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Text only email stuff

August 14th, 2009
statmbx, programming, email  [html]

For a few years I've checked email with a program I wrote called statmbx. It reads my mailboxes and gives me a summary of what is marked as 'new'. I like it a lot. The code is about as efficient as any code that reads all the mailboxes can be. The only way to make it more efficient would be indexing, and that would be a lot of work. It is a little slow on loaded machines, though. How to make it faster? I realized I use it for two things:
  • Listing the contents of my mailboxes when I have a lot of mail and want to see what needs dealing with
  • Checking if I have anything new to deal with since I last ran it.
This second case can be much faster if every time we get a new message we write summary information to a file. Which procmail does. I have procmail create ~/procmail/pmlog which looks like:
        From email_bounce_handler@bounce.convio.net  Fri Aug 14 15:42:23 2009
         Subject: EFFector 22.23: Locational Privacy -- Who Knows Where You Are, And Wh
          Folder: /var/mail/jeff
        From nfbvdqanlkuv@c-24-20-39-38.hsd1.wa.comcast.net  Fri Aug 14 15:50:36 2009
         Subject: Medications that you need.
          Folder: probably-spam                                                    2012
        From john.smith@example.com  Fri Aug 14 16:12:01 2009
         Subject: sorry I missed you.
          Folder: /var/mail/jeff                                                   1498
        From bootsk@lovesaju.com  Fri Aug 14 16:29:24 2009
         Subject: If you want to change your style, start with a watch.
          Folder: probably-spam                                                    2906
        From actionlad@bellsouth.net  Fri Aug 14 16:29:44 2009
         Subject: Save some funk for Sunday
          Folder: probably-spam                                                    1510
All I need to do is pretty this up, strip out the probably-spam entires, and display it as it comes in. So a little python program, clean_pmlog.py, and a tail -f and we're set:
        email_bounce_handler@ ... EFFector 22.23: Locational Privacy -- Who Knows Where You Are, And Wh
        john.smith@example.com    sorry I missed you.
I alias wmail to 'tail -f ~/procmail/pmlog | python ~/clean_pmlog.py' and leave it running. Now I hope I can get away from compulsively running my statmbx program to see if I've gotten new mail. Update: After starting to use this, I've realized that the from address it has is the envelope sender. Which is usually the same as the sender, unless there's a mailing list involved. So this is less useful for mailing lists than it could be, especially when there's lots of traffic on one list and it all has the same subject. But I run statmbx a lot less now.

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