As some of you may recall I recently turned an Xbox I had running Debian Sarge in to a home FTP server. Well, it’s funny how sometimes things crop up to get you thinking. The other night I was involved in a bit of a debate, arguing that Google’s new advertising systems were really no more invasive than systems that the other major e-mail service providers are using, that it’s simply more sophisticated. That got me thinking, the only truly private free e-mail provider I know is Hushmail. Which, don’t get me wrong, Hushmail is an awesome service, look them up, I promise a minimum of one full geekgasm when you read about what they are offering, but for some unknown reason I don’t want to just do things the easy way.
That is of course my roundabout way of telling you all that I’ve decided to just start hosting my own e-mail. It really shouldn’t be that hard to set up, I’ve done a little reading on postfix and it does not seem appreciably more difficult to set up than my FTP server. Theoretically I could stop there, with a mail client on my laptop and my phone I could check my mail from home or on the go at any time. For whatever reason, though, that’s not good enough for me. In my head that still doesn’t equate to being “real”. I mean, every other e-mail service I have ever used has had some manner of web based front end. Surely my e-mail server, set up entirely to serve a single person needs to have all the amenities that Hotmail has, right?
This is just a shining example, one more reason why everyone should love Free Software and Open Source Software. Three seconds of thinking someone else must have wanted to set up their own e-mail before and seven seconds of googling taught me that yes, in fact, there are several open source options in terms of a web front end for a mail server. It’s just a matter of picking one. I don’t need to stretch my, I’m not going to lie to you, limited web development skills. I can just install and configure the product of some kind benefactor’s amazing web development skills.
I love the modern age.
So, knowing that the technical aspects of this project are well within my reach the next phase is to decide what I am going to run the server on. As much as using the xbox to host my FTP server is really, really cool (final proof I have no idea what the word ‘cool’ actually means) I just don’t see hosting e-mail on it as well. The hard drive is just too small to try to run both, especially considering that I am also considering running an Apache web server. An idea I am considering because, check out this amazing backwards logic, I will probably want to register a domain for my e-mail server. Which seems like a waste of money for my one person e-mail server, doesn’t it? Logically then, to make it worth while I must also host a website!
This decision isn’t really as easy as you think it would be. I mean, the obvious answer would be to head out to the local new and used computer shop and pick up the oldest, cheapest tower I can and use that, right? Well, the thing about that is those towers can actually gobble up the power. Depending on what components you’re currently using at any given time it is drawing between about 60 – 250 watts. Knowing I am gobbling up that much power to provide no benefit to anyone beyond myself sort of bothers me, probably because I played to much Final Fantasy 7.
That’s one of the nice things about the xbox, it actually doesn’t use more than 60 watts. So if I am going to replace it I don’t really want to use something that is going to gobble up significantly more power. As such, I’ve decided to use a laptop.
Hear me out.
On average laptops use between 15 – 60 watts, a huge savings over the PC. I can actually save a little bit of energy beyond that by completely disabling the screen and setting up a remote desktop server that allows connections either from only inside my home network or only from a specific IP within my home network. As a backup I an always use the serial port anyway. I can also pull the battery and either recycle it or offer it up for free by way of online classifieds so I don’t have to feel bad about using something with a battery. In the even of a power outrage, I may lose some data but quite frankly, nothing anyone ever sends me is quite important enough to worry about battery backup.
With the screen perpetually off and the battery out the laptop will hopefully be able to stay cool enough. I mean, there shouldn’t be any real significant demands placed on the processor. It might be okay. Maybe.
Next comes the easy question, what distribution of Linux will I be running on my devoted server… book?
Debian. Why Debian? Debian is awesome. End statement.
Seriously though, I just love Debian. Currently my laptop is running OpenSuSE, mostly because I dig how hard they push the community aspect of Linux use but I’ve always traditionally been a Debian guy. I mean, it just works, all the time. It never gives me issues and my lazy ass can apt-get pretty much anything I want. Also, it’s the distro I have the most experience with so it’s the easiest for me to use for special projects.