MTA Selection (was Re: Best firewall gateway version of Linux ?)

Matthew Hawkins matthew at
Tue Jan 15 18:50:49 EST 2002

On Tue, 15 Jan 2002, Alex Satrapa wrote:
> On Tuesday, January 15, 2002, at 05:29 , Matthew Hawkins wrote:
> >If you're paranoid and need to have mail gateway, postfix is your best
> >option.  I would even run sendmail over qmail, mainly because its faster
> >and more configurable than any other MTA.
> Surely you mean "faster than *qmail* and more configurable than any 
> other MTA"?

Put a comma after "faster" in my original sentence.  Bloody pedants ;)

Note that in the benchmark posted earlier, sendmail is second fastest.
Shocked me too first time I saw it :-)  They've done a good job fairly
recently in rearchitecting sendmail, check the major changes between 8.9
(the last I ran) and 8.12 or whatever is latest.  There's quite a few
nice things there.

Disappointing in the benchmark is the non-appearance of zmailer.  That
is/was a nice MTA also.

> And "more configurable" isn't necessarily a good thing, either.

It usually is, however.  Problems arise when the myriad of configuration
options are a) undocumented or b) have unspecified or non-obvious
dependencies.  Sendmail thankfully doesn't fall into this boat.
Exim does :-(

I'm not claiming its effortless to try to make heads & tails of the raw
sendmail config language.  It is, however, well documented.

> *How* you configure sendmail is the problem.  It would probably be 
> easier to edit the sourcecode and recompile with your new rules in 
> place, since most people know C already ;)  (Ha ha - only serious ;)

There's three ways of configuring sendmail - learn the raw language, use
the m4 macros, or get someone else to do it.  The sensible people walk
through door #2, however there's some crazy individuals out there who
take door #1 and have their mail server happily transferring over every
protocol possible, through every terminal and connection to it possible,
with ridiculous amounts of features (like accurately identifying
connected M$-using clients and winnuking them ;)

I've even heard rumours of some _really_ insane people who take door #3 ;)

> It's probably better to view sendmail not as an MTA, but as a generic 
> rules-based message rewriting and transmission device, that happens to 
> behave as an MTA when given a particular ruleset - so too, a Turing 
> Machine might behave as an MTA when given a specific tape ;)

Not quite fair.  Yes, it is a (somewhat) generic message transmission
device - that's what MTA's are for.  Some things claiming to be MTA's
won't, for example, do UUCP or other transports.  SMTP isn't the only
way to transfer email.  Sendmail was designed (perhaps by accident) to
cope with everything.


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