[Pkg-exim4-users] Exim.conf file

Alex King alex at king.net.nz
Wed Apr 5 22:20:37 UTC 2006

On Wed, Apr 05, 2006 at 09:30:23AM +0200, Jeremiah Foster wrote:
> Andreas,
> Just because someone disagrees with you or the debian maintainer does
> not mean they are a troll. I have discussed the debian exim package with
> a number of experienced UNIX admins and many agree that they debian exim
> package is broken. Yours is a typical debian user's attitude though; use

The debian configuration is not broken.  The debian configuration is a
great way to use exim for the needs of debian.  As has already been
pointed out, if you wish to use a hand-crafted configuration file, you

I first used exim when it came as the packaged default in debian sytems
(exim3).  Because I needed to use it in some moderately complex
setups and it came with a simple flat-file configuration in those days,
I got to know the exim spec (upstream docs) throughly and got very adept
at writing new routers/directors etc. to suit my needs.

When first installing debian exim4 packages I was confused with the
complexity of the new debian configuration system.  I guess that is
where your "experienced UNIX admins" are at.  However, I read the debian
docs and discovered that I could bypass all that apparant complexity by
simply installing an /etc/exim4/exim4.conf file.  I used the upstream
script to convert my exim3 configs to exim4 configs, which is inexact
and needs to be checked carefully.  (Having said that, it worked well
for me.)

Subsequently, I've re-investigated the "complex" debian setup, and I am
using the debian split config system on new systems I install.  After a
little time spent learning about it, I find it is actually an excellent
system to work with.  I am in the process of converting my manual
exim4.conf files on the different servers I administer to the debian
split configuration.

The main advantage I see is that I limit my input into the configuration
to only those specific snipets of the config file that are specific to
my site(s).  For the majority of the configuration file, I use the
package default configuration which gives me the combined effort of the
debian exim4 package maintainers, and review by everyone who reviews the
debian packages.  The quality of this part of the configuration is
undoubtedly higher that what I would typically produce myself.  I also
get the advantage that I can benefit from improvements to the
configuration (security upgrades or potentially enhanced functionality)
on upgrade without having to write those into the exim4.conf myself.

> pejorative expletives and name-calling rather than referring to the
> facts. A quick look at the volume of traffic on the exim mailing list
> versus this list will show any impartial observer that the vast majority
> of exim users do not use debian.

I suspect the majority of exim users are in fact debian users.  However,
there is little point in trying to debate this point unless you have
some data to back up your assertion.  Comments like this make me assume
you are trolling, contrary to your assertion above.

I certainly post more to the exim list than here, because I more often
have a question that is not debian specific, but is simply a query about
how a paticular router works, or some other configuration detail.  Just
because I post to the exim list doesn't mean I compiled from a tarball.
On the contrary, I've always used packaged software whenever possible.
I find that in administering a number of servers, it is far less work in
the long run to run the pre-packaged software than custom installs.
When a security problem needs to be addressed or an upgrade done on many
machines, a few apt-get runs beats many hours of work required to
download, compile, test and  update configuration on multiple machines,
or alternatively create and maintain a parallel system to handle
co-ordinated updates on multiple machines.

> On Tue, 2006-04-04 at 19:33 +0200, Andreas Metzler wrote:
> > On 2006-04-03 Jeremiah Foster <jeremiah.foster at gmail.com> wrote:
> > > Personally I think this is a good idea for two reasons:
> > 
> > > 	1. It is easier to install the exim package from exim directly 
> > > 	and not have to mess with the debian set up.
> > 
> > BS. Compare:
> > 
> > apt-get install exim4-daemon-heavy
> > $EDITOR /etc/exim4/exim4.conf
> > 
> You actually left out some steps: answering questions in debconf for
> example, running update-exim.conf, building /etc/aliases. These things
> are hard to do when you use the debian package beacause the debian
> package does not compare in quality or clarity to the exim package.

I think you simply need to acknowledge when you make a mistake.  I
believe it is unquestionally easier to install the exim4 packages on a
debian system than to go through the download tarball/compile/install
routine, and you can use a hand crafted /etc/exim4/exim4.conf just as
you would with the install from the tarball.  A few debconf questions
shouldn't be intimidating to a debian user.

I think the real issue is that you don't understand the debian
configuration system and now easy it is to work around it if you wish.
I think there is also an issue here that the documentation
(/usr/share/doc/exim4-base/README.Debian.gz) is not that well organised,
and it could be clearer.  Most of the information that people need is
there, if they take the time to read and understand it.  However, more
could be done to help convey this information more clearly and
completely.  I think that the upstream exim documentation is excellent
and is probably of a higher standard than the debian specific
documentation.  Patches are welcome I assume.

However, the quality of the debian packaging and configuration system
itself is excellent.  I would be interested to know exactly what you
have against the debian packages.

> > with
> > 
> > download tarball
> > setup EDITME, selecting the wanted features
> > install build-dependcies
> > compile
> > install
> > $EDITOR /etc/exim4/exim4.conf
> > 
> > cu and- am I feeding a troll? -reas
> When building from the upstream source one is forced to read the exim
> docs and therefor one learns much more about exim and how it works. The
> debian "magic" obscures important information.

This is by design.  When installing the debian package, a user can set
the system up to provide an MTA service for a local workstation, or even
as a "workgroup" SMTP server, by only answering a few simple debconf
questions.  The resulting install/configuration is secure and robust.
They do not need to be concerned with the complexity of exim

Of course if they need a more complex MTA setup, they need to learn
about exim configuration from the exim spec.  They will then find they
can take control of the exim4.conf file manually, or they can augment
the installed debian configuration.  They can choose to have the best of
both worlds - the convinience of the debian packages and the full
control of the system through a through understanding of exim.

I think overall the debian packages have done an excellent job,
producing excelent quality packages that in general sould be the first
choice for debian systems unless there are some really unusual
requriements.  As I tend to find with debian packages, you may have to
dig into the documentation a little to unserstand it properly.  But
overall, the packagers should be praised for their great work.  It's
certainly been really useful to me.



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