Emergency Server!

[sc:internet-category ]In southern Ontario last week a big ice store came through and took out power and Internet connections for many.  I managed to survive with only a 25 hour power outage, which while annoying, was not a huge deal overall.  Since the storm, my internet connection has been a little unreliable, but was working in general.  A week later it’s gone and hasn’t come back 🙁

This was not a huge surprise to me, a tree limb had come down on the cable coming in to my house and stretched it more than I thought it would survive.  However after a few more days I guess it finally gave up the ghost.  Unfortunately that means a service call from Rogers and with the backlog from the storm, at 6 days before they can get out to me.

If I was just a normal user, that would be unfortunate, but not the end of the world.  As I’m running my mail server on that connection, 6 days is far too long to go without!

Fortunately I do have a few friends that are up and running and I’ve managed to borrow a connection that I can run a server on until I get back up.  However there was no way I was taking my entire AD/Exchange environment to their place to run so I need to build something that would do for a while.

I decided it that this was a good time to try out Zarafa in a ‘production’ environment.  The first step was to grab a piece of hardware to run it.  I still had my Acer Timeline 1810T, which is a fine little box to run as a server.


First up was installing Ubuntu.  I had a copy of 12.04 already burned so I used that, it was the 32bit version which was fine as the Timeline only had 4g of RAM anyway.

In a earlier post I mentioned some of the things you needed to do to make it livable, and I’ve found a few more:

  • SSH isn’t installed by default, who in their right mind doesn’t install this by default in this day and age?
  • By default, the login prompt does not include root, only “users” on the system.  This is good and bad.  Good in the fact that usually you shouldn’t be logging in as root, but bad as if you need to you can’t do it from the GUI.

Now some may be saying that root login isn’t such a big deal, but let me tell you.  While setting up the system something corrupted my user profile, each time I tried to login it just lopped back to the login page.

That’s a problem when its the only admin account other than root 🙂

Fortunately you can still use the virtual terminals (accessed through Ctl-Alt-F1, etc.) to get to a command shell and login as root.  You can always get back to the GUI login through Ctl-Alt-F7.

Of course the first thing you do here is to re-enable root to be able to login through the GUI, this article takes you through the required changes.

Fixing my user account came down to a simple delete and re-create.

The support Zarafa, several other packages are required, including Postfix, MySQL, Apache and others.  These are all available through the Ubuntu Software Manager and installed without issue.


The Zarafa Community Hub is the place to go to get the open source version of Zarafa.  I pulled down the 32bit version and followed the install instructions.  Everything went smoothly until the Postfix integration step, which don’t exist in the install section.  There is a very confusing section later on in the manual that talks about Postfix, but this is not very clear at all.

A better set of instructions are in the help area, however even they are missing an important item.  You have to make the vmail user an admin in Zarafa (edit the Zarafa config file, it even uses vmail as an example in the comments).

After the install and a reboot I noticed that the server didn’t come back up automatically.  Turns out that it tries to start before the MySQL database is up.  I’ve always hated *nix startup scripts and instead of finding the “right” solution of getting the boot order right, I just added a quick “sleep 15” to the start of the Zarafa server init script, which solved the problem.

Finally I had to setup the outbound mail configuration.  Rogers blocks port 25 outbound (not inbound fortunately) and require you to use their SMTP server with authentication.  There’s a good set of instructions on how to setup authenticated mail forwarding with post here.

The last item of note is IMAP access.  By default Zarafa disableds IMAP so you have to go and enabled in the config file.

Outstanding Items

This leaves a few items outstanding:

  • No SSL certs:  I didn’t bother to move my SSL certs over for web and mail access as this should only be a short term solution.  I’ll use SSH to tunnel in to the server and get to the web interface to read my mail for the time being.
  • No ActiveSync support:  Again, just couldn’t be bothered to install it without an SSL cert.
  • No Web server:  I don’t have much on my home web server, but there are a few things I’ll miss for a few days.  If it gets too bad I’ll move my web data over.
  • No Spam filter:  I have a custom spam filter setup on my standard server, I haven’t moved it over but if the spam gets too bad I will later in the week.

But at least mail is back up and running!

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Greg is the head cat at JumbleCat, with over 20 years of experience in the computer field, he has done everything from programming to hardware solutions. You can contact Greg via the contact form on the main menu above.

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Greg is the head cat at JumbleCat, with over 20 years of experience in the computer field, he has done everything from programming to hardware solutions. You can contact Greg via the contact form on the main menu above.

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