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All I want is a mailer that works


I think I must have offended the email gods sometime in the past eight or nine months.

The amount of time that I've spent dealing with email failures of one sort or another this year has been astonishing, as has the variety of problems. If it were just one problem, I could understand that. But it seems like every week there's some new issue.

Last night, I sat down to do a quick email check (and run a general backup) before going to sleep. Apple's Mail.app started the check, Time Machine started the backup--

And the whole machine froze up. No pointer, menu-bar clock stopped updating, total hang.

Nothing I tried worked, so I did a hard reboot.

When I tried to check mail again, Mail.app told me that there'd been a problem and it would have to re-import my mail. Fortunately, importing 33,000 messages took only five or six minutes.

Then I tried checking mail again.

And on every mail account, Mail.app stopped at a particular message. In one account, it was message #24; in another, it was message #153 or something. It got to those messages and just sat there, with data speed down to 0, doing apparently nothing.

I gave up and went to bed.

This morning, I tried again. Over and over. Exactly the same thing. Clicking the various Stop buttons in Mail didn't work; it would display a "stopping" message, and then just sit there, not stopping. Quitting Mail didn't work; it would get most of the way through quitting, then notice that it was still waiting to finish the Stop action, and would sit there indefinitely. I had to force-quit to get it to stop.

I tried downloading the mail in Eudora first. That seemed to be going fine, until it got to the last few hundred messages in the last mailbox. I thought to myself, "Maybe I should click Stop at this point so as not to lose the progress I've made if Eudora hangs." And then I thought, "Nah, it's only a few hundred more messages." And moments later, of course, Eudora hung, and I had to start the process over. (This is a different problem from the Mail.app problem, of course; this is just Eudora's normal brokenness.)

I tried logging into my shell account and deleting the problem message in one of the mailboxes. Then I tried checking mail on that account in Mail.app. It hung at the same message number as before, which was now the message following the original problem message.

I think maybe the only thing left to do is restore Mail.app's data files from the backup that ran yesterday morning, and hope that the glitch was something introduced after that point.

[Update added an hour later: I finally thought to check the Console application, and it had error messages related to the file ~/Library/Mail/MessageUidsAlreadyDownloaded3 being in the wrong format. I'm guessing that file got corrupted in last night's hang-and-reboot. So I replaced that file with its backup from yesterday morning, and checked mail again, and Lo! Everything works! So the immediate issue has been resolved.]

But I'm getting really really sick of this. It seems like for most people (and for me before last December or so), email pretty much just works, at least most of the time (with occasional bouts of problems). Whereas it seems like for me this year, and especially in the past couple weeks, email pretty much doesn't work most of the time. Well, okay, maybe not most of the time. But much of the time.

Maybe if I sacrificed some spam on an altar?


You probably have to sacrifice unblemished spam, the finest of your current harvest. Nothing with unfilled merge fields or viruses.

Your sad devotion to that ancient religion has not helped you conjure up the stolen data tapes!

-- I mean to say, there's something kind of steampunk about local mail storage at this point. Not that I don't understand (I think) why you still prefer it. But I don't think there's anyone out there working very hard, any more, on getting it right.

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