Today Queen Mary has migrated to a new, Microsoft-produced, mail system, called Office 365.

I expected trouble, and put a note to this effect on my web page. Trouble has certainly come.

  • The new mailer sees only half of my existing email. Fortunately the mail hasn’t completely disappeared, and my old unix mailer (mutt) can still find it; but new mail doesn’t get delivered there any more.
  • The new mailer crashes my browser. A colleague I mentioned this to was not surprised – of course a Microsoft product will crash a Linux program!
  • I can’t read mail from home. I get a 1762-character-long, incomprehensible, error message.
  • Needless to say, I can’t import my mutt aliases into the new system. Everything has to be rebuilt from scratch, by hand.

I reported some time ago that they have centralised IT support. Today I was told that there will no longer be any unix support provided. Given that unix is better for actually doing research, whereas Microsoft is better for filling in grant application forms, this certainly fits the “strategic plan” of the College.

Anyway, if you need to get hold of me, mailing me at St Andrews might be safer, until this mess is sorted out.

Update 12 October:

I am unable to use Office 365 at all. I now get the error message on all computers and all browsers.

But at least I was able to get the address of the server, so I have been able to get mutt to work again. Things are almost the same as they were before, except that instead of a 3-letter username I now have to enter a 17-character username …

At least I am spared from having to use a Microsoft program for a bit longer!


About Peter Cameron

I count all the things that need to be counted.
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13 Responses to Mail

  1. Laurent Therond says:

    All the logic in this world is becoming more and more concentrated.
    I wonder how it felt seeing Rome burn.

  2. Dima says:

    Peter, you can store your username in .muttrc file. (And you can even store your password there…) I almost always use mutt this way…

    • Thanks, I hadn’t thought of that.
      All these changes (the new system requires a password change every 180 days, and you need to remember five special questions and answers) have the effect of making the system less secure: people choose easy passwords and keep them in unsafe places.

      • Dima says:

        sure, the stupidity of Micro$oft Exchange setup has no limits… But it allows you to send faxes! 🙂 We also had that half a year password change thing in Singapore, so I basically rotated cyclically certain string of characters, when I need a “new” password… Fortunately none of this here in Dept. of CS in Oxford.

      • I tried setting imap_login, with no success, and then realised I should be setting imap_user; that done, it worked fine. Thanks for the tip!

  3. Dima says:

    There is a link
    describing settings needed to get imap folders etc. You’d put into .muttrc “spoolfile” and “folder” as in the following example:

    set spoolfile=”imaps://”
    set folder=”imaps://”

    (this is assuming your .muttrc is on your laptop, and not on a public computer, certainly…)

    • “spoolfile” and “folder” are already set – my earlier difficulty was figuring out what to set them to when I was unable to use the browser to access the server. Setting “imap_user” just saved the annoyance of typing 17 characters at the username prompt.
      This information is useful also to my mutt-using colleagues, and I am passing it on.

      • Dima says:

        indeed, it’s more natural to set “imap_user” (and “imap_pass”), instead of setting these parts directly in “spoolfile” and “folder”

  4. Neil Calkin says:

    Can you set up an alternative email account and forward all your email to it? Train those of us who think of you as at QMC that you are now somewhere more friendly?

    • If I have been slow reading mail for the last few weeks, it is because of teaching the first-years, and especially the test. I have now succeeded in setting up both the IMAP and SMTP addresses correctly so I can use mutt for my QM email without needing to log in. St Andrews are also threatening to centralise email, so I may have to go through the exercise again, but not while I am so busy. These are exactly the kind of things that one should do in the huge stretches of spare time when one has retired…

    • Dima says:

      M$ Exchange is hopeless in forwarding mail. The results arrive with headers chopped, email address of the sender missing (and of course, why would they over there at Redmond care – their task is to take over the world, not to be nice to (L)users), etc… At least that was my experience last time I tried this in 2007 or so.

      • The main problem I have found is that it times me out very frequently, and when this happens I lose all the deletes I have marked. So I have to get in the habit of quitting and restarting quite often. I assume this is not so bad if you are using the system in the approved way, with Office 365 and Explorer, but have no way of testing that (and no wish to). Basically, I now have something that works, and I am sticking with that for the time being.

      • Dima says:

        mutt has a shortcut to commit the changes without quitting, namely $ key. So you don’t have to quit, just hit $ now and then…

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