Suggestions please for what POP or IMAP servers to use

Ted Mittelstaedt tedm at
Mon Dec 17 01:02:35 PST 2007

> -----Original Message-----
> From: Matt LaPlante [mailto:cyberdog3k at]
> Sent: Saturday, December 15, 2007 2:18 PM
> To: Ted Mittelstaedt
> Cc: Andrew Falanga; Rob; FreeBSD Questions
> Subject: Re: Suggestions please for what POP or IMAP servers to use
> >
> > It's a chicken and egg problem.
> >
> > There's nothing wrong with writing an extremely strict standard.
> > The issue is the implementation.
> >
> > If your server implementation is so strict that most clients have
> > difficulty, then users will find something else and your standard
> > will end up on the dustbin.
> >
> > It's better to start out with a strict standard and a forgiving
> > server implementation, then as it falls into mainstream use, work
> > with the client developers to correct their stuff.
> You've effectively described dovecot here. 

No, I haven't.

> Its codebase is perhaps
> designed to be very strict, however the same codebase also includes
> configurable 'workarounds' (enabled by default in many distros) for
> clients that are not up to spec.  They're trivial to toggle and well
> documented.

If you download and compile dovecot then is the default config template
that is shipped with it enable the workarounds?  No.  The excuse that
"enabled by default in many distros" is merely an excuse.  Nobody who
is serious about building a server for a lot of clients is going to
be using some precompiled version, they are going to compile from
source so that if a security hole is discovered they can patch it

IF the switches DISABLED the "lax" behavior, and the defaults in the config
templates were to not have the switches triggered, then it would meet the
definition of a forgiving server implementation.  But it doesen't even
go that far.
> So, this meets both criteria that it will "just work" with clients
> now, and the clients themselves could theoretically (good luck with
> Outlook) fix their code in the future.

Outlook works just fine in IMAP mode with uw-imap, both regular Outlook
and Outlook Express.

> As far as I'm concerned, it's
> a fairly ideal environment,

It is good you spell out that this is your personal ideal.

> and I'm glad the developer has gone to the
> trouble to 1) stick to standards in the core code and 2) made a point
> of documenting and providing workarounds for buggy clients.

It is a lot of extra work to encapsulate all the "alleged bugs"
in separate code so you can provide "switches" for stick-up-their
-asses-admins to flip.  That is work that should have gone into
speeding up the code.  It is utterly wasted effort unless your goal
is to allow admins who have penis envy the ability to jerk people around
for their choice of e-mail clients.

It isn't the mailserver administrator's business if Joe Idiot User
who doesen't know any better chooses to use Outlook 97 as an IMAP
client, to deny Joe Idiot access to the mailserver.  The admin does
not need to be playing silly games like this, setting up his server
so that only some clients can work with it, others can't, then telling
people their software of choice has bugs and fuck you, don't use it.

Programmers jobs are to makes things work for users.  If Mickeysoft's
programmers cannot write a decent IMAP client, then if the developer
of an IMAP server can write around the problem, then he should do it
and embed the fix in the server code without calling it out in a
config switch.

The situation is absolutely no different with hardware drivers.  Take
a look at for example the comments in the ne2000  (ed) driver code, or
the DEC/Intel 21143 network card driver code (or man page)  There are
a number of very badly borked up hardware implementations of those
network chipsets.  Yet, do the driver authors of the ed or dc
driver make the admins flip switches in the driver to make the driver
work with their particular borked-up chipset implementation?  No.
They write the driver code to work with all implementations, even
the borked up ones.

The dovecot author is engaged in technopolitics.  It is a very bad
thing to do.  Whether the authors of bad IMAP client software deserve
this is beside the issue.  You need to understand that the ONLY lever
that the Open Source community has to keep the giants like Microsoft
paying some kind of attention to published standards so that everyone's
stuff can interoperate, is the moral superiority lever.  In other words,
the Open Source community simply does not engage in predatory,
circle-the-wagons, use-my-stuff-or-else behavior.  We have worked a
LONG time to get to this point.  As a result of this, when there IS
a problem between the commercial stuff - like for example Microsoft's
Networking, and the Open Source stuff - like for example, SAMBA, 
everyone always assumes that the problem is due to the commercial
software companies breaking things - either deliberately, in which
case they look like assholes or sharks, or by accident, in which case
they look like incompetents.

Microsoft tested stuff like IE7 against Apache during IE7 development,
and they made damn sure that before IE7 was released, it worked with
Apache.  They knew that if it didn't, that everyone would blame them
because nobody can conceive of the Apache project deliberately writing
code into Apache that would break a web browser.  Why - because the
Apache developers are altruistic and don't play those games.  Do you
start to see how this works, now?

Apache certainly could do it the other way - the Dovecot author's way -
and set defaults that would break all IE versions, which Apache admins
would have to seek out and turn off.  If that happened then Microsoft
would quit bothering to test with Apache and just do whatever the hell
they felt like, and blame Apache for getting it wrong.  Since people
would know the Apache project was using the same tactics as Microsoft,
nobody would really trust that either party's interpretation of the
http standard was correct, and it would put most users and admins
into the position of being forced to choose between them and use all
open source stuff or all Microsoft stuff.  As the Open Source people
do not have the money that the commercial people do, ultimately they
would lose.

I'm sure a LOT of people out there both inside the commercial software
companies, and people like the Dovecot author, inside the Open Source
community, would enjoy seeing the software market polarized like this.
The newest version of the GNU license has this viewpoint, for example,
and I daresay it's driven by Linux popularity.  You see, Linux distros
have gotten popular enough that some of that community feel they don't
need to consider what the commercial software people are doing anymore.
To hell with them, let them eat software bugs, is the attitude.

FORTUNATELY, so far the BSD people have kept their cooler heads and
haven't adopted this attitude.  They have adopted the attitude that
I discussed at length in Chapter 10 of my FreeBSD book in the section
on the Microsoft Anti-trust trial.  In short, FreeBSD is better than
Windows because it's technically superior, and it's going to win
in the market because it's technically superior.  By contrast, Microsoft
has the image that they are a big greedy company that is more interested
in making a lot of money than winning based on technical superiority.
Ergo, their stuff is not very good.

Immediately after the MS Anti-Trust trial, of course, everyone
thought that the FreeBSD way was naieve, believing that since MS
was acquitted that the MS way was inevitable, as underhanded as
it was.

But then an interesting thing happened.  MS figured out about 6-12 months
after winning the trial, that they had effectively won the battle but
lost the war.  Looking back it's easy now to see that the huge increase
in Linux penetration of the market dated from the time of the ending
of the trial.  What was going on is that while Microsoft was still
growing in sales, they were not growing as fast as the market, and were
losing market share.  That is why MS eased Bill Gates out of the
spotlight, it is why they refocused and actually came out with a
server product - server 2003 - that really was superior to server 2000,
instead of the way it was before where server 2000 really wasn't much
better than NT4.  It is why MS has not filed any kind of legal 
proceedings against Linux even while claiming Linux infringes their
intellectual property - they know that such claims will continue to
be regarded as typical salesman bullshit as long as their lawyers don't
actually do anything to back them up.

In summary, MS realized that if you play in the market using dirty
tricks then eventually you destroy your credibility - and once that
happens, the only people who will buy anything from you are the
people who are being forced to - and they will hate doing it, and
will constantly be looking for a way to cut you out of the picture,
and eventually they will find it and you will be cut out of the
markets one little snip at a time.

It is a lesson that most in the FreeBSD community have learned.  It
is one that the author of Dovecot obviously has not learned and that
is a shame.


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