So, ESR always talks about how fetchmail is the best UNIX program on the planet: well-written, standards-compliant, stable, etc.

That’s why I use it (with procmail) instead of downloading messages with something like evolution or thunderbird. Basically, evolution isn’t standards compliant and so it doesn’t deal with my mail server well, and thunderbird is ugly.

But evolution does let me use normal mail spools, which fetchmail and procmail can deliver to.

But fetchmail is annoying in some ways. For one, it stores passwords in clear text, in the /etc directory, and ESR thinks that’s good enough. If you don’t want to run daemon mode (like me), since I want to be able to quickly download the latest e-mail, that means plain text passwords in my home directory. I’ve written a shell script fetchmail wrapper that gets around this restriction so my password is never stored on my hard disk at all, but only passed from my keys to fetchmail directly, but what a pain, really (I wrote this a few weeks ago).

Now the other thing is that i have four mail accounts and it serializes access! Jesus! It doesn’t open up connections to each of my accounts, stick messages in some buffer and then write them to disk serially. Instead, it does wait-request-wait-request for each message of each account in order, and then at the end of a message download it actually delivers the message to procmail. So that means it takes me about 30 seconds to check mail on my four accounts, whereas it could take as long as my slowest account (pixelmonkey), which is about 10 seconds.

So, I just found it funny that someone got so fed up with this that they wrote retchmail. Here’s a quote, and a link:


Eric S. Raymond’s Fetchmail is a full-featured, robust, well-documented remote-mail retrieval and forwarding utility intended to be used over on-demand TCP/IP links (such as SLIP or PPP connections). It supports every remote-mail protocol now in use on the Internet: POP2, POP3, RPOP, APOP, KPOP, all flavors of IMAP, ETRN, and ODMR. It can even support IPv6? and IPSEC.

Oh, you were asking about RETCHMAIL. Sorry.

RetchMail is the world’s most stupidly fast POP3 retriever.

It is almost completely unlike fetchmail: RetchMail lacks features, isn’t particularly robust (although it won’t delete a message until sendmail says it was delivered okay), has nearly no documentation, and is actually fast.

5. Is RetchMail standards-compliant?

Quick answer: HA HA HA HA HA HA no.

Just to be extra clear about this: yes, it is morally wrong for us to have written RetchMail, and it is morally wrong for you to use it. But try it, it’s really fast!

Heh, that’s open source; it’s all about choice. Here’s a link.