Mail Questions

Posted on 2001-06-15
Medium Priority
Last Modified: 2010-04-21
I working on a project that may in the C++ code, send a created email message through the mail command.. I have some questions.

The command format will be cat <filename>  | mail <email address>.

1. Is there a way to do a mail <address> <message>

2. Is there a way to determine that the user is a valid user?

3. Is it possible to determine if the mail command processed the request successfully and if it was not successful, how to determine what the error was.

4. Is it possible to determine if the system where the email is going received the email message?

5. Is it possible to determine if the person who is supposed to get the email actually got the email and read it.

The answers to the above question will aid in the decision regarding automatic email generation rather than doing manual email generation.

Question by:andrewmchorney
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Accepted Solution

jlevie earned 400 total points
ID: 6197122
Taking the questions in order...

1) Not with any version of "mail" that I know of, but other mail clients may have that capability. However, you can always do "mail email-address <messgae-file".

2) In the general case, no. If the addresses were all local (within your domain) then it would be possible. However if the addresses are randomly distributed to Internet users there is no method(s) of verifying an address that will work in all cases.

3) The exit status of "mail email-address <message-file" will tell you if the email was accepted for delivery. That means that it has been passed from "mail" to the local Mail Transport Agent (MTA) for further processing. The MTA can only indicate any errors in delivery by sending a "bounce message" to the sender and there are a number of reasons that delivery can fail, such as: no such user at the remote server, no such domain or host, running afoul of anti-spam protection, user over quota, etc. And the bounce message won't necessarily happen immediately. If the email address looks valid (the domain exists and the remote SMTP server is in the DNS), but the remote SMTP server isn't accessible the MTA will continue delivery attempts for several days (typically 4-5 days) before giving up and "bouncing the message".

4) Maybe. If you have direct access to the local SMTP server and can check the logs you may be able to determine if specific messages have been delivered to the next hop on their path to the recipient. Note that knowing that your local SMTP server has passed the message "up the line" tells you nothing about utlimate delivery to the mail server that the adressee will get the message from. There can be one or more other MTA's in the path to the adressee.

5) The only way to determine if the recipient received and read the mail is to have some mechanism to "close the loop", like having them reply to the message or go to a web page and enter a unique value from the message. A "Return Receipt" can tell you that the email was delivered to the adressee's mail client, but you still don't know if it has been read. Also some folks (me included) disable all "Return Receipts" and in extreme cases they are blocked at the remote MTA.

Expert Comment

ID: 6199065

1. mailx -s "Subject" user@domain < standard_email

2. sendmail will certainly check that the domain that you are sending the email to is valid.  I think that it will attempt to verify the user as well.

3. The exit status of the mailx command is stored in $?.  Query this immediately after the mailx command.  It should be zero.

4. You can check the local mqueue directory to see if the email is still waiting to be forwarded, but it can stay there for up to five days.

5. I believe you can request a 'Read Receipt'.  This will prompt the user and they can choose not to.  I don't know how to do this in sendmail, but MS Exchange can do it.

Regards, Nisus

Author Comment

ID: 6203182

Where is the local mqueue directory located? What is full path name?
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Author Comment

ID: 6203441
What is the difference between mail and mailx?
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Expert Comment

ID: 6207342
Where the mail work queue is located depends on what OS you are running. Most Unixen use /var/spool/mqueue, but the Mail Transport Agent (MTA) can be configured for a differnet location.

"mail" and "mailx" are just slightly different Mail User Agents (MUA's). Both do essentially the same thing and you typicall find one or the other on any given Unix. Dunno that I've used a Unix that had both. My recollection, hazy at best, is that "mailx" came out of the BSD world and that "mail" came from the SysV world.

Expert Comment

ID: 6210442

Under Solaris the mail queue is /var/spool/mqueue.

To find it on your system, use find:

find / -name mqueue -ls

Regards, Nisus.

Expert Comment

ID: 6877304
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