How To Configure iPhone to Communicate with FastMail

We get many questions regarding the best way to configure the Apple iPhone or Apple iPodTouch. The built-in Mail application on these devices can easily be configured to access your FastMail account.

Many times, the iTunes application will synchronize your email configuration automatically to your iPhone. You can also configure it manually.

Here are the steps required:

  1. Go to the Settings application, choose Mail, Contacts, Calendars.  The select Add Account…
  2. Type type will be Other, then select Add Mail Account
  3. Type your name in the Name field
  4. Type your Desired Email Address in the Address field.  For example:  myusername@fastmail.fm or you could use another email address listed as one of your personalities.
  5. Enter your password
  6. Description can be anything of your choosing
  7. Click Save

The iPhone will then attempt to look up your information. At that point, you will have to supply some additional information.  We recommend using the IMAP configuration.

  1. Under Incoming Mail Server, set the Host Name to be: mail.messagingengine.com
  2. In the User Name field, enter your FastMail user account ID   (e.g. myusername@fastmail.fm)
  3. Your Password should already be pre-filled from above.
  4. Under Outgoing Mail Server, set the Host Name to be: mail.messagingengine.com
  5. The Outgoing User Name must be entered.  Enter your FastMail user account information again.
  6. Don’t forget to enter the Outgoing Password as well
  7. Press Save
  8. At that point, it should verify your connection information.  If you’ve misspelled your account name or password, you will have to fix them before you can proceed.

To use the phone optimally with FastMail, there are some Advanced settings that should be adjusted. Before that can happen, it is important for the iPhone/iPod to connect to the server once to download the list of folders from the FastMail server.

This is easy to do, simply press the home button, then choose Mail and highlight your new mail account. If you are currently viewing your Inbox, you can press the “Back” button with your account name at the top of the page.  This will list all the folders on the FastMail server. Items such as Drafts, Sent Items, Trash.

You are now ready to configure the Advanced settings. The benefit will be that all messages you send or delete from your iPhone will be visible from the FastMail webmail interface, or other email programs you have configured.

  1. Click the Home button, choose the Settings application, choose Mail, Contacts, Calendars.
  2. Select your newly created account from list
  3. Scroll Down and select the Advanced button
  4. We need to modify each one of the Mailbox Behaviors entries
  5. Choose Drafts Mailbox.  You will then see the folder list “On the Server”. Find your Drafts folder on the server and select it. Click the Advanced button at the top left when done.
  6. Next choose Sent Mailbox. Find your Sent Items folder on the server and select it. Click the Advanced button at the top left when done.
  7. Finally, choose the Deleted Mailbox. Find the Trash folder on the server and select it.
  8. You are complete.  Simply press the Home button to finish the configuration.

Once your configuration is complete, your iPhone will work perfectly with FastMail.

Some other items to consider:

  1. You do not necessary have to set the IMAP Prefix on the iPhone to be INBOX.  For our business customers, leaving the prefix blank allows your iPhone to see any shared email folders that exist in your business.
  2. If you use mostly utilize a public WiFi to access your email using your iPhone or iPod Touch, these can sometimes cause connection issues.  That is due to the WiFi provider being very restrictive regarding the ports that are made available.  Not to worry, you can change your email configuration to utilize our Proxy services. The proxy allows you to use IMAP over any port necessary (usually port 80 is available).  You can learn more about our proxy servers here.
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The state of SSD storage for a database server

Note: The SSD market is moving quickly, so I’m sure by the time you read this, it’s probably out of date :)

As mentioned in another post, we’re looking for some new servers. These are to replace our existing database servers, which have had a long and productive life (over 6 years). They’re still running fine, but they’re starting to get a little more loaded than we’d like during backup runs. As an FYI, our database requirements are much smaller than you’d expect for our size. Our database holds information like the user list, domains, aliases, user address book, personalities, signatures, etc, but most of our storage space is used by emails and files, and those aren’t stored in the database at all. Because of that, we only need about 20G of storage now.

I’d really like to get some machines that will last at least 3 years, and scale to at least 20x what the existing servers can. To do that, I think we need to look at using SSD technology for storage. Unfortunately the SSD storage market currently presents a whole range of choices, all with their own annoying pros and cons. For the 20x scale, I’m looking at about 200-400G of storage. Looking over them I’ve found these.

Intel X-25e

Fusion-IO

RamSan-10/20

  • http://www.ramsan.com/products/ramsan-20.htm
  • PCI-e interface, there’s only a binary only driver for RH/SUSE at the moment, but apparently they’re working on an open source driver
  • Reasonably expensive (~$20,000 for 450G = $44/G, I’m guessing the 225G is about half that)
  • In theory fast. Claims “120,000 sustained IOPS”, but I haven’t seen anyone use them in a database benchmark
  • The RamSan and Fusion IO superficially appear very similar. According to TMS, here’s some claimed benefits over Fusion-IO.
    1. CPU and memory resources – Fusion-IO uses system CPU + RAM for flash management (up to 30-40% CPU + 5.5G RAM per 80G of flash), RamSan has onboard CPU + DRAM. “The RamSan-20 has an onboard processor and four FPGA controllers while the cards from Fusion use the server’s processor and memory to run and manage the card. The write management software that we have programmed into the RamSan-20 is far superior to the write management software on the cards from Fusion I/O. This is why our sustained performance is dramatically better”
    2. All SLC. Higher capacity Fusion-IO devices use MLC, which is slower and has lower lifetime
    3. Claim Fusion-IO IOPS are “burst” numbers, while theirs are “sustained”
    4. Super Capacitors – are battery back-ups on the RamSan-20 that provide enough power to shut down the card gracefully in the event of an unmanaged server shutdown. Fusion’s card does not have Supercaps. Data is not lost but the recovery time is incredibly long. After the server is rebooted, the Fusion card needs to rebuild their index tables showing where the data is located. The RamSan-20 data is immediately available after the server reboot, the Fusion card will take about 10 minutes to reload
  • There’s some benchmarks of a RamSan-500 (external flash based unit) here: http://www.bigdbahead.com/?p=139, http://www.bigdbahead.com/?p=140, http://www.bigdbahead.com/?p=141

Sun F5100

  • http://www.sun.com/storage/disk_systems/sss/f5100/
  • Multiple SAS interfaces, so doesn’t need a separate driver
  • Separate 1U rack mount box
  • Very expensive (~$45,000 for 480G = $93.75/G)
  • Fast, and the massive 2T system claims >1.6M IOPS
  • Seems a nice idea, but with a minimum price of $45k for one box, you need to be able to justify the amount and cost of that storage. For larger database users, this might be really interesting to try out

Violin Memory

  • http://www.violin-memory.com/
  • Multiple interfaces is seems: “Fibre Channel and Ethernet network attachments are supported via a network head and direct attachment through a low latency PCI Express (PCIe) connection. Operating systems supported via an open source PCIe driver include: Major Linux releases and distributions, Windows 32 and 64-bit Operating Systems, OpenSolaris”
  • I can’t find price information anywhere, I’m guessing it’s “if you have to ask, you can’t afford it” school of products? With up to 4TB support, it seems it’s aiming for a particularly high end market compared to what we’re looking for (100+G of storage)
  • Very fast. Interesting that you can choose between DRAM or Flash memory to vary performance/durability (http://violin-memory.com/Memory_Flexibility). But if you go DRAM, you need to be extra careful about power, because if power goes, you lose it all.
  • There’s some benchmarks here: http://www.bigdbahead.com/?p=334

Conclusion

There doesn’t appear to be a clear “winning” solution, as usual, it depends on your storage, IO, and cost requirements. When I first heard about Fusion IO, I was initially very excited about what it seemed to offer, but over time, I’ve become a bit more circumspect given the concerns over durability, system overhead (RAM + CPU), and recovery time requirements. The Sun and Violin options seem designed at considerably higher end (both storage space and cost) systems than what we’re looking for. I really wish the RamSan-10/20 had an open source Linux driver. Given TMS have a long history with NVRAM systems, I have a gut feeling of “they know what they’re doing”, but for us, an open source driver is mandatory. That really just leaves Intel drives in a RAID array at the moment, which is probably what we’ll aim for now. By starting with just 2 drives now (very cheap), we can at least replace them in the future with either more, or newer and faster drives, or another solution altogether if it comes along.

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Captcha now required on all personal account signups

Due to a recent dramatic increase in sign ups from bots, we’ve had to introduce the use of a Captcha on all sign ups of personal accounts. We’re using the well known reCAPTCHA service, which not only helps prevent fraud, but also helps in the digitisation of historic books and texts. reCAPTCHA also has an audio challenge for vision impaired people, making it high accessible for all users.

For Guest accounts, we still require a backup email address, and for all paid accounts, we still highly recommend a backup email address. We’ll never send spam to your backup address, and will only use it to send important messages, like if you request your lost password, or you’re approaching your email usage quota.

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Email “reflector” available for testing

Warning: The “reflector” is still very much in testing stages, and may stop working at any time, or may undergo significant changes.

The reflector feature we’ve had for a while on the beta server is now available for testing on the standard production Options –> Define Rules screen. Reflecting is similar to forwarding email, but with a crucial difference.

Forward: A copy of the email is sent to the target account (e.g. your work). When you reply, the email comes from your work account address.

Reflect: A copy of the email is sent to the target account (e.g. your work), with the headers munged in a special way. When you Reply or Reply All at work, the email is sent back via the FastMail reflector, which unmunges the headers, and makes the email look like it came from your FastMail account (it also stores a copy in your Sent Items folder if the personality is set to do so).

The net result, the people you’re having a conversation with only ever see your FastMail email address, never your work one. This is useful for people that like to be able to read and reply to some personal email at work (e.g. say to organise going out to dinner somewhere), but whose workplace won’t let them access the FastMail website, and also who don’t want to give out their work address to friends/acquaintances so they keep all their personal email at FastMail only.

The “Key” field should be just a few random letters/numbers you make up that’s used to avoid the reflector being able to act as an “open relay”.

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Beta server changes removed

A few months ago, we started testing a number of performance changes on our beta server. At the end of last week, the physical server that runs the beta server code had a major crash. Unfortunately now that we’ve recovered the server, we’ve discovered that there’s been quite a bit of data corruption, so we’re having to revert back to a clean install.

This means that the performance improvements that were on the beta server have been removed for the time being. Those improvements (along with some other big improvements we’re working on) will come back soon, but for now they’re not available.

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Migrating To FastMail – Use the Forwarding Tunnel

Great, you’ve decided to migrate your business to FastMail.  Migrating email accounts from one system to another can be a dangerous process. To make it is easy as possible, and to avoid any chance of lost emails, we’ve setup many tools to make it as easy as possible.

An important help article outlines all of the necessary steps to perform: https://www.fastmail.fm/help/business_migrate.html

Another one of FastMail’s hidden gems is the forwarding tunnel.

The forwarding tunnel allows you to forward email from an existing service to an account with the same name at FastMail. e.g. Say you have the account john@example.com at an existing service. You want to create your account as john@example.com at FastMail.FM, but how do you forward from the old john@example.com account to the FastMail.FM john@example.com account while the DNS still points to the old server? This is what the forwarding tunnel solves.

It basically gives an extended email address syntax that you can forward email to, which will deliver to our servers, and then decode to the account name. There are 3 encoding options because some providers are limited by what characters you can put in an email address to forward to.

To forward email to the FastMail account john@example.com, you can forward to any of these 3 addresses

  • john#example.com@forward.messagingengine.com
  • john%example.com@forward.messagingengine.com
  • john@example.com.forward.messagingengine.com

By utilizing the forwarding tunnel, you can ease the transition from an old email system as it migrates to FastMail.  You can setup all the email clients to use FastMail and each business user will receive all their email from one place.

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FastMail and Apple Mac OS X – Many Synergies

Someone was asking me the other day if FastMail worked well with their Apple Macintosh.  Of course!

Here are some of the many reasons a FastMail account is the ideal companion to Mac OS X.

  1. The built-in Mail.app application supports IMAP quite well.  In addition, starting in 10.5.6, Apple Mail will automatically test multiple outgoing SMTP ports (25, 465, 587).  This can resolve many email troubleshooting headaches.
  2. Apple’s iWeb application has an option to use any FTP site to publish your new website.  Why not use FastMail’s file storage area?  It is accessible by using ftp.messagingengine.com and your credentials.  Set this up for each site in iWeb and you can save your site directly to FastMail.
  3. It is easy to import your addresses into FastMail.  Using the built-in Address Book application, it is simple to export your All group to a group vCard file.  Then, simply login to the FastMail website, click Address Book, and click the Import / Export button.  Simply point to the vCard file you created and you are done!
  4. Online Data Storage.  Take advantage of the File Storage area at FastMail.  FastMail supports WebDAV.  In Finder, click on the Go -> Connect To Server… menu.  The server name would be something like: https://dav.messagingengine.com/myuserid.fastmail.fm/   Great for keeping critical files always accessible!
  5. iPhone Support.  The iPhone should automatically synchronize your account information so you can use the Mail application built-into the iPhone (or iPod Touch).  Any changes you make using your iPhone are reflected at the server as well.

Of course, FastMail is the ideal email provider for users of any platform (Windows, Mac, Linux).   All platforms can take advantage of FastMail’s features.

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IBM X3550 M2 or X3650 M2 and Debian/Ubuntu

We’ve been long time IBM hardware users. In general we love IBM hardware, it’s rock solid and just runs and runs. Being able to get 24×7 support contracts with a 4 hour response time for someone with replacement parts to be on site in case of a problem is great as well.

However IBM also have a down side. Often their Linux support is limited to Redhat and SUSE installs and the kernels that go with them. In some cases that means that they only distribute binary blob drivers which only work with the particular kernel and version distributed by Redhat/SUSE. Because we like to use Debian Linux, and also to compile our own kernels from source with just the modules and features we need, a binary blob driver or a driver that only works with Redhat/SUSE kernels is unacceptable for us.

We discovered this problem the hard way with our first X3550 purchase, which came with a ServeRAID 8k-i controller. It turns out that controller was based on some LSI “fakeraid” chipset which needed a binary blob driver (can’t find the link right now) and thus we couldn’t get it to work sanely. We ended up returning the machines.

On the other hand, the ServeRAID 8k controller (note the difference, not the –i version) is actually completely different, and works fine with any Linux kernel with the vanilla open source AACRAID driver. We’ve bought almost a dozen machines with the 8k controller and they’ve all worked really well.

Now however, the X3550 and X3650 machines have been replaced by the newer X3550 M2 and X3650 M2 models, which update the CPUs and motherboards to use the newer Nehalem based CPUs, as well as replacing all the available ServeRAID controller options with new ones again :(

  • ServeRAID-BR10i SAS/SATA Controller (3577)
  • ServeRAID M5014 SAS/SATA Controller (3877)
  • ServeRAID M5015 SAS/SATA Controller (Battery not included) (0093)
  • ServeRAID-MR10i SAS/SATA Controller (3571)

We’re having trouble finding much information about any of these controllers, and what support there is in the vanilla Linux kernel for any of these controllers. If anyone has some good information about vanilla Linux for these controllers (or lack there of), please email me at robm@fastmail.fm

Update: Someone from the IBM Linux Technology  Center passed on the following useful information to us that others might also find useful.

  • ServeRAID-BR10i SAS/SATA Controller (3577)

    LSI 1068[E] support has been upstream prior to 2.6.14 which means that this controller is support by all newer Ubuntu versions. The driver for this card is mptsas.

  • ServeRAID M5014 SAS/SATA Controller (3877) / ServeRAID M5015 SAS/SATA Controller (Battery not included) (0093)

    Both of these are supported by the same megaraid_sas driver which went upstream in 2.6.27 (megaraid_sas version: v00.00.04.01-rc1 or newer), which means these controllers are supported by Ubuntu 9.04 (based off 2.6.28)

  • ServeRAID-MR10i SAS/SATA Controller (3571)

    LSI 1078 support has been upstream sinse 2.6.16 which means this controller is also supported by all newer Ubuntu releases. The driver for this card is megaraid_sas (v00.00.02.04 or newer)

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Phishing email sent to FastMail users

Over the weekend, we’ve had a number of reports of FastMail users receiving emails asking for their username and password. These are phishing emails from scammers trying to steal your FastMail account details. Do not respond to the emails, just ignore and delete them.

FastMail will never send unsolicited emails asking you to email your username and password. In general, you should never give your account password to anyone else, via email or any other method.

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Quick Tutorial: How to Improve Junk Mail Filter Performance

One of the strengths of FastMail is our Junk Mail protection system.  We used a multi-layered approach.  We’ve learned over our 10 years that there is no single solution to solve the junk mail problem.  Fortunately, this is very easy to manage and control.  Every FastMail account has the ability to learn about mail you consider is junk or perhaps is legitimate.

Every subscribed account at FastMail has access to advanced levels of Junk Mail protection.

The first step is to enable more strict Junk Mail protection:

  1. Login to the web interface for your email account.  For example, http://www.fastmail.fm
  2. Go to the Options -> Spam/Virus Protection page.
  3. Be sure to enable Virus Protection.  As a starting point, you should set your Spam Protection level to Normal.  This will create the Junk Mail folder in your inbox.
  4. Press the Save Changes button

One of the more important measures you can take is to setup Spam Learning folders in your account.  You can setup a folder in your account to be none, As Spam, As Non-Spam.

You enable this feature by opening the Options -> Folders page.  On that page, you click the Edit link next to the folder name.

An example:

I normally set my Junk Mail folder to have Spam Learning equal to As Spam.  Whenever I receive new junk mail, I move it into that folder so that FastMail can learn what I consider junk.    In addition, any subfolders I have created to save important email are also useful.  For each folder of saved mail, I set the Spam Learning to be non-spam.   The beauty of this system is that by simply organizing my mailbox, FastMail gains a greater understanding of what should be considered safe or spam.

One note, any email address listed in your address book is also considered safe.  If you typically receive a mailing list, but it keeps getting flagged as Junk, simply add the email address of the sender to the address book.   For business/family accounts, any addresses listed in the Global Address Book affects all members of the business.

For more information regarding the Spam Protection system, the following help article is available:

http://www.fastmail.fm/help/spam_virus_protection.html

Remember to move items out of your Junk Mail folder that you consider legitimate email.  This will prevent FastMail from considering them as junk in the future.

By following these rules, the Junk Mail protection system in FastMail will very accurately keep your inbox free of annoying spam email.

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