Implementation log - moving to Sympl


My prior hosting (not going to embarrass myself by saying what) not only reached end of life but it turned out that meant it wouldn’t renew certificates either.

I had been looking at Mail-in-a-box as a migration path and so set that up on Mythic Beasts but suddenly found rather a lot of extras from when I last tried it out, extras like the 425MB of files for NextCloud. In the process of kicking the tyres on my MB VPS I came across Sympl which appears to fit my needs as a programmer that can but doesn’t want to do SysOps. I don’t need a web interface but I don’t want to become particularly competent at the details of the various servers that I need to run for the usual suspects, email being my achillies heel - Apache, mySQL, PHP I learn’t as they were released (I am that old).

So as one of the moderators of one of the more technical forums on IoT and knowing how helpful it is to have some new user experiences, I thought I’d document my journey.

So I’ve used the MB VPS install of Sympl 11 and I’ve manually setup the forward & reverse DNS entries as it took a while for Network Solutions to change the name servers back to MB (but to be fair, I have changed them about 6 times in the last three days so I think the root servers have probably got rather confused but will catch up overnight).

Next step, get an admin@ email sorted out for the base domain followed by OctoDNS setup so I can move one work domain over to see how I go.

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Got the fundamentals of an email address & the website with the LetsEncrypt certificate going without any bother and loaded up phpMyAdmin in the browser.

I’m not sure trying to get to grips with OctoDNS whilst watching the BBC News is that productive, so I’ll pick that up in the morning.

I struggled with OctoDNS too and ended up manually configuring dns on my registrar. Been stable for many months with a couple of domains now so all good.

It doesn’t have the simplest of intros, but most of my struggles was keeping up with the news on the TV whilst hacking on my new toy.

As I really don’t fancy manually setting up all the DKIM / SPF / whatever for a dozen or so domains, learning it seems to be a time saver to learn it and then apply it.

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It was sort of working for me but I had issues on the mythic beasts end. Seemingly at will an extra record kept appearing that was killing the setup. Maybe it has improved now. I look forward to hearing your results

So, after a bit of hacking around and dechipering various messages - both on MB and in the output of parts of Sympl, I’ve now got OctoDNS moving the TinyDNS files up to MB DNS, including the SPF (using the Sympl default which is fine), and the instructions in the wiki for setting up DKIM & DMARC.

MXToolbox is giving me green ticks on everything other than not having a policy enabled but it got a bit late last night to learn that little aspect which appears to relate to rejecting some percentage of email but I’m not yet clear on why it would reject, particularly as the SysAdmin here is the only person setting things up so no email should go via anything other than his (my) email server.

Whilst doing the aforementioned deciphering, I slurped all of /home and /etc down and grabbed a copy of the Sympl repro to try to figure stuff out. The process really highlighted the benefits of having all those little files that you can edit, push to your own secure repro and then ask the server to update all it’s settings. I may make a duplication tool as a few of the domains need identical configurations but I’m also inclined to offloading the vanilla stuff (like the family email addresses) to MB mail servers to leave as much capacity as possible for this server to cope with the flood of spam that my main email address gets - setup in 1994 it seems rather popular!

I have some notes for some of the wiki entries that I’ll register on and tweak some instructions - like the OctoDNS MB provider using the v1 API and therefore the v2 API key not being very successful.

Next step, take the config files from the base domain, duplicate them, a few misfires and a bit of note taking, et voila, a domain duplicated for mail & web.

Like all these things, the first few goes are the learning curve. A bit of scripting to prep the files, and I’d reasonably expect to have a domain moved inside 5 minutes, not accounting for the slurping of coffee and clever quips on forums.

Configuring the munin-node, note to self, Sympl has a firewall …

Will learn that next!