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First part of CentOS 5 server setup howto series now available

After much research, experimentation, testing and tweaking I'm happy to announce that I have completed the first part of my CentOS 5 server setup howto series!

As of today, you'll notice a new CentOS 5 Howtos link on the where I have listed the first two parts of the howto series, the getting started howto which will help you setup a basic system environment and more importantly, the mail server howto which documents how to setup a secure mail server offering POP3/IMAP/SMTP with virtual users stored in a MySQL database.

I'm very happy with this setup because it uses virtual users that cam be mapped to system users and also keeps the software set relatively small; Dovecot is used for SASL authentication (both for POP3/IMAP and SMTP) and for postfix's local delivery agent, so with only 2 servers we've got it all covered (of course technically it's 3 servers with an extra transport if you take amavisd and response-lmtpd into account).

The virtual user database is currently only used in this tutorial for the mail server, but I have plans to introduce (with an upgrade path) a new database structure that will unify several authentication data pools and make managing clients for a shared hosting server easier... But I'll talk more about that later once I've finished posting my other guides. I plan on adding ones for other services such as DNS & Web, although I cannot promise when those will be finished. The mail server tutorial alone is 16 printed pages (!) so it does take me quite some time to ensure that the tutorial is well documented and that the configurations listed work properly.

I still have to add some notes here and there about the implementation, but the core material is there. Enjoy!

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Getting MobileMe to work with any email address

A friend of mine recently bought a MobileMe subscription and I was pretty curious about what it would offer as I've seen the demos from Apple's WWDC keynote. After experimenting with it for a bit while I was setting it up on my friend's home computers, I found that it is actually a very worthwhile purchase for for both home and small business users. The one downside to it was that Apple does not allow the use a non- @me.com email address. Luckily, after about an hour of playing I was able to setup a system which enabled Thunderbird and other email clients to use the MobileMe email features with non- @me.com email address.

The problem is Apple's outgoing mail (SMTP) servers, which reset the From: header in all messages. No matter how you configure your client, all outgoing mail shows From: myuser@me.com. By avoiding the Apple's SMTP servers, you can bypass this problem and send mail as if it was sent from your previous address (for example yourname@yourdomain.com). Here are the steps required to set it up:

  1. Forward all incoming mail to your MobileMe address

    CPanel and many other hosting control panels will support forwarding all mail from one address to another. In CPanel, click on "Mail Forwarders" and forward all mail from your previous address to youruser@mobileme.com. If your hosting provides a different control panel and you can't find the mail forwarders option, try contacting your hosting's technical support team for more information.

  2. Configure your email client (incoming mail)

    In order to receive new messages, you will need to create a new IMAP account. Email clients such as Outlook, Outlook Express, Thunderbird, Entourage and Apple Mail all support IMAP. Apple has a step-by-step guide for setting up each of the programs listed above. If you are using another program, you'll need to enter the following settings manually:

    • Account type: IMAP
    • Incoming server: mail.me.com
    • Incoming username: Your MobileMe account name (the part before "@me.com")
  3. Configure your email client (outgoing mail)

    Instead of entering the outgoing (SMTP) details as listed on the Apple tutorial, enter the information for your hosting that you previously used instead. For example, your outgoing server may be mail.yourdomain.com or smtp.yourdomain.com.

  4. (Optional) Create identities

    If you are forwarding many custom email addresses to your MobileMe account, you may want to take the time to use the Identity feature of your mail client so that you can reply mail as if writing form any of the many custom emails instead of just one (different clients may offer the same feature but under a different name). In Thunderbird, you can manage your Identities by selecting Tools > Account Settings... > Manage Identities

The only trouble you may encounter with this method is that sending mail from the MobileMe Web interface will still show @me.com, as the webmail passes through Apple's SMTP servers.

Note: This procedure works for iPods too! If you configure your iPod's incoming and outgoing mail as shown above, you should also be able to send mail from your custom address as well.

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