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Telnet into your .Mac mail account Internet
Here's something I just tried and found that worked ... In Terminal, type (when online of course) telnet 110 and hit return. Type in user followed by a space and then your .Mac username. 'OK password requred for user ...' should appear. Now type in pass followed by a space and then your password and hit return. 'OK Maildrop ready' should appear. You are now connected directly to your own mailbox on the .Mac Mail server.

Now you can do things with your mail. The command list will show a list of all your email, including the size of each. The command top 2 will show you the contents of email #2, while the command top 2 10 will show you the first 10 lines of email #2. The command dele 3 will delete message #3, while the command quit will log you out of your mailbox. It is very important to use the quit command, because none of the changes you make will take effect otherwise.

Another world changing tip - no doubt!

[Editor's note: I couldn't get top 2 to work; I got a "missing argument" error. But "top 2 20" and other variants worked...]
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Telnet into your .Mac mail account | 31 comments | Create New Account
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why telnet?
Authored by: seven5 on Feb 07, '03 10:59:36AM

why telnet and not ssh? telnet isn't even secure.....

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why telnet?
Authored by: wkoffel on Feb 07, '03 11:15:43AM


telnet is a general connection protocol. SSH is a particular protocol (secure shell). It so happens that telnet in the past was commonly used to get remote access to a machine's shell. That was one of the uses for the protocol. But it can also be used for 'tricks' like this, and the HTTP access example I give in my first reply to this thread. In fact, you can connect to just about any open port on a machine. But for many of the protocols, they aren't human read-able (like SSH key negotiations, try typing anything at port 22, it'll just shut down on you), so it isn't helpful to be able to connect to the port with telnet.

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why telnet?
Authored by: originalgeek on Feb 08, '03 04:40:15PM

email isn't secure

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why telnet?
Authored by: macubergeek on Feb 08, '03 05:51:38PM

It dosnt' matter if you use telnet or just a pop3 client like are still passing your
username and password in the clear. Even if you used ssl ecrypted imap, the login is encrypted from your computer to your isp's pop server but mail from the internet to that popserver isn't encrypted. If you think no one can intercept such mail...go to and search on the word echelon.

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Not surprising
Authored by: wkoffel on Feb 07, '03 11:05:49AM

This is hardly a surprise. is a POP3 server, and port 110 is the standard POP3 port.

See for more information on the available POP3 commands to use once you've telnetted.

Also, keep in mind that this is an insecure (plaintext) transmit of your .Mac username/password. Telnet is highly discouraged from a security standpoint, which is why so many mail clients/servers support SSL communication these days.

Keep in mind that this will work with other services as well. Take for example:

terminal% telnet 80
Connected to
Escape character is '^]'.

and if you type:

GET /index.html HTTP/1.0
(enter, enter (twice))

you'll get the Apple homepage echoed back to you. Note that Apple has a timeout on their webserver connections, so you actually have to do this fairly quickly.


P.S. Another note for the geeks out there. Do a dig on Apple's webservers. You'll note they are actually managed by Akamai, which is why the strange name of

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Not surprising
Authored by: GaelicWizard on Feb 08, '03 01:43:53AM

and akamai is owned by apple

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Re: Not surprising
Authored by: wkoffel on Feb 09, '03 12:08:26PM

>Authored by: GaelicWizard
>and akamai is owned by apple

That's simply not true. In fact, NASDAQ institutional holdings information suggests they don't even own *any* shares, let alone own the company. I think they're just a customer.

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Re: Not surprising
Authored by: jasonheyd on Feb 09, '03 07:46:47PM

correct. apple was one of akamai's early and large customers. cnn, yahoo, and lycos were others i believe.

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Not surprising
Authored by: jasonheyd on Feb 08, '03 08:41:57PM

Telnet's no less secure than POP3. POP3 (unless wrapped in SSL) also passes username and password in plaintext.

Also, Akamai (which is not owned by Apple) doesn't manage Apple's web-servers. Akamai provides a distributed cache from which content is served, and also provides geographic load balancing thereby moving content closer to the end user (i.e., speeding things up). The original content, however, is still served by Apple's own web-servers wherever they may be.

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Port 110 - Pop3
Authored by: krisbrowne42 on Feb 07, '03 11:05:53AM
The reason this works is that port 110 is the default port for Pop3. The commands described are the same ones Mail uses to download, delete, list, etc. your email. If you telnet to port 143 you'd have access to IMAP's internal commands, 21 for ftp, etc. The commands can usually be found in the RFC's posted about their protocols. This is an excellent way to learn how each protocol works internally. The full command set for Pop3 can be found here. Others that are fun to poke at: 143 - IMAP4 - RFC2060 80 - HTTP - RFC1945 25 - SMTP - RFC821

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It's so cute
Authored by: mcramer on Feb 07, '03 12:33:19PM

It's so cute seeing all you Mac geeks dipping your toes into the Unix world. :)

Before you know it you'll be arguing over vi or emacs.

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It's so cute
Authored by: terceiro on Feb 07, '03 12:50:49PM

emacs, naturally!

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It's so cute
Authored by: Eravau on Feb 07, '03 01:14:22PM

I didn't know there were sadists among Mac users too. BBEdit or vi would be the Mac way. ; )

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Re: emacs vs. vi
Authored by: wkoffel on Feb 07, '03 02:23:35PM

Great idea for a macosxhints poll, don't you think?

Editor of Choice:
- vi
- emacs
- BBEdit
- TextEdit
- MSWord

(and maybe)

- AppleWorks
- pico
- ee
- vim
- xemacs
- SimpleText

Clearly the only correct answer is emacs, but I respect other people's ignorance. :)

Oh, and for the record, I'm a Mac geek from System 7 days, who transitioned to being a full UNIX geek and never thought I'd go back, until finally Apple caught up, and I'm back to an OSX geek. I'm in heaven!


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Re: emacs vs. vi
Authored by: ericgorr on Feb 07, '03 03:40:46PM

Don't forget AlphaTK and, when it is released, AlphaX

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Re: emacs vs. vi
Authored by: beepotato on Feb 08, '03 09:23:47AM


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Re: emacs vs. vi
Authored by: Accura on Feb 09, '03 08:40:28PM

emscs? piffle. vi my friend, the only way to fly... emacs, ha. learn to use vi. and learn to use it with out the arrow keys, will save you if you ever need to do tect editing in single user mode.

sorry. had to be said

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Dude I am a unix geek
Authored by: macubergeek on Feb 08, '03 10:10:12AM

Three years on Solaris....then mac went nix on me;-)
Maybe you nix folks will see the light about user friendly gui's and ditch xwinders
for aqua ;-) (yeh I know fat freakin chance).

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Dude I am a unix geek
Authored by: jimhill on Feb 08, '03 01:26:37PM

No GUI that lacks built-in remote display capability is going to be perfect for me. The idea that I have to be sitting physically in front of the computer I'm working on is so quaint and outdated that I truly am puzzled by Apple's decision to carry it forward into OS X. Yes, there's software like VNC but Mac-to-Mac communication should Just Work. Click a box or two and >poof<.

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Dude I am a unix geek
Authored by: macubergeek on Feb 08, '03 05:54:54PM

good point...except one can blow x back to your mac running apple's in point...a couple of weeks ago I had to select my benefits options at work...only problem was I could only do so from a website accessable from my company's internal net. No prob...ssh to my sun workstation and blow a netscape session back across the ssh tunnelto my mac at home....Remote and encrypted....groovy

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It's so cute
Authored by: Mikey-San on Feb 07, '03 03:28:35PM


BBEdit. :D


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Watching the mail protocol
Authored by: hysterion on Feb 07, '03 12:50:08PM

In the same spirit, and for the lazy who'd rather not issue all those commands by hand: If you have a *recent* copy of Mozilla, and set it up to access an IMAP account, you can watch the protocol at work by doing the following (that's how they debug the MailNews component). First set two environment variables -- in tcsh:

[localhost:~] fz% setenv NSPR_LOG_MODULES IMAP:5
[localhost:~] fz% setenv NSPR_LOG_FILE ~/imaplog.txt

(you can unset them later with unsetenv NSPR_LOG_MODULES; unsetenv NSPR_LOG_FILE). Then launch Mozilla from the command line:

[localhost:~] fz% /Applications/

(assuming this is where you put, and go check your mail. This will create a file 'imaplog.txt' in your home directory, which will record the imap session -- you can also watch it unfold in real time with

[localhost:~] fs% tail -f imaplog.txt

(This works only since 1.3alpha or so. In earlier builds the procedure was different.)

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easy webmail with perl
Authored by: nobody on Feb 07, '03 05:45:06PM

check out
its a very simple but good working solution for someone who wants to check his e-mail accounts from everywhere without installing/using an e-mail client.

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This is a lame tip
Authored by: gxw on Feb 08, '03 02:36:00AM

Your're just telneting into a pop 3 mail server. This works on any pop3 daemon from BSD to Linux to Sun to M$. Nothing Mac or .mac special about this. It's only really useful if you have a realy large message stuck in your inbox that you cannot download and want to delete.

How 'bout a tip that tells you how to read web pages with telnet (telnet 80)? Or, for the spammers, how to send e-mail by telnet 25? Or for somthing really weird, telnet to the imap port and read your mail that way (imap protocol is kinda weird).

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This is a lame tip
Authored by: bhines on Feb 08, '03 06:00:08AM

Agreed. This is probably one of the lamest hints ever to appear on macosxhints. You can telnet to any standard service.

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This is a lame tip
Authored by: originalgeek on Feb 08, '03 04:42:36PM

Yes a lame hint. But we all viewed it anyway, right? It serves a purpose though, to expand the minds of the unUnixiated Mac users.

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This is [Not] a lame tip
Authored by: geohar on Feb 08, '03 06:42:28AM

Look I knew that, you knew that, but a lot of people probably didn't. Please read the FAQ for the site and stop flaming people who are sharing what they've learned. It's not incorrect information, it's not misleading so let be!

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So who's to say what lame is?
Authored by: robg on Feb 09, '03 01:30:51AM

Right now, it's solely my decision, and I will .always. err on the side of publishing a hint that some view as "easy" or "lame" versus not publishing it. The intent of is not to only be the home of "super hints" for "super power users," but rather a collection of hints covering all facets of the system, at various levels of "lameness" or complexity.

So it's been around in UNIX forever ... many Mac users, myself included, have at most two years' of UNIX experience, and even then, it's not 100% of my time in the CLI. I knew you could telnet to the mail port. I had no idea what you could do once there. Now I do, and I think it's useful and interesting information...

I do not want to turn into a place where the simple is chastised by the experts just because it's simple to them -- that's not the type of community that I'd like to see around here. Everyone has something to learn, but if a given hint is too simple for you, please just move on to the next. If they're all too simple for you, then I guess there's no point in reading here any longer.

I can't satisfy everyone all of the time, but if I had my choice, I'd hope that beginners would always feel welcome here...


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So who's to say what lame is?
Authored by: Krioni on Feb 10, '03 08:34:21PM

Great point, rob!

Keep up the good work here at - don't let the "RTFM, idiot" crowd change the friendly Mac community too much. I've been working hard trying to learn a piece of software that is from that crowd (with some wonderful exceptions), and it's not fun banging your head against the wall alone.

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they ought to offer a shell
Authored by: wansu on Feb 09, '03 08:37:41PM

and let users ssh to it. You could run pine or elm
and manage your mail from anywhere with anything. Sure,
it's text based but you don't really need all that eye
candy anyway. Now that would be worth something to me.

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they ought to offer a shell
Authored by: bici on Jul 16, '03 05:16:55PM

any updates on this suggestion... i would like to have this feature.

sempre in giro

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