When “Unlimited” isn’t … exactly

After some three months of fruitless effort, I can finally POP email to a computer again!

As you may know, AT&T (my DSL provider,  formerly SBC, formerly Ameritech, formerly AT&T) has a content deal with Yahoo! (soon to be…???…but that’s another issue to be dealt with later) to provide mail services and a home page. I’ve had few gripes with the service, either on AT&T’s or Yahoo’s side. It pretty much works, except when my wife’s connection gets flaky from time to time. We reboot the 2Wire router, and the problem usually goes away.

This began to change last summer. Condensing this story is a little difficult, but I’ll try. As a technical book author, I attempt to keep up with an ungodly number of very active support mailing lists. “Attempt” being the key word here–I can get 500+ emails per day on a fairly regular basis. Shortly after Yahoo announced that it would store unlimited amounts of mail on its servers, I took up the challenge: I went on vacation for 10 days, and didn’t turn off the message flow. When I returned, I set my mail client to leave copies of mail on the server indefinitely.

Everything performed without a hitch until around mid-November, when suddenly mail wouldn’t POP into my client with a Mail Drop Busy error. I could still read WebMail without a problem, but that was harder to deal with than my well-organized client. But every time I tried to pull mail into the client, I’d get the error message and messages in the WebMail Inbox would disappear. There were variations on this theme, but the result was always the same. The good thing was: if I ran a search of my Inbox, I could find stuff that had disappeared, so I knew it was all there, but occasionally hard to deal with.

I had a few days off at the end of December, and thought I could resolve the problem with a call to AT&T tech support. I was quickly routed to the 2nd tier support queue (Tip: Unless you have a very basic problem, don’t ever try using their support chat system. If the issue isn’t on their list, they’ll send you right over to phone support). While occasionally the support rep really wasn’t listening carefully to my explanations of my own troubleshooting, for the most part they were really helpful. At least once, someone was able to reproduce the problem, and another time someone took a screen shot of my Inbox with contradictory listings of how many unread messages were in there. None of them had solutions that actually solved the problem.

Once, I thought if I tried moving messages into another folder, perhaps that might help. Unfortunately, because of all the banner ads now cluttering the WebMail interface, moving large chunks of mail proved to be extremely difficult with errors aplenty. But I was on the right track.

I let the problem go until this weekend, when another opportunity to spend large amounts of quality time on the phone presented itself. I tried again. I explained the issue one more time to my new friend Mohammad–who had an answer! Mohammad was able to tell me that keeping several thousand messages in the Inbox was a bad thing, as I had suspected. The difference was he did something: He moved all 40,000+ messages into an OLD MAIL folder, and I could POP again!

So the lesson learned: In Yahoo Mail’s case, Unlimited only means Unlimited in the sense that you can store things there indefinitely — but you definitely want to move mail out of the Inbox after awhile.

Bottom line: I still have access to all those old mail messages on the server (and they’re searchable), and so far everything POPs like normal. Life is good! I almost wish AT&T would bail out Yahoo! …but that’s another can o’ worms, I’m sure.

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One thought on “When “Unlimited” isn’t … exactly

  1. I have visited this site on many an occasion now but this post is the 1st one that I have ever commented on.

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