How To Do(s)

Last update to this page: $Date: 2006/08/31 00:56:50 $ $Author: colby $

Using Calmail with your
address@astro.berkeley.edu

This document describes how you can use the CalMail system without sacrificing your current address@astro.berkeley.edu. Major topics of this document are:

Astronomy Department E-Mail Access

The Astronomy Department has a mail server (astro.berkeley.edu) that is the primary focus of all incoming and outgoing e-mail. This server is very reliable and provides fast local access to astro.berkeley.edu e-mail. There are some drawbacks to relying only upon this server, such as:

There is no web based frontend to the e-mail (thus, you cannot check your e-mail very easily when you are sitting at an unfamilar computer).

Spam filtering is provided by using SpamAssassin which does a good job of marking spam looking e-mail, unfortunately it seems to be vulnerable to newer spam tactics. My own experience has shown that SpamAssassin now catches approximately 80% of the spam that arrives in my offsite e-mail queue.

The only remote protocol access is APOP, a more secure version of POP, but still has all of the other major drawbacks of using POP, including:

POP was designed to send messages one way, from server to the client.

POP assumes storage of e-mail on local computer and can get confused if you "leave e-mail on the server".

POP does not support server side folders.

POP was designed to safely have only one user connect to on mailbox at a time. Connecting to your e-mail POP account from more than one location is bound to cause messages to re-appear.

POP is slow and inefficient, it forces the client to download entire messages just to get the header information. This can be very pianful across slow (56K modem) or heavy latency (observatory/far away university) links.

Another way, CalMail

CalMail is the campus wide e-mail service that descended from the UCLink system. It has been in operation since December, 2003 and can make up for some drawbacks with the local system:

Provides a web based front end making the system accessable from any browser on the planet.

CalMail is run by the Campus Network Services group and has the benefit of several people (many with pagers) on call to fix and trouble shoot problems that occur.

CalMail provides excellent spam filters reaping the benefits of having a much larger user base and thus larger sample size to recognize spam and mark it accordingly. You can then use CalMail filters or filters in your own e-mail application to automatically file spam to a different folder. The CalMail system has specific staff members whose job is to deal with handling spam related issues. It seems as though better t han 90% of spam is caught with the CalMail system.

Provides IMAP access to e-mail, which is more efficient and flexible than APOP for the following reasons:

IMAP was designed to handle message headers before downloading entire messages, making it more efficient over slow and heavy latency links.

IMAP was designed to handle multiple client access to a single mailbox.

IMAP can manipulate server side folders, so that you can file your messages on a server and leave them there instead of storing them on your local machine.

See a more indepth analysis of IMAP vs POP.

IMAP and POP can be combined with Secure Sockets Layer (SSL) which will encrypt all data passed between your e-mail client and the server. This not only makes your password secure but all of your e-mail as well. The web based front end to Calmail is also encrypted, meaning you do not have to worry about someone in Chili reading all of your tawdry e-mails passing between your browser at the VLT and the e-mail server in Berkeley.

However, You cannot combine SSL with the APOP service in the department at the present time.

Combining CalMail with Astro E-Mail

Using a combination of the two systems can allow an Astronomy user to keep her address@astro.berkeley.edu while adding the flexibility and security of the CalMail web based front end and IMAP+SSL access.

There are some limitations and drawbacks. By default CalMail allows you to have 100MB of e-mail on their system (both in your "inbox" and in other folders). This means you will have to keep your archived messages on the local astro machines. You can still access these local folders via a regular e-mail reader such as Mozilla, Netscape 7, Firefox, Thunderbird, Pine or Mutt.

Update: CalMail now allows users to increase their available diskspace to 500MB ($20/year) and 1GB ($40/year). This can be paid for via a recharge account (thanks to Mike Fitzgerald for pointing this out).

If you are so inclined, you will be able to drag and drop messages between your CalMail inbox and your local folders, but only while you are running your mail client inside the Astro network. Since there is no IMAP support back and forth from astro.berkeley.edu, you will not be able to access your archived folders from outside the department via an e-mail client running on a remote computer.

If Astro is completely down, e-mail coming to you will not be forwarded to CalMail, you will only be able to send e-mail.

If you are creating a new CalMail account, you will be sharing the same namespace as all of the other users of CalMail, which means you'll probably have to create an account name that is different from your astro one. This is okay, but can be confusing.

Combining these two systems is fairly easy but esoteric. Here are the steps you will have to take:

Create a CalMail account. If you had a UCLink account, you will not have to create a CalMail one. They are the same. You may have to check with the CalMail system to insure that the transfer of your UCLink account went smoothly.

It is not necessary to have identical usernames on CalMail and the Astronomy systems. Unfortunately, this can make things a little confusing when you are logging into the web based frontend. Happily, you can modify the preferences on your CalMail account to make your outgoing e-mail look like it is coming from address@astro.berkeley.edu.

Once the CalMail account is working, login into the system:

Click on the Options link:

Click on the Personal Information link:

Scroll down to the "E-mail Address" entry and fill it in with the correct address:

Now log into your astro account and create a ".forward" file. If you already have a ".forward" file, you can modify it. Use the following commands to create one:
   % echo "address@calmail.berkeley.edu" > ~/.forward
   % chmod 0400 ~/.forward
  
It is important for the permissions on the file to be 0400, "-r--------" or read-only by the owner.

Now, all of your e-mail is being forwarded to your address@calmail.berkeley.edu account and you can use the web front end (http://calmail.berkeley.edu) to read and send e-mail as address@astro.berkeley.edu. Easy as pie!

A common .forward configuration is to store a copy of your incoming e-mail locally while forwarding a copy to CalMail. Here's one way,
   \colby,jcolbyk@calmail.berkeley.edu
   
This will make a copy of all e-mails to the normal /var/mail/colby e-mail file on astro. It does this when it sees "\colby". Then it will send a copy to my calmail address.

Local Folders/Archives

Your old archives of e-mail can be integrated into your e-mail client by importing your old e-mail files. CalMail's limitation of 100MB for files on their servers is quite limited for years worth of e-mail archives that many in academia are likely to have. Most users already have all of their e-mail in their home directory, usually in a sub-directory called "mail" or "Mail".

Importing these archives can be complicated and prone to error, so be absolutely certain that you have backups of these files.

On the pages for each client below, I have added special instructions for handling "Local Folders or Archives". The technique shown is just an example of how I use my archives and should not be taken as the only way to use them.

It's important to realize that you will only be able to access these archives from an e-mail client that you are running on a machine that resides on the network within the department. The primary advantage is that you will be able to easily "drag and drop" e-mail messages from between your Inbox and your archives.

If you wish to access your archives from outside the department, the only blessed method at this time is to log into a machine on the department network using ssh, and then access the individual files. This can be accomplished with Pine or some other text viewer.

Mac OS X (and Windows) and Local Archives

Local file access is now available on computers that are not integrated into the NIS+ accounting information for the Sun and Linux computers.
You must contact the IT staff for the Astronomy department to create an account that allows SMB disk access. Then follow the mounting instructions to access the disk that has your e-mail folders and import them. Note, once you have imported the mail folders from the Astro machines, your mail will be stored on the local machine and you will have to work out how you will access the imported folders remotely on your own.

Configuring clients to use CalMail (IMAP+SSL)

I have created guides to configure the following clients to access e-mail from CalMail (while still using your address@astro.berkeley.edu).

The guides have snapshots from the desktop of a Mac OS X machine. The look and feel of the specific applications may look unfamiliar, but the content of each operation is the same.

They are:

I recommend against using Netscape 4.x for accessing your e-mail via CalMail. It is old, has an unsupported code base and has odd limitations (e.g. IMAP and POP cannot be used simultaneously).

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