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Subject: comp.mail.mime meta-FAQ: Help for MIME problems

This article was archived around: 8 Aug 1997 06:30:08 GMT

All FAQs in Directory: mail/mime-faq
All FAQs posted in: comp.mail.mime
Source: Usenet Version

Archive-Name: mail/mime-faq/mime0 Version: $Id: mime0,v 1.10 1997/02/08 00:32:20 jsweet Rel $ Posting-Frequency: monthly X-Comment: since this is a meta-FAQ, and not part of the FAQ, the archive-name is in a separate name space (mime0 instead of part0).
-- ======================= comp.mail.mime meta-FAQ ======================= Help for MIME problems ~~~~~~ -- Contents ~~~~~~~~ 1) Explanation 2) About the MIME FAQ 3) Conventions 4) Sample Problem Scenarios 5) Where else to find the MIME FAQ -- 1) Explanation -------------- This is the comp.mail.mime meta-FAQ. It's for those who have unusually bad problems in dealing with MIME, and thus are unable to read the comp.mail.mime FAQ articles, even though they're essentially plain text. This meta-FAQ also offers some general help for those who have various kinds of problems reading MIME messages. Please note: Questions about mail systems, how to decode MIME parts on your computer, and other such issues, if not already answered in the FAQ, should be posted to comp.mail.mime or to the info-mime mailing list. Correspondence sent to the MIME FAQ maintainer primarily should address information in the MIME FAQ---corrections, additions, or suggestions for improvement. Also: neither the MIME meta-FAQ nor the MIME FAQ are intended to solve every possible problem that you might have with your mail system. If you have general difficulties with your mail system, difficulties that are _not_ specific to MIME, you should consider the possibility that a more correct forum for your questions lies elsewhere, such as any of these newsgroups: comp.mail.elm comp.mail.pine comp.mail.eudora.mac comp.mail.sendmail comp.mail.eudora.ms-windows comp.mail.zmail comp.mail.mh comp.mail.misc comp.mail.mush -- 2) About the MIME FAQ --------------------- The comp.mail.mime FAQ itself, aka the MIME FAQ, attempts to answer frequently asked questions about MIME, the multipurpose and multi-media standard for Internet mail. The MIME FAQ is divided into nine parts, using the MIME type "message/partial". That usually means nothing to MIME-challenged news readers and mail user agents, which is usually just fine. The MIME FAQ is really just like an ordinary multipart FAQ---it uses plain US-ASCII text and can be read like any other ordinary USENET article. So ordinarily, the MIME FAQ is rendered as ordinary plain-text news or mail, which is fine. However, with mis-installed, incomplete, or broken software, there are sometimes special problems encountered with MIME messages. While this meta-FAQ can't deal with all possible problems, this meta-FAQ does enumerate some general scenarios that may help you to understand whatever difficulties you're having. Once again, for emphasis: the MIME FAQ is really just plain US-ASCII text. You should be able to read it one way or another. The best way, of course, is to get yourself some _working_ MIME-capable software. The MIME FAQ is a good source of information for finding such software---assuming that you're able to read the MIME FAQ! If not, read on... -- 3) Conventions -------------- In this note, pointers to resources available via the Internet, such as references to FTPable goodies, appear in WWW URL format. URLs beginning with "ftp:" refer to FTP sites. For example: ftp://domain.name/path/to/package Those with FTP access, but without WWW access, may treat such references as follows: 1. Log into host domain.name using anonymous FTP 2. Look for /path/to/package An FTP reference usually lists only the distribution site; please try your nearest FTP archive first. Archie may be of some help here. URLs beginning with "http:" refer to WWW servers. URLs beginning with "gopher:" refer to gopher servers. Internet browsing tools, such as Mosaic, know about URLs. -- 4) Sample Problem Scenarios --------------------------- If you have problems reading a message in MIME format, it might be for any of the reasons presented in the scenarios below. In the case of the MIME FAQ in particular, Scenario 7 may be especially meaningful. Scenario 1: You have mis-installed, incomplete, or broken software, and it absolutely refuses to deal properly with a MIME message of any sort. You're not necessarily entirely out of luck. Your choices are to fix or to replace your software. There are many options available for doing this, some of which are covered in the scenarios that follow. To overcome the immediate problem, you might try to bypass your software entirely, and look at the message in its "raw" state. To read a raw message, save the message to a text file any way you can, and use your favorite text editor (emacs, vi, or whatever) to read the text file. Scenario 2: Your mail system outsmarted itself--it can handle some MIME stuff, but not whatever it is you received. For this, you'll either need a smarter mail system, or you'll need to tell the mail system how to handle whatever's in the message, or you'll need to defeat the mail system entirely, and look at the message in its "raw" state, as described in Scenario 1. Scenario 4, below, may offer some help too. Scenario 3: You received a "MIME-like" message that's almost, but not quite, entirely unlike a real MIME message. It looks similar enough to a real MIME message that it breaks your mail software. The SunOS "mailtool" is notorious for sending such MIME-like messages. Early versions of Netscape (1.0? --aka "Mozilla") are also thought to be guilty of this. Conversion tools do exist for certain situations, e.g. sun2mime or sun-to-mime. Some work, some don't. Whatever you find, it's probably worth a try. Otherwise, you'll either have to read the message with the same mail program that generated such a thing, or content yourself with the raw message. [ Steinar Bang <sb@metis.no> 2-Feb-1996 ] Q: How to make the Solaris [>=2.4?] OW Mailtool send attachments using MIME? A: Set "send rfc" in your .mailrc. Scenario 4: Your mail system doesn't understand MIME stuff at all. For this, you must either content yourself with the "raw" message, or you can try to track down some tools to help you. From John Gardiner Myers <jgm+@CMU.EDU>, we have this advice: A minimalist MIME-reading program, munpack, is available from this URL: ftp://ftp.andrew.cmu.edu/pub/mpack/ (i.e. use anonymous FTP to site ftp.andrew.cmu.edu, and look in the directory /pub/mpack.) The munpack program reads MIME messages and writes the decoded parts out to files. Versions are available for Unix, MS-DOS, Macintosh, and Amiga platforms. In short, munpack is the MIME equivalent of uudecode/binhex. { See appendix B.3 of the MIME FAQ for additional information about the mpack tool suite. } To decode a MIME message, first save it to a text file. If possible, save it with all headers included. Munpack can decode some MIME files when the headers are missing or incomplete, other files it cannot decode without having the information in the headers. In general, messages which have a statement at the beginning that they are in MIME format can be decoded without the headers. Messages which have been split into multiple parts generally require all headers in order to be reassembled and decoded. Some LAN-based mail systems and some mail providers (including America Online, as of the writing of this document) place the mail headers at the bottom of the message, instead of at the top of the message. If you are having problems decoding a MIME message on such a system, you need to convert the mail back into the standard format by removing the system's nonstandard headers and moving the standard Internet headers to the top of the message (separated from the message body with a blank line). There must be exactly one message per file. Munpack cannot deal with multiple messages in a single file, to decode things correctly it must know when one message ends and the next one begins. See also Scenario 7, below. Scenario 5: You don't have all the necessary equipment to listen to an audio part, or to view a graphical part, or to read text written in a foreign character set. You're out of luck here; you can handle a lot of MIME stuff on a plain old 24x80 ASCII terminal, but let's face it: if you're stuck with something like that, YOU LOSE. If someone asks you how to listen to an audio message on a 24x80 ASCII terminal, cruel laughter may help to enlighten the penitent. ;-) Scenario 6: You _do_ have the necessary equipment to listen to an audio part, or to view a graphical part, such as an audio capable workstation or an X terminal, but your software doesn't know how to deal with whatever those kinds of MIME contents are. You may need additional software, such as xv, or audiotool, or whatever. If that software came with neither your hardware nor your MIME-capable mail user agent or news reader, then you need to go treasure hunting on the Internet, or get it from some commercial source. After finding and installing that software, you may also have to do some additional configuration of your mail system or news readers so that they know where to find these additional programs and how to invoke them. Note: the MIME FAQ itself has no graphics or audio in it; it's really just plain text. Scenario 7: Your mail system doesn't want to show a "message/partial" (like the comp.mail.mime FAQ articles). For this, you may need to assemble all the parts of the message together. Here is specific advice for various types of mailers: Metamail and other mailcap-based mail user agents: The mailcap file needs an entry for message/partial. One entry, contributed by Tim Goodwin, is this: message/partial; showpartial %s %{id} %{number} %{total} The showpartial command is part of the metamail distribution. Metamail is available from these URLs: ftp://ftp.bellcore.com/pub/nsb/mm2.7.tar.Z [The core metamail software] ftp://ftp.bellcore.com/pub/nsb/contrib2.7.tar.Z [Contributed software] ftp://ftp.bellcore.com/pub/nsb/mm2.7.dos.zip [MS-DOS binaries] MH: You can assemble the message together using this command: mhn -store cur:9 Alternatively, you can view the "raw" message by using this MH command: show -noshowproc { Brief advice for other specific mail systems is welcome. } Scenario 8: You've saved some MIME messages into files, and you have no idea how to read them. Here is specific advice for various types of mailers: Metamail: [ Susan Gruber <sgruber@netcom.com> 13-Dec-1994 ] This is the command that I used to read my files: metamail -y filename MH: mhn -show -file filename Pine: [ "Mark H. Wood" <MWOOD@indyvax.iupui.edu> 18-Mar-1996 ] pine -F file { Brief advice for other specific mail systems welcome. } Scenario 9: Your mail system has automatically introduced MIME constructs that your recipient cannot handle. This is a tough problem. Ned Freed correctly points out that some kind of transformation of your message may be required in order to get the message delivered at all. This may occur because the message contains 8-bit characters, which won't necessarily get through an arbitrary mail system. For another example, your message may have been too large and had to be fragmented into smaller messages. Other possibilities: - Your message went through a misdesigned or misconfigured mail system somewhere along the way. For example, Microsoft Exchange's SMTP component incorrectly uses quoted-printable encoding in an attempt to control message formatting. - MIME may not be involved at all; the message may be a "MIME-like" message (see Scenario 3, above) that is produced by a broken mail user agent. It may be the case that you and your recipient cannot find a way to exchange data via e-mail at all. This is the kind of interoperability problem that MIME can help to solve, but of course, compatible tools are required on both ends. Some individuals may try to fall back on uuencode, and that may work in some cases, but there are many cases in which uuencode simply won't work (see the MIME FAQ for details). The best solution is for both parties to use correctly implemented MIME-aware mail systems, or for both parties to have interoperating tools for encoding and decoding data that use base64 or some other format that will survive transport through problematic mail gateways. The MIME FAQ contains references to many such tools. -- 5) Where else to find the MIME FAQ ---------------------------------- - Many sites archive news.answers postings, including these: ftp://ftp.uu.net/usenet/news.answers/mail/mime-faq/ ftp://rtfm.mit.edu/pub/usenet-by-group/news.answers/mail/mime-faq/ If possible, please try to find a closer site; for example, by asking archie for "mime-faq". - This site makes an HTML version of the MIME FAQ available: http://www.cs.ruu.nl/wais/html/na-dir/mail/mime-faq/.html ======================================================================== [ end of MIME meta-FAQ ]