When a message is stored in the queue, it is split into pieces.
Each of those pieces is stored as a separate file in the
queue directory. That is, the header and other information about
the message are stored in one file, while the body (the data)
is stored in another.
All told, six different types of files may appear in the queue directory.
The type of each is denoted by the first two
letters of the filenames. Each filename begins with a single letter
followed by an
character. The complete list is shown in
The complete form for each filename is
is one of the leading letters shown in
is the constant letter
is a unique queue
identifier associated with each mail message.
In the following sections we first describe the identifier
that is common to all the queue file parts, then describe each file type in alphabetical order.
The internal details of the
file can vary depending on the
, so it is discussed separately
at the end of this chapter.
To ensure that new filenames are not the same as the names of
files that may already be in the queue,
following pattern for each new
prior to V8.6
beginning with V8.6
is the process identification number of the incarnation
that is trying to create the file. Because
(2)'s to process the queue, that
is likely to be unique, resulting in a unique
an extra letter prefixes the
, it is an uppercase letter that corresponds to
the hour (in a 24-hour clock) that the identifier was created.
For example, a file created in hour three of the day will
hour begins at midnight with
cannot create an exclusive filename
(because a file with that identifier already exists), it clocks the
and tries again.
It continues this process, clocking the right-hand letter
and the left-hand letter
until it succeeds:
... and so on
never succeeds, the
ultimately looks like the following
is unlikely to ever appear, because the clocking provides
for over 1600 possibilities.
All the files associated with a given mail message share the same
as a part of their filenames. The individual files
associated with a single mail message differ only in the first
letter of their names.
All mail messages are composed of a header and a body.
When queued, the body is stored in the
Traditionally, the message body could contain only characters that
had the high (most significant) bit turned off (cleared,
set to 0).
But under V8
, with a version 2 or higher configuration
Section 27.5, "The V Configuration Command"
the high bit is left as is until delivery (whereupon the
Section 30.8.4, F=7
determines whether or not that bit will be stripped during delivery).
Because the message body can contain sensitive or personal information,
file should be protected from reading by ordinary
users. If the queue directory is world readable, then the
) option (see
Section 34.8.68, TempFileMode (F)
should specify minimum permissions (such as 0600) for queued files.
But if the queue directory is protected
by both narrow permissions and a secure machine, the
) option may be relaxed for easier administration.
There is currently no plan to provide for encryption of
files. If you are concerned about the privacy of your message,
you should use an end-to-end encryption package (not discussed in
When old versions of
process a queued message (attempt
to redeliver it)
they create an empty lock file. That lock file is necessary to
signal to other running
processes that the mail message
is busy so that they won't try to deliver the message too.
Current versions simply
The method that
uses to initially create an exclusive lock
when first queueing a file
is twofold. First it attempts to
(2) the file with
If that succeeds,
it then attempts to lock the file. If HASFLOCK (see
Section 18.8.9, HAS...
is compiled, the file is locked with
Otherwise, it is locked with a
is run (or the
command-line switch is
), the contents of the queue are listed.
In that listing, an asterisk that appears to the right of an identifier
indicates that a lock exists on the message:
Mail Queue (1 request)
-Q-ID- -Size- --Q-Time--- ------Sender/Recipient------
MAA17445* 126 Fri Apr 17 10:17 <email@example.com>
Occasionally, a file will become locked and remain that way for a long time.
One indication of a stuck lock is a series of
messages about a given identifier:
Apr 12 00:33:38 ourhost sendmail: AA00614: locked
Apr 12 01:22:14 ourhost sendmail: AA00614: locked
Apr 12 02:49:23 ourhost sendmail: AA00976: locked
Apr 12 02:49:51 ourhost sendmail: AA00614: locked
Apr 12 03:53:05 ourhost sendmail: AA00614: locked
An occasional lock message, such as
in the third
line above, is normal. But when an identifier is continually reporting
as locked (like the
lines), an orphaned lock
may exist and should be investigated.
(1) to look for lines that list queue file identifiers:
root 5338 160 -AA00614 To wash.dc.gov (sendmail)
This shows that the queued mail message, whose identifier is
, is currently being processed. It the lock
on that file is stuck, consider killing the
is processing it.
Old versions of
file when creating
a message identifier to avoid race conditions.
create the queue identifier when first
file is obsolete.
A queued mail message is composed of two primary parts. The
file contains the message body. The
file contains the message
In addition to the header, the
file also contains all the
information necessary to:
Deliver the message. It contains the sender's address and a list
of recipient addresses.
Order message processing. It contains a priority that determines
the current message's position in a queue run of many messages.
Expire the message. It contains the date that the message was
originally queued. That date is used to time out a message.
Explain the message. It contains the reason that the message
is in the queue and possibly the error that caused it to be queued.
file is line-oriented, with one item of information per
line. Each line begins with a single uppercase character (the
code letter), which
specifies the contents of the line. Each code letter is then followed
by the information appropriate to the letter.
The code letters and their meanings are shown in
Section 23.9, "The qf File Internals"
Here is an example of a version 1 (for V8.8
MDeferred: Host wash.dc.gov is down
HReceived: (from firstname.lastname@example.org) by your.domain (8.8.4/8.8.4)
id QAA06571 for email@example.com; Thu, 14 Mar 1996 16:21:34 -0700 (MST)
H?D?Date: Thu, 14 Mar 1996 16:21:34 -0700 (MST)
H?F?From: Your Name <firstname.lastname@example.org>
H?x?Full-Name: Your Name
file shows the information that will be
used to send a mail message from
to two recipients:
It also shows the various headers that appear in that message (the
We discuss the individual lines of the
at the end of this chapter.
When processing a queued message, it is often necessary for
to modify the contents of the
This usually occurs if delivery has failed or if
delivery for only a part of the recipient
list succeeded. In either event, at least the message
priority needs to be incremented.
To prevent damage to the original
changes to a temporary copy of that file. The temporary copy has
the same queue identifier as the original, but its name begins
file has been successfully written and closed,
(2) to replace the original with
the copy. If the renaming fails,
(3)'s at LOG_CRIT a message like the following:
cannot rename(tfAA00000, qfAA00000), df=dfAA00000
Failure to rename is an unusual, but serious, problem:
A queued message
has been processed, but its
file contains old and incorrect
information. This failure may, for example,
indicate a hardware error, a corrupted queue directory, or that the
system administrator accidentally removed the queue directory.
A given mail message may be destined for many recipients,
requiring different delivery agents.
During the process of delivery, error messages
(such as "User unknown" and "Permission denied")
can be printed back to
by each delivery agent.
While calling the necessary delivery agents,
saves all the error messages it receives in a temporary file.
The name of that temporary file begins with the letters
After all delivery agents have been called,
returns any collected
error messages to the sender and deletes the temporary
If there are no errors, the empty
file is silently deleted.
debugging switch (see
Section 37.5.171, -d51.104
can be used to prevent deletion of the