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Email woes

Email is such a fragile thing. It's nerve-wracking setting up an email server properly. If you set it up wrong, emails disappear into a black hole and it's sometimes not readily obvious that there's even a problem, especially if the emails don't even bounce. Same goes with setting up a procmail filter, for example.

One of my old CS professors said there are three kinds of programming bugs:

  1. Bugs that break things in obvious and catastrophic ways, causing a complete crash of the program.
  2. Bugs that break things without causing a full crash; the program keeps running. But you know about it.
  3. Bugs that break things without causing a full crash; the program keeps running. And you don't know about it.

In that order, they increase from bad to worse. By far the worst is when things look like they work, but they don't. You can't even begin to fix a problem until you know a problem exists. (Programs' sweet debug-info-filled death-cries are programmers' best friends.)

Emails vanishing without being delivered or bounced is the third kind of bug, i.e. really really bad. My host's email system is very hard to work with and leads to many of this kind of bug; mysterious vanishing emails. All I want is all emails to both of my parked domain names to go to a single address at a single one of my domains. I'm pretty sure I got it right this time, but I always think that and then two weeks later someone calls me and says "Hey, how come you never responded to my email?" and it turns out the server ate it for dinner. But I will admit, it's very likely my troubles are PEBKAC-related.

If I get this set up, I'm going to stop using Gmail once and for all. I'm tired of 1) being advertised at while I read emails, 2) the Gmail servers being either down, non-responsive, or dead-set on not giving me my emails, 3) having stupid extra options to wade through like Google Talk and Google Calendars and "Invite your friends to use Gmail! We need more ad-reading monkeys!". And consarnit, I miss real folders. Labels don't do it for me.

Email providers are really in a good position. Once you start using an email address, it's REALLY hard to stop using it. So once people are hooked into using your service, you have them in your claws and you can start milking them for all they're worth. Imagine how many people, organizations, mailing lists etc. out there have your current email address and how long it would take to get them all to switch over. The only good thing is if you can forward from your old address to your new, and slowly do the transition that way.

September 17, 2006 @ 3:19 PM PDT
Cateogory: Rants