A Few E-mail Tricks for Addicts

September 2007

I admit my addiction to e-mail. I don’t try to hide it. You can see me walking down the street, Palm Treo in hand, checking my e-mail as I walk.

You can see me on vacation, laptop perched on my lap, happily esconced in one of the ubiquitous wireless hotspots that dot the country checking my e-mail.

My e-mail joy was compounded this past summer when I figured out a couple workarounds for niggling e-mail problems faced by addicts when traveling. So I thought I’d share them with you.

First off, like a true addict, I avoid web-based e-mail such as Hotmail and Yahoo, because they feel so cumbersome. An addict just doesn’t have the patience to wait for a web page to refresh each time he wants to read an e-mail. Using dedicated e-mail software such as Outlook, Entourage, or Apple mail delivers the fix more efficiently.

So here’s the big problem that I solved: when I was in a wireless hotspot I could check my e-mail just like I always do. Didn’t need to change any settings or anything. That was great. BUT . . . when I tried to send e-mail, it didn’t work. That’s because in the past few years, after having had their mail server (called an SMTP server) hijacked by spammers, my Internet provider disallows remote sending of e-mail.

I was desperate. I needed an SMTP server, and bad. I had all those e-mails in my Outbox needing to be flung into the ether.

My trick number one was to download the free RapidoSMTP software for my Mac. It simply turns on the SMTP server built into my operating system. That was so cool: my computer was its own SMTP server. (I don’t think Windows has this feature.)

But then disappointment: about a quarter of Internet providers, including AOL, rejected my e-mails, saying, in so many words, “You spammer. I know you’re not a real SMTP server. No way am I passing along your e-mail.”

My next kludge was to use my Gmail account. I don’t like web-based e-mail but I really wanted to send e-mail. So I would still receive my e-mail via my software but would bring up Gmail in my browser when I wanted to send. I changed the settings so that it would appear to the recipient that my e-mail came from my regular account because I didn’t want their replies going to Gmail. One way to do this is to go to Settings/Accounts and adding another e-mail address, making it the default, and checking “Always reply from my default address.” I believe other web-based e-mail services will let you do something similar. This can be quite useful. But this was an ugly solution.

Then I hit the jackpot. I happened to come across the Gmail instructions for configuring my e-mail software so that I can use Gmail’s SMTP server remotely: Settings/Forwarding and POP/ and click on Configuration Instructions. It tells how to set up SMTP authentication. Voila. I could receive my e-mail as usual via my e-mail software and now also send e-mail via Gmail’s SMTP server.

(Check with your Internet provider. They may themselves allow SMTP authentication such that you don’t need to use Gmail.)

And here’s another great Gmail trick — in this case related to reducing spam. Let’s say you’re like me and you want to use e-mail software. BUT you like the spam-filtering capability of a web-based e-mail service such as Gmail. You can have the best of both. You can set up Gmail so that it gets all your e-mail from your regular account. At regular intervals (say, every 10 seconds) it checks to see if there’s any e-mail there and downloads it to the Gmail mail server.

And now you might ask, “What’s the point? I thought you disliked web-based e-mail.” Here’s the cool part: You can then set up your e-mail software such as Outlook or Entourage to get your e-mail from the Gmail server instead of the server of your regular Internet provider. And that e-mail will be relatively spam-free, thanks to Gmail’s spam filter.

Again you do this by going to Settings/Forwarding and POP/ and click on Configuration Instructions.

Gmail becomes a surrogate service through which you receive your spam-filtered e-mail from your regular e-mail account (or also using your Gmail address), and via which you send your e-mail — all using your e-mail software and avoiding the web-based interface.

The addicts among you will be grateful.

© 2007 by Jim Karpen, Ph.D

E-mail Jim Karpen