Email freedom

Mike Langberg is a columnist for the San Jose Mercury News. He has a pretty good article in today’s edition that recommends some ways for you to from having to send change of address messages to your friends when you change ISPs. It’s pretty simple, actually — it all comes down to separating your email address from your ISP. He recommends a couple of services. Listed from cheapest to most expensive, they are Mailblocks, OddPost and eOutlook.

I got a Mailblocks account last year when they launched and it’s pretty good. OddPost is interesting, too, but the one that really catches my attention is eOutlook. This is Outlook on the web. And on top of that familiar interface, they also back up your email.

For my part, I also like and Mailshell. My home email account, though, is with a UNIX shell access provider that I’ve been with for probably 10 years. I just can’t seem to break myself away from UNIX as my base system — it gives me a lot of flexibility that you just can’t get (yet) any other way. Having my email on the UNIX account in combination with storing important and related files there gives me access many of the things I need regardless of whether I’m at home or on the road. And having it all on the same server means that I’m not restricted when I’m on a dial-up connection. I can log in to the shell account with a terminal client, do my email, save attachments locally to the UNIX system, edit files and forward them off to others without having to wait for them to download or upload. And when I’m on a speedy connection I can get to everything (including my files) with IMAP or, heck, even run X11 clients on the UNIX system against my laptop — the choice is mine.

Some email providers, like Fastmail, have a file storage option but if you use IMAP you’ve got the same capability (assuming your client and your provider implement the the proper IMAP functions) — just create some new IMAP folders on your provider and drag your files there. What they don’t provide are the rest of the UNIX functionality. Like what? Well, sometimes I’ll come across a site that I just can get to from my laptop. I can traceroute or use the command-line browser Lynx to bring the site up on my shell account. May be too geeky for some of you but I find the additional capabilities worth the money I pay.

Looking for a low-cost shell provider? Check out FreeShell.

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