[Mailman-Users] Mailman

Hank van Cleef vancleef at lostwells.net
Sun May 3 19:27:25 CEST 2009

The esteemed Mike Hughes has said:
> I have a mailing list that has been running under Mailman. Another  
> fellow has been hosting the mailing list for me. I would like to begin  
> doing so myself. I have a computer available for the task. What Linux  
> version will work best? What will I need to do to set up mailman?
> Mike  Hughes - Minister  
> Wilmington church of Christ

I think you need answers to two questions here, and the first is more
significant than the second.

1.  Are you prepared to set up what is essentially an in-house ISP
connected directly to the Internet backbone?

2. Can you do Unix/Linux system administration from the command line?

As to which Linux system is best, I'd say that there are several that
are, in the end, about equal.  As I recall, several of them offer an
already-compiled mailman package which you can install.  You will also
need a Python, a Mail Transfer Agent (Postfix, Qmail, sendmail), an 
Apache WEB server, and should have at least a local caching DNS server 
(bind) in addition to Mailman.  

Services you will need from an upstream internet backbone provider
1.  At least one fixed IP with an unfiltered feed both ways for at
least ports 25 (SMTP mail) and 80 (Web).  
2.  Registered domain name with DNS A, MX, and PTR records for your
IP.  Your upstream feed will have to set up the PTR record.  

You'll need to set up local security.  A bare as-installed Linux/Unix 
system on the Internet backbone is like parking a new Mercedes in
Chicago, unlocked, with the keys in it.  Easiest solution is to use a
hardware firewall between your Linux box and the backbone feed.  A
major factor in your setup will be dealing with spam mail, which is
primarily done in firewall and MTA configuration. 

You'll also need to consider hardware availability and reliability,
and failure recovery. That means having backup resources.  

Now, to give you a ferinstance, I run an independent Mailman server as
a post-retirement "hobby" site from a bedroom in my house.  The
primary server is a Sun SPARC running Solaris, connected to the
backbone through a Fortigate 60 firewall.  MTA is sendmail, Web server
is Apache and I have a caching DNS on the same box, using program
resourced that come in the Solaris distribution.  My Python and
Mailman installation are local builds from (locally modified) source.  
Traffic is about 150 e-mails/day to 1500 users.  I've been online 
with this setup for about three years.  

For backup, I take daily incremental backups onto tape, and have a
second Sun box with the same setup which gets refreshed weekly, so
that it can be brought online in minutes if the primary server fails.

My upstream feed provider is a small local outfit.  It's a plus for
them to have a pro-adminstered Solaris site on their net, so getting 
IP's, PTR records, and an unfiltered feed was pretty straightforward
and quick.  Your Mileage May Vary on that one.  I did have to pass
what was essentially an employment interview on my administration

I figure on spending about an hour a day reading logs, looking for
trouble, doing list administration, etc.  That's ongoing overhead; any
time spent upgrading hardware or software, diagnosing and solving
problems, etc. is additional.  


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