For those of you who don;t follow my other blog, I’m in Barcelona at the moment. I’m here to learn Spanish and chew bubblegum. And I’m all out of bubblegum, etc.

Anyway, Linux let me get in touch with my dad. The short story is (if you want long walls of text, read my bit on the TV license, or any of the recent posts on my other blog), basically my dad had been sending emails from a semi-defunct email address. It could send, but not receive. So my replies were being blackholed.

Now, I don’t know about you, but the thought of my parents thinking I’ve cut off communication with them while I’m alone in a strange country was enough to make getting back in touch important. I should point out that while only one email address of his was defunct, I didn’t know that at this stage. So, email is cut off – what do I use? Phone. Tried a few times, but it went to answerphone each time. My mum likes to talk to a good friend of hers a lot – the line can be occupied for hours. I managed to exhaust my PAYG phone credit in this manner. Even phoning someone else back home didn’t work.

Right. Mail – out. Phone – out. So, what did I do? SSH into my dad’s machine, install tightvncsever, telnet into the router, add a port forwarding rule (after unsuccessfully trying to convince the webmin page to authenticate remotely), VNC in, type a message in gedit. Done!

For bonus points, I sorted the mail client out to use a working address, resent the emails that were lost to some hungry /dev/null somewhere, then verified their arrival.

Note: I’m not trying to claim this is a special use of Linux, in fact it’s pretty mundane, but to be able to get in touch over several hundred miles thanks to knowing how to go about things? Priceless.

Addendum – example code for setting up VNC port forwarding via telnet on my router, a SpeedTouch 585.

nat mapadd intf=RoutedEthoA type=napt outside_addr= ins
ide_addr= protocol=tcp outside_port=5900 inside_port=5900 mode=auto

Replace with the internal IP, and the ports with whatever port you chose to run VNC on, and you’re good to go.