Managing SMTP servers on the road

When on the road, dealing with email can be a serious pain. "SMTP" is the "Simple Mail Transfer Protocol", and an "SMTP server" is a machine that handles incoming and/or outgoing mail using this protocol. Once you're connected to the net, you still need an SMTP server that will agree to forward mail you want to send. This is not always easy to arrange, and this page will give you some tactics that should help.

The first problem, of course, is to get connected at all...

You can dial in by modem, but if there's no local access point it can get very expensive. Internationally, this is a big deal; though an iPass account certainly helps by providing access points in many parts of the world.

Most internet cafes I have tried won't let you bring in your laptop and simply plug it in. Presumably they're concerned lest you damage or hack their net; some appear simply not to know what "Ethernet" or "DHCP" mean. But given this, you should make sure your email service, whatever it is, has some kind of Web interface.

If you connect at StarBucks or another tmobile site, they'll know you and your email will go through their SMTP server just fine.

If you try to connect by wireless somewhere else, you'll need to know the name of the wireless net ("linksys" is a frequent default), and you may need a password.

Some wireless nets go one step further, and will only allow you to connect if they already know the serial number of the wireless card in your computer. Every Ethernet and WiFi card has a unique "MAC number". If you're dealing with a network that check this, you'll have to look up your device's MAC number and get their system administrator to add it to their list. Be careful to give them the MAC address of your wireless card, not of your regular Ethernet card. To find this number under Mac OS X, open the System Preferences "Network" control panel, and select the device you want. The MAC address appears.

But if you have the best situation, namely you're visiting a person or organization with a high-speed connection, you may have a problem.