Email information

User ID:
Customer:
login

Your Mythic Beasts shell account comes with its own email address, of the form:

username@sphinx.mythic-beasts.com

This email address is completely separate from email addresses for any domains that you may have hosted with us. For information on how to configure email for your domains, please see here.

It is important that you read mail sent to your shell account email address, as this is where notifications will be sent if you are using too much disk space. If you do not intend to read this address directly, please arrange for it to be forwarded to an address that you do read.

There are several different ways to access your email:

On your Desktop or Phone

The most common way to access email is using a mail client such as Thunderbird or Outlook on your desktop, or using the email features on your phone. For details of the settings needed to configure your mail client please see the Mail Settings page.

Using a local mail client

It is possible to read your mail by connecting via ssh and running a text mode mail client from your shell account. Popular mail clients are pine and mutt. To run them, login to your shell account and type pine or mutt. Reading your mail this way has the advantage that your all your mail is kept in one central place, and all of your mail client configuration is stored on the server. The disadvantage of this method is that you cannot work offline, and it does not work well with high-latency connections.

The webmail interface

The webmail interface allows you to read and send email using a web browser. This is a convenient way to read your email while you are on the move, but web interfaces are inherently limited in their functionality and usability.

The address for the webmail interface is https://webmail.mythic-beasts.com/.

Forwarding and filtering

Your shell account gives you a great deal of control over how your mail is handled when it is received. You can control the delivery of incoming messages by creating a .forward file in your home directory. This file can contain a list of addresses to forward the mail to, commands to pipe the mail through or folders to save the mail to. It is possible to filter emails according to a set of rules using either Exim Filters, or Procmail. These are described in more detail below.

In addition to your basic email address, username@sphinx.mythic-beasts.com, your shell account gives you all email addresses of the form:

username-suffix@sphinx.mythic-beasts.com

You can control the delivery according to the suffix by creating files called .forward-suffix. For example, to control the delivery of user-web@sphinx.mythic-beasts.com, create a forward file called .forward-web. If no such file exists, it will default to using .forward-default, if it exists.

You can use these addresses to track who is using your email address: when you enter your address in an online form, suffix a word identifying the site. If the site passes on your address to other parties who send you mail, you will be able to identify them and then discard all email from them, if you wish.

Simple .forward files

In the simplest case a .forward file contains an email address, or a list of email addresses to forward email to. The list can be separated by commas, or with each item on a new line. For example, to forward a copy of all email received to another address as well as keeping a copy for yourself, put something like this in your .forward file (replacing username with your username):

username
me@someother.address.com

Note that it is safe to include your own username in the .forward file, but you should be careful about including aliases for your own address as these may cause a mail-loop. For example, if you have a second email address that forwards to this account, you must not create a .forward file that will forward back to this second address.

If an item starts with a "/" and does not look like a valid email address (i.e. does not contain "@") it will be treated as a file to append the mail to. As a special case, if the filename is /dev/null delivery of the mail will be bypassed, and the mail discarded. A common use of this is to store it in a mail spool in your home directory, for example:

/home/username/mail/filename

If an item starts with a "|" and does not look like a valid email address, it will be treated as a command to pipe the mail through. This is often used to pipe mail through a filter such as Procmail

If a line starts with a "#" the rest of the line is ignored.

Exim Filters

We use Exim as our Mail Transfer Agent (MTA). What this means to you is that it is possible to use an extended syntax in your .forward file which allows filtering of messages according to a set of rules. To enable this extended syntax, this first line in your .forward file must be:

# Exim filter

It is a good idea for the next line in the filter file to be:

if error_message then finish endif

This causes filtering to be abandoned for a delivery failure message, causing the message to get delivered to the original address. You should keep this line in your filter file unless you have a good reason for not doing so.

Procmail

Procmail is a venerable mail processor. In most cases it is an alternative to Exim Filters, although there may be some tasks that are easier in or the other. Be warned that the Procmail language is fairly ugly, and takes some getting used to. If you're starting from scratch, go with Exim filters.

In order to use Procmail you should put the following in your .forward file:

|/usr/bin/procmail -f-

This pipes all mail through the Procmail program. You must now create a .procmailrc program to control the filtering of your mail. Here is a simple example.

:0:
* ^Sender:.*gnome-list-owner@gnome.org
mail/gnome-list

This will store all mail from the Gnome mailing list in the folder gnome-list. The format of this file is documented fully in the man page, procmailrc(5), with plenty of examples in procmailex(5).