Potential problems

There are a number of problems that can occur with the alias database. They all result from a sendmail process accessing the DBM version while it is only partially built. This can happen under two circumstances: One process accesses the database while another process is rebuilding it, or the process rebuilding the database dies (due to being killed or a system crash) before completing the rebuild.

Sendmail has three techniques to try to relieve these problems. First, it ignores interrupts while rebuilding the database; this avoids the problem of someone aborting the process leaving a partially rebuilt database. Second, it locks the database source file during the rebuild -- but that may not work over NFS or if the file is unwritable. Third, at the end of the rebuild it adds an alias of the form

@: @
(which is not normally legal). Before sendmail will access the database, it checks to insure that this entry exists[9].

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Last modified: Friday April 02, 1999.