Category Archives: email

Email Reloaded

So the long and short of it is, I’m loading all the email I receive into a database using a fun combination of Procmail, Spam Assassin, and a sprinkling of command line PHP. I’m very excited about this, more excited than I’ve been about a new project in a while. For me, email has been steadily waning in utility for the past year, and I want to breathe new life into it. I’m tired of folders. I’m tired of slow searching. I don’t want to hand my email over to someone else, even if it’s Google. I don’t want to deal with mbox or IMAP or maildir or any of that junk. Those are implementation details of various servers and clients.

Mirroring my email into a MySQL database has some interesting ramifications. Imagine instant Gmail-type searching using FULLTEXT or LIKE. Imagine instant email backup using MySQL replication. Think email RSS feeds, keyed on searches or senders or anything. Don’t forget the interesting metrics that can be extracted from this as well. Right now I’ve replaced my timely dozen with an counter running since this morning. If you send me an email, you’ll see it increment live. If it increments the spam counter you may want to resend it and reword your mortgage suggestion. This is the most basic of a hundred interesting things that can be culled from this data.

I want to hear your wildest dreams. Besides the obvious search, backup, and statistics benefits, what can you imagine this system doing? What would you like email to address? (groan…) What email metadata is interesting? (I’m currently tracking subject, date sent, date received, from, the message itself, and spam status.) What statistics would be interesting to you? Is anyone even interested in this or am I just spinning my wheels?

Today my mail lives in 400 MB of mbox folders I access using IMAP. Tomorrow I want something better.

Yahoo Mail (or lack thereof)

I saw Ernie had done some work on the new Yahoo sites so I thought I’d log in to check it out. Notepad was… a textarea. Calendar was cool. Contacts still had all the information I had imported 4 years ago, which I thought was pretty neat. When I went to the mail tab, however, I was greeted by this not-so-friendly notice:

Your Yahoo! Mail account is no longer active.

Why is my account inactive?

Yahoo! Mail deactivated your mail account because either:

  1. You have not logged into your account in the last 4 months, or
  2. You have asked that your mail account be deactivated

What does this mean?

  • All emails, folders, attachments and preferences have been deleted
  • All messages sent to are being bounced back to the sender
  • You can still use your Yahoo! ID to access other registered services on Yahoo!
  • Deleted information cannot be recovered

Protect your account!

Subscribe to Yahoo! Mail Plus and you will not be required to sign in […]

I got tired of typing. I think everyone at Yahoo should be banned from using exclamation points for a month, even in their code. I hope I didn’t have anything important in that email account.

It’s Over

An address that has never been on the web in text or javascript form has begun receiving large amounts of spam, starting a few days ago. This is not a dictionary attack, it is specifically targetted toward this single address. The address is not guessable or a dictionary word. Luckily the address is disposable.

The only form this address has ever been online is in a PNG screenshot I posted about a year ago.

Thunderbird 0.4

As you may have heard, Thunderbird 0.4 has been released, and it’s a delight. I’ve been using Thunderbird off and on since I first heard of the project. I snubbed 0.2, as it was quite clunky. 0.3 changed my mind and became my default email client over Outlook Express, and I also set it up for my mom. However it was not so much on Thunderbird’s merits of the time that I switched, because it was still quite rough in many areas, it was simply the least bad of all the IMAP email clients I have tried. (And I’ve tried them all.) However this new 0.4 version is a pleasure to use. The graphics have been completely revamped, which is a much bigger deal than I would have thought and really changes how I view the application. (Literally.) Of course they were pretty patchy before, it didn’t even have a separate icon for mail you had replied to. The other problem I had before was that the program would get hung up on something, I’m not sure what, but when it was nothing would work until I restarted the application, which was annoying to say the least. I haven’t even seen a hint of this problem for about two months now (I’ve been keeping up with the weekly builds).

It just does IMAP so well. Having all my email and folders on the server makes it easy to try different email clients and not worry about importing, exporting, or keeping my data in sync. A few minutes ago, just to make sure I wasn’t remembering things wrong, I opened up Outlook Express again to give it another go. That’ll probably be the last time I ever do. Moving IMAP messages to different folders in Outlook Express opens a dialog box that actually precludes you from doing anything else in the application, so if you’re moving a message with a large attachment or several messages you have to wait for everything to finish before you can do anything else. For someone who lives in their email client, that is simply unacceptable. Thunderbird does all that in the background, and it’s so fast with most things that the “IMAP lag” is gone.

It’s not perfect, there are a few things I hope the Thunderbird team addresses in future releases. First is the spell check, which rocks but always wants to spell check the name of the person I’m replying to in an email. Second when I forward a message inline it includes all the headers, which can often be twenty or thirty lines, most of it junk that isn’t important. Just give me from, to, subject, and when it was sent, and I’ll be happy.

Thunderbird understands that on some IMAP servers, including mine, some folders contain mail messages and some just contain other folders. Outlook Express would try to select these “holding” folders and return an error, where Thunderbird shows them in italics so they’re visually set apart from the folders that hold actual mail. Thunderbird is also supposed to have some great spam handling, but since I handle all that on the server side I can’t speak to that personally.

Bottom line: try it out. You have nothing to lose and you might just find that perfect email application you’ve been searching for. The best thing about it is I know that right now another version is in the works, and in a few months they’ll be a 0.5 I can rave about. Or I could wait until 2006 for a new version of OE to come out with Longhorn. Right.