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+Please note that this file is not called ``Internet Mail For Dummies.''
+It _records_ my thoughts on various issues. It does not _explain_ them.
+Paragraphs are not organized except by section. The required background
+varies wildly from one paragraph to the next.
+In this file, ``sendmail'' means Allman's creation; ``sendmail-clone''
+means the program in this package.
+1. Security
+There are lots of interesting remote denial-of-service attacks on any
+mail system. A long-term solution is to insist on prepayment for
+unauthorized resource use. The tricky technical problem is to make the
+prepayment enforcement mechanism cheaper than the expected cost of the
+attacks. (For local denial-of-service attacks it's enough to be able to
+figure out which user is responsible.)
+qmail-send's log was originally designed for profiling. It subsequently
+sprouted some tracing features. However, there's no way to verify
+securely that a particular message came from a particular local user;
+how do you know the recipient is telling you the truth about the
+contents of the message? With QUEUE_EXTRA it'd be possible to record a
+one-way hash of each outgoing message, but a user who wants to send
+``bad'' mail can avoid qmail entirely.
+I originally decided on security grounds not to put qmail advertisements
+into SMTP responses: advertisements often act as version identifiers.
+But this problem went away when I found a stable qmail URL.
+As qmail grows in popularity, the mere knowledge that rcpthosts is so
+easily available will deter people from setting up unauthorized MXs.
+(I've never seen an unauthorized MX, but I can imagine that it would be
+rather annoying.) Note that, unlike the bat book checkcompat() kludge,
+rcpthosts doesn't interfere with mailing lists.
+qmail-start doesn't bother with tty dissociation. On some old machines
+this means that random people can send tty signals to the qmail daemons.
+That's a security flaw in the job control subsystem, not in qmail.
+The resolver library isn't too bloated (before 4.9.4, at least), but it
+uses stdio, which _is_ bloated. Reading /etc/resolv.conf costs lots of
+memory in each qmail-remote process. So it's tempting to incorporate a
+smaller resolver library into qmail. (Bonus: I'd avoid system-specific
+problems with old resolvers.) The problem is that I'd then be writing a
+fundamentally insecure library. I'd no longer be able to blame the BIND
+authors and vendors for the fact that attackers can easily use DNS to
+steal mail. Solution: insist that the resolver run on the same host; the
+kernel can guarantee the security of low-numbered UDP ports.
+NFS is the primary enemy of security partitioning under UNIX. Here's the
+story. Sun knew from the start that NFS was completely insecure. It
+tried to hide that fact by disallowing root access over NFS. Intruders
+nevertheless broke into system after system, first obtaining bin access
+and then obtaining root access. Various people thus decided to compound
+Sun's error and build a wall between root and all other users: if all
+system files are owned by root, and if there are no security holes other
+than NFS, someone who breaks in via NFS won't be able to wipe out the
+operating system---he'll merely be able to wipe out all user files. This
+clueless policy means that, for example, all the qmail users have to be
+replaced by root. See what I mean by ``enemy''? ... Basic NFS comments:
+Aside from the cryptographic problem of having hosts communicate
+securely, it's obvious that there's an administrative problem of mapping
+client uids to server uids. If a host is secure and under your control,
+you shouldn't have to map anything. If a host is under someone else's
+control, you'll want to map his uids to one local account; it's his
+client's job to decide which of his users get to talk NFS in the first
+place. Sun's original map---root to nobody, everyone else left alone---
+is, as far as I can tell, always wrong.
+2. Injecting mail locally (qmail-inject, sendmail-clone)
+RFC 822 section 3.4.9 prohibits certain visual effects in headers, and
+the 822bis draft prohibits even more. qmail-inject could enforce these
+absurd restrictions, but why waste the time? If you will suffer from
+someone sending you ``flash mail,'' go find a better mail reader.
+qmail-inject's ``Cc: recipient list not shown: ;'' successfully stops
+sendmail from adding Apparently-To. Unfortunately, old versions of
+sendmail will append a host name. This wasn't fixed until sendmail 8.7.
+How many years has it been since RFC 822 came out?
+sendmail discards duplicate addresses. This has probably resulted in
+more lost and stolen mail over the years than the entire Chicago branch
+of the United States Postal Service. The qmail system delivers messages
+exactly as it's told to do. Along the same lines: qmail-inject is both
+unable and unwilling to support anything like sendmail's (default)
+nometoo option. Of course, a list manager could support nometoo.
+There should be a mechanism in qmail-inject that does for envelope
+recipients what Return-Path does for the envelope sender. Then
+qmail-inject -n could print the recipients.
+Should qmail-inject bounce messages with no recipients? Should there be
+an option for this? If it stays as is (accept the message), qmail-inject
+could at least avoid invoking qmail-queue.
+It is possible to extract non-unique Message-IDs out of qmail-inject.
+Here's how: stop qmail-inject before it gets to the third line of
+main(), then wait until the pids wrap around, then restart qmail-inject
+and blast the message through, then start another qmail-inject with the
+same pid in the same second. I'm not sure how to fix this without
+system-supplied sequence numbers. (Of course, the user could just type
+in his own non-unique Message-IDs.)
+The bat book says: ``Rules that hide hosts in a domain should be applied
+only to sender addresses.'' Recipient masquerading works fine with
+qmail. None of sendmail's pitfalls apply, basically because qmail has a
+straight paper path.
+I predicted that I would receive some pressure to make up for the
+failings of MUA writers who don't understand the concept of reliability.
+(``Like, duh, you mean I'm supposed to check the sendmail exit code?'')
+I was right.
+3. Receiving mail from the network (tcp-env, qmail-smtpd)
+qmail-smtpd doesn't allow privacy-invading commands like VRFY and EXPN.
+If you really want to publish such information, use a mechanism that
+legitimate users actually know about, such as fingerd or httpd.
+RFC 1123 says that VRFY and EXPN are important to track down cross-host
+mailing list loops. With Delivered-To, mailing list loops do no damage,
+_and_ one of the list administrators gets a bounce message that shows
+exactly how the loop occurred. Solve the problem, not the symptom.
+Should dns.c make special allowances for
+badmailfrom (like 8BITMIME) is a waste of code space.
+In theory a MAIL or RCPT argument can contain unquoted LFs. In practice
+there are a huge number of clients that terminate commands with just LF,
+even if they use CR properly inside DATA.
+4. Adding messages to the queue (qmail-queue)
+Should qmail-queue try to make sure enough disk space is free in
+advance? When qmail-queue is invoked by qmail-local or (with ESMTP)
+qmail-smtpd or qmail-qmtpd or qmail-qmqpd, it could be told a size in
+advance. I wish UNIX had an atomic allocate-disk-space routine...
+The qmail.h interface (reflecting the qmail-queue interface, which in
+turn reflects the current queue file structure) is constitutionally
+incapable of handling an address that contains a 0 byte. I can't imagine
+that this will be a problem.
+Should qmail-queue not bother queueing a message with no recipients?
+5. Handling queued mail (qmail-send, qmail-clean)
+The queue directory must be local. Mounting it over NFS is extremely
+dangerous---not that this stops people from running sendmail that way!
+Diskless hosts should use mini-qmail instead.
+Queue reliability demands that single-byte writes be atomic. This is
+true for a fixed-block filesystem such as UFS, and for a logging
+filesystem such as LFS.
+qmail-send uses 8 bytes of memory per queued message. Double that for
+reallocation. (Fix: use a small forest of heaps; i.e., keep several
+prioqs.) Double again for buddy malloc()s. (Fix: be clever about the
+heap sizes.) 32 bytes is worrisome, but not devastating. Even on my
+disk-heavy memory-light machine, I'd run out of inodes long before
+running out of memory.
+Some mail systems organize the queue by host. This is pointless as a
+means of splitting up the queue directory. The real issue is what to do
+when you suddenly find out that a host is up. For local SLIP/PPP links
+you know in advance which hosts need this treatment, so you can handle
+them with virtualdomains and serialmail.
+For the old queue structure I implemented recipient list compression:
+if mail goes out to a giant mailing list, and most of the recipients are
+delivered, make a new, compressed, todo list. But this really isn't
+worth the effort: it saves only a tiny bit of CPU time.
+qmail-send doesn't have any notions of precedence, priority, fairness,
+importance, etc. It handles the queue in first-seen-first-served order.
+One could put a lot of work into doing something different, but that
+work would be a waste: given the triggering mechanism and qmail's
+deferral strategy, it is exceedingly rare for the queue to contain more
+than one deliverable message at any given moment.
+Exception: Even with all the concurrency tricks, qmail-send can end up
+spending a few minutes on a mailing list with thousands of remote
+entries. A user might send a new message to a remote address in the
+meantime. The simplest way to handle this would be to put big messages
+on a separate channel.
+qmail-send will never start a pass for a job that it already has. This
+means that, if one delivery takes longer than the retry interval, the
+next pass will be delayed. I implemented the opposite strategy for the
+old queue structure. Some hassles: mark() had to understand how job
+input was buffered; every new delivery had to check whether the same
+mpos in the same message was already being done.
+Some things that qmail-send does synchronously: queueing a bounce
+message; doing a cleanup via qmail-clean; classifying and rewriting all
+the addresses in a new message. As usual, making these asynchronous
+would require some housekeeping, but could speed things up a bit.
+(I'm willing to assume POSIX waitpid() for asynchronous bounces; putting
+an unbounded buffer into wait_pid() for the sake of NeXTSTEP 3 is not
+Disk I/O is a bottleneck; UFS is reliable but it isn't fast. A good
+logging filesystem offers much better performance, but logging
+filesystems aren't widely available. Solution: Keep a journal, separate
+from the queue, adequate to rebuild the queue (with at worst some
+duplicate deliveries). Compress the journal. This would dramatically
+reduce total disk I/O.
+Bounce aggregation is a dubious feature. Bounce records aren't
+crashproof; there can be a huge delay between a failure and a bounce;
+the resulting bounce format is unnecessarily complicated. I'm tempted to
+scrap the bounce directory and send one bounce for each failing
+recipient, with appropriate modifications in the accompanying text.
+qmail-stop implementation: setuid to UID_SEND; kill -TERM -1. Or run
+qmail-start under an external service controller, such as supervise;
+that's why it runs in the foreground.
+The readdir() interface hides I/O errors. Lower-level interfaces would
+lead me into a thicket of portability problems. I'm really not sure what
+to do about this. Of course, a hard I/O error means that mail is toast,
+but a soft I/O error shouldn't cause any trouble.
+job_open() or pass_dochan() could be paranoid about the same id,channel
+already being open; but, since messdone() is so paranoid, the worst
+possible effect of a bug along these lines would be double delivery.
+Mathematical amusement: The optimal retry schedule is essentially,
+though not exactly, independent of the actual distribution of message
+delay times. What really matters is how much cost you assign to retries
+and to particular increases in latency. qmail's current quadratic retry
+schedule says that an hour-long delay in a day-old message is worth the
+same as a ten-minute delay in an hour-old message; this doesn't seem so
+Insider information: AOL retries their messages every five minutes for
+three days straight. Hmmm.
+6. Sending mail through the network (qmail-rspawn, qmail-remote)
+Are there any hosts, anywhere, whose mailers are bogged down by huge
+messages to multiple recipients at a single host? For typical hosts,
+multiple RCPTs per SMTP aren't an ``efficiency feature''; they're a
+_slowness_ feature. Separate SMTP transactions have much lower latency.
+I've heard three complaints about bandwidth use from masochists sending
+messages through a modem through a smarthost to thousands of users---
+without sublists! They can get much better performance with QMQP.
+In the opposite direction: It's tempting to remove the @host part of the
+qmail-remote recip argument. Or at least avoid double-dns_cname.
+There are lots of reasons that qmail-rspawn should take a more active
+role in qmail-remote's activities. It should call separate programs to
+do (1) MX lookups, (2) SMTP connections, (3) QMTP connections. (But this
+wouldn't be so important if the DNS library didn't burn so much memory.)
+I bounce ambiguous MXs. (An ``ambiguous MX'' is a best-preference MX
+record sending me mail for a host that I don't recognize as local.)
+Automatically treating ambiguous MXs as local is incompatible with my
+design decision to keep local delivery working when the network goes
+down. It puts more faith in DNS than DNS deserves. Much better: Have
+your MX records generated automatically from control/locals.
+If I successfully connect to an MX host but it temporarily refuses to
+accept the message, I give up and put the message back into the queue.
+But several documents seem to suggest that I should try further MX
+records. What are they thinking? My approach deals properly with downed
+hosts, hosts that are unreachable through a firewall, and load
+balancing; what else do people use multiple MX records for?
+Currently qmail-remote sends data in 1024-byte buffers. Perhaps it
+should try to take account of the MTU.
+Perhaps qmail-remote should allocate a fixed amount of DNS/connect()
+time across any number of MXs; this idea is due to Mark Delany.
+RFC 821 doesn't say what it means by ``text.'' qmail-remote assumes that
+the server's reply text doesn't contain bare LFs.
+RFC 821 and RFC 1123 prohibit host names in MAIL FROM and RCPT TO from
+being aliases. qmail-remote, like sendmail, rewrites aliases in RCPT;
+people who don't list aliases in control/locals or sendmail's Cw are
+implicitly relying on this conversion. It is course quite silly for an
+internal DNS detail to have such an effect on mail delivery, but that's
+how the Internet works. On the other hand, the compatibility arguments
+do not apply to MAIL FROM. qmail-remote no longer bothers with CNAME
+lookups for the envelope sender host.
+7. Delivering mail locally (qmail-lspawn, qmail-local)
+qmail-local doesn't support comsat. comsat is a pointless abomination.
+Use qbiff if you want that kind of notification.
+The getpwnam() interface hides I/O errors. Solution: qmail-pw2u.
+8. sendmail V8's new features
+sendmail-8.8.0/doc/op/ includes a list of big improvements of
+sendmail 8.8.0 over sendmail 5.67. Here's how qmail stacks up against
+each of those improvements. (Of course, qmail has its own improvements,
+but that's not the point of this list.)
+Connection caching, MX piggybacking: Nope. (Profile. Don't speculate.)
+Response to RCPT command is fast: Yup.
+IP addresses show up in Received lines: Yup.
+Self domain literal is properly handled: Yup.
+Different timeouts for QUIT, RCPT, etc.: No, just a single timeout.
+Proper <> handling, route-address pruning: Yes, but not configurable.
+ESMTP support: Yup. (Server-side, including PIPELINING.)
+8-bit clean: Yup. (Including server-side 8BITMIME support; same as
+sendmail with the 8 option.)
+Configurable user database: Yup.
+BIND support: Yup.
+Keyed files: Yes, in fastforward.
+931/1413/Ident/TAP: Yup.
+Correct 822 address list parsing: Yup. (Note that sendmail still has
+some major problems with quoting.)
+List-owner handling: Yup.
+Dynamic header allocation: Yup.
+Minimum number of disk blocks: Yes, via tunefs -m. (Or quotas; the right
+setup has qmailq with a small quota, qmails with a larger quota, so that
+qmail-send always has room to work.)
+Checkpointing: Yes, but not configurable---qmail always checkpoints.
+Error message configuration: Nope.
+GECOS matching: Not directly, but easy to hook in.
+Hop limit configuration: No. (qmail's limit is 100 hops. qmail offers
+automatic loop protection much more advanced than hop counting.)
+MIME error messages: No. (qmail uses QSBMF error messages, which are
+much easier to parse.)
+Forward file path: Yes, via /etc/passwd.
+Incoming SMTP configuration: Yes, via inetd or tcpserver.
+Privacy options: Yes, but they're not options.
+Best-MX mangling: Nope. See section 6 for further discussion.
+7-bit mangling: Nope. qmail always uses 8 bits.
+Support for up to 20 MX records: Yes, and more. qmail has no limits
+other than memory.
+Correct quoting of name-and-address headers: Yup.
+VRFY and EXPN now different: Nope. qmail always hides this information.
+Multi-word classes, deferred macro expansion, separate envelope/header
+$g processing, separate per-mailer envelope and header processing, new
+command line flags, new configuration lines, new mailer flags, new
+macros: These are sendmail-specific; they wouldn't even make sense for
+qmail. For example, _of course_ qmail handles envelopes and headers
+separately; they're almost entirely different objects!
+9. Miscellany
+sendmail-clone and qsmhook are too bletcherous to be documented. (The
+official replacement for qsmhook is preline, together with the
+qmail-command environment variables.)
+I've considered making install atomic, but this is very difficult to do
+right, and pointless if it isn't done right.
+RN suggests automatically putting together a reasonable set of lines for
+/etc/passwd. I perceive this as getting into the adduser business, which
+is worrisome: I'll be lynched the first time I screw up somebody's
+passwd file. This should be left to OS-specific installation scripts.
+The BSD 4.2 inetd didn't allow a username. I think I can safely forget
+about this. (DS notes that the username works under Ultrix even though
+it's undocumented.)
+I should clean up the bput/put choices.
+Some of the stralloc_0()s indicate that certain lower-level routines
+should grok stralloc.
+qmail assumes that all times are positive; that pid_t, time_t and ino_t
+fit into unsigned long; that gid_t fits into int; that the character set
+is ASCII; and that all pointers are interchangeable. Do I care?
+The bat book justifies sendmail's insane line-splitting mechanism by
+pointing out that it might be useful for ``a 40-character braille
+print-driving program.'' C'mon, guys, is that your best excuse?
+qmail's mascot is a dolphin.