(Debian Squeeze)

I was working on a shell script that piped output to the mail command. I must have done something wrong, as I am no longer able to use the command for anything. Even if I type "mail" with no arguments, it just spits out what appears to be the content I previously tried to email, but it then just returns me to a prompt. The same output occurs regardless of which arguments I use with the command.

We do not use local mail storage, and I have deleted all of the user files in /var/mail and /var/spool/mail (one is a link to the other), but for the life of me, I cannot figure out how to get use of this command back.

I'm struggling with any kind of searching for this problem as the search terms seem way too vague.


I suspect that at some point you accidentally did something like:

....command... > /usr/bin/mail

instead of

....command... | /usr/bin/mail

thus replacing /usr/bin/mail with a copy of some data.

I would suggest that you reinstall the mail program. Because Debian ships several alternatives, you can find the one you have installed with:

root@www:~# ls -l /usr/bin/mail
lrwxrwxrwx 1 root root 22 2011-04-04 02:48 /usr/bin/mail -> /etc/alternatives/mail

root@www:~# ls -l /etc/alternatives/mail
lrwxrwxrwx 1 root root 18 2011-04-04 02:48 /etc/alternatives/mail -> /usr/bin/bsd-mailx

So the mail program is really /usr/bin/bsd-mailx on this system. Let us find out which package it came from:

root@www:~# apt-file search /usr/bin/bsd-mailx
bsd-mailx: /usr/bin/bsd-mailx

And finally we will reinstall that package.

root@www:~# apt-get install --reinstall bsd-mailx
Reading package lists... Done
Building dependency tree
Reading state information... Done
0 upgraded, 0 newly installed, 1 reinstalled, 0 to remove and 1 not upgraded.
Need to get 155kB of archives.
After this operation, 0B of additional disk space will be used.
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