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Demography Lab


Carl Mason

Spring 2016

Contents vs

If you have a Demography Lab computing account, then you also have a email address. This is both a good thing and an irrelevant thing. Because Berkeley supports a rebranded version of most of the google apps, it is quite compelling to play along. If you wish to be able to respond to invitations; have things added to your calendar in easy ways; and so on, then it behooves you to use your address as your main email address.

Your address, however, still requires some attention. Important email from the department including not only messages warning you of system shutdowns but also notices of importance to you academic career are also sent to your address.

So at a minimum, make sure that your @demog email gets forwarded to an email address that you actually monitor. See Section 2.

Forwarding your email

When you signed up for a Demography Lab account, your email was configured to forward everything to the existing email address that you provided. If that's still your main email address then you are done. If not, here is how to make it so:

Email forwarding is configured via a file called $\sim$/mail/CONFIG/forward. This file simply contains the address to which you would like your email forwarded. You can edit with any text editor (vi, emacs, nano,pico.. whatever). Alternatively, you use the locally written gizmo at [Applications]$\rightarrow$[Demography]$\rightarrow$[Email Forwarding].

For most people, that is all there is to it. As long as your read mail at your forwarding address, nothing bad will happen to you. When that changes, update your forward file.

Migrating from to

If you are of a certain age, you have been doing your email with your address and would probably prefer to continue doing so. We understand. Unfortunately, the world has moved on and unless you are very important, you will need to be able to do the google-y things that the campus now expects you to do. And that means migrating to

Migrating involves the following steps:

  • Configuring your @demog email to forward to your @berkeley address. (And possibly turning off the forwarding from your @berkeley address to your @demog address)
  • Copying your existing email archive from the Demography Lab server to the bmail server.

Copying your email archive can take hours or even days, but it is not difficult-for you. All you need to do is send email to and ask for help.

Obscure old ways of doing things

If for whatever reason, you prefer to read and write email using the tools of our ancestors, then see below. Be aware that as time goes on this way of doing email will eventually become untenable - but so will email itself - so follow your heart.

Instructions for doing email as we did during the first Clinton Administration are below:

The simplest way to do email

If you have a userid at the Demography lab, then your email address is

The simplest way to use that distinctive email address is with the squirrelmail web interface. Just browse to The web interface works from any machine with a browser and Internet access. A more efficient (and nearly as simple) option which is available on all Demography Lab machines1 is to use alpine. At the Unix prompt, type:

@:$>$ alpine


alpine is entirely text based. This can be initially somewhat jarring, but once you learn a few key combinations your email efficiency will rise rapidly. Alpine is free and available for mac and windows, so it can run on your personal computer as well.

Configuring other email agents

For the most part Demography Lab email servers are standard so the default settings often work. Here are the settings to use when configuring by hand:

  • IMAP is the protocol to use for reading and managing stored email. Specify the following:
    • IMAP server:
    • IMAP port:143
    • Security: TLS
    • userid: your login id (just the first part NOT the

  • SMTP is the protocol to use for sending email. Specify the following:
    • SMTP server:
    • SMTP port: 2525 (the default 25 also works but is blocked by many ISPs)
    • Security: TLS
    • userid: your login id (just the first part NOT the

Note that some email agents will complain that our security certificate is for a host named rather than or If so, just check the box and move on.


Unfortunately, simplicity is not what email is about anymore. The existence of evil in the world ensures a steady stream of SPAM, viruses and phishy messages which must be filtered out and then carefully ignored. At the same time our need for video, audio and files in proprietary formats have made individual email messages much more complicated.

As a consequence, you have a lot of email to deal with and much of it is unfriendly. We currently support the following features to help you cope with emails complexities:

  • Spam filtering with Baysean learning via spamassassin2
  • Virus filtering with ClamAV3
  • Decoding of word documents with antiword4
  • Fancy email filtering with procmail 5
  • Auto responders (implemented locally with procmail)

  • forwarding email to alternate addresses

For detailed instructions on how to do all sorts of specific things with email please read the ``Email'' section of the FAQ This page is only scratches the surface.

Spam filtering

``Spam'' is unsolicited commercial email. While the vast majority of what we tend to think of as Spam - does fit this definition, a significant minority does not. Email lists that you joined but have since lost interest in, messages from vendors that you carelessly asked to keep you ``informed'' should be dealt with by following the directions for removing yourself from the list. Turning off unwanted email from reputable sources by following their directions is preferable. It makes it easier to detect real spam.

We use spamassassin to filter spam. Unless you have carelessly created a file in your mail/CONFIG directory called deliver-spam then spamassassin is diverting spam to a folder called DivertedSpam right now. If you are missing some mail that you know was sent check the DivertedSpam folder. It is perfectly fine to delete the DivertedSpam folder whenver you like - it will not stay gone for long, however.

Baysean learning

``Baysean learning'' is easy and satisfying. It will probably halve the amount of spam that gets through spamassassin's pretty good filters.

All you need to do for this to happen is to begin saving your spam in ``folder'' called SPAM.6

Every night a program will digest your SPAM file (``folder'') and create a spam filter based on it. The documentation insists that it is equally important to save false positives - that is email messages which Spamassassin falsely categorized as spam - into a file (``folder'') called HAM. Experience seems to indicate that this is difficult to do because very few legitimate messages ever turn up in DivertedSpam and not necessary, for pretty much the same reason. However everyone's spam is a little different so this might work for you.

\fbox{\parbox[c]{.8\textwidth}{It is definitely a smart idea to periodically che...
...Spam} \lq\lq folder'' \textbf{definitely} save it to your
\texttt{HAM} \lq\lq folder''.}}

Virus filtering

You don't need to think about viruses. We filter them so that you never see them. But watch out for phishing scams particularly if your personal computer runs MS Windows.

Decoding word files

If you have a file in your tilda/mail/CONFIG directory called decodewordmail then the email server will run any .doc attachments through antiword ( If the decoding is successful, then a plain text version of the attached fill is appended to the bottom of the text part of the email message. The .doc attachment is preserved.

The advantage of this is that you don't need to launch a word processing program to read that 4 line message that some dope sent you as a .doc file. On the other hand, if the .doc attachment is 200 pages long, you can still read read/print/edit it in a word processor. Since the text version is at the bottom of the message you don't risk missing anything if you don't scroll all the way to the end of it.

Fancy email filtering

You can do very fancy things to your email with procmail. Filtering mail based on where it comes from, whether or not certain words are present in the message, how long the message is, and just about anything you can think of is possible. Further receipt of certain email messages can trigger other programs to launch. Much is possible. Some of it is useful. If this sort of thing appeals to you take a look at:

Note that your procmailrc file goes in tilda/mail/CONFIG and does not have a leading ``.'' as is the convention.


Using procmail you can do much fancier things than simply replying to all non-virus/spam email with an ``I am vacationing on a planet where there is no email'' message. But this latter trick is quite useful so we have made it particularly simple to do. Just type your message in a file called tilda/mail/CONFIG /vacation_msg. Whatever you put in that file will be sent in response to any email that you receive while that file is present.

When you return from your travels, just delete the file to turn off the message.

Forwarding your email

See Section 2

Email lists

The Demography Lab maintains several email lists. Generally, you are on these lists if you belong there, for example if you are a student then you are probably on the list. You can send email to these lists only if you do so from an eamil address that ends in

For information about the email lists such as who is on it (useful if you are sending a party invitation) see

About this document ...


This document was generated using the LaTeX2HTML translator Version 2008 (1.71)

Copyright © 1993, 1994, 1995, 1996, Nikos Drakos, Computer Based Learning Unit, University of Leeds.
Copyright © 1997, 1998, 1999, Ross Moore, Mathematics Department, Macquarie University, Sydney.

The command line arguments were:
latex2html -split 0 -local_icons email

The translation was initiated by Carl Mason on 2016-02-02


... machines1
alpine is free and easy to install on Linux, Windows and Mac machines. See the FAQ for details
... procmail5
If you are using pine just hit ``s'' to save and type SPAM (all upper case) when prompted for the folder into which you would like to save the message. For other mailers you may need to do other things. In the end, a file called $\sim$/mail/SPAM is what the system looks for.
Carl Mason 2016-02-02