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Sun 09 Nov 2003
Category : Commentary/vt.txt
It's always a harrowing experience releasing stuff on Version Tracker. It's like standing for an election. Some people will love you, but you can always count on some haranguing from the crowd.
I think a lot of the people who contribute opinions miss the point. This wasn't done for them. This was done for the people who want stuff done the Mac way. The value is in the design.
Postfix Enabler arose out of Sendmail Enabler, which arose out of a tutorial I wrote outlining the steps needed to set up a fully-functioning mail server. I took the steps further and wrote a Unix shell script, and then a whole Mac-way interface because I can see why fiddling with the command line won't work for the majority of end users.
But you need to see further. Postfix Enabler is designed as a vehicle to send over even more capabilities to an average user.
For example, Apple's stock Postfix binaries don't support SMTP-AUTH. Why is SMTP-AUTH good? For one thing, it'll give the server the capability to authenticate an in-coming connection before agreeing to relay the mail out, even though the in-coming connection is outside the local network and would otherwise be blocked from relaying.
Now why do we need this when we can send mail out our PowerBooks anyway, bypassing any central server? This is because we need to see a bigger picture.
If our objective is to see more Macs used in businesses, we need to prepare for the objections. The roving SMTP solution, while fine for the Mac crowd, cuts no ice with the IT Manager mind set. If fact, it's even more proof of the madness and naivety of Mac users, calling into mind the associations with free love and flower power.
Just one word - SECURITY - to the ear of the business owner, and it will cut the Mac initiative at the knee.
XServe, I hear you say. But if you're fighting the Mac-PC war, the last thing you want is to start the fight, openly, at the server-end. The IS mindset knows that losing the server is the beginning of the end. They've used this tactic often enough to hobble the Mac and then get rid of it.
I believe running a full-fletched Internet server on a low-end, throw away machine, like the old iMacs, is the new Trojan horse. It costs next to nothing, which makes it appealing for small businesses. And you make so simple, even a business owner can hit one button and have it running. And it's a first-class server, equal to anything the IT manager can set up on a PC. Just see the PC guy set up SMTP-AUTH, or IMAP, or everything over SSL.
Actually, all these goodies are just a couple of steps of experimentation away. I think Panther has a better foundation to make all these work, as compared to Jaguar. Now how do you deliver the capability? Writing the steps, and asking people to edit config files using tools like pico - it doesn't scale.
Postfix Enabler has been constructed as a delivery vehicle, so that we can replace only the Apple binaries that we need and put them them back again when we don't. And it will orchestrate the whole series of configurations. Plus, give out visual cues about which services are on and which are not.
Actually I don't think it's worth doing this just to sell it for 10 bucks. But it'll be worth real money for us in terms of competitive advantage. I think we'll still press on.