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Mailfilter Frequently Asked Questions and Answers

Attention: This FAQ reflects changes only available in Mailfilter versions >= 0.7! In particular, the rcfile format has changed. See the man pages for details.

General Questions:

Installation:

Configuration:

Run-time Errors:

Special Features:

Miscellaneous:


General Questions:

What is Mailfilter?

Mailfilter is a flexible utility for UNIX (-like) operating systems to get rid of unwanted spam mails, before having to go through the trouble of downloading them into the local computer. It offers support for one or many POP accounts and is especially useful for dialup connections via modem, ISDN, etc.
Mailfilter connects to any POP mail box and compares part of its content to a set of user defined filter rules. That way the spam gets deleted directly on the mail server.
With Mailfilter you can define your own filters (rules) to determine which e-mails should be delivered and which are considered waste. Rules are Regular Expressions, so you can make use of familiar options from other mail delivery programs such as e.g. procmail.
Mailfilter is released under the terms of the GNU General Public License. For more information, see the README and COPYING documents provided with the Mailfilter program.

Who needs Mailfilter?

If you do not pick up your e-mail from a POP server, then there is no need to install Mailfilter. But if you do get your e-mail from one or many POP accounts and if you are sick and tired of downloading megabytes of worthless spam (usually those are anonymous advertisements, chain mails, etc.), then you should give Mailfilter a try.
It will help save you band width and time by deleting spam directly on your server, before you have to download and read those messages. By defining your own personal filter rules, you can tell Mailfilter which e-mails should be deleted.

How does Mailfilter interact with my current e-mail environment?

It doesn't matter which programs you use to fetch your mail with, because Mailfilter is an independent application. It will not interfere with your favourite e-mail client. You may just want to start Mailfilter every time you are about to download new e-mail from a POP server, or maybe just once a day. That's entirely up to you.
However, if you are using highly configurable mail programs such as fetchmail, then there are some clever ways to get Mailfilter cooperate with them directly. Section "How do I fine tune other programs to work with Mailfilter?" describes this in more detail.

Where do I find out more about Mailfilter?

All relevant documentation for Mailfilter (including this FAQ) is provided with the Mailfilter distribution. Online versions of some of these documents are available on the official Mailfilter homepage:

http://mailfilter.sourceforge.net/

On this homepage you may also find additional information on Regular Expressions and related links to other programs that work well with Mailfilter. If you have already installed the program, be sure to read the man pages mailfilter(1), mailfilterrc(5) and mailfilterex(5).

I think, I found a bug in Mailfilter. Will you fix it?

If it's really a bug that you found (and not a feature), then I will of course try to do something about it. Generally it's a good idea to report bugs to the mailing list mailfilter-dev@lists.sourceforge.net, but you can also directly contact the author of Mailfilter. When you report bugs, please provide as much additional information as possible on what may have caused the problems and what consequences you suffered. Such information always includes the name of your operating system and hardware platform, description of your network connection and excerpts from the Mailfilter log files. When creating a log file, please use the highest level of verbosity available.

mailfilter --verbose=6

Older versions of Mailfilter do not hide your passwords in the logs. Remove these entries before posting anything to the mailing list!

I have good ideas for new features. Will you implement them?

Of course that depends on the feature you are asking for. There are some frequently requested features ('autoreply' ranks very high) that will most likely never make it into the source code, but at this point I am sure Mailfilter could be expanded with dozens of useful additions and I'm glad to hear about them (if they are not too far 'off the track'). I'm even more glad if you're able to help implement them.

Mailfilter is wonderful. How can I support this project?

There are many ways to express your appreciation: you could join forces and submit code, but even if you are not a programmer, you could still contribute by sending bug reports, suggestions or useful add-on scripts to our mailing list(s). Every contribution is welcome! Albeit, there is also a web page to donate money to the project. The money would help immensely in keeping the web pages up to date (i.e. cover ISP costs), in answering user feedback and questions via e-mail or mailing lists and in affording additional hardware for testing purposes (i.e. extra hard disks with alternative operating systems). Mailfilter is free software, which means it also depends on the support it gets from the community.


Installation:

What are the system's requirements to install and run Mailfilter?

Here is an excerpt from the INSTALL file that is part of the source archive of Mailfilter:

"To run Mailfilter it's best to have a UNIX (-like) operating system, but it also compiles fine with Windows 9x/NT/2000 if additional libraries and tools are installed (e.g. Cygwin or DJGPP). So far Mailfilter has been successfully compiled and tested with

  • Solaris 8 / SunOS 5.8
  • Irix 6.5
  • FreeBSD 4.1.1-RELEASE, 4.5-RELEASE
  • Mac OS X 10.0
  • NetBSD 1.5
  • Linux: Mandrake 7.0 - 8.2, Debian 2.1 - 3.0, RedHat 6.2 - 7.1, Slackware 3.9 (See doc/README.Slackware for further details), SuSE 6.2, LinuxPPC
  • Windows NT, 2000, XP (using Cygwin)

but it may well work on other platforms, too. (Please report success if you have managed to compile it on any other system - thanks.)

To compile/install Mailfilter you also need to have a fairly recent version of a (GNU) C++ compiler (e. g. GCC >= 2.95.2) and your system must support BSD-type sockets (in general all UNIX systems do meet this criterion). For compilation you will also need some of the GNU autotools (gettext, m4) and the programs flex (http://lex.sf.net/) and yacc (or the GNU substitute bison (http://www.gnu.org/software/bison/)).

Attention: GNU flex is unlikely to work with recent compiler releases. So, if you experience compile problems, please use flex from http://lex.sf.net/. GNU flex is broken!

What should I know to make Mailfilter run on Windows 9x/2000/NT/XP?

Mailfilter was originally designed to only support UNIX (-like) operating systems. But if you have additional libraries such as the Cygwin environment, DJGPP or MinGW installed, then you should also be able to translate the program on your Windows 9x/2000/NT/XP platform.

How do I install Mailfilter?

If you have downloaded the compressed Mailfilter source code archive, then please refer to the INSTALL file provided by that archive. Binary packages (if available for a particular program version) should be installed as any other package of that kind. For example you could use the command 'rpm -U packagename.rpm' for the RedHat packages.
Note: even if you did not encounter any problems installing the program, I strongly recommend reading the INSTALL file anyway in order to find out about the set-up of Mailfilter. The program does not work without spending a little bit of time on configuration first.

Running 'configure' doesn't work.

If your system lacks some of the requested features/libraries/compilers, then try installing them and run 'configure' again. But don't forget to remove the file config.cache first, or the new components can not be found. If it's a more serious problem that can't be fixed that way, consider reporting it as bug.

Running 'make' doesn't work.

On Linux systems the command 'make' typically refers to GNU's gmake. Various BSD- and Unix-systems ship with different (non-GNU) versions of make though. In that case you need to be sure that the right version of make is invoked by typing 'gmake', instead of just 'make' (and later 'gmake install' instead of 'make install').

Another common reason why 'make' might fail could be related to your system's C++ compiler and its libraries. It's easiest to use GNU CC (gcc), even though other C++ and C compilers should work as well. But keep in mind that GNU CC releases prior 2.95.x don't know C++ namespaces and therefore choke on Mailfilter's source code. So, be up to date.

A not so obvious reason why compilation abords could be related to broken versions of the program flex. Please read section 2.7 of this document for further information on this issue.

Running 'make' was easy, but running 'make install' doesn't work.

The most common cause for this behaviour is that you are trying to install Mailfilter into a directory where you do not have the necessary permissions to write in. Either reconfigure your Makefile with these options

make clean
./configure --prefix=/newdir

where 'newdir' points to the new location for Mailfilter, or simply become 'root' and then run 'make install' again. By default this will install the software in /usr/local/bin.

Why doesn't the compiler like my flex output, or complains about wrong declarations?

Because most likely you are using a broken version of GNU flex. Basically, you have two choices to resolve the problem: a) you can stick with GNU flex and try using an outdated release of GCC, or b) you try replacing the (broken) GNU flex with a more compatible version available from http://lex.sf.net/.

Is there any way to decrease the size of the Mailfilter binary?

For users of UNIX-like systems, yes. When installing the program, running 'make install-strip' instead of 'make install' will strip the binary as it installs it, drastically decreasing its size.
If you've already installed mailfilter, but still wish to strip the binary, become root, and use the strip command. See the manual page of strip(1) for more information.


Configuration:

Mailfilter complains that its rcfile ($HOME/.mailfilterrc) is missing.

Read the INSTALL file provided with Mailfilter, in which you will find an example rcfile set-up. Copy and paste this example, modify it to suit your own needs and restart Mailfilter. (Alternatively you can also look up the official homepage to find a basic set-up that gets you started very conveniently.) If the program still complains, then try to start it with the '--mailfilterrc' switch, pointing directly to the new location of your rcfile.
Note: you must have a rcfile file installed somewhere.

Mailfilter complains that its logfile can't be accessed.

Every rcfile must set the LOGFILE option. Check the given path of your logfile in the rcfile, or simply start Mailfilter with the '--logfile' switch pointing directly to the desired location. If that doesn't help, then check the permissions of the directory where you want Mailfilter to store its logs in. It has to be writable.

Mailfilter complains about the syntax of my rcfile.

Not to worry, you probably misspelled a word or two in the rcfile, or you have a couple of blanks hidden at the end of your command's parameters. Read through your settings carefully and check for redundant white space characters. Typically an entry in $HOME/.mailfilterrc looks like this

COMMAND_NAME = MyParameter

The command (not necessarily written in capitals) is followed by the '=' and there are no white space symbols (blanks, tabs, etc.) hidden after the parameter. Each command has to be in a separate line of the config file.

How do these filters work? What are Regular Expressions anyway?

With Mailfilter you can define your own filter rules to determine which e-mails are considered waste and what should be downloaded into your local computer. Such rules are defined by using Regular Expressions. It is very common for these kinds of programs to employ this technique because of its great flexibility. Consider this simple example: if you are not interested to get the 200th advertisement containing information about Viagra, you might want to add this to the end of your rcfile

DENY = "^Subject:.*Viagra"

Now every e-mail that contains anything about Viagra in the subject line gets deleted right away. You can create similar rules for all of the other header fields (cc, To, From, etc.), but be aware of the fact that Mailfilter does not allow more than one line per rule. So each new filter must be placed in its own line starting with 'DENY'. If you don't want the filter rules to be case-sensitive then you also have to add this line to your rcfile:

REG_CASE = "no"

A comprehensive list of all supported keywords can be found in the mailfilterrc(5) man page. More examples and real-life use cases can be looked up in the mailfilterex(5) man page. Study these documents carefully! If you're eager to know how Regular Expressions work in general, use your favourite UNIX book or have a look at the official Mailfilter homepage. There you will find some enlightening links on this subject.

Is it possible to define what should be delivered, rather than vice versa?

Yes, by creating a negative filter. Negative Filters are quite restrictive, so you should make sure that you have fully understood how these are set up and how they work.

DENY<>"^(To|Cc):.*my-email@address\.com"

Having a simple rule like this added to your rcfile, Mailfilter will delete every message which is not directly sent to your e-mail account. That is, if there is a message that can't be matched to the above, then it automatically qualifies as spam.

Can I override some filters? (How to define 'friends'/trusted lists)

Yes, using the keyword ALLOW you can define which messages should be delivered, regardless of any spam filters that might match. This way you can not only define 'friends' lists, but also create a very restrictive rule set. Consider this example:

DENY = "^From:.*@spam_isp.org"
ALLOW = "^From:.*my_friend@spam_isp.org"

Adding these two lines to your rcfile will filter all messages coming from the domain 'spam_isp.org', except for those from your friend 'my_friend' (who should obviously change his ISP). A comprehensive list of all supported keywords can be found in the mailfilterrc(5) and mailfilterex(5) man pages. Study them carefully!

Is it possible to split the rcfile into several smaller files?

This is a feature, officially supported since version 0.3.3 of Mailfilter. Use the keyword INCLUDE in your main rcfile to load additional program configuration. However, the nesting may only be one level deep, i.e. the files included must not include further files. Consider this example:

# From within $HOME/.mailfilterrc we load three
# additional config files

INCLUDE = "/home/myusername/.mailfilter/servers"
INCLUDE = "/home/myusername/.mailfilter/filters"
INCLUDE = "/home/myusername/.mailfilter/friends"
How do I get rid of messages sent in exotic (e.g. Asian) languages (unknown to me)?

Spam is not only a European or American illness. In fact a lot of it comes from Asia and a lot of that reaches people who can not read nor understand what arrives in their mail boxes. The following filters will help you to get rid of e-mails that contain 'unusual' subject tags. Consider some excerpts from a typical logfile:

Subject: 共享路由器(ADSL/CABLE/ISDN/PSTN/SWITCH)
Subject: 强烈推荐属于您的网上社区!(www.I_am_a_Spammer.com)
Subject: 70万企业信息

All these subjects have one thing in common: They use characters which do not fit into the ordinary range of displayable ASCII symbols. A hexdump of the last subject line will help to illustrate this:

0000 53 75 62 6a 65 63 74 3a 20 37 30 cd f2 c6 f3 d2
0010 b5 d0 c5 cf a2 .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. ..

Even though it is possible to create filters matching these strings, it takes a bit of work, since most Regular Expression libraries that today's operating systems provide do not support octal or hex escapes (something like [\x80-\xfc]). In fact, the negative (and case sensitive) message filters are our weapon of choice here:

DENY_CASE<>"^Subject: [][A-Za-z0-9闹茕鳇
            ^         ^^          ^^^^^^^
            1         23          4

        :;.,!"$%&/()=?{}_<>#~'` |@*+癪\-]+$"
                              ^^         ^^^^
                              5          6278

There are some important issues in this expression, numbered from 1 - 8:

  1. See 8.
  2. These brackets '[]' enclose a character class.
  3. We want to allow these brackets, too. The only position where to put the closing bracket into a character class is the first one.
  4. For those who want to allow German subjects. (Modify this to fit your own needs for Scandinavian languages, etc.)
  5. Attention: There are two different single quotes from the upper right to the lower left.
  6. Inside a character class the hyphen '-' is a meta symbol to set a range of characters (take a look at the beginning). In order to get the actual literal '-', it must be positioned at the end of the class.
  7. Indicates that the preceding character or character class has to be present at least once.
  8. In order to force the mail's originator to only use these characters in the subject line, there must not exist any preceding or following characters. That is the preceding character has to be the start of the line, the following character has to be the end of the line.

On a UNIX-like system you usually need to switch off the locale first ('handling of different country characteristics'), so the internal Regular Expression compile-process does not get confused. If you are calling a script for filtering and getting messages, you could use something similar to this:

#!/bin/sh

# Remove locale
L=$LANG
unset LANG

# Get mails
/usr/local/bin/fetchmail $*

# Restore locale
LANG=$L

Alternatively it is also possible to create a straight forward filter that matches non-ISO-8859-1 messages (or at least almost). The standard ISO-8859-1 is an extension to the ASCII character set (i.e. the first 128 characters are the same, greater numbers encode symbols, accents, etc.) and supports the following languages: Afrikaans, Basque, Catalan, Danish, Dutch, English, Faeroese, Finnish, French, Galician, German, Icelandic, Irish, Italian, Norwegian, Portuguese, Spanish and Swedish. There is a draw back though: the filter we're presenting here accepts only special German characters (umlauts) as extension and is therefore not fully ISO-8859-1 compliant. However, you might consider it useful anyway. Read the filter as one single line:

# A filter that only accepts ASCII characters and also
# German umlauts as extension
DENY_NOCASE = "^Subject:.*=\?ISO-8859-1\?Q\?.*= ([0189][[:xdigit:]]|[7F]F|A[0189A-F]| B[1235-9A-F]|[CE][0-35-9A-F]|[DF][0-5789ABDE])"

Needless to say, you need to have extended Regular Expressions enabled (Mailfilter's default are basic expressions) in order to create such complex rules. (This truly frequently asked question was patiently worked out and answered by Til Schubbe.)

How do I fine tune other programs to work with Mailfilter?

As always, there are various ways to achieve this. I have chosen the commonly used application fetchmail to explain how this works. (Similar options are available in other mail programs, such as KMail.) Fetchmail is a nifty program that downloads e-mail from POP accounts (it also supports other protocols). Therefore it's a very tempting idea to use the clean up services of Mailfilter before we're starting to receive huge amounts of junk in between our normal e-mail messages. Adding one single line to the fetchmail set-up file does the trick:

poll my.mailserver.de via "my.mailserver.de"
 with proto POP3
 localdomains mailserver.de
 user "username" there with password "pass" is tuxuser here options forcecr warnings 3600
 preconnect "mailfilter"

poll my2.mailserver.de via "my2.mailserver.de"
 with proto POP3
 localdomains mailserver.de
 user "anotherusername" there with password "other_pass" is tuxuser here options forcecr warnings 3600

The line 'preconnect "mailfilter"' tells fetchmail to invoke Mailfilter each time the user requests the download of new e-mail messages. If Mailfilter is set up to check both of the given accounts then calling it merely once is sufficient.
Another very good (and popular) way of using Mailfilter is to call it via cron, or just once upon login. That way you won't see much of it either and can work with your favourite e-mail program just as you are used to - except you won't be disturbed by spam anymore.

I'm using multidrop mail collection with fetchmail and can't get Mailfilter to work.

Peter T. Garner contributed this one: consider an environment in which six users collect mail via fetchmail's multidrop mechanism, but want their messages checked for spam first. That's no problem if you mind the right syntax and add something like this to your fetchmail set-up:

set postmaster "root"
set properties ""
set bouncemail
set syslog
poll pop.something.net with proto POP3
  envelope Envelope-to
  aka something.rather.co.uk
  user anything.anyone.co.uk there with password TOP_SECRET
to
peterg = peterg
annie = annie
gemma = gemma
lizzy = lizzy
bob = bob
here
options
preconnect "mailfilter --mailfilterrc=/etc/mailfilter.rc"
Are there any sample rcfiles ($HOME/.mailfilterrc) ?

Yes, there are. You can find one in the INSTALL guide provided with Mailfilter, or check the rest of the documentation for additional 'rcfile.example' files. A comprehensive list of all supported keywords can be found in the mailfilterrc(5) and mailfilterex(5) man pages. Study them carefully!

I am scared to try out Mailfilter, cause I might accidently delete everything!

No, you won't. If you are new to Mailfilter, place this line in your rcfile before running the program for the very first time:

TEST = "yes"

This makes sure you are not losing any mail at all, including spam. When Mailfilter is in test mode it only simulates the deletion of e-mail and you can see how good your filters would work - in theory. Once you have come to a point where you are happy about their behaviour you can remove this command from your rcfile again and start to seriously kill the spam.


Run-time Errors:

Because of some missing libraries, Mailfilter won't start.

So far I have only witnessed this behaviour on a poorly administered Solaris machine. If you get an error message similar to this

ld.so.1: ./mailfilter: fatal: libstdc++.so.2.10.0: open failed: No such file or directory

then your library path is not set properly. To fix the problem, simply type something like this in your shell (if it's bash - otherwise you may have to use 'set' instead of 'export') depending on the path of your libraries (sometimes they're also in /opt/lib)

export LD_LIBRARY_PATH=/usr/lib:/usr/local/lib:$LD_LIBRARY_PATH
Mailfilter complains that a specific file couldn't be accessed.

Most likely you need to fix up your Mailfilter configuration. Please refer to the "Configuration" section in this FAQ.

I get DNS lookup errors.

Such errors occur when the Domain Name Server failed to resolve the name of your mail server. This either happens when you have misspelled the server name in your rcfile, or when you are trying to start Mailfilter even though you have not established a network connection first.

Mailfilter says it sent a specific command to the server, but it responded with an error.

Usually these errors occur when you are trying to get your mail from a server that does not fully support the POP3/APOP transfer protocol. But you can also get this behaviour if your network connection (or only the connection to the POP3 server) drops during a mail box examination. In this case, simply try to invoke Mailfilter again. If that doesn't fix it, consider reporting a bug.

Mailfilter says that some keyword is deprecated.

This may happen occasionally when updating from an old version of Mailfilter to a new one. Usually the program suggests a new keyword in its error message though. But you can also look up the proper definition in the documentation files that come with the Mailfilter distribution, or consult the mailfilterrc(5) man page. It contains a comprehensive list of all supported and deprecated keywords.

The compilation of Regular Expressions failed.

Extended Regular Expressions are not 100% compatible to the basic kind of expressions. Check if you have set Mailfilter to support extended expressions (keyword REG_TYPE) and adjust your filters if necessary.

I frequently get an error message saying that my mail server is not responding.

You have to use the keyword TIMEOUT in order to increase the response time out value. The default is set to 30 seconds, but in some occasions a higher value might be necessary, because some mail servers take longer to send a response, than others. This behaviour can also be experienced on slow or extremely busy network connections.

Help, Mailfilter hangs!

Depending on your machine's operating system and configuration you might run into trouble with the deployed Regular Expression library. Mailfilter depends on that component to match the user defined spam filters.
It has been reported that certain library implementations do not like (very) large strings and therefore stop Mailfilter when it tries to process e-mails with big headers. The Internet standard RFC 822 explicitly forbids any header description to exceed the 998 byte limit. So, you should use MAXLENGTH in your rcfile to make sure no strings larger than 998 characters are being processed by Mailfilter. All the different Regular Expression libraries should be able to happily handle that size, too.
Please note that MAXLENGTH also overrides your friendly ALLOW rules. So it's probably a good idea to deploy this feature only if you have experienced this peculiar program behaviour yourself!


Special Features:

Can Mailfilter check more than one account?

Of course it can. Personally, I despise all e-mail programs that have such stupid limitations. How many users nowadays have only one account anyway?

Does Mailfilter support any other protocols besides POP3?

Yes, it does: POP3 and APOP (= encrypted POP3) are implemented. Support for the IMAP protocol is also planned.

Is there a way to send encrypted password information to the server?

It is possible to tunnel Mailfilter through ssh (Secure-Shell). Brian Hall has provided a shell script and some comments on this issue. This solution requires a password-less login to your server/shell account though.

#!/bin/sh
# Script to restart the ssh tunnel if tunneled ports are failed
/usr/local/bin/mailfilter -M /home/hallb/.mailfilterrc | \
    grep "timed out" > /dev/null 2>&1 || exit

# Find pid of sleeping ssh tunnel process
/bin/kill `/bin/ps wx | /bin/grep -v grep| /bin/grep \
    "ssh -i /root/.ssh/script_id -g shell.pcisys.net -f" | \
    /bin/awk '{print $1}'` > /dev/null 2>&1

# Start ssh tunnel process
/usr/bin/ssh -i /root/.ssh/script_id -g shell.pcisys.net -f \
    /bin/sleep 999999999 < /dev/null > /dev/null 2>&1
Mailfilter logs are so plain; I'd like to have better spam-statistics!

Roland Smith has come up with a simple, yet efficient way to create nice monthly spam-statistics. This shell script summarises the main log file:

#!/bin/sh
# -*- shell-script -*-
# Id: spamsort,v 1.3 2002/03/14 18:47:39 rsmith Exp rsmith
#
# 2003/10/03 12:46:28 extension from Simon Brandmair: now shows MAXSIZE_DENY hits
LOG = "/var/log/mailfilter"

cat $LOG |awk '/Deleted/ {print $NF}'|sed 's/]//g'| \
sed -e 's/^.*[/][0-9]*$/MAXSIZE_DENY exceeded/' | \
sort|uniq -c|sort -r

The output of this script looks something like this:

 384 '^Content-Type:.*text/html.*'
 261 '<>^(To|Cc):.*rsmith@xs4all.nl'
 189 '^(From|Received):.*hotmail.com.*'
 110 '^(From|Received|Reply-To):.*yahoo.com.*'
  51 '^(From|Received|Reply-To):.*hotmail.com.*'
  40 '^Subject:.*adult.*'
  36 '^(From|Received|Reply-To):.*yahoo.*'
  26 '^(From|Received):.*aol.com.*'
  21 duplicate
  18 '^(From|Received):.*listmanpro.com.*'
  17 '^From:.*e.*direct.com.*'
  14 '^Mailing-List:.*double-optin.*'
  12 '^(From|Received):.*investorsalley.com.*'
  11 '.*hardcore.*sex.*'
  10 '^From:.*optmailing.com.*'
  10 '^From:.*freeoptinfo.com.*'
   7 '^From:.*horny18.net.*'
   5 '^Subject:.*rsmith@xs4all.nl.*'
   5 '^Received:.*listbuilder.com.*'
   5 '^From:.*msn.com.*'
   2 '^From:.*thenewpornsite.com.*'
   1 material.*'
   1 '^From:.*insync-palm.com.*'
   1 '^(From|Received):.*sexrave.com.*'
   1 '<>^From:.*@.*'
How can I get Mailfilter to auto-reply to spam?

You can't and this is a feature that will never be implemented either. I started the Mailfilter project to prevent e-mail abuse in general not to give people a weapon to fight fire with fire. Apart from that it would be considered a criminal offense in most countries (including the one I'm living in) to answer a mail bomb with your own mail bomb.


Miscellaneous:

I think I accidently deleted an important e-mail with Mailfilter. Can I get it back somehow?

Tough. Once Mailfilter deleted an e-mail, all you get to see of it is where it came from, what it was about and when it was sent. Have a look in your logfile and ask the author to send it again. If that's not an option for you, you may want to ask your ISP to recover this message for you, though I doubt this would be a very successful undertaking.

If I make changes to the rcfile, does it affect immediately?

If you are changing Mailfilter's settings while it's active, nothing special will happen. All changes you make in the rcfile will be considered next time you run the application.

Sometimes a few (spam-) messages slip through. How come?

This is not a bug in Mailfilter. Consider this a feature of every POP e-mail server. Once you start checking for spam or downloading messages, the server locks your mail box. If new messages arrive during the locked state, they will be queued and provided for further processing after the lock has been removed.
So Mailfilter does not see incoming messages while it checks for spam and sometimes it happens that a message or two arrive just in time to be too late for filtering, but in time for download. That's life.

What's this cron business?

Cron. It's the way to run tasks on a schedule in Unix. Say, for example, I wanted to run mailfilter once every minute of every day. Well, we think of it this way:

minute hour day month day_of_week command_here

A quick explanation what it all means:

  • The first field specifies the minute (0 to 59).
  • The second field specifies the hour (0 to 23).
  • The third field specifies the day of the month (1 to 31).
  • The fourth field specifies the month of the year (1 to 12).
  • The fifth field specifies the day of the week (0 to 6 for Sunday to Saturday).
  • The sixth field specifies the command to be executed.

So, for a quick example, if I wanted something to run every night at 3 AM, I would use the following (an asterisk is the same as saying "anything").

0 3 * * * mailfilter

Or, lets say I wanted every weekday (days 1-5) every hour at half past the hour:

30 * * * 1-5 mailfilter

Or, every 10 minutes (which is what I use)

10,20,30,40,50 * * * * mailfilter

(Thanks to Matt Cowger for answering this FAQ.)

My question is not covered by this FAQ. Help!!

This FAQ can never be a 100% complete guide, covering all possible aspects of the Mailfilter program. That is the reason why we have created a mailing list where we discuss the various aspects of spam killing and how to use Mailfilter. Feel free to subscribe and ask your questions. In urgent or very special cases, however, you can also contact me directly, the author of Mailfilter. Maybe the question will be just another candidate for the FAQ.


Last updated on Mar 25, 2016 by Andreas Bauer.
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