[Dovecot] Mailbox locking issue?

Mark Sapiro mark at msapiro.net
Sat Apr 12 08:52:42 EEST 2008

Here's my configuration.

 dovecot -n
# 1.0.7: /usr/local/etc/dovecot.conf
protocols: pop3
ssl_disable: yes
disable_plaintext_auth: no
login_dir: /usr/local/var/run/dovecot/login
login_executable: /usr/local/libexec/dovecot/pop3-login
mail_extra_groups: mail
mail_location: /var/spool/mail/%u
mbox_write_locks: fcntl dotlock

The above setting was just added in an attempt to resolve the issue. It
was default before.

mail_executable: /usr/local/libexec/dovecot/pop3
mail_plugin_dir: /usr/local/lib/dovecot/pop3
pop3_uidl_format: %08Xu%08Xv
auth default:
  mechanisms: plain apop login
  worker_max_count: 5
    driver: passwd-file
    args: /usr/local/etc/dovecot.passwd
    driver: pam
    driver: passwd
    type: listen
      path: /var/spool/postfix/private/auth
      mode: 432
      user: postfix
      group: postfix

Postfix 2.3.3
mailbox_delivery_lock = fcntl, dotlock

The problem is the following. A user uses fetchmail via an ssh tunnel
to download mail via pop3 every 5 minutes. This normally works fine.
perhaps once a week or so, maillog shows that Postfix delivers a
message while fetchmail is retrieving. Here is one such.

Apr  8 19:07:20 sbh16 dovecot: pop3-login: Login: user=<xxx>,
method=PLAIN, rip=, lip=, secured
Apr  8 19:07:22 sbh16 postfix/local[13745]: D959169046B:
to=xxx at example.com>, orig_to=<xxx at example.org>, relay=local,
delay=16, delays=15/0/0/1.1, dsn=2.0.0, status=sent (delivered to
Apr  8 19:07:22 sbh16 dovecot: POP3(xxx): Disconnected: Logged out
top=2/15995, retr=0/0, del=2/2, size=15985

Five minutes later when fetchmail comes back, we see

Apr  8 19:12:42 sbh16 dovecot: POP3(xxx): mbox sync: Expunged message
reappeared in mailbox /var/spool/mail/xxx (UID 4683 < 4684, seq=2,
Apr  8 19:12:42 sbh16 dovecot: pop3-login: Login: user=<xxx>,
method=PLAIN, rip=, lip=, secured
Apr  8 19:12:46 sbh16 dovecot: POP3(xxx): mbox sync: UID inserted in
the middle of mailbox /var/spool/mail/xxx (4684 > 4683, seq=2,
Apr  8 19:12:46 sbh16 dovecot: POP3(xxx): Disconnected: Logged out
top=1/46375, retr=0/0, del=1/1, size=46365

>From now on, as messages are added to the mailbox by Postfix, fetchmail
keeps retrieving both old and new messages. i.e. even though dovecot's
log says del 1/1 (or del n/n) no messages are actually deleted from
the mailbox.

This situation continues until someone accesses the mailbox locally
(e.g. via mutt through a local shell) and deletes the old messages.

As noted above, this has been observed a few times with dovecot's
default mbox_write_locks. I have since changed that to

mbox_write_locks: fcntl dotlock

to be consistent with Postfix's

mailbox_delivery_lock = fcntl, dotlock

I don't know if that will fix the problem or not, but it seems the
issue with default dovecot mbox_write_locks should have been deadlock
and time out rather than what we see.

Also it seems that dovecot should recover from the 'corrupt' mailbox
and fix it rather than just continuing to encounter the same problem.

Any ideas or advice?

Mark Sapiro <mark at msapiro.net>        The highway is for gamblers,
San Francisco Bay Area, California    better use your sense - B. Dylan

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