Entries Tagged as 'Email'

Windows Live Essential 2011 – Live Mail

Or perhaps better titled: Why I continue to use a product I hate.

When Outlook Express debuted many years ago Microsoft showed the possibility of creating a email reader for Windows that was clean,simple, and powerful… and for all the problems of Outlook Express it worked.

When Microsoft shipped Windows Vista they abandoned Outlook Express in favor of Windows Mail; largely it appeared to be the same program with a few changes to make it more Vista-like.

But not long after Windows Mail hit the street, Microsoft decided to launch Windows Live Mail, and what appears to be a totally new program modeled after Outlook Express / Windows Mail was launched.  I say it was new because many of the bugs that were present in the BETA of Windows Live Mail were bugs that had been fixed in the Outlook Express code line years before (as an interesting note, several of the bugs I personally reported during the BETA of Windows Live Mail are still present in the newest version – 2011).

The previous version of Live Mail was tolerable; most of the things that were annoying about it had fairly simple ways to resolve them — and in time, maybe we’ll all figure out ways to work around the headaches in 2011; but I just don’t feel like putting so much effort into a POS software package time and time again…

And for those of you who say it’s “FREE” so you get what you get, I’d say, no — it’s not exactly free… Microsoft understands that software like this is necessary in order to have any control over user’s internet habits, so it isn’t free — you’re paying a “price” for it.

Plus, there are other alternatives… Thunderbird for one.

Why don’t I use Thunderbird… simple, there is one “feature” lacking in Thunderbird that prevents me from embracing it.  You cannot export account information and restore it.  Sure Mozbackup will let you backup a complete profile and transfer it to another machine — but I want access to individual email accounts.

Why?  Well, here’s the scenario that I always hit.

I travel, and I tend to take my netbook with me when I travel — and often I’m using my cell phone to access the internet… while it’s “fast” by some standards… if you were to re-sync fifty email accounts each with a dozen IMAP folders, you’d take all day.  Further, most of those email accounts are uninteresting on a day-to-day basis, particularly when I travel — I only want to access a couple of those accounts for sure, but I might want to load an account on demand (you never know).  What I do with Live Mail is I have all the IAF files for all my email accounts stored on the disk (I sync them from my server), and I setup the mail program by loading the three or four that I use routinely, the others I only load as I need them, and I remove them from Live Mail when done.

OK — so that doesn’t fit you… here’s another.

You’ve got several computers, and you’d like to setup your email quickly and painlessly on all of them… but you don’t need all your email accounts on everyone of them — plus you add and remove accounts over time.  Again, Live Mail and it’s import/export handles this nicely.  You simply export a set of IAF files, and then import the ones you want on each machine.

The question is why doesn’t Thunderbird have this ability?

Well, there was a plug in for an older version of Thunderbird that did kinda this; of course it didn’t work that well for the version it was written for, and it doesn’t work at all for newer versions.

One more that I consider an annoyance (but it’s probably slightly more than that) is that there is no easy way in Thunderbird to change the order of accounts in the account window — and they’re not order alphabetically (that would make too much sense), they’re ordered chronologically (based on when you created them).  So you can re-order them, if you delete the accounts and add them back in the order you’d like them to appear; but wait, you can’t add an account any way in Thunderbird by type in all the information again.

And if you’re thinking, OK so write a plug-in that manages account ordering and import/export.  Sure, that would be the “right” thing to do if Thunderbird really had an interface to get to that information easily — but no, it appears you’d have to parse a javaScript settings file… oh joy.

These should be core features of Thunderbird; and in my mind they are huge barriers to wide acceptance.

Originally posted 2010-11-12 02:00:32.

Just Host – Just A Dependable Hosting Company

It isn’t often that I get to praise companies over and over — and honestly this time I’m writing about Just Host again not because they’ve done something great, but because they’ve continued to do what they’ve done since day one — work.

When I originated my multi-year hosting contract with Just Host I was expecting that I’d be canceling it and taking advantage of the money back guarantee… while we’re no where near the end of the term of my contract yet, I’m beginning to believe that the likelihood of canceling the hosting is far lower than renewing the contract.

Now if you need 99.99% uptime (high availability) and you’re running a web site that makes you millions of dollars every day this isn’t for you… but if you have a business or personal site that isn’t mission critical, but could still be very important to you — this might be for you.

I don’t know much about the internals of Just Host, and I’m glad that I haven’t needed to figure all that out… when things work, I’m perfectly happy just using the service.

At the moment I’m hosting my forty plus domains; sites for several of my friends and relatives; and a number of sites for clients of mine (for the most part I designed and manage the sites — and they’re nothing lavish, just basic sites that provide these business a presence on the web).

If you’re looking for a solution to your needs for hosting, click the ad below (or the one I put in my sidebar long ago) and try a reliable, reasonably prices solution that seems to just keep working.





Originally posted 2010-10-19 02:00:31.

Email Readers

I’m going to focus on Microsoft Email Readers… if you want to use Thunderbird it’s fine; but since Microsoft current has FOUR different email programs for the PC (they also have Entourage for the Mac — but that doesn’t run on any flavor of Windows).

  • Outlook
  • Outlook Express
  • Windows Mail
  • Windows Live Mail

Outlook – comes in Office, and it’s a _very_ heavy weight email program.  If all you want to do is read email, this probably isn’t the program for you.  If you want to manager your calendar and your contact as well as email in one program, this would be a good choice.

Personally I tend to only use Outlook to maintain my address book and calendar; mainly because it’s what sync’s my cell phones.  I’ve always found it an horrendously complex email program — and then it trys and hides many of the things in email I want to use!

Outlook Express – I used this with Windows XP, and felt it was an adequate email program.  I actually handled IMAP better than any other client around at the time.  Both Thunderbird and iMail (on the Mac) had issues with very large IMAP stores.

If all you want to do is manage your email, it’s a good choice if you’re running on XP (or an older Windows).

Windows Mail – With Vista Microsoft quietly introduced a new email program.  Well, actually it’s pretty much the same email program as Outlook Express, with only a few improvements.

Again, if all you want to do is manage your email, it’s a good choice if you’re runnin gon Vista.

Windows Live Mail – Microsoft has also been working on developing a new email reader, and they’ve bundled it with their Live services.  You can download it for free (even if you don’t use Live).

This is a very feature full email program.  It will do IMAP and POP3 (so you can use it with your ISP or with GMail)… fully supports SSL & TLS, supports accessing Live Mail directly (that would be MSN, HotMail, and Live).  It will function as a NNTP (that’s News) reader, and as an RSS (that’s Really Simple Syndication) reader.

It stores contacts each in individual XML files (.contacts)… can import accounts from other Microsoft email programs.

It really has a number of nice features, and it’s a reasonably stable program; however, it’s more like a first generation release, so it does have some minor annoyances.

At the moment I’m trying to use Windows Live Mail on all my computers… just because that’s where we’re headed, and it works fairly well (and I do have some old MSN / HotMail / Live accounts it gives me direct access to).

One word of caution… if you decide to try out Windows Live Mail; only install the Live components you need (you can go back and add more later), and watch for the options where it wants to change your system defaults.

Originally posted 2008-05-11 22:12:43.

Anti-Malware Programs

First, malware is a reality and no operating system is immune to it.

Malware is most common on operating systems that are prevalent (no reason to target 1% of the installed base now is there); so an obscure operating system is far less likely to be the target of malware.

Malware is most common on popular operating systems that generally do not require elevation of privileges to install (OS-X, *nix, Vista, and Server 2008 all require that a user elevate their privileges before installing software, even if they have rights to administer the machine).

The reality is that even a seasoned computer professional can be “tricked” into installing malware; and the only safe computer is a computer that’s disconnected from the rest the world and doesn’t have any way to get new software onto it (that would probably be a fairly useless computer).

Beyond exercising common sense, just not installing software you don’t need or are unsure of (remember, you can install and test software in a virtual machine using UNDO disks before you commit it to a real machine), and using a hardware “firewall” (residential gateway devices should be fine as long as you change the default password, disable WAN administration, and use WPA or WPA2 on your wireless network) between you and your high-speed internet connection; using anti-malware software is your best line of defense.

There are a lot of choices out there, but one of the best you’ll find is Avast! — there’s a free edition for non-commercial use, and of course several commercial version for workstations and servers.

My experience is that on all but the slowest computers Avast! performs well, and catches more malware than most any of the big-name commercial solutions.

For slower computers that you need mal-ware protection for, consider AVG (they also have a free version for non-commercial use); I don’t find it quite as good as Avast! at stopping as wide a range of threats, but it’s much lower on resource demands (and that helps to keep your legacy machine usable).

Originally posted 2009-01-02 12:00:01.

Is Adorama a SPAMmer?

At the bottom of this post are links to the first and second post I made concerning an order I’d placed with Adorama.

Yesterday I recieved an Unsolicted Commercial Email (UCE) from Adorama; apparently they felt it was quite acceptable to subscribe an email address they obtained from Amazon as part of order fulfillment to their mailing list.  While the email did contain an “unsubscribe” link, I never authorized any use of my personal information beyond the fulfilment of my order (and I just terminated the disposable email address on file with Amazon and created a new one).

I have written a complaint to Amazon; we’ll see what action they take (my guess is none, even though UCE is illegal in Washington State as well as California).

I don’t do OPT-OUT, I don’t do business with SPAMmers, and I don’t do business with businesses who support SPAMmers — so at the moment Adorama is back on my shit list, and depending on the action Amazon takes they may be on my shit list as well!

It always amazes me companies that think so little of themselves and the value of their advertisements that they need to force customers to get their junk mail, rather than provide them with the opportunity to specify their interest upfront.  Seems a consistent gauge of a bad company — they do what ever they want, why should they care if it’s legal, ethical, or good for business in the long term.

 

References:

  • California Business and Professions Code Section 17538.45
  • Chapter 19 of the Revised Code of WA, RCW 19.190

 

Previous posts:

__________

POST-NOTE:

Adorama assures me that email addresses obtained from Amazon are not automatically subscribed to their mailing lists.  However, customer’s who place orders directly with Adorama appear to have their email addresses automatically subscribed to their mailing list.  And my address was automatically subscribed because they placed a replacement order for me as part of the fulfillment process of my Amazon order.  From my perspective subscribing any email address to a mailing list without first obtaining a customer’s permission amounts to UCE and it totally unacceptable irrespective of the fact that you include an unsubscribe link in the email — it would have been far more acceptable to include a subscribe link in the order acknowledgement or shipping notice (and allow the customer to decide).

You need to make your own decision as to whether or not Adorama’s actions are ethical (and legal in your state of residence); but for me I don’t deal with companies who feel they may do as they please with my personal and confidential information (and my email addresses are personal and confidential).

Originally posted 2009-01-21 01:00:20.

GMail POP / IMAP / SMTP Settings

If you have a GMail account or a GMail hosted mail service you can use the information below to setup your local mail client after you enable access via the web interface.

 

POP:
 
host: pop.gmail.com
port: 995, use SSL
 
 
 
IMAP:
 
host: imap.gmail.com
port: 993, use SSL
 
 
 
SMTP:
 
host: smtp.gmail.com (requires authentication)
port: 465, use SSL
port: 587, use TLS

 

If you have a GMail hosted email server, you’ll need to sign in via:

     http://mail.google.com/a/<domain name>

or the URL provided by your administrator to make the changes, if you just have a regular GMail account sign in via

     http://www.gmail.com/

Originally posted 2008-05-19 14:18:26.

Windows Mail (Vista)

Microsoft has several generations and families of email programs.

  • Outlook is targeted for the corporate market, and until recently the only viable choice for Windows if you wanted to keep “PIM” data (and still the only choice if you want to synchronize with a mobile device — but hopefully that will change).
  • Outlook Express became Windows Mail on Vista and Windows Live Mail if you want to run the same program on different operating systems (or you want to interface to Hotmail / MSN / Live accounts and don’t want to pay for enhanced services).
  • Entourage is the email program for the Macintosh.

I actually use all of the Microsoft email programs for different tasks:

I need Outlook to synchronize my Moto Q and Moto KRZR (actually I don’t have to use Outlook for the KRZR, but there aren’t any options for the Q).

I use Outlook Express, Windows Mail, and Windows Live Mail for various tasks; and I use Entourage on my Macs (I also use Apple iMail, but I’m haven’t drank Steve Job’s kool-aid, so I prefer to choose the program I like the best).

One of the downsides I’ve found with the Microsoft email programs in the Outlook Express, Windows Mail, Windows Live Mail family is that they’re so busy changing the name and interface that they don’t focus on making it work.

At one time Microsoft did IMAP much better than any other email reader; unfortunately, the bugs they had years ago, they still have — and most of the other email readers have gotten better.

The two problems I see over and over and over with Windows Mail (and the other’s in it’s family) deal with subscribing to IMAP folders.  Here’s some scenarios you might be familiar with:

You create a new mail folder and you get an error; you try to create it again and it tells you that it already exists, but can’t be shown.  I haven’t figured out what’s happening here, but I do know that the IMAP server creates the folder, and sets the subscribed FLAG (and that other email clients have no problem with the folder); but for some reason Windows Mail refuses to show it (and will continue to refuse to show it even if you delete the account and recreate it).

The only work around to this I’ve found is creating a folder with a single character in it’s name, and renaming it to what you want (that seems to always work — but if you recreate the account you might find that some folders aren’t listed any longer).

The other thing I’ve found that Microsoft hasn’t fixed is cleaning up the local message store (I have no clue what they do when the compact the database, but it doesn’t seem to really achieve the desired goal).  What I do here is I export my accounts, remove the accounts, shut down Windows Mail, then delete the left over message store.  Start up Windows Mail, import the accounts, and then let it re-download the information from the server.  This works well for me, since most of my messages are on a local server (for archival); and I don’t keep much on remote servers (so it really doesn’t take that long), and it keeps the size of the local cache down to something manageable (you will really notice what a poor job Microsoft does on cleaning up the local IMAP store when you defragment your disk with a tool that shows you what is going on).

To find your local data stores, you can use any of the following paths:

  • %USERPROFILE%\AppData\Local\Microsoft\Windows Mail
  • C:\Users\%USERNAME%\AppData\Local\Microsoft\Windows Mail
  • %LOCALAPPDATA%\Microsoft\Windows Mail

 The folder for the IMAP store should match the display name (well — it may be what Windows Mail originally chose for you, but the first time you do an export / import you will get the name you chose — and that’s a good reason to do this once right after creating the account).

__________

If you want to know my opinion on which email program from Microsoft is the “best” — well hands down it’s Entourage.  Why they don’t use that as a model to build an email program for Windows is beyond me — and why they don’t use common code for all their email programs and actually fix the bugs they have rather than continuing to change the name and look is also beyond me.

I would say you’re better off using Mozilla Thunderbird, but it still crashes with an IMAP store as large as mine.

I guess I could just start using my Mac for all my email.  But seriously, if you know of good options I’d love to hear from you.

Originally posted 2009-02-09 01:00:35.

hMailServer

If you’re interested in running a fairly full featured mail server on Windows, take a look at hMailServer — it’s completely free and through version 4 Open Source.

I have a patch to V4.4.2-B279 and V4.4.2-B283 that allows you to set the directory separator for IMAP folders (by default it will use “.” — and for many people that’s not a good choice).

To get it working:

  • Download the source.
  • Download the patch.
  • Un-archive the patch
  • Apply the patch (easy to do with SVN)
  • Setup a build environment (Microsoft VS2005, Microsoft VB6, Inno Setup v5, CollabNet SVN [optional]).
  • Run the build tool (you may need to make some changes to it’s configuration).
  • Install the resulting package.
  • Edit the INI file and change the FolderSeparator to “/” or “\” (I would not advise using other characters)
  • Restart the service.

It only took me a couple hours to modify and test the code; other than installing the environment to build it (and I recommend you do that on a virtual machine since these are older tools) it should take you substantially less time.

Some notes:

  • The changes to the build configuration are not necessary; you will need to make the appropriate changes for your build environment so I would say don’t apply them.
  • The changes to the HIS_DBWrappers is because you do not need to (and in many cases it will fail) register the built DLL on your build machine; it will be packaged in the install file and registered on installation (you would only need it registered if you wanted to debug, and I recommend building, installing, and then attaching to the running process so you need not worry about configuration issues if you want to debug).
  • This is Open Source software, and it’s not MY software — I don’t make any claims about it or warrant it in any way.  It’s your responsibility to test it.  While I’m certainly interested in anything you find, I’m in no way responsible.

I have a couple more modifications I’m considering (both of which will require much more work):

  • Changing the way folders and sub-folders are stored so that the folders appear in the file system in directories that match the folder names (and removing the limits on depth and number).
  • Potentially adding a ‘search’ feature that’s integrated with WDS to quickly find messages.  Since IMAP will only search within a folder, I’m thinking about adding a special folder called “Search” and any folder created in it will actually be the search term and the results displayed will be dynamic based on WDS output. 

In case you’re wondering, I don’t really care about hMailServer as an end-point mail server; I care about to manage my IMAP message store.  I have nearly 40GB of mail, nearly 50,000 folders, and WAY too many messages store on a server with 16 spindles in a RAID5 configuration.  So my “interest” doesn’t align closely with most users.

This is only the patch file; you must download the source from here.

These are patches produced from the specific versions listed, but they can (most likely) be applied to any v4.4.2 build fairly recent).

Originally posted 2008-11-09 08:00:38.

Just Host

As I posted a couple weeks ago I’d gone ahead and moved some of my domains over to JustHost.com.

Mainly I was looking for an affordable hosting package that supports server side includes in addition to what I already had at 1and1.com for around same price.  I also wanted unlimited bandwidth (but frankly I could have gotten that at 1and1.com with a cross-grade for just a small amount more per month with no hassle).

The way I started looking for a new host was to find some the “10 best” “50 best” or what ever they happened to be articles on the internet for hosting companies.  I read through them, looked at their current offerings, features, and prices.  The ones I felt were interesting I looked for reviews on the internet and read them.

Reviews from people you don’t know are not necessarily valuable.  Read the review, see what they’re saying, see how they’re saying, and see if their needs and abilities closely ally with yours.  And look for a pattern in reviews — if many people say the same thing, it’s far more likely to be true and not simply an isolated incident.

Once I narrowed down the field to a handful I reviewed any demos they offered of their control panel, features, etc.  If they didn’t have any demo I placed them on the bottom of the list.

Then I tried their online “chat” feature to talk to a pre-sales person.  If they didn’t offer an online chat I placed them on the bottom of the list (the very bottom — online chat is more important in the long run than a demo).

For the chat, I asked a few questions that there were in fact answers to on their site (just to see how quickly the person on the other end could provide me with a response, and if their response agreed).  Then I ask any questions that I had that were not addressed by the site.  Finally I ask one question that would require the person to actually think and apply the information on their site to the context of the question.

After that I decided on going with JustHost.com — they seemed like they provided the best package, best support, and most reasonable price.  When I went to order the package they offered me a better price when I was going to navigate away from the order page to check on a couple things.

I’ve moved all my domains over to JustHost.com; I’ve put an affiliate advertisement for JustHost.com on my web page and my BLOG (if you’re going to order service from them, I encourage you to click on the advertisement on here so as to help defray the costs for maintaining my BLOG — and hopefully growing it; it won’t cost you anything).

Things I don’t like…

  • They have the concept of a “primary” domain; which makes all domains but that reside under the primary in the directory structure.
  • They do not allow direct access to DNS on shared packages.
  • Shell access is extra (quite a bit extra) per year.  It would have been a “nice to have”, but I didn’t need it, and didn’t pay for it.
  • PHP5 doesn’t work by default in subdomains.
  • Databases are on the same machine as web servers.  I know this is very common, but I prefer databases to be on database servers and web servers to be separate.  This item is on the end of the list for a reason.

But…

  • They will allow you to use a “fake” domain (I did a subdomain of their domain) as your primary, which makes all domains equal, but if you want to access the root you have to use the host name where your hosting account files are located rather than your domain name (you could have them enter a CNAME for you if you like, but if you forget the host name just do a trace route to one of your domain’s web addresses and you’ll see it).
  • While you don’t have direct access to DNS, they will enter DNS records for you — CNAME I know (they did that for me); and I expect they’ll do TXT, A, etc.
  • To enable PHP5 in a subdomain you just need to add a couple lines to your .htaccess file (the service representative didn’t know them right off the top of his head; but after confirming it should work, I had no problem).

Things I do like…

  • The price is very reasonable for a unlimited shared hosting package.
  • Customer support is great; the people who’ve chatted with me or replied to my tickets have been extremely courteous and have resolved the issue.
  • Server side include support.  It really is nice to be able to have dynamic content that is provided by the server rather than have to have intricate AJAX requests (and faster).
  • Performance.  Thus far I can’t complain about the performance.
  • IMAP, POP, SMTP email both clear text and SSL versions.  SMTP is offered on alternate ports as well for individuals who’s ISP block access to port 25.

I often say..

Rarely do you get what you pay for.

With JustHost.com you may in fact get what you pay for (and maybe more).

Originally posted 2010-02-07 01:00:29.

Does your mail provider really want to eliminate SPAM?

I’ve been actively working to stop SPAM (that’s also known as UCE – Unsolicited Commercial Email) for a very long time, and it’s great to see how many of the “free” email providers talk about preventing SPAM and provide users with filters to prevent SPAM from reaching their inbox.

But, the bottom line is, that unless you actively report SPAMmers nothing will ever really change.

Some providers (very few) actually will generate automated SPAM reports for you [that’s great, more email providers should make it that easy]; however, most will do nothing more than use an email that you mark as SPAM to refine their filters [which might prevent you from seeing the SPAM, but it doesn’t stop the SPAMmer].

The really interesting thing is that many of the “free” email providers actually inhibit you from reporting SPAM by preventing you from accessing the “raw message” (you need all the headers and the body of the email to file an abuse report with most carriers).  What’s really funny is that some of the providers who are most vocal have actually changed their web-mail interfaces to prevent you from accessing the raw message [essentially insuring that you cannot take action against a SPAMmer].

Now if you can access you email via POP3 or IMAP4 or load it into an email client using a proprietary connector (well, at least the only ones I could test) you can access the raw message and file a report; but remember, many of the free email providers don’t give you that type of access to your email unless you pay them.

What a great message… it’s OK to SPAM free email subscribers because they can’t do anything about it!

I’m not going to provide an extensive list of those providers that do and do not actually enable you to report SPAM; I’ll just mention that Yahoo! (one of the largest free email providers, but waning) doesn’t allow free subscribers to access raw message (or if they do, I certainly couldn’t figure out how); and of course Google (GMail) and Microsoft (MSN/HotMail/Live/Bing) do allow access.

One other thing to keep in mind… there’s no such thing as free email — you’re paying for it some how some way.

Originally posted 2009-08-17 01:00:04.