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I, Robot - Administration

Tired of the sixteen terabytes of spam that confront you everymorning? Looking for a way to automatically manage and filter youremail? Say hello to procmail, automated message processing that's socool, it makes you want to believe in magic again.

  1. Mail Management With Procmail
  2. Speaking Geek
  3. Putting The Pieces Together
  4. No Forwarding Address
  5. Lies, Sweet Lies
  6. I, Robot
  7. Tweaking The Engine
  8. Closing Time
By: Vikram Vaswani, (c) Melonfire
Rating: starstarstarstarstar / 7
January 16, 2003

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You've already seen how procmail can be set up to forward incoming email to another email address, or to append it to a mailbox. You might also remember that there's a third option - pipe the mail to an external program for further processing. More often that not, this program is "formail", a companion program that ships with the procmail distribution.

Formail is a mail formatter, used primarily to extract or manipulate the headers of an email message. Its applications include creating new email messages on the fly, checking the value of a header in a received message, rewriting exiting headers with new data, removing unwanted headers, forcing messages into a standard mailbox format and splitting up a message digest or mailbox into individual messages.

Formail makes it possible to do some very creative things with your email - and one of its most common applications includes creating a simple auto-responder for your email when you're away from your computer. Consider the following recipe, which demonstrates:
| (/usr/bin/formail -r ; cat autoresponse.txt) | /usr/sbin/sendmail -oi 
| -t
In this case, every message received is piped through formail, which uses the contents of the file "autoresponse.txt" to generate a reply back to the original sender.

It should be noted that the recipe above is purely illustrative and should not be used in a live environment, as it does not include error handling for email loops or messages from mailing lists; refer to the procmail manual for a more comprehensive example.

You can also use procmail in combination with the SpamAssassin spam filter (http://www.spamassassin.org/) to automatically detect and block spam. All you need to do is pipe each message through SpamAssassin, and let it check to see if the message matches any of its spam rulesets. Based on the results of its heuristic tests, SpamAssassin automatically tags each message with an "X-Spam-Status" header indicating whether or not it is spam; this header can then be used by procmail to filter spam out of your regular mail spool into your "SPAM" mailbox, or send it straight to the trash can.

Here's how this might work.
| /usr/local/bin/spamassassin
* ^X-Spam-Status: Yes
More information on how SpamAssassin can be used with procmail is available at http://www.spamassassin.org/

>>> More Site Administration Articles          >>> More By Vikram Vaswani, (c) Melonfire

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