Qmail [was Re: [Israel.pm] Detecting Random characters]

Shlomi Fish shlomif at iglu.org.il
Mon Oct 4 02:18:04 PDT 2004

On Monday 04 October 2004 09:52, Yuval Yaari wrote:
> DJ Pumps wrote:
> And if you're using Sendmail, it's time to move on to qmail anyway :)

Just a correction - "If you're using Sendmail - it's time to move to 
_something else_ anyway." Not necessarily qmail.

I help administer a qmail/ezmlm-idx configuration on eskimo.iglu.org.il. It's 
not such a bad experience. To help me learn it better I took the book "The 
qmail Handbook" during the last YAPC. I have read it and liked it, but if at 
all, it convinced me that I would not voluntarily install qmail as an SMTP 
server on new machines.

Here are my reasons:

1. Its license is extremely bad: one cannot distribute modified binaries, one 
cannot distribute modified sources - only patches are acceptable. This makes 
deploying it extremely difficult. Usually, you even have to install binary 
packages from their sources.

In the book, when asked if the qmail license is free, the author says "yes and 
no.". Hah! That's the joke of the month! Either a software is open-source or 
it isn't, but it can't be both.

2. It has not been maintained for a long time. There's only a team of 
developers that heavily modified the original code, but it's not part of the 
core distribution yet, and they are required to distribute it as a patch.

3. Does not even cleanly compile on Linux now.

4. Its author - Daniel J. Bernstein - is known for his bad attitude, (towards 
contributors, etc.), feelings of superiority, etc. Not the kind of man I'd 
like to use his software. He also obviously cares more about himself than 
about his users, or otherwise there wouldn't be Item #1.

5. D.J. Bernstein has been busy with many other endeavours lately and 
neglected working on qmail. Between his job as a professor, a crypto-related 
lawsuit he's been doing, and a DNS server he's been writing, he's completely 
neglected work on qmail and ezmlm. In fact, an integer overflow vulnerability 
in qmail has been left unfixed in the original code for a long time.

6. qmail often requires many patches just to be usable. So does ezmlm (hence 
ezmlm-idx). This complicates the installation even further.

7. The qmail installation requires a great deal of steps. No ./configure; 
make; make install here. I was told there are scripts to automate this, but 
it's still a problem. Even its compilation requires putting various 
parameters in special files, etc.

8. The paths are extremely unorthodox. Everything is under /var/qmail. In 
fact, Bernstein has attacked the more standard LFS (= Linux Filesystem 

9. Configuring qmail requires dealing with a great deal of separate 
configuration files, in obscure places, many times running scripts to build 
the databases. I was completely confused by everything there.

(it's still much better than sendmail, though, but possibly not as good as 
postfix, exim or courier)

10. ezmlm-idx has a lot of duplicacy in its configuration. For instance, it 
encodes the E-mail address of the mailing list in many different places in 
its configuration directory. (including several in the same file) As a 
result, moving a mailing list to a different address is extremely painful. 


So, in short - don't use sendmail, but I highly recommend not to use qmail, 
either. I'll put what I wrote here in the Wiki, after the flame war^W^W 
discussion has settled.


	Shlomi Fish


Shlomi Fish      shlomif at iglu.org.il
Homepage:        http://shlomif.il.eu.org/

Knuth is not God! It took him two days to build the Roman Empire.

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