ircd upgrades

We’ve got some ircd upgrades in the works!

You may remember several weeks ago that we upgraded our ircd on the production network. Since then, we’ve wanted to fine-tune some changes and make sure that the upgrade is more consistent with the old version.

Over the next few weeks, we’ll be looking to perform upgrades on the production network again. This will mean every server will reboot. A programme for the upgrades can be found at the end of this post (updated 13th Nov 2011).

In the meantime, please continue to help us to test the ircd at testnet.freenode.net port 9002 or 9003 for SSL (if you don’t get onto the first server that the DNS roundrobin gives you, keep trying!). Look for anything broken, inconsistent with previous versions (especially in terms of information release) or illogical. If serious issues are reported, we’ll aim to fix before upgrading, rather than having a further later upgrade. Please report issues to #freenode-seven on the production network.

Thanks!

NB: this list does not include servers invisible to users (eg hubs).
Week 1: Sun 13th Nov
-!- kornbluth.freenode.net Frankfurt, Germany
-!- zelazny.freenode.net Corvallis, OR, USA
-!- stross.freenode.net Corvallis, OR, USA (webchat backup)

Week 2: Sun 20th Nov
-!- barjavel.freenode.net Paris, FR
-!- wolfe.freenode.net Manchester, England
-!- hubbard.freenode.net Pittsburgh, PA, US

Week 3: Sun 27th Nov
-!- adams.freenode.net Budapest, HU, EU
-!- holmes.freenode.net London, UK
-!- sendak.freenode.net Vilnius, Lithuania, EU
-!- rowling.freenode.net Corvallis, OR, USA (webchat)

Week 4: Sun 4th Dec
-!- pratchett.freenode.net Rennes, France
-!- calvino.freenode.net Milan, IT
-!- leguin.freenode.net Ume?, SE, EU
-!- niven.freenode.net Corvallis, OR, USA

Week 5: Sun 11th Dec
-!- hitchcock.freenode.net Sofia, BG, EU
-!- gibson.freenode.net Oslo, Norway
-!- card.freenode.net Washington, DC, USA
-!- asimov.freenode.net TX, USA
-!- verne.freenode.net Newark, NJ, US

Unscheduled.
-!- roddenberry.freenode.net
-!- bartol.freenode.net
-!- brown.freenode.net
-!- anthony.freenode.net


Update: all upgrades are now complete.

New GRF-freenode process

As you might know, GRFs (Group Registration Forms) exist to form a relationship between a project and the PDPC (Peer Directed Projects Center). This relationship is relatively formal – personal details (address/tel no./etc) need to be shared by the project. For this reason, a severe backlog of GRFs has built up, since only a few staff have access to them (to protect this personal data). PDPC is the UK-based not-for-profit company which runs freenode. For most groups in our request backlog, their reason for registering is not to work with PDPC, but to gain a channel or cloak namespace on freenode. We’ve decided that running a separate, freenode-centric groups request system may help to move the system along. By requesting fewer details, we can open up this system to more staff, and hopefully keep on top of the queue of requests.

From now on, using a new, shorter form, projects can choose to file a GRF-f (for GRF-freenode) and submit a GRF for processing by freenode, rather than by PDPC. This sends details (no personal details, other than email address, will be required) to a system to which many more staff will have access. This new form will allow you to gain control of a channel and the right to issue cloaks much more quickly than previously, as we will double/treble the number of staff able to deal with requests. For now, please only apply if you are a ‘priority’ group – ie, you do not own the main channel of your namespace.

If you already have a group registered and approved with an old-style GRF, you do not need to do anything. Your registration remains valid. If you need to make changes to the registration, please contact staff on freenode who will, if appropriate, direct you to use the old (GRF) system. The GRF-f system cannot be used to update groups which filed under the GRF system.

If you have a request pending in the old GRF queue, you are welcome to re-file under the GRF-f system. This is likely to mean that your request will be dealt with much more quickly than otherwise. This approach supersedes the grfprocess@ system introduced a while back – unfortunately, we just weren’t able to keep up with requests to that address.

You might be wondering where all of this fits into the GMS (Groups Management System) masterplan. When GMS is ready, we may need to ask all projects registered under the GRF-f system, and likely some projects which are already registered, to re-file. The GMS system will allow us to dispense with GRF-fs, and just build project<=>PDPC relationships, since forms will be able to be processed much more quickly. To be clear – it is quite possible that any registration made now may be revoked if a registration is not re-filed after GMS is released. If this does become reality, as much warning as possible will be given.

We hope that this will change will counter some of the ill-feeling around the GRFs system. In effect, the mentality is shifting from one of “GMS will clear the GRFs backlog” to “GMS will help us to serve groups better”. We’re no longer waiting for GMS to clear the queue. We’re still looking for help with GMS: if you have Perl/Catalyst or web design experience and think you can help, join #freenode-gms.

Update 2012-06-09 – All group registration has been suspended whilst we evaluate the system and its implementation. A replacement should be available in due course, but for now it is not possible to register groups, and the link to the grf-f form has been removed.

A short mention on Mibbit

Hi all.

It has come to our attention that Mibbit have experienced a security issue impacting (or so it initially appears) their testing servers. This has resulted in a list of plain text NickServ passwords from Mibbit’s own NickServ (the one you use if you connect to irc.mibbit.com) being made public, as well as a small section of private logs and some internal server details of the affected equipment. There’s some more information on their own blog.

As I’m sure many of you have been aware, Mibbit hasn’t been available for use with freenode for quite a while now so the issue will only indirectly impact freenode users when the password they use for their NickServ is the same as it is for elsewhere.  Therefore freenode staff are recommending that anyone that has used Mibbit’s own NickServ should ensure that their password is changed to keep your account secure.

Of course, it’s always good practice to change passwords periodically so you may wish to take the opportunity to do so as a matter of course.

Sponsorship Roundup

As you may know, the network operations of freenode are fully supported by donations – of hosting and other resources – from both companies and individuals. We acknowledge all sponsors on our website, but it is nice from time to time to provide a round-up of recent changes on the sponsorship scene!

If you’re currently connected to freenode, you will be connected to a donated server – look at the “MOTD” (delivered to you on connection or by passing the command /motd) to see who has provided your particular server.

Our newest servers include roddenberry.freenode.net (Brisbane, Australia) and asimov.freenode.net (Dallas, Texas, USA), provided by On Q Telecom and by Rackspace, respectively.

Worthy of mention indeed are those companies who support the network in ways other than providing servers. Gandi provides our SSL certificate and acts as our domain registrar, and Simtec Electronics recently generously supported the network with a donation of entropykeys. Look out for a later technical blog post as we roll these out!

While this post focuses on recent additions to the sponsorship team, it’s important not to forget the ongoing contributions of all our sponsors – take another look at our acknowledgements section and give these groups the kudos they deserve!

Cheers,
Martin

freenode 70k

With apologies to cringing table-top players, we are more than happy to announce that we passed the threshold of 70,000 active users a few minutes ago. Lingering at a maximum of 69,991 lately, we have been anticipating this day for some time, now. And it has come :)

We’d like to thank all of our users for using freenode. Without you we would, quite literally, not have made this milestone.

We would also like to take this opportunity to thank all our volunteers, whatever fields they have chosen to help out in.

At the moment, we’re growing at 10,000 users per year and a bit:

http://blog.freenode.net/2007/08/freenode-has-reached-40-000-users/

http://blog.freenode.net/2008/09/50000-active-users/

http://blog.freenode.net/2009/12/happy-new-year-2010/

We’re looking forward to continuing this trend and reaching 80,000 sometime around March of 2012 :)

Happy Holidays!

Just a quick note to wish each and every one of our users, sponsors, donors, volunteers and projects for making freenode great.

It’s amazing being able to communicate and collaborate with such a variety of people and projects. YOU make the network what it is and help us provide a fantastic resource for FOSS communities.

I’d also like to say a special “Thank You” to Martin (Martinp23) Peeks and Richard (RichiH) Hartmann for squeezing into my size 7’s and keeping a tight grip on the steering wheel ensuring that we don’t weer off track and crash into too many icebergs during my leave from active freenode management duties. You’re doing a tremendous job, and I’m thrilled to see that you’ve got the support from the fantastic volunteer base and our exceptional sponsors.

Have a happy Christmas (or whichever holiday you do or do not celebrate) and a fantastic New Year, I hope it brings you everything you wish for!

Oh. And don’t forget, tis the season for giving!

Cheers,

Christel x

Be Safe Out There

freenode is sometimes a target of spammers, bots, or attempts to trick users into taking action or giving up information they normally would not. One form of spam, popular recently, claims that freenode will require SASL to connect. Others attempt to lure users to a website that may generate revenue for the spammer, attempt to install malicious software, reveal information about the user (such as location, IP address, operating system, and so on), or lead to a shock site intended to offend or disgust. Other spam has no purpose except to cause disruption through channel noise, nick-highlights, and the ensuing complaints from those disrupted.

Don’t be a victim of these mischievous ploys. Don’t react when you see this sort of activity. Don’t click on unsolicited links. Don’t trust spam to be accurate or truthful. Instead, be a catalyst or just ignore the unwanted behavior. Most IRC clients offer a way to filter out messages from a person or containing certain text by using a command called /ignore. Even if your client doesn’t support /ignore, you can mentally ignore it just like you might ignore someone yelling on a street corner.

Bad behavior that is limited to one or two channels can be handled by the helpers and operators in the channel. If you feel compelled to report spam or abusive behavior, privately message one of the people on the channel’s access list, which may be seen using /msg chanserv access #channel list. To check how recently a person was active, use /whois nickname nickname. (Yes, put the nick twice). This will show whether they are away, and how long they have been idle. Some projects use a -ops channel (e.g. #ubuntu-ops) to make it easier to contact an operator.

If bad behavior is widespread, network staff may intervene. As always, staffers can be reached in #freenode. When reporting an issue, please do not (re-)paste spam or highlight many nicks. This only adds to the disruption and makes the reporter look like the spammer. When a staffer responds, you can privately message the content of the spam, if it is important to addressing the problem.

And one final word about announcements: any major change to the network’s operations (like, say, requiring SASL) would be announced properly through the website and/or blog. We might also announce it over IRC using a global notice or wallop. A wallop or global notice would come from a staffer — someone with a freenode/staff cloak in whois — and probably appear in your client’s server or status window. Spammers may choose nicks that look similar to those of staffers, but staffers will have a freenode/staff cloak and we will not spam channels as a way of making announcements. A bit of skepticism before trusting something seen on the internet can help keep you safe, and the network running smoothly.

Further webchat issues

Unfortunately, it seems the box our webchat is on has decided to fall out with the Internet again. We’re working on setting up a reserve instance which shouldn’t be affected by this sort of issue in the future. When we have more details, we’ll update this post. We’re really sorry for the inconvenience this causes, and guarantee it will be less in future.

Update: The host’s issues appear to have been resolved. We now also have a backup instance running which can easily be switched to in the event of downtime in the future.

Webchat downtime

Hi everyone.
Currently the freenode webchat instance (webchat.freenode.net) is down. This is due to maintenance by the host of the box upon which the service sits, and looks set to continue for up to a further 6 hours.
This is maintenance that we, as staff, were not previously aware of.
We’re very sorry for the inconvenience and are doing what we can to reduce it.

Update: resolved.

Java webclient decommissioning

Following our successful switch of cloaking on our web gateway (http://webchat.freenode.net) to show the full IP address of connecting users (see this blog post), we have decided to transition our old and relatively unused Java client (pjIRC) to our webchat service. This will be done via a HTTP redirect.

Only around 30 users at a time can be found from the java client, hence as time goes on it makes less and less sense to continue to support this platform. We’ll be decommissioning the Java client on Sun 8th August.

Other pjIRC instances which connect to freenode will be unaffected. We are simply removing our version of the program.

If you’ve any concerns, queries or comments we’d love to hear from you either in #freenode or via support at freenode.net.