My own mail server


#1

I recently set up a mail server (complete with SMTP, IMAP, POP protocols and a roundcube webmail interface) on my own home server (an ancient ~10 year old Pentium 4 laptop). I have accounts for myself and a few close friends with whom I communicate by mail frequently.

It feels so liberating to send mail without gmail. Even with PGP encryption, gmail can still read the Subject from the mail headers. Besides, they would also have metadata about time of communication, social graph, etc.

Currently, gmail and other mail servers will not accept mail from my server. This is because my internet connection is a standard dynamic DNS broadband (ADSL) connection, and for fear of spam they do not authorize these IPs to send mail. This does seem like internet censorship to me. It makes more sense to use greylisting and good client side spam filtering instead of outright censoring mail like this. Anyways, I plan to move to a static IP connection soon, and should be able to solve this problem.

The few close friends who have accounts on my server are the people I communicate most with, and the fact that google can no longer know what I talk to them is a very good thing for my privacy. Also, I have set my own mail server email address as the notification address for this discourse forum as well. So, even the notifications from this forum, I get via my own mail server. Needless to say, this is really cool!

I post this here because there seems to be a prevalent view that running home servers is too difficult and it takes an IaaS provider to maintain good uptime. I have successfully run my home server for 2 to 3 years now with a number of other services as well. Things haven’t been perfect, things haven’t always been easy, but at the end of the day, I was able to do it sufficiently well enough. Therefore, I think that more of us should try and emulate this model.

For “normal” non-computer people, there are projects like FreedomBox, arkOS and own-mailbox that we must contribute to and promote.

There are several privacy/freedom respective mail services as well, but I don’t think they will ever be able to scale to millions of users like google servers can. We would only be putting too much load on a few people if we take that route. It makes more sense and is definitely better for freedom to have a decentralized internet.

Thank you for reading. Comments and questions please.


Freedombox Demo at SFLC Conference
#2

How costly would static IP be?


#3

The cheapest static IP plan on BSNL broadband is at Rs. 2000 per annum on a Rs. 1275 per month plan.

http://www.bsnl.co.in/opencms/bsnl/BSNL/services/broadband/BB_combo_unlim.html


#5

I am slowly transitioning away from google services myself. Have you heard of proton mail? They provide encrypted mail services. But of course, if someone sends a mail to google without encryption - they will be able to get all the details. As you already mentioned.

People are always under the impression that getting things up and running is tough. I think FSMK Sunday sessions usually drive that notion away. If you have a blog on it, please do share. It will be much easier for others and of course me.

On privacy itself, people here (India) - either don’t what it is or don’t care about. "I haven’t done anything wrong, I don’t care". Ironically such things can be educated only on platforms like Facebook, google+ or any similar to that.

I am doing some analysis on how privacy is being taken away from such platforms - starting from privacy policies and of course “terms & conditions”. I have joined Facebook just a few days back just to learn about the same. It’s pretty interesting when one downloads the Facebook data. The ip address, the cookies, the conversations are all available. And I want to analyse on the same. Should be interesting.

I know I’ve mentioned things that are far away from owning a mail server. But since privacy was in the topic, I thought it would be good to point out.


#6

Yes, I’ve heard of ProtonMail. It’s a worthy effort. But, still, personal mail servers are more elegant due to their distributed nature.

It’s a good effort, and I sure hope it succeeds. But, I think the FSMK sunday school sessions need some drastic improvements in quality. There is a lot of energy, but sometimes, I feel there is a lack of maturity/experience in handling larger projects. I do hope this will come in time.

The server runs Parabola GNU/Linux (an FSF approved derivative of Arch Linux). I am currently running a web server (with dokuwiki, owncloud, roundcube and my own custom emacs org mode based static blog), XMPP, mail, SSH and LDAP (for some kind of single sign on). The hardware is a 10 year old HP Pentium 4 laptop which I salvaged almost from trash.

I seldom blog on the software side of my server. There are just too many tutorials/guides on those kind of things. Perhaps, there is no consolidated single guide, but there are so many scattered here and there. My main guides are the Arch Wiki and the various project manuals.

If you wish to understand and acquire these command line and system administrator skills, I strongly recommend using a minimal and programmer friendly distro like Arch or Gentoo. Ubuntu and Debian are good for the end user, but make everything look like magic and thus is quite intimidating to the programmer or someone trying to understand the system.

On the other hand, if you do not wish to acquire such skills, try to get something like Freedombox up and running. That should be pretty simple.

Though I do think basic command line knowledge is a must for everybody (especially, CS/IT people), I do not think mastery of the system administration is. Some of the details are just too arcane, specialized, and not really worth knowing if you have other priorities in life. For example, something like setting up a web server is dead simple. But, piecing together a mail stack (SMTP - say, exim; POP/IMAP - say, dovecot; webmail - say, roundcube) manually is way more complicated than it appears.

Incidentally, my home server is powered by solar power. I have a great interest in renewable energy, sustainability, etc. I might be working soon on some of my own electronic hardware for this. Once my hardware systems mature a bit, I will blog about them, and of course release designs.

I often cite this excellent article when someone says this. I believe @Chaitanya first posted this article on the FSMK Telegram group.

Your work seems interesting. I am eager to hear about it. Do share your work and results when you’re done.

That’s ok. :smile:


#7

@arunisaac - Here is what I came up with in the end. Set of 3 articles. It’s a simple thing.

The top 3 articles is what I worked on. What do you think?


#8

You are documenting your struggles with facebook addiction (that’s similar to smoking addiction and such). I appreciate the effort you are putting in. I wish you luck and hope that one day you will dump Facebook altogether! :thumbsup: Maybe use GNU Social, Friendica or something…

And one other technical point:

You mentioned in one of your posts that Facebook can identify your physical address (MAC address). I don’t think MAC address ever leaves the subnet you are on. Please check that up.


#9

[quote]I don’t think MAC address ever leaves the subnet you are on. Please check that up.
[/quote]

Yes, you are right. I made a mistake there. I was thinking on high scale privacy breach. I guess it’s possible if one’s router is compromised?

And I am not struggling with Facebook. I joined it only to get some conclusions. I was just really curious. And through all the great policies - once a person has uploaded themselves on the internet, it is really tough to erase oneself from the internet.

But not taking measures to protect the identity is much more stupid.