What mail reader; what mail set-up


New Email

I'm after some advice on how to set up my mail configuration. I have a little bit of experience (I have once set up sendmail on a server I was responsible for), and have used a variety of bits of email stuff. But I am not sure what the best solution is in this case -- or even what the options are.

First of all, the current setup. My desktop machine at work runs Ubuntu and I use the Evolution email client. I fetchmail my email from my work IMAP server which runs Windows Exchange. All of my local email folders on my desktop are straight mbox. Ancient, I know, but I can grep and gzip and all that good, simple, robust stuff. I travel a great deal and have a Mac and an Android phone. On both of those I ssh in to my desktop and run (wait for it) (al)pine (yes, yes, I know I should prefer mutt. But I don't!). My desktop machine runs behind an enterprise firewall. I have negotiated to have an intermediate machine that I can ssh into from outside, and then I ssh hop from there to my desktop.

This is a bulletproof robust setup but it is a real pain -- specifically, when I lose my 3G/GPRS connection from my phone, or I'm out of wifi connection on my Mac, I can't process email at all. What I would like is to have local mail clients on my Mac and phone that cache my email and where I can both process and file email offline and then when I get a connection back, all of my sendable emails and filing actions sync with the server. I like the simplicity and unbreakability of mbox and I like to be able to use (al)pine and ssh if nothing else works (e.g. if I'm in some internet cafe).

So, lots of interesting problems here: I can't run a simple webmail server on my desktop because it's not accessible through the firewall. I don't like trusting everything to M$ Exchange, particularly because I can't manipulate all my historical email locally in *nix robust style. I need clients that are robust in the face of syncing (even in a multiple-client context). I'd rather not trust to Google or similar because some of my email is sensitive (I guess I also have a bit of an irrational preference for managing my own email, particularly the historical files).

I'm not excluding any possibilities, and am happy to rejig pretty much everything. And of course, I may well have missed the obvious solutions. So, what would you do?

Looking forward to interesting options,


EQ Admin

EQ Forum Admin
Staff member
Hi Chris,

What you are doing is almost identical to what I did for my corporate email connectivity for over 10 years through 2010.

I had an extra hop but had the option to either ssh through two hosts on the way into the network or I could VPN in and get direct access to my workstation. I ran screen on my Solaris workstation. Inside my screen I had a couple pine's running (eventually alpine's) that were connected to exchange and some other imap servers.

I agree that you should not be storing your corporate email outside the corporate network.

What I did with my pine config is that in addition to the imap inbox hosted on exchange, the pine was configured to store my mail folders in my home dir on my workstation. All sent email, replies/forwards, and any additional email I wanted to save I'd move to a local mail folder. My home dir was NFS mounted from a central UNIX server, which meant that all of my emails were also backed up within the daily server backups.

There are no rules that say you need to run ssh on port 22, or a web server on port 80. For the technically curious you could play some games with running a webmail server on port 22 or get some tunnels out that allow access back to your workstation from the outside, but I strongly recommend against that and breaking any corporate network access policies!

If you don't mind my asking what is your role in the company?

Also, do they have Outlook Web Access (OWA) available as an additional method for accessing your email on the exchange servers?

It sounds like the biggest problem is how do you get to work on your email when your wireless/mobile is unreachable, but also not be copying work emails to devices that are not company owned? How often does this happen? I'm surprised the phone signal drops often enough to matter. Do you have a laptop? If you do, is there any chance your company would get you a cell card for the laptop so that you would always have internet access and be able to reach the corporate network? The one piece I had that you don't seem to was a laptop + cell card + VPN access. That's a great combo to make sure you can also access the resources at work.

If you need to could you arrange to trade in a desktop at work for a laptop you can take home with you and dock while at work?

I was asking about your role above becuase a systems administrator or other role that would be responsible for on call or any kind of off hours support / maintenance / upgrades or access to work while on vacation should be able to justify getting a cell card for a laptop. You might need to share it with the rest of your team too. :)

I hope some of that helps and maybe points you in the right direction.

If you have any other questions please let us know.

:welcome: to Email Questions!