Banazîr the Jedi Hobbit (banazir) wrote,
Banazîr the Jedi Hobbit
banazir

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Project Angainor: The GMail Scheme of Ultimate Destiny

POP from GMail vs. IMAP from K-State CNS

If you follow my posts about computer problems, you know that the reason I've continued to use Hotmail is that it downloads messages (via HTTP) to multiple computers running a client (Outlook Express or Windows Live Mail Desktop Beta). This is something one can do with Internet Message Access Protocol v4 (IMAP4), which Kansas State University's Computing and Network Services (KSU CNS) uses, but not with Post Office Protocol v3 (POP3), which GMail and Yahoo both use. With POP, once some client has downloaded a message, it is flagged as "retrieved" and other mail readers cannot download it again. With IMAP, you can set your client to download headers only, and you can have several clients running without too much contention for the Inbox file on your mail server.

E-mail requirements and constraints

This seemed to present a problem for me: I get about 20000-30000 messages per year, amounting to 1Gb of mail with automatic spam filtering or 600Mb with additional spam filtering by hand. This is likely to grow to 1-2Gb a year as attachments keep bloating. Meanwhile, full text searching (which K-State's Webmail does, but which I generally don't need) is getting slower and slower. What I would like instead is very fast header search (100000 messages in no more than 60 seconds). More important, I need to have direct access to those 20K messages a year on each system (it's a gigabyte a year, but I have 200-300Gb drives now in my desktop PCs and 100Gb ones in my notebooks). I shuttle back and forth between my campus and home offices during the week, and rotate among several home systems at different times of day. Thus far, it's been "IMAP or bust".

On top of this are my WinXP and application stability issues, and the fact that I was spread out over three applications: Mozilla Thunderbird, Microsoft Outlook Express (or Live Mail Desktop Beta), and web interfaces to GMail, usually accessed from Mozilla Firefox. I previously ran Microsoft Outlook Express (MSOE) versions 5-6 and Microsoft Outlook 2003 to access my Hotmail accounts (hsuwh and rizanabsith), but there were problems. First, MSOE was slow on sending mail and did not do TLS authentication, which KSU CNS requires for its outgoing Simple Mail Transfer Protocol (SMTP) server, auth.smtp.ksu.edu. Second, Outlook was slow in retrieving mail and did not do header search as quickly as MSOE; also, I sometimes encountered a bug in Outlook XP where the ability to search message headers would spontaneously go away forever (or until Outlook XP was reinstalled and reactivated). Moving my dozens of mailing list subscriptions would have been a very severe nuisance in and of itself, but moving my several hundred product registrations (all done using hsuwh@hotmail.com) would have been completely infeasible. As for application integration: you may know that I run two browsers (Mozilla Firefox, currently v1.5.0.6, and Mozilla Navigator, currently v1.7.12 and 1.7.13) in order to keep two "remember me" login spaces and cookiespaces without logging out. Add to that MSOE and Thunderbird at the same time, and you have a severe tax on GDI resources: I have 2Gb on Hirilonde and usually get over the halfway mark on commit charge, and my other systems all have 1Gb or less (512Mb on Tulkas, 768Mb on Telperion). This has also tended to put the last nail in my instability coffin, causing Firefox to crash 1-5 times a day on Hirilonde, taking WinXP Pro with it in a Blue Screen of Death (BSOD) every few (3-10) crashes.

So, to summarize: I needed to fetch mail from two GMail and two Live Mail (formerly Hotmail) accounts to each of six systems, without resorting to a big IMAP kludge, and I needed to do it all from Thunderbird so my PCs won't get (more) overloaded and unstable.

Enter Project Angainor.

Project Angainor: the Chain of GMail

The facts:

  • GMail has POP and forwarding.

  • One option in forwarding is to leave a copy of the message on the original account.

  • One option in POP service is to delete the copy of the message from the account from which it was downloaded.

  • GMail's spam filtering is excellent (high in both precision and recall), even now that spammers are trying.

  • Google generously provides users with several invitations, even on "younger generation" accounts.

  • I need to fetch mail from banazir@gmail.com, my spam-free work GMail account, hsuwh@hotmail.com, rizanabsith@hotmail.com, and possibly later hsuwh@yahoo.com and rizanabsith@yahoo.com.

  • I need to see all messages from the above accounts from one mail client (Thunderbird) running on each of six systems: Hirilonde, Laurelin, Osse (my office system), Numerramar, Telperion, and Tulkas.

  • I don't need to keep the fetched copies around forever as long as there is one folder that holds everything.


The scheme:

  • 1. I sent myself five GMail invitations.

  • 2. I created BanaLaurelin, BanaNumerramar, BanaOsse, BanaTelperion, and BanaTulkas.

  • 3. I went to Settings -> Forwarding and POP in each GMail and forwarded banazir and the spam-free account to BanaLaurelin, BanaLaurelin to BanaNumerramar, BanaNumerramar to BanaOsse, BanaOsse to BanaTelperion, and BanaTelperion to BanaTulkas.

  • 4. I marked banazir and the spam-free account "keep copy in Inbox" and set Hirilonde to fetch from them.

  • 5. I enabled POP for all messages and checked "when accessed from POP, delete from GMail" on Laurelin, Numerramar, Osse, Telperion, and Tulkas.


Voila, instant IMAP-like functionality. Each system fetches from its "tap" (Hirilonde from banazir and the spam-free account, Laurelin from BanaLaurelin, etc.). Each one sends out from the SMTP associated with its tap but has replies directed to banazir@gmail.com. The spam-free account remains inviolate.



There's one thing left to do: I still need to forward Live Mail and Yahoo Mail to GMail receiverships (or folders on the spam-free account).

It's not such an elegant hack, IMO, because it's tremendously wasteful of bandwidth, but it works, and it does something I've tried for almost two years to do, without success.

What do you think?

--
Banazir
Tags: computer tricks, gmail, project angainor
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