Monthly Archives: January 2015

OS X Yosemite Email Lists made easy

Posted on by .

I run a small bunch of sites from my home server, and one of the tasks I’d undertaken was to provide a Mailman-type list for one of my groups. I run OS X Server, which I really do like. However, in the past iterations it wasn’t entirely clear just how mailing lists played into the admin suite. What I ended up doing was installing Gnu Mailman and trying to wedge it into the server’s configs.

Not the best idea.

Although it worked initially, upkeep was a pain as I had to be careful not to get in Server.app’s way when it updates the varied config files through the system. I also decided to use the postfix files found in the default unix-y location of /etc/postfix. Since Server.app uses /Library/Server/Mail for it’s config and data, the whole setup ended up a delicate balancing act which ultimately proved to be too tedious.

I decided to update the server to Yosemite after it had a chance to “burn in” for a while. I figured I’d take a “wait and see” approach to how mailing lists would fare after the upgrade. What I really preferred was to let Server.app take control of my lists so I wouldn’t have to suffer through another bout with Mailman (which by itself is wonderful).

After updating, I took the time to review everything in Server.app looking for if and how it had deployed mail list support. As it turned out, I found that there was (and probably has been in the past) a ridiculously simple and elegant list solution built right into Groups!

I’m not kidding about ‘simple’ either. OS X’s email lists don’t have the rich features of Mailman, like remote administration, list archiving, summary mail or by-user list preferences. However if your main use case is to quickly disseminate info to a group of people, then it fills the bill quite nicely, and even pops in a Mailman-style list title to the subject line.

My list requirements

Some of the lists I was interested in setting up included:

  1. A Mailman-type distribution list for a local organization
  2. A couple email alias distributions for my wife and I
  3. All the typical hosting email aliases for all my domains (hostmaster, info, abuse, etc).

First off, a couple assumptions. I’m assuming that you have OS X Yosemite installed and configured with at least one domain that you will be using for your email lists.

Setting up your users

I started with the group’s mail lists. There were two lists I wanted to create: an all-members list and a list just for the board members. The first step is to add in the users.

Add in a user through Server.app's User panel

Adding in a user through Server.app’s User panel

Note that I’m not giving Joe Shmoe a home folder since he’s just a list member. This way, Joe won’t be able to log in to the server at all, which is what I want. You could assign him a home folder if you’re extending those capabilities to your list users.

Next, decide if this user will log into your mail server for their mail, or if you’ll forward any mail to the list to an outside email address. If you’re interested in the former, you’re good. To set up a forwarding email address to an external email (makes it easier for some users to just check their Gmail account, for example), then right-click the user from the User list and select “Edit Mail Options…”

For local delivery, leave the options set as they are by default. To forward any list mail to their external account, just select “Mail should be forwarded…” and enter their email address!

Forwarding email to an external address

Forwarding email to an external address

Bam! Add the rest of your users and we’ll move on to sertting up the group.

Setting up the group

An email list in Yosemite is nothing more than an email address attached to a group of people. Pure and simple. So all we need to do is set up a group, add all the users and put in a group email address.

From the Groups panel, click the plus sign at the bottom to add a new group.

Adding the group

Adding the group

Add a user-friendly group name, for you as the admin to identify easily. Setting the group name sets up the initial email address for the group. You can change this now or later. I just accept the defaults to start with. After the group is created, double click it to open up it’s editor.

The group editor

The group editor

Now that the group is created, we can add users and set up the rest of the options! Adding members is easy. Just click the + under the Members section and enter part of the name. Server.app fills in the rest. Now notice the Mailing Lists section. This is where we enter all the email addresses we want to associate to this group. As you can see, I’ve changed is slightly to include a dash for readability. You can add any number of aliases here, and any mail to them will be distributed to the members in the Members list. Voila! Easy-peasy!

Important note: If you want people outside the group to be able to mail the group, you need to check the “Allow mail from non group members” checkbox!

That’s it! Server.app will amend the virtual_domain and virtual_users files for postfix and set up all the required routing. In our example here, sending an email to “bash-bombers@mycooldomain.com” will result in postfix relaying a copy to Joe and Jane’s respective email addresses, either local or external.

Summary

Setting up basic mail lists in OS X Yosemite is really quite easy, and although there aren’t a lot of features, it’s quick and intuitive to set up lists and assign email addresses to them.

I hope this little guide was helpful!

#mikec

Happy New Year!

Posted on by .

Happy New Year 2015!

I like to approach the new year as a chance to reset expectations, set some long-term goals and to be able to put behind me all the less-than-favorable events that may have occured.

This year I’d really like to attack some of the resolutions I’ve had on the list for a while now. Most notably is getting back to education. Online schools are everywhere now, and I’d like to take advantage of my evenings to further my knowledge.

Here are some of the things I’m looking to finish, or at least get started, this year:

  • Start an online education plan
  • Get back to flying, and finish my IFR rating
  • Earn my Amateur Radio Extra rating
  • Get more involved in Emergency Services (radio)
  • Improve my fitness/health

Some other things I’d like to accomplish, but aren’t really “resolution” material, is that I’d like to buy an RV trailer, work on genealogy and travel more.

I hope this year sees some global improvement, especially on the geopolitical front. Russia, the MIddle East, North Korea and China have all been worrying me these past couple years. With the rise of ISIS, the surprising increase in Chinese spending on military infrastructure, Russia’s brazen coup in Crimea and the increase of religious violence, the world stage has been shaky at best.

On the local political front, I’ll worry about the possibility of the Republicans gaining the White House in two years. For now, I’m hoping that the Lame Duck congress won’t completely undermine progress. I’ll file that desire under “pipe dreams”.

Here in Tracy, I look forward to a year of more work on the house. We’ve been thinking about what to do next, and the possibilities include back yard landscaping, a kitchen remodel and a large homebuilt office project (wall-to-wall built-in library!).

As for personal projects, I’d love to build up a home cockpit for IFR practice, and also for flying the DCS sim, some more goodies for the ham radio station, and at least ONE completed iOS app for my portfolio.

Best wishes to all!