Brent Dax (brentdax) wrote,
Brent Dax

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Exciting E-mail Explosion!

I found out today that my SoC mentor is none other than publius_ovidus, a prominent Perl hacker who happens to be on my friends list. Nifty.

Of course, I haven't managed to actually get anything done today. Why, you ask, since you are such an attentive audience? Well, because Mom's e-mail exploded.

Nearly a decade ago, when we cancelled our Prodigy service, Mom signed up for a free e-mail account with a little-known company called Juno. They provided a fairly capable e-mail client and a bunch of dial-up numbers across the country, which you would use to connect to their proprietary (but Internet-connected) mail servers. It's a nice, simple piece of software, so Mom continued using it even after we got EarthLink service. She kept using it after we got DSL (although by now they allowed you to connect to their servers over the Internet instead of a modem), and continued even after we switched to Speakeasy.

Like myself, she never deletes an e-mail unless it's spam; she files them in an elaborate system of folders (in my case, Gmail labels) for easy retrieval later. Unlike myself, she's never switched e-mail accounts. Also unlike myself, she's started using her e-mail client for things other than e-mails. Her copy of Juno is our family's recipe book, and her drafts folder is the repository for dozens of lists she revises as necessary, such as passwords, daily tasks, etc.

Every few months, we have a Juno crisis of some sort. Perhaps we're going on vacation, and Dad has to throw together some awful, dirty hack to ensure the Juno client downloads Mom's mail often enough to stay under quota. Perhaps it somehow screws itself up and needs a reinstall. Perhaps Juno decides that they're no longer going to support the client program for free customers, forcing them to use an awful webmail program, and Mom has to start paying money for a formerly free service. Every time this happens, Dad and I encourage her to switch to something else—something a little more standard, maybe with a POP server or something—but she insists that she's had this address forever, and has seven years of e-mail in her client, and it'd just be too hard to switch. And we capitulate.

Well, when she started Juno today, it told her to wait. And wait, and wait, and wait. And when it was done, she had one folder with 48,000 e-mails in it.

Apparently the folder structure got corrupted somehow, and the best the program could do was to recover the messages and put them in a folder named Recovered - 7/26. But seven years of e-mail archives had been rendered next to useless, and that was the last straw.

So we spent all of today dealing with the aftermath. We looked at mail clients—Outlook Express was out of the running already, as Mom was using it for fanmail and absolutely hated it; Thunderbird looked alright, but she was worried I only suggested it because I like Mozilla; The Bat! looked too complex for her skill level and purposes; and Eudora looked to require her to pay good money for what she could get for free. She eventually settled on Thunderbird.

She also decided that she wanted to make sure her e-mail address would be portable from now on—she didn't want to have the same sort of trouble she did last time, and didn't want to change her address again if we switched ISPs. So we got mail service from, who I know service several people who need mail. (They also designed the anti-spam protocol SPF.) It'll cost $5/month, but it has some handy features, like a months' mail backups on the server.

The other part of our task was to find a program she could easily organize notes and recipes in. This was surprisingly difficult. All she really wanted was a text editor with something akin to an IDE's project tree view attached to the side; she ended up with an overgrown piece of software that does everything she wants, but also a lot she doesn't. Anyone with a better idea is welcome to suggest it.

So today was spent looking at mail clients, mail servers, converting between address book formats, and growling at Juno, rather than programming.

Well, at least I got crêpes out of it.

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