Mail Retention Problems

I manage some other web sites, besides the ones that I create for my own amusement. One of them is for Dr. Jerry Pournelle, a science fiction author and really smart guy. The site, which always have some good commentary on lots of different subjects, is called “Chaos Manor”; the blog site is here at . Dr Pournelle had a monthly column with Byte Magazine, one of the premier computer magazines. Like a lot of computer magazines that exploded in size and readership in the early days of personal computing (1970’s-1980’s, for those that are interested in ancient history), the magazine is a shadow of it’s former self. Dr. Pournelle was probably one of the first ‘bloggers’ before that term was even invented. In any case, it’s a very interesting site.

He gets a lot of email, which he uses as fodder for his blog. He downloads all of that email to his local computer network’s Outlook installation. The mail is received by the hosting company, then he downloads it to his local Outlook system, with the setting to delete the mails from the hosting system. There are several email addresses that he has used over the years, but all the emails are forwarded on the host system to his primary email address on the hosting system.

And therein lies the problem. When you set up forwarding on just about all hosting systems, the message is retained in the original account. And since messages are only downloaded from the main account, the other email addresses have messages that never get deleted. If you get a lot of email, the number of messages just increases. And when you get a lot of email, the number of message files can add up. In Dr. Pournelle’s case, the file count got over 700K. The hosting company wasn’t happy about that number.

So options are to increase the allowed file count by paying more for hosting, or get rid of all of the old message files manually. All 700,000 of them. That would take quite a while, as in fact it did. I was able to delete about 500,000 of them, but it took many hours (days, actually). And that is only a temporary solution. The file count will only increase, and I will have to do the whole process again at some point.

So I was looking at options. The first would be a setting on the forwarded accounts that would forward and delete. But that option is not available. Well, there is probably some script that could be run to do that, but the ‘googles’ are inconclusive on a known good solution for that.

Another option would be to use a forwarding process only, without an actual email account for the forwarded email. But that doesn’t work properly; mail can get lost. So that’s not a good solution.

So, it looks like a script is what I need to create. I’ve got a good start on it, with the PHP program I wrote that checks sites for changed files (here ). I just need to adjust it a bit to select and delete messages that are xx days old (so as not to delete any mail messages that haven’t been downloaded yet).

But it would be nice if the hosting company had a forwarding process that would ‘forward and delete’.


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