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Managing Mail Between a Desktop and a Laptop?

Cliff posted more than 7 years ago | from the having-more-than-one-inbox-is-a-pain dept.

Communications 134

dotancohen asks: "I'll soon be getting a new Dell laptop that'll be running Fedora Core 5 or 6. I need to access the email stored on my home box from the laptop, and also to read new email sent to me while I'm not home (and the home box is shut down). If I run an IMAP server at home, then I can't read the mail when the home box is down. However, if I pull from the POP3 server (and leave the mail on the server) then I won't be able to sort and file the mail while on the go. I currently use Kmail, but I might switch to Eudora in April/March when it becomes available for Linux. Is there anyway to sync the mail accounts between two Linux boxen, assuming that I'm using the same mail client?"

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Try unison (5, Interesting)

davecb (6526) | more than 7 years ago | (#17409374)

I use a laptop most of the time, with a larger machine at home serving as a fileserver and fallback. To keep my mail and projects directories in sync I use unison, reviewed here []


Re:Try unison (1)

metamatic (202216) | more than 7 years ago | (#17409514)

Of course, Unison (or rsync) will only synchronize mail reliably if you use Maildir format. But then again, only an idiot would use mbox format on the server side anyway.

Re:Try unison (1)

rodo (133624) | more than 7 years ago | (#17412334)

I second the unison / Maildir solution, I use that since years to sync my mail between my server and laptop. Most of the time I use the laptop to read mail, but occasionally I ssh to the server and read my mail there directly. unison does a two way sync so this allows me to do modifications like moving mails into different folders on the laptop when it is offline, and at the same time modify other mails on the server, and when the laptop goes online again it will sync automatically. Wonderful.

Also it turned out to be helpful to include the .alias, .muttrc, .signature files etc. in the sync to keep all mail related settings the same on the synced machines.

GMail...? (4, Informative)

jdray (645332) | more than 7 years ago | (#17410580)

I use GMail. About any web-based mail should suffice. I suspect that some of the other web mail services have advanced capabilities for sorting and such. Google offers GMail for domains so you can use your own domain name, and you can access it through a POP3 interface. Just a thought...

Re:GMail...? (5, Insightful)

cayenne8 (626475) | more than 7 years ago | (#17410926)

I think the simpler question would be:"Why the hell do you insist on turning your email SERVER off?"

I definition by today's standards a server is on 24/7. Just leave your IMAP server on, have it receive all your email, and you can then connect from any computer you'd like, and get your email...

Another option....install something like squirrelmail....and then your email server at home has a webmail interface to it...and you don't have to worry about a 3rd party keeping/reading/indexing your emails that it is storing for you.

But, really..this is easy..leave your email server ON.

Re:GMail...? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17411392)

Tell that to my school who has a sever "available 7 days a week from 7am until 11pm(Eastern Time)."

Re:GMail...? (1)

darkonc (47285) | more than 7 years ago | (#17413334)

Well, unless it's a Windows box (in which case, it probably just crashes nightly :-), who'd be the stupid idiot who insists on turning the mail server off every night at 11PM? It's been a long, long time since any machine/OS that could be considered server quality needed nightly maintenance.

Somebody in your school's IT group needs a cluebat.

Re:GMail...? (1)

Kadin2048 (468275) | more than 7 years ago | (#17412396)

Exactly; the OP seems to be doing whatever he can to make the situation more complicated than it needs to be.

The simplest solution would probably be just to use a webmail service on both machines, perhaps in concert with a POP interface to back up the messages from time to time, so that he wouldn't be totally at the mercy of the webmail provider for archiving and storage. Alternately, a mail provider that offers IMAP access directly to its servers could be selected -- it's not like these are really that hard to find these days. (It probably won't be free, but not outlandishly expensive.)

If for some reason that just can't happen, then the next thing would be to run an email server at home, and access it via IMAP from the road. Prior to the introduction of Gmail and its kin, I would have said this was probably the best method for someone who needed to routinely get their email from more than one machine, but now I think it's somewhat unnecessary. If this is the chosen route, the machine doesn't need to be very much -- an old Celeron (heck, and old 486) would do the trick, provided it and its networking equipment was connected to a UPS. But, recent outages nonwithstanding, I think most people will probably not be able to achieve the same level of uptime using a home server than a commercial service (like Gmail) offers, and running your own server can be a lot of work to do it right.

The third, and least attractive solution, is to have both machines querying the ISP's mailserver via POP, and then trying to keep them in sync. This just seems like it's asking for trouble. It's probably possible to do, if the client software is the same on both machines, using rsync, but I just don't think anyone would want to. It just seems to be the most complicated way possible to solve the problem.

Re:GMail...? (1)

magixman (883752) | more than 7 years ago | (#17411856)

I now direct everything through GMail, forward a copy to a Linux mailbox and pop it periodically to my desktop in case Google gets hit by a bus. This is a simple solution that let's me access mail from anywhere. Even on a GPRS cell phone connected to my laptop while chilling under a palm tree, the whole thing works smoothly and quickly. I don't like complicated solutions when it comes to email as this is the one thing that is absolutely critical to me. The only real hard part is getting your old mail up to GMail so you can search on it. There are some solutions available but they are far from perfect.

The answer! (4, Funny)

robably (1044462) | more than 7 years ago | (#17409376)

I was going to tell you how, but then you said "boxen".

Re:The answer! (3, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17410018)

My cluster of VAXen boxen agree with you that this weird pluralizaxen is getting ridiculouxen.


Re:The answer! (1) (645325) | more than 7 years ago | (#17410934)


Re:The answer! (1)

bazorg (911295) | more than 7 years ago | (#17410986)

1 ox, 2 oxen
1 box, 2 boxes?

(these are honest questions, english is a foreign language to me)

Re:The answer! (1, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17411036)

You are correct. 1 ox, two oxen; 1 box, 2 boxes. This is the proper english grammar for the plural of both words.

"Boxen" is a slang term for multiple computers. It isn't proper english, but it is readily understood by most geeks. It's a joke of sorts; an individual computer is known in slang as "a box", and oxen pull a cart, while multiple computers perform processing tasks. Sound-alike jokes like this are common in anime, which many programmers tend to enjoy.

Anyway, that's what's going on. Usually the only people using this slang are Linux guys and old VMS enthusiasts.

Happy New Year!

Re:The answer! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17411274)

Anyway, that's what's going on. Usually the only people using this slang are Linux guys and old VMS enthusiasts.

Hey! I resent that... old VMS enthusiasts indeed! I run OpenBSD on my VAXen, oops, VAX


Re:The answer! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17411738)

"Boxen" is also the plural of "box" in german

Re:The answer! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17412314)

> "Boxen" is also the plural of "box" in german

Except that in German, "Box" is a loan-word from English. The common German word for "box" is Kasten.

Re:The answer! (1)

endersshadow7 (972296) | more than 7 years ago | (#17411828)

Brian Regan also does the joke about being the dumb kid in school. []

Moosen! I saw a flock of moosen in the woods! In the woodsen! In the woodsenes!

Thanks... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17411210)

... seriously. Being taken seriously (as a technology type) is sufficiently hard without this type of dorkiness.

Re:The answer! (1)

BobPaul (710574) | more than 7 years ago | (#17413382)

Many languages (German for sure) use "en" as a common plural ending. I have a feeling english isn't the native tongue. Or that's just a hell of a typo.

I use keep two copies (3, Interesting)

astrashe (7452) | more than 7 years ago | (#17409412)

I keep two copies of my mail. One goes into a pop account, and gets pulled into my main machine, and the other goes to gmail. But you could send one to an IMAP account, one to a POP account, etc.

My SMTP mail server is running on a VPS. I send incoming mail to an account on that machine, and use a .forward file to send it to a pop account provided by my cable modem company, and to my gmail account. I've configured the gmail account to send mail from my vanity domain.

It's not a perfect solution -- if I send an email from gmail, it doesn't show up in the sent folder on my main machine. But it's very easy to set up, and I can get at gmail from anywhere.

I think it would be better to use an IMAP server, to roll my own webmail solution that talks to the IMAP server, and to make it possible for the laptop to talk to the IMAP server. But the amount of work that would take deters me. My solution was easy to set up, even if its flawed.

Re:I use keep two copies (1)

scenestar (828656) | more than 7 years ago | (#17409566)

Definately, I too have a remote server to keep track of mail between my boxes.

I got a 30 bucks a month DDS with 80 gigs of space. Combined with IMAP and SMTP i can keep all my mail synced with the various, laptops/desktops/smartphones that i have.

also, if you are an avid IM/IRC user you can use it as a bouncer. check out this Killer setup i used as an example for mine. []

Re:I use keep two copies (1)

philml (589423) | more than 7 years ago | (#17412808)

I keep two copies of my mail. One goes into a pop account, and gets pulled into my main machine, and the other goes to gmail ... It's not a perfect solution -- if I send an email from gmail, it doesn't show up in the sent folder on my main machine. Hi, I have pretty much the same set up. I solve the last problem by having an email address that gets routed into my sent folder. I can then bcc manually in Gmail, or even better use a GreaseMonkey script (on to automatically bcc all Gmail emails from computers where I can set this up.

Just get an IMAP account on a server (2, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17409424)

You can even use something AOL's AIM Mail which allows you to access it via IMAP. Forward your mail there, but otherwise don't use the address.

Re:Just get an IMAP account on a server (1)

Daedone (981031) | more than 7 years ago | (#17412830)

Dont you ever say that evil word again....

Disconnected IMAP... (5, Informative)

Mendy (468439) | more than 7 years ago | (#17409426) probably what you want - and KMail appears to support it.

Alternatively Thunderbird certainly supports cache'ing a copy of messages for working offline but I'm not sure if it supports the kind of resyncing that you're looking for.

Re:Disconnected IMAP... (1, Troll)

metamatic (202216) | more than 7 years ago | (#17409490)

Yup. Use IMAP, that's exactly what it's for.

Jeez, this is the dumbest "Ask Slashdot" in ages. What next?

"I need a way to send someone a message instantly, rather than having it go into their e-mail inbox, is there some tool that will do it?"

"I need to compare two source code files, is there a program that will highlight the differences?"

Re:Disconnected IMAP... (1)

Evanisincontrol (830057) | more than 7 years ago | (#17409764)

"I need to let out pent up aggression from being yelled at by my boss, but I don't want anyone to know who I am and I don't want to be directly accountable for anything I say. Is there any kind of discussion forum I can ridicule people for their questions?"

Re:Disconnected IMAP... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17411460)

The sad part is that such a forum actually exists.... /b/ on

(If you're easily offended then stay far, far away ... that place is one of the worst sesspools on the internet)

Kind of a Dodge, But... (1)

bmac83 (869058) | more than 7 years ago | (#17409498)

It's probably not the coolest or most direct solution, but my whole family is enjoying a vanity domain from Domain Direct, which allows for adding IMAP-capable mailboxes to the hosting account for $0.75/month. They are spam filtered by a pretty good little off-site service, as an added bonus.

I'm not particularly promoting their service over that of another company, but my experience with Domain Direct has been generally positive.

USB to the rescue! (5, Interesting)

maeka (518272) | more than 7 years ago | (#17409500)

Simply use any mail client you can run entirely off of a USB flash drive. There is no need to sync when you only have one client!

Re:USB to the rescue! (3, Insightful)

jones_supa (887896) | more than 7 years ago | (#17410256)

Or keep just the mail boxes on the flash drive in a format which both mail clients can understand.

Re:USB to the rescue! (1)

EWAdams (953502) | more than 7 years ago | (#17410496)

Yes, this is what I do too. I keep my Microsoft Outlook files [cue chorus of sneering, retching, etc. from the Linux fanboys] on a USB stick, and just yank it out of my desktop and take it along when I go someplace with my laptop. I discovered this after several unsatisfactory (and expensive) efforts to find software that would sync two Outlook files.

However, I know that Flash memory has a limited lifespan and I'm a little worried about how long I can count on it. I keep Outlook open all day every day, so it's probably hitting the Flash drive several hundred, or perhaps thousand, times a day. I back up the files on the USB stick to my hard drive once a day.

I'd switch to Thunderbird but I need my system to sync with my Pocket PC PDA, Plaxo, Cardscan, and my cell phone. So far Nokia doesn't offer a sync solution for Thunderbird.

Re:USB to the rescue! (1)

Jah-Wren Ryel (80510) | more than 7 years ago | (#17410784)

Flash is good for at least 100K writes per cell - the nice stuff is good for at least 1M writes per cell, and with write-leveling, which apparently all modern flash devices implement, writes are effectively round-robin distributed across the entire device. So you can do the math to figure out how long you've got. In a lot of cases, flash memory will last longer than an equivalent spinning disk would under the same conditions.

Re:USB to the rescue! (1)

SillyNickName4me (760022) | more than 7 years ago | (#17411378)

In a lot of cases, flash memory will last longer than an equivalent spinning disk would under the same conditions.

Mostly flash doesnt get damaged really from being under power but idle, disks do.

On the other side, put a page file on a flash device and see how quickly you can destroy it.. :)

Re:USB to the rescue! (1)

ezzzD55J (697465) | more than 7 years ago | (#17412142)

On the other side, put a page file on a flash device and see how quickly you can destroy it.. :)
Not very. On a device with currently-reasonable 100k writes per sector and in-device wear levelling, with say a 8GB device and a currently-at-the-high-end write bandwidth of 20MByte/s, that's 474 days of constant writing it can handle.

Re:USB to the rescue! (1)

SillyNickName4me (760022) | more than 7 years ago | (#17412442)

that's 474 days of constant writing it can handle.

which isn't anywhere near the approx 5 years a decent 'enterprice' disk lasts under very heavy load.

Not to mention that changing a few bytes in a sector still results in rewriting the entire sector (in both cases), so with the given bandwidth, you can end up with a lot more writes then you assume.

Re:USB to the rescue! (1)

Jah-Wren Ryel (80510) | more than 7 years ago | (#17413106)

which isn't anywhere near the approx 5 years a decent 'enterprice' disk lasts under very heavy load.

Make that 8GB into the same size as the 'enterprice' disk and you will find that it is better. Currently 146GB FC drives are very common, which is more than 18x 8GB, so 1.3 years * 18 is 23 years. Just to be fair, lets up the sustained write rate to 40MB/s which gets you to 11.5 years. Still way more than 5 years. Now, lets step up to the flash that gets 1M writes instead of 100K writes, now we are at 115 years. Is that good enough for yah?

Not to mention that changing a few bytes in a sector still results in rewriting the entire sector (in both cases), so with the given bandwidth, you can end up with a lot more writes then you assume.

That's wrong multiple in ways:

1) Your example was a page file - that means entire PAGES, not individual bytes.
2) Even if you are talking about regular file i/o - flash cell sizes are measured in BITS, so random byte-sized writes need only affect a handful of cells, not an entire sector's worth of data.

The only situation where your claim would apply to a flash disk is if it were in some sort of raid-5 type parity stripe. But, in that situation single byte writes require that the entire block be read first, in order to recalculate the parity. If you have to read 1000x more data than you write, you aren't going to come near anywhere near a 40MB/s sustained write bandwidth.

Re:USB to the rescue! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17412530)

Simply use any mail client you can run entirely off of a USB flash drive. There is no need to sync when you only have one client!

Perhaps I've been attached to the internet for 14 years too many, but are you seriously suggesting that he use sneakernet in 2006?

I've noticed Windows & Mac users using flash drives for everything, but I've never understood why. Is using the network that incovenient under those operating systems?

Pine + SSH (5, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17409522)

Pine + SSH, now you've got your mail synced anywhere on the planet.

Re:Pine + SSH (1)

RAMMS+EIN (578166) | more than 7 years ago | (#17409982)

Wow, I didn't know Pine magically stayed working when you turn off your computer! Time to switch from mutt...

Seriously, the solution you propose is a very nice one, but note that the submitter said he can't use IMAP running on his desktop machine, because it will be inaccessible when switched off. Pine + SSH suffers from the same problem.

Re:Pine + SSH (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17410244)

>Seriously, the solution you propose is a very nice one, but note that the submitter said he can't use IMAP running on his desktop machine, because it will be inaccessible when switched off. Pine + SSH suffers from the same problem.

ALL software suffers from the problem of "when the power is off, it doesn't work". If he wants a solution that stays synced, a computer has to be on all the time. It's not really an option. Otherwise, his mail will be out of sync.

If he doesn't yet have one, he will need to get a shell account that offers Pine, of course.

The other option being that he'd need some sort of other always on computer to keep everything stored on for any other solution. A setup like that is going to cost more than a simple shell account (you could probably get one of those free if you have any friends with always on linux boxes, some smaller ISPs will offer this for free with their internet package as well).

The best solution past that would only offer unsynchronized access where one device is always more up to date than the other one. Not very useful for something constantly changing like email, IMHO.

Re:Pine + SSH (1)

RAMMS+EIN (578166) | more than 7 years ago | (#17410318)

``ALL software suffers from the problem of "when the power is off, it doesn't work".''

That statement is a bit misleading. Sure, when there's no power, the software doesn't work, but it doesn't need to; the submitter asked about being able to synchronize between two computers, which doesn't require both, or even either, computers to be on all the time. It only requires both to be on at the time of synchronization.

Lots of ways (3, Insightful)

kosmosik (654958) | more than 7 years ago | (#17409546)

1. The proper.
Use IMAP server that is online. Like at your ISP if you can't provide aviability yourself.

2. Poor mans IMAP.
Use POP with few accounts and aliases. This also requires the server to be aviable.

Make one account name it - main@account.tld - make it forward all incoming email to other two (or N) accounts like: desktop@account.tld, laptop@account.tld... Make your desktop client use the desktop account and laptop use the laptop account. Make your both (or N clients) do BCC to your main@account.tld for any sent meassage.

Voila - done, you have the same messages (incoming and outgoing) on both (or N) POP accounts. You just need to download them to clients.

Re:Lots of ways (1)

benmcdavid (971540) | more than 7 years ago | (#17409574)

And if you ISP can't do IMAP, there's only about a million places on the internet that you can get basic hosting for $5/month or less. Add $9 a year for a domain and you can make your own damn rules about how you get your email.

Re:Lots of ways (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17410780)

I use a VPS. For $10/mo (from I get root access to a node where I installed IMAP-UW

Re:Lots of ways (1)

innosent (618233) | more than 7 years ago | (#17411658)

...or just simple shared hosting, hostdime ( is also an excellent choice for either, and they offer horde and squirrelmail for webmail too.

Err... (1)

teslar (706653) | more than 7 years ago | (#17409556)


Re:Err... (1)

dhasenan (758719) | more than 7 years ago | (#17412296)

You need to sync the computers while both are on. This is a decent solution, however.

The questor could just get an old P2 box for spare change, put Linux on it, and use that as a mail server. Or have both computers sync to it (assuming he has a setup that allows him to access it remotely, or doesn't mind remembering to check his email on his laptop before leaving).

Simple answer is in the question - IMAP. (3, Informative)

a16 (783096) | more than 7 years ago | (#17409558)

Use an IMAP server.

You even answered it yourself, except decided it is of no use as it would be unavailable when your home connection goes down.

So.. get a cheap hosting/email account with IMAP capabilities, so that it's accessible over the net. Every mail client setup to use the IMAP account will see the same folders/inbox, and it'll work from anywhere. If you're paranoid about having your data in someone else's hands, download it to an archive locally with fetchmail or similar.

Just use IMAP (1)

nuxx (10153) | more than 7 years ago | (#17409560)

Most IMAP clients cache local copies of the messages to speed up display and allow for offline use. I know that the already-seen messages in both and Thunderbird are visible even when I can't reach my mail server. I'd would just recommend using IMAP and running your own server, with clients that cache. Also set up SquirrelMail [] on the server so that you can access your mail from kiosk-type computers and you'll be all set.

I've run a setup like this for years and it works out great.

Re:Just use IMAP (1)

nuxx (10153) | more than 7 years ago | (#17411142)

I should add that I do this so I can have ready access to my mail from home (OS X), work (XP), and whatever random machines with it always in sync, and drafts saved across the board. Coupled with server-side sorting and spam filtering, everything works great.

Maybe most practical solution? (2, Insightful)

ceeam (39911) | more than 7 years ago | (#17409602)


Re:Maybe most practical solution? (1)

Knight Thrasher (766792) | more than 7 years ago | (#17409718)

Not to mention the easiest to set up (nothing to set up at all) and manage and back up (again, nothing to do at all) and certainly accessable from any number of machines (anything with internet access.)

Re:Maybe most practical solution? (1)

Breakfast Pants (323698) | more than 7 years ago | (#17411614)

You're right! Nothing to do at all [] ! For anyone!

Re:Maybe most practical solution? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17409748)

1) Some google freak must invite you.
2) google will spy/search on you.
3) is just too lame.
4) You'll need very insecure software to run all this AJAX. using gmail == pwned.

Re:Maybe most practical solution? (1)

ceeam (39911) | more than 7 years ago | (#17410138)

1) Welcome to now (ie not anymore).
2) As opposed to your ISP(s)?
3) Get anything you want elsewhere and setup forwarding. Also - I heard - GMail now can work with remote POP mailboxes.
4) I use Opera. It's as secure as it can be probably.

Re:Maybe most practical solution? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17410376)

5) google will randomly lose ALL YOUR MAIL, as they just proved a couple of days ago.

Re:Maybe most practical solution? (1)

Xiph1980 (944189) | more than 7 years ago | (#17410724)

I'm sorry, but that's not google doing that. It's some hacker trying to be funny and doing it, while ruining the name for all hackers out there.
I myself can barely program "hello world" so I don't know exactly what happened, but it atleast is clear to me that the attack of recently was done from the clients end thru the browser (they all reported their browsers going nuts for a while, taking up 100% resources etc).
This could probably be prevented by a good virusscanner and firewall, perhaps by using a router inbetween the internet and your pc.

Re:Maybe most practical solution? (1)

vga_init (589198) | more than 7 years ago | (#17409830)

Yeah, I'm going to have to go with gmail on this one. I used to be against web clients in general, but eventually I caved in and went with it. It's been so much of a hassle running my own mail clients, what with having to shuffle my mail around between hosts al tlhe time.

I certainly wish my ISP or one of my mail services would offer IMAP, but I don't see how that's ever going to happen. Bastards...

Huh? (2, Insightful)

edmicman (830206) | more than 7 years ago | (#17409640)

Maybe I'm not fully understanding what it is you're trying to do....but if you're running an IMAP server at home, why would it ever be turned off? That's your *mail* server. And if there's the possibility of it being turned off, maybe you should look for a hosted solution or something?

How do I manage mail between a laptop and a desktop? I bought my own domain and pay for budget hosting. They provide IMAP mail servers. I used to check everything with Thunderbird using IMAP, and then when I wasn't at my computer with Thunderbird, I could log into the webmail interface and everything would be there.

Now, I actually have everything forwarded to my gmail account. Yes, I went to the dark side, but gmail's web interface and spam control can't be beat. And now I don't have to maintain a local Thunderbird install or anything else. All of my email can be checked and worked with remotely from anywhere. It really isn't that hard!

Re:Huh? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17409848)

...but gmail's... spam control can't be beat.

Spam is the main reason I'm not using gmail. About 1% of the spam I receive via gmail goes straight to my inbox. That may not seem like much, but when you're getting thousands of spam emails and only a few dozen ham emails, 1% of spam getting through is enough to make the signal to noise ratio unbearable.

In contrast, my ISP ( is only letting about 0.05% of spam through (on the default setting), and on my own mail server (which, admittedly, see significantly less spam) I'm seeing less than 0.01% of spam reach my inbox.

gmail spamfiltering (1)

Per Abrahamsen (1397) | more than 7 years ago | (#17410652)

Spam is also the main problem I have with switching to gmail. My old filters (mostly a highly trained bogofilter) let perhaps one spam through on a bad day. GMails tend to let 10 spams through.

Re:gmail spamfiltering (1)

tjr (908724) | more than 7 years ago | (#17411538)

Spam has been my main problem with GMail as well, but not in the same way you describe. I don't recall ever seeing more than two spams per day sneak into my regular GMail inbox, but I get A LOT more spam into the spam-box with GMail than ever before. A large percentage of this spam is going directly to my address.

This wouldn't be particularly odd, except I have rarely given out my address, certainly far, far less than other addresses with I have forward to GMail. Perhaps the popularity of the GMail service prompts spammers to try boatloads of random addresses moreso than they do with other less popular domains?

Re:Huh? (1)

edmicman (830206) | more than 7 years ago | (#17413394)

Huh, strange. My experience has been the total opposite. I have my gmail address, my vanity domain address, and a business address, all being sent to the gmail address. My vanity domain's host uses SpamAssassin, and it's hit or miss. It gets most Spam's, but it also has wrongly marked some. My business address used to also be on another host, also using SpamAssassin. I'm not sure how it's set up, but they changed ISP's or something and my work address went from allowing maybe 1-3 spams through a week to letting through 10-15 a day.

Since I started forwarded everything to gmail,'s been flagging spam for all addresses correctly. I get maybe 1 spam every couple of weeks that gets through...and have only seen a few that were falsely flagged. I guess each experience is different! Personally, I would think that gmail's ability to let *all* of it's users "mark as spam" would let their filters be highly tuned.

Re:Huh? (1)

thesnarky1 (846799) | more than 7 years ago | (#17413248)

And luckily Google notifies his clients if he's running late for a meeting when he misses an emai---- erm, sorry, I'm sure they never read personal emails. I've got the first solution (own domain, Thunderbird and Squirrelmail) you mention, and have only ever used gmail once. That was when I was out of the country in a place with state-controlled Internet, and I was sending cryptic messages back home letting them know I was alive, and that's it.

the easiest solution. (1)

hlimethe3rd (879459) | more than 7 years ago | (#17409696)

Just switch to gmail and be done with it.

I ran into this (1)

CableModemSniper (556285) | more than 7 years ago | (#17409760)

First I was going to setup a local IMAP server on my desktop, and do it like that. Then I decided to just ssh and execute mutt remotely. No syncing necessary as its all in one place. Just another alternative suggestion. (I also thought about an NFS mounted maildir as an alternative to full blown IMAP, but that seemed kind of silly).

OT: Sig (1)

RAMMS+EIN (578166) | more than 7 years ago | (#17410022)

``Why not fork?''

Because you're a child!

Use Exchange (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17409768)

Amazingly enough, Microsoft Exchange together with Outlook does all of this extremely well. You can set up your own server or use the paid hotmail subscription.

Then again, why you would ever want to use mail directly on your home machine when you can just use the laptop is beyond me!

Re:Use Exchange (1)

thona (556334) | more than 7 years ago | (#17409960)

Though not usable for hte op (thanks to his OS decision), this is ehat I thought upoin reading the headline, too. Along the line of "ok, where the heck is that supposed t obe a problem"?

Outlook 2003+ in offline caching mode against an exchagne server - and voila, done. No problem, nothing to set up, nothing to configure. It just works. nd that does not only include email, it includes calendar, heck, even the processing rules or anti spam settings of the clients are copied.

Re:Use Exchange (0)

Sorthum (123064) | more than 7 years ago | (#17410040)

Well, he TYPES like an MS MVP...

Re:Use Exchange (1)

thona (556334) | more than 7 years ago | (#17411632)

Not, like someone with a mild form if dislexia who on top of that is not even a native english speaker.

Gratulations, you managed to insult someone for being a foreigner AND having a problem with written langague all in one sentence.

Re:Use Exchange (1)

repruhsent (672799) | more than 7 years ago | (#17412388)

This is going to sound insensitive... but fuck it. If you're dyslexic AND you're not a native English speaker, why in the hell would you be surprised that someone would comment on your poor grammar on an English-speaking website that is known all over the Internet for its trolling culture?

4 ideas to consider (2, Informative)

linuxtelephony (141049) | more than 7 years ago | (#17409798)

1. POP on both home and laptop machines. Configure your primary machine (home?) to leave mail on the server for X days. [I believe most clients support this, but I couldn't tell you for sure; I haven't used POP for a couple of years now.] Make sure X is large enough that you will get mail on the laptop or desktop, whichever is used least. Configure your secondary machine to leave mail on the server. This will allow both machines to get mail at the same time, has only one machine deleting mail, and should do what you want. My parents are configured similar to this and it works well for them. So far I haven't noticed any problems in the server logs if both login to the POP server at the same time.

2. I use IMAP for myself. In this case, I host my own on my server, and it does not get turned off. I have IMAP access from any IMAP client as well as a web mail client. My pda phone even uses IMAP to get messages. Any changes I make from my phone, IMAP client at work or home, or web mail all show up on the other clients thanks to the shared IMAP folder. [If you are going to store thousands and thousands of messages, make sure you use a high-performing IMAP server.]

3. Use a mail client that uses a maildir and not an mbox or other db type of storage file. Then, you can use rsync back and forth between your primary and secondary machines. Indexes (for sorting) might need to be updated after each sync however. I would say this would probably be the least efficient and most prone to problems.

4. Send all your mail to gmail, access it from them with POP (see #1), except don't delete anything using the POP clients. Periodically log into your gmail account and either archive or delete everything that is read.

Two Answers (2, Informative)

RAMMS+EIN (578166) | more than 7 years ago | (#17409822)

The first answer that came to mind was: do like everyone else, use IMAP. You said running IMAP on your home machine isn't a solution, because you turn it off. So run it on a machine that isn't turned off, like some provider's mail server. If your current provider doesn't offer IMAP, you can always have your mail forwarded to another account. I can offer you an account through my company, if you wish.

The second answer that comes to mind is: store your messages in directories, with one file per message (e.g. MH, Maildir, or mailfiles format), then use some sync program (e.g. rsync, or some specialized tool, like isync) to sync between the two machines. I've done this for some time; it works as long as you're careful that filenames assigned to messages are unique (they aren't always for MH) and one message has only one filename (Maildir renames files when certain flags are set on the message).

Re:Two Answers (1)

Tet (2721) | more than 7 years ago | (#17412434)

it works as long as you're careful that filenames assigned to messages are unique (they aren't always for MH)

Huh? What are you talking about? How can they not be unique? You can't have two files with the same name in the same directory (under Unix, at least), and MH stores one message per file.

.mac (0, Offtopic)

Pegasuce (455700) | more than 7 years ago | (#17409950)

Buy two mac and use .mac. Works fine!

Re:.mac (1)

peragrin (659227) | more than 7 years ago | (#17411176)

but I don't want to spend the money for .Mac

what would be nice is if Apple either offered a stand alone version of .Mac syncing. or a low cost version that doesn't include idisk, and a couple of the other features.

I don't want a total backup solution as I have an external firewire drive. All I want is a way to keep my mail, and address book in sync.

Dell Latitude D Series with Dock-Ditch the Desktop (0, Offtopic)

kwpulliam (691406) | more than 7 years ago | (#17410020)

Get a Dell Latitude D Series Laptop. The Port Replicator, and the Dock both work great. Then ditch the Desktop. Then you 'have' the main machine with you always.

(If you are going to be turning the desktop off when away, this is an equivalent and more elegant solution)

Problem Solved.

Well, here are 3 tools to look at... (4, Informative)

emag (4640) | more than 7 years ago | (#17410074)

Continue pulling from your pop3 server that you mentioned. When the home box is off, pull using the laptop. Make sure your .procmailrc or whatever's in sync between the two. Then, keep your IMAP server on your home box, and investigate one of these 3 tools to propagate changes on both boxes to each other:

  • isync [] - Synchronize a local maildir with a remote IMAP4 mailbox
  • mailsync [] - Synchronize IMAP mailboxes
  • offlineimap [] - IMAP/Maildir synchronization and reader support

Re:Well, here are 3 tools to look at... (1)

Klaruz (734) | more than 7 years ago | (#17410922)

Yes, the parent is right on. An imap sync program (or unison, mentioned above), seem to be a good idea. I've been researching this a lot myself. I have a few basic needs for mail that must be met.

1 IMAP Account, 2 identities (one gets forwarded in and filed with sieve rules).
2 PGP Keys; not using subkeys, home and work.
Ability to access email from my personal server on the internet, or my laptop when disconnected.
Works with OS X contacts so I can use the missing sync to keep my phone's addy book up to date.

Unfortunately you'd think I'm the only person on the planet who needs this. Thunderbird doesn't work with the address book, has big time problems checking the sub folders (even with a sync on check hack) for new mail and remembering flags. It's really annoying to see you have 15 new mails, that YOU'VE ALREADY READ.

I'm really about to go through the hassle of using an imap sync program and mutt to handle all my email. I haven't used mutt much (went from Pine to a GUI IMAP client back in the 90s), but it's worth the hassle to know I can use the same email config when I SSH in, or am on my desktop, and have it all work. Now it's just a matter of finding time to sit down, write a mutt config, learn all the shortcuts, and set up syncing.

Another thing, if the original poster wants their own mail server, I'll plug Linode [] every time I get a chance. As long as you don't overload the server package you get (I have a 200 that's overkill for me) it's the best thing a geek can have. You can run whatever you need to, and when a major upgrade goes bad you have full console access to boot another distro and fix your mess. It's on 24/7 in a real data center and you can run whatever you need to with no restrictions. More stable than Xen, and the service can't be beat. Oh, and they're way more affordable than a dedicated server.

Now if only I can figure out a stable working offline email system that meets my needs and isn't buggy.

ssh -X? (1)

Erris (531066) | more than 7 years ago | (#17410096)

Why not just run the client from work with ssh -X? Shell into your gateway, then shell into your mail machine and run the client you usually do. I use Kontact and it works well, given an adequate network. There is some lag, but it's not much worse than the lag experienced at home.

just do the webmail thing (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17410316)

I have several domains which I use the catchall and several email accounts that I receive mail from daily. I got tired of backing up my email, transfering my email, making sure I could read new mail between systems, dual boots etc... so I decided just to use one webmail account for all of my email. I send it all through gmail to weed out the spam and pick it up in my yahoo plus account. This way I have at least two backups on different mail servers and the convenience of always having my new mail available.

POP and a decent client (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17410408)

Sorting and organising your email is not the job of the mail server; use a program like Opera's M2 to apply the rules you need at the pickup(s) and just use POP. IMAP seemed like a good idea at the time but is hopelessly outdated now compared to the abilities of a good email client.

KMail already has what you want (2, Interesting)

DarkDust (239124) | more than 7 years ago | (#17410516)

It's called "disconnected IMAP" and is like cached IMAP: KMail pulls the stuff on your box so you can view it even when you have no network connection, like with POP3. But since this is IMAP and everything is on the server, you can do that with several clients. I've got my own IMAP server and use KMail's disconnected IMAP at home and at work. It works just fine...

Why have 2 machines for the same purpose? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17410554)

Why no just do email on the lappy, and other things on the box? I've been using a laptop as my primary computer (i.e. email/IM/irc/etc) for abt 8 years now, even though I also use other computers for other things. I don't understand why some people want to do the same thing from 2 computers sitting right next to each other. Any ideas on how to make my microwave burn toast the same way my toaster does? :-)

flash drive (1)

Fry-kun (619632) | more than 7 years ago | (#17410752)

I was going to suggest POP3 with leave-mail-on-server + sorting rules: this way works well for me. Also, force thunderbird to BCC your own email on every message you send out - that way the threads of conversation look beautiful AND you get a trail of "sent" emails on all machines you use.

However, if you really want to always have a perfect sync, consider putting the mail folders on a flash drive and using that every time you check your email. That adds some security too, since if the data is not present, it can't really be compromised (of course you should also encrypt the data on flash drive).
I checked while migrating from windows to linux - thunderbird uses the same format for mailboxes (you should be able to use it directly)


Same Situation (1)

eklitzke (873155) | more than 7 years ago | (#17410766)

I tried a number of things because I am in the same situation. I have a very old (Pentium II era) computer that I always have on, and a cronjob runs getmail periodically, which drops the mail off to maildrop, which sorts the mail and delivers it in maildir format (also, the first rule is to copy the message into a backup folder). Then I just run an IMAP server that reads the maildir directories. The reason that I ended up doing this rather than the various other solutions I might have done is that this gives you a lot of flexibility down the road. For example, you can easily send the mail through dspam or SA to do spam filtering. Also, all the mail filtering is done at one place which is nice if you want to sync up another computer.

If you don't have an always-on computer there are various ad-hoc ways to sync mail between two computers (e.g. running rsync). The problem with that is that as the amount of mail you have grows, syncing will take a very long time, much more so than running IMAP. It's best to have the mail all in one place, which pretty much requires an always-on computer.

Another thing that you may want to consider is forwarding mail through Gmail. I have an email account that receives a lot of important mail, but that mail is _only_ locally delivered. I set up my .forward file to send it to a Gmail account, and then I can fetch the mail via POP from that account. This worked pretty well, except for two problems:
1) All your mail will be in one folder, and you can't see what has been classified as spam
2) Gmail tries to keep track of what mail you have retrieved via POP for you, and its POP server pretends not to see mail that you have already fetched unless you manually reconfigure it on your account. So if you fetch all your Gmail mail from one computer, and then wait 24 hours and try to fetch all messages from a second computer, the second computer will only have mail from the past 24 hours.

What's the issue here? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17410826)

Eg. Thunderbird has the ability to work in offline mode and download/upload all messages when it gets online again.

Sent messages trick (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17410876)

As others have said, just leave the mail on the server for N # of days. As long as you check your e-mail on both systems within the N days, you'll have copies of every message on both systems.

The trick is that you can get Thunderbird to automatically BCC every message you send to yourself. Next setup a message filter to automatically move those messages into your Sent folder. Now both systems contain a copy of every message you send. I've used this method for over seven years, and it works great.

How about putting them somewhere on the net? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17411364)

How about you jsut go nuts and pay like 5$ a month to get some hosting that provides you with IMAP (with SSL or TLS or whatever security you want/need)?

You can access it from anywhere, anytime. Most of them also offer a webmail, so you can check your emails truly anywhere, anytime.


use IMAP (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17411736)


GNUS (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17412378)

I had the same problem then I discovered that GNUS is a pretty nice email client. Now I used a single instance of GNUS running on my mailserver and I ssh to it. Sometimes the latency is kind of painful but so far I really like this setup. BBDB is a pretty good addr book and the emacs spellcheck is good too. You get incremental search for free too. GNUS is ugly but it is much more usable than any installable webmails out there. GMail is good too. I would use it if I wasn't an emacs user. The leaning curve of GNUS for someone not familiar with emacs must be steep: you need to hack elisp to configure it as a mail client and to setup your filters...

unison (1)

John Meacham (1112) | more than 7 years ago | (#17412420) []

unison is the best thing since sliced bread. keep your mailboxes in Maildir/ format and just unison between the machines periodically. since unison is symmetric, you can pull your mail down from either your laptop or your desktop and it will propegate to the other one on the next sync.

shut down? (1)

anomaly (15035) | more than 7 years ago | (#17412622)

Why shut down your home system? Why not have it available as a server to make your life easier? I agree with other posters about using "offline" mode of Thunderbird and like clients.

In case you're thinking that you have a particularly repressive ISP...

My ISP blocks ports 80 and 25 - particularly irritating, if you ask me. My ISPs TOS, if read to the letter, would mean that multiple browser windows or tabbed browsing are inappropriate because it's more than one session over the broadband pipe.
I agree that it would be ideal if I could use every port I want, block the ones I want to firewall - but I'm too cheap to pay for that kind of access.
So I work around it. I use dyndns [] [] to create a pointer to my dynamic IP address. My ISP does not block https or ssh ports, so I leverage those to get what I want.
I use cron, fetchmail [] [],
  procmail [] [],
  spamassassin [] [], and
  postfix [] [] to bring mail from my ISP to my local system.
I use uw-imapd [] [] to share my mail with other computers on my home network
I use ssh and pine, or apache+php+MySQL+https (self-signed cert) with roundcube [] [] to get remote access to my IMAP server.
I use WinSCP [] [] to get access to my files at home when I'm at work. My data is *MINE* and I easily back it up (nightly and offsite qurterly - snapshot backups coming soon thanks to rsnapshot [] [], perl and rsync)
Every tool that I use is free of charge and as free as the GPL and apache licenses are free (zealots can feel free to argue with someone else about the relative freedom of the GPL, thanks.)
I certainly could pay for more open TOS with an ISP - I could even host my applications at an ISP. I'm cheap, and this solution works well enough for me.
Hope you find a solution that works for you!

One word ... (1)

ScrewMaster (602015) | more than 7 years ago | (#17412638)

IMAP. Works great if you have an IMAP server always available.

Not really a sync, but... (1)

Rachel Lucid (964267) | more than 7 years ago | (#17412740)

I have Thunderbird between both computers, and it works as follows:

1) Everything of 'true' importance stays on the webmail (like school meetings, etc.)

2) All the stuff that is of less importance (LiveJournal, Facebook, and *gasp* even Slashdot) gets sorted with the filters and pulled from the webmail to sit on the client. Yes, it means that mail is now on a specific machine, but because it's of less importance, you're not missing anything (and it's probably also saner).

It's either this or gmail, but it suits me well.

Ultimate home server linux mail setup (1)

rwa2 (4391) | more than 7 years ago | (#17412904)

You won't be able to do this since you in particular want to be able to turn off your home linux server.

But I've wondered for a while about how to set up the ultimate email system and came across the following combination of software running under Debian:

* Exim MTA
* Procmail (for storing mail in Maildir format and sorting mailing lists)
* SpamAssassin
* Courier IMAPd (for allowing IMAP access from multiple email clients)
* fetchmail
* fetchyahoo (pull stuff from my yahoo product/spam account)

This configuration is not trivial to set up, but the Debian package system takes care of a lot of it. There are a few good howtos to cover the rest, such as: []

I can then access my mailbox from the following clients (sometimes simultaneously, some IMAP clients sometimes don't cope well with that, however):

* mutt + screen + ssh (this is my primary client, however it took quite some time to configure and tame mutt and I'm still not happy with it in some respects)
* Thunderbird / Icedove (GUI client, easier to define some additional message filters I'm too lazy to code up in Procmail)
* Squirrelmail + Apache2 SSL (webmail imap client)
* Palm T5 VersaMail (PDA syncs recent INBOX messages only)

I've found that my primary hurdle is now syncing address books / contacts between all of my clients. Has anyone found an easy way to sync from PDA to/from Mozilla mail and mutt aliases? If I actually used my mail much I'd try to put more effort into getting multisync + some additional scripts going.

I find that most of my friends and contacts are on other various instant message networks now, so all this is also supplemented by:

* bitchx + screen + ssh (the majority of my friends are old-school IRC dwellers)
* centericq + screen + ssh (great for keeping up on livejournals as well as most of the other IM networks)
* gaim (GUI multi-IM network thing)
* skype (the linux client hasn't seen an update in a while, but appears to work fine)

Remember to add a contact form for your webpage listing your handle on all of your various accounts so people can reach you. I wish there was some sort of centralized address-book service that we could sync our contacts from.

This is all quite a bit of work and resources to dedicate towards keeping in contact with a mere handful of friends and relatives (after all, I /am/ a /. user). So I mostly prefer people just reach me by my cellphone (don't forget to take advantage of your provider's email-to-SMS gateway... somehow!) :P
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