Getting serious about email

The epic tale of how my new mail setup was born

My personal email has been on a rough ride over the years: from a reasonably nice (Microsoft based!) school email setup in 1999, which sadly got removed when Windows 98 was introduced, I went through three Hotmail accounts. I had a brief flirtation with GMail, but not being all that keen on the means of delivering advertising, I ended up back on Hotmail.

Registering dnorth.net last year at least ensured my email address would no longer change, but the technical capabilities of the two mail servers holding the mail still left much to be desired: flaky, unreliable spam scoring, no facilities for server-side filtering/sorting, sheer lack of customisability…

Last week, I finally did something about it. At my disposal was my VPS, running Debian Linux 4 (‘etch’). On the wishlist were:

  • Accurate server-side spam scoring with SMTP-time rejection of the most obvious spam
  • Sender verification
  • Sieve filters for server-side sorting into folders
  • All mail stored on the server and accessible over secure IMAP

Thankfully, none of the above is too difficult: some pretty good instructions are Out There for most of it. The ones I used were:

Please remember, I am not responsible for the content of external sites (e.g., the links above), nor can I accept any responsibility for the consequences of acting on the points below…

I ran into a couple of issues:

  • Permissions on the .sievesource files generated by AvelSieve – I needed to chmod g+w on /var/lib/squirrelmail/data and chown it to www-data:www-data in order to reach a state where Exim could read the file, and Avelsieve could write it.
  • Exim4’s native sieve implementation only has the core features in it, not the extensions defined in RFC 3431. I dodged the issue by matching the number of *s in the X-Spam-Score header using string matching, rather than numeric checks on the X-Spam-Score.

All in all, though, it’s working a treat. Email perfection at last!