[mharc Top] mharc Installation

This document describes how to install and configure mharc on your system. You should read this document in its entirety before performing any of the installation steps.


If performing an upgrade, make sure to read the NEWS document for any important release notes.

Table of Contents

 Where to Get Help

If you have problems installing mharc, a mailing list exists that provides a forum for help and general discussions. Information about the list, and how to subscribe, is provided in Contacts.

If you want professional help to setup your list archives, please send a message to mhonarc@mhonarc.org with your request.


Shell examples are rendered as follows:

prompt> ls -CF
bin/      etc/        images/  log/      msgid.cache       README
cgi-bin/  .htaccess@  info/    Makefile  NEWS              TODO
COPYING   html/       lib/     mbox/     procmailrc.mharc  VERSION

The text prompt> represents your shell prompt. Text you would type into the shell is rendered like this: text you enter. Any other text is example output generated by the computer.


This document's intended audience is people familiar with working in Unix-type environments. The following prerequisite knowledge is beneficial:


The typical usage model for mharc is to have a special user account to perform all mharc-related duties. The account is subscribed to all mailing lists you want archived. For example, say the account you use is mailarch and the mail address for the account is mailarch@example.com. For each list you archive, the address mailarch@example.com must be subscribed to each list.

This usage model allows mharc to be independent of the mailing list management software. If changes are made to list management software, mharc is unaffected. The model also allows a division of labor on who manages the lists and who manages the archives.


Tips on how to handle list administration messages, like subscribe confirmations, are provided in Managing List Administration Messages

This document assumes this type of usage model. However, due to the configurable nature of mharc, alternate usage models are possible.



mharc runs on any Unix-like operating system. If using a Win32 system, you will may need to install Cygwin or equivalent software package providing the Unix tool set.


mharc requires the following software:


The install.pl installation script checks for programs required by mharc. If it cannot locate a program, it generates a warning message.

If you cannot locate any of the above programs or are not sure what is installed on your system, contact your system administrator (and while your at it, you may want to ask your sys admin to install mharc for you :-).

 Extracting mharc


You should be logged into the archive account when installing mharc.

Extract the tar bundle into any temporary location to start the installation process. The following command extracts the tar.gz distribution bundle:

prompt> gzip -dc mharc-X.X.X | tar xvf -
...[file list snipped for brevity]...

where X.X.X represents the version number of mharc you are extracting.


Do not not use mharc under a priviledged user account, like root, since it may open up security vulnerabilities.

 Running install.pl

After you extract the tar bundle, execute the following commands to run the mharc installation script:

prompt> cd mharc-X.X.X
prompt> perl install.pl

The install.pl program will perform some system checks and prompt you for an installation location. If performing a new install, install.pl prompts you for some initial configuration information. The following is an example session of a new install:

Looking for 'make' program... '/usr/bin/gmake'
Looking for 'tar' program... '/bin/tar'
Looking for 'cp' program... '/bin/cp'
Looking for 'mkdir' program... '/bin/mkdir'
Looking for 'pwd' program... '/bin/pwd'
Looking for 'mhonarc' program... '/usr/local/bin/mhonarc'
Looking for 'mknmz' program... '/usr/local/bin/mknmz'
Looking for 'namazu.cgi'... '/usr/local/libexec/namazu.cgi'
Looking for 'procmail' program... '/usr/bin/procmail'
Looking for 'formail' program... '/usr/bin/formail'
Looking for 'lockfile' program... '/usr/bin/lockfile'

Pathname to install mharc: /home/mailarch/archives
"/home/mailarch/archives" does not exist, create? ['y'] 
Copying files into "/home/mailarch/archives"...
Copying files into "/home/mailarch/archives/html"...
Copying files into "/home/mailarch/archives/cgi-bin"...
Determine MHonArc library path from '/usr/local/bin/mhonarc'... \

Root URL for archives
(You can set this later in lib/config.sh): /archives
Would you like to edit "lib/config.sh" with "vi"? ['y']
... [edit session not shown] ...

Would you like to edit "lib/lists.def" with "vi"? ['y']
... [edit session not shown] ...

You are using MHonArc v2.6.7
Applying configuration (this may take awhile)...
| Please read the mharc installation document to finish the installation
| process.  A copy is located at:
| /home/mailarch/archives/doc/install.html

When prompted to edit a file, the editor used is taken from the EDITOR environment variable. If the environment variable is not set, vi is used. You are not required to edit files like lib/config.sh and lib/lists.def during install.pl execution. These files can be edited later as described in Checking Configuration and Editing lists.def.


The installation script provides diagnostics warning you of any conditions that may prevent mharc from operating properly. Each warning message provides you with information on what you can do to fix the problem.


The MHonArc version shown may be different than what is shown above. The version shown should reflect the version of MHonArc found on your system.


If you get stuck in vi, you can type the following key strokes to abandon any changes and exit: <Esc>:q!<Enter>, where <Esc> represents the Esc key and <Enter> represents the Enter key. Type the following if you want to save any changes before exiting: <Esc>:wq<Enter>.

 Configuration Check

Change your current working directory to the location you installed mharc:

prompt> cd /home/mailarch/archives

Replace /home/mailarch/archives with the pathname location you specified when running install.pl.

Examine the lib/config.sh mharc configuration file created by install.pl and make any edits as needed. Run the following command to have your changes applied:

prompt> make configure
./bin/apply-config -verbose
Processing "lib/common.mrc.in"
Processing "lib/mrc/_nothread.mrc.in"
Processing "lib/mrc/_logo.mrc.in"
... [files processed snipped for brevity] ...
You are using MHonArc v2.6.7
* Make sure to rerun 'make configure' when you change
* lib/config.sh or change a .in template file.


If you edited lib/config.sh while running install.pl, then any changes you made then would have already been applied.

In general, when you make changes to lib/config.sh, make sure to run make configure.


Make sure to review all variable settings in lib/config.sh. Proper values are critical for the archiving system to work properly.

 Editing lists.def

Once you have finished the main configuration step, you need to define the lists you want archived. To do this, you edit lib/lists.def. The syntax of the file is documented in the mk-procmailrc manpage. After editing, run the following command:

prompt> make
You are using MHonArc v2.6.7

A filed called procmailrc.mharc will be created that is used during the processing of incoming mail. Anytime, you make changes to lib/lists.def, rerun make to regenerate procmailrc.mharc.

 Defining your crontab

To get automatic processing of your archives, you must edit the account's crontab. The file etc/crontab serves as a template of the crontab entries needed. To register the file as your crontab, do the following:

prompt> crontab etc/crontab

If the account has existing crontab entries, you should run the following command instead:

prompt> crontab -e

And copy the entries in etc/crontab into the account's crontab.

To customize the mharc-related crontab entries, you can edit etc/crontab.in and run

prompt> make configure

to create a new etc/crontab file suitable for copying into the account's crontab.


If your system does not support cron, or you are unable to register the execution of programs at periodic intervals, you can manually invoke archive processing by using the various makefile targets shown in Maintenance Operations.

 Web Server Configuration


This information provided in the section is specific to the Apache httpd server.

The file etc/apache.conf provides sample configuration directives for the Apache HTTP server to control access to your archives. If the default settings are not sufficient for your needs, you can edit etc/apache.conf.in and run

prompt> make configure

to generate a new etc/apache.conf that can be used in your Apache server configuration.

If you are on a system where you do not have access to Apache's main server configuration file, a etc/.htaccess can be used to provide local configuration settings.

To use this file, copy the generated etc/.htaccess file to the root of the installation when make configure is done, or even better, create a symlink to it by executing the following command from the installation root:

prompt> ln -s ./etc/.htaccess

With the symlink, you do not have to re-copy the file each time you make changes.

Make sure Apache allows the execution of CGI programs in the cgi-bin directory. The etc/apache.conf template should allows this via a ScriptAlias directive.

An alternative is to have filenames with the extension ".cgi" handled by the cgi-script handler as follows:

AddHandler cgi-script .cgi


If you are using the .htaccess method to control access to your files, you may need to create a .htaccess in the cgi-bin directory with the following settings:

Options +ExecCGI

 Maintenance Operations

Manual maintenance can be done via the Makefile provided. If you run the command,

prompt> make help
Targets available:
  (default)     Generate procmailrc.mharc from ./lib/lists.def.
  configure:    Apply ./lib/config.sh settings.
  disable:      Disable automated processing of new messages.
  editidx:      Edit all mhonarc archive pages.
  editidxonly:  Edit only mhonarc archive index pages.
  editrootidx:  Edit only top period index pages.
  enable:       Enable automated processing of new messages.
  help:         This message.
  readmail:     Process mail spool.
  rebuild:      Rebuild archives from raw message data.
  rootidx:      Regenerated top index for archives.

You will get a summary of available targets. Targets exist to manually invoke the mail spool processing, to recreate the entire HTML archives, and other administrative tasks. For example, to invoke the processing of any incoming mail, do the following:

prompt> make readmail
... [output clipped] ...

Some targets will disable auto-message processing. Targets that do this will output the following message:

!!! Auto-archive processing is DISABLED !!!

You can run:

prompt> make enable
!!! Auto-archive processing is ENABLED !!!

to re-enable auto-message processing.

 Archive Customizations

Files that control archive appearance are controled by template files with the extension ".in". It is recommended to edit the ".in" version of files and execute the make configure command to apply your changes.


You must run make configure to have mharc recognize any changes made to a template file.

The ".in.dist" files are versions of the templates as defined by the base distribution. These will be overwritten when updating the software and mainly serve as a basis for your custom template files. If you ever you want to revert back to the ".in.dist" version of a file, just remove the ".in" version and rerun make configure.

The main MHonArc resource file is lib/common.mrc. To make changes, edit lib/common.mrc.in and run

prompt> make configure

to generate a new lib/common.mrc. You can use @@VARIABLE_NAME@@ references in lib/common.mrc.in to refer to variables defined in lib/config.sh. However, this is normally not required since the web-archive program will pre-define various MHonArc resource variables that reflect settings in lib/config.sh. See the MHonArc documentation for more information on how to edit MHonArc resource files.


To make the maintenance of MHonArc resource settings easier, especially during mharc upgrades, set the MHA_RC variable in lib/config.sh to something like the following:

# Pathname to main MHonArc resource file.

Then create the file $SW_ROOT/lib/default.mrc.in (make note that the file ends with a ".in" extension) with the following contents:


<!-- ... customized settings here ... -->

And run:

prompt> make configure

Anytime you want to make MHonArc resource changes, make sure to edit $SW_ROOT/lib/default.mrc.in and rerun make configure.

When you upgrade mharc, and mharc contains a new improved lib/common.mrc.in.dist, and you want the new settings to be applied to your archives, you can do the following:

prompt> rm lib/common.mrc.in
prompt> make configure

Any additional and/or override settings you have in $SW_ROOT/lib/default.mrc.in are left untouched.

The above avoids performing any messing merging of changes in a new lib/common.mrc.in.dist to your customized version of lib/common.mrc.in.

 Applying Software Updates

The software is structured to avoid screwing up an existing installation. When running install.pl, just specify the existing location of your mharc installation. All the ".in.dist" files will get overwritten, but any ".in" files will be left untouched inorder to preserve any local customizations.


If you ever you want to use a new, or revert back to, a ".in.dist" version of a file, just remove the ".in" version and rerun make configure.

 MH/nmh Support

A program called mh-month-pack exists for sites that have an existing MH/nmh-based mail filtering setup (either done manually or automatically). This program can be used to import MH/nmh mail into mharc or to serve as a replacement to the filter-spool step if you want to continue to use MH/nmh for handling incoming mail.

If you do this, you will have to modify etc/crontab.in to no longer use read-mail, but to call mh-month-pack (or some custom script that uses mh-month-pack) followed by a call to web-archive.


You may just want to create variant version of read-mail that calls mh-month-pack instead of filter-spool. Make sure to call your version something different than read-mail because it will get overridden during mharc upgrades.

 Managing List Administration Messages

Most mailing list management software send out administration message to subscribers. Examples are subscribe confirmations and subscribed reminders. A risk exists that these messages can show up in public archives, exposing sensitive information like subscription passwords.

Two possible solution to the problem are provided:

Procmail Solution

If procmail is your local delivery agent, you can pre-filter all incoming mail before mharc ever sees it. You can create a .procmailrc file in the archive accounts's home directory and add rules that forward all list admin messages to a real person. The .procmailrc may look something like this:

* (^From:(.*[^-a-zA-Z0-9_.])?(majordomo@|mailman-owner@|.*-request@|.*-help@))
! real-person@example.com

This method is better than the mharc-based solution since it eliminates the need to poll the archive for any messages and is more secure since any list administration messages are never in a web accessible location.

mharc-based Solution

The mharc-based solution is to create a special archive to capture admin messages. For example, the following can be added to the very beginning of lib/lists.def:

Name: .listsadmin
Description: Lists Admin Messages
From-Address: majordomo@
From-Address: mailman-owner@
From-Address: .*-request@
From-Address: .*-help@
Final: 1

This must occur at the beginning of the file since the filtering rules are processed from top to bottom. Since the Final option is set, if any message matches, no further processing is performed.

Since .listsadmin starts with a dot, it will be hidden from the all-archives list. But since it is possible to for someone to access it directly, it is best to restrict access to it via HTTP server configuration (remember to restrict both the raw and html archives).

Now, all you have to do is check the .listsadmin occasionally to see if anything important has been received.


$Date: 2003/08/09 18:06:40 $
Copyright © 2002, Earl Hood, earl@earlhood.com