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Email marketer harnesses the power of Gentoo

By Tina Gasperson on August 31, 2007 (9:00:00 PM)

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Gold Lasso uses an open source infrastructure to power its email marketing business. Cofounders Elie Ashery and Michael Weisel say open source is the only way to keep prices down and "truly compete in the current marketplace." And, they say, Gentoo Linux is the only way to keep their system truly secure. But finding employees who can manage a system built on Gentoo has been a challenge.

Gold Lasso markets data collection and management tools and provides outbound messaging services. Ashery had cofounded another email service provider called Newsletters.com, and "pioneered a lot of email marketing techniques" there, which inspired him to expand on those techniques in launching Gold Lasso. He called up his friend Weisel to help, and together the two bootstrapped the company.

"We were selling things on eBay to make enough money," Weisel says.

In order to keep costs down and to build the company on a more reliable base, Weisel and Ashery decided to build on a Linux infrastructure. "Before we laid out any of our own money, we looked at what we'd used in the past and tried not to make the same mistakes we made before," Weisel says. "My background was mostly Microsoft, but I looked at all the issues I'd had with Microsoft servers, stepped back, and said, 'What can we do to avoid that?' I saw open source as the biggest jump toward this. We knew we could keep the cost down with Linux, too."

"We didn't want to dilute ourselves," Ashery says, "And open source source afforded us the possibility of not raising venture money. Now, if we'd had to go down the Oracle or Microsoft route, we would have needed VC for licensing, for development, for all that, but open source allowed us to avoid that. There's no way we could have gotten where we are today without open source."

They tried a few different flavors of Linux before settling on Gentoo. "One of our previous employees was into Gentoo, and made us believe that it is one of the most secure distributions out there," Weisel says. "Yeah, it's hard to install and manage sometimes, but it has definitely given us an advantage. Back when we started moving toward Gentoo, our lead developer and I were sitting in my townhouse with an old server trying to get it loaded. It took two days to get it up and running -- but after we learned how it works, now he can put in a Gentoo server without even looking at it. We found other people, so now we have an arsenal of people who know the system. We knew the initial investment of time to get it configured properly and running was going to pay off in the future. It's very secure and stable."

For Ashery and Weisel, finding the right people to administer Gold Lasso's infrastructure has been elemental to building a successful company. "With the technology we use, sometimes it's very difficult to find people that know it," Weisel says. "It's easy to find people that want to learn it, but hard to find people who know it." Weisel recommends that others looking to launch businesses with open source technology make a special effort to find the right people. "If you don't know the technology, or you can't figure it out yourself, make sure you get the right person to do it. People that come from a Microsoft environment have a very hard time moving into a Linux environment. Now, people in Linux have no problem going into Microsoft. It's kind of interesting. But I would definitely look at universities. That's probably our best resource for people who will know open source technology."

Ashery says trust is a key element. "Make sure the person you're trusting is good. Really talk with them. If you have somebody at your disposal, someone you know that knows the operating system very well, have them sit in on the interview. One mistake we definitely made was choosing the wrong person. They knew Linux, but they didn't know Gentoo. That can create a mess."

Starting with the "right technology" from the beginning is something Ashery and Weisel wish they'd done. "Some of the technology we chose in the beginning is not the technology we're moving to now," Weisel says. "Some of that could have been avoided if we'd thought it out harder in the beginning. The mistakes we made, I wouldn't say they cost a lot, other than in terms of time. We would have been a little further ahead if we'd gone with the right stuff from the start."

"Now we have a good five years under our belt," says Ashery. "It's full steam ahead."

Tina Gasperson writes about business and technology from an open source perspective.

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on Email marketer harnesses the power of Gentoo

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"most secure"? hah

Posted by: Michael Shigorin on August 31, 2007 09:40 PM
"One of our previous employees was into Gentoo, and made us believe that it is one of the most secure distributions out there," -- well, he just lied and you just bought into it. There are distros specializing in security, e.g. Trustix, Adamantix, Owl, or ALT. These don't have a tendency at outright false statements, btw -- just run the systems for years non-stop.

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Re: "most secure"? hah

Posted by: Anonymous [ip: 80.176.229.33] on August 31, 2007 11:37 PM
I see. Because you don't agree with someone's choice of distro, you are compelled to troll with this wholly negative and utterly superfluous comment, accusing someone you presumably do not know of lying and reeling off a list of distros that "don't have a tendency at outright false statements" (whatever that means). Well, allow me to retort. Trustix went bankrupt in 2006 and the website is no more; so much for that. The assertion that ALT specialised in security appears to be without any apparent basis. Owl? An interesting system but (arguably) not really in the same league as Hardened Gentoo and Adamantix. By all means, disregard the Hardened Gentoo project, with its mature hardened toolchain offering support for a PIE and SSP protected userland. Disregard the fact that a well maintained set of hardened kernel sources with support for grsecurity and PaX is on offer. Disregard the fact that we have a tool, scanelf, that is capable of pinpointing ELF QA issues (which, among other things, can point to potential security problems) and that the package manger uses it to exactly that end. Disregard the fact that portage, via profiles, has sufficient modularity and extensibility to allow a number of other hardening technologies (including various SELinux and RSBAC) to be not only available, but fully supported. Disregard the fact that this is maintained by a small but healthy team of skilled developers who have close connections with upstream. Disregard the fact that one of the principal developers behind the Hardened Gentoo project is formally allied with the Adamantix maintainer. Disregard the fact that I, and many others, have happily deployed and run Hardened Gentoo systems in production for many years (yes, "years non-stop" except for kernel updates). But don't stop there .... dismiss the entire distro entirely if that is your will (as it is your choice also). In return, I would only ask that you do not troll the distro, not to mention those people who decide that it is appropriate for their requirements, with such misinformed comments. The fact is that proficient, capable people are quietly working away to make all of this tick. The tripe in your post is indicative of not only a subjective contempt for the distro, but a complete and utter lack of respect for others. Shame on you.

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the problem is with "the most" part, not with Gentoo per se -- relax?

Posted by: Michael Shigorin on September 01, 2007 10:50 AM
It's no problem with anyone's choice of distro, THE PROBLEM IS WITH SPREADING LIES. Yes, I do accuse someone I do NOT know of lying, if it's true they told "_the_ most secure" -- should I explain why? [Trustix] Thanks, I knew of bankrupcy but as circa a year ago one of my friends was still on their team also, I didn't even check the project's site but just cited it for sort of completeness; don't know why it's down, so presumably I stand corrected here. [ALT] The basis is my experience with it, including administration overhead on running public servers for some 6 years; its sec team and approach collides with Owl's ones, btw. And it did RSBAC back in 2001. [Owl] Yep, it's different, but quite in the league of "most secure". [HG] I know of Hardened Gentoo but don't trust the folks behind grsecurity, plain and simple; it still might be worth mentioning on the same basis as Trustix (also-out-there) at least *BUT* if they spoke of security and Gentoo and missed the "Hardened" prefix, why should I? [Troll] Yep, I admit I consider this trolling -- which is what such ill-written (or titled?) articles do deserve. And relax, I do my share of work on free software, even if I don't report it while flaming every other lame article, okay? [P.S.] If I was that negative on Gentoo the project as you might think, I wouldn't recommend one of local Gentoo activists to folks among our clients who needed competent admin for decent salary ;-)

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They didn't need to mention Hardened, it was fine just to talk about Gentoo

Posted by: Anonymous [ip: 82.153.195.187] on September 09, 2007 11:38 PM
If you try to actually set up a Gentoo server without using hardened, every emerge gives you a big fat warning until you set a silly-name var in make.conf; I_KNOW_WHAT_I_AM_DOING=yes. As such IMO, it was fine just to talk about Gentoo.

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Re: "most secure"? hah

Posted by: Anonymous [ip: 85.83.74.51] on August 31, 2007 11:53 PM
Given a wide array of security-enhancing technologies Gentoo officially supports (see http://www.gentoo.org/proj/en/hardened/) it's more than likely that it can be *made* the most secure of them all.

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can be made? thaaanks, didn't know it!

Posted by: Michael Shigorin on September 01, 2007 10:56 AM
Just think, everything else more than likely cannot be made that.

What's easier, several dozen glibc sanitization patches and review of the basesystem or a custom kernel? Privilege separated services running in preferably empty chroots under OpenVZ (if one really wants, that can be stuffed under Xen yet) or "flexibility" which is sharp two-sided weapon regarding security? (and I'd start on someWeirdHardwarePlatform side when applying the principle of most surprise to potential intruder)

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Re: "most secure"? hah

Posted by: Anonymous [ip: 74.65.28.251] on August 31, 2007 11:56 PM
Gentoo is a distribution one of whose core values is to give the end users [read: admins] ultimate power over the configuration. Its philosophy considers convenience an important goal, but secondary to that of configurability. The result? A distro that's as good as its admins. 'nuff said.

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Exactly!

Posted by: Michael Shigorin on September 01, 2007 11:00 AM
"The result?" -- thanks, great and concise. The funny part is I didn't flame Gentoo but the fanatic who would insist on it being "the most secure". I'd never recommend someone with stuck maxima like that to any business (and I did recommend Gentoo folks who have already passed that stage).

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Email marketer harnesses the power of Gentoo

Posted by: Anonymous [ip: 68.126.190.109] on September 01, 2007 12:44 AM
What's with the advertisement for Gold Lasso?

The second anonymous totally pwned the first anonymous!

Linux.com developers, please use <a href="http://php.net/nl2br">nl2br()</a>

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Email marketer harnesses the power of Gentoo

Posted by: Anonymous [ip: 69.111.194.13] on September 01, 2007 07:12 AM
gentoo is a great system, the ability to start from stage-1 and build your way up to a stable OS.. is great.

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WHY THE HELL THERE IS A MICROSOFT BANNER (FLASH MOVIE AD) ON THIS SITE?

Posted by: Anonymous [ip: 201.21.28.156] on September 01, 2007 07:20 AM
...

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Re: WHY THE HELL THERE IS A MICROSOFT BANNER (FLASH MOVIE AD) ON THIS SITE?

Posted by: Anonymous [ip: 68.21.44.141] on September 02, 2007 10:56 AM
It's OK to come back now....it's an HP ad. 8-)

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Email marketer harnesses the power of Gentoo

Posted by: Anonymous [ip: 62.42.232.230] on September 01, 2007 11:33 AM
Thank you very much by the article!
A very good work!!
------------------------

http://www.luckywebsoft.com

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is it just me or are these guys spammers?

Posted by: Anonymous [ip: 24.84.204.56] on September 02, 2007 05:04 PM
Sorry, but I just see a lot of double-talk that breaks down to a story about spammers making use of linux...please correct me if I'm wrong

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Re: is it just me or are these guys spammers?

Posted by: DavidChipman on September 02, 2007 06:39 PM
Hi there,

Yes, I would have to say these people are spammers. Give this poster a cookie!

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Email marketer harnesses the power of Gentoo

Posted by: Anonymous [ip: 24.231.132.7] on September 03, 2007 02:33 AM
You can do the same thing with CentOS and you don't have to spend hours and hours compiling stuff.

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Email marketer harnesses the power of Gentoo

Posted by: Anonymous [ip: 63.164.145.34] on September 07, 2007 07:32 PM
Too bad the author never bothers to tell us how Gentoo is made to be so secure.

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Email marketer harnesses the power of Gentoo

Posted by: Anonymous [ip: 85.103.3.159] on December 10, 2007 11:00 AM

thanks you

[Modified by: Anonymous on December 10, 2007 11:12 PM]

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Email marketer harnesses the power of Gentoo

Posted by: Anonymous [ip: 88.247.61.205] on December 24, 2007 12:46 PM

Email marketer harnesses the power of Gentoo

Posted by: Anonymous [ip: 89.201.190.113] on February 19, 2008 08:37 PM
in my day we used to call them spammers.

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