Entries Tagged as 'email'

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.

Firefox 3

For those of you how are Mozilla Firefox fans, version 3 has been released.


You might also be interested in Mozilla Thunderbird for email; Mozilla Sunbird for calendaring or Mozilla SeaMonkey which is there all-in-one.

If you’re a Mac user, you might want to try Mozilla Camino; it looks like a Mac application, but uses the Mozilla rendering engine.



Originally posted 2008-11-12 12:00:30.

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.

IMAP Utilities

I generally prefer to interface to my mail via IMAP, and I store my mail archives in a local IMAP repository (which allows me the ability to search the repository quickly using Windows Search).

With the old email server I was using it was fairly straight forward to make a backup of the IMAP store and preserve the IMAP folder paths; the new mail server I’m using stores messages far more efficiently and uses a database to record the IMAP folder association of every folder and message.  Yes I could backup the files and the database, but that seemed fairly rigid and a solution that would likely not be portable in the future.

And before I sat out on writing my own tools, I prefer to look at what’s out there — either to use it as a solution, or learn from it.

I happened to stumble upon IMAPSize by Broobles, and while it’s not exactly what I was looking for it has a number of useful features.

It’s billed as the “Swiss Army Knife” of IMAP utilities by many reviewers.

Rather than go through all the features it has, I’m just going to talk about some of the things that most everyone will probably find useful.

The first thing it does is show you how much mail is in each mailbox, so if you’ve got quotas you can figure you where you need to prune.

  • I has some search capabilities (particularly useful if you don’t have your own IMAP server, since IMAP search, even when properly implemented in server and client, isn’t all that powerful).
  • It allows you to do regular IMAP management (much the same as your client will do).
  • It allows you to copy messages from one account to another (there’s lots of scripts that will do that as well).
  • It will do incremental backups of folders or entire accounts.
  • It will search through and flag SPAM.

The program is a fairly straight forward GUI application for Windows, and probably my biggest complaint is that it doesn’t allow command line options to use it in a script.  Personally I would prefer to do my backup on a schedule, unattended.

I will probably write my own tool to do backup; I’ve already written an IMAP object library — so I really only need to decide how to store the configuration information (probably in an XML file); but this is none the less an extremely useful program, and if you use IMAP you should take a look at it.  And it’s FREE to try, and FREE to use, but you might want to donate something to it’s author, particularly if you’re going to ask for an enhancement.

Originally posted 2009-02-18 01:00:07.

Windows Live Mail

Part of the Microsoft Live Essential software suite available either from Live.com (see link below) or through the Microsoft Update is Live Mail; a simple, fairly versatile email client.

Live Mail allows access to POP3, IMAP4, and Hot Mail / MSN Mail / Live Mail web mail.

Live Mail is a replacement for Outlook Express and Windows Mail (from Vista).

It’s nicely polished, and for the most part works without any major issues (like any software, it has bugs and annoyances).

One thing you may not like is the fact that Live Mail hides the menu bar (you can enable it; but even that seems to be made purposely difficult in the latest version).

The biggest annoyance I have with Live Mail is that it will not import an IAF (that’s an export file) created with Outlook Express or Windows Mail (thank you very much Microsoft for paying such close attention to customer needs).

If you have a Hot Mail / MSN Mail / Live Mail web mail account you will probably want to choose this product as an email client on your computer; if you don’t you may want to look at Thunderbird (part of the Mozilla project, as is Firefox).

The feature I like most about Live Mail (and it’s predecessors) is the ability to drag an email out of Live Mail onto my local file system and put it back (Thunderbird doesn’t have any convenient way to put a message back).  This isn’t a feature that should be a deal breaker for most anyone (if you need to do it, you know how to do it with Thunderbird — it just won’t be quite as easy).

Overall, Live Mail is a descent program, and it’s priced right — FREE.

Windows Live Essentials

NOTE:  GMail content can be access by either POP3 or IMAP4; simply follow the instructions on GMail to enable it and add it to Live Mail or any email client that supports POP3 or IMAP4 over a SSL connection (and allows you to specify the port numbers).

Originally posted 2009-11-24 01:00:40.

Free EMail…

Right LOL

Most of you probably think that the free email provider you’re using makes money by showing you those annoying advertisements when you access you email via their web-mail interface.

Have you ever stopped to think about how they could possibly make money when they allow you to use a POP3 or IMAP4 client to read your email?

Well, the bottom line is sure they make some money by showing you those advertisements; but in this day and age almost every single email provider actually uses the content of your inbox to target you and sell demographic information.

While they might not be “reading” your email line-by-line; they are certainly indexing your email’s content — and they’re selling information about what you (aggregated of course) are talking about to anyone who will pay for it… and of course it’s long be rumored that some of them might have agreements with “men in black” to provide them more details about email (and searches) that might be consider a threat to national security.

Read the Terms of Service (TOS) for your “free” email provider very carefully — you’re going to be surprised what you’ve authorized them to do, and how little privacy you really have (remember some of the cable companies and DSL providers actually have you using one of those “big name” email providers as well — so your “for-pay” email account might be suspect as well).

My advice…

If you care about your privacy, pay a little money with an email provider that doesn’t harvest your personal (and confidential) information and sell it off to everyone with a little pocket change.

Originally posted 2009-08-19 01:00:36.

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.

Free Hosted Email

If you have your own domain and you really don’t need web hosting you might want to consider hosted email servers from Microsoft or Google.

Both of them provide free hosted email services; limited to 500 accounts (which can actually be increased — but for free hosted email that’s probably fine).

I generally recommend that you consider just getting a hosting package that gives you a free domains, web space, and email — often on the order of $1.99 per month.

Microsoft Live Hosted Email (Free):  http://domains.live.com/

Goolge GMail Hosted Email (Free):  http://www.google.com/a/

Originally posted 2008-08-12 23:12:04.