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Re: Changing the default for `send-mail-function'

From: Tim Cross
Subject: Re: Changing the default for `send-mail-function'
Date: Mon, 27 Jun 2011 14:20:11 +1000

On Mon, Jun 27, 2011 at 6:37 AM, Lars Magne Ingebrigtsen <address@hidden> wrote:
David De La Harpe Golden <address@hidden> writes:

> AFAIK there _has_ to be auth on 587 per rfc.

If you're relaying; yes.  But if you're just accepting mail to local
users, there should be no need for AUTH.

You would open up a terrible exposure to potential spamming! Anyone, anywhere could post messages. 

I'm not sure we are not just creating problems here. Perhaps we just need to stop, think about how it use to work, think about how it should work and then work out how to migrate from the old to the new. 

There was nothing magic about the old default behavior as far as I am aware. From memory, if I started emacs and sent a message, it used my local MTA. It assumed that was configured and working. If there was no local MTA or if it was misconfigured, then mail failed. It may fail silently or it may alert me that delivery failed - that all depended on the level of configuration of the local MTA. 

As I understand it, the proposal is to change the default to use smtpmail-send-it as the default. That is what I currently use (in fact, I swapped to it because I got sick of my Linux distro upgrading my exim4 and silently breaking its config - I still run a local version of exim4, which is used by everything else, such as scripts etc. I also like to use my organisations smtp server directly as it alerts me to issues with their mail server, which has been a little unreliable. Using my local MTA tended to hid such problems). 

So, for me, the change in default will have no effect. However, I'm not sure how it would work for those who are using a local MTA - especailly one which is not configured to listen on port 25 i.e. just dispatches mail via calls to sendmail or something similar. If smtpmail-send-it can be setup to default to the local MTA and handle local MTAs which don't bind to localhost:25, when no other configuration information is provided, then wouldn't that change in default be invisible and therefore a non-issue? (I'm ignoring the win32 issues as I don't run that platform and have no idea what strangeness it does). 

If the default can be changed, but the change has no 'real' impact on the user, then its not a problem. However, if changing the default means the user needs to do additional configuration, we need to minimise that pain to help them migrate. 

I think the change in default is more in lines with how other mail clients handle it these days. In fact, I was surprised by the statement that Ubuntu installs exim4 by default. I distinctly remember having to install exim4 on both of the last two ubuntu systems I setup. On one, I don't think anything was installed by default and on the other, I think it may have been postfix. Most ISPs now block mail relaying, so any local MTA needs to be configured as a smarthost anyway and as has been pointed out by others, most Linux mail clients now require you enter the smtp server, port and (optionally) auth info when configuring the client. So, I think the change is in the right direction, but as it is changing a default, extra care needs to be taken to ensure we don't screw over existing users who are use to the old default of using the local MTA. 

Many of the other suggestions in this thread have some merit, but I think are largely a distraction from the main issue - how to change the default with minimal impact on established user expectations. If we cannot make the change largely 'invisible', then it needs more change management/communication so that fewer people are caught by surprise.


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