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Webmail continued

I've blabbered on quite a bit about finding a good webmail client since I ditched Gmail. I am enjoying being free of ads and knowing my email is not being stored / used / read by some corporation. Well, except potentially by the company that hosts my website. And by my ISP. And maybe by the government. But other than that I'm good.

I think I've finally settled on Horde Imp. I guess this is one of the (few) times I've decided to go with "tested and stable" rather than "new and shiny". It's often so rare to even have the option of "tested and stable" in the Open Source world, I may as well take advantage. Given that I almost missed a job offer due to an email ending up in the wrong place, I think email is a good candidate for sticking with something that works.

A perhaps valid question that comes to mind is why do I even need webmail? There are other options. In the days of my Linux youth, I used fetchmail and procmail on my local machine to auto-fetch my mail every 5 minutes, and store it all locally using courier-imap to access it. There are some advantages to that: I could auto-sort the mail into local IMAP folders. I could fetch from multiple remote email accounts. I could open my mail locally without having to download anything; it was all already download.

However there are also distinct disadvantages. Namely, that my computer is a desktop machine. I'm pretty good about making backups, but even I forget sometimes. On the other hand a remote host likely has someone paid full-time to do backups on a regular basis, and there is likely a huge incentive to actually do it consistently (i.e. if they fail, they will lose customers). Also, given that all sorting is done only once it hits my local machine, accessing mail MUST be done through that local machine. So if I want to view my mail remotely, I have to remotely access my home machine. This is a problem because, again, my local machine is a desktop computer. I don't have a backup power supply. I have a cat who likes to head-butt my power button. So there are times when I'll be stuck somewhere without access to my email. Again, uptime is something I think my website host is better at than I am.

Both of these issues can be semi-solved by leaving a copy of all mail on the remote hosts, and only fetching a copy to my local machine; then I can fall back to using the remote hosts in case my home machine is ever down. However this is a hack at best. Accessing a server full of 5,000 unread unsorted emails isn't my idea of fun. Far better to use the remote host directly all the time. Then I don't have to worry about backups (as much) and access is exactly the same from home or from work or from anywhere else.

Another option is to use a desktop-installed email client program. The only problem with that is that I'd have to install a client it everywhere I go. I am away from home far more often than I am at home, nowadays. Home is where I sleep while I'm waiting to go back to work. Given this, webmail is about the only option I see open to me. A lot of computing tasks really becoming more distributed nowadays, aren't they? I couldn't manage if home was the only place from which I could access my email. Interesting.

October 06, 2006 @ 4:23 AM PDT
Cateogory: Linux
Tags: Google, Email

1 Comment

Slobodan D Sredojevic
Quoth Slobodan D Sredojevic on October 07, 2006 @ 9:30 AM PDT

Hi

I am very sure that visually there is nothing better at the moment than hula webmail: http://hula-project.org/Hula_Project On the other hand it is alpha quality still, used it for almost a year on production server and had to /etc/init.d/hula restart every two-three months but my users were satisfied by its look and simplicity. Better that gmail because of reasons you already mentioned...