Articles about email

Custom Return Path with Postmark

Front Lobby sends transactional emails via Postmark. Every week Postmark sends me an email with numbers of emails sent and delivered, which is nice.

That email also includes a list of deliverability recommendations - and for the longest time that list has contained “Set up a custom Return-Path for”. I figured it was time to do something about it.

Outlook recommends Mozilla

I received an email today advertising Mozilla in a somewhat subtle way: The X-message-flag of the mail was set to

You are using Outlook. May I recommend Mozilla (

In Outlook XP this results in Outook seemingly recommending me Mozilla:

!/journal/2004/11/18/outlook_recommends_mozilla/YouAreUsingOutlook.png (You are using Outlook)!

As far as I have been able to work out, Outlook it the only mail client that displays the X-Message-Flag upfront to its user. Interesting but somewhat intrusive and spam’ish way to advocate.

End the autoreply madness already!

Fine, so you have an email server or client that can autoreply to people sending you mail, notifying them if you are on extended vacation, “on course” (actual autoreply), taking a dump or whatever, great for you.

But please, for the love of my time and everything else I consider sacred, do not start sending autoreplies stating “I will reply to your email”! Think, please. You don’t have your answering machine saying “I am here, I will answer the phone” do you?

Imagine for a second what would happen if I started doing the same thing in reply to that autoreply? I am sure our mail servers would love having that little chat and I would love seeing my inbox fill up with mindless drivel – I get enough of that from spam already, thank you.

If you want to reply to my email, how about actually, you know, reply to it?

Experiencing Outlook XP

To make my start of 2003 even more pleasant, it turned out that my boss had bought himself a new laptop. A nice little machine that I luckily didn’t have to install as it came preinstalled with Windows XP and Office XP. Unfortunatly, Outlook XP apparently sucks for formatting mails.

Some spammers don't even bother...

SpamAssassin caught yet another spam-mail for me today. I am pretty sure I have never seen spam score this high (22.80 points):

SPAM: Content analysis details: (22.80 hits, 4 required)
SPAM: TO_MALFORMED (-0.8 points) To: has a malformed address
SPAM: USER_AGENT_OE (-0.3 points) X-Mailer header indicates a non-spam MUA (Outlook Express)
SPAM: MIME_ODD_CASE (3.5 points) MiME-Version header (oddly capitalized)
SPAM: FROM_MALFORMED (2.2 points) From: has a malformed address
SPAM: INVALID_MSGID (1.2 points) Message-Id is not valid, according to RFC 2822
SPAM: SEARCH_ENGINE_PROMO (2.9 points) BODY: Discusses search engine listings
SPAM: EXCUSE_7 (2.6 points) BODY: Claims you can be removed from the list
SPAM: EXCUSE_3 (1.9 points) BODY: Claims you can be removed from the list
SPAM: REMOVE_SUBJ (1.7 points) BODY: List removal information
SPAM: JAVASCRIPT (-1.4 points) BODY: JavaScript code
SPAM: HTML_FONT_COLOR_RED (-1.2 points) BODY: HTML font color is red
SPAM: BIG_FONT (-0.4 points) BODY: FONT Size +2 and up or 3 and up
SPAM: HTML_50_70 (-0.1 points) BODY: Message is 50-70% HTML tags
SPAM: SPAM_PHRASE_13_21 (3.0 points) BODY: Spam phrases score is 13 to 21 (high)
SPAM: [score: 17]
SPAM: HTML_FONT_COLOR_BLUE (0.8 points) BODY: HTML font color is blue
SPAM: MAILTO_LINK (-0.6 points) BODY: Includes a URL link to send an email
SPAM: JAVASCRIPT_UNSAFE (-0.3 points) BODY: Easily-executed JavaScript code
SPAM: FORM_W_MAILTO_ACTION (2.4 points) BODY: Includes a form which will send an email
SPAM: MAILTO_WITH_SUBJ (1.7 points) URI: Includes a link to send a mail with a subject
SPAM: DATE_IN_FUTURE_06_12 (1.7 points) Date: is 6 to 12 hours after Received: date
SPAM: MISSING_MIMEOLE (1.6 points) Message has X-MSMail-Priority, but no X-MimeOLE
SPAM: CTYPE_JUST_HTML (0.7 points) HTML-only mail, with no text version

Mining emails

Just for kicks I created a tiny web-spider (less than 2K, 30 minutes coding time) in Python designed to get email addresses off websites. The script is small, the rules for recognizing website- and email-addresses are real simple, but still it is pretty effective.

Starting at my website and crawler no further than 1 link away - only following links to the homepages of websites, it runs for half a minute and returns 18 emails after crawling through 28 URLs. If I increase the distance it can crawl away from my website to 2, it crawls through 306 websites and returns 151 email addresses.

Sheesh, is it really that easy - no wonder I’m getting more and more spam. Although I am wondering, how come there is a market for selling email addresses when it is this easy to farm them.