Tardis Beginner Tutorials/3

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Tutorial 3: Reading and sending mail

As a tardis user you get an email address - yourname@tardis.ed.ac.uk - which you can use in every way you'd use your usual isp's email account or a webmail account and more.

A recent and not yet heavily tested addition (as of time of writing) is an IMP webmail interface for your tardis mail. This is possibly the easiest way to access your mail - just go to https://webmail.tardis.ed.ac.uk and sign in with your username and password. This seems to work fine right now, so if you do spot any bugs please be sure to report them to support@tardis.ed.ac.uk.

Tardis also runs a POP3 and an IMAP server, allowing you to get your mail the same way you would from your ISP's email account. Connect to pop.tardis.ed.ac.uk for the POP3 and imap.tardis.ed.ac.uk for the IMAP, using your login username and password. The main difference between POP3 and IMAP is that IMAP keeps a copy of all your email remotely on the server (which happens anyway with tardis) and POP3 (optionally) deletes the email once it's been downloaded (this is up to your POP3 client). It is also planned to implement a POPS and an IMAPS server (the ssl secure variants of POP and IMAP) - this file will hopefully be updated when that happens.

The other method of reading and sending your mail is straight from the shell, using one of several commandline programs available. The most simple is mail, which allows you to send and read mail with the minimum of bells and whistles, but is also very user unfriendly, so we shall use mutt. Mutt is a clone of pine which is also available, but mutt has superior features and is generally much more modern. Both mutt and pine use ncurses, which means they can draw in your terminal fullscreen and use colours rather than being limited to printing text one line at a time on the prompt - this makes them far more user friendly.

In mutt you can scroll through your messages with the up and down arrow keys, open them with the return key, and delete them by pressing D. Unread messages are marked with the letter N next to their number. Related emails which are replies to each other, such as on a mailing list, are shown connected with red arrows. A list of keys you can press is at the top along with their function. To write new mail, press M and type the address of the recipient. Mutt calls an external editor to compose mail with, which sadly happens to be vi. Vi is certainly no good for a beginner, so unless you are comfortable using this, i suggest you change your default editor. This is done with an environment variable - use export EDITOR=nano and export VISUAL=nano on the commandline to set your default editor to nano, or any other editor you prefer. More on this in a later tutorial. Since you are modifying the environment the change will only last while you are logged in. If you want this to happen every time you should add the above lines to ~/.profile - hopefully an automated .bashrc and .profile generator will be finished soon. If you do not know how to do this, simply do:

echo export EDITOR=nano >> ~/.profile && echo export VISUAL=nano >> ~/.profile

You can send mail to external email addresses this way and also email other users on the system - for other users on the system you do not have to specify the full domain, for instance instead of addressing your email to "madeupname@tardis.ed.ac.uk" you could simply address it to "madeupname". Why not try sending an email to yourself right now? If mutt is run with an email address on the commandline it will go straight to compose-new-message mode and return to the commandline once the email is sent. First set the environment variables to use a nice editor like nano if you don't know vi and havent already done so:

export EDITOR=nano
export VISUAL=nano

Then we'll run mutt, telling it to send to yourself (where [yourusername] is your own address) and CC it to me (-c rain)

mutt [yourusername] -c rain

Answer the prompts, giving a subject such as "hello world email!" and when it comes up with the fullscreen editor type a short message. When you're finished, press ^O (^O means ctrl-O, the O is for output and is the command to save your file) and then ^X to exit. Your mail is now sent. You can now read and delete it by running mutt with no commandline options. Don't forget to type man mutt to find out what other commandline options it takes!

Next: Screen