I've been thinking about how I read and reply to mail. I have a number of
`issues' with my current setup and I'm trying to come up with a better one.
I figure some folk on this list have already encountered the problems I
have and envisage and can suggest solutions. This is a fairly long message.
Currently I read all my mail over an ssh link, running mutt on the machines
where my mail folders live. My mail accumulates and lives on well backed-up
but possibly hostile machines. I don't have to have my laptop with me to
read mail - all I need is an adequate connection, an ssh client (easily
downloaded) and a (relatively) trusted machine. I don't have to worry about
`which smtp relay to use today'.
Unfortunately, this setup means that I can't read mail offline: I can't
read (and reply to!) mail on trains, planes, cars etc; reading mail through
somebody else's pc can be inconvenient (for me and for them); I can't bring
myself to use pgp since I don't want my private key to live on a possibly
hostile machine, nor do I wish to send a passphrase to such a machine (*).
So far I've been very happy with this setup. I have decent connectivity
wherever I read mail (home, various `work's etc), I haven't gone many places
and when I have, I've usually been on holiday and therefore, um, not terribly
fussed about reading and responding to mail in a timely fashion.
Now, though, I'm starting to have more of a need for mail access while `on
the move' and I'm wondering if you kind folk can help me frame my problem
and point me in the direction of a solution. :-)
I'd like to keep all the advantages of my current setup: access without
laptop, inconveniently if necessary; many folders and machines; mutt.
I'd also like all the advantages of an offline setup: pgp signing outgoing
mail with some semblance of security; ability to read and reply to mail
without a connection; ability to connect, send/receive and disconnect as
quickly as possible (**)
I envisage a setup where I connect, run a command which receives new
mail, send outgoing mail and then disconnect. I have these requirements
o If new mail arrives in a remote folder, I want it to also turn up in
the corresponding local folder when I next sync. So far, this is like
o I don't want mail to disappear from remote folders just because I've
downloaded it. This is a bit like pop with `keep messages on server';
o I have *lots* of folders and more than one remote machine. This is
a bit like imap, I guess;
o If, while offline, I delete a message from a local folder, I want
that message to be deleted from its master when I next connect.
Contrariwise, unless I delete the message locally, I don't want it
deleted from the master. (I want my `inboxes' to survive the loss,
permanent or temporary, of my laptop). AIUI, this is what outlook
does. I don't want to use outlook;
o If I ssh into a remote machine and delete messages, I want those
deletions propogated to my local folders when next I sync. (Picture
me forgetting my laptop, ssh-ing into the master, reading and deleting
mail, and then finding my laptop again.) I wouldn't mind having to
sync with a slightly different syntax (analogous to rsync's --delete
flag, I guess) in this case.
o I'd like to be able to insert new mail into a local folder while
offline and have it appear in the corresponding remote folder. This
is slightly tricky and I could probably do without it. But it would
o Mail is very important to me. Losing messages would be a Bad Thing.
Losing messages silently would be Very Bad. Having other people learn
of my mail-incompetence would be Very Bad Indeed. :-) Even one mail
fubar would leave ripples for months. This means fragile mechanisms
with race conditions are bad. Simple, reliable and cheap are good.
o I'm not all that worried about my mail archives - keeping backups of
them is a different problem, having multiple archives is a different
OK, thanks for reading this far. Your thoughts on how best to setup what
will almost be a multi-master, disconnected database are invited, welcome
I will summarise.
(*) Perversely, I justify my use of possibly hostile machines to send
unsigned mail because it is plausibly deniable...
(**) I'm thinking mobile phones here - I have a quite irrational hatred
of dialup connections, especially expensive dialup connections.
(Connections should be either `working' or `broken'. They shouldn't
have a third state, `neither working nor broken'... :-)
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