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One email problem after another


Over the weekend, my Internet access was spotty. The connection in my room was stuttering on and off every few seconds at one point. Outgoing mail was particularly a problem; I couldn't email my reading for the wedding to the front desk to print out for me, nor could I send SH autoresponses reliably. (About one in every 3 to 5 attempts to send an autoresponse would succeed.)

Managed to check and send mail at Michael & Lisa's on Sunday. But now I'm back at their place, and I tried checking mail tonight.

And Mail.app successfully retrieved mail from all but my main account, where the password timed out.

I tried telnetting to port 110 and issuing a USER command and a PASS command. It took about 2 minutes for the PASS command to be accepted. Mail.app apparently times out after about 1 minute. I Googled for info on changing the timeout, and found two or three forum postings in various forums where people have asked how to change the timeout, but no answers. In at least one case, the poster was mocked for having a slow POP3 account.

Figured I could at least use the old-fashioned UNIX mail interface in my shell account. Logged in, ran the command. Received error message: "/: write failed, filesystem is full".

Called Pair tech support. They're closed.

Looked at filesize on the mailbox in question. It's 115MB. No idea whether that's significantly bigger than usual. If it is, that would explain the full-filesystem problem.

Decided to download Eudora mail, because Eudora can delete junk mail from the server mailbox. Was hesitant because I haven't downloaded mail with Eudora in a week and a half, so there's a lot of it sitting on the server. Decided to try.

During the first 2000 messages (in a secondary mailbox), Eudora hung three times in close succession.

I finally managed to look at my main mailfile using the UNIX utility less, but that's not a good way to read mail--only did a search for the most urgent thing I was expecting.

Meanwhile, I'm falling asleep at the keyboard, due to very little sleep last night.

(Side note: when I tried to listen to my falling-asleep music last night after realizing I couldn't sleep, it sounded like it was playing about twice the usual speed, much too fast to be relaxing. I listened to bits of it again after waking up this morning and found that it's playing at normal speed. I don't know whether my time perception changed or whether I was half-dreaming or what. Odd.)

So I think the only thing I can do is go sleep. Perhaps the problems will have fixed themselves in the morning.

There have been many wonderful things about this trip, but I will be very very happy to be home in a couple of days.


Can you run mutt on your mail server? It's a nicer text interface than mail, and copes fine, I've found, with hundreds-of-MB-sized mail folders.
Other than that, bummer! Other options could be to copy the whole inbox to another file, make that a mail folder, and then delete the mailbox (checking it hadn't changed yet), so at least your inbox will then be empty and you'll be able to collect new emails. It's just deferring the problem though.

No idea how to change the timeout in Mail.app - sounds like good ol'-fashioned "Apple knows best"... :/

Received error message: "/: write failed, filesystem is full".

It's almost certainly the case that / is the root filesystem and your mail directory is on a different filesystem. This isn't your mail's fault --- this is Pair's machine being hosed. Keep trying to reach tech support. You can login and run the "df" command, to see if filesystems are still full (if the "Capacity" column says 100%, that's bad).

Most important bit first: I tried checking mail using Mail.app again this morning, and it worked fine. So whatever was causing Pair to be slow to respond to the password has apparently now gone away. Yay!

Anyway, thanks for the notes, Peter and Chaos.

Peter: I do have access to mutt and pine on the server; I just always forget about them, because I'm not used to them--I don't have a clear sense of what they're doing behind the scenes (what with creating various mail folders and such), nor of how to ensure that the mail I view with them will still be visible/available to my POP clients. Which is to say, I never got around to learning how to use them effectively. I should do so at some point, but good old-fashioned mail usually serves my needs, so I haven't felt the need to learn "new" tools.

Chaos: Yeah, I tried df -k last night, and found that /dev and /root/proc were both at 100%. (And still are this morning.) I don't know whether that's normal or not. But / was (and is) at only 78%, with 105MB available; and my mailbox in question is 115MB, so trying to copy it results in / running out of space. I suspect Pair would say that my mailbox shouldn't be that big (and I agree; I don't normally keep that much mail on the server), so I'm gonna continue to try to download it in Eudora so as to get rid of all the junk mail and the more-than-a-week-old mail that's in that mailbox; I suspect that'll fix the filesystem-full problem.

My general take on this: Pair was awesome five or ten years ago. By two or three years ago, they went south--very, very south. I've had regular problems with them since then, and their customer service has been atrocious. I've been looking to jump ship, but unfortunately have never achieved the coordination with Josh and Chaos to actually transition my domain over to swarpa.net (where I'd like to have it) and only really think about it when Pair hoses me, and lose my urgency once Pair half-assedly fixes things.

I'm really sorry about your woes here! :-( Sounds like it was a bad night for technology (I lost a hard drive). Let's blame sunspots (or moonspots).

Wayman: I'm actually still very satisfied with Pair overall; I've almost never had any significant problems with them, in over ten years of being their customer. I haven't noticed anything getting worse in the past couple years, I don't think.

In this particular instance, I suspect that the long password delay had more to do with my mailfile being large than with anything else, but I'm not sure. (It did recur later; it's been intermittent over the past couple days.) At any rate, none of the other problems in this entry are really Pair's fault, as far as I can tell; most of them are the fault of the Sheraton's network system.

(To make matters even worse, it turns out that at least one of the emails that apparently wasn't sending over the weekend actually went out 8 or 12 times. Sigh. I apologize to anyone who got lots of copies of our autoresponse.)

...Anyway, I'm sorry about your hard drive. :( Sucks.

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