The Problems with Email

You go into the Apple Store, the nice young person in a blue shirt sells you a shiny new iPad and even sets up your email, hooray! You are amazed to see your personal email appearing on this machine that you have only just purchased. What magic is this?

After this initially surprise and wonder has worn off, over the coming days and weeks you may start to notice some or all of the following problems:

  1. If you delete an email on your iPad, you have to delete it again on your PC, your phone and whatever other device you use to access email.
  2. You can send emails from your iPad when you are at home, but as soon as you go on holiday you can only receive, sending just gives an error.
  3. New emails come to your iPad, but all the old stuff from before you purchased the iPad is only on the PC.
  4. All those sub-folders for friends, family, your cornflake collection etc that you have been building up for years in your email and not available in on the iPad.
  5. When you send an email on the iPad it never appears in the sent box on the PC or you phone.
  6. Sometimes you could swear you saw an email on the iPad, but it’s not there when you go back and have another look. 
  7. That big collection of email contacts you have been accumulating for years is not on the iPad.

How can this be?

Email Protocols

To understand what is going on, we have to talk about protocols. That sounds very up market doesn't it? Say protocol and you think of ambassadors, white ties, tails, that sort of thing. And in a way it’s a bit like that. What we mean when we talk about protocols and email is how different computers agree to talk to one another. One computer says hello in a very particular and well defined way (just like our ambassador) and the other computer replies in a similarly defined form.

There are different types of protocols for email, each with its own set of advantages and disadvantages.  Use the wrong one and it will create all the sorts of problems listed above.

"Well that easy",  I hear you say, "let’s just use the best protocol for the job, skip this chapter and get on to the next where there will be naked dancing and free beer for everyone". Firstly, although the next chapter is good, it’s not quite as good as that. Secondly, not every email account supports ever protocol. If you have the latest and greatest from a big name supplier (Gmail, Yahoo, Hotmail etc) it will speak most or all of the protocols. If you have the email address given to you by your Internet Service Provider back in the ice age (which is true of the vast majority of home users), these can come with all sorts of restrictions. The only way around these restrictions is to apply a dollop of knowledge, exactly the sort of knowledge you will find in these pages.  You could even have one of the modern types of accounts and still have exactly the same set of problems because of getting the protocols wrong. I certainly see that all the time with home users (business users have an in-house geek who knows about this stuff, or at least he should do).

So, its time for a lesson in how all this stuff works. Don’t worry, you may think it is all technical and complicated, but that’s just a rumor put around by people who make over inflated salaries working on this stuff, its actually very simple if you take it step by step with plenty of breaks for hot drinks, and cookies, don't forget the cookies.

Firstly a lesson in the POP protocol