Nevis Mailing-List Server Help Page

If you are looking for the main Nevis web site, or information about Nevis mail, click on the appropriate links in this sentence. This web page only describes the mailing-list server.

See this page for information on the lists available on the mailing-list server.

Guides and answers to questions

The basics

What is a mailing list?

For the purposes of this page, a "mailing list" is a special e-mail address. When you send a message to this address, the mail is automatically forwarded to "members" of the mailing list.

What is a mailing-list server?

A computer that has been set up for the sole purpose of maintaining mailing lists: maintaining members of each list, managing requests for subscriptions and removals, blocking messages from non-members, etc.

What mailing lists are available on this server?

See the mailing-list information page.

You send a message to a list using the address <mailing-list-name> Note that the domain is not just or; the mailing-list server is a different machine:

Something's not working

I received messages from a list all the time, but when I tried sending a message to it, nothing happened.

The most likely reason for this is that you forward your mail from your Nevis account to some other account, and/or tried sending a message to the list from a non-Nevis account.

The Nevis mailing lists only accept messages from specific e-mail addresses. When WilliamSeligman adds you to a list, he probably uses your e-mail address unless you tell him otherwise. If you send a message from (for example) an address, the mailing-list software doesn't recognize it and discards the message.

There are two solutions:

  • Send your message from your address.

  • Ask to subscribe to the list using your alternate e-mail address. (You may want to unsubscribe your address to avoid receiving two copies of each message posted to the list.)

Why didn't I receive a warning when my message was not accepted by a mailing list?

Unfortunately, the spammers have made this impractical.

Turgid details: Spammers routinely send messages to every list on the mailing-list information page. Most of these messages have fake "From:" addresses. If the server sent a rejection message for every invalid message it received, the server would either be clogged with rejection messages that it cannot deliver (for non-existing "From:" addresses) or be spamming someone else (for spoofed "From:" addresses). The best compromise appears to be to not send rejection messages to non-members of the list.

I sent a message to one of the lists, and I may have misspelled the name of the list. Why didn't I receive a warning?

Again, the spammers have made this impractical.

Turgid details: The mailing-list server receives more messages directed to non-existent lists than it does to existing ones. Typically, the spammers' robots don't pick up on the portion of the name after the dash, so (for example) they see and send e-mail to When the mailing-list server used to send back warning messages, it was spamming people at faked "From:" addresses.

Does this mean that if my message is rejected by the mailing-list server for any reason, I will receive no warning at all?

That is correct. I wish it were otherwise.

Your only hint that your message was rejected is that it's not distributed by the mailing-list server.

I tried to send a message to a mailing list and I couldn't. What's the matter?

I tried to see a list of the subscribers to a mailing list and I couldn't. What's the matter?

I tried to look at the archives of messages posted to the list and I couldn't. What's the matter?

Only the subscribers to a given mailing list can do these things. Also see the information section below.

I am a subscriber to one of the lists, and I tried to do one of the things in the previous question(s). I got a message about a password. What's my password?

Click on the name of the list on the mailing-list information page, scroll to the bottom of the page, enter your e-mail address, and click on the "Unsubscribe or edit options" button. On the next page, click on the "Remind" near the bottom of the page. Your password will be e-mailed to you.

Why wasn't I told my password in the first place?

The blunt answer is: Up until now, most users haven't cared. The mailing-list administrator created and maintained the lists, and no one ever asked to be removed from them (though occasionally they'd ask to be added).

When this mailing-list server was set up, I "mass subscribed" the relevant users to their respective lists, and continue to add new members in the same way. If I had set up notifications, users would have been flooded with e-mails requests for verifications and passwords, and most would not have cared. I decided I'd rather inconvenience just a few people instead of sending masses of e-mails to many.

Subscribing and unsubscribing

Where is the Subscribe button?

There isn't one. Once again, hackers forced the removal of a Subscribe button from our mailing lists. See the next question if you want to subscribe to one of the lists.

Turgid details: The hackers started using automated web tools to visit the subscription page on every single mailing list at Nevis multiple times. Our mailing-list server sent confirmation requests for each subscription. The result was that we sent thousands of confirmation messages, filling up the recipients' inboxes and causing our server to be treated as a spambot by the major internet services. Each of these requests was coming from a different IP address, so tools like fail2ban, mod_evasive, and mod_security did not work. The only remaining option was to remove the Subscribe button and have all subscriptions be added by the list administrators.

I work for Columbia University or Nevis Labs, or I'm affiliated with the research that takes place there, and I should be on one of the lists.

Send a message to the mailing-list server administrator, with the name of the list(s) to which you wish to subscribe, and it will be taken care of.

I don't work for Columbia University or Nevis Labs, and I'm not affiliated with any of the research that takes place there, but I'm interested in physics. Can I be on one of the lists?

No. See the information below.

How do I unsubscribe from a mailing list?

You can do this from the mailing-list information page. Click on the name of the list, and follow the instructions on the web page.

However, note the following question:

I tried unsubscribing from one of the lists, but I'm still getting messages from it. What's going on?

Take a look at the description of the list on the mailing-list information page. Does the description begin with the word "Union"? If so, you can't unsubscribe from the list. Or rather, you can, but you'll be automatically resubscribed when the list is re-created.

Reason: The "union" lists are re-made periodically from the other mailing lists given in the description. For example, "atlas-linux" is described as the "Union of nevis-atlas, atlas-guest, and nevis-admin". If you want to stop receiving messages from "atlas-linux", you have to unsubscribe from "nevis-atlas" or "atlas-guest".

Membership and options

How do I tell which mailing list I'm on?

If it isn't clear from the name or description of the list, send a message to the mailing-list server administrator.

I changed my mailing-list options for one of the lists, but the changes didn't seem to take place. Why not?

When the automated procedure runs to merge the separate "base" mailing lists to the "union" lists, the user options are not copied. This means that if you set an option for any of the "union" lists, it will have no effect, and any option you set for a "base" list will have no effect on a "union" list.

(This is something I can change with some additional programming effort. The mailing lists are so low-traffic right now that I didn't bother with it, but if this is a functionality that you need, let me know and I'll see what I can do.)

List organization

I'd like for a new mailing list to be created on the Nevis mailing-list server.

If you're a Nevis officer or a member of the faculty, I'd be glad to do this for you. Just send a message to the mailing-list server administrator.

I'm a principal investigator or a spokesman for one of the experiments for which you've created a mailing list, yet I can't moderate the list.

Again, I'd be glad to set this up for you. Just send a message to the mailing-list server administrator.

The only reason that I haven't done this is that no one has yet shown any interest in maintaining these lists. I'd be glad to pass the task onto the appropriate responsible individuals.

(Say, as long as you're motivated to moderate the mailing list, would you mind taking a look at your experiment's description on the particle or nuclear description page and make sure it's correct? And go over the list of open accounts for your group with me so I can close off the ones that are unused? And go over the disk files your group doesn't need so we can free up some disk space? ...)

Information and disclaimers

Statement of purpose

The purpose of this mailing-list server is to distribute private notices and discussions among the members of research groups at or affiliated with Columbia University's Nevis Laboratories. It also serves to send Nevis-related messages to the students, faculty, officers, and staff. It is for the private use of these groups and individuals only, and is not for public use.

In particular, this server will not be used to distribute unsolicited commercial e-mail ("spam").


These mailing lists and their contents do not represent official Nevis policy, nor are they intended to represent the official status of anyone employed or working at Nevis Laboratories or at Columbia University. They are simply a good-faith effort on the part of a systems administrator to distribute information. No official or formal connection to Nevis Laboratories, Columbia University, the National Science Foundation, the Department of Energy, nor any other agency should be inferred or implied by the contents or members of these lists.

If you want to know who is employed by or at Nevis Laboratories, or otherwise has a connection with the institution, contact Nevis Laboratories at 914-591-8100.

-- WilliamSeligman - 06 Feb 2009

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Topic revision: r13 - 2018-06-05 - WilliamSeligman
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