March 13, 2004

In search of the perfect IMAP email client

I've been on this quest for quite a while now and I've just finished testing out the new release of Mulberry V3.1.2, Becky V2.08.01, The Bat! V2.04.07 and PocoMail V3.03 Build 1740. Unfortunately, none of them passed muster. The one that's come the closest is Mulberry but even that's not there yet.

What am I looking for? Well, I thought it was pretty simple:

* excellent IMAP support including SSL
* secure SMTP support (SMTP over SSL or TLS)

Sounds simple, right? Well, it's not! As it turns out, "excellent IMAP support" means more than just supporting the protocol. It also means understanding how to work with IMAP's capabilities. Like what? Like, most of them require me to download ALL messages, headers and body, from the server before I can look at any message. If I've got 300 messages on the server I have to download all 300 messages to my machine before I can look at or respond to any of them. What's the big deal? -- I'm on dial-up (not because I wanna be but because I have no other cost-effective option right now). Downloading those messages, especially when I'm gonna delete 90% of them as SPAM, takes forever. That's one. Another is that those messages take up a lot of space on my hard-drive. I don't have a lot to spare. And if I wanted them on my hard drive I could use POP3.

Which one came closest to satisfying my IMAP needs? -- Mulberry. Why isn't it my choice? -- the UI is really funky! Doesn't obey typical Windows keyboard shortcuts. And in the current version some of their own funky shortcuts just aren't working. This is the 2nd time I've tried Mulberry and it's getting better. Hopefully in the next couple of revs they'll get it right (for me).

PocoMail's UI is really nice but it's one of those clients that makes me download the entire message base. Same for The Bat! Sorry guys, no can do. No matter what other features you have, this is a deal breaker.

Becky was pretty good on the IMAP front and has a GREAT message editor but has no support for SSL neither for the IMAP server nor the SMTP server. I won't do IMAP nor SMTP without SSL. Yeah, I could tunnel it through a pre-established SSL connection but that's too futzy.

So where does that leave me? I'm still with Thunderbird and PINE with Outlook Express. I'll keep at looking, though. If you know of any other clients I should check out, leave a comment or drop me an email. But please don't bother telling me about Outlook -- I've got it and have some issues with it, too. But that's for another posting.

Posted by tony at 12:06 PM | Comments (0)

March 12, 2004

Linux System Administration Guide available online

For all the budding Linux sysadmins, http://www.linuxhq.com/guides/SAG/.

Posted by tony at 09:03 AM | Comments (0)

March 09, 2004

Microsoft security newsletters

Right now there are a total of 5 different security newsletters from Microsoft. Two for home users and three for geeks, uhh ... I mean IT professionals.

If you're a home user:
* The Microsoft Security Newsletter for Home Users -- a bimonthly publication.
* The Microsoft Security Update -- a monthly publication.

If you're an IT type:

* The Microsoft Security Notification Service -- a monthly newsletter
* The Microsoft Security Notification Service: Comprehensive Version -- same as the one above but it includes modifications to previously published notices.
* The Microsoft Security Newsletter -- published monthly

If you have a Microsoft Passport you can sign up for these at the Passport subscription center. If you don't have a Microsoft Passport you can sign up for one here.

You can also sign up for the Security Notification Service without a Passport. Go here to do that.

Posted by tony at 08:08 PM | Comments (0)

Outlook security vulnerability

Update, March 10, 2004 -- Microsoft has revised this, increasing the severity to Critical and removing references to Outlook Today. See the Microsoft Office Security Bulleting for March, 2004

Secunia has published this advisory affecting Outlook 2002 Service Pack 2, a component of Office XP Service Pack 2. Office 2000 SP3, Office XP and Outlook 2002 SP3, Office 2003 and Outlook 2003 are not vulnerable.

In a nutshell, if Outlook Today is your default folder home page in Outlook, you're exposed. Opening a malicious email or visiting a malicious web site is all that's required to infect you. At that point your files are exposed. The easiest workaround is to change your default folder. The other alternative is to download and install Office 2000 Service Pack 3.

Posted by tony at 07:27 PM | Comments (0)

March 08, 2004

Local/National/International News

Can't recall where I saw this but Topix.net is a new site with local news. You key in your ZIP code and it'll show stories that are local to you (yes, it knows about Beaver, Oklahoma). Course, it's also got business, national, international, science, etc.

Posted by tony at 07:51 PM | Comments (0)

Email freedom

Mike Langberg is a columnist for the San Jose Mercury News. He has a pretty good article in today's edition that recommends some ways for you to from having to send change of address messages to your friends when you change ISPs. It's pretty simple, actually -- it all comes down to separating your email address from your ISP. He recommends a couple of services. Listed from cheapest to most expensive, they are Mailblocks, OddPost and eOutlook.

I got a Mailblocks account last year when they launched and it's pretty good. OddPost is interesting, too, but the one that really catches my attention is eOutlook. This is Outlook on the web. And on top of that familiar interface, they also back up your email.

For my part, I also like Fastmail.fm and Mailshell. My home email account, though, is with a UNIX shell access provider that I've been with for probably 10 years. I just can't seem to break myself away from UNIX as my base system -- it gives me a lot of flexibility that you just can't get (yet) any other way. Having my email on the UNIX account in combination with storing important and related files there gives me access many of the things I need regardless of whether I'm at home or on the road. And having it all on the same server means that I'm not restricted when I'm on a dial-up connection. I can log in to the shell account with a terminal client, do my email, save attachments locally to the UNIX system, edit files and forward them off to others without having to wait for them to download or upload. And when I'm on a speedy connection I can get to everything (including my files) with IMAP or, heck, even run X11 clients on the UNIX system against my laptop -- the choice is mine.

Some email providers, like Fastmail, have a file storage option but if you use IMAP you've got the same capability (assuming your client and your provider implement the the proper IMAP functions) -- just create some new IMAP folders on your provider and drag your files there. What they don't provide are the rest of the UNIX functionality. Like what? Well, sometimes I'll come across a site that I just can get to from my laptop. I can traceroute or use the command-line browser Lynx to bring the site up on my shell account. May be too geeky for some of you but I find the additional capabilities worth the money I pay.

Looking for a low-cost shell provider? Check out FreeShell.

Posted by tony at 11:24 AM | Comments (0)