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So I'm still kind of new to linux, but what are the steps towards setting a linux box up in such a way that it can send mail using shell?

echo "hello world" | mail johnny@moo.com

I mean, I've done the necessary sudo apt-get install mailsystem (or something like that) which sets up the mail command. However, will you also have to set up a .com to point to your linux box as its SMTP server? What else needs to be done?

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2 Answers 2

I'm assuming that you are using a Debian based derivative given that you mentioned apt-get in your question.

This can be done fairly simply using the exim4 mail package. A simple

apt-get install exim4 exim4-config

Will install everything that you need to send mail via smtp. Note you need to be root or use sudo for the apt-get command to work.

During the install the exim4-config package setup will ask you a number of questions that will let you configure things appropriately.

You should probably select the mail sent by smarthost; no local mail option and give it details of your outgoing mail provider. It is also possible to send mail directly as an internet site; mail is sent and received directly using SMTP but that can have issues with your internet providers so you are best to start off using a smarthost.

If you need to tweak your configuration you can use

dpkg-reconfigure -plow exim4-config

I'm guessing that your outgoing mail provider will require your machine to authenticate before it allows sending of mail. In that case you need to add an entry into /etc/exim4/passwd.client . The format is quite simple each takes the format of servername:login:password and is documented in

man exim4_files

The latter also tells you how to configure other settings files. It will likely be of interest to setup /etc/email-addresses to ensure that when you send email as a specific user it gets sent via your ISP as your real outgoing address

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Unless you have a static address configure your system to use a Smarthost. Usually your ISP will have an SMTP server intended for such use. –  BillThor Feb 23 '11 at 17:01

I don't know what debian uses as /usr/bin/mail, but try to get a mail client that can show you the SMTP dialog that it goes through. I had "nail" (apparently now "mailx" - http://heirloom.sourceforge.net/mailx.html) on one of my linux boxes:

11:46AM 5 % nail -v -s "test letter" me@somewhere.com 
blah blah blah
.
EOT
me@somewhere.com... Connecting to [127.0.0.1] via relay...
220 mydomain.com ESMTP Sendmail 8.13.8/8.13.3; Wed, 23 Feb 2011 11:46:38 -0700
>>> EHLO localhost.intranet
250-mydomain.com Hello localhost [127.0.0.1], pleased to meet you
250-ENHANCEDSTATUSCODES
250-PIPELINING
250-8BITMIME
250-SIZE
250-DSN
250-ETRN
250-AUTH DIGEST-MD5 CRAM-MD5
250-DELIVERBY
250 HELP
>>> MAIL From:<me@mymachine.intranet> SIZE=230 AUTH=me@mymachine.intranet
250 2.1.0 <me@mymachine.intranet>... Sender ok
>>> RCPT To:<me@somewhere.com>
>>> DATA
250 2.1.5 <me@somewhere.com>... Recipient ok
354 Enter mail, end with "." on a line by itself
>>> .
250 2.0.0 p1NIkcHH024098 Message accepted for delivery
me@somewhere.com... Sent (p1NIkcHH024098 Message accepted for delivery)
Closing connection to [127.0.0.1]
>>> QUIT
221 2.0.0 mydomain.com closing connection

The "-v" flag to nail (mailx) cause it to show you the SMTP dialog. That output can be invaluable when troubleshooting.

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