I have a couple of cron jobs that sometimes produce error output and would like to get a notification in my "real" email account, since I don't use my user's mailbox in my Ubuntu laptop, but cron (or is it postfix maybe) keeps trying to email the local root account.

I know I can add the MAILTO variable to the crontab:

ricardo@ricardo-laptop:~$ sudo crontab -l
[email protected]
# m h  dom mon dow   command
*/5 * * * * /home/ricardo/mrtg/cfg/run.sh

But it doesn't seem to pay any attention to it

I also tried adding my email to the /etc/aliases file and running newaliases

ricardo@ricardo-laptop:~$ cat /etc/aliases
# See man 5 aliases for format
postmaster:    root
root:          [email protected]
ricardo:       [email protected]

still, whenever cron wants to send an email it's still sending it to [email protected]:

ricardo@ricardo-laptop:/var/log$ tail mail.log
Aug  3 16:25:01 ricardo-laptop postfix/pickup[2002]: D985B310: uid=0 from=<root>
Aug  3 16:25:01 ricardo-laptop postfix/cleanup[4117]: D985B310: message-id=<20100803192501.D985B310@ricardo-laptop>
Aug  3 16:25:01 ricardo-laptop postfix/qmgr[2003]: D985B310: from=<[email protected]>, size=762, nrcpt=1 (queue active)
Aug  3 16:25:03 ricardo-laptop postfix/smtp[4120]: D985B310: to=<[email protected]>, orig_to=<root>, relay=smtp.gmail.com[]:25, delay=1.5, delays=0.38/0.02/0.9/0.18, dsn=5.7.0, status=bounced (host smtp.gmail.com[] said: 530 5.7.0 Must issue a STARTTLS command first. d1sm12275173anc.19 (in reply to MAIL FROM command))

Any suggestions? I'm running Ubuntu 10.04, with everything up-to-date

3 Answers 3


It would appear that you have configured smtp.gmail.com as your smarthost for the mail server. You need to remove the smarthost configuration or edit it so that your server is at all capable of sending mail to the outside world.

The configuration you have now for the mail forward appears to be working, but is failing because smtp.gmail.com is rejecting the mail.

Update: For future reference, the problem was in /etc/mailname which listed a name that wasn't in the mydestinations list of postfix. This caused all mails to be considered foreign and the mail bypassed /etc/aliases processing.

  • I'm ignoring the TLS error for now, and concentrating in the fact that the last line in mail.log says: postfix/smtp[4120]: D985B310: to=<[email protected]> so cron is still trying to email my root account instead of my gmail account I was afraid that leaving gmail's response in the question would be confusing,but I didn't want to change it too much so I don't loose valuable information. I'll try to fix the TLS error now, but I'm confident it should have nothing to do with the wrong destination problem Aug 3, 2010 at 20:21
  • Could you include your main.cf for postfix. I suspect that your postfix instance thinks that the mail is not local to begin with, only local mail get affected by aliases file
    – Ressu
    Aug 3, 2010 at 20:32
  • Here is my postfix.cfg: cl1p.net/postfix I tried removing the smarthost option, but it only changed Gmail's error message, since my ip doesn't resolve correctly. Keep in mind that this is isn't a server, it's just my personal laptop and the only emails I need to deliver are the cron alerts, to my own gmail account. Thanks. Aug 3, 2010 at 20:41
  • 1
    Hmm.. does your /etc/mailname have your hostname in it? for some reason postfix appears to think that it is called 144-68-247-190.fibertel.com.ar instead of ricardo-laptop. Also, what does the hostname command say?
    – Ressu
    Aug 3, 2010 at 21:41
  • Postfix needs to be configured as a full mail server, not as a satellite to gmail. Otherwise, there will be authentication problem because the sender is not a user for gmail.
    – txwikinger
    Aug 3, 2010 at 21:44

Solution extracted from question

(thanks to Ressu)

The problem was with the file /etc/mailname

This file was created by the Ubuntu installer and contained the wrong server-name. Once I changed it to match "ricardo-laptop" postfix realized the emails were intended for local delivery and started to follow the aliases


thought I'd add on for people who discover this as I did. An easy alternative if you want all your mail from your root account is to run this command:

sudo nano ~/.forward

You can then put in a single email or separate more than one with commas. This will forward all of your root emails (assuming you're using the root) to the email address(es) in this file.

Once you've added the emails, Press Ctrl+X then Y to save the changes.

  • this puts a file in my user's home though, not root's?
    – endolith
    Feb 10, 2016 at 5:43
  • @endolith: Correct. You may want sudo nan ~root/.forward instead.
    – Flimm
    Jul 6, 2016 at 16:16
  • 1
    but you're using sudo to create a file in the user's home?
    – endolith
    Sep 27, 2016 at 4:54

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