[xplorer˛] — Email on the move, sorted!
home » blog » 25 November 2007

"Chaos reigns within; Reflect, repent, and reboot; Order shall return" — random heiku

I have to do loads of travelling nowadays, so wifi internet is pretty much the order of the day. Most hotels/BnB offer wireless connections, and vulnerabilities notwithstanding it is a convenient networking mechanism (in any case if you run as a normal user your networking risks are minimized too). But it isn't perfect. Poor signal quality and interference from other wireless transmitters cause loss of service and frustration.

What annoyed me the most, was some intermittent failures in MS Outlook 2003. Some hotspots would be fine but in say 30% of them it would receive email but not send! Emails would get stuck in the outbox folder with a variety of incomprehensible error codes like 0x80042109. The hotel I'm staying this week took the buiscuit: I could send emails first thing in the morning but not in the evening! Surely whatever it was had to do with wifi signal strength and availability? I also tried the usual range of desperate measures — rebooting, switching wifi on/off, rubbing my nose while holding my breath etc — with mixed success. I am supposed to be a computer expert, and know my POP3 from my IMAP, so such blackouts are frustrating and incredible.

It dawned on me to google for "wireless outlook email send failure" and I picked a few interesting discussions. There were other people with the same problem but I couldn't understand the answers at all. In wireless connections inevitably one connects to the mail server through a different ISP, whichever happens to run the wifi network in question. And apparently some ISPs and/or mail servers don't like this indirection and outgoing email is blocked. To save us from spammers of course. And as usual, the legitimate user ends up suffering!

And the solution is...
I was about to send an email to my mail and website people 1and1.co.uk (good service btw) where I stumbled on their FAQ page for email troubleshooting. One solution said: "change your outgoing server port from 25 to 587". Yeah, right, what are the chances of that working? And if the ISP is blocking port 25 would they miss 587? And how do you explain the morning glory behaviour of my hotel's wifi? Oh well, let's give it a shot... OMG it works! Using port 587 did the trick. If you are using Outlook, goto Tools > Email accounts and in the advanced settings page of each email account type 587 (snapshot).

I haven't got an explanation, and I don't know if it solves all the wifi email problems, but if you have troubles sending email on the move you should give port 587 a try! Personally I'm none the wiser but happy as a Bangladeshi with cyclone insurance :)

ps. this just in: MS explorer listing badly after balmer had too much thanksgiving turkey and sunk the thing <g>

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