My dad has sold his house in California and is preparing to move out to Colorado. Since he will be losing his current ISP, as preparation I wanted to switch his email from @adelphia.net to something more portable. So I setup both @gmail.com and @bannister.us email accounts, and configured his machines to fetch and send email from anywhere - specifically - via POP access to the @gmail.com account, and IMAP access to the @bannister.us account. On the sending side I configured SMTP for both @gmail.com and @bannister.us servers.

This all took a chunk of time to setup and test on both laptop and desktop, but once done email sent or received could be seen on either machine.

BTW - I setup both simply to give him a chance to decide later - moving offers too many decisions as it is :).

The next day he called me up to say he could not send email. The SMTP server at bannister.us was rejecting attempts to send email, saying that Spamcop had the laptop’s IP address on a blacklist. After a bit of digging I found that the machine’s current IP address had been used to send spam around midnight on the previous day. Now I was reasonably sure the spam did not come from my dad’s machine, as I had scanned the machine prior (it was clean aside from one minor bit of spyware), and was using the machine at the time.

We switched the default SMTP server to gmail.com (preconfigured), and he was again able to send email.

As it turns out, his laptop uses Verizon Wireless for it’s Internet connection. Naturally Verizon uses DHCP. I expect that when he switched on his machine in the morning, the DHCP lease had expired, and he ended up with the spamming machine’s IP from the night before.

My dad’s comment was had he wished he understood more about how all this worked. The remarkable aspect of this is that my dad qualifies as a hard-core techie - if you have owned more than one modem or cellphone, there is a good chance the chips inside have a bit of his work. His domain is in hardware, not software.

You can draw a number of conclusions from the above - one being that Verizon should probably modify their DHCP lease policies slightly. What I get from this is another example of why web applications (in this case email) should win out over desktop applications. It took a chunk of time to get two machines setup properly (easy for me to do - but still a chunk of time). There is really no good reason to ask my dad to spend time understanding the POP/SMTP/IMAP workings. When it broke, the resolution and understanding the cause took another chunk of time.

Put differently - would you rather ask my dad to read up on the guts of email, or would you rather see new cellphones come out a bit faster?

Web applications win…