New Users in Tiger's NetInfo

When I first installed Tiger and began poking around, I noticed something, and I'd all but forgotten about it until just now. It seems, if you look in NetInfo under the "users" directory, Apple has included some new default users to the Tiger config. A couple of these stand out to me, and I can only speculate as to their meaning as regards the present and/or the future of the OS. In any case, the new users that caught my eye were: amavisd and clamav.

Hmmm... Interesting, no?...

Just a little background about these users and where they come from: amavis is a program used in spam filtering. I don't know much about it, but my understanding is that amavis works on the mail server to detect and filter spam. Apparently, amavis requires a user to run. The clamav user is required to run and operate the clamav engine, which is an open source virus detection and filtering system that I myself use, both personally and in the lab I maintain.

So what does it all mean?

Well, as I said, I'm not entirely sure. But I'll tell you what I do know. For one, Tiger Server's new mail server employs the use of both amavis and clamav for spam and virus filtering. So, without a doubt (though I've yet to get my sweaty little mitts on a copy), Tiger Server's NetInfo database will be populated with users for these programs as well. But I'm not quite clear on their purpose in the client. I'm fairly certain that, for Server's amavis and clamav to work, no client action is necessary. I could be wrong here, but I'm pretty sure these are server-side only. If that's the case, I really have to wonder about Apple's inclusion of these users on the client. I have to say that it would be really cool if Apple started integrating amavis and clamav into it's Mail client. In my use of clamav, there are certain limitaions that make it less than ideal for scanning mail, particularly the fact that clam can only scan mail after the mail has been downloaded to the client machine, rather than in transit. This means that, if clam tells you it has found a virus, said virus is actually on your computer somewhere. Another problem is that sometimes that virus you just downloaded is in an mbox folder -- the type of mailbox used by POP mail, which stores the entire contents of your mailbox in a single file. Since clam is only capable of scanning individual files, if you want to quarrantine your virus, you're going to have to quarrantine the whole mailbox. Or, worse, if you have clam automatically quarrantine viruses, you may come home to your mail client only to discover all your POP mail missing.

Ideally, clam could scan incoming mail and alert the user of viruses before they are downloaded. But this kind of behavior would probably require Apple to integrate the open source clamav into its proprietary mail client. This would be faaaantastic. We're talking free, top-notch email virus protection for you and, more importantly, for your email buddies who use Windows.

Again, I say: Faaaantastic!

How likely Apple is to do this is anybody's guess. They already provide spam filters in the Mail client that work pretty well, and these apparently do not take advantage of amavis. And running find on my system reveals no amavis or clam programs. So this is probably a lark. Still, I'm intrigued by the inclusion of these users. Maybe I'm wrong. Maybe they are needed for server integration. But I don't see how.

Until I find out more, I am going to keep hoping that at least clam virus detection, and possibly amavis spam detection, are possibilities for the future of Mail. But then, that's me: A die hard optimist at heart.