The sys admin's daily grind: RoundCube
Charly has a web mailer on his server just for family and friends. Last weekend he ditched the overly simplistic SquirrelMail for a Web 2.0 program.
For many years, my faithful root server has held the email accounts of my family and a few friends. Some of them had their problems with fat clients like Thunderbird, and they simply used a web mailer to handle their mail. At the time, I selected SquirrelMail  for this, primarily for ease of use. After all these years, it's still hard to beat SquirrelMail on this account – the user interface is simple, and the SquirrelMail Project team has reduced it to the bare essentials.
However, my users, who had become increasingly demanding over the years, were living with a number of inconveniences, including recurring security issues, especially of late. Fortunately, SquirrelMail isn't the only web mailer on the planet, and last weekend, RoundCube  finally succeeded the Squirrel.
Although the fairly low version number, 0.2.2, might make you think otherwise, RoundCube turns out to be an extremely mature and stable application that can look back on many years of development history.
A web-based installer, which warns you about unresolved dependencies, facilitates the installation process. RoundCube needs a database; the installer will accept MySQL, PostgreSQL, and SQLite, and it comes with scripts that create the required table structures.
In another configuration step, you need to enter the mail transport data, including the SMTP server, IMAP server, default domain, and locale. After doing so, the installer creates two configuration files: one for the database parameters and another for the web mailer configuration proper. After moving both to RoundCube's web path, you are ready to rumble.
Nice to Have
The user interface is pleasingly tidy, with just the right amount of AJAX support, and it is intuitive to use (see Figure 1). The ability to load elements embedded in email is disabled by default for security reasons. Multiple SMTP identities can be configured per user – not that anybody needs this on my server, but it's nice to have.
Conveniently, RoundCube searches your address book for a target address while you are still typing. At least it saves some typing and the occasional inevitable error. If you look at the address book, you can see some potential improvements for future versions. For example, the address import and export function only supports the vCard format right now, and I can't aggregate contacts to create groups.
On the other hand, attachment handling is simple; RoundCube even has a spell checker. If you are still having problems, the support forums and a documentation wiki are close at hand .
For now, I'm looking forward to seeing whether my co-users are just as impressed as I am, or whether they will want their SquirrelMail back – no matter how spartan it might be.
Buy this article as PDF
Mozilla’s product think tank sinks silently into history.
TODO group will focus on open source tools in large-scale environments.
New tool will look like GParted but support a wider range of storage technologies.
New public key pinning feature will help prevent man-in-the-middle attacks.
Carnegie Mellon researchers say 3 million pages could fall down the phishing hole in the next year.
The US government rolls new best-practice rules for protecting SSH.
Klaus Knopper announces the latest version of his iconic Live Linux system.
All websites that use these popular CMS tools could be vulnerable to denial of service attacks if users don't install the updates.
According to a report, many potential victims of the Heartbleed attack have patched their systems, but few have cleaned up the crime scene to protect themselves from the effects of a previous intrusion.
DARPA and NICTA release the code for the ultra-secure microkernel system used in aerial drones.