[Mailman-Users] cannot add user or create mailing list

Lucio Chiappetti lucio at lambrate.inaf.it
Mon Mar 28 16:18:59 CEST 2011

Although I have a few years of experience as a list administrator of lists 
hosted on other sites, so far I never managed a mailman server on my own.
In our institute we manage small list via /etc/aliases :include:s

Recently I decided to make an experiment, so I installed mailman 2.1.11 
via the suse 11.3 distribution on my machine. I read carefully the PDF 
"GNU Mailman Installation Manual release 2.1" by Barry Warsaw, and other 
stuff on the wiki, including those concerning sendmail (we are a sendmail 

I say "experiment" since I am testing it on my personal machine, although 
the target system will be one of the institute servers (in process of 
being upgraded). I thought to gain experience first in a simpler 


I followed the manual except that at step 6 (6.3) I followed
and related links.

The suse installation via yast2 installs mailman partly in 
/usr/lib/mailman, partly in /var/lib/mailman/ (and also 
/usr/share/man/man8 and /usr/share/doc/packages/mailman/), it also creates 
the user and group.

It does not provide any automatic configuration for apache, so I did it 
manually (I actually like this better). I had to place in 
default-server.conf also this block

<Directory "/usr/lib/mailman/cgi-bin">
  AllowOverride None
  Options +ExecCGI -Includes
  Order allow,deny
  Allow from all

in order to be able to execute the CGIs.

I note that the startup script /etc/init.d/mailman gives a message
"Starting mailman (Warning: the Apache2 webinterface for Mailman has not 
been activated!)" which seems to imply a flag missing in line 
APACHE_SERVER_FLAGS in /etc/sysconfig/apache2, but I have no documentation 
for it, and it seems that the site can be accessed ok

Any Suse user can confirm this is unnecessary ?


Concerning sendmail, I followed the "method 2" (WITHOUT mm_handler) 
because it seems to apply better to our institute arrangements. So I have
a sudo wrapper script with the two lines

         /bin/cp /var/lib/mailman/data/aliases   /etc/mail/mailman.aliases

a sendmail.cf with O AliasFile=/etc/mail/aliases,/etc/mail/mailman.aliases

and the fake arrangement in  mm_cfg.py

       POSTFIX_ALIAS_CMD = '/usr/bin/sudo /usr/sbin/mailman.aliases'

I have verified the command /usr/lib/mailman/bin/genaliases works and 
touches the right files.

I have also run "/usr/lib/mailman/bin/newlist mailman" to create the top 
list and it works (it said to have sent a mail, but actually it was just 
queued, and it was sent as soon as I started the qrunner from /etc/init.d

I set my own e-mail as list owner, and set a password (incidentally the 
same test password used by /usr/lib/mailman/bin/mmsitepass)

I hope the fact I always use the same test password is not a problem


At this point I entered the admin web page of such a list (for which I 
received the "Your new mailing list" message). It seems I can browse it 

Then I wanted to subscribe myself to the list.

If I do it via the Membership Management -> Mass Subscription, and I enter 
my e-mail address in the form, I get no errors but nothing happens.

If I try to subscribe via the mailman/listinfo/mailman page, I get instead 
an error "you must supply a valid e-mail address"

Why does that happen ? see also question 4


I tried also to create a new mailing list via the web interface (this 
requires supplying the site password as well)

this gives me instead an error
"Unknown virtual host: sax.iasf-milano.inaf.it "


This may have to do with our institute standard arrangement, and will 
apply also to the real arrangement on our target server. Unfortunately I 
cannot find the documentation for the keywords in mm_cfg.py so I am not 
sure what shall be tuned.

This is the content of mm_cfg.py. The first 9-10 lines were added 
automatically by the suse yast installation, the rest was edited/added by 
me to suite our apache config and the "sendmail method 2"

DEFAULT_URL_PATTERN = 'http://%s/mailman/'
DEFAULT_NNTP_HOST = 'poseidon.lambrate.inaf.it'
DEFAULT_EMAIL_HOST = 'poseidon.lambrate.inaf.it'
DEFAULT_URL_HOST = 'poseidon.lambrate.inaf.it'
MTA = 'Postfix'
SMTPHOST = 'localhost'
#IMAGE_LOGOS = '/mailmanicons/'
IMAGE_LOGOS = '/icons/'
# changed lines above manually
# inserted this stuff for sendmail
POSTFIX_ALIAS_CMD = '/usr/bin/sudo /usr/sbin/mailman.aliases'

I have to explain our configuration:

  - we have two domains.
    lambrate.inaf.it is the one where all A and PTR records are,
    and also a number of CNAMEs for various services.

    iasf-milano.inaf.it is a more formal domain alias, which contains
    just CNAMEs for the main services visible from outside

  - poseidon(.lambrate.inaf.it) is my machine FQDN

  - sax.iasf-milano.inaf.it is the CNAME for the web server on it.
    It is also the ServerName in default-server.conf (so one can get
    to the server as sax or poseidon or localhost but is shown just

    This will apply not only to my test configuration, but also to the
    target configuration (the institute web server will be
    www.iasf-milano.inaf.it, which is a CNAME for a server [let us say
    server3] ... actually that server runs different virtual servers)

  - all our e-mail address are FULLY MASQUERADED, i.e. they are of the
    form "user at lambrate.inaf.it" or "user at iasf-milano.inaf.it" (our
    MXs accept both in entrance, and each user selects which form to
    use on exit).

    The message from mailman when I created the initial list did have
    From: mailman-owner at lambrate.inaf.it
    (obviously masqueraded by sendmail)

    It did contain URLs like http://poseidon.lambrate.inaf.it
    (reachable but translated as sax.iasf-milano.inaf.it)

    It did contain e-mail like mailman-request at poseidon.lambrate.inaf.it
    (so far I haven't tested them)

I am not sure how much of the above applies to QUESTION 4 (i.e. to run on 
my local machine)

The arrangement on the target system will be more complicated.

As I said the www server is "server3", but the MX servers are instead 
"server1" and "server2". They are also NIS master and slave server, and 
all our e-mail aliases are NIS aliases (so

I am not expecting a solution to question 5 now, I guess that if I can 
have a running solution on my local machine, and an understanding of the 
inner working of mailman, some creative user of crontab scripts or NFS 
mounts could make the mailman aliases available to all NIS clients and 
visible to the outside world.

But any hint will be gratefully acknowledged.

Lucio Chiappetti - INAF/IASF - via Bassini 15 - I-20133 Milano (Italy)
For more info : http://www.iasf-milano.inaf.it/~lucio/personal.html

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