Jake Worth

Jake Worth

You Have New Mail

Published: October 16, 2020 • Updated: October 31, 2023 2 min read

  • terminal

Here’s a familiar scenario: you open a new terminal, and before the prompt appears, you see the following.

You have new mail.

What’s going on here?


Events in your operating system can send messages to your mail queue. Although it’s tempting to ignore them because they aren’t colored red or filled with hyperbolic language, you should not ignore these messages. In many cases, your operating system is trying to tell you something important.

Inspect these messages with the mail command.

$ mail
"/var/mail/jake": 60 messages 60 unread


Uh oh, 60 unread messages! Time to get reading. Read each message with mail, followed by p to print the current message. Go fix what’s wrong, and then dispose of the message with d.

Alternatively, you can read this mail file directly. Here’s an example entry:

jake@computer.localdomain  Wed May 20 15:19:20 2020
Return-Path: <jake@computer.localdomain>
X-Original-To: jake
Delivered-To: jake@computer.localdomain
Received: by computer.localdomain (Postfix, from userid 501)
  id 67A83203EC4B55; Sat, 20 Jun 2020 15:19:19 -0400 (EDT)
From: jake@computer.localdomain (Cron Daemon)
To: jake@computer.localdomain
Subject: Cron <jake@computer> afplay /System/Library/Sounds/Ping.aiff
X-Cron-Env: <SHELL=/bin/sh>
X-Cron-Env: <PATH=/usr/bin:/bin>
X-Cron-Env: <LOGNAME=jake>
X-Cron-Env: <USER=jake>
Message-Id: <20200520191920.67A83202EC2B53@computer.localdomain>
Date: Wed, 20 May 2020 15:19:19 -0400 (EDT)
Status: O

Error: AudioQueueStart failed (-66681)

The Cron portion of Subject: reveals that this message is from a failing cron job. All of my recent messages are the result of problematic cron commands; in fact that’s a great way to pile up a bunch of automated mail messages. Fix the commands and clear out the mail.

What are your thoughts on this? Let me know!

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