[Chicago-talk] Sendmail Cookbook review

Steven Lembark lembark at wrkhors.com
Thu Apr 1 01:58:03 CST 2004

sendmail Cookbook [notypo: "s"]
Craig Hunt
O'Reilly Press, 2004

Summary: Nice book.

More? Ok...

If anyone else has read the "bat book" they'll appreciate
this one; anyone who enjoyed it can stop reading this now.

sendmail's flexability makes it a wonderful tool when it
works right. Getting it there can be serious hike in the
manuals. The m4 configuration system made things a whole
lot better, but the number of options can easily be

Instead of trying to describe sendmail's capabilities,
Craig Hunt starts with what you want it to do and how
to get there.

The "recepies" begin with a situation: you want to have
all the mail sent through a server, management wants the
sales people immune from spam filtering, LDAP is the
company standard for user ID's. Each situation is followed
by a short description of how to get there using the
m4 configuration options. After the quick-and-dirty portion
is a pratical discussion of what the configuration section
does, more-or-less how it works, and (best of all) how to
test it.

The whole book is arranged this way into a series of
vingettes, each group getting further into the details
of how sendmail is set up. Early chapters deal with
how to configure and install sendmail, what the basic
files are for, and simple tests. Further in are
issues of masquerading, envelope manglement, relaying,
forwarding, and delivery. Towards the end are security
and dealing with long-ish queues in heavily loaded

Examples later in the book use earlier ones as a base.
This shortens the later ones to relavant sections.
By explicitly listing the earlier ones, Hunt makes
the proces of referring back to them painless. There
are also plenty of good references into the bat book
and sendmail doc's.

The book uses the current (8.9.12) sendmail for its
examples. As an expirament I grabbed this from
sendmail.org and installed it on a client and server.
The client fowrards all of the non-local mail to
a "smart host", the server masquerades all of the
mail comming in to the domain. Afer going through
the configuration examples, strange to say, it all
worked: the updates updated, the deletes they deleted,
the inquires inquired and the closings completed...
er, sorry...

The detailed sections are useful even if you are not
going to configure sendmail any time soon. The tests
shown are nice, specific, useful examples for general
troubleshooting. The are specific to the recipies,
and the recipies progress through stages of complexity.
This makes the examples a nice sequence for looking
at how to test various sendmail issues -- from telnet
through 'sendmail -bt'.

The recipies and exmaples would also make a good
general introduction to mail handling. Going through
the cases and tests makes a good introduction to
the care and feeding of sendmail.

The style is also readable. Hunt includes some humor,
realistic descriptions of the instanities mail admin's
go through, and descriptive prose to keep the text moving.
The cookbook won't replace Dashiel Hammett on your
nightstand, but does a good job in handling a pretty
dry subject.

Dry, that is, until the mail doesn't get through.
At which point you'll probably be happy to have
read the book.

Steven Lembark                               2930 W. Palmer
Workhorse Computing                       Chicago, IL 60647
                                            +1 888 359 3508

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