Entries Tagged as 'Email'

Windows Live Mail Bugs

Make sure you’re sitting down, I wouldn’t want you to fall over — but there are bugs in Live Mail.

I actually did the Beta for Live Mail quite some time ago, and reported several bugs during the course of that — from my experience you’re wasting your time reporting bugs to Microsoft, each and every bug I found made it into the first release, and almost all of them are still there.

Here are two bugs that really need to be fixed.  Both are annoyances (they won’t result in the loss of data for sure); but both of them speak to the attention to quality and detail that simply isn’t part of the Microsoft culture.

The first bug which really needs to be fixed has to do with viewing a folder in an account.  Many times when you perform and operation (like deleting a folder for instance) Live Mail will repaint the folder view; however, it repositions the view port at the first item (but leaves focus where it should be)… the problem is if you have more folders that fit vertically on the screen, you’re looking at an entirely different time zone than the one that has focus.  A simple fix — save the view port position before the operation; restore the view port position after it if and before the repaint.  I guess the programmer that did this code was sleeping during Windows Programming 101.

The second bug which also really needs to be fixed has to do with dragging an email into the file system.  Windows Live Mail will create a file system safe name for the container file from the subject; however, if the subject ends in “…” (and probably many other character sequences) the file doesn’t get a “.eml” file extension, but rather a “._eml” file extension.  I guess the programmer that did this code figured it was right to make the file name file system safe after appending the extension when he should have made the base name file system safe and then appended the extension of “.eml”.

Like I said, these are simple issues — with very simple fixes… but they are fixes that shouldn’t be been necessary since this code should have never gotten out of Beta with these problems (they were reported).  In fact, I could argue that these problems should have never made it into a code build — they should have failed unit tests.

But these problems made it into release code; and these problems have existed for quite some time in release code — all I can say is that the commitment to quality I see in Microsoft software is similar to that that I see in Open Source code… so hopefully Microsoft will begin giving away more and more of it’s software at no charge so that the cost basis and the quality are on par.

Originally posted 2010-01-23 01:00:12.

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.

Windows Live Mail Failings and Features

Since I’ve given Windows Live Mail a “recommendation” I do want to be clear about about some of the specifics.

First, when you move a message from one folder (account) to another, the tree pane displaying the folders (accounts) resets you to the top of the list reguardless of where you are.  This is clearly a bug — maintaining the visual state of a program is important (and I’ve reported it — on each of the last several versions).

Second, once in a while when you send a message, the message is sent fine; however, the message windows stays open, and if it was a “reply” the icon on the original message doesn’t change.  If the message window doesn’t close after you’ve clicked “send”, you might want to check your outbox and/or your sent items to see if it’s already been sent (or you might end up sending multiple copies — and that’s just embarrasing).

By default (and this is true of most all of the “newer” programs) the menu bar is turned off (the classic, file, edit, view, tools… help).  You can of course turn it back on, and you actually have to if you want to access some of the “advanced” features.  Personally I haven’t decided which way is best; I certainly like the fact the clutter is reduced, however I think I would like it more if I could easily add some of the feature to a “custom” tool bar rather than having to turn on the menu bar…

The program color codes your accounts; it uses some seemingly random selection process, but you can change them.  Most of the colors are muted, but there’s a pretty good selection.

The program allows you to determine the order of accounts in the tree pane (which is a great improvement over Outlook, Outlook Express, and Windows Mail where you had to prefix accounts with number or special chacters to get them to sort in anything other than “alphabetical”… and technically it was still alphabetical, it’s just you had a character or two at the beginning that wasn’t part of the “name”).  They could improve the interface of moving folders a little — like add a “move to top” and “move to bottom” instead of just “move up” and “move down”

They’ve done a nice job with the visual elements of the program; it takes some of the ideas from the way Outlook presents information and trys to keep everything “simple”.

And I’ve saved what could be the best new feature for last.. the “Quick Views” — basically, you have a great deal of control over this, but by default it shows you things like “Unread e-mail”, “Unread from contacts”, “Flagged items”… and if you’re like me and have a ton of email accounts, it’s really nice to be able to zero in on those new message quickly, and find those flagged message.

It also has SPAM and Phishing filters; but I tend to depend on my ISP to do that, and find that a second level of SPAM filters create more problems…

Originally posted 2008-05-12 00:27:10.

A new host…

I’ve mentioned before that I was considering moving my web sites to another hosting company, not that there’s anything really wrong with my previous hosting company, but more so because I wanted some features that were just too expensive for me to justify.

My new hosting company — JustHost.com — offers fairly attractive prices, has a fairly good reputation, and has the features I most wanted on an unlimited hosting package.

It’s still too soon for me to give them a recommendation; but I have placed an advertising link on the side panel of my site and blog to them (and yes I will get a referral fee if you use it).

A couple things…

I’m not hosting any domains with them; their registration price isn’t bad, but private registration is extra (and I really don’t like my personal and confidential information published on the web to be harvested by those who will not benefit me).

The cPanel interface they use is fairly common at hosting companies (I guess vDeck is the other big competitor) — but it’s totally different from what I’m used to.

Keep in mind, you should evaluate a web hosting company against your personal needs and requirements.  Remember, most hosting companies packages like this are not suitable for companies that have a great deal of web traffic and would suffer should their web site not be able to deliver information to customers.

Originally posted 2010-01-31 01:00:06.

Is The Wall Street Journal a SPAMmer?

Well, at the moment that appears to be the case.

I got an email on Thanksgiving with the subject:

The Wall Street Journal. $1.99/wk. Get the REAL Bailout news…

From what appear to be a professional SPAMmer (chargecarde.com) — and I say professional SPAMmer since the return address in the email was set to my own email address, not theirs.  My SPAM filters caught the email, but I go through the SPAM on occasion just to see what unethical businesses would resort to such tactics during hard economic times.  After all, big business never really cares about the consumer or the law — they only care about what makes them money and what they can get away with.

The laws of the State of California make sending unsolicited commercial email (aka SPAM) illegal — and of course theft of service (you pay for your internet service) is illegal in every state.

As I said almost twenty years ago when the SPAM epidemic was on the rise; we must fight back, we cannot support SPAMmers or those who support SPAMmers.

Take a minute out of your day, and from a “throw away email address” write The Wall Street Journal and let them know how you feel about SPAMming and SPAMmers — here’s some email addresses for you (normally I wouldn’t include mailto links, but I have no issue with SPAMmers getting their email addresses harvested by SPAMbots).

And make sure you avoid doing business with:

wsj.com
The Wall Street Journal
4300 Route 1 North
South Brunswick, NJ 08852

or

ChargeCarde.com
SPUR Media Group
PO Box 99
Fortson, GA  31808

I will share any and all responses I get from The Wall Street Journal, SPUR Media Group, or any agent representing either; and will continue to consider legal action to recover damages under California Business and Professions Code Section 17538.45 and potentially Chapter 19 of the Revised Code of WA, RCW 19.190 (since I also have a legal presence there).

 

NOTE:  It’s been over a week since I contacted The Wall Street Journal about the email I received on their behalf; I’ve yet to get a reply, so it would appear that The Wall Street Journal intended that the email be sent and understand that they violated the law.  So in fact the Wall Street Journal is a SPAMmer.

Originally posted 2008-11-28 12:00:16.

One of the upsides of the internet…

One of the things that the internet allows almost everyone is the ability to express their opinion in a venue that others can “hear”.

Just do an internet search on almost anything you can think of… you’ll find reviews, comments, rants, and sometimes raves!

While you rarely know anything about the individual who wrote the posting, from a well thought out post you can gather some important questions to get the answers to before making a decision, so as a tool for an informed consumer the internet can be invaluable not only in locating the “best” prices, but also in finding the “best” products and “best” vendors!

It only takes a little effort to learn a great deal about any good or service you’re considering — it’s totally up to you whether you make an informed decision or just wing it.

Originally posted 2008-12-30 12:00:06.

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.

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.

Beware of vendors that support SPAM!

I’ve know for a very long time that many websites that sell goods and services to consumers also sell (or trade) the email addresses they register.

SPAM (Unsolicited Commercial Email – UCE) is when any entity sends you an email soliciting money for goods or services that you have not specifically requested.

Thus, when one company provided email marketers your email address (without your express permission) they are supporting SPAM, and companies that support SPAM are no better than the SPAMmers themselves since they are making money from SPAM.

But how would you know who sold your email address?

That’s easy, for years I’ve provided each vendor I do business with a unique email address which tracks any and all mail back to them.

Recently I found that a company I purchased a couple items from — CDR DVD Media ( www.cdrdvdrmedia.com ) sold or traded my email address to an email marketer.  What’s really funny in this is that CDR DVD Media uses Yahoo! (a company that purports to oppose SPAMming and hold it customers to high anti-SPAM standards) to process orders (so it appears it’s easy for Yahoo to talk the talk, but maybe they should walk the walk and actually adopt a ZERO tolerance policy against SPAMmers and their customers that support them — oh right, that means Yahoo would cut into it’s revenue stream, and they really probably only want to prevent SPAMming from free customers).

My policy (and I recommend it become you policy) is that you NEVER do business with SPAMmers or companies that support SPAMming.  Of course, I warned of the growing problem of SPAM/UCE over 15 years ago… and it’s easy for any and everyone to see now what burying your head in the sand does to prevent greedy marketers from breaking the law (yeah — SPAM is against the law in a number of states; and often SPAMmers steal services to send out their message).

Originally posted 2009-07-31 01:00:24.

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.