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Category Archives: email

I don’t understand why for the most part I need to open my mail program to see how many new emails I have. Mail notification programs like UNIX biff have been around since ~1980 (4.0BSD according to the man page) and yet things don’t seem to have progressed much since xbiff.

Unfortunately, biff and xbiff only work with local mail spools making them totally useless if your mail lives on a server somewhere (like pretty much everyone’s does). There are some single purpose things like gmail notifier or something like that but if you don’t use that mail service (or use more than one service), guess what, it is useless.

There was a program called MacBiff that was very nice. It would stay in the menu bar on top (making it totally friendly towards people who can’t live without multiple workspaces) and check IMAP accounts. But it hasn’t been updated in years and refuses to talk to my NASA work account (which talks IMAP just fine).

For the GNOME desktop there is gnubiff which claims to do everything I want, but just doesn’t work (and the code did not look worth messing with).

I can almost accept that I can’t get a single solution for Mac and Linux. Almost. But I have a lot of trouble accepting that there are no programs that can do this right at all. I know mail programs like Thunderbird and can probably do it but I already have a mail client (alpine) that I am very happy with.

I’m almost starting to think that it is time for me to just suck it up and write something myself.

I meant to post something about my thesis defense on last Thursday (May 15th). I’ve got some pictures from it up. I realize everyone else posts pictures to Picasa or Facebook or something like that, but I’m going to be stubborn and stick with my own thing.

I’ve still got some revisions to do, but other than that, I am all finished with school (after roughly a quarter of a century in school). I guess I don’t 100% count as a Dr. until after those are in, but I’ll get the revisions done early next week. The past two days I’ve been too busy catching up with things on the TiVo and playing Smash Bros. on the Wii.

When the revisions are done and I figure out how to attach the cover page without breaking the rest of the pdf, I’ll put a link to my dissertation up. Mostly because the cover is pretty since I know that with my committee it probably already saw all the readers it ever will.

It seems like all I’m doing today is deleting email. I’ve received hundreds (around 100 an hour) of bounced, rejected, or similar emails. Looks like an email address at one of my domains is being used as the From address in some spam. I understand when mail servers send replies for “no such address”, but it just seems unnecessary to bounce things that are flagged as spam. Everyone knows spammers use forged addresses. So these bounces don’t hurt them. It just makes the problem worse. So I can’t imagine why people do it.

The worst part is since these are mostly legit error messages from servers (most of which are phrased in the first person which I didn’t think was okay for computers to use) I can’t feed them to spamassassin so it can take care of them for me. I guess I could add a rule to flag anything going to the specific address as spam since I don’t use it. If the problem doesn’t go away soon, I think I’ll do that.

Since Kayhan asked, I finally got around to finishing up my script to backup the mail in a gmail account to a local files.

The only requirement this has (besides python and a gmail account of course) is libgmail.

This is in keeping with the theme from my blogger backup that no matter how much I like or trust a company, the only backups I really trust are my own.

First a disclaimer, then a few notes about the script. I cannot stress enough that I take no responsibility for how Google will take you using this to access your account. It waits 10 seconds between each folder for safety, although that can be changes. That being said, I used this a ton of times on my email account while testing today and haven’t noticed any problems. And I know other people do much worse with their accounts. But still, use some common sense and be careful (although I’m not sure what that means in this case).

Now, on to more interesting stuff. This script downloads each label (including inbox, spam, starred, and all) and saves each one as a separate mbox file. Although the ‘all’ label is redundant for the most part, it is necessary to catch any unlabelled mail. The mbox files should be readable by most mail programs, but the have only been tested with pine, mutt, and BSD mail (the standard mail command). These actually seem a bit pickier than the documentation on mbox seemed to imply. Currently, all mail is listed as new, but I hope to fix that in the next release. Incremental backups are not possible at the moment, but I think if I play around with the message ids that may be possible.

Unlike some other things I’ve done, I do actually plan on updating this in the near future. libgmail can access gmail contacts too, so I may even decide to grab that info as well.

For the first time in months at least, I have no emails in my INBOX that are more than a month old. In fact, the oldest unanswered or un-dealt-with email is less than three weeks old. I still haven’t managed to completely empty my INBOX (a dream I’ve had for years), but this is just about the closest I’ve been in just about forever with only three emails in there, and none of them super old.

Now if only I can figure out how to keep it up.