Annotation of wikisrc/guide/mail.mdwn, revision 1.2
1.1 jdf 1: # Mail and news
3: This chapter explains how to set up NetBSD to use mail and news. Only a simple
4: but very common setup is described: the configuration of a host connected to the
5: Internet with a modem through a provider. You can think of this chapter as the
6: continuation of
7: [[Setting up TCP/IP on NetBSD in practice|guide/net-practice]], assuming a
8: similar network configuration. Even this *simple* setup proves to be difficult
9: if you don't know where to start or if you've only read introductory or
10: technical documentation. A general description of mail and news
11: configuration is beyond the scope of this guide; please read a good Unix
12: Administration book (some very good ones are listed on the NetBSD site).
14: This chapter also briefly describes the configuration (but not the usage) of two
15: popular applications, mutt for mail and tin for news. The usage is not described
16: because they are easy to use and well documented. Obviously, both mutt and tin
17: are not mandatory choices: many other similar applications exist but I think
18: that they are a good starting point because they are widely used, simple, work
19: well and don't use too much disk space and memory. Both are console mode
20: programs; if you prefer graphics applications there are also many choices for X.
22: In short, the programs required for the configuration described in this chapter
25: * postfix
26: * fetchmail
27: * mutt
28: * tin
30: Of these, only postfix is installed with the base system; you can install the
31: other programs from the NetBSD package collection, pkgsrc.
33: *Note*: Since NetBSD 4.0, postfix is the default MTA (Mail Transport Agent) and
34: sendmail was removed. Also, because sendmail is widely popular and several
35: programs like fetchmail are designed to be used with it, postfix includes a
36: command line wrapper that accepts sendmail's commands line syntax but works with
37: postfix. See
39: for more details.
41: Before continuing, remember that none of the programs presented in this chapter
42: is mandatory: there are other applications performing similar tasks and many
43: users prefer them. You'll find different opinions reading the mailing lists. You
44: can also use different strategies for sending and receiving mail: the one
45: explained here is only a starting point; once you understand how it works you'll
46: probably want to modify it to suit your needs or to adopt a different method
49: At the opposite extreme of the example presented here, there is the usage of an
50: application like Mozilla, which does everything and frees you from the need of
51: configuring many components: with Mozilla you can browse the Internet, send and
52: receive mail and read news. Besides, the setup is very simple. There is a price
53: to pay, though: Mozilla is a "closed" program that will not cooperate easily
54: with other standard Unix utilities.
56: Another possibility is to use emacs to read mail and news. Emacs needs no
57: introduction to Unix users but, in case you don't know, it is an extensible
58: editor (although calling emacs an editor is somewhat reductive) which becomes a
59: complete work environment, and can be used to read mail, news and to perform
60: many operations. For many people emacs is the only environment that they need
61: and they use it for all their work. The configuration of emacs for mail and news
62: is described in the emacs manual.
64: In the rest of this chapter we will deal with a host connected to the Internet
65: through a PPP connection via serial modem to a provider.
67: * the local host's name is `ape` and the internal network is `insetti.net`,
68: which means that the FQDN (Fully Qualified Domain Name) is `ape.insetti.net`.
69: * the user's login name on ape is `carlo`.
70: * the provider's name is BigNet.
71: * the provider's mail server is `mail.bignet.it`.
72: * the provider's news server is `news.bignet.it`.
73: * the user's (`carlo`) account at the provider is `alan` with the password
76: First some basic terminology:
78: * *MUA (mail user agent)* -- a program to read and write mail. For example:
79: mutt, elm and pine but also the simple mail application installed with the
80: base system.
82: * *MTA (mail transfer agent)* -- a program that transfers mail between two host
83: but also locally (on the same host). The MTA decides the path that the mail
84: will follow to get to the destination. On other BSD systems (but not only)
85: the standard MTA is sendmail, other examples are qmail, exim and Microsoft
88: * *MDA (mail delivery agent)* -- a program, usually used by the MTA, that
89: delivers the mail; for example, it physically puts the messages in the
90: recipient's mailbox. For example, postfix uses one or more MDAs to deliver
91: mail, and procmail is another well-known MDA.
93: The following figure depicts the mail system that we want to set up. Between the
94: local network (or the single host) and the provider there is a modem PPP
95: connection. The *bubbles* with the thick border (postfix, fetchmail, mutt) are
96: the programs launched manually by the user; the remaining bubbles are the
97: programs that are launched automatically. The circled numbers refer to the
98: logical steps of the mail cycle:
100: ![Structure of the mail system](/guide/images/mail1.gif)
102: 1. In step (1) mail is downloaded from the provider's POP server using
103: fetchmail, which hands messages off to postfix's sendmail wrapper to put the
104: messages in the user's mailbox.
106: 2. In step (2) the user launches mutt (or another MUA) to read mail, reply and
107: write new messages.
109: 3. In step (3) the user *sends* the mail from within mutt. Messages are
110: accumulated in the spool area.
112: 4. In step (4) the user calls postfix's sendmail wrapper to transfer the
113: messages to the provider's SMTP server, that will deliver them to the final
114: destination (possibly through other mail servers). The provider's SMTP server
115: acts as a *relay* for our mail.
117: The connection with the provider must be up only during steps (1) and (4); for
118: the remaining steps it is not needed.
120: ## postfix
122: When an MTA must deliver a local message, it is delivered directly. If the
123: message is intended for a different domain, the MTA must find out the address of
124: the mail server for that domain. Postfix uses the DNS service (described in
125: [[The Domain Name System|guide/dns]]) to find a mail exchanger handling mail for
126: the given domain, and delivers the message to that mail server then.
128: Postfix is controlled by a set of configuration files and databases, of which
129: `/etc/postfix/main.cf` and `/etc/postfix/master.cf` are the most important.
131: *Note*: Prior to version 1.5 of NetBSD, the mail configuration files were in
132: `/etc` instead of `/etc/mail`. Since NetBSD 4.0, the `/etc/mail` directory is
133: only used to store the local aliases and the corresponding
137: The first problem to be solved is that the local network we are dealing with is
138: an internal network, i.e. not directly accessible from the Internet. This means
139: that the names used internally have no meaning on the Internet; in short,
140: `ape.insetti.net` cannot be reached by an external host: no one will be able to
141: reply to a mail sent with this return address (many mail systems will even
142: reject the message as spam prevention as it comes from an unknown host). The
143: true address, the one visible from everybody, is assigned by the provider and,
144: therefore, it is necessary to convert the local address `firstname.lastname@example.org`
145: to the real address `email@example.com`. Postfix, if correctly configured, will
146: take care of this when it transfers the messages.
148: You'll probably also want to configure postfix in order to send the e-mails to
149: the provider's mail server, using it as a *relay*. In the configuration
150: described in this chapter, postfix does not directly contact the recipient's
151: mail server (as previously described) but relays all its mail to the provider's
152: mail server.
154: *Note*: The provider's mail server acts as a *relay*, which means that it
155: delivers mail which is not destined to its own domain, to another mail server.
156: It acts as an intermediary between two servers.
158: Since the connection with the provider is not always active, it is not necessary
159: to start postfix as a daemon in `/etc/rc.conf`: you can disable it with the line
160: `postfix=NO`. As a consequence it will be necessary to launch postfix manually
161: when you want to transfer mail to the provider. Local mail is delivered
162: correctly even if postfix is not active as a daemon.
164: Let's start configuring postfix.
166: ### Configuration of generic mapping
168: This type of configuration uses a new file `/etc/postfix/generic` which contains
169: the hostname mapping used by postfix to rewrite the internal hostnames.
171: The first step is therefore to write the mapping file:
173: firstname.lastname@example.org email@example.com
174: firstname.lastname@example.org email@example.com
175: firstname.lastname@example.org email@example.com
177: These entries will map the mail sent from the users given on the left side into
178: the globally valid email addresses given on the right, making it appear as if
179: the mail was really sent from that address.
181: For the sake of efficiency, `generic` must be transformed into a binary file
182: with the following command:
184: # postmap /etc/postfix/generic
186: Now it's time to create the prototype configuration file which we'll use to
187: create the postfix configuration file.
189: # vi /etc/postfix/main.cf
191: For the sake of simplicity, we'll only show the variables you need change:
193: relayhost = mail.bignet.it
194: smtp_generic_maps = hash:/etc/postfix/generic
196: This configuration tells postfix to rewrite the addresses of type
197: `ape.insetti.net` using the real names found in the `/etc/postfix/generic` file.
198: It also says that mail should be sent to the `mail.bignet.it` server. The
199: meaning of the options is described in detail in
202: The last step is to reload the configuration. You can do that easily with:
204: # /etc/rc.d/postfix reload
205: postfix/postfix-script: refreshing the Postfix mail system
207: Now everything is ready to start sending mail.
209: ### Testing the configuration
211: Postfix is finally configured and ready to work, but before sending real mail it
212: is better to do some simple tests. First let's try sending a local e-mail with
213: the following command (postfix's sendmail wrapper):
215: $ sendmail carlo
216: Subject: test
218: Hello world
221: Please follow exactly the example above: leave a blank line after Subject: and
222: end the message with a line containing only one dot. Now you should be able to
223: read the message with your mail client and verify that the From: field has been
224: correctly rewritten.
226: From: firstname.lastname@example.org
228: ### Using an alternative MTA
230: Starting from version 1.4 of NetBSD sendmail is not called directly:
232: $ ls -l /usr/sbin/sendmail
233: lrwxr-xr-x 1 root wheel 21 Nov 1 01:14 /usr/sbin/sendmail@ -> /usr/sbin/mailwrapper
235: The purpose of mailwrapper is to allow the usage of an alternative MTA instead
236: of postfix (for example, sendmail). If you plan to use a different mailer I
237: suggest that you read the
239: and the
241: manpages, which are very clear.
243: ## fetchmail
245: If someone sends me mail, it is received and stored by the provider, and not
246: automatically transferred to the local hosts; therefore it is necessary to
247: download it. Fetchmail is a very popular program that downloads mail from a
248: remote mail server (using e.g. the Post Office Protocol, POP) and forwards it to
249: the local system for delivery (usually using postfix's sendmail wrapper). It is
250: powerful yet easy to use and configure: after installation, the file
251: `~/.fetchmailrc` must be created and the program is ready to run
252: (`~/.fetchmailrc` contains a password so appropriate permissions on the file are
255: This is an example `.fetchmailrc`:
257: poll mail.bignet.it
258: protocol POP3
259: username alan there with password pZY9o is carlo here
261: mda "/usr/sbin/sendmail -oem %T"
263: The last line (`mda ...`) is used only if postfix is not active as daemon on the
264: system. Please note that the POP-mail server indicated in this file
265: (mail.bignet.it) is only used to retrieve mails, and that it is not necessary
266: the same as the mail relay used by postfix to send out mails.
268: After setting up the `.fetchmailrc` file, the following command can be used to
269: download and deliver mail to the local system:
271: $ fetchmail
273: The messages can now be read with mutt.
275: ## Reading and writing mail with mutt
277: Mutt is one of the most popular mail programs: it is *lightweight*, easy to use
278: and has lots of features. The man page mutt is very bare bones; the real
279: documentation is in `/usr/pkg/share/doc/mutt/`, in particular `manual.txt`.
281: Mutt's configuration is defined by the `~/.muttrc` file. The easiest way to
282: create it is to copy mutt's example muttrc file (usually
283: `/usr/pkg/share/examples/mutt/sample.muttrc`) to the home directory and modify
284: it. The following example shows how to achieve some results:
286: * Save a copy of sent mail.
287: * Define a directory and two files for incoming and outgoing mail saved by mutt
288: (in this example the directory is `~/Mail` and the files are `incoming` and
290: * Define some colors.
291: * Define an alias.
293: set copy=yes
294: set edit_headers
295: set folder="~/Mail"
296: unset force_name
297: set mbox="~/Mail/incoming"
298: set record="~/Mail/outgoing"
299: unset save_name
301: bind pager <up> previous-page
302: bind pager <down> next-page
304: color normal white black
305: color hdrdefault blue black
306: color indicator white blue
307: color markers red black
308: color quoted cyan black
309: color status white blue
310: color error red white
311: color underline yellow black
313: mono quoted standout
314: mono hdrdefault underline
315: mono indicator underline
316: mono status bold
318: alias pippo Pippo Verdi <email@example.com>
320: To start mutt:
322: $ mutt
324: Please note that mutt supports color, but this depends on the terminal settings.
325: Under X you can use "xterm-color", for example:
327: $ env TERM=xterm-color mutt
329: ## Strategy for receiving mail
331: This section describes a simple method for receiving and reading mail. The
332: connection to the provider is activated only for the time required to download
333: the messages; mail is then read offline.
335: 1. Activate the connection to the provider.
1.2 ! jdf 336: 2. Run `fetchmail`.
1.1 jdf 337: 3. Deactivate the connection.
338: 4. Read mail with mutt.
340: ## Strategy for sending mail
342: When mail has been written and *sent* with mutt, the messages must be
343: transferred to the provider with postfix. Mail is sent from mutt with the `y`
344: command, but this does not really send it; the messages are enqueued in the
345: spool area; if postfix is not active as a daemon it is necessary to start it
346: manually or the messages will remain on the hard disk. The necessary steps are:
348: 1. Write mail with mutt, send it and exit mutt. You can check if and what
349: messages are in the postfix mail queue using the
352: 2. Activate the connection with the provider.
353: 3. If your provider requires you to do "SMTP-after-POP", i.e. it first wants to
354: make sure to know who you are before you are allowed to send mail (and no
355: spam), you need to run `fetchmail` again first.
356: 4. Write the command `/usr/sbin/postfix flush` to transfer the queued
357: messages to the provider.
358: 5. Deactivate the connection when the queue is empty.
360: ## Advanced mail tools
362: When you start using mail, you won't probably have very sophisticated
363: requirements and the already described standard configuration will satisfy all
364: your needs. But for many users the number of daily messages will increase with
365: time and a more rational organization of the mail storage will become necessary,
366: for example subdividing mail in different mail boxes organized by topic. If, for
367: example, you subscribe to a mailing list, you will likely receive many
368: messages every day and you will want to keep them separate from the rest of
369: your mail. You will soon find that you are spending too much time every day
370: repeating the same manual operations to organize your mail boxes.
372: Why repeat the same operations manually when you can have a program perform them
373: automatically for you? There are numerous tools that you can add to your mail
374: system to increase its flexibility and automatically process your messages.
375: Amongst the most known and used there are:
377: * *procmail*, an advanced mail delivery agent and general purpose mail filter
378: for local mail, which automatically processes incoming mail using user
379: defined rulesets. It integrates smoothly with sendmail/postfix.
380: * *spamassassin* or *spamprobe*, to help fight spam.
381: * *metamail*, a tool to process attachments.
382: * *formail*, a mail formatter.
384: In the remaining part of this section a sample configuration for procmail will
385: be presented for a very common case: delivering automatically to a user defined
386: mailbox all the messages coming from a mailing list. The configuration of
387: postfix will be modified in order to call procmail directly (procmail will be
388: the *local mailer* used by sendmail). and a custom configuration file for
389: procmail will be created.
391: First, procmail must be installed using the package system (`mail/procmail`),
392: `pkg_add` or `pkgin`.
394: Next, the configuration of postfix must be changed, in order to use procmail as
395: local mailer:
397: mailbox_command = /usr/pkg/bin/procmail
399: The line defines the path of the procmail program (you can see where procmail is
400: installed with the command `which procmail`).
402: The last step is the creation of the procmail configuration file, containing the
403: recipes for mail delivery.
405: Let's say that, for example, you subscribed to a mailing list on roses whose
406: address is `firstname.lastname@example.org` and that every message from the list contains the
407: following line in the header:
409: Delivered-To: email@example.com
411: Assuming you want to automatically sort all mails going over that list into the
412: local mail folder `roses_list`, the procmail configuration file (`.procmailrc`)
413: looks like this:
420: * ^Delivered-To: firstname.lastname@example.org
423: The previous file contains only one rule, beginning with the line containing
424: `:0`. The following line identifies all messages containing the string
425: `Delivered-To: email@example.com` and the last line says that the selected
426: messages must go to the `roses_list` mailbox (which you should have created in
427: $MAILDIR). The remaining messages will be delivered to the default mailbox. Note
428: that $MAILDIR is the same directory that you have configured with mutt:
430: set folder="~/Mail"
432: Of course the mailing list is only an example; procmail is a very versatile tool
433: which can be used to filter mail based on many criteria. As usual, refer to the
434: man pages for more details:
439: (this last one contains many examples of configuration files).
441: ## News with tin
443: The word *news* indicates the set of messages posted to the USENET newsgroups, a
444: service available on the Internet. Each newsgroup contains articles related to a
445: specific topic. Reading a newsgroup is different than reading a mailing list:
446: when you subscribe to a mailing list you receive the articles by mail and you
447: read them with a standard mail program like mutt, which you use also to send
448: replies. News, instead, are read directly from a news server with a dedicated
449: program called *newsreader* like, for example, tin. With tin you can subscribe
450: to the newsgroups that you're interested in and follow the *threads*. A thread
451: is a sequence of articles which all derive from an article that we could call
452: *original*. In short, a message is sent to the group, someone answers, other
453: people answer to those who answered in the first place and so on, creating a
454: tree like structure of messages and replies: without a newsreader it is
455: impossible to understand the correct sequence of messages.
457: After the installation of tin (from the package collection as usual) the only
458: thing left to do is to write the name of the NNTP server in the file
459: `/usr/pkg/etc/nntp/server`, which you may need to create first. For example:
463: Once this has been done, the program can be started with the command `tin`. On
464: the screen something similar to the following example will be displayed:
466: $ tin
467: Connecting to news.bignet.it...
468: news.bignet.it InterNetNews NNRP server INN 1.7.2 08-Dec-1997 ready (posting ok).
469: Reading groups from active file...
470: Checking for new groups...
471: Reading attributes file...
472: Reading newsgroups file...
473: Creating newsrc file...
474: Autosubscribing groups...
475: Reading newsrc file...
477: Be patient when you connect for the first time, because tin downloads an immense
478: list of newsgroups to which you can subscribe and this takes several minutes.
479: When the download is finished, the program's main screen is displayed; usually
480: no groups are displayed; to see the list of groups press `y`. To subscribe to a
481: group, move on the group's name and press `y`.
483: Once that you have subscribed to some newsgroups you can start tin more quickly
484: with the command `tin -Q`. The search for new groups is disabled (`-q`), only
485: active groups are searched (`-n`) and newsgroup description are not loaded
486: (`-d`): it will not be possible to use the `y` (yank) command in tin. When tin
487: is started with this option it can't tell if a newsgroup is moderated or not.
489: Note that if you are connecting from an internal network (like in our example),
490: when you send ("post") a message the address at the beginning of the message
491: will be wrong (because it is the internal address). To solve the problem, use
492: the option `mail_address` in the tin configuration file (`~/.tin/tinrc`) or set
493: the `REPLYTO` environment variable.
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