maverick (10.10) to Natty (11.04). The upgrade itself went without any trouble ((note that this server started out with Jaunty, which means that it has been successfully upgraded five times now. Try doing that in Windows… :))), but, after the new OS version came up, most of my sites were down; they just showed blank pages. And, oddly, there was nothing in any logs. I’m using nginx and php-fpm.

After pulling my hair for a while, I noticed that:

  • the problems were restricted to PHP pages, and…
  • … those didn’t work on any of my sites except for the default one (www.dehumanizer.com).

A little googling, and this post came up, the author of which had the same problem, and was able to spot the solution. In the /etc/nginx/fastcgi_params file, the upgrade had added (silently, since I had never modified that file) the following line:

fastcgi_param       SCRIPT_FILENAME         $document_root$fastcgi_script_name;

Commenting it out solved everything. My guess is that, since the file in question is included only in my default web site configuration, the $document_root variable never changes, so all my sites (except the default) were pointing the wrong way. Anyway, that line is apparently unnecessary, though I’ll see if including the /etc/nginx/fastcgi_params file in every virtual host (maybe you are supposed to do that), and uncommenting back that line, also works.

New project in development

You may have noticed that there haven’t been any news posts here for more than a week. No, I’m not “bored” with my favorite subjects (as if I could); the reason for that is that I’ve been relatively busy with a new project of mine, which I’ve been doing in my free time. It’s still too soon for it to be revealed, but I can say the following: it uses PHP and MySQL (doesn’t everything, these days?), and has to do with email. It’ll provide a service that isn’t exactly novel (though a lot of non-tech users don’t even know such a thing exists), but I don’t think I’m doing it exactly like the “competition” does, which means it’ll be unique in some ways. I hope.

I hope to have something to show to the world in a week or two. But I’ll try to write a few new posts here, until then. I have a draft of the second entry in the Conversion Wars series almost finished (and it has been that way for a while, now), so that’ll probably be the next one.