Ask SIPB - August 26, 2003

Want to set up mail on your personal computer? Or figure out exactly where all those addresses go? In this column, part 4 of 6 of our introductory orientation columns, we cover mail and mailing lists.

How do I get started with mail on my personal computer?

MIT supports two mail protocols: IMAP over SSL, and Kerberized POP. On Windows and Macintosh machines, the mail program Eudora supports Kerberized POP, and can be obtained from With most other mail programs, such as Mozilla, you can use IMAP over SSL.

To setup email in any program that is not already configured to do so, you will need the following settings:

Outgoing mail server:, never use a secure (SSL) connection, no username required
Incoming mail server: poXX.MIT.EDU (where XX is a number) You can find your incoming mail server by entering

athena% hesinfo $USER pobox
at the Athena prompt.

In general, we recommend that you use IMAP, as it stores your mail on the mail server, and allows you to read your mail anywhere. With POP, your mail is downloaded onto your computer, and deleted from the server. You can find more about the difference in these protocols in our previous mail column at

How can I read mail on Athena?

Athena has many programs you can use to read mail. The simplest program to use is Evolution. You can start it by clicking the "Mail" icon in the GNOME panel, or typing
athena% evolution &
The other recommended and officially supported program to read mail on Athena is Pine. Unlike Evolution, Pine is a text-based program. You can start Pine by tping
athena% pine
When you start Pine for the first time, you will get a message asking whether you want to run Athena or SIPB Pine. We recommend that you use Athena Pine, as you are less prone to run into problems or unexpected behavior.

What can mailing lists be used for?

MIT mailing lists can be used for pretty much any purpose. Common purposes are class lists for instructors to provide information to students, activity lists to let club members know what's happening, personal lists for groups of friends to easily communicate, and other public lists for discussion of topics or notification of events.

At Friday's Activities Midway, you will likely end up on many such mailing lists that student groups use to notify members of events and other information.

How can I manage the lists I'm on?

mailmaint is a menu-driven program that you can use to manage mailing lists. Simply type athena% mailmaint to run it. blanche is a command-line program that also allows you to manage mailing lists.

To add a user to a mailing list (the -a stands for add):

athena% blanche listname -a username
To remove a user from a mailing list (the -d stands for delete):
athena% blanche listname -d username
To get information about a mailing list (the -i stands for info):
athena% blanche listname -i

What useful public mailing lists exist?

Mailing List Name What It's Used for
netusers netusers is a low-traffic mailing list is provides notification of network events, like outages or security problems. For example, the recent blocking of port 135 to and from the dormitory networks was sent to this mailing list. Though similar information often appears on 3-DOWN, details are generally provided on this list. General security vulnerabilities are also sent to this list.
release-announce release-announce is a low-traffic mailing list that provides notification of new releases of Athena, including security patches and other changes, such as updates to non-locker software.
athena-outage-redist athena-outage-redist is a member of the list athena-outage, which provides notification of outages of Athena services, such as maintenance of file or print servers.
reusereuse is a high-traffic mailing list dedicated to the posting and claiming of free items at MIT. When users have something they would otherwise throw away, they often e-mail this list. Then, other members of the community go to pick up the item, subsequently e-mailing the list to let other users that the item has been taken. See for details, including rules for the list, which you should read if you decide to subscribe. The lists reuse-ask and reuse-sell lists, which are included in the rules page, also exist for asking for items, and selling items, respectively.

How can I use lists to control access to my home directory?

Lists that are also groups, which many are, can be used to control permissions to any AFS directory, including portions of your home directory. You can determine whether a list is a group by using athena% blanche listname -i as mentioned above. Such lists will have an AFS group called system:listname which you can use to allow read-only access, read and write access, or full access to a directory of your choice. Thursday's column will cover this topic in more detail.

Where can I get more information about setting up mail and managing mailing lists?

For more information about mail, you can read our November 8, 2002 column at For more information about mailing lists, you can read our November 22, 2002 column at

To ask us a question, send email to We'll try to answer you quickly, and we can address your question in our next column. You can also stop by our office in W20-557 or call us at x3-7788 if you need help. Copies of each column and pointers to additional information are posted on our website: