spam filtering stupidity


I found out yesterday that I hadn't received two very important emails from NSF regarding an upcoming PI workshop in Albuquerque. I never saw them, they never got a bounce message. That's not good. So my co-PI (who also didn't get them) investigated.

It turns out that the piece of crap email server that our department uses--a FirstClass server that's intended for conferencing, but has had an SMTP and POP server stapled onto it--has some fascinating default settings.

First of all, it considers anything that has more than four recipients "junk mail." Since the message from NSF went to a list of 20 or so PIs, that made it junk mail. Second of all, the user defaults for what to do with junk mail seem to be set to "Silently Delete."

(It's a good thing this isn't an audio blog, or the muttering I'm doing under my breath right now would get this blog on every filtering list known.)

This explains a lot of things, including why it is that when I use Evite to invite colleagues to parties, more than half of them never get the invitation. Silly me, I invite more than four people at a time.

So, if you're a colleague of mine reading this, and you're wondering why some of the mail you expect to receive isn't making it to you--that's probably why. And if you're sending me mail, please send it to my "" address, rather than my "" address.

The fix, for those unfortunates who are stuck with FirstClass as a mail server, is to launch the FC client, open Preferences, go to the Messaging tab, and change "Junk Mail Handling" from "Silently Delete" to "Accept". You have to do this even if you don't use the FC client for reading mail (I pick mail up from the server using OS X Mail). And if you're wise enough to be using a better client, you can then also use better spam filtering than the boneheaded methods that the FC server seems to implement.


i suggest a nice postfix install, saves time and energy and can be configured to do thinks just as bad. i have six postfix mail servers running in a variety of capacities, and they only screw up when i do;)

I have no control over the departmental systems. Usually that's a good thing--I don't want to be a tech support person. Sometimes it's a bad thing, as when they choose a system that doesn't work well. :/

humph... firstclass. I suppose it works, and can be useful, but it's not the greatest software i've ever seen.

Maybe it's time RIT hired some students on co-op to make a new server/client program for the IT department.

Or we could just keep using this. Which we most likely will.

Nowadays it doesn't make sense for a department to have its own mail server because it is a full-time job to deal with all the spam and viruses flowing into mail systems. I suggest that your department outsource this to a University-wide email server, where hopefully they have some good professional people who keep up with all the latest email news and exploits. And put appropriate server-based *user-configurable* filtering tools in place. Or if your University hasn't gotten their email act together, pay for you own email services. I have a lot of information about email service providers on my "IMAP Service Providers" page. There are a lot of flaky systems out there, but there are also some good ones.

Hope this is helpful,
Infinite Ink

There are a lot of reasons why our department runs its own servers, not the least of which is that as an IT department we are among the most difficult and demanding patrons of the university's IT services.

As a result, we run not only our own mail server, but also our own calendaring server, our own routers, our own VPN, etc.

For most of those things, we do a pretty good job of providing our own services, and it buys us a lot more control over the process. The email is the only one that's really not been up to par.

We all also have access to university-wide mail services, which I've used as my primary mail for quite some time now. Unfortunately, the departmental address is on my business cards and in the university directory (I keep changing it, but it seems to pop back up like a bad penny), so there are are still people who use it rather than my preferred '' address.

To this day my old rfesearch group runs a mail server whose sole user is my former thesis advisor. When the research center gave up handling its own mail server of the same name, he insisted on being able to keep the hostname. He was deathly afraid that if he ever gave out a new email address he'd never get another research contract. Or something.

I regret the day we ever suggested that it was possible to do that sort of thing ourselves.

In other news, FC DNS resolution isn't that good either ... refuses to verify the hostname of my server. No mail to IT people, unfortunately.




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This page contains a single entry by Liz Lawley published on September 10, 2003 8:20 PM.

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