Writing

Software, technology, sysadmin war stories, and more. Feed
Thursday, May 3, 2012

Do not rely on fastmail.fm for XMPP service

Online instant messaging chat is ridiculously complicated. Something which should involve at best a small amount of drama has been blown up into something which should make everyone ashamed. I can't believe how disgusting this is.

As part of moving off gmail, I got a fastmail.fm account. It works well enough for e-mail, but I must put out a strong warning: trying to rely on their XMPP (Jabber) service will only lead to heartburn. It will kick you offline for no apparent reason over and over.

To make matters worse, it seems to be much more touchy when you really get going, like during a conversation. Anyone who's chatted with me knows that I can really push out the bytes when I'm "in the zone", and that is also the absolute worst time for a disconnection. I have to stop what I'm doing and just fume at the screen until it finishes reconnecting.

So, naturally, I opened a ticket. I'm a paying (!) fastmail.fm customer, and something of theirs is broken, so I'm going to report it, and yes, complain a little.

Here's what I said:

Hi,

I'm a new user of your service and partly came over because of your XMPP support. I've noticed that it seems to disconnect me quite a bit, giving the following error:

<stream:error xmlns:stream="http://etherx.jabber.org/streams"><xml-not-well-formed xmlns="urn:ietf:params:xml:ns:xmpp-streams"/></stream:error>

I found out that you are running ejabberd, so I did some digging on that. It looks like one of many reasons for it to punt a client is "stanza size bound". I only mention this because it seems to happen when I really get going rather quickly during a chat, which of course is the worst time to have it kick me off.

One post which suggests the stanza size causing this message is here: http://lists.jabber.ru/pipermail/ejabberd/2008-November/004421.html

I also have the Adium debug logs and tcpdump logs for the last couple of disconnects, for what it's worth.

Looking at the forums, I found a few other users who seemed to be reporting mysterious disconnects but who never seemed to reach a resolution. Maybe this is related?

I realize this is a long shot, but it's really starting to bug me. Any help would be appreciated.

- Rachel

About 30 hours passed without any reply while the problem continued, so I pinged the ticket.

This is happening a lot tonight, and this is really getting annoying. Please help.

A few hours later, I received a reply:

Hi Rachel,

https://support.process-one.net/browse/EJAB-752 suggests that this isn't the cause, because they fixed that one. It actually looks like it's a problem with the SSL library :( I haven't been able to solve it yet.

I agree, it's very frustrating :( It happens to me too. It's currently second on my priority pile after an urgent hardware upgrade.

Bron.

I thought "okay, they're on it, and I should just be patient". So, I just let the ticket auto-close. This was back in February.

Well, it kept happening, so at the end of of March, I opened ticket number two:

Previous ticket: [...]

This is still going on and it's incredibly frustrating. I'm actually considering going to the trouble of standing up my own server just to see if it will get any better. Please don't make me resort to this.

Three days passed. Then I got this:

Hi Rachel,

I know - it's awful :( I'm currently in transit, and on leave for the rest of the week, but I'm going to make some time in there to look at reverting to DJabberd. The problem there is that there's been a security problem found, and the fix doesn't just apply cleanly to our patched version, so reverting isn't simple... Grr.

I'm really unimpressed with ejabberd though... they seem to have stalled development.

Bron.

Well, here we are in May, and it keeps happening. I am over it. Hence, I am publishing all of my interactions here.

Do not use fastmail.fm for XMPP or you will hate yourself.

Choose your providers accordingly.