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The Email Situation

astorm

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My email’s been more or less horked for the past few years. Alanstorm.com and my various other domains are setup with a catch-all email configuration. This means I get all email for any address sent to my domains.

The address geeky.feature@alanstorm.com? I get it. Same thing for Very-Handsom-Man@alanstorm.com and Very-Cute_girl@alanstorm.com. It all comes to me.

In 1997 this was pretty cool.

In 2007 this is email spam suicide. It costs spammers almost nothing to add an email address to their lists. This means spammers will always include a few of the “almost always configured” addresses in their lists including, ironically enough, the abuse@alanstorm.com address.

Additionally, some of the more enterprising spammers will just run through a dictionary of common names to generate email lists, so I’ll see stuff like jack@alanstorm.com and jill@alanstorm.com.

The final staw was the spoofed sender address bounce backs. Spammers will troll for domains without SPF records1 to throw in the “From” and “Reply-To” headers. That way any bounce-backs and/or Reply-To complaints don’t come back to them.

Which means, every few months, I’ll get hundreds of messages from “Mail Delivery” telling me they couldn’t deliver “my” message because the address doesn’t exist.

So, as fun as it’s been to be able to make up email addresses on the fly, it’s the 21st century and The Internet is no longer fun. Time to pick an email address and stick with it.

Which leads to interesting problem number two. For the past seven years or so, whenever I signup for something online I’ve made up a unique email address. If I signed up for a service at example.com, I would have done so with the email address example.com@alanstorm.com.

I did this a lot.

And didn’t really keep track of what I was doing.

This meant going through about a gig of email archives and extracting the 184 unique email addresses that I’ve received email at over the years, and then configuring each one as an email alias.

Complicating matters is my web-host, Pair Networks, doesn’t have an obvious API for adding email aliases, and their control panel only allows you to enter 10 email recipes at a time through a semi-clunky (but serviceable) web interface.

So, I’ve been putting this off. And off. And off.

Eventually I had to grit my teeth and setup a <a href=”Quick Forward Setup bookmarklet to make adding each 10 aliases as fast and painless as possible. As of Monday I should be completely off the catch all wagon.

If you’re in a similar boat re:Pair, just replace alias@example.com in the above link, add the bookmarklet to your tool bar, and run in on Pair’s “Setup Multiple Email Recipe” page. It will automatically select “Forward” as the recipie type, enable spam filtering for the alias, and enter the target address you just specified in each of the ten fields.

The Future

Longer term I’m still stuck with a bit of email malaise. My dedication to POP3 and Mailsmith is waning, particularly since I succumbed to iPhone fever2

The thing is, and I know I’m not saying anything new here, the email landscape is desolate. Apple’s Mail.app leaves a sour taste in my mouth (which may be leftover from the 10.2 days). As for webmail, beyond being a step back in user experience, I’d rather large multi-nationals with a disgruntled workforece not have access to my important email.

Right now Entourage looks like my best bet application wise, and who knows how long MIcrosoft will keep supporting that3.

I’m also a bit wary of relying on Pair for continued email support. They’re a web-host first, and email provider second, which means email suffers from time to time. I’ve seriously debated ponying up for something like Pobox, but I’d rather not think about the messy details of getting myself moved over.

Finally, there’s the spam problem. I use a client-side spam solution that works really well, but is only made for the Mac. Even if I made a switch to IMAP, I’d still be stuck with some kind of wonky forwarding solution for my iPhone.

All things considered, at this point the “can ‘o gasoline plus rags plus a brick ‘o paraffin” solution seems like my best bet.

Footnotes:

  1. I’m wary of getting this setup correctly, and no SPF record seems better than one that accidently excludes a sever I actually send email from

  2. It supports pop3, but being able to manage an imap account on the go is appealing.

  3. From here it looks like the Mac Business Unit at Microsoft is at the start of a slow decline where they’ll never be able to keep up with what the Windows Office team is doing, mainly due to lack of resources (time, money, desire by the high-ups)

Originally published August 5, 2007

Copyright © Alan Storm 1975 – 2017 All Rights Reserved

Originally Posted: 5th August 2007