Sharing a computer doesn't have to mean sharing your email.
By Brad Rodriguez, VE3RHJ <email@example.com>
Here's something you may not know: your login account with your ISP (Internet Service Provider), and your email account, are two different things.
Your login account lets your computer dial up your ISP and become part of the Internet. It requires a user name and a password. If you're using Windows 95 or 98, this is the User Name and Password that you use for Dial-Up Networking. (You see this in the Connect To window when you start your dialer.) This is all you need to browse the Web.
Your email account, also known as your POP (Post Office Protocol) account, is where you collect your email. This is where your email is stored before you read it. This account also has a user name and password, which you have to give to your email program. Note that your POP name and password may be the same as your login account, or may be different! Usually, when you sign up with an ISP, you get a POP account with the same name and password as your login account.
Now suppose that you're like my wife Wendy and me. We share a phone line, so we might as well share our Internet service. (Why pay for two subscriptions?) But we have separate computers, we both use email a lot, and we'd each like to read our own email on our own computer.
What we have is one login account, but two POP accounts. Only one of us can log in at a time -- which would be the case anyway, since we're sharing a phone line -- and our Dial-Up Networking info is identical on both computers. But Wendy's email program is set to check her POP account, and my email program is set to check mine.
Our ISP, greynet.net, gives a second POP account free to all subscribers. Other ISPs charge for the second account: bmts.com charges $2 per month for each additional mailbox.
So what if you want separate email accounts, but you share a computer? It's a real pain to be constantly retyping the account name and password in your email program. Fortunately, there are solutions:
1. Separate email programs. I did this once when I had to manage two email accounts of my own. For my "regular" email I used the Eudora program, which I particularly like. So it was set up to check my first POP account. But my Internet browser was Netscape, which has its own email program. I set Netscape up for my second POP account. So I'd use Eudora for my everyday activities, but when I was browsing the web, I'd remember to click the "check mail" button in Netscape.
2. Same program, two configurations. Eudora Light (the free version of Eudora) lets you set up multiple user directories, and select one when the program is started. So on your desktop we could have a shortcut for "Brad's Eudora" and a shortcut for "Wendy's Eudora." Each shortcut would access a different POP account, and have a different address book. To learn how to set up these shortcuts, look for "Putting Multiple Users on One PC" in the Eudora help file. (I don't know if other email programs have this feature.)
3. Eudora Pro. The commercial version of Eudora includes built-in support for multiple email accounts (called "personalities"). I like this because I can check all of my POP accounts -- I've had up to six -- with a single click of the "Check Mail" button. Also, I can use the same address book for all the accounts.
What if you and your spouse (or son or daughter) want separate email accounts, but you're with bmts.com and you don't want to pay $2 extra each month? For some cost in hassle, you can get an extra email account for free.
Yahoo! Mail <www.yahoo.com> is just one of many places offering email accounts. After you've subscribed, you'll have an email account, firstname.lastname@example.org. You read and send email using your web browser. This is more of a nuisance than using an email program (in my opinion, anyway; my mother prefers using Yahoo to her regular email program). But you can set up your web browser so that Yahoo is your home page, and you automatically see your email whenever you start the browser. Which, of course, is what they want you to do, and why they give the service away for free.
Another reason you might want a "web-based" account like this is if you only have Internet at work. Some employers frown on employees receiving personal email at work, even on their own time. This way you can use an Internet browser at work to read your personal email, and keep it totally separate from your "work" email.
Email forwarding is not the same as a second POP account. When you have email forwarding, any email sent to that address (your email "alias") is automatically re-sent to your "real" email address. For example, if you send email to email@example.com, I'll actually read it when I check my firstname.lastname@example.org mailbox.
There are many good reasons to use an email alias:
1. You can give out different email addresses for different purposes. For example, you can have a "business" email address and a "personal" email address. If you have a clever email program (like Eudora), you can "filter" messages sent to your alias into a different mailbox for special attention.
2. Unlike a second email account, you check your email alias "automatically" when you get your "regular" email.
3. If you change your ISP, you only have to send a change-of-email-address to one place (the email forwarder). Then all your email will be redirected to the new ISP. (Assuming, of course, that you give everyone your alias and not your "real" email address.)
4. Sometimes an alias is easier to give out or for someone else to remember. Especially for radio hams: I can just tell someone over the air to send email to my callsign at rac.ca. (Much easier than spelling out email@example.com phonetically when band conditions are iffy!)
Radio Amateurs of Canada offers a "firstname.lastname@example.org" alias to all Canadian amateurs. I strongly recommend you take advantage of this service. And of course, if you have multiple callsigns, you can have them all forward to a single "real" email address.