Posted by notKlaatu , 18 August 2008 · 136 views
I spent the last two days of last week trying to get a box set up as an email server. The problem with this server (non-Linux OS) was that apparently the GUI tools provided aren't really designed to...well, work. While you can set up Users and Groups through the GUI tools, apparently important functions, like creating a home directory for a user, is broken. Not that this is documented any where; in fact, evidence points strongly that the GUI tool WILL create a home directory. There's a button marked "Create Home Now" which, when pressed, says that "Home directory creation will be attempted on save", but when you click Save (by the way, that's a lot of clicking I've done for a very very common server task), no home directory is created. No sign of error, no warning...it just doesn't exist. You can reboot, you can log in as root, you can do whatever you can think of ... but the GUI Says No.The GUI's email server setup also seems to be broken. You can put check marks in as many boxes as you want, but it's not going to set up your server for email no matter what.Also, none of these GUI tools can be accessed via SSH as they are not written for X but for a proprietary GUI interface. Since I don't have physical access to the box, in order to attempt do this configuration, I had to VNC to the server and have a monstrous screenshare session to use the GUI tools.Long story short? Monday I came in with renewed vigour, sat down, and broke out some whtie papers on postfix. A simple SSH session, and I'm on the server. The postfix configuration was pretty easy, especially considering I'd never done it before. I don't pretend to know WHAT I did, but I read the how-to's and sort of get a feeling for what all the config lines were referring to. I plugged in the right information, and then issued the final sudo postfix start command and without much fanfare or eye candy postfix is up and running. I grab a port of one of my favorite email apps, pine, install it, start it up, and in no time I am sending and receiving email. All told, this only took a few hours, compared to the two days of trying to navigate through the GUI tools which, in the end, didn't even do the job they were expected to do.I'm no expert on setting up email servers or servers in general; I'm still very much a noob at it and I have a lot to learn. But let's face it, a server shoud be simple, sleek, and well-tuned. It shouldn't require a display to operate. It doesn't need eye candy. It just needs tools that work. It just so happens, I am finding, that the tools that are working best start with a GNU or end with a *nix (or *nux).