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student information processing board

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.

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

Answer: On Windows and Macintosh machines, the mail program Eudora can be obtained from To setup e-mail 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 is required.

Incoming mail server: poXX.MIT.EDU (where XX is a number) You can find which number corresponds to you by entering:

athena% hesinfo $USER pobox

MIT supports two mail protocols: IMAP over SSL and Kerberized POP. 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

Question: How can I read mail on Athena?

Answer: 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 typing

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.

Question: What can mailing lists be used for?

Answer: 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.

Question: How can I manage the lists I’m on?

Answer: 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

Question: What useful public mailing lists exist?


netusers: A low-traffic mailing list 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: 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: A member of the list athena-outage, which provides notification of outages of Athena services, such as maintenance of file or print servers.

reuse: 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.

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

Answer: Lists that are also groups, many of which 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.

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

Answer: For more information about mail, you can read our Nov. 8, 2002 column at For more information about mailing lists, you can read our Nov. 22, 2002 column at

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