Setting up a hybrid Google Apps mail account

Tue, 2015-12-29 13:43 -- admin

I've run my own mail server since, well, the UUCP days. I used to host a lot of mailiing lists so over the past 20+ years I've run Sendmail, Exim, Qmail and Postfix. They're all different but they share one thing in common: unless running mail servers is your hobby, they're not fire-and-forget applications, especially in the high-spam, high-malware, post-Snowden environment today.  Maintaining a mail server is a chore. You walk a fine line between being buried in UCE and blackholing your Uncle Rich.

I stopped running mailing lists several years ago and since then I've wanted to outsource my mail servers to a reliable third party host.  When I first experienced Google Apps I knew that's where I wanted to be. I don't understand what Google is doing but it's the best mail handler I've used.  I rarely get spam in my Gmail but I've never had a false negative that I'm aware of.  On Gmail, you don't have to muck with Baysian filter settings or install RBLs.  It just works.

The problem is that I create a different email address for every web site I use so I have well over 700 aliases and Google Apps only supports 30 per user with no options to increase that number.  One alternative is to use Google Groups for aliases but that presents its own set of problems. Then a friend of mine, Jesse, told me about yet another alternative.

What Jesse does is keep the MX for his domain and runs his own mail server. But all his local server does is act like an alias forwarding agent.  When mail arrives for jesse@jessedomain.com it consults its alias database and forwards the mail on to his Google Apps account and one of the restricted number of Google aliases.  Google doesn't have MX for his domain but it's set up to send mail as XX@jessedomain.com.

This is exactly what I wanted for myself and in fact tried a couple of times to get it to work.  It failed because I handed my primary MX to Google Apps. The first part of the trick is not to do that.  Keep your MX or use Google only as a fallback MX.

The question is if mail arrives at my server as steve@somedomain.com how can I forward it to a different steve@somedomain.com on Google Apps?  That's the second trick.

SMB+SSH: Ubuntu server and OSX client

Fri, 2014-06-13 01:04 -- admin

The title above is pretty close to the Google search query I used in vain to find a recipe for tunneling an OSX Samba client to an Ubuntu 14.04 server. Hopefully this post will save someone the hours I spent trying to set this up.

In the end, like so many Unix projects, the answer turned out to be simple. All that's needed is a configured and functioning Unix/Linux Samba and SSH server .   Everything else is on the client side.

I'm not unfamiliar with Samba. I ran it for years between a FreeBSD Unix server and Windows XT workstation. It had its quirks, and still does. When I dumped Windows for a shiny, new Mac Pro in 2009, I switched to NFS. But with each successive OSX upgrade, NFS got flakier to the point where it became useless so I returned to Samba.  But Samba is inherently insecure outside of a trusted LAN so for out-of-office occasions I started using SSHFS. Unfortunately, SSHFS relies on deprecated, third-party software on the OSX side and it was s..l..o..w.  My PHP Storm IDE was grinding through directory refreshes after Git checkouts.

With the release of OSX Mavericks 10.9, Apple announced that it was dumping yet another networking protocol -- it's own greybeard AFP. To replace it, they embraced SMB2. Or... ta da... Samba. Technically, SMB2 isn't officially Samba however OSX has unofficially supported Samba clients for several operating system releases.  Samba(tm) (the Unix server) is actually a product of the open source team at Samba.org.  SMB is an acronym for Server Message Block, which is a proprietary Microsoft protocol. Samba is built to the published white paper spec for SMB.  

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