Tiny Deathstars of Foulness

Mail is one of the hardest services to manage. Actually, mail is pretty simple in and of itself: there’s protocols people use to access their mail (such as IMAP and POP), protocols used to communicate between mail servers and send mail (SMTP, SMTPS) and then there’s a database of mail and user information. In Mavericks Server, all of these are represented by a single ON button, so it really couldn’t be easier. But then there’s the ecoysystem and the evil spammers.

As a systems administrator of a large number of mail servers, I firmly believe that there is a special kind of hell where only spam is served at every meal for spammers. Here, the evil spammers must also read every piece of spam ever sent for eternity. By the end (aka Ragnarok), they should have the chemically induced stamina of a 16 year old with the latest Sports Illustrated Swimsuit issue, enough pills of other types to not be able to use that stamina, plenty of African princes looking to donate large sums of money if only they can be helped out of their country (which should cost about 100,000 compared to a 5,000,000 payout, not a bad ROI, right?!?!?), have their conflicting stamina situation at the top of the search engines and of course, have lost all of the money made from their African princes due to getting their credit card hijacked by about 9,000 phishing scams. All in all, a special kind of hell…

But back to the point of the article, setting up mail. The things that mail administrators need to focus on to keep that mail server flowing mail to and from everyone else in the world:

  • Static IP address. The WAN (and LAN probably) address should be static.
  • Port Forwards. Port forwards need to be configured on the gateway for the SMTP port at a minimum and more than likely other ports used to access mail on client devices (25, 143, etc)
  • DNS records. An MX record and some kind of type of record should definitely be configured for the DNS servers that are authoritative for the domain. There should also be reverse records for the address of the server, usually created by the Internet Services Provider, or ISP, that match that record.
  • Check the RBLs. If you have a new IP address you’ll be putting a DNS server on, check all the major Realtime BlackLists to make sure that some evil spammer hasn’t squatted on the IP before you got to it. This is true whether you’re in a colo, hosted on an IP you own or moving into space formerly occupied by a very standup company. A lot of IP addresses are blocked, as are blocks of IPs, so before moving mail to an IP, check it.
  • Mail filtration (message hygiene). OS X Server has a number of mail filters built in, including clam for viruses, the ability to leverage RBLs, block specific addresses and of course RBL checking. However, this is often not enough. Third party services such as MXLogic help to keep mail from coming into your network. You also end up with an external IP to send mail that can cache mail in the event the server is down and keep mail off your network in the event that it’s spam.
  • Backup. I am firmly of the belief that I’d rather not have data than not have that data backed up…

Once all of that is taken care of (I’ll add more as I think about it) then it’s time to enable the mail service in the Server app running on Yosemite. Actually, first let’s setup our SSL certificates. To do so, open the Server app and click on Certificates in the SERVER section of the sidebar. Here, use the “Secure services using” drop-down list and click on Custom… for each protocol to select the appropriate certificate to be used for the service.


Click OK when they’re all configure. Now let’s enable the mail service (or outsource mail). To do so, open the Server app and click on Mail in the SERVICES list in the sidebar.


At the configuration screen is a sparse number of settings:

  • Provide mail for: Configures all of the domains the mail server will listen for mail for. Each account on the server has a short name and each domain name will be available for each short name. For example, an account with a shortname of charles will be available for email addresses of and per the Domain Name listing below.Mail3
  • Authentication: Click Edit for a list of sources that accounts can authenticate against (e.g. Active Directory, Open Directory, Custom, Local, etc) and in some cases the specific password algorithms used for mail.Mail4
  • Push Notifications: If Push is configured previously there’s no need to use this option. Otherwise, use your institutional APNS account to configure Push Notifications.Mail5
  • Relay outgoing mail through ISP: Provide a server that all mail will get routed through from the server. For example, this might be an account with your Internet Services Provider (ISP), an account on an appliance that you own (such as a Barracuda) or with an external filtering service (such as MXLogic).Mail6
  • Limit mail to: Configure the total amount of mail a user can have in the mail store, in Megabytes.
  • Edit Filtering Settings: Configure antivirus, spam assassin and junk mail filters. The “Enable virus filtering” checkbox enables clam. The “Enable blacklist filtering” checks the RBL (or RBLs) of your choice to check whether a given server is a “known” spammer and the “Enable junk mail filtering” option enables spam assassin on the host, configuring it to block based on a score as selected using the slider.

Once you’ve configured the settings for the Mail service, click on the ON slider to enable the service. At this point, you should be able to telnet into port 25 of the host to verify that SMTP is listening, preferably from another mail server:

telnet 25

You can also check that the mail services are running using the serveradmin command along with the fullstatus option for the mail service:

sudo serveradmin fullstatus mail

Which returns with some pretty verbose information about the service, including state, connections, running protocols and the rest of the following:

mail:startedTime = ""
mail:setStateVersion = 1
mail:state = "STOPPED"
mail:protocolsArray:_array_index:0:status = "ON"
mail:protocolsArray:_array_index:0:kind = "INCOMING"
mail:protocolsArray:_array_index:0:protocol = "IMAP"
mail:protocolsArray:_array_index:0:state = "STOPPED"
mail:protocolsArray:_array_index:0:service = "MailAccess"
mail:protocolsArray:_array_index:0:error = ""
mail:protocolsArray:_array_index:1:status = "ON"
mail:protocolsArray:_array_index:1:kind = "INCOMING"
mail:protocolsArray:_array_index:1:protocol = "POP3"
mail:protocolsArray:_array_index:1:state = "STOPPED"
mail:protocolsArray:_array_index:1:service = "MailAccess"
mail:protocolsArray:_array_index:1:error = ""
mail:protocolsArray:_array_index:2:status = "ON"
mail:protocolsArray:_array_index:2:kind = "INCOMING"
mail:protocolsArray:_array_index:2:protocol = "SMTP"
mail:protocolsArray:_array_index:2:state = "STOPPED"
mail:protocolsArray:_array_index:2:service = "MailTransferAgent"
mail:protocolsArray:_array_index:2:error = ""
mail:protocolsArray:_array_index:3:status = "ON"
mail:protocolsArray:_array_index:3:kind = "OUTGOING"
mail:protocolsArray:_array_index:3:protocol = "SMTP"
mail:protocolsArray:_array_index:3:state = "STOPPED"
mail:protocolsArray:_array_index:3:service = "MailTransferAgent"
mail:protocolsArray:_array_index:3:error = ""
mail:protocolsArray:_array_index:4:status = "OFF"
mail:protocolsArray:_array_index:4:kind = "INCOMING"
mail:protocolsArray:_array_index:4:protocol = ""
mail:protocolsArray:_array_index:4:state = "STOPPED"
mail:protocolsArray:_array_index:4:service = "ListServer"
mail:protocolsArray:_array_index:4:error = ""
mail:protocolsArray:_array_index:5:status = "ON"
mail:protocolsArray:_array_index:5:kind = "INCOMING"
mail:protocolsArray:_array_index:5:protocol = ""
mail:protocolsArray:_array_index:5:state = "STOPPED"
mail:protocolsArray:_array_index:5:service = "JunkMailFilter"
mail:protocolsArray:_array_index:5:error = ""
mail:protocolsArray:_array_index:6:status = "ON"
mail:protocolsArray:_array_index:6:kind = "INCOMING"
mail:protocolsArray:_array_index:6:protocol = ""
mail:protocolsArray:_array_index:6:state = "STOPPED"
mail:protocolsArray:_array_index:6:service = "VirusScanner"
mail:protocolsArray:_array_index:6:error = ""
mail:protocolsArray:_array_index:7:status = "ON"
mail:protocolsArray:_array_index:7:kind = "INCOMING"
mail:protocolsArray:_array_index:7:protocol = ""
mail:protocolsArray:_array_index:7:state = "STOPPED"
mail:protocolsArray:_array_index:7:service = "VirusDatabaseUpdater"
mail:protocolsArray:_array_index:7:error = ""
mail:logPaths:Server Error Log = "/Library/Logs/Mail/mail-err.log"
mail:logPaths:IMAP Log = "/Library/Logs/Mail/mail-info.log"
mail:logPaths:Server Log = "/Library/Logs/Mail/mail-info.log"
mail:logPaths:POP Log = "/Library/Logs/Mail/mail-info.log"
mail:logPaths:SMTP Log = "/var/log/mail.log"
mail:logPaths:List Server Log = "/Library/Logs/Mail/listserver.log"
mail:logPaths:Migration Log = "/Library/Logs/MailMigration.log"
mail:logPaths:Virus Log = "/Library/Logs/Mail/clamav.log"
mail:logPaths:Amavisd Log = "/Library/Logs/Mail/amavis.log"
mail:logPaths:Virus DB Log = "/Library/Logs/Mail/freshclam.log"
mail:imapStartedTime = ""
mail:postfixStartedTime = ""
mail:servicePortsRestrictionInfo = _empty_array
mail:servicePortsAreRestricted = "NO"
mail:connectionCount = 0
mail:readWriteSettingsVersion = 1
mail:serviceStatus = "DISABLED"

To stop the service:

sudo serveradmin stop mail

And to start it back up:

sudo serveradmin start mail

To configure some of the settings no longer in the GUI from previous versions, let’s look at the full list of options:

sudo serveradmin settings mail

One that is commonly changed is the subject line added to messages that are marked as spam by spam assassin. This is stored in mail:postfix:spam_subject_tag, so changing would be:

sudo serveradmin settings mail:postfix:spam_subject_tag = "***DIEEVILSPAMMERSDIE*** "

A number of admins also choose to disable greylisting, done using the mail:postfix:greylist_disable option:

sudo serveradmin settings mail:postfix:greylist_disable = no

To configure an email address for quarantined mail to go, use mail:postfix:virus_quarantine:

sudo serveradmin settings mail:postfix:virus_quarantine = ""

The administrator, by default, doesn’t get an email when an email containing a file infected with a virus is sent through the server. To enable this option:

sudo serveradmin settings mail:postfix:virus_notify_admin = yes

I also find a lot of Mac environments want to accept email of pretty much any size. By default, message size limits are enabled. To disable:

sudo serveradmin settings mail:postfix:message_size_limit_enabled = yes

Or even better, just set new limit:

sudo serveradmin settings mail:postfix:message_size_limit = 10485760

And to configure the percentage of someone’s quota that kicks an alert (soft quota):

sudo serveradmin settings mail:imap:quotawarn = 75

Additionally, the following arrays are pretty helpful, which used to have GUI options:

  • mail:postfix:mynetworks:_array_index:0 = “″ – Add entries to this one to add “local” clients
  • mail:postfix:host_whitelist = _empty_array – Add whitelisted hosts
  • mail:postfix:blacklist_from = _empty_array – Add blacklisted hosts
  • mail:postfix:black_hole_domains:_array_index:0 = “” – Add additional RBL Servers

The client side of the mail service is straight forward enough. If you are wondering where in this article we discuss using webmail, er, that’s not installed by default any longer. But the open source project previously used, roundcube, is still available for download and easily installed (the pre-reqs are all there, already). Check out the roundcube wiki installation page here for more info on that. Also, mail groups. I hope to have a post about that soon enough. Unless, of course, I get sidetracked with having a life. Which is arguably not very likely…

October 17th, 2014

Posted In: Mac OS X, Mac OS X Server, Mac Security, Microsoft Exchange Server

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Many people still use,,,, or some other arbitrary set of DNS servers.  But, these are ISP DNS servers and so subject not only to filtration of source IP addresses at the will of the ISP (which happened back in the old Mindspring days) but also subject to spikes in traffic making someone’s Internet connection appear dog slow.  So I’ve been putting people on internal DNS servers for a long time.  But even they need to point somewhere for their DNS…

Enter OpenDNS.  These guys use and  They’re free for just doing Internet lookups and if you find you want them to do more for you, they can.  Optional pay-for services include Content Filtering, Phishing protection, lookup statistics and per-site redirection.

January 2nd, 2008

Posted In: Network Infrastructure

Tags: , , ,

So my buddy Eli told me about his web host, which I’m actually seeing a lot of traffic on various lists about so thought I should mention.  His quote:

Check out the demo panel, its pretty nifty. Still no better than running webmin/cpanel, but not nearly as obtuse because it allows Dreamhost to split roles onto several servers under one panel. Ie, Mail goes on one server, Web on another, MySQL onto another shared server, all under one set of admin pages.

And although you cant mess with the shared host config settings, you are able to SSH in to your own account and run amok with your own files.

Still, I like using CafeEdge, because it’s got my last name in the name and my dad is really quick to turn around requests for me.  😉

March 25th, 2007

Posted In: sites

Tags: , ,