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E-Mail

The mathematics department provides a number of e-mail services to account holders.

Everyone with an account can receive mail at username@math.hmc.edu. This e-mail address is independent of the e-mail addresses provided by CIS (more info).

Reading Your E-Mail

The simplest way to read your e-mail is to log on to one of the machines in the scientific computing lab and start a mail-reading application. We provide some of the most common options, including, nmh (my favorite), Mutt, Pine, and so forth, as well as Emacs and XEmacs, which have their own clients and interfaces to some of the other systems.

We also have some graphical clients that are slightly less useful if you can't sit directly in front of the machine, such as those included in Netscape Communicator and Mozilla, exmh, and Ximian's Evolution.

You can even read your mail from other machines by sshing to shell.math.hmc.edu and running a command-line or terminal-based mail application. (You can also run X clients, assuming that you have enough bandwidth to match your sanity.)

You may, however, want to read your mail on another machine, and we offer three basic methods to facilitate that choice.

POP (Post-Office Protocol)

The POP protocol is one of the oldest and best-supported methods for downloading your mail. Most mail clients on operating systems such as Windows and Mac OS include support for POP, and there are clients for *nix systems, as well (such as fetchmail).

The math department's POP machine is pop.math.hmc.edu. Set the POP server in your client to pop.math.hmc.edu. Our POP3 server uses the Secure Sockets Layer (SSL) encryption method to provide better security for you and for us. Encryption protects your account and your mail from being read by anyone with access to computers between your machine and ours, and we do not provide unencrypted POP access. You will need to make sure that your client is set to use SSL and connects to port 995 rather than the unencrypted IMAP port (110). Then provide your math username and password, and you're ready to go.

Don't forget that if you download your mail using POP, the default is usually to delete your mail from the server. Thus mail you've downloaded will only be accessible from the machine you downloaded it to. You can often turn that option off (“leave mail on server”), or, if you can't, you might want to try using IMAP.

IMAP (Internet Message Access Protocol)

IMAP is a newer protocol that's a bit more powerful and flexible than POP. Unlike POP, IMAP can manage your mail on the server, rather than simply downloading it to your client machine. Thus you can access your e-mail from more than one machine. IMAP even allows you to have folders maintained on the server.

The math department's IMAP server address is imap.math.hmc.edu. Use that address in your client, along with your math cluster username and password.

Our IMAP server uses the Secure Sockets Layer (SSL) encryption method to provide better security for you and for us. Encryption protects your account and your mail from being read by anyone with access to computers between your machine and ours, and we do not support unencrypted IMAP access. You will need to make sure that your client is set to use SSL and connects to port 993 rather than the unencrypted IMAP port (143).

Mail Forwarding

The last option for reading your mail on another machine is forwarding it to another machine. You may want to use this option if you have a particular proprietary e-mail system that you prefer (such as Microsoft Exchange or Novell GroupWise) or if you have a machine that runs a mail server locally (such as a Linux or BSD box in your dorm room).

Although you can forward your mail to another account on another machine by editing the ~/.forward file in your home directory (note the .) to contain only your remote e-mail address, we strongly recommend that you instead use Procmail to do the forwarding after you've filtered out the worst of the spam. Note that we have a sample .procmailrc file that filters out spam and includes commented code you can edit to forward mail.

Be sure that you set the permissions on your ~/.forward so that other people cannot modify it. I recommend using the command chmod 600 ~/.forward, which will also prevent other users from reading your ~/.forward file.

GMail Tip

As an alternative to forwarding your mail (and thus potentially causing the remote server to think we're spammers because of the spam you're forwarding), GMail (and probably other services) support retrieving your mail using POP or IMAP. Please use that option rather than forwarding your mail, or, at the very least, only forward mail after you've filtered out the worst of the spam. If you forward all your mail, including the spam, these services can get annoyed with us and slow down or block e-mail from our domain.

Sending E-Mail

Most students will use CIS's mail servers, and if your machine is a Linux system that is managed by the department and permanently connected to the network through an Ethernet cable, it should already be set up to send mail through the department's mail server. Other machine types (such as laptops, smartphones, or mail clients on machines running Mac OS X or Windows) may require you to configure an outgoing—or SMTP—server in your mail client.

For such systems, the department's mail server supports a protocol called SMTP-AUTH, which allows people with math accounts to send mail using our mail server from any mail client and from most networks.

The server name for our outgoing (SMTP) server is mail.math.hmc.edu. To use it, you will need to specify port 465, which is a port that is usually not blocked by ISPs. (Many ISPs filter traffic so that you can only connect to the standard SMTP port (port 25) on their outgoing mail server.)

The authentication type is password, and you will use your math cluster username and password.

Finally, you must specify that the connection uses the Secure Sockets Layer, or SSL, which provides an encrypted connection between your machine and our server, protecting your username and password from packet sniffers. (Your message is also protected while it's being sent, but is readable when our server connects to the remote server to deliver mail unless you provide your own encryption.)

As of October, 2010, our mail server is using certificates signed by a well-known certificate authority, so their certificate should already be in your browser, mail client, or operating system's standard certificate chain. If you still get a warning, you can examine the contents of the certificate. You should see that the certificate covers all of our mail servers (mail.math, imap.math, pop.math, and so on).

Summary of Mail Settings

Always use SSL. We recommend that you use IMAP rather than POP.

  Outgoing Incoming
  SMTP POP IMAP
Server mail.math.hmc.edu pop.math.hmc.edu imap.math.hmc.edu
Port 465 995 993

Mail Filtering with Procmail

We use procmail to perform local mail delivery. As a side effect, you can easily use procmail to filter your mail.

Procmail is notoriously complicated, and I'm not going to even try to explain it here. However, there are numerous resources available on the Internet, and the procmail home page has links to many of them. (Google is also your friend for things like these.)

One particularly good Procmail resource is the Procmail Documentation Project.

Spam Filtering

As of April, 2003, we are using SpamAssassin to label spam as spam. What you do with it after it reaches your mailbox is up to you.

There's a whole page of information about how we're using SpamAssassin.

Disk Usage and Mail

Mail is delivered to your home directory, not to some central spool. Thus if you use an IMAP client, or a client such as Elm or Pine that leaves your mail in the “spool” directory, your mail will take up space in your home directory and count against any quota that we may impose in the future.

We encourage you to download your mail to your personal machine rather than keep it all on the department's server. Whether you keep it on the server or download it, you'll probably want to archive your mail periodically to CD-ROM, tape, or some other backup medium.

Missing Your Favorites?

As usual, we encourage you to let us know about programs that you'd like to use that we don't already have available. If we agree that the program you've suggested sounds like something other people would be interested in, we'll install it. If we think you're going to be the only user, then we'll encourage you to download your mail to your personal machine or to install it in your home directory for your own personal use.