This page is here to explain my involvement with a qmail "distribution" called "qmailrocks". The short version is this:
Back in 1999, I started maintaining a combined patch for qmail. Sometime in the 2001-2002 time frame, I added that patch to my web site.
The author of qmailrocks found it, and decided to use it for his "distribution."
For a while, I was on the qmailrocks mailing list, but I reached a point where I could no longer deal with the incessant flood of stupid questions from people who were too lazy to read the documentation which came with the software they were running. When I reached this point, I started my own list and quietly left the qmailrocks list.
I am not, and have never been, responsible for the content (such as it is) of the qmailrocks web site, or the directions it contains. And to be honest, I'm tired of people thinking that I am responsible for it, asking me questions about it, and blaming me for how badly it sucks.
What follows is a fuller explanation of what happened.
In July 2004, I received an email from Eric Siegel, the author of the qmailrocks.org web site, telling me that he had decided to base his "qmailrocks" thing around my combined patch, and asking if I minded him using it on the site, if I wanted to be "officially" affiliated with the site, and asking for a quick list of everything which was in the patch at the time.
I had never seen the site, and had only heard the name "qmailrocks" once before, but I certainly didn't mind him using it... and in terms of being officially affiliated with the site, i was "kinda" okay with it, but I also sent him a few minor corrections for the site- some of which were added right away, and some of which never did get added.
At the time, I looked at the site and saw that there was a mailing list for it, so I tried to join, but I never got the confirmation message (i.e. the "click here to confirm you wish to join" message.) I didn't think much of it until almost a year later, when I tried to join again, and then discovered that the hosting company where the qmailrocks.org server lived, used to be a "safe haven" for spammers and was on my personal blacklist, although they had since cleaned up their act. Once I removed them from the blacklist, I was able to join the list with no problems.
Once I got on the list, I noticed that most of the people on the list seemed to have absolutely no idea what they were doing with their servers. They would ask questions about how to configure something, and when I answered with an explanation of what to put into a certain control file, their next question would be something like "how do I edit a text file"... something which demonstrated that they had no idea how to administer their operating system to begin with, let alone a mail server.
So I took another look at the qmailrocks web site- and after a few hours I realized the three basic problems with qmailrocks:
The web site doesn't explain how to build a mail server, it explains how to run Eric's scripts.
Unfortunately, some of those scripts were very poorly written (Eric admitted in one of his first emails to me that he wasn't a qmail expert) and a few of them did things which were just plain wrong.
The web site doesn't teach the reader how to administer the server that the script builds.
Nor does it refer the reader to the documentation, other web sites, or any other resource from which they could learn how to administer the server.
The web site has one single download, a tarball which contains the actual software packages, along with the scripts.
This means that, even though the software packages themselves had been upgraded since Eric made the qmailrocks tarball, people who followed his web site were installing old versions of most of the packages- including an old version of my combined patch.
By the time I realized all this, Eric had taken on more business, and gotten engaged, and basically didn't have time to fix anything on the web site, let alone totally re-write it as the educational site it really needs to be. And as of the time I'm writing this (March 2008) a fourth problem has surfaced: Eric seems to have abandoned qmailrocks. It has not been updated in over two years now.
One of the biggest problems, of course, is the users who seem to be drawn toward qmailrocks to begin with. If they would LOOK AT the web site, they would notice the dates on the downloads, and probably wonder why the files were over two years old- and if they were really curious, they would look around on the net and find out that just about every package qmailrocks installs has been upgraded several times, in some cases in very major ways.
But the typical qmailrocks user seems to be somebody who's just looking for an easy way out, somebody who wants to click one button and magically have a working mail server. The problem with this is that qmail is not that simple to begin with. In order to effectively administer a qmail server, you need to understand how to administer they underlying operating system, how email works, and how qmail works.
Most qmailrocks users seem to be lacking in some or all of this knowledge, but because the qmailrocks web site has convinced them that qmail is "easy", they don't realize it until the first time their server breaks, or they need to configure something that Eric's scripts didn't set up for them.
So, rather than reading the documentation which came with the packages, or doing a simple Google search for whatever they need help with, they get on the qmailrocks mailing list and ask the same dumb questions that people on the list have heard, hundreds of times now.
On a normal mailing list devoted to a piece of software, the questions which show up over and over again would be added to a FAQ document- a set of Frequently Asked Questions and their answers, which people on the mailing list are expected to have read before posting on the list. There is certainly a set of questions which show up again and again, but since Eric never gave anybody else access to maintain the web site, there was no way to create or maintain a FAQ document.
There were a few attempts to create FAQ documents on other web sites, and many of the pages on my web site are detailed answers to the questions I used to see over and over again on the list- but because nobody was able to put a real FAQ document on the qmailrocks.org web site, users never got a chance to look at it until they showed up on the mailing list and started asking questions.
I was on the qmailrocks list for over two years, and during that time I found several people who DID have the pre-requisite knowledge about how to run their servers, and who DID take the time to understand what they were doing with qmail. These people gave me a lot of good ideas, which ended up being added to newer versions of the combined patch.
For a while, it seemed like the qmailrocks mailing list was actually a support list for my combined patch. And as long as Eric didn't mind his list being used for this other purpose, I was happy to use it as such.
However, there was always a constant flood of people who had found qmailrocks, followed the directions on the web site, and either had trouble with the directions, needed help with the server that the qmailrocks script had built for them, or wanted to use a newer version of the combined patch with Eric's scripts (which did NOT work, since Eric's scripts added another patch after mine- a patch which I specifically told him not to use, because it didn't do what it claimed to do, and it removed one of the security checks I had added to the code.)
After almost two years on the list, in December 2007, I finally reached the point where I just couldn't deal with the incessant flood of stupid questions on the list. Following the advice of several friends, I created my own list, which is dedicated to my combined patch, rather than to qmailrocks, and quietly left the qmailrocks list. I had thought about sending a final "goodbye message" to the qmailrocks list, but to be honest I couldn't think of a message which wouldn't sound like so much screaming and complaining about idiots- so I figured it made more sense to just walk away quietly.
The page http://qmail.jms1.net/lists/ has information about my lists, including how to join and how to access the archives.
The page also has links to the rules for the list- rules which, if you join, you are expected to follow. The list exists to discuss my combined patch, as well as qmail systems built around my patch and/or the scripts on my site. It is NOT there to ask for help with qmailrocks, with qmail built from some other set of directions, or to answer questions which can be answered by reading the documentation which comes with the various packages, or on the web.
Basically, I don't want my list to degrade to the level of stupidity which seems to be so prevalent on the qmailrocks list. On my list, you are expected to know how to administer your operating sytem without a lot of hand-holding, and you are expected to have read the documentation available with the source code packages, as well as on my web site and the Life with qmail web site. You are also expected to not ask dumb questions.
I've been contacted by several people who say they're going to write a qmail install guide, either as an upgrade to, or a replacement for, qmailrocks, and who want my help or advice about it. That's easy:
Don't write scripts. Write documentation.
The problem is that people are, by nature, lazy. If you write a script, you are making it possible for somebody to RUN that script without even looking at it, and without understanding what they're doing- which means that when the resulting server breaks (as all servers do), they won't have a clue how to fix it.
The focus needs to be on TEACHING people how qmail works. Giving them a list of the packages, where to download them, and a very quick run-down of what each one does, is fine- as long as you also tell them to spend some time reading the web sites and documentation for each package.
Make sure YOU understand it all first.
I've seen a LOT of web sites out there, written by people who truly don't understand how qmail works, and which therefore spread a lot of bad information.
It's very obvious to most people that qmailrocks needs help- it needs to be upgraded, if not replaced by a totally different site. However, one of the big problems with qmailrocks is that, when he wrote the site, Eric was NOT and expert with qmail (and he admits this.)
PLEASE- if you don't understand qmail well enough to walk though downloading, patching, compiling, installing, and administering qmail, without looking at any kind of reference material on your own, DON'T try to write a qmail web site. Spend the time learning more about qmail and how it works, and administering your own server (and other peoples' servers, if that's part of your job.) Eventually you will reach the point where you ARE enough of an expert to write a web site- and when that happens, your site will be a respected resource for qmail, rather than yet another crappy web site spreading bad information.
As a basis for comparison... I've been using qmail, and administering qmail-based mail servers for ISPs and private clients, since April 1998- and even I don't claim to know it all.