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By jakev383 at 2007-01-05 09:38

First, a little background.

What exactly is Qmail-Toaster, you ask? For those not already familiar, Qmail is a mail server written by Dan Bernstein that was meant to replace sendmail. It has been around since 1996, and by 2001 had experienced enough growth that it was the second most common SMTP server on the Internet. Some of the sites using Qmail include Paypal, Yahoo!, and Network Solutions.

Qmail, while being secure and rock-solid, is renowned for its reputation of being difficult to install with the features that most sysadmins today want. D. Bernstein’s license requires that Qmail only be released as unmodified source code which is still in effect because D. Bernstein still has a standing offer of a $500 reward for anyone who finds a security hole in Qmail. The offer has been in place since March of 1997, and has yet to be claimed.

And here is where Qmail-Toaster comes into the picture.

Qmail-Toaster was originally started by Miguel Beccari in June of 2002 who had a goal of providing a secure and stable installation of Qmail in RPM format. In April of 2003, Nick Hemmesch took the project over. He still maintains it as of the date of this article with the help of many contributing members of the Toaster community.

Qmail-Toaster has moved away from the tedious process of compiling Qmail and patching to include new features. The Qmail-Toaster project releases a set of source RPMs where the bulk of the work is already done for you. This is while still staying compliant with D. Bernstein’s license. The project is developed on CentOS, and maintains support for Redhat, Fedora Core, Mandriva, Mandrake, and openSuSE.

The stated goal of the project is to provide you with a simple to install, full featured Qmail mail server.

Installation is a snap. The Qmail-Toaster group has not only put together all of the patches that everyone wants, but they have made it so simple to install you almost don’t have to be awake for it. The group has written a couple scripts to take care of everything for you. The only thing you need to provide is at least a minimal install of one of the supported distros. Once this task is complete, you download the dependency script for your distro which preps your system by utilizing yum to install all of the packages that are needed for Qmail to function and provide the features you want.

After this script is run (which also updates your whole system to the latest set of packages provided by your distro maintainer), you can run a set of optional scripts that will automatically go through your system and turn off any unnecessary services not required for Qmail, Apache, DNS, FTP, and the system itself and then provide you with a tried-and-tested server firewall. Why you ask? Unnecessary processes can consume CPU cycles and RAM. Chances are good that if you’re installing Qmail you do not need PCMCIA services, so these unneeded services are turned off to streamline the system. And what would be the point in providing you with a turn-key mail server without offering a firewall to go along with it? The group has tried to think of everything you may need to get your mail server up and running.

After you get this far, the next step in the process is to download the current-download script. This script, as the name implies, downloads the currently released Toaster packages for you. At this point you can pick and choose what to install if you’re an advanced user, or you can move on to the current-install script.

The current-install script only needs you to set a couple variables in the top of the script to function correctly. These variables tell the rest of the script what distro you’re using, what version of that distro, and what architecture you want to compile for. Then, just run the script! The script and the RPMs take care of the entire build process for you. Patches are installed, source compiled, and executables installed. Gone are the old days of patching and compiling Qmail for 8 hours to get a minimally functioning server. In roughly 30 minutes (YMMV, depending on hardware) you will now have a fully installed and capable installation of Qmail-Toaster. Web page administration is included, as well as the customary command line control that advanced users expect. Simply open the address to the qmail-admin page of your machine, add a domain, and you’re done (assuming of course you have DNS set up for this).

Some of the highlights include:

Squirrelmail webmail system
Web based administration of domains and users
Spam detection provided by SpamAssassin
Blacklist integration provided on a SMTP level
Anti-virus scanning by ClamAV
Attachment filtering by extension or MIME signature
SMTP with smtp-auth, TLS, and remote-auth
Domainkeys checking and signing
SPF testing
Qmail-tap capabilities for mail archiving
Web based graphs of mail performance
Handle virtual domains and virtual users (vpopmail)
Submission port
Mailing lists (ezmlm)

Where do you go for help? The group has a mailing list for questions and to make suggestions. The mailing list is a very friendly place to get answers from fellow users as well as from the developers themselves. The response “RTFM” is highly frowned upon in the list. If you have a unique situation, the Qmail-Toaster group is not unknown to write custom scripts just to solve your situation.

For common questions and scenarios, the group created a wiki where all may share their experiences and knowledge. There are many how-tos and explanations, and work has even begun on a Spanish translation of the wiki material.


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