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Donating MX Entries

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 Hsphere UI and MX donation
Author: K.Kirkpatrick   (18 Feb 05 8:51am)
Here is my first small contribution to helping fill in some gaps for folks like me, while I learn what I'm doing.
I thought it might be helpful to post my experience with a few difficulties with UI "control panel" site management. This posting is intended for folks like myself who aren't totally up to speed on server administration, and so the uber-geeks can enjoy a nice chuckle at my expense... Thats okay, if I look silly to some folks, imagine how silly I feel. :)

THE PROBLEM
I set up a new subdomain to serve two purposes, first to donate an MX record to the project, and to provide a subdomain I can set aside for an FTP service, which I needed anyway.

The UI set the subdomain up from a template which includes mail service by default.
I then edited the DNS for the Domain, to include an A record which points to the IP address isssued for the subdomain, and an MX record which points to the named server asigned by the PHP donation script.

Both records seemed correct. but after receiving a failure notice from the project script, I did DIG for the subdomain and discovered that there were not one but two MX records. One of which was not visible or editable in the UI and which pointed to the Host default MX server.

After pondering this and finding nothing in the DNS configuration which could be changed to delete it, I opened the sub-domain configuration and discovered and then disabled the mail service for the sub-domain. The sub-domain will not require mail service, and it affects nothing of importance. It did however remove the additional MX record from the sub-domain's DNS servers, and lightened the site just a tiny bit.

This solution might be easily overlooked since the configuration UI for DNS doesn't indicate the existance of the default listing, and the solution isn't immediately visible since it is in a completely different control panel dialog.. Setting up the DNS record is done from the Main Domain DNS config, but the fix to make it work is edited in the sub-domain services and isn't even visible without logging on to the subdomain control panel.

Since this wasn't something I noticed until the record was tested, even though the record was changed on the DNS servers, caching had to expire before the correction showed the corrected record... just a slight delay.

The way to avoid this is to disable the mail service to the subdomain before setting up the MX record, and submitting it for donation. The tester will then see only the clean, correct record and it will avoid the day delay and fuss and bother.

I suspect that this may apply to many CP type UI, and not just Hsphere. Since these UI's have limited permissions, it is probably very unlikely that "fooling around" with things like this will have any lasting or irreversable affect. It is probably impossible or nearly impossible for a user to damage anything, especially when turning services OFF, and turning off mail services for the donated subdomain has the additional side affect of giving the project something like a fail-safe for ensuring that the subdomain is completely isolated for email traffic outside of the donated MX listing.

It is also advisable to use the DNS servers for the Host when doing DIG, since one's ISP NS will continue to return info from caching until the record refreshes. A newbie might not know this. If you don't have or know how to use DIG, a terrific network tool is available from Samspade.org and includes DIG as well as a number of other very valuable tools. It does have some "dangerous" tools which are defaulted to a disabled condition, and a detailed set of helpfiles which are very instructional. DIG is essential to managing DNS records and checking them for errors.

Thanks much to Mathew for the attention and late night help help. This project has given me a sense that everyone, nerd and neophyte, are welcome here. Everyone has been very helpful, and very understanding. All I can say, is that if a complete Linux N00B can set this up on remote hosting and make it work, that the folks who spent their time setting this project up, have done an extraordinary job. Kudos.



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