Using example domains

People have put example domains in all kinds of programs and servers, often using,, or – along with such as,,,,, and so on.

All of these are domains that resolve and have actual servers up and running on the Internet. Of those mentioned previously, only, and are preserved for testing purposes by IANA in RFC 2606.

Better yet, when using example email addresses avoid any surprises by using one of these domains specified in RFC 2606:

  • .example (for documentation)
  • .test (for testing purposes)
  • .localhost (for sending to the local host)
  • .invalid (for creating guaranteed invalid domain names)

If you use these domains, you won’t have to worry about mail going out that wasn’t supposed to go out. I’ve seen this happen before – a configuration file sent out with an open source server sends mail to an example address – which address turns out to go to a valid domain on the Internet, where it is accepted by the mail host.

Don’t get caught by this mistake! Use the RFC 2606 domains wherever needed, and don’t make one up of your own.

Disposable Mail Addresses (and Finding Alternatives) went pay-only (because of spammer abuse!) last summer, and I only discovered it recently as I don’t use these services all that much. During the search for alternatives, I found new ways to search for alternatives.

The service AlternativeTo has always been a good place to go for desktop software alternatives; now they include mobile platforms and online applications as well. The list of alternatives to TrashMail is extensive and interesting.

The other interesting item is Google’s related: operator. This can be used during searches, but at the bottom of a search there may be a link to sites similar to the one searched for. In the case of, Google returns a lot of alternatives.

As an ironic twist, consider this: Google has a list of sites similar to

Email Productivity: Smack Down that Email!

I believe I have a somewhat unusual approach to email – at least, unusual in that it doesn’t seem to be discussed much. It works for me, and might just work for you.

I get a ton of emails – mainly because I either a) have notices and warnings and logs coming from systems I manage, or b) subscribe to way too many newsletters, mailing lists, and so forth. At work, I get notices; at home, I get mailing lists…

This is what I do.

Sort everything!

If you can quantify it, put it into a folder. Nothing should be in your inbox except mail you’ve not had a chance to quantify yet – or haven’t seen before.

Create rules to sort things automatically. This is the crux of the system: everything is sorted as it comes into your mailbox. Also, if necessary, force the rules to sort only once: once the rule is triggered, it should quit and stop processing rules. Thunderbird does this automatically; Outlook has to be told.

As you create the rules, most email clients will allow you to create a folder at the same time. Use this capability.

Many clients also have the ability to create a rule from a message – sometimes even to the point of automatically creating a filter on a sender or on a mailing list sender: use it. Both Thunderbird and Outlook will provide much of this capability from a right click on the message to be sorted.

Also remember to apply the rules as you create them to all messages currently in the inbox: that is the whole purpose. Before the rule was created, they couldn’t be sorted – so sort them afterwards.

Here are some examples:

  • Mail from the boss. Move it to a folder with his name.
  • Mail from the system administration mail group. Put into a folder named according the the group’s name.
  • Newsletter from a system manufacturer. Move to a folder named according to the newsletter name or the manufacturer’s name.
  • Automatic log messages sent by mail from a system. If these are “alarm” type messages, separate them. System messages could go into a folder named after the system, or into a folder according to the monitor tool reporting.

The last example brings up the next point:

Use saved searches to sort in different ways.

For example, all automated messages from a system could go into a folder by system name. Then created saved searches that show all messages from a particular monitoring system (such as Nagios or HP’s EMS).

Add alarms for vital mail.

In contrast to what others have said, I believe in message alarms: however, only use them for mail that is truly important. For example, when the boss sends you an email, you’d better look it, yes? Likewise, if you are responding to help desk tickets, you’d better know about it right away.

The general suggestion still holds however: turn off global message alarms!

Change view of inbox to only show unread mail.

This is how I achieve Inbox Zero (I cheat!). I do still create rules as much as possible for everything that comes in – but there are stragglers.

Create a list of favorites.

Lastly, create a list of favorites. Outlook allows you to mark a folder as a favorite; KMail has a similar capability. This provides you with a way to sort everything but only see (directly) what is most important.

Virtual Desktops: What Good are They?

I’ve been renewing my interest in virtual desktops – the ability to have multiple “desktops”, switching as you desire from one to the other. For Windows there is a very good implementation (freeware – not open source) called Dexpot. For the Macintosh, there is the program VirtueDesktops. For Linux, there’s the hugely popular Compiz – though I’m no fan of it (it’s purpose is to be pretty and to consume processing time – in my opinion). Default installations of GNOME and KDE both support generic virtual desktops – but Compiz makes them pretty.

With multiple desktops, the theory goes, you can use one desktop for a particular purpose, and another for some different purpose – for example, email on one and the Web on the other. It’s like having multiple monitors without being able to see them.

Note that this capability has existed in UNIX workstations since the 1980s – despite all the excitement over Apple MacOS X Leopard and it’s Spaces capability.

Note, too, that Dexpot handles a workspace with multiple monitors fairly well (no experience on whether Compiz or VirtueDesktops work well – my guess is they probably do).

So with multiple desktops, you can hide your email when you are busy coding (or administering, installing, or debugging…). This can save you from “hovering” over your mailbox instead of getting things done.

Virtual desktops can also provide the capability to separate two different environments – for example, working on a production system and working on a test environment. As administrators, you dare not mix up the test environment with the production environment when you go to shut the system down. Sure, you can color the terminal window – but what if you give your desktop an entirely different backdrop? And you wouldn’t even see the production environment unless you switched to it.

I’m going to try again – I’ve used VirtueDesktop in the past, but it had some annoying bugs – and we’ll see if it can improve productivity. I’ve also put Dexpot on my Windows desktop; we’ll see.

Living in the Internet Cloud

When we are on-the-go professionals, and are potentially required to work from home or from other locations on the road, isn’t it good to be able to reach your data no matter where you are?

Thus is the interest in being able to “live in the cloud”, keeping data and information on Internet computers out there somewhere.  Unfortunately, it also means that instead of making our own backups, we must rely on someone else’s backups.  Suppose the company goes out of business?  This has already happened for several photo sites – and in one case, it took the customer’s photos with them.

There are many sites that can provide a safe harbour for data or for information of various kinds.  My favorites are these:

The online desktops Goowy and eyeOS deserve special mention.  Not only do they provide a desktop, but also all the standard applications you might need.  It is possible to run within one of these desktops and save your data entirely with one of these setups.  This makes for a fantastic central location for everything – and a larger-than-normal risk.

EyeOS has one more feature that most of these do not: it is open source.  If you want to run your own version of EyeOS, there’s no problem doing so.  This is incredibly useful if you have your own server to run this on.  Then you can centralize your information and retain control at the same time.

I also find the mail clients in Goowy and eyeOS to be quite useful for sending mail from anywhere with a browser.

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Throw-away Email for Privacy

Often, when one is online, an email address is requested. In many places, as a part of registration, a working email is required.

To best prevent spam, your email address should be jealously guarded, and not put out just anywhere. The more popular the location, the more likely some nefarious evil spammer is scanning for your address.

So, if you can’t use your address, what do you use? A throw-away address (or no address). There are many different services that provide just such an item – and for free!

These services offer different features, but basically come in two flavors: those that provide you with a “mailbox” at their web site where you can go and check it, and those that provide a forwarding service.

However, in most (or all) cases, these should not be considered anonymous email services; these are throw-away services. The goal is not to have completely private conversations, but to keep your email address from getting into the wrong hands as much as possible. These services provide privacy for your email address, not your conversations.

Here is a breakdown of what is available.

Forwarding Services

  • creates an address (by your request), with a limited number of forwards and a limited time for forwarding (both of your choosing). You can choose the address. It even offers optional challenge-response spam filtering.
  • This service provides a forwarding service that only lives as long as you specify. It doesn’t have as many options as, but it offers the same service.
  • SpamGourmet: A site that offers basic mail addresses that will forward to your address for a specific number of messages. While a login and password is required (to provide protection for your email address, and so forth), it is not necessary to log in to create a temporary address!

Temporary Mail Drops

  • Mailinator: creates a mailbox first time it receives an email, and later, you can check any received mail at that address.
  • Pookmail: Offers temporary addresses (that can be checked online) that are only active for 24 hours.
  • GuerrillaMail: Offers temporary addresses (that can be checked online) that are only active for 15 minutes.
  • This service offers mailboxes that can be checked online, and deletes mails after seven days. Note addresses for this service are, not (no, I don’t know why). It does offer one very unique service: watch the mailbox using RSS!

So which one do I use? I use almost exclusively, but have used Mailinator before also (and would do so again). Jetable and Trashmail both offer Firefox extensions which make using their services very easy. However, since I use Camino, I can’t use them – no matter.