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January 2014

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It sometimes bothers me that my email solution at home is far better than the one I use at work.

At the office, we're shackled by this bizarre need for Outlook calendar synchronization. My supervisor is under the impression that the users would never accept a calendar program other than Outlook - I can't really understand this, but the demand was made, and Outlook calendars it was.

Of course, Exchange + Win 2k3 Server + 50 CALs is incredibly expensive, far beyond the company's budget. So we ended up with SuSE OpenExchange 4.1, which we picked up on the cheap ($900).

OpenExchange is a pretty solid product, but the "Outlook Synchronization" is far from stellar. The system has a pretty nice (but closed source) webmail/calendar interface, and comes stock with webdav, spamassassin, postfix, cyrus, and several other useful packages to run out of the box. User accounts are stored in LDAP (ah, my good friend LDAP), address books and schedules are stored in Postgres. The "synchronization" with Outlook is accomplished via a client-side webdav connector, which uses DAV to synchronize a user's address book and contact list periodically.

The server that runs OpenExchange is a dual P2-600 with 512 MB of RAM, using 3 drive RAID5. I thought the system would be plenty beefy for a mailserver (it wasn't like I could convince them to get better anyway), but I was surprised to see consistantly high CPU usage and memory leaks that bit deep into the swap space. By my estimates, if I leave the box running for 3 months it will require a reboot.

The big problem with OpenExchange is that it's more of an appliance than a real system. It's designed to be administered almost exclusively via the web interface and YaST2, neither of which really give me the raw flexibility I desire. OpenExchange also has a per-user licensing scheme that reminds me of Microsoft - you have unlimited IMAP/POP connections, but for $900 the groupware component only allows for 10 concurrent connections. It also suffers from feature creep - the system does way more than it needs to for 99% of the users (it can even act as a Samba 2 PDC - who the hell would want that at this point?).

I feel like the OpenExchange box is some Linux bastard child, and Outlook is evil incarnate, but I'm simply unable to do anything about either situation.

At any rate, at home I'm using a much preferable solution - exim, amavis, spamassassin, clamav, Courier IMAP, and squirrelmail.

Spamassassin and clamav work swimmingly, flagging all of the garbage mail and punting it back to exim via amavis. Exim delivers it on to the user, but a few lines in my ~/.forward file on the server enabled me to dump viruses/spam/etc directly into special IMAP mailboxes. Aside from the obvious advantages for organization, this gives you the chance to use sa-learn on your Maildir folders, which increases the effectiveness of spamassassin.

I then normally check my mail via the exceptional Mozilla Thunderbird, connecting to Courier IMAP over SSL and using smtp-auth with TLS for sending remotely. In the event that I don't have access to Thunderbird, I use Squirrelmail as a completely unimpressive but totally functional webmail client over http SSL.

This stuff all works so wondefully, I'm only left wishing I could use it at work. Ah well.


sm @ Thu Jul 14 07:11:00 -0400 2005


just wanted to let you know that work on better SM - outlook integration is underway with both the Shared Calendars plugin and a VBscript (http://www.graae.net/utility/outsync.htm).


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