Help me administer Mac OSX Mail Server
April 22, 2009 1:18 PM   Subscribe

Help me administer a mail server on OS X.

Some friends and I have run a small web / database / email server for several years. Originally it was Linux, which I'm relatively familiar with; a while back we moved to OS X (Server) at the behest of one of the guys. Now for various reasons his availability for server admin duties is severely curtailed, and I'd like to pick up the slack rather than pestering him with questions.

Most pressing is the email server. I have no idea how to run it. I've tracked down pages like this, and I'll continue to search the Apple website, but any third-party FAQs or HOWTOs would be very appreciated. Even the really basic stuff, like: what is the name of the mail server process / executable(s), and where are their config files? What logs should I check when there are errors? Basically, help me approach the OSX server utilities with my Linux-based brain.

An additional level of difficulty is presented by the fact that I'll be doing any admin 100% at the command line; I don't have a Mac and so I lack the GUI server tools.
posted by rkent to Computers & Internet (6 answers total)
Run VNC, that'll get you into a GUI and around the lack of OS X Admin Tools.
What version of X Server are you running? 10.3 is a much different beast than 10.5.
posted by now i'm piste at 1:33 PM on April 22, 2009

Response by poster: See, I don't even know all the right questions to ask. Our server version is:
System Version: Mac OS X Server 10.5.3 (9D34)
Kernel Version: Darwin 9.3.0
posted by rkent at 1:36 PM on April 22, 2009

If you can get your hands on a Mac (remember, you can install admin tools on any Mac to access the server), here's the server guide:
There's no CLI help in there, but does a decent enough job of using the GUI if you can get there. VNC is another options and will allow you GUI access, though I've found it runs sluggishly.

Also check out where some Apple devs have been known to hang out- it has a decent forums section where you might have some luck asking your question.
posted by jmd82 at 1:37 PM on April 22, 2009

Mac OS X Server uses postfix as an MTA. Use the serveradmin tool to edit postfix settings from the command line, as well as stop and start the service. Read Chapter 12 of Apple's Mac OS X Server 10.5 Command Line Administration book.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 2:32 PM on April 22, 2009

I have to second the advice to VNC into the server whenever possible, and run the GUI admin tools right there on the server itself. Yes, you CAN basically do everything by command-line, but you run the very real risk of seriously confusing the GUI tools if you ONLY do CLI administration all the time. I've had success doing a mix of both, but you can't get too crazy with it if you want to leave the door open for being able to use the GUI tools down the road.

The ideal rule of thumb is: If the GUI admin tools can do it, just do it that way. If it can't, THEN do it at command-line. (There isn't too much the GUI can't do, at least if you're set up as an "advanced" server configuration, and the stuff it can't do mainly has to do with extending functionality of what's already there -- e.g., adding DKIM to Postfix or something.)

Some good step-by-step how-tos on really customizing and extending Postfix on OS X Server can be found on TopicDesk. They do consulting, but they provide a lot of free how-to information on there for the DIYer, as well.
posted by CommonSense at 2:46 PM on April 22, 2009

Nthing the VNC server idea - you can do everything using the serveradmin command line, but it can be something of a PITA. Even if you do go down that route you might still want/need to look at the GUI now and again.

Apple has a built-in VNC server that you can activate (although some of the third party ones might be faster, the Apple one will at least get you started). See this article for the kickstart command, although do note the comment that says you may not need to encode the password and can just pass it in as plaintext.
posted by agentmunroe at 4:04 PM on April 22, 2009

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