Spamassassin, spamd, FreeBSD and “autolearn: unavailable”

I recently built a mail server using FreeBSD 8.2 and compiled spamassassin from the current ports collection, to run globally. spamd looked okay and it was adding headers, but after a while I noticed the Baysian filtering didn’t seem to be working in spite of it having had enough samples through.

A closer look at the added headers showed “autolearn: no”, or “autolearn: unavailable” but never “autolearn: ham/spam”.

What was going on? RTFM and you’ll see spamassassin 3.0 and onwards has added three new autolearn return codes: disabled, failed and unavailable. The first two are pretty self-explanatory: either you’d set bayes_auto_learn 0 in the config file or there was some kind of error thrown up by the script. But I was getting the last one:

unavailable: autolearning not completed for any reason not covered above. It could be the message was already learned.

I knew perfectly well that the messages hadn’t already been learned, so was left with “any reason not covered by the above”. Unfortunately “the above” seemed to cover all bases already. There wasn’t any clue in /var/maillog or anywhere else likely.

I don’t much care for perl scripts, especially those that don’t work, so after an unpleasant rummage I discovered the problem. Simply put, it couldn’t access its database due to file permissions.

The files you need to sort are at /root/.spamassassin/bayes_* – only root will be able to write to them, not spamd – so a chmod is in order.

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A better solution is to move the Bayesian database out of /root – /var would probably be more appropriate. You can achieve this by adding something like this to /etc/ (which should link to /usr/local/etc/mail/spamassassin/

bayes_path /var/spamassassin/bayes/bayes
bayes_file_mode 0666

I suspect that the lower-security Linux implementation avoids these problems by setting group-write-access as default, but FreeBSD, being a server OS, doesn’t. It’s also a bug in the error handling for the milter – it should clearly report as a “failed” and write something to the log file to tell you why.

You should be able to restart spamd after the edit with /usr/local/sbin/spamdreload, but to be on the safe side I use the following after shutting down Sendmail first.

/usr/local/etc/rc.d/spamass-milter restart

I don’t know if Sendmail can cope well with having spamass-milter unavailable, but why take the risk?


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