Evolution email error MAIL FROM command failed: Unknown



Some time back, I was teetering on the brink…. I’ve used Evolution as my linux mail client for ages (since I switched), because it had the calender integrated etc… However, Kontact has REALLY looked nice for some time, but I didn’t have time to mess with changing. Then one day, I was trying to send a message with Evolution and got a pop up box saying…….. “error while performing operation”, and “MAIL FROM command failed: Unknown” huh???

Since I have an inhouse mailserver that things relay through, my first thought was that something had gone astray there….. I tested with telnet. Everything looked ok. Then I got online and looked. (Apparently this is a problem that’s been seen before, but no clear answers…) hmmm… I tested another mailer (Kontact) – it worked. So around Christmas I switched /migrated everything rather than solve the problem. I wasn’t happy with that, but at the time I really didn’t want to fool with problem solving. I left it for another day.

My wife’s profile on my desktop has used Evolution for mail since then. Surprisingly it has worked all along (I remember thinking at the time that I might have to blow away my .evolution directory to solve it because of this.) Until night before last. She attempted to send an email and got the same message. So, I used Kontact to send the message and resolved to take a closer look. Let me try to be clear. Evolution is set to send mail through SMTP. Sendmail IS installed on the system, but evolution doesn’t make use of it.

In my searching today, I found a reference to removing unnecessary comments/tabs from the /etc/hosts file. I thought this might be worth a try, so I took a look at my hosts file….

127.0.0.1 mybox.mynetwork.net mybox localhost
5.12.237.213 hammybox
5.13.38.91 hamanotherbox
207.217.200.1 www.grove-ent.com grove-ent.com
192.168.0.20 server server.mynetwork.net
5.12.240.146 hamlaptop
192.168.0.73 lanlaptop
192.168.0.200
5.12.239.174 hamserver
5.12.241.190 hamanotherserver

all of the 5. addresses are hamachi addresses for various machines, the grove-ent.com address it seems as though I was once having page not found errors and had done a dns lookup while they were having some weirdness. 192.168.0.200 is the lan address of the desktop machine “mybox”. Now, what’s interesting to me is that the evolution configuration was using the ip address 192.168.0.20 for the server to connect to instead of server or server.mynetwork.net so, in theory it shouldn’t have to reference hosts?

However, here’s what I changed (all the rest stayed the same)….

127.0.0.1 localhost
192.168.0.200 mybox mybox.mynetwork.net

I don’t know if having a different alias for the loopback address was the real headache, or the fact that I had an address in the list that didn’t have a host name associated with it.

After the change and save, I sent my test message once more and the error message didn’t re-appear, everything sent correctly. Hopefully if you’ve run into a similar problem, this will help. Frankly, my view of it is that it is an evolution bug in the handling of the hosts file (although my hosts file was probably not standard.) I say this because other mail applications have not had the same problem with the previous configuration.

It would be nice too if “error while performing operation”, and “MAIL FROM command failed: Unknown” were a bit more descriptive – hostname not found, host lookup failure or some such would be a big improvement.

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