I posted a while ago about redoing my assbackards email downloading system. I finally did it. And it works great (and runs a bunch faster). The main sacrifice is that I now have to store two copies of my email directory on my server, but disk space is cheap and git is really effective at saving disk space/transfer speed, so it's not a really big deal.

It's also much more straightforward, and I'm going to post the two (2!) simple shell scripts that I'm using along with a couple of recommendations/hints if you want to try this at home. I do recommend that anyone who does this should be familiar with git before attempting this. Sound good?

Great! Here goes.

You need:

  • A repository on your server where your email will "land." This should be a git repository that's origin is:
  • A bare repository that is also on your server. These directories should not be web accessible, and indeed, technically need not be on the same server even, though they need to be always-on servers at static locations, so that you can clone repositories on:
  • A repository on your personal computer(s).

Inside of the repository is a great place to keep your scripts (and indeed all settings for mail-related programs.) The two scripts you need are:


#!/usr/bin/env bash

# Get situated
cd /path/to/mail/

# Pull Changes from the centralized (canonical) repository
/path/togit pull origin >/dev/null 2>&1

# Add in the new mail and push to the central repository
/path/to/git add .
/path/to/git commit -a -q -m \
"server: mail drop commit, pre-push to central"
/path/to/git push origin >/dev/null 2>&1


#!/usr/bin/env bash

# Do things on the server  synced
ssh USERNAME@DOMAIN.TLD sh /path/to/mail/syncserver >/dev/null 2>&1

# Do things locally to get changes upstreem to central
## Get Situated:
cd /path/to/mail/
## Pull new mail down,
## everyting after the | is to produce a mail notifciation
##  using growl on OS X

/path/to/git pull origin | /usr/local/bin/growlnotify -n mutt -a Mail.app -t "tycho garen (or maybe sam)'s mail status:"  >/dev/null 2>&1

## Getting setup and then pushing any changes upstream
/path/to/git add .
for i in `git ls-files -d`; do
   /usr/local/git/bin/git rm --quiet $i;

/path/to/git commit -a -q -m "mail changes from NAME_OF_COMPUTER"
/path/to/git push >/dev/null 2>&1

Feel free, of course to change the commit messages and take out the comments. Other thoughts on usage:

  1. Have public key sign-ins enabled on any machine that you use regularly. It's more secure, faster.
  2. By all means, run "syncmail" in a launchd daemon/crontab.
  3. I've used absolute paths, starting with a "/" so that the shell doesn't have to look for relative paths in order to run, which probably only gives me a marginal speed advantage, but you'll want to figure out where your executables are and then put the right locations in. It's a short script.
  4. While eventually, you'll be able to tweak the syncserver file and after two runs, the changes will propagate, you have to put the file there manually (or run the pull yourself.)
  5. If you need to download mail from more than one source, you can run fetchmail at the beginning of syncmail

This almost makes sense, finally. The only thing that I'm still trying to figure out is if I were to get, say an iPhone or a BlackBerry into this system. IMAP into my existing gmail account would be ok but not desirable for a number of reasons. I suppose I could forward email from my server/computer to a "mobile" account, but that would be like having an email cadet branch and there wouldn't be syncing, which seems bad. On the other hand, it means I could pull out only the stuff I really need. It's a ways off, but it's pretty complicated.

Onward and Upward!