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Student information processing board

Summer is almost upon us, and with it comes the mass exodus of students from MIT. This last column of the term covers accessing e-mail, Athena space, and other MIT services remotely.

Question: How can I check my e-mail over the summer?

Answer: While not at MIT, you can access your e-mail in the same way you would at MIT. If you take your computer home with you, all the programs you use for e-mail will function the same way they would at MIT.

If you need to, you can download MIT-supported e-mail clients and utilities from You can also refer to the November 8, 2002 Ask SIPB column, available on our Web site (URL below) for more information about configuring e-mail clients.

If you prefer, you can also check your mail through the Web using Webmail, at This may be the easiest option if you are using a computer other than your own, without the appropriate software, or that is not configured to check your MIT mail already.

Question: What should I check if my outgoing mail doesn’t work?

Answer: Some ISPs (Internet Service Providers) may prevent you from sending outgoing mail through servers other than their own. In these cases, you should replace with your ISP's mail server. For more information, see

Some ISPs will also check the “From:” line of e-mail, and prevent you from sending from any account other than your e-mail address for that ISP. In such cases, you can set the “From:” to be your e-mail address for that ISP, and the “Reply-to:” field to be your MIT account.

Question: How can I forward my e-mail to a different address?

Answer: With the chpobox command, you can forward your mail to any other e-mail address you may have.

To simply forward mail, with no copy left on your MIT post office box, use:

athena% chpobox -s

If you wish to instead forward a copy, and leave a copy of all mail you receive in your MIT box, use the same command, but with a capital S instead of the lowercase s, as follows:

athena% chpobox -S

To restore your mail settings to receiving mail only in your MIT mailbox, use:

athena% chpobox -p

Any changes you make may take up to one day to propagate to the mail hubs.

You can check the current status of mail forwarding by using athena% chpobox by itself. For more details on the chpobox command, you can type athena% man chpobox.

When you do forward mail, please make sure you do not forward mail to an address that forwards mail to your MIT account. This will create a long cycle of mail forwarding, and will also quickly fill up your mailboxes. For example, if your forwards mail to your account and an account somewhere else, do not set your account to forward to your account. Your account elsewhere will quickly fill up, and anyone sending you messages will get numerous bounce messages.

Also, if you split your mail, be sure to check your MIT mail occasionally too. If you do not do so, you may eventually exceed your mail quota, causing messages to bounce.

Question: How can I have a vacation message sent to people who send me e-mail?

Answer: MIT has recently started offering an e-mail auto-responder, also known as a vacation e-mail reply. When this feature is activated, people who send you mail will automatically receive a message of your choice, telling them, for example, that you are on vacation, and won’t be checking your e-mail until a certain date.

To activate this feature, go to auto-responder/. Instructions for setting it up can be found there.

The auto-responder is designed to answer e-mail addressed specifically to you, and not to mailing lists you may be on. Keep in mind, however, that some lists (and some spam) do address messages to individual e-mail addresses, and that if you turn this feature on, auto-replies may be sent.

Question: How long will my Athena account and e-mail address remain active after graduating?

Answer: Accounts of graduating students will not be deactivated until at least 5 weeks into the next term. For seniors graduating this term, this means that accounts will not be deactivated until at least five weeks into the Fall 2003 term.

When your account is deactivated, all three of these happen at the same time:

1) You will be unable to login to or other Athena systems

2) Anyone trying to access your web page on or will receive an error saying that the web page cannot be found

3) All messages to your e-mail address will bounce, regardless of whether you previously set up forwarding with chpobox.

The files in your Athena home directory will be kept an additional 3 months for backup purposes, but you will not be able to access them freely.

Question: How can I register my alumni e-mail account?

Answer: Graduating students can activate e-mail accounts, in addition to other online services, at In addition, current undergraduates can also register for accounts, though some services like e-mail forwarding may not be available until after graduation.

Question: How can I access and backup my Athena account?

Answer: You can access your Athena account and files through a number of methods. To get a shell, you can use SSH (Secure Shell). To transfer files, you can use Kerberized FTP (File Transfer Protocol), SFTP (Secure FTP), or SCP (Secure Copy). Note that for security reasons, telnet and FTP (File Transfer Protocol) are not supported. Use any of these protocols to connect to, or another Athena machine of your choice.

See the January 15, 2003 column for more details.

Good luck on your final projects and exams! If you have any questions or comments over the summer, or any other time, feel free to e-mail us at

We’ll try to answer you quickly, and we might address your question in our next column. Copies of each column and pointers to additional information will be posted on our Web site