MTAs, MDAs, and MUAs… oh my!

Oh good golly. Tonight, I’ve been trying to learn how to set up my own e-mail server without the aid of a prepackaged “control panel” like Plesk or Interworx. Frickin’ confusing, I must say.

There’s not one single package you can install called “mail-server.” You need both an MTA (to handle receiving mail from other hosts) and an MDA (to handle delivering mail via POP/IMAP to users). Lessee, for MTA I can choose from Sendmail, Postfix, Exim, and Qmail (which has at least three different forks). For the MDA, I can choose Cyrus, vpopmail, courier, some others I can’t think of, and Dovecot (the newest of the bunch which looks promising).

Setting up the MTA is the beyotch, I think. Whichever one I choose, it has to be set up to accept mail from multiple domains on a single host. The original idea behind the oldest MTAs, like Sendmail, Postfix and Qmail, is that every email address is a user with an actual shell account on that box. They basically assume that the box only has one domain attatched to it (which also happens to be that box’s hostname). It seems rather hackish to get virtual domains set up on those. I think Exim is a little newer and actually has honest-to-god support for vdomains. I just seem to have trouble understanding the documentation; it’s extremely technical.

This sever has Plesk installed, which uses Qmail and Courier. It’s hacked together like a 1988 Mexican car trying to cross the border, running on duct tape and wishes.

I think I’m mostly frustrated by my inability to find a source of easy to understand documentation explaining how to properly configure these applications for my needs. Hmmm… as if someone should have specifically written a HOWTO just for me.

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