You can lead a horse to water...



  • This is more of a (petty) gripe than a WTF, but I figure most of us enjoy bad user stories.

    We have a certain client with a server-client (one dedicated linux server and lots of Win workstations) installation for their networking needs. In order to get email they draw it via fetchmail from an external mail server whose job is to be up 24/7. At least that's how it started. After a while they decided that they wanted to view their emails from work so we modified fetchmail to leave a copy of the emails on the external server. They could then connect directly to the external server via IMAP from home. This architecture was chosen because their office server is not guaranteed to be up whereas the external server is always running.

    Of course this posed the problem of deleting old emails. Someone, somewhere had to do it every now and then so the external server mailbox would not fill up. A certain user was chosen for this job, which we will be calling Paula. Paula was told to log into the external server via webmail and delete the emails every now and then. This worked for a while, but eventually we'd start getting calls from her that the webmail wasn't working. The reason the webmail wasn't working was because there were so many emails the script would time out. The reason there were so many emails was because Paula couldn't be bothered to delete emails more often. And so I'd have to go and delete the vast amounts of email so everything would get going again.

    So one day I got a call from her where she suggested a new procedure. This would be her calling me once a month at which point I'd have to go delete their old emails. Needless to say that wasn't going to happen. 

    Now I can't say that I blamed the woman. Faced with that kind of mind-numbingly dull work I'd look for a way out myself. So I decided to help out. The solution was to simply add IMAP accounts directly to the external server on her office machine so she could easily delete what she wanted. She didn't want the accounts in her mail client (Outlook) because (and I quote) she'd get confused. Alright, I said, we'll get you a new program for the job, and promptly had Thunderbird installed on her machine. A few months went by until today I got another call from her. She couldn't log into webmail. 

    Now I know what you're thinking... wth is she doing with webmail. Well, apparently (and I quote) she hadn't got around to learning how Thunderbird works. So I'm guessing all this time she'd been logging into the webmail until finally she fell behind and the whole thing clogged up.

    Now I've seen users resist change, but surely if you can use Outlook, Thunderbird isn't that much of a challenge?

     

     



  • @DOA said:

    Now I've seen users resist change, but surely if you can use Outlook, Thunderbird isn't that much of a challenge?
     

    Never underestimate the infinite power of (the fear for the unknown)™



  •  Account settings -> Check "delete mail", check "Leave mail for 30 days"

    Just launch the damn program, wait until it finishes pop3 operations, close the damn program.

    It's 2008, folks. Even free software can do this now.



  • @Kiss me I'm Polish said:

    It's 2008, folks. Even free software can do this now.
     

    Sure, [b]deleting[/b] stuff is easy. Now see some freeware [b]generate[/b] those mails!



  •  Yea, because going through all that is much easier than setting up a proper mailserver and something like squirrelmail.

     



  • @jimheem said:

     Yea, because going through all that is much easier than setting up a proper mailserver and something like squirrelmail.

    Paula was told to log into the external server via [b]webmail[/b] and delete the emails every now and then.


     There already was webmail (and a mailserver), but it didn't function well.



  •  externally there was.

     

    I never understood why a company would use an external mailserver that they a) pay for and b) have no real control over. It would take a compentent Linux admin about half a day to setup a well functioning mailserver in house, with their own IMAP, POP3, Webmail, or whatever else method of getting mail that they want. On top of that they can add and control their own spam filtering and anti virus.

     

    Just makes no sense to jump through all kinds of silly hoops to deal with an external host that you have to pay a monthly or annual fee for.

     



  •  I can has a competent Linux Admin?

    Our IT refuses to ditch our atrocious Webmail host for unknown reasons.  Just this month we've has 3 outages that lasted half a day each; their web access is slower than Vista on 512MB RAM; the hold times when you call them are often over an hour.



  • You can lead a horse to water...

    I think this proverb is perhaps more appropriate.

    If a job is worth doing, it's worth doing well.



  • @DOA said:

    Of course this posed the problem of deleting old emails. Someone, somewhere had to do it every now and then so the external server mailbox would not fill up. A certain user was chosen for this job, which we will be calling Paula. Paula was told to log into the external server via webmail and delete the emails every now and then.

    Here's The Real WTFTM: you're asking a human to do a computer's job.



  • @jimheem said:

    It would take a compentent Linux admin about half a day to setup a well functioning mailserver in house, with their own IMAP, POP3, Webmail, or whatever else method of getting mail that they want. On top of that they can add and control their own spam filtering and anti virus.

    I'm not even an linux admin, and doing something like this takes less than an hour (even less if you are a linux admin) using something like the Bill Shupp Linux Qmail Toaster ( http://www.shupp.org/toaster/ ). I've done this several times, and it "just works".



  • I'd suggest replacing the fetchmail with offlineimap. It needs imap (rather than pop), but it keeps the accounts synchronized, so any user can delete the email on either server and it will get deleted on the other.



  • @Kiss me I'm Polish said:

    Account settings -> Check "delete mail", check "Leave mail for 30 days"
    This sounded like a good idea. I was wondering why I hadn't thought of it, but then I remembered that tech support isn't actually my primary job. I'm a developer, so I hadn't bothered to apply enough brain cells to this problem (doh). In any case we have "real" tech support people now so I've passed this on to them and we'll see what happens.

    @Kiss me I'm Polish said:

    I never understood why a company would use an external mailserver that
    they a) pay for and b) have no real control over. It would take a
    compentent Linux admin about half a day to setup a well functioning
    mailserver in house, with their own IMAP, POP3, Webmail, or whatever
    else method of getting mail that they want. On top of that they can add
    and control their own spam filtering and anti virus.
      The external server is actually ours and since it is used as a 24/7 mail server by several of our clients, it comes quite cheap. As for in house mailservers, antivirus, etc these are set up on each client's local server depending on their needs. Add fetchmail and everyone's happy. Well, almost everyone...

    Hank and Bulb's suggestions also seemed interesting so I'll keep them in mind for future reference. However they will not be getting any credit as this forum's EULA clearly states that I own all ideas stated in these forums. :P



  • @Kiss me I'm Polish said:

     Account settings -> Check "delete mail", check "Leave mail for 30 days"

    The problem with this solution is that it requires the users to not mess with their configuration settings after you've set them.

    A far better choice would be to set up a weekly cron job that deletes all email over 30 days old from all accounts. Exactly how this software does its job is dependent on what your email server software is, but I'm fairly certain there is software to do this for all email server software packages.

    Only potential problem with the concept is your external hosting service may not want to go along with the idea. If this is the case, why are you paying them, since they're mis-serving you?



  • If the external server supported IMAP and was available at all times, why didn't they just have everyone use that all the time, and get rid of the server at the office?


Log in to reply
 

Looks like your connection to What the Daily WTF? was lost, please wait while we try to reconnect.