Version: $Id: majordomo-faq.html,v 1.244 2001/10/20 02:25:38 barr Exp barr $
Archive-Name: mail/majordomo-faq
Posting-Frequency: monthly
Note: Be sure to read the updated Section 2.1 below which explains how to address local security issues in majordomo if you're not running majordomo on a host with restricted logins.

Table of Contents:

  1. What is Majordomo and how can I get it?
  2. Problems setting up Majordomo
  3. Setting up mailing lists and aliases
  4. Mailer and list administration problems
This FAQ is Copyright 1996 by David Barr and The Ohio State University. This document may be reproduced, so long as it is kept in its entirety and in its original format.

This FAQ originally written by Vincent D. Skahan. Many thanks to the members of the majordomo-workers and majordomo-users mailing lists for many of the questions and answers found in this FAQ. Thanks to (Fen Labalme) for getting an HTML version started.

You can get an HTML version of this FAQ on the World Wide Web at You can request a copy by email by sending a message to, with the following text in the body:

send usenet/
If you have any questions or submissions regarding this FAQ, send them to (David Barr).

Section 1: What is Majordomo and how can I get it?

1.1 - What is Majordomo?

Majordomo is a program which automates the management of Internet mailing lists. Commands are sent to Majordomo via electronic mail to handle all aspects of list maintenance. Once a list is set up, virtually all operations can be performed remotely, requiring no intervention upon the postmaster of the list site.

See the main Majordomo web page at:

Majordomo controls a list of addresses for some mail transport system (like sendmail or smail) to handle. Majordomo itself performs no mail delivery (though it has scripts to format and archive messages).

majordomo - n: a person who speaks, makes arrangements, or takes charge for another. From latin "major domus" - "master of the house".

Majordomo is written in Perl. It will work with Perl 4.036 or Perl 5.002 or greater. It will not work with Perl 5.001!!!. It is recommended that you use the latest release of Perl that you can get. You can find it at You must upgrade to version 1.94.3 in order for it to work with Perl 5.004, due to changes in regular expressions. Unfortunately, Majordomo does NOT work with Perl 5.005_01, due to a bug in Perl with respect to regular expressions. Use Perl 5.005_02 (or greater). While Majordomo is still compatible with Perl 4.036, future versions will likely be Perl 5 only.

RedHat 5.2 is unfortunately shipping a prerelease version of Perl ("5.004m4") with some of their Linux distributions. This version is buggy and won't work with Majordomo (you will get "Unknown mailer error 9" errors). Download an install the 5.004 or 5.005 RPM instead, or download and updated RPM from Many people have been having problems with Majordomo on DEC OSF/1 AXP systems. Apparently Perl on the Alphas is not as stable as compared to other platforms, and Majordomo tickles bugs in that port of Perl. If you are having problems, please make sure you are running the very latest version of Perl (version 5.002 is known to work). There haven't been recent reports in this area, so it's assumed that later versions also work.

There have also been reported problems with the native compiler for AIX 3.2.5. Perl compiled with that compiler will crash when running Majordomo (even though it passes all the regression tests), however if you compile Perl with gcc it will work.

Majordomo was developed under UNIX based systems, but could be made to work on others. If you can get Perl to compile and run cleanly on your system, and can send Internet mail by piping or calling an external program (and that external program reads its list of recipients from a plain text file), you can probably get Majordomo to work on a wide variety of UNIX-based and non-UNIX based systems. There is no known port of Majordomo to Windows NT, Win95 or Mac. For more information, see the comp.os.msdos.mail-news FAQ. At last check there was a port of an old version (1.93) to MS-DOS/Waffle, and an old version (1.93) ported to OS/2. These probably aren't all that helpful for anyone porting Majordomo to NT.

Here's a short list of some of the features of Majordomo.

See other references throughout this FAQ for some further notes on using these packages.

1.2 - Where do I get Majordomo?

Via the Web at: Via anonymous FTP at:

The current version is 1.94.5, released Jan 18 2000. It is a collection of bugfixes and minor changes. Be sure to read the INSTALL file carefully so you don't leave yourself vulnerable to a security hole in the "wrapper" program.

If you don't have Perl, you can get it from:

Use that link for more information about Perl, too. The FTPMAIL package can be found in or any comp.sources.misc archive (volume 37).

Majordomo 2 is currently being developed by Jason Tibbits. Currently it's "beta" quality. Join the majordomo-workers list (see below) if you want to use this release. You can find out how to get Majordomo 2, as well as information about this release at

1.3 - How do I install it?

Majordomo comes with a rather extensive INSTALL file. Read this file completely. There's also a README file which covers some common problems. This FAQ is meant to be a supplement to Majordomo's documentation, not a replacement for it. If you have any questions that this FAQ doesn't cover, chances are that it is covered in the documentation in the Majordomo distribution. For anyone who is going to run a list, you must read Doc/list-owner-info before trying to do anything. If you don't have access to the system where your list is being run, the Majordomo maintainer who set up your list should have sent it to you. Bug him if he didn't, or download it from the Majordomo distribution.

If you have permission problems unpacking the distribution, try using the 'o' flag to tar to ignore user/group information.

Although Majordomo is written in Perl, it does have one component written in C that must be compiled. This 'wrapper' program runs "setuid" and ensures that all Majordomo functions operate with the proper permissions. You will need root access to install this program with the correct privileges.

Majordomo interfaces to the mail system (sendmail, exim, etc) through aliases. Adding aliases is generally a root-bound process. However, on some systems the process can be delegated to a separate file under your control.

Once you get past the above two requirements, it is possible to maintain Majordomo lists without root access. At best, your local sysadmin would only be bothered twice -- once for the installation, and once for designating a separate alias file for your use.

Majordomo 1.x is designed to work with sendmail, however will work with other UNIX-based mailers. For more information on setting up Majordomo with other mailers, see the following pages:

1.4 - How do I upgrade from an earlier release?

Be sure to browse the "Changelog" file to get an idea what has changed. There currently is no canned set of instructions for upgrading from an earlier release. The most straightforward method is to simply install the current release in a different directory, (with the same list/archive/digest directories) and change the mail aliases for each list to use the new Majordomo scripts as soon as you feel comfortable with the new setup.

Be careful when upgrading to 1.94 that you update your $mailer and $bounce_mailer variables in your! There are some other new variables too. You may want to update the list .config files so they contain any new variables found in the new release. You just need to do a 'writeconfig' for each list, and majordomo will update the .config file using the existing values in the old .config file. Any new variables will be set to defaults for a new list.

1.5 - Where do I report bugs or get help with Majordomo?

Please DO NOT ask the FAQ maintainer for help on Majordomo. I will accidentally delete your message. I'm sorry, I don't have time to do consulting on Majordomo. I am not a Majordomo help service. I, along with many others, do answer questions on the mailing lists. Let me say that about 90% of the answers I get are from the documentation or this FAQ. Many of the rest are answered by reading the source. It's really not that hard to figure out. The remainder of the questions I get are usually sendmail questions, which really should be asked in comp.mail.sendmail.

If you need help, there is a mailing list, which is frequented by lots of users of Majordomo. Report actual bugs to It's a good idea to search or browse the list archives below for the last couple months since many of the same questions are asked (and answered) regularly. There are searchable list archives (thanks to Jason Tibbitts) at and Unfortunately they seem to have stopped archiving around Nov 1998

Be sure always to include which version of Majordomo you are using. You should also include what operating system you are using, what version of Perl, and what mailer (sendmail, smail, qmail, etc) and version you are using, especially if you can't get Majordomo to work at all. But first, you must have thoroughly read the ALL the documentation in the Majordomo distribution and this FAQ. If you got this FAQ from the Majordomo distribution or anywhere except from the WWW site at the top of this document it is probably not the most recent version.

There is an FTP site for unofficial patches. See . What's in it? Messages that are saved from the majordomo-users and -workers mailing lists. There are INDEX files in each part with one-line summaries of each patch, and a README file in the top directory with overall information. If you have patches that you think should be in the archive, you can FTP or email them in. The top-level README file tells how to do it. Please contribute -- to save other people the headaches you had. NOTE: The patches are NOT "official" patches approved by Chan Wilson or anyone else. Use your own judgment before (and after) you apply them.

Do NOT ask questions about Majordomo on the list. That list is for general discussions about running mailing lists, not for help on specific packages. The same goes for the Usenet group comp.mail.list-admin.policy.

1.6 - Which is better, Majordomo or LISTSERV?

Look for a great book out from O'Reilly and Associates called "Managing Mailing Lists", by Alan Schwartz. You can read my review of the book at I was one of the book's technical reviewers. You can order the book at a discount (currently 20%) from via the web: Besides getting you the book at a discounted price, using this link earns Great Circle Associates a small commission, which helps pay for their support of the majordomo and list-managers mailing lists, as well as distributing majordomo on their FTP site.

1.7 - How can I access Majordomo via the Web?

There are various Web interfaces to Majordomo available. Some are management interfaces for list maintenance, and some are interfaces for list archives (some do searching too).

1.8 - Is Majordomo Y2K (Year 2000) compliant?

The current release of Majordomo has no known year 2000 issues. Older versions had problems only if you used the "archive" program to maintain list archives, since it used only a 2-digit year. If you use the new 4-digit year flags to archive you should not have any year 2000 problems.

That being said, as you can see by reading the Majordomo source, except for the "archive" program majordomo doesn't directly deal with dates so it's extremely unlikely there are any year 2000 issues. Even places where it does use dates (archive) it doesn't do any date comparisons, which is the crux of all non-cosmetic year 2000 bugs. At worst "archive" would overwrite your 100-year-old mailing list archives. I really really doubt Majordomo will still be used for 100 years.

Section 2: Problems setting up Majordomo

2.1 - What are the proper permissions and ownership of all Majordomo files and directories?

If you are running Majordomo on a host which allows logins by untrusted users, see the paragraph Wrapper security!" below.

By far the biggest problem in setting up Majordomo is getting all the permissions and ownerships right. In part this is due to the security model that Majordomo uses, and it's also due to the fact that it's hard to automate this process. Once you install majordomo, run "./wrapper config-test" as some other user (like you) and read the results. Do NOT run "./wrapper config-test" as 'root' or your 'majordom' user. That will defeat the test of the wrapper operation. The config-test script will check your installation for correct permissions (as well as other tests) and report any problems. It's not quite perfect, but it catches 95% of all problems.

Majordomo works by using a small C "wrapper" which works by allowing it to always run as the "majordom" user and group that you create. (note that the wrapper may disappear in a future release, since its function could safely be replaced by features found in Perl 5) You can use a different name than "majordom" for your user and group, but that is what is assumed for the explanations found in this document. The 1.94.3 INSTALL file suggests using 'daemon' as your majordomo group. This is the group that 'sendmail' runs as, and allows you to have $homedir permissions set to 750 (See the paragraph in Section 2.1 called Wrapper security!). This has the disadvantage in environments where there may be one or more administrators of the Majordomo system or where you don't want to always have to 'su' to the majordomo user to do administration. (you don't really want to put other normal users in the 'daemon' group for security reasons) If you create a separate 'majordom' group and add yourself and other majordomo administrators to it, then you'll need to make sure the $homedir and wrapper have world execute permission, and you may have to add 'majordom' to the 'trusted' list of users in your (otherwise sendmail 8.x will probably give "X-Authentication-Warning:"'s)

Because Majordomo does not run with any "special" (root) privileges, and because of the fact that Majordomo does a lot of .lock-style locking (with, permissions on all files and directories are critical to the correct operation of Majordomo.

The wrapper

The wrapper is compiled in one of two ways, by uncommenting the correct section in the Makefile for your type of system. If you are unsure if your system is POSIX or not, I would suggest you assume that your system is not. (The default is POSIX) If things don't work right (for example you get symptoms of permission problems or you get an error from the wrapper saying to recompile using POSIX flags), then try POSIX.

Some systems which are non-POSIX: SunOS 4.x, Ultrix, most BSD 4.2 and 4.3-based systems. POSIX systems include: Solaris 2.x, IRIX 5.x, BSDI (and other 4.4 BSD-based systems), Linux.

Make sure W_PATH is right in the Makefile. On IRIX 5.x, you need to add /usr/bsd to the W_PATH to get the hostname (needed by Perl) command. (IRIX doesn't have a /usr/ucb). If you are on a non-POSIX system, the wrapper must be both suid and sgid (mode 6755) to "majordom". It must not be setuid root!


On a POSIX system the wrapper must be setuid root, and double-check that W_USER and W_GROUP are the uid and gid of the "majordom" user and group. Don't ever set W_USER to be 0!

Then compile the wrapper and install it. Do not install the wrapper on an NFS filesystem mounted with the "nosuid" option set. This will prevent the wrapper from working.

Wrapper security!

If you are running Majordomo on a host which allows untrusted logins, you will need to restrict who can run the "wrapper" program. By default (as explained above) the wrapper can be run by "anyone" (that is, it has other execute permission). Because the wrapper program runs programs as majordomo, and because majordomo programs (such as "resend") allow loading of arbitrary configuration files (which are simply perl scripts), it's trivially possible to run arbitrary commands as the majordomo user. Again, this is an issue only to local users on the system -- if you don't have untrusted local users (i.e. only administrators can log into your mail server), then this is not an issue to worry about.

To close down this hole, change the permissions of the Majordomo home directory to mode 750. (this is what is recommended in the INSTALL file) This will prevent the access by local users to the setuid wrapper script (which lives inside this directory). To make this work, you must make sure the group ownership of the home directory is the same as the gid your mailer runs as (for sendmail, this is "daemon"). Otherwise, sendmail will be unable to read your list subscription files (the files that you :include: in your alias file).

Closing down the majordomo home directory has the added benefit that local users will be unable to read your list subscription files, bypassing any privacy restrictions you may have set in majordomo.

The downside of closing the majordomo home directory is that it makes it harder to do local administration, and also to properly run "./wrapper config-test" to check your configuration (since you need to run it as a non-root, non-majordom user, and such a user won't have access to the home directory).

Majordomo files

All files that majordomo creates will be mode 660, user "majordom", group "majordom" if it is running correctly (see $config_umask in the The "Log" file that Majordomo writes logging information to must have this same permission and ownership. Make sure any files you create by hand (.config, subscription lists) have this same permission and ownership. (they can also be mode 664 if you don't need the contents to be private to others) The permissions/ownership of the Majordomo programs and related files themselves aren't as critical, but the must all be readable to the "majordom" user/group. All Majordomo programs (majordomo, resend, etc.) must have the execute bit set. All Majordomo programs must have the correct path to Perl in the #! line in the beginning of the script. The 'make install' process should do this all automatically for you.

Majordomo directories

All directories under Majordomo's control ($homedir, $listdir, $digest_work_dir, $filedir, as defined in your must be at least mode 750 (or 755 if you don't use "daemon" as your majordomo group -- see
2.3below.). They should be user and group owned by "majordom". If want to allow a local user to be able to directly modify files or for example copy files into a list's archive directory, you may make the directory or file owned by that user. However directories and files must be then group-"majordom" writable (770 or 775).

2.2 - I get a MAJORDOMO ABORT with "chown(...): Not owner" or ".. Operation not permitted"

Most likely your wrapper is not installed correctly. Re-check the Makefile and see if the wrapper was compiled with the right UID and GID. See the README and the above section on how to set the permissions correctly. Make sure after you fix the wrapper that you remove (or rename) any "" or "L.listname" files found in your lists directory. These will likely have the wrong ownerships, and will cause you problems.

You should have seen an error if you ran "./wrapper config-test" as a non-root, non-majordom user. If not, it's a bug in config-test and should be fixed.

2.3 - I get "sh: wrapper: cannot execute" or "wrapper: permission denied"

Your mailer doesn't have permission to execute the wrapper. Usually this is the result of too-strict permissions on either the Majordomo home directory or the wrapper executable.

See Section 2.1 and especially the paragraph on wrapper security for the correct permissions on all majordomo directories and programs.

2.4 - I get "Unknown mailer error" when majordomo runs

First, see Question 4.13 if you are running RedHat 5.2 and are getting "Unknown mailer error 9".

If something is wrong with your setup, the wrapper will often exit with various return codes depending on what the problem is. In order to really understand what is going on, look at the session transcript further down in the bounce message to see the error which is returned from the wrapper or from Majordomo. You should usually see some sort of error message. If you just get a return code, check the Majordomo README for further explanation on sendmail return codes. If you get "Unknown mailer error XX" where XX is less than 255, look for the error in /usr/include/errno.h . Otherwise, see the README.

See section 1.1 above for what versions of Perl won't work with Majordomo.

[reported by Russell Street]
You may also get problems when messages to majordomo are queued (for example if you change sendmail's behavior to always queue messages rather than perform immediate delivery). The problem was that if sendmail queues a message it smashes the case in command lines and addresses when the queue gets processed. This is in spite of the lines shown by mailq. This is sendmail 5.x on Solaris 2.3, but it might apply to other versions of sendmail.

2.5 - I get an error "insecure usage" from the wrapper

The argument to "wrapper" should be simply be the command, not the full path to the command. "wrapper" has where to look compiled in to it (the "W_HOME" setting in the Makefile) and for security reasons will not let you specify another directory.

Your alias should say for example:

majordomo: |"/path/to/majordomo/wrapper majordomo"

2.6 - I get "majordomo: No such file or directory" from the wrapper

Make sure that the #! statement at the beginning of all the Majordomo Perl executables contain the correct path to the perl program (the default is /usr/local/bin/perl). Note many UNIXes have a 32 character limit on that path -- make sure it doesn't exceed this limit. Make sure also that majordomo and all the related scripts are in the W_HOME directory as defined in the Makefile when you compiled the wrapper.

2.7 - I get an error "Can't locate"

[from Brent Chapman]
Majordomo adds "$homedir" from the file to the @INC array before it goes looking for "". Since it's not finding it, I'd guess you have one of two problems:

1) $homedir is set improperly (or not set at all; there is no default) in your file.

2) is not in $homedir, or is not readable.

[from John P. Rouillard]
3) Note that the new file checks to see if the environment variable $HOME is set first, and uses that for $homedir. Since the wrapper always sets HOME to the correct directory, you get a nice default, unless you are running a previously built wrapper, in which case you may get the wrong directory.

[from Andreas Fenner]
4) I had the same problem when I installed majordomo (1.62). My Problem was a missing ";" in the file - just in the line before setting homedir .... My hint for you: Check your perl-files carefully.

2.8 - I told my where to archive the list, why isn't it working?

[From John Rouillard]
The archive variables in aren't used to archive anything. You have to use a separate archive program, or a sendmail alias to do the archiving. The info is used to generate a directory where the archive files are being placed by some other mechanism.

You are telling majordomo to look in the directory: /usr/local/mail/majordomo/archive/listname

for files that it should allow to be retrieved using the get command.

Majordomo comes with three different archive programs that run under wrapper that do various types of archiving. Look in the contrib directory.

2.9 - config-test can't seem to find or resend can't find and are included in the standard Perl distribution. If it can't find it, it means Perl was not installed correctly. Re-install Perl. (you may want to take the opportunity to upgrade Perl, too)

2.10 - A list is visible via lists, but can't subscribe or 'get' files

[From Brent Chapman]
I'll bet your list name has capital letters in it... Majordomo smashes all list names to all-lower-case before attempting to use the list name as part of a filename. So, while it's OK to advertise (for instance) "Majordomo-Users" and have the headers say "Majordomo-Users", the file names and archive directory names themselves all need to be in lower case. If you want to use mixed case, simply configure the list using the lower-case names everywhere, except put the mixed-case version in the "-l" and "-h" flags to resend.

2.11 - I get "sh: wrapper not available for sendmail programs"

You're on a system which uses smrsh. (sendmail restricted shell). You have to configure smrsh to allow it to execute the wrapper. Normally this is done by creating a symlink in /var/adm/sm.bin (in some it's /etc/smrsh) to Majordomo's wrapper program.

2.12 - I get "aliasing/forwarding loop broken"

[ Reported by Wade Williams ]
Some people have noted sendmail will generate a bounce message if you send to a list, but the list file is empty (there are no subscribers). Add a subscriber to the list and the error should go away.

You will also get this error if the permissions on the list file for that list in the lists directory are too strict. If the list directory or list file is not readable by sendmail, you will also get the error "Cannot open /path/to/lists/listname: Permission denied". See Section 2.1 above for the full discussion of how to correctly set permissions on directories and files within Majordomo.

Section 3: Setting up mailing lists and aliases

3.1 - How do I direct bounces to the right address?

You should use 'resend' to filter all messages. Make sure the "sender" variable in the list config file points to "owner-listname" and that you have defined the "owner-listname" alias to point to the owner of the list.

What this does is force outgoing mail to have the out-of-band envelope FROM be "owner-listname", and thus all bounces will be redirected to that address. (This address is what gets copied into the message body as the "From " or "Return-Path:" header). 'resend' also inserts a "Sender:" line with the same address to help people identify where it came from, but that header is not used in the bounce process.

If you are using sendmail v8.x, you don't have to use 'resend' to do the same thing. You simply have to define an alias like this:

owner-sample: joe,

Note the trailing comma is necessary to prevent sendmail from resolving the alias first before putting it in the header. Without the comma, it will put "joe" in the envelope from instead of "owner-sample". Either address will work, of course, but the generic address is preferred should the owner ever change.

However if you choose not to use 'resend', you will have to do without most of majordomo's other features like moderating, administrivia checks, and others.

3.2 - Semi-automated handling of bounced mail

This is not true automation of bounced mail. What this does is the next best thing. You unsubscribe the user from the list, but add the user to a special 'bounces' list (there's a perl script in the distribution called bounce you run to make this easier) The majordomo maintainer then runs (out of cron) the 'bounce-remind' script periodically, which sends mail to all the people on the bounces list, saying essentially "you were removed from list 'foo' because mail to you bounced. To subscribe yourself back to the list, send the following commands ...". There's no facility yet for trimming the bounces list, but it's easy to write one because the date the person was added to the bounces list is included (so you could write a perl script which removes anyone on the list for more than one week, assuming you run bounce-remind more than once a week). There's no facility for automatically detecting what addresses are failing. You have to determine that based on the bounce messages you receive from other sites.

[From John Rouillard]
Just create a mailing list called "bounces". I usually set mine up as an auto list just to make life easier.

All that "bounce" script does is create an email message to majordomo that says:

   approve [passwd] unsubscribe [listname] [address]
   approve [passwd] subscribe bounces [address]
The [address] and [listname], are given on the command line to bounce. The address of the majordomo, and the passwords are retrieved from the .majordomo file in your home directory.

A sample .majordomo file might look like (shamelessly stolen from the comments at the top of the bounce script):

   this-list       passwd1         Majordomo@This.COM
   other-list      passwd2         Majordomo@Other.COM
   bounces         passwd3         Majordomo@This.COM
   bounces         passwd4         Majordomo@Other.COM
A command of "bounce this-list" will mail the following message to Majordomo@This.COM:
   approve passwd1 unsubscribe this-list
   approve passwd3 subscribe bounces (930401 this-list)
while a command of "bounce other-list" will mail the following message to Majordomo@Other.COM:
   approve passwd2 unsubscribe other-list
   approve passwd4 subscribe bounces (930401 this-list)
Note that the date and the list the user was bounced from are included as a comment in the address used for the "subscribe bounces" command.

3.3 - What's this Owner-List and List-Owner stuff? Why both?

[From David Barr]
The "standard" is spelled out in RFC 1211 - "Problems with the Maintenance of Large Mailing Lists".

It's here where the "owner-listname" and "listname-request" concepts got their start. (well it was before this, but this is where it was first spelled out)

Personally, I don't use "listname-owner" anywhere. You don't really have to put both, since the "owner" alias is usually only for bounces, which you add automatically anyway with resend's "-f" flag, or having Sendmail v8.x's "owner-listname" alias.

(while I'm on the subject) The "-approval" is a Majordomo-ism, and is only necessary if you want bounces and approval notices to go to different mailboxes. (though you'll have to edit some code in majordomo and request-answer if you want to get rid of the -approval alias, since it's currently hardwired in)

So, to answer your question, I'd say "no". You don't have to have both. You should just have "owner-list".

3.4 - How should I configure resend for Reply-To headers?

Whether you should have a "Reply-To:" or not depends on the charter of your list and the nature of its users. If the list is a discussion list and you generally want replies to go back to the list, you can include one. Some people don't like being told what to do, and prefer to be able to choose whether to send a private reply or a reply to the list just by using the right function on their mail agent. Take note that if you do use a "Reply-To:", then some mail agents make it much harder for a person on the list to send a private reply. The most important reason why Reply-To: to the list is bad is that it can cause mail loops if any of the members of your list are running fairly-common but broken software which doesn't know what an envelope address is. (Many Microsoft products, as well as many other PC-based non-SMTP/Internet mail systems which work through an SMTP gateway.)

You should read the following FAQ on why you shouldn't set the Reply-To: field.

If you are using resend, use the 'reply_to' configuration variable in the list .config file.

3.5 - How can I hide lists so they can't be viewed by 'lists'?

That is what advertise and noadvertise are for. These two variables take regular expressions that are matched against the from address of the sender. A list display follows the rules:

  1. If the from address is on the list, it is shown.
  2. If the from address matches a regexp in noadvertise (e.g. /.*/) the list is not shown.
  3. If the advertise list is empty, the list is shown unless 2 applies.
  4. If the advertise list is non-empty, the from address must match an address in advertise. Otherwise the list is not shown. Rule 2 applies, so you could allow all hosts in except hosts in

3.6 - How can I restrict a list such that only subscribers can send mail to the list?

See the restrict_post variable in the config file. Just set it to the filename that holds the list of subscribers, which is just simply the name of the list. ("restrict-post = listname"). However, there is an issue to keep in mind. Majordomo works by filtering the messages coming in through the "listname" alias, doing its dirty work, then passing the resulting message out to another alias you define like "listname-outgoing". If you trust people to not send mail directly to the "listname-outgoing" alias, then you'll be fine. If however you're not trusting, there are several steps to make sure people don't bypass the restrictions of the list.

There are several methods. First you need to change your "listname-outgoing" alias such that it is not obvious. (That means don't use something easy to guess like "-outgoing" or "-list"). Next, you need to make it such that people can't find out what your -outgoing alias is.

You can use the "@filename" directive of resend. Put the all the normal command-line options of resend into a file readable only by the majordomo user/group. Then the alias for the list simply becomes ".../resend @/path/to/filename". This will make it such that you can't find out the -outgoing address by connecting to your mailer and doing an EXPN or VRFY. The "@filename" directive seems to have fallen into undocumentation for some reason. This should be fixed in future releases. This doesn't prevent a user reading the local /etc/aliases file (if they can), however.

Another approach is to simply disable EXPN or VRFY altogether. See the documentation for your mailer on how to do this. In sendmail this is done by adding "noexpn" to the "O PrivacyOptions=" line in your (multiple options are separated with a comma). However this doesn't prevent a local user reading the aliases file. This isn't generally a problem if your mail server is restricted to staff only users.

Unfortunately, Sendmail 8.x will log your -outgoing alias in the "Received:" lines. To prevent this you need to specify more than one address for the list name argument to resend. (for example "mylist:|"/usr/local/lib/majordomo/wrapper resend -h -l mylist mylist-seekrit,nobody"" where nobody is an alias for /dev/null) For Sendmail 8.x you must not define an alias 'owner-mylist-seekrit' to be something like 'owner-mylist,' (with the comma). Otherwise sendmail will set the envelope address of outgoing mail to contain your secret outgoing alias. Again if you're using the @filename directive, the entire command line is simply put into the specified file (starting with "-h ...".

Here's another creative idea from (Matt Perry):

I've had a report that this no longer works with sendmail 8.9.1, but that it does work with 8.9.3.

Sendmail allows you to rewrite incoming and outgoing addresses. The one that handles incoming is virtualusertable.text. For a list called test with the test-outgoing alias, I put the following into my virtualusertable.text file and remade the db with the appropriate command:      error:nouser User unknown
Sendmail can still get to the alias and expand it into the list of recipients. However, any mail that appears at port 25 marked for will bounce back with "User unknown".

Finally it should be noted that it is impossible with any of these methods above to prevent people from forging mail as someone who is subscribed to the list, and sending to the list that way. Of course a spammer can also subscribe to the list legitimately and then send spam. The restrict_post option blocks the vast majority of problems, however.

3.7 - Can I have the list owner or approval person be changeable without intervention from the Majordomo owner?

Sure! Just make owner-listname and/or listname-approval be another majordomo list. (probably hidden, for simplicity's sake)

3.8 - What are all these different passwords?

Think of three separate passwords:
  1. A master password that can be used by both resend and majordomo contained in [listname].passwd. To be used by the master list manager when using writeconfig commands etc. This allows someone who handles a number of mailing lists all using the same password. This is also a "backup password" in case the .config file gets corrupted.
  2. A password for the manager of this one list. The admin_passwd can be used by subsidiary majordomo list maintainers.
  3. A password for those concerned with the list content (approve_passwd)
This way the administration and moderation functions can be split. The original reason for maintaining [listname].passwd was to allow a new config file to be put in if the config file was trashed and the admin_password was obliterated, and may still be useful to allow a single password to be used for admin functions by the majordomo admin or some other "superadmin".

Note that the admin passwd in the config file is not a file name, but the password itself. This is the only way that the list-maintainer could change the password since they wouldn't have access to the file.

3.9 - How do I tell majordomo to handle "get"-ing of binary files?

Majordomo is not designed to be a general-purpose file-by-mail system. If you want to do anything more than trivial "get"-ing of text files (archives, etc) than you should get and install ftpmail. Majordomo has hooks to allow transparent access to files via ftpmail (see See the beginning of this FAQ for where to get ftpmail.

3.10 - How do I set up a moderated list? How do I approve messages?

First, you need to tell Majordomo that the list is moderated. In the configuration file for the list, you set "moderate = yes". Do not try to use the now-deprecated "-A" option to resend. In fact you shouldn't be using ANY options to resend except "-h" and "-l", since all the others are handled in the config file.

Any mail which is not "approved", gets bounced with "Approval required". If the moderator wishes to approve the message for the list, then you need to tag the message as "approved" and send it to the list. The "approve" script, which comes with Majordomo, automates this for you. Whenever you get a message which needs approval, from your mail reader pipe the message through "approve". The password for each list needs to be put in your .majordomo file. Read the "approve" script for more information.

If you don't have access to "approve" (e.g. you're not on a UNIX system with Perl), you have to do it by hand. The easiest way is to forward the original message to the list, add the line "Approved: approval-password" to the very first line of the body, and then the entire contents of the original message. (meaning there should not be a blank line before and after the "Approved:" line.). Don't forget to edit out the headers which were added by the bounce process.

For example:

Subject: doesn't matter

Approved: your-approval-password
Received: by
Received: by
From: (Joe User)
Subject: this list is great!

Hey, this list is great, and the moderator sure is sexy!


It's also possible, if your mailer allows it, to approve a message another way by just inserting an Approved: header in the original body and passing the original message on without adding your own header. This is in a sense "forging" mail, so many mailers either won't allow it or will insert some sort of authentication warning. This form is used most often by moderators when they send mail to the list and don't want to go and approve their own message again. Here's an example:

Approved: your-approval-password
Subject: Thanks!

I like this list too, but sorry, I'm married!  :-)

-- your moderator

Note that this requires a mail-user-agent (MUA) that allows one to add headers to a message. If your MUA doesn't let you do this, you'll need to use the first method.

Note that in either case the "Approved:" line will be stripped out by Majordomo before it gets sent to the list, so the list members won't see your list password.

3.11 - How do I set up a digested version of a list?

[ Modified from explanation given by (Jonathan M. Bresler)]

3.12 - How do I setup virtual majordomo domains?

[From Alan Millar, Anthony Baratta, et. al.]
Set up a file for each virtual domain, defining $whereami as appropriate. Use your mailer's virtual domain stuff to get to it, making an alias for it if necessary.

Create separate list directories for each virtual domain. first. See also the Sendmail FAQ there.

Virtual domain stuff (in your virtusertable):

#Domain 1          majordomo-1    user            ListOne      user      user    ListOne-request                   user

#Domain 2          majordomo-2    user            ListTwo      user      user    ListTwo-request                   user
Don't forget to run 'makemap hash /etc/virtusertable < /etc/virtusertable'. Substitute "hash" for whatever database you wish to use (some vendor sendmail's don't support hash, but do support dbm).

It's suggested to have separate alias files for each virtual domain. You can configure sendmail to have multiple alias files.

Here's how the aliases will look:

#MajorDomo Aliases
## System Info
majordomo-1:  "|/usr/local/majordomo/wrapper majordomo -C /usr/local/majordomo/"
majordomo-2:  "|/usr/local/majordomo/wrapper majordomo -C /usr/local/majordomo/"

#Domain 1
ListOne:   "|/usr/local/majordomo/wrapper resend -l ListOne -C /usr/local/majordomo/ ListOne-OutGoing"
ListOne-OutGoing: :include:/usr/local/majordomo/lists-domain1/listone
ListOne-request: "|/usr/local/majordomo/wrapper majordomo -l ListOne -C /usr/local/majordomo/"

#Domain 2
ListTwo:   "|/usr/local/majordomo/wrapper resend -l Listtwo -C /usr/local/majordomo/ ListTwo-OutGoing"
ListTwo-OutGoing: :include:/usr/local/majordomo/lists-domain1/listtwo
ListTwo-request: "|/usr/local/majordomo/wrapper majordomo -l ListTwo -C /usr/local/majordomo/"
You'll need to modify request-answer slightly if you want the virtual host to be used there in replies. Look for:
From: $list-request
in the source and change it to:
From: $list-request\@$whereami
Don't forget to use the -C option to request-answer for your virtual aliases.

Check out also for good instructions on configuring virtual domains with Majordomo.

3.13 - How can I stop people from using my mailing list to spam my subscribers?

[From (Michael Richardson) ]
There are two approaches to solving spam. They are complementary.

The most general solution is to make sure that your list host will not accept spam. See for extensive recipes on this.

The majordomo specific way is to use the "restrict_post" mechanism to disallow posts from addresses that are not on the list. Please see section 3.6 for some of the pitfalls of using restrict_post. They all apply. My experience is that spammers have not yet learnt about the "-outgoing" alias, and the techniques in section 3.6 would apply when they do.

The major objection to using restrict_post to deflect spam is that it may deflect posts from legitimate people -- people who've subscribed with one address but are posting from another address. It may also restrict cross-posts from other lists, or from people who read the list via news.

The solution to the above objections is twofold:

  1. the moderator must forward legitimate posts. This can be a pain, but it does work.
  2. the restrict_post header can be extended.
The typical way to do #2 is to set restrict_post to:
Then, create a configuration file and password for "mylist-nomail", but DO NOT create any aliases. (If you use something like mj_build_aliases, then don't set the owner)

The moderator, or subscribers may then subscribe themselves to this second list. Subscribers to the -nomail list will then be allowed to post to the first list, but won't receive duplicate copies of the first list.

Section 4: Mailer and list administration problems

4.1 - Address with blanks are being treated separately

If a subscriber to the list is
John Doe <>

it gets treated these as the three addresses:

[From Alan Millar]
Majordomo does not treat these as three addresses. Apparently your mailer does.

Remember that all Majordomo does is add and remove addresses from a list. Majordomo does not interpret the contents of the list for message distribution; the system mailer (such as sendmail) does.

I'm using SMail3 instead of sendmail, and it has an alternative (read "stupid") view of how mixed angle-bracketed and non-angle-bracketed addresses should be interpreted. I found that putting a comma at the end of each line was effective to fix the problem, and I got to keep my comments. So I patched Majordomo to add the comma at the end of each address it writes to the list file.

You can also change to "strip = yes" in the config file so that none of the addresses are angle-bracketed.

4.2 - Why aren't my digests going out?

[from John Rouillard]
  echo mkdigest [digest-name] [digest-password] | mail majordomo@...
This will force a digest to be created. Or you can set the max size in the digest list config file down low, and force automatic generation.

4.3 - Why do I get duplicate mail sent to the list?

If you're running MMDF, read on: [From Gunther Anderson]
Well, I can tell you what happened to me recently. We use MMDF here, which certainly colors the picture a little. What was happening here was that MMDF was verifying the validity of the whole mailing list before returning from the Submit call. The thing calling the Submit would time out and close, but the Submit itself would still be running somewhere. The calling routine would believe that the message had failed in its delivery, but the Submit would eventually succeed. The calling process would try again some time later. This, of course, is bad. The larger the list got, the more addresses there were to verify (verification was really just a DNS search on the target machine name), the more likely, under load, that the message would duplicate. We finally got so large, with so many international addresses (which seem to timeout on DNS queries much more often than US addresses) that we were always duplicating. Infinitely (until I killed the original submitter).

The solution for us was MMDF-specific. We used a different channel for submission and delivery, one which deliberately doesn't verify the addresses before accepting a job. We used the list-processor channel, and only had to check that the listname-request name was set properly, because list-processor insists on making listname-request the envelope "From " header name.

If you're running Sendmail, this is more rare. There have been unconfirmed reports that on some systems having the queue process interval set too short can cause problems, even though sendmail is supposed to handle this. Workarounds are to increase your queue process interval (-q flag), or decrease the interval between queue checkpoints (OC flag in

There have been many reports from Linux users complaining about duplicate mail. The problem seems to be that flock() under Linux is broken. This may be fixed in a future release, but for now in sendmail's conf.h in the #ifdef __linux__ section add a line #define HASFLOCK 0. There are also reports that some versions of the libc have problems, and that linking with the libresolv.a from a recent BIND version will work around the problem.
[ Please let me know if you have any more information --ed ]

4.4 - How do I gate my list to and/or from a newsgroup?

The easiest method is to use a program called newsgate. You can find it at Installation instructions are straightforward, it provides sample entries for your newsfeeds/sys file and aliases entries. The newsgate package includes news2mail and mail2news.

4.5 - How can I improve Majordomo's performance?

Mail to list throughput

Majordomo does very little except pass each message to the list through 'resend', and then pass it on to your mailer for distribution. Improving your mailer is the first step towards improving speed of delivery of mail to the list. Upgrading your sendmail to version 8.x will improve things greatly, as this version has a lot of enhancements which use connections more efficiently. For most lists, this is enough. Majordomo itself doesn't use very much in the way of resources except perhaps memory. Adding more memory will help if your machine does a lot of paging during mail delivery.

Using other mailers instead of sendmail has met with varying success. Exim can also be used (see qmail has been used with majordomo, and performance with either Exim or qmail I'm told generally will well exceed that of sendmail. At least qmail also is written in a far more secure way than sendmail (some would say paranoid). See The qmail site includes at least one way to get majordomo to work with qmail. Note that it is possible to get majordomo working under qmail without using the 'wrapper', which is a nice idea. Some majordomo-under-qmail solutions just involve qmail's sendmail emulation feature. For more info, see the Using Majordomo with qmail FAQ, written by Russ Allbery.

If you are using Exim instead of sendmail there are more things you can do. Instead of concealing the -outgoing addresses, it is possible to configure Exim so that those addresses are only usable by the local majordomo user. A description of how to do that can be found at as well as other information about configuring majordomo with Exim.

If your lists are very large you may try installing bulk_mailer, by Keith Moore. It pre-sorts the list into chunks grouped by site, and passes the resulting chunks off to individual sendmail processes for delivery (see note next paragraph). Get it from It installs simply by replacing your usual -outgoing alias with (line wrapped for clarity):

sample-outgoing: |"/path/to/bulk_mailer
bulk_mailer has reportedly resulted in dramatic speedups in delivery times, on the order of several times faster. Note this works just as well on digested lists as well as normal lists. bulk_mailer did have one problem. Until version 1.3 it didn't understand parenthesized comments in addresses, resulting in incorrect sorting and reduced performance. Your list must be configured with strip=yes in the list configuration file if you don't upgrade to 1.3 or higher.

TLB is another package which is like bulk_mailer, but has other features. You can get it from The advantage of TLB is its greater configuration flexibility, and also the fact that it's possible with TLB to eliminate the -outgoing address, making configuration easier and lists more secure.

The restrict_post list option with large lists can cause a significant slowdown in mail delivery, since resend has to do a sequential search through the subscription list for each mail sent to the list (to verify that the sender is subscribed to the list). Think twice about using this option with very large lists.

Majordomo command processing

Most of the improvements in this are experimental and not widely available or not yet completed but scheduled for future releases. Some areas include: improvements in to use exponential backoffs to reduce contention and starvation of locks, using some sort of dbz-style database for subscription lists to speed up subscribe and unsubscribe commands, and changes in the configuration file system to allow faster parsing and faster execution of certain commands such as "lists". If you are interested in working on improvements in this area, join the majordomo-workers list mentioned above. If you make any specific patches or additions available, please let me know so I can add references to it here.

4.6 - How can I handle X.400 addresses?

Majordomo by default treats addresses starting with "/" as "hostile", and won't let people subscribe. This is to prevent someone from subscribing a majordomo-owned filename to the list, and being able to write by sending mail to the list. Unfortunately, all X.400 addresses begin with a "/". See the $no_x400at and $no_true_x400 variables and the associated comments in the There is a reported bug in 1.94 - you may need to change both tests for these variables in to put "main'" before them. Like this:
        if (!$main'no_x400at) {

        if (!$main'no_true_x400) {

This is fixed in Majordomo 1.94.1 and higher.

4.7 - Why is the Subject of my messages missing?

[from Dave Wolfe]
But it's not. Oh, you probably mean "Why is the subject line of messages to my moderated list blank?" Because you didn't include any headers after the Approved: header in the body of the messages. Or you deleted them when you approved the bounced messages.

When resend finds an Approved: header in the first line of the body, it throws away all the headers it's collected for the message and looks for more headers following the Approved: header (which is the format of a bounced message). So if you put the Approved: header in an original message (as opposed to a bounced message), you have to also fill in some headers to be sent out, such as Subject:, To:, and From:.

See section Question 3.10 on how to approve messages to moderated lists.

This is also explained in Doc/list-owner-info, which should be sent to all list owners and moderators.

4.8 - I'm getting mail from majordomo with "BOUNCE:" what do I do? How do I stop this?

Whenever majordomo encounters mail to the list which it sees a problem with, it forwards it to person at the approval address to deal with manually. There are lots of reasons Majordomo does this. Majordomo will tell you why in the Subject of the message. Here's a list of the most common bounce reasons:

An "Admin request" bounce means that the list is configured to filter out what it thinks are "administrivia" messages, and it thought that message was one. These are messages such as "subscribe" or "unsubscribe" or "help", which get sent to the list instead of majordomo. Lists generally have this turned on by default. If you don't like it, set "administrivia=no" in the list config file. If that doesn't work, check your aliases to make sure the "-s" option to resend isn't being used on that list.

An "Approval required" bounce means that the list is moderated, and the message needs to be approved. (see section 3.10 of this FAQ)

A "Message too long" bounce means that the message was longer than the "maxlength" setting in the list config file.

If you get any of these bounces messages and you think the mail is OK to send to the list, you'll need to approve it. See the file Doc/list-owner-info on the correct procedure(s) for approving mail with Majordomo. It's also covered in section 3.10 of this FAQ.

4.9 - My list configuration doesn't seem to be working.

If you changed your list configuration and the list doesn't seem to be behaving any differently, make sure that the list is being sent through "resend". See the installation documentation and section 3.1 of this FAQ on how to set up the aliases for the list correctly to pipe mail through "resend".

Other things to check would be that the arguments to "resend" are only "-h", and "-l" (and perhaps "-C" if you use virtual domains). resend used to be configured with other command line flags to do things such as have moderated lists. However these flags override any config file settings, so remove them if they are present. All configuration should be done now through the config file.

4.10 - How do I set it up so that the originator of a message doesn't get a copy of his/her own message back?

You can't. Sorry. The "metoo" setting in sendmail has no effect after a message is piped through an external program. Unless you're willing to give up piping messages through "resend", there's no way to stop this.

4.11 - With Smail or Exim, users subscribing to a list sometimes get mail sent before they subscribed

[from Lazlo Nibble and Philip Hazel]
This is due to the way Smail and Exim deliver mail. With sendmail, it expands its delivery list when the mail first arrives. If the list gets changed, the message will still get delivered to the original recipient list, since the original list is never referred to again. As sendmail delivers mail, it removes addresses from its expanded list as they get delivered.

However Smail and Exim don't expand the list when the message is first queued. Instead as they go through the queue of pending messages to deliver, and maintain state on what addresses they have successfully delivered mail to and compare that with the current list contents. As long as the message is queued waiting for one or more addresses in the list, it will get sent to any new recipients whenever the queue gets processed next. This is rather unexpected for those used to sendmail's behavior.

The advantage of smail and exim's approach is that if an address in your list is unreachable (or has a bad .forward file), you can change the list contents (or the .forward file) and the message will be delivered to the new address when the queue next gets processed. It won't deliver to the old, bad address.

There really isn't an easy solution to this, but it's really not a serious problem.

4.12 - Majordomo doesn't seem to work with sendmail 8.9

The new security features of sendmail don't allow :include: directories to be group writable. Unfortunately, by default these directories are group writable with Majordomo. If you have this problem you will see errors from sendmail like "Cannot open /path/name: Group writable directory" and "aliasing/forwarding loop broken".

One solution is to add:

O DontBlameSendmail=groupwritabledirpathsafe
in your and restart sendmail.

The other method (and generally the recommended one) is to remove the group-write bit on the lists directory and any list files. Make sure also any parent directories to not have the group or other write bit set. If Majordomo is working correctly having group write permission is not necessary. However, some people find it convenient to have group-write access so users can be put in the majordomo group and not need root access all the time to work on majordomo.

4.13 - I can't get Majordomo to work with RedHat Linux

If you are trying to use the Majordomo RPM, it is broken. The which comes with the RPM has the line
$whereami = `hostname`;
This is broken for two reasons. First, the hostname may not necessarily be a fully-qualified domain name, and thus this won't generate a valid Internet email address. Secondly, using `hostname` generates a linefeed character at the end, which totally screws things up, and you end up getting blank lines in headers (and you'll start to see headers appear in the body of the message).

The solution is to edit the line and put in your correct host name or mail domain.

A bug report has been filed with RedHat.

RedHat 5.2 also ships with an interim (buggy) release of Perl, which does not work with Majordomo. (you will get "Unknown mailer error 9" errors). Download and install the updated Perl RPM from