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Qmail Quickstarter

Well, it’s official, I am now a published book author! Of what do I speak? Qmail Quickstarter Yep, seriously, that’s me. It’s even on Amazon!

This has been a kinda under-ground writing project for me so far. I haven’t told a lot of people (including most of my friends) what I have been up to. I think originally I had some reasons for that; stuff like I was unsure whether it would actually pan out (several other qmail-related books have started and died in recent years, and I didn’t want to jinx this one), and I didn’t want to bother with answering questions like “How will you have time for that between writing your proposal, getting married, and doing work for Sandia?” (because of course the answer would have been “I haven’t a clue, but it’s an opportunity I can’t pass up!” — which isn’t a particularly good answer). In retrospect, though, I guess mostly it just felt like bragging.

This project got started back in… wow, apparently, back in August. I got an email out of the blue from a fellow named Nanda Padmanabhan, a Development Editor for Packt Publishing (a company I hadn’t heard of before) in England. He had apparently been subscribed to the qmail mailing list for a while, and wanted to know whether I’d be interested in contributing to a qmail book project that their company was planning on embarking on. Riiiiiiight, I thought. The Nigerian scammers have thought up a new one.

Doing a little research, it turns out that Packt is a real company (surprise!) and has been at least somewhat active in the nerdly fields before: they were mentioned on Slashdot for some coding competitions with cash prizes that they did.

So I exchanged a few emails with Nanda. They were interested in putting together a qmail book that would get a person (of unknown experience) up and running quickly (i.e. in around 150 pages or so). I suggested a few other folks I know that are very qmail-savvy, but was curious why they were interested. After all, there’s several other books out there, including the exhaustive The qmail Handbook by Dave Sill, O’Reilly’s book on the subject by John Levine, and even another (less well-regarded by the qmail community) book by Richard Blum. In fact, on the qmail mailing list, people are often referred to Dave Sill’s book and online reference, http://www.lifewithqmail.org, because they are so thorough and well-done. Who is not being served by these books? Like any good psychologist, Nanda turned that question to me: what do I think might be missing?

My answer was a book with a better sense of the “why” of qmail (i.e. what is qmail’s internal architecture, why is it that way, and how can you use this knowledge?), and examples of the cool tricks you can do with qmail once you understand what’s going on. I had the thought that maybe a book titled “Things I Wish I’d Known About Qmail” or something like that. Dave’s book gives you all you ever wanted to know about the “what” and the “how” of qmail, and is more like a book from the “missing manual” series of books (by Pogue). Nanda also said that people are a bit turned off by the sheer volume of some of these books. They want something quick and light and useful, rather than an exhaustive catalog of every config file and option that qmail has.

This, of course, then spiraled into me brainstorming an outline for what I wished a book would look like, which turned into an official contract shockingly fast (well, shocking for me; it was in October when I got the official contract).

And thus, I began writing. Mostly I packed writing into the weekends, when I could spend all day writing and editing and not be bothered by anyone or anything. This made for a pretty tight schedule. The publisher wanted chapters ASAP (of course), but in general, I got about three weeks for each chapter (according to the contract)… which, because of my goofy schedule of visiting Emily, going to weddings, and holidays, typically meant I got a single weekend to pound out each chapter. Thankfully that was just for the first draft; I got a little more time to race through doing all the editing… but not a lot!

Finally, now, it is done! And you can buy it! (Please do! Buy several!)

I really could not be prouder.

Time to go get married! :D


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Kyle Wheeler:


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