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September 9, 2008 12:29 PM   Subscribe

How do I find a working smtp server when I am at a coffee shop?

I use Thunderbird for all my work email and need the useable smtp server to send mail. Every time I visit a new coffee shop, I have to first look up the IP on, then figure out who the ISP is and guess the smtp server. I usually try a couple ( or and if I am lucky it will just work.

But more often than not, I am asked for a username/password. This is very frustrating because I don't subscribe to that ISP. I have tried using gmail as my smtp server (using my google username/pass) and it works for a little while before google throws up error messages (smtp server did not respond or denied access). Same with my work smtp server (even when I check the username box, it still throws up an error after 2-3 emails).

I understand that these are safeguards against spammers but it's very annoying (especially since I will be working remotely from coffee shops for the next two months). Does anyone have a workaround?
posted by special-k to Computers & Internet (9 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
Best answer: Can you get a "relay" SMTP server from your mail provider?

My domain host gives me, and as long as I authenticate over POP first I can send mail no problem from anyplace. They use an alternate port number to get around ISPs that block port 23, too. I'm assuming something similar works with IMAP accounts although I don't use one with this host.

The other option would be to use webmail instead of Thunderbird for sending while you're traveling. If you're using IMAP the sent mail should sync up with Thunderbird so you would still be able to read your sent mail from anyplace.
posted by bcwinters at 12:40 PM on September 9, 2008

Best answer: Does your work SMTP server support message submission on port 587? It's possible that you might avoid ISPs' outgoing port 25 blocks/limits that way, if that's part of your problem. It's kind of odd that you'd get a few messages through successfully before it fails, but I'm not a mail admin and maybe that's the done thing these days.

Have you considered setting up an SMTP server of your own at home? For a simple outgoing relay it's not that hard on Linux or OS X (no idea about Windows) — of course you will need to be careful to require auth and TLS to make sure it doesn't get used by spammers and get your IP blacklisted. Of course your ISP may frown on this sort of thing, and may also block port 25 outbound.
posted by enn at 12:43 PM on September 9, 2008

The other other option is to run your own SMTP server on your laptop. I think this is actually pretty simple to do. I believe OS X ships with Postfix. There are plenty of tutorials for doing this.
posted by grobstein at 12:45 PM on September 9, 2008

Response by poster: Can you get a "relay" SMTP server from your mail provider?

Thanks bcwinters! That was it. They have it set up on port 587 for this exact situation.
posted by special-k at 12:47 PM on September 9, 2008

Response by poster: On preview, thanks to enn too.
posted by special-k at 12:48 PM on September 9, 2008

(Oops I meant port 25, not port 23...but clearly you got the gist.)

Glad you've worked it out, happy emailing!
posted by bcwinters at 1:13 PM on September 9, 2008

You've already solved this, but I was coming in to say: use a GMail account for sending. You can set up "Send as [any address]" from within the web interface, and after a confirmation mail, GMail will relay anything from that address for you.
posted by rokusan at 2:50 PM on September 9, 2008

They've got an outbound limit, but it's pretty hard to hit it (you gotta send a ton of messages/hr), and it resets after every hour. They're free, and they allow outbound mail with any "From:" header.
posted by -1 at 6:57 PM on September 9, 2008

Best answer: I used to constantly get an error from my Gmail POP / IMAP accounts when I moved from location to location - turns out that Google has a security feature that forces you to re-authenticate when you change IPs within a certain timeframe: you can either do so by logging into directly or by using their Capatcha unlock tool at:

If you're using Google Apps for Domains, it's here:
posted by nometa at 12:51 PM on September 10, 2008

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