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Filtering Mail FAQ
Section - 3.1 Setting Up Mailagent

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1] First, make sure mailagent is available on your system. The easiest
   way to do this is to run:

    mailagent -V

   which will print the mailagent version if it is available, or the shell
   will issue an error message "mailagent: not found" or something like it.

2a] Now you need to understand the MTA (Mail Transport Agent, the program
    that delivers the mail; usually, sendmail) will NOT deliver to mailagent
    directly, rather to an intermediate (small) filter program. Two versions
    are available: shell or C -- refer to the mailagent(1) manpage to choose,
    but I recommend you use the C version first, and move to the shell
    version if you can't run a binary from your .forward file.

2b] Locate the filter program (it will be filter or filter.sh depending on
    whether you choose the C or the shell version respectively) under some
    directory like /usr/local/lib/mailagent. From now on, we'll assume we
    use the C filter and that it is located under /usr/local/lib/mailagent.

3] Copy the file /usr/local/lib/mailagent/mailagent.cf as ~/.mailagent and
   edit it to configure your system correctly. You will see two distinct
   sections in that file and you need to set-up properly the first one, the
   "Configuration section".

   If you have a version of mailagent that is recent enough (at least 3.0 PL32)
   then you can create an initial configuration very easily and quickly by
   running the following command:

    mailagent -I

   which will set-up an almost ready-to-use ~/.mailagent file. All you
   need to do at this point is go through its configuration section
   to make sure mailagent made the right choices...

   The minimal set of variables that MUST be correctly set (i.e. for which
   you cannot rely on the default set in the file) are (# introduces comment
   in a shell-like manner, which run up to the end of the line):

    home:  # Your HOME directory, as reported by "echo $HOME", usually.
    path:  # Path to be used to locate mailagent and perl, at least.
    p_xxx: # Path to be appended to "path" above when running on machine "xxx".
    user:  # Your login name.
    name:  # Your name.
    level: # Logging level. I recommend you raise it to 20 for testing.

   The mail folder directory is ~/Mail by default, but it can be changed
   only from within your rule file by putting

    maildir = ~/mail;

   at its top, for instance, to make it ~/mail. The rule file is defined as
   the "rules" parameter, and is set to ~/.rules by default.

4] Ensure the directories configured in your ~/.mailagent under "logdir" and
   "spool" and "queue" do exist. If you use the standard setting, this
   requires the following commands:

    cd
    mkdir var
    cd var
    mkdir log mailagent
    cd mailagent
    mkdir queue

5a] Create a rule file (named ~/.rules by default) for testing:

    cd
    vi .rules

5b] Enter the following in ~/.rules

    Subject: /test/     { SAVE testing };

    The meaning of that rule should be pretty obvious: If we receive a mail
    whose subject line contains the word "test", then we save that mail in
    a folder named "testing", under the default folder directory (~/Mail).

5c] Create a ~/.forward file as follows:

    "|exec /usr/local/lib/mailagent/filter >> /export/home/ram/.bak 2>&1"

    The meaning of that line is the following: every mail should be piped
    (hence the leading "|" character) onto the filter program, and any
    output from that program (i.e. errors) are appended to some file in
    your home directory, with stderr following stdout (2>&1) in traditional
    sh syntax.

    == IMPORTANT NOTES ==
    * Your .forward is always processed by sh, regardless of your login shell.
    * Replace /export/home/ram with your proper login directory full path.
      That's a part that makes your .forward unique (for zealous optimizing
      sendmail that are dead wrong about optimizing!) and that can save
      you a lot of trouble if anything goes wrong! Just look at your ~/.bak!
    * Replace /usr/local/lib/mailagent/filter with the proper filter path
      on your machine.

5d] Note that on many systems, you need to ensure your .forward will be
    readable by everybody, and that your home directory has the "x" bit set
    for everybody (i.e. can be part of a lookup path) so that sendmail can see
    and parse your .forward file. To ensure this, type:

        cd
        chmod a+r .forward
        chmod a+x .

6] Send yourself two test messages: one with "test" in the subject, and one
   without "test" in the subject.

7a] Checkout your ~/.bak file: it should be empty!

7b] Checkout your ~/var/log/agentlog file to see what really happened to your
    messages. Watch out for any ERROR or WARNING logs. This assumes you have
    left at least the default logging level (9) in the ~/.mailagent file (the
    "level" variable). But for testing, that level should be raised to 20 to
    help you diagnose what's going on.

7c] Look out in ~/Mail/testing. You should find there the message whose Subject
    line contained the word "test". Then make sure the other message has been
    delivered to your regular mailbox. (Since no match occurred in your rule
    file, the mail is left in your mailbox by default).

7d] TROUBLESHOOTING
    * If your mail was not properly delivered, please make sure your rule file
      and configuration file are correct by issuing the following command:

        mailagent -d

    * If the previous command does not output the single rule you should have
      put in ~/.rules, then please make sure step 3 and 4 above were correctly
      performed (those being the crucial steps ensuring a proper configuration).
    
    * Check the ~/.bak file for error messages.

    * Check for typos in any of these files:
        ~/.forward
        ~/.mailagent
        ~/.rules
    
    * Check the file and directory permissions of your .forward (set in step
      5c above).

      Type...          In order to...
      -------          --------------
      cd               Go to your home directory.
      
      ls -l .forward   Check the permission: it should say -rw-r--r--
      
      ls -ld .         Check permission of home dir: it should say drwx?-x?-x
                       The ?'s may be r's or hyphens or one of each (i.e.,
                       drwx--x--x, drwxr-xr-x, drwxr-x--x, drwx--xr-x).
      
    * If none of the previous hints helped you identify problem, and you can't
      figure it out from the output in ~/.bak or in the ~/var/log/agentlog file
      (or whatever file you have configured for logging within your ~/.mailagent
      file, variables "log" and "logdir"), then make sure your mail is not
      waiting in the MTA's queue: this might be the case if the agentlog file
      is empty. If you are using sendmail as MTA, you can run:

        /usr/lib/sendmail -bp
    
      to print out the queue.
    
    * As a last resort, please look at the mailagent(1) manual page under
      the section "Testing Your Installation" for more tips and things
      to look at.

8] Once you have successfully tested mailagent in steps 6 and 7 above,
   you're on! Mailagent is ready to process your mail. All you have to
   do is extend the ~/.rules file to add more rules.

   For instance:

   To Cc: www-talk      { SAVE www-talk };
   To Cc: agent-users   { SAVE agent-users };

   Those two rules filter the two mailing lists www-talk and agent-users into
   their respective folders, whether the mailing list address appear in the To
   OR Cc header.

   Since rules are not qualified as a pattern match (contrary to our test
   above), they match on logins in the address, i.e. they will match things
   like www-talk@chip.com or chip!www-talk, or a plain simple www-talk if
   this is a local alias. (This implicit matching on logins works only for
   some selectors like To, Cc or From which are know to contain addresses).

   If you wish to sort on patterns appearing in the Subject of messages for
   instance, then you must use a pattern matching syntax, as in:

   Subject: /star trek/ { SAVE star-trek; };

   to save in a folder "star-trek" all the messages whose subject contains
   the words "star trek". Case matters, but keep on reading...

9] As an advanced topic, since mailagent is written in Perl, you have all the
   power of Perl's regular expressions at your disposal. Which means you can
   write things like this:

   To Cc: agent-users                    { REJECT AGENT };
   <AGENT> Subject: /^\w*subscribe/i     { DELETE };
   <AGENT> *                             { UNIQUE -a; SAVE agent };

   The second lines makes use of that perl extended regular expression syntax:
   \w matches an alphanumeric character plus "_", while the trailing "i" option
   requests a case-insensitive match.

   You also note you have a real automaton at your disposal. You can enter
   a special state (AGENT in our example) and continue parsing by only
   scanning for rules tagged by this mode. The first match stops the automaton,
   unless you REJECT to continue processing. When not restricted by a mode list,
   a rule is always taken into account. For example, assuming the automaton
   is in the state "NEWS", it will not consider rules tagged <AGENT>, as in
   the above example. The automaton begins in mode "INITIAL".

   The "UNIQUE -a" action followed by a SAVE ensures only one copy per
   Message-ID will ever end-up in your agent folder -- no duplicates!
   Also note you can have more than one action per rule, and that the last
   one uses '*' to match anything, i.e. its action part between {} will
   always be executed in AGENT mode, when reached by the automaton.

   Also, since in Perl regular expression syntax, \b matches a word-boundary
   and \s any space or tab character, we can write our Star Trek message
   sorting into a much more robust form:

   Subject: /\bstar\s+trek\b/i  { SAVE star-trek; };

   (\s+ matches one or more white spaces, while \s* would match zero or more,
   see the Perl manual page for a complete description of regular expressions.)

   which will match on various subject strings like "Last Star Trek season"
   or "I am addicted to Star trek", but not on "Tristar treks" -- whatever
   that means :-)

   All in all, the filtering automaton syntax is pretty much intuitive and
   easy to read. You have to learn which actions are possible and what they
   mean, naturally.

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Last Update March 27 2014 @ 02:11 PM