Folks who use Macs to provide Internet email services know the Mac OS has never been able to boast a plethora of email server options, unlike server systems for Windows and Unix. For years the Mac community has had a choice of perhaps half a dozen email servers, the future of which thrown into doubt by Mac OS X. After all, by incorporating Unix under the hood, Mac OS X systems can run high-end Unix-based email servers: robust, but notoriously arcane to configure and administer.
However, long-standing Macintosh email server products seem to be undergoing a bit of a rebirth, thanks perhaps in part to a loyal user base that doesn’t want to give up Macintosh ease of use. It started in 2000 with MCF Software’s acquisition of the venerable ListSTAR mailing list server, and two more mainstay Mac email servers have recently joined the trend: LetterRip and EIMS.
LetterRip — LetterRip Pro is a popular mailing list server developed by Fog City Software – the same folks who originally created Emailer. LetterRip is distinguished by its stability, performance, and ease of use: although it’s not as flexible as the older and more complex ListSTAR, LetterRip ably meets most mailing list needs and is backed by an enthusiastic user community. (TidBITS actually uses both products: LetterRip handles TidBITS Talk, our translations, and other private mailing lists, while we use ListSTAR to distribute TidBITS issues and perform more complicated mail processing.)
LetterRip Pro was released in 1999 and hasn’t seen major updates since then, leading to speculation the product was more-or-less moribund (although Fog City was still offering prompt support and rapidly addressing problems introduced by new versions of the Mac OS.) The tide seems to have changed, however: as of 01-Jan-02, LetterRip Pro was acquired by a newly formed company, LetterRip Software, for the explicit purpose of bringing LetterRip Pro to Mac OS X and introducing new features. LetterRip development is being headed up primarily by Jud Spencer, one of LetterRip’s original developers back at Fog City; Jud was also one of the primary programmers on the still-much-loved Emailer, as well as Microsoft’s Outlook Express and Entourage. If you’re a LetterRip Pro user, there’s active discussion on the LetterRip mailing list about what features would be most beneficial in future versions: if you want to chime in, now is the time.
EIMS — It’s been a long and winding road for EIMS. The program started life as MailShare, a simple SMTP and POP mail server for the Macintosh written by Glenn Anderson of New Zealand, way back before the Internet "broke" into the public consciousness. In 1995, Apple acquired MailShare – along with Glenn – and rechristened it Apple Internet Mail Server (AIMS), back when Apple decided it wanted to play in the Internet server market. (Anyone remember the acronym AISS?) When Apple later decided it did not, in fact, want anything to do with Internet servers, Qualcomm picked up AIMS (and Glenn) in 1997, rechristening it Eudora Internet Mail Server (EIMS). Glenn saw EIMS through two major revisions with Qualcomm, adding support for IMAP, DNS blacklists, remote administration, and a swarm of other features – and EIMS remains a robust, high-performance server.
As of 21-Dec-01, EIMS has taken the long flight home again: Glenn Anderson has licensed EIMS back from Qualcomm and has just released EIMS 3.1. Glenn is also creating an EIMS Admin application for Mac OS X (an alpha version of which is available now), although plans for a Mac OS X version of the EIMS server aren’t yet clear. Glenn’s also considering a low-cost, stripped down version of EIMS for folks who don’t need all the features of the full version.
EIMS 3.1 offers numerous performance improvements, enhanced Apple Event support and performance, NTLM authentication for Outlook and Outlook Express, CRAM-MD5 authentication for POP3, LDAP authentication, delivery status notification information in message bounces, and statistics for queue delays and total messages sent and received. EIMS 3.1 costs $400 new, but upgrades from 3.0.x are available for $60 and from 2.x for $150.
Welcome Back — Even as Mac OS X opens up new vistas for Internet services on Macs, it’s great to see long-time Mac developers breathe new life into these (and other) well-regarded and long-lived products. It’s the kind of thing which essentially happens only in the Mac community, where expectations of sophisticated yet easy-to-use products runs high. Certainly, the Unix-indoctrinated among us will preferentially use Unix solutions for things like email and mailing lists, but the rest of us have always supported – and will continue to support – products designed and developed by people who understand what sets Mac software apart from the herd.