Upgrade of the LNS Unix Mail Hub

This Wiki page is obsolete. LEPP is discontinuing its mail services. Use Cornell's instead.
The mail service for the LNS Unix systems has been transferred to a more powerful dedicated mail server.


2000-mar-23: IMAP and POP over SSL are now supported. Users are encouraged to use SSL encrypted connections for offsite access.


Our old Unix mail server, lns598, was overloaded. Larger mail volumes, more sophisticated mail readers and protocols, and larger mailboxes left on the server were threatening to overwhelm its capacity to serve and store mail. The new server is configured to handle larger loads, has far more storage and server capacity for leaving mail on the server, and is configured to allow easier upgrades in the future.

User visible changes

This section summarizes what changes users of the LNS unix mail systems may have to make. Please send any questions to mailto:dsr@mail.lns.cornell.edu dsr@mail.lns.cornell.edu

The simple cases

Alphas (and Suns)
  • If you read mail on the alphas with pine or mh (exmh, xmh, dxmail, mh-e), you don't need to do anything (unless you have folders on the IMAP server other than INBOX--see below if you do).
  • If you read mail with emacs on the Alphas or Suns, you should check your .emacs file for lines like:
(setenv "MAILHOST" "pop.lns.cornell.edu")
(setenv "MAIL" "po:${user}")
(setq rmail-primary-inbox-list '("po:${user}")
      nnmail-spool-file "po:${user}")
      vm-spool-files '("po:${user}"))
Any occurences of lns598.lns.cornell.edu should be changed to pop.lns.cornell.edu.
  • If you use netscape to read mail, your incoming POP or IMAP server should be set to pop.lns.cornell.edu and your outgoing SMTP server should be set to smtp.lns.cornell.edu. If you are currently using the default netscape version 3, we encourage switching to version 4 (via the netscape4 command) and using IMAP instead of POP.
Mail access from the DECStations will now work like mail access on the alphas:
  • If you use pine on the DECstations, you will need Kerberos tickets to read mail, or will be prompted for your /net password
  • If you use mh (exmh, xmh, dxmail, mh-e) on the DECstations, you will need Kerberos tickets to fetch new mail.
  • If you use emacs on the DECstations, you will need kerberos tickets to fetch new mail, and will need to modify your .emacs file to use the kpop server. For more information on Kerberos, please refer to the docs at MIT
Any POP or IMAP client should be configured to use pop.lns.cornell.edu as the incoming POP or IMAP server and smtp.lns.cornell.edu as the outgoing SMTP server. Any occurences of lns598.lns.cornell.edu in the configuration should be changed to pop.lns.cornell.edu (incoming), smtp.lns.cornell.edu (outgoing), or mail.lns.cornell.edu (addresses).
To create or edit a .forward file, the new location is /nfs/mail/${u}/${user}/.forward, where ${user} is your username and ${u} is the first letter of your username--so user 'fred' would have the mail directory /nfs/mail/f/fred.

The complex cases

If you have IMAP folders other than INBOX on lns598, you should move them from your DECstations home directory, /home/ds/${user}, to /nfs/mail/${u}/${user}. This is best done with no mail reader active. If you wish to convert your folders to mbx format, send me email for details.

If you have a .forward file that pipes messages into a filter program, or you have a .procmailrc, you will need to copy it to /nfs/mail/${u}/${user}. The filter program will run in an environment where the HOME environment variable is set to /nfs/mail/${u}/${user}, and any mail delivery it performs should write to that area--mail delivery must not reference your DECstation or Alpha home directories.*Note:* this means that .maildelivery files cannot use rcvstore to file mail directly into an MH mailbox. If you are using rcvstore, you will have to file the messages to a file and inc them from there to the appropriate MH mailbox (exmh or xmh can handle this very nicely).

There's an additional subtlety to filtering mail to different dropboxes--if your INBOX is in mbx format (which it is by default), any new folders created via IMAP will be in mbx format, and you cannot append messages to an mbx format mailbox. Therefore, if you wish to use a filter to append to a folder, do not create it via IMAP--let it be created by the filter program, and it should stay in Unix From format. Mail to the default inbox should be delivered to /nfs/mail/${u}/${user}/newmail--do_not_ deliver mail directly to /nfs/mail/${u}/${user}/INBOX.

If you wish to use mail, Mail, mailx or any other mail reader that requires direct file access to the mail spool area to read mail, you will have to configured the program to read mail from /nfs/mail/${u}/${user}/newmail. In the case of mail type commands, this can be accomplished with the -f switch:
mail -f /nfs/mail/${u}/${user}/newmail
You cannot mix direct file access to a mail spool file with POP or IMAP access, as the POP and IMAP servers add extra state information that may be deleted or misinterpreted by direct access. Direct access is also unsupported, as NFS is not a reliable way to access mail--NFS does not cope well with simultaneous writes to the same file from different systems, and NFS file locking is notoriously buggy.

New mail notification

If your POP or IMAP client handles new mail notification, ignore this section.

To use xbiff or a similar command for new mail notification, use the command
xbiff -file /nfs/mail/${u}/${user}/newmail
or equivalently add to your .Xdefaults file
xbiff*file:         /nfs/mail/${u}/${user}/newmail

If you use mh, or otherwise empty your mailbox when you read mail, you can use mailquery to check for new mail by adding
xbiff*checkCommand: /usr/local/bin/mailquery ${user}@pop.lns.cornell.edu
xbiff*onceOnly:     true
xbiff*update:       300
to your .Xdefaults file.

Future Changes

There are additional changes and enhancements in the works that we expect to deploy in the near future:
  • Upgrade PINE to version 4 (done!)
  • Support for POP and IMAP over SSL encrypted connections (done!)
  • Mail list management software
  • LDAP directory and forwarding services, with integrated forwarding address management for all the LNS mail systems
  • Web email
Topic revision: r3 - 25 Mar 2009, SeldenBall
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