On our linux server to which I have access via ssh doesn't (and probably will not) have a X server installed. Mail concerning e.g. cronjobs ends up there so I have to log in and use mail. I can access my home folder (including a symlink to /var/spool/mail/$USER) via NFS from my windows machine, so

How can I access a NFS shared linux mailbox via a windows installation of thunderbird?

I found that with Linux' Thunderbird this is achieved via a movemail account, but that option seems to be not available on the Windows installation.

update Our university policy unfortunately doesn't allow for SMTP services so solutions to forward mail to my usual email account won't work. Basically I need a way to have thunderbird treat the external mail file as a folder containing mails. Maybe there is a plugin for the windows version?

  • @Olli I was referring to linux' mail command since I didn't know which tag to use to refer to /var/spool/mail. – Tobias Kienzler Mar 1 '11 at 13:18
  • sorry, now I don't understand. Can you clarify? I didn't change tags at all. – Olli Mar 1 '11 at 14:37
  • @Olli: sorry nevermind, my mistake, I had tagged the question mail not email and thought you retagged that as well but that was an automatic tag synonym which I didn't notice. but thanks for your edit – Tobias Kienzler Mar 1 '11 at 15:03
  • The best choice for remote mail is to install a IMAP daemon on the server. (I like Dovecot myself.)

  • If you do not want to keep messages on the server but rather move them to your PC, there is a simpler POP3 protocol, which works in a similar way to "movemail".

  • As suggested by Matt Jenkins, you can add a MAILTO=your@real.address in crontab.

  • It is usually possible to forward your mail system-wide, by putting your real address to a file called .forward in your home directory.

  • Regarding X11: All you need to install on the Linux box is X11 clients, such as Thunderbird.

    The X11 server should never be on server machines; it is supposed to be installed on your local machine – the one you're sitting at. (A few for Windows are Xming and Cygwin/X.)

    X11 is designed so that it could be used over the network directly. However, tunnelling it over SSH offers greater security. Use ssh -X host or the "X11 Forwarding" option in PuTTY.

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    You could also edit your crontab to add a MAILTO=you@yourdomain.com line so that emails from cron get sent to your proper mailbox. – Majenko Mar 1 '11 at 13:03
  • Thanks, I tried the .forward solution, but a test email send to myself with mail $USER seems to have vanished. is there some place to look for a logfile? re the imap/pop3 solution, I'm afraid our admin wouldn't be too pleased about that potential security issue - or me starting a daemon at all... – Tobias Kienzler Mar 1 '11 at 13:39
  • @MattJenkins: thanks, that might help for cronjobs. However I also receive other mails e.g. by our cluster system – Tobias Kienzler Mar 1 '11 at 13:43
  • @Tobias: I strongly disagree that IMAP would be more of a security issue than NFS is. Both IMAP and POP3 can be (and usually are) secured with TLS (SSL), and they can use GSSAPI (Kerberos) authentication, the same that NFSv4 uses. And if you are not using NFSv4... don't tell me that IP address-based authentication is not a "potential security issue". – user1686 Mar 1 '11 at 13:46
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    @Tobias: I know this won't matter to the network admins, but I still say that there's no reason to disallow IMAP... It doesn't have to be open to the Internet; it can follow exactly the same access restrictions as existing services (NFS and SSH); and, of course, convenience. But, meh. If the policies are that restrictive, then there aren't many "legal" alternative solutions (such as having a program on the cluster that automatically transfers the messages elsewhere; I can think of and implement a few). – user1686 Mar 1 '11 at 15:33

This sounds like a slightly long-winded way of doing it, but one method might be to run a small IMAP or POP3 server locally on your computer which uses the NFS shared data as its file store. You could then connect Thunderbird to this server with a standard protocol.

I'm not sure what software would be best for this - maybe someone else can recommend some?


You should be able to edit /etc/aliases to forward email to whichever address you choose.

  • Thanks. Unfortunately I'm not root, but also our policy doesn't allow for SMTP so forwarding via email is impossible anyway :( – Tobias Kienzler Mar 2 '11 at 12:04

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