Those in the Maths department who prefer to use mail clients such as mutt, pine, elm, etc which traditionally rely on mail being delivered directly to a local mail spool via SMTP may have problems at Imperial as there is no longer a UNIX-style mail server providing a SMTP mail feed. One solution is to use fetchmail to provide this direct feed and this page describes how to configure and use this.
Traditionally, mail for UNIX and Linux machines is delivered directly to the local mail spool on the system using SMTP (Simple Mail Transfer Protocol). The spool usually lives in a directory such as /var/spool/mail, usr/spool/mail, /var/mail, etc and typical UNIX/Linux mail software reads incoming mail from this spool. Direct SMTP mail feeds work well where systems have a permanent network connection and are powered up all the time, as is usually the case in academic institutions and commercial environments, as they will be able to receive incoming mail at any time.
But the growth in popularity of the Internet in the mid-1990's amongst home computer users - the vast majority of whom were using Windows PCs and Macintoshes which do not support incoming SMTP mail - to access the 'Net using dial-up modems inspired the development of alternative mail delivery protocols where instead of having mail pushed to them at any time of day or night, users could instead elect to store their mail on a designated mail server and pull it down at a time when it suited them. One such protocol is POP (Post Office Protocol), so named because it works in much the same way as a rural postal service; in many remote country districts, there are no postmen to bring your mail to your doorstep and you need to visit the local post office every so often to collect your mail. Another protocol is IMAP, a more powerful protocol that can be used for things other than mail. Home computer users can connect to the Internet via their modem and use a POP or IMAP-capable mail client to retrieve any mail waiting for them from their mailbox, usually on their ISP's POP or IMAP mail server.
As a result of the overwhelming popularity of POP and IMAP, very few ISPs bother to offer SMTP inbound mail facilities to their customers, even to those with broadband connections or those using UNIX-type systems at home. This caused a problem for these users as most UNIX mail software relies on mail being delivered to a local mail spool. To compensate, POP and IMAP facilities were added to many existing UNIX mail clients and to the mail component of web browsers like Netscape, Mozilla, Opera and new mail clients like Evolution and Thunderbird already include POP/IMAP facilities.
However, some of the functionality of mail clients like pine, elm and mutt is lost when using POP or IMAP; pine for example sets flags to indicate the status of a message - whether it is new, answered, awaiting deletion, etc - and it does this by inserting the flags into the message within the SMTP mail spool file. But when the mail resides on a remote POP server, although it can set the flags in memory during the session, it cannot save them on the POP server as it has no write access to the mail file on the server. So if the pine session is closed and then restarted at a later date, all the message flags are lost and the status of all messages reverts back to 'new'. For this reason and for those used to the continuous, seamless mail delivery of SMTP who found it irksome to use POP and IMAP mail clients - what was needed was a way of automating POP/IMAP mail retrieval to collect mail from a POP or IMAP server and and putting it into the local system's mail spool, in effect converting it back into an SMTP feed.
set postmaster 'yourlocalusername' set bouncemail set no spambounce set properties "" set daemon 60 poll exchange.ic.ac.uk with proto POP3 user 'yourICusername' there with password 'yourICpassword' is 'yourlocalusername' here
From this date, the college mail servers will no longer support incoming mail retrieval using plain, unencrypted POP3 and IMAP4 mail protocols and they will be reconfigured to use only POP3 over SSL or IMAP4 over SSL. You will need to use the updated .fetchmailrc configuration file as shown below which enables the SSL functionality of fetchmail.
set postmaster 'yourlocalusername' set bouncemail set no spambounce set properties "" set daemon 60 poll exchange.imperial.ac.uk with proto POP3 user 'yourICusername' there with password 'yourICpassword' is 'yourlocalusername' here ssl
Research Computing Officer, Department of Mathematics
last updated: 07.10.2012