email

Make Outlook Behave Like GMail

There are a couple sources of information out there on how to do this:

  • petroleumjelliffe.com describes how to "Make Outlook Work Like GMail" however it does not explain how to get sent messages to go into the inbox and not be marked as read (this is explained in the comments, however)
  • richardgoodwin.com explains how to "Sort your mail in Outlook" which makes it look a bit more like GMail except he sorts by date rather than by Conversation Index (which is better).

Here's how to do it all (at least for Outlook 2003), all documented for you here in one place:

The first thing you need to do is make messages you send get put in the Inbox. An additional thing you need to do is make them get marked as read (otherwise you'll always have tons of un-read messages from yourself in your inbox).[img_assist|nid=277|title=Outlook Gmail Rules and Filters|desc=This is what my "Rules and Alerts" look after after adding a "CC send messages to inbox" rule and a "Mark messages from self as read" rule.|link=none|align=center|width=435|height=335]

The next thing you need to do is make your e-mails show up in something that somewhat resembles GMails conversations. I set "Group By..." to "Conversation (ascending) and "Sort..." to Conversation (index).[img_assist|nid=278|title=Outlook Gmail Customized View Options|desc=This is what my customized view options look like after grouping by conversation and sorting by conversation index.|link=none|align=center|width=477|height=326]

Now your inbox should look a lot nicer now and finally, click on the column "Newest on top" to have them sorted by date properly and your Inbox should look as shown in the image.[img_assist|nid=279|title=Outlook Gmail Final Result|desc=This is what my inbox looks like|link=none|align=center|width=496|height=599]

ssmtp vs. postfix: no contest

Why ssmtp should be removed from gentoo:

  • ssmtp is no longer maintained upstream
  • Even its successor, bssmtp has been abandoned. The writer of bssmtp and maintainer of ssmtp said himself "I have now switched back to using Postfix on my laptop."

According to this page by the maintainer, the two advantages of ssmtp are:

  • it is light (doesn't matter if it's crap)
  • it is easy to configure (it appears that way at first, but it isn't necessarily so, if you check out the gentoo forums)

He continues by saying that it has loads of problems:

  • it doesn't fail in a nice way (this is huge, I was running into problem with ssmtp not obeying the rules in /etc/ssmtp/revaliases; the output in syslog looked the same as a succesful send, but the mail wasn't sent successfully and there is no debugging output or logging whatsoever. Compare that to postfix's excellent logging.)
  • it doesn't do local delivery
  • it doesn't queue messages.
  • there is no nice support for several network environments.

Let me recount my recent experiences. I wanted a simple outgoing mail server. Something that I would allow me to run the following:

echo test |mail -s "test mail sent to external" <a href="mailto:me@gmail.com">me@gmail.com</a>
echo test |mail -s "test mail sent to david" david
echo test |mail -s "test mail sent to root" root

and have all 3 message sent to <a href="mailto:me@gmail.com">me@gmail.com</a>. With ssmtp I never got this working after many, many hours of trying. In the end, the last two commands never worked, /etc/ssmtp/revaliases was not working for some reason. Maybe I goofed, but so what. Getting postfix to work was so damn easy. All I had to do with postfix was change relayhost in /etc/postfix/main.cf like so:

relayhost = smtp.vc.shawcable.net

and add a .forward files in the home directory of the root and david users, like so:

echo "<a href="mailto:me@gmail.com">me@gmail.com</a>" > /root/.forward
echo "<a href="mailto:me@gmail.com">me@gmail.com</a>" > /home/david/.forward

then,

/etc/init.d/postfix start
rc-update add postfix default

Presto! It all works! I am sure that there is an easy way to make local mail to all other users on my system get forwarded to gmail as well. Additionally, if I wanted to use gmail's smtp servers instead of shaw's I'm sure that would also be easy.

Let's look at smtp's setup for a bit.

In ssmtp.conf there is a "root=" options. There you can set "who gets all mail for userids less than 1000." The "mailhub=" option is simple enough and it like the relayhost option in postfix. The "hostname=" is the strangest option. You would think that it should be set to the hostname. According to many ssmtp howtos out there, it should be set to an email address. In this case I set it to my email address at shaw (which I don't use), again, according to many howtos. Then there is the revaliases file. In here you can re-route mail to local accounts to to external email addresses. Too bad it doesn't work. Although it does work for some users apparently. The main thing I didn't like about ssmtp config files were the lack of documentation in them compared to postfix's. I definitely will never be returning to ssmtp now that everything works with postfix (and only took 2 minutes to set up).

Sorry, Mars is Not Close to Earth This Year (and how to not forward hoaxes)

I just received the third email this year from a friend about how Mars will be closer to Earth than it will be in the next 60,000 years. It probably ranks as the most forwarded hoax that I have ever received. I knew something was up the first time I received this hoax in my inbox because I distinctly remember waiting in line at English Bay in August 2003 to see Mars through a volunteer's telescope. It turns out that Mars is actually behind the Sun this year and not visible at all. For all those people who like to forward emails, here are some tips:

  • Consider all forwarded email to be a hoax until proven otherwise
  • If you send an email that turns out to be a hoax, you will look like a jackass
  • The more people you send an email to that turns out to be a hoax (and the more people those people send it to), the more you will look like a jackass
  • Don't forward an email unless you have investigated it yourself. In the case of forwarded emails, shooting the messenger is perfectly acceptable.
  • Before forwarding any emails, search for it on Google. It might be a hoax. Try different keywords if the first keywords you tried didn't turn up any interesting results
  • If Google didn't turn up anything useful try snopes.com
  • When you receive forwarded emails from other people, research them, and if you discover that the content of the email is a hoax send your proof to all the recipients. You may look like a jackass, but the person who forwarded you the hoax originally will hopefully look like a bigger jackass and will refrain from forwarding hoaxes in the future.
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