IBM X3550 M2 or X3650 M2 and Debian/Ubuntu

We’ve been long time IBM hardware users. In general we love IBM hardware, it’s rock solid and just runs and runs. Being able to get 24×7 support contracts with a 4 hour response time for someone with replacement parts to be on site in case of a problem is great as well.

However IBM also have a down side. Often their Linux support is limited to Redhat and SUSE installs and the kernels that go with them. In some cases that means that they only distribute binary blob drivers which only work with the particular kernel and version distributed by Redhat/SUSE. Because we like to use Debian Linux, and also to compile our own kernels from source with just the modules and features we need, a binary blob driver or a driver that only works with Redhat/SUSE kernels is unacceptable for us.

We discovered this problem the hard way with our first X3550 purchase, which came with a ServeRAID 8k-i controller. It turns out that controller was based on some LSI “fakeraid” chipset which needed a binary blob driver (can’t find the link right now) and thus we couldn’t get it to work sanely. We ended up returning the machines.

On the other hand, the ServeRAID 8k controller (note the difference, not the –i version) is actually completely different, and works fine with any Linux kernel with the vanilla open source AACRAID driver. We’ve bought almost a dozen machines with the 8k controller and they’ve all worked really well.

Now however, the X3550 and X3650 machines have been replaced by the newer X3550 M2 and X3650 M2 models, which update the CPUs and motherboards to use the newer Nehalem based CPUs, as well as replacing all the available ServeRAID controller options with new ones again :(

  • ServeRAID-BR10i SAS/SATA Controller (3577)
  • ServeRAID M5014 SAS/SATA Controller (3877)
  • ServeRAID M5015 SAS/SATA Controller (Battery not included) (0093)
  • ServeRAID-MR10i SAS/SATA Controller (3571)

We’re having trouble finding much information about any of these controllers, and what support there is in the vanilla Linux kernel for any of these controllers. If anyone has some good information about vanilla Linux for these controllers (or lack there of), please email me at

Update: Someone from the IBM Linux Technology  Center passed on the following useful information to us that others might also find useful.

  • ServeRAID-BR10i SAS/SATA Controller (3577)

    LSI 1068[E] support has been upstream prior to 2.6.14 which means that this controller is support by all newer Ubuntu versions. The driver for this card is mptsas.

  • ServeRAID M5014 SAS/SATA Controller (3877) / ServeRAID M5015 SAS/SATA Controller (Battery not included) (0093)

    Both of these are supported by the same megaraid_sas driver which went upstream in 2.6.27 (megaraid_sas version: v00.00.04.01-rc1 or newer), which means these controllers are supported by Ubuntu 9.04 (based off 2.6.28)

  • ServeRAID-MR10i SAS/SATA Controller (3571)

    LSI 1078 support has been upstream sinse 2.6.16 which means this controller is also supported by all newer Ubuntu releases. The driver for this card is megaraid_sas (v00.00.02.04 or newer)

Posted in Technical. Comments Off on IBM X3550 M2 or X3650 M2 and Debian/Ubuntu

Phishing email sent to FastMail users

Over the weekend, we’ve had a number of reports of FastMail users receiving emails asking for their username and password. These are phishing emails from scammers trying to steal your FastMail account details. Do not respond to the emails, just ignore and delete them.

FastMail will never send unsolicited emails asking you to email your username and password. In general, you should never give your account password to anyone else, via email or any other method.

Posted in News. Comments Off on Phishing email sent to FastMail users

Quick Tutorial: How to Improve Junk Mail Filter Performance

One of the strengths of FastMail is our Junk Mail protection system.  We used a multi-layered approach.  We’ve learned over our 10 years that there is no single solution to solve the junk mail problem.  Fortunately, this is very easy to manage and control.  Every FastMail account has the ability to learn about mail you consider is junk or perhaps is legitimate.

Every subscribed account at FastMail has access to advanced levels of Junk Mail protection.

The first step is to enable more strict Junk Mail protection:

  1. Login to the web interface for your email account.  For example,
  2. Go to the Options -> Spam/Virus Protection page.
  3. Be sure to enable Virus Protection.  As a starting point, you should set your Spam Protection level to Normal.  This will create the Junk Mail folder in your inbox.
  4. Press the Save Changes button

One of the more important measures you can take is to setup Spam Learning folders in your account.  You can setup a folder in your account to be none, As Spam, As Non-Spam.

You enable this feature by opening the Options -> Folders page.  On that page, you click the Edit link next to the folder name.

An example:

I normally set my Junk Mail folder to have Spam Learning equal to As Spam.  Whenever I receive new junk mail, I move it into that folder so that FastMail can learn what I consider junk.    In addition, any subfolders I have created to save important email are also useful.  For each folder of saved mail, I set the Spam Learning to be non-spam.   The beauty of this system is that by simply organizing my mailbox, FastMail gains a greater understanding of what should be considered safe or spam.

One note, any email address listed in your address book is also considered safe.  If you typically receive a mailing list, but it keeps getting flagged as Junk, simply add the email address of the sender to the address book.   For business/family accounts, any addresses listed in the Global Address Book affects all members of the business.

For more information regarding the Spam Protection system, the following help article is available:

Remember to move items out of your Junk Mail folder that you consider legitimate email.  This will prevent FastMail from considering them as junk in the future.

By following these rules, the Junk Mail protection system in FastMail will very accurately keep your inbox free of annoying spam email.

Posted in Marketing, Technical. Comments Off on Quick Tutorial: How to Improve Junk Mail Filter Performance

New Feature: Ability to Disable access to POP or IMAP

Have you ever seen people incorrectly setup their email program to use POP when they should have used IMAP?  We have a new feature to help protect from that scenario.

Some background:

Many email clients (Outlook for example), default their internet mail connection type to POP.  If you are a FastMail user, you would typically want to connect using the IMAP protocol.  IMAP keeps all your email stored at the server.  This allows FastMail to backup all your email folders regularly.  It also provides the ability to synchronize multiple computers (or devices) to the same account and they see the same email data.

Unfortunately, some users will skip through the setup screens on their email client too quickly.  The result, they’ve setup a POP connection.  Depending upon how they setup their client, it may download all their email from FastMail and remove it from our servers.

To Disable POP access:

Login to your account on the FastMail website.  Go to the Options -> Account Preferences page.  At the bottom of the page, there will be a section for Access.  Simply check the box next to a protocol you want to disable.

If you have disabled POP access for an account, any attempt by an email client to access via POP will fail.

Posted in News, Technical. Comments Off on New Feature: Ability to Disable access to POP or IMAP

FastMail linked on news site slashdot

There’s an article on slashdot (a popular technology news site) which links to an interview with one of our founders, Jeremy Howard.

The interview itself is over on and has some good technical details of how our service works “behind the scenes”.

Posted in News. Comments Off on FastMail linked on news site slashdot

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