AlphaMail Is Scalable and Accessible Web Mail

AlphaMail takes a unique approach to providing a Web-based IMAP client.
Common Problems

There are several places where you can run into difficulty on a new installation. The Administrator's Guide included with AlphaMail has many tips on how to solve these issues.

One of the most puzzling problems is produced by accessing the service via an incorrect domain name. The cookie that maintains the session is tied to the server domain that you specify during configuration and is stored in a parameter in the AlphaMail apache configuration:

PerlSetVar alphamailDomain server.example.com

If the user is able to access the login page with an unqualified hostname (such as server), the cookie will not be exchanged properly and login will fail without any error whatsoever. The login is actually succeeding, but the browser is not sending the cookie back because of the mismatched URL.

Fortunately, most users connect though a link or type an insecure HTTP URL. The former is never a problem, and a redirect does a nice job of correcting the latter:

<VirtualHost _default_:80>
   RedirectMatch ^/alphamail/?$ https://server.example.com/
   ↪alphamail/index.html
   RedirectMatch ^/alphamail/mail/?$ https://server.example.com/
   ↪alphamail/mail/index.html
</VirtualHost>

Other problems usually involve dependencies, configuration errors, incorrect permissions or missing auxiliary directories. The best indication of these are errors in alphamail_ui.log, which by default is created in /var/log.

SELinux also can be the source of problems. I have not run AlphaMail with SELinux, and unless you are willing to create your own security profile, you probably will need to turn it off or disable enforcing.

The Future of AlphaMail

AlphaMail development has been mostly concerned with performance and core functionality to this point, and I don't expect these two issues to become any less important in the future, as the product is directed at environments that have a large and diverse user community.

It is quite feature-rich, but certainly not all-inclusive. Limiting feature creep is an ongoing requirement, because the critical concern is easy and reliable access to essential functionality, not global coverage of mail client features.

Still, there are plans for significant improvements and additions, such as an internationalized interface, optional Ajax components that would improve client interaction and conversation views.

Tony Kay is the primary developer of AlphaMail and works for the University of Oregon in Eugene, Oregon. He can be reached at tkay@uoregon.edu or tony.kay@gmail.com.

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