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Posted August 26, 2004
Working with sendmail can be very challenging at times; while the documentation for it is very complete, finding real-life use-cases can be tough and messing up a configuration is very easy. Fortunately the sendmail authors and community adopted the m4 language to help make building and managing sendmail configurations less painful (I remember having bad dreams about sendmail configuration language when I started learning it). Even with m4, understanding what goes where when and why in a sendmail configuration file can be a real challenge. O'Reilly helped we mere mortals out tremendously with the publication of 'Sendmail: The Definitive Guide,' a book that helped demystify and clarify many of sendmail's inner-workings and configuration options. Even with this book, it was still hard to answer real-life use case questions, like how to enable SMTP AUTH for sendmail, how do I use LDAP with sendmail, how do I use sendmail to accept email for multiple domains in a virtual hosting environment, how do I use blackhole list services? Enter 'Sendmail Cookbook.' This clear, easy to read, well-indexed book contains a wealth of useful recipies that make previously difficult to figure out tasks quite easy. The book is organized in typical Cookbook fashion; each chapter or section stands on it's own, and if it does require knowledge of other sendmail configuration topics, the section includes cross-references to other relevant recipies and references to appropriate sections in the 'Sendmail: The Definitive Guide' book, which is a nice additional feature. This cookbook starts with recipies that step the reader through building and installing sendmail, with sections on configuring the build so that sendmail compiles with SSL/STARTTLS support, LDAP support, and SASL support. Chapters that follow deal with everything from enabling and configuring SMTP AUTH, to securing sendmail itself, to controlling spam. Recipies use m4 whenever possible and only dip into the sendmail configuration language when necessary, another feature I found very impressive. I own quite a few O'Reilly books; this is one of a small number that I enjoy just picking up and flipping to a random page and reading; I always find something that I either didn't know or had forgotten. I wish I had this book seven years ago when I was struggling to learn the basics of sendmail configuration and administration; I might have more hair left if I had! I highly recommend this book to anyone who works with sendmail, be that daily administration or occassional troubleshooting.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted December 30, 2003
The first killer application of the Internet was email. For over twenty years, the most common program used to handle this was sendmail, written by Eric Allman. Over this time, sendmail has become a fully fledged language, with a very inelegant syntax. To learn how this, you need the book 'Sendmail' by Costales and Allman. The basic problem is that twenty years of ever increasing complexity in mail handling has created concomitant complexity in sendmail. For system adminstrators, the sendmail configuration files are probably the most complicated things they have to understand and maintain. The rub is that most sysadmins have many duties, and little time to thoroughly read the above book. What is needed is a crib sheet, that lets you quickly solve very common sendmail configuration issues. Wherein the need for this book. Hunt takes a pragmatic approach. He tells you enough to handle these common issues. Sometimes, this comes at a slight cost. For example, he never really fully explains the the sendmail class notation. For a rigorous explanation, you still need Allman's book. But as a practical matter, you probably not that curious about the notation anyway. Hunt's approach may solve your problems quicker! An interesting aspect of this Cookbook is that it shows the recent evolution of sendmail, as seen in the subtitle at the top of the cover, 'Spam-Fighting'. Sysadmins who dealt with sendmail from 5 years ago or earlier will recall nothing pertaining to antispam techniques. But just as email was the first killer application, the second killer application was the browser, starting in 1992-3. The third killer application was spam, often viewed via the second application. In the last 5 years, spam has grown amazingly. So much so that it has been debated on the floors of the US Parliament! It has gotten to the point that some alarmists are even claiming that this third killer app might be crippling the first app! Well, this Cookbook has several sections, including an entire chapter, focussed on various antispam techniques, like procmail parsing, or hooking up to Real Time Block Lists like spamhaus.org. The efficacy of such methods may vary widely, but you do get a choice. Though none of these currently appear to offer a truly effective countermeasure. You are still getting tons of spam, aren't you? Perhaps some genius in the not too distant future can help us!Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.