Weird addressing

Email addresses are weird.

Web addresses run from broadest to most narrow scope, which makes total sense to me. http is the protocol basically informing the computer how to handle the request. (Back in the 90s, we more commonly also saw ftp and mailto and gopher as protocols in links.) Next is the computer address which ideally would have been ordered Top Level Domain (TLD), site domain, hostname, so for example this site would have been com.ezrasf.www. Next is the folder tree down to the file location. Finally, is the file name.

Similarly, email addresses should have been designed as protocol, TLD, site domain, username. So, you could reach me at mailto:com.ezrasf/blog. Instead, the username at server address is what we got. It works, but it has bothered me that it does for a decade and a half.

Confuzzled Exchange

I check accounts from two different Exchange domains with Outlook. Check might be a bit of an overstatement for one as it is maybe once a month and more like every couple. Both require me to periodically change the passwords. And both send daily email warnings leading up to the deadline.

Because I might miss the week of daily warnings for one, I set up a rule in Outlook to forward the message to myself. Thankfully I set it up to send to more than one email account. I got the warnings in just one place which bothered me.

The missing messages had bounced. The address listed in the error looks nothing like the address in the rule. (I would post it, but I have no idea if that would compromise the account.) My guess is Outlook does not firewall the contacts in rules. So if I enter an address for the cross domain and it recognizes the address, then it shows me in the UI the human friendly but the backend uses the Exchange friendly one.

My solution ironically was to leverage a third party. My web hosting provider allows me to create unlimited email addresses, which I use to set forwarding accounts. I created one for this purpose and replaced the problem one in the rule. It works now.


Post Conference Spam

Sadly information technology conferences give our email addresses and phone numbers to the vendors who attended. That results in me getting an uptick of spam especially in the weeks after it. It is easy to tell the spam from the conference because the vendors mention the name of the conference. All the conferences do it. It is just one of those things from going to them.

One recent gem: “Sorry we missed you.” Actually, I intentionally did not visit the vendor area. I have no budget authority,  so I am pretty much wasting their time. Last year I did with an old boss and ironically used my familiarity with Desire2Learn to get him a moose doll for his son. (He’d already gotten one for his daughters but felt bad about getting a third. Family stability is more important than some extra spam.)

Technically spam is “unsolicited usually commercial e-mail sent to a large number of addresses.” This is commercial email. The number of addresses is modest so not large. But, I think where it gets interesting is whether or not it is solicited. One could make the argument that the conferences solicit the email addresses of attendees as an enticement for the vendors to attend. The quality of the vendors entices attendees. (I’m pretty sure people who care enough at all are a small proportion.)

It is tempting to ask the conference if it is possible to have the vendors mark categories of products they sell and attendees to mark what categories they are interested in hearing. Unfortunately, I would expect 93% of attendees to mark nothing as their interests to avoid getting spammed. Maybe a mitigation is say if you mark nothing, then we send you everything. (So pick your poison.)


“Random” Failure

Got an update to a ticket asking if it could be closed. I clicked the link in the ticket to get to the web site to close it. The web site told me before I could do anything I needed to provide my email address. “Um, the same one you used to email me to get here?”

I closed the browser window and tried again. Same thing. So I provided it. Next it informed me it already has that one. If this is in error, then I should email the administrator. The administrator tells me this sometimes occurs. They have no idea why.

While waiting on the administrator to respond, I happened to click on the link from another ticket. That one worked. I think all the prior updates to the failing ticket worked until the issue, but they all fail now, which is kind of good.

But it made me curious, so I started looking closer. I like root causes. What is the one thing that caused a failure. Even as I accept that many times the root cause is a scapegoat. Many things contribute to a failure, so often times it is a cascade of events leading to the thing we label the “root.”

First, I compared URLs of the failing link versus the link in the next update for a different ticket which works. I copy both to my text editor. There is a pattern. The URLs sent by the ticketing system have one variable provided. There is a pattern to them that I should be able to determine. The obvious part is the ticket number is first. The non-obvious part is code after. The ticketing system has areas for tickets of different types. It looks like the URLs that are failing have a type code inconsistent with the type of others. When I change it to the right area type, I get in.

But, it is easy to make a typo and end up in the wrong work space.

The question is why would it do this? I looked at the frequency. Only 28 times was the wrong code sent out of 4,480 messages.They only affected five tickets. All five are ones I opened. They happen on all messages for those tickets. They all have the same failure.

Also, it might be a bad assumption that the ticketing system is what is sending the corrupted URL. It could be an anti-viral server scanning email, something on the email system “fixing” a problem, or the security software work runs on my system. Hard to pin down what system in helping caused the corruption. Maybe not worth the effort.

Also, this kind of thing could be like chasing the White Rabbit down the hole. It probably just leads to more questions and surprises than actual answers.

Stop Processing More Rules

By default Outlook adds “stop processing more rules” to message filters. Eventually I run into the error:

The rule has a condition the server cannot process. The action ‘stop processing more rules’ will prevent all remaining server rules from being carried out. Are you sure this is what you want to do?

Well… That is what the condition is to do, right?

So, it turns out the message does not describe the problem very well. What it REALLY means is that the rule is a client-side rule and will stop processing server-side rules, but the server has no way to evaluate the client-side condition. So everything could get confused. So either stop using client-side rules or stop using “stop processing more rules”. The latter is a default, so it is applied to almost all the rules. The former is a small fraction, so easier to expunge.

Feel like I learned this when I was using Outlook at my old job and forgot it because I switched to Mozilla. So I am having to relearn it.

Extending Gmail Addresses

Surprised I have not posted prior about this. Gmail allows one to use and have it delivered to Use it to sign up for web sites or things and filter later. Should this address be compromised, you can create a filter to delete anything sent through just that address.

Keep in mind…

    1. Though I would expect pretty good spammers or hackers to remove the +anything. 
    2. Some web sites use algorithms that consider these addresses not real.

So your results may vary.

Restore Line Breaks

File this under external brain notes. I figure I will need to do this again or explain it to someone else.

Outlook removes line breaks. This probably works fine for people who work in a normal job. As I work in computers, removing these often breaks the formatting and makes the message unintelligible. For example, command output where the command should be on one line and the results on the next, removing the line breaks makes the command and results appear on the same line.

So I am trained now to look for “Extra line breaks in this message were removed” when an email makes little sense. I went Googling for how to permanently remove them. Most of the results were for older versions. For Outlook 2010, the process appears to be:

    1. Click on File.
    2. Click on Options (left side)
    3. Click on the Mail Tab
    4. Scroll down to next to last section: Message Format
    5. Click on “Remove extra line breaks in plain text messages”.

Done. Easy.

Paste Formatting

Ideally every email I send would be plain text. Many of the people I email send to me HTML-based email

For a decade an annoyance I had with Outlook was when pasting text from the clipboard, it would include source formatting. So, if I copied the title of a blog post to make it “Paste Formatting”, instead it would look like:

Paste Formatting

The workaround was to choose Paste Special from a menu or button and Plain Text.

Outlook 2010 has options for how pasting works for several places: same email, other email, between emails with conflicting styles, and other programs. Not only do I get to pick keep the text only, but I get to pick where it happens. Perhaps others had the same concerns and made Microsoft address it. Finally.

Tenth of Email Infected

Virus and worm writers suck… This stuff gets really annoying really quickly.

The latest worm picks on Microsoft SQL server. Don’t think we have many installations here. However, between 4 and 6 AM on a Sunday morning we had an average 30% utilization of our bandwith? That is down from 80 – 100% utilization yesterday afternoon. Could be people downloading music and videos, but I doubt it.

A tenth of the email I get are infected by a virus. The person that sent the email does not know they are sending the email. The person on the FROM line did not send the email and likely are getting emails with my address in the FROM line.

What can you do? Put pressure on the top people of your workplace and home ISP to have anti-virus tools placed on their email servers to protect you. This stuff is getting out of hand!