I'm afraid this week's musing is probably going to degenerate into a bit of a rant. Once again, I'm having connection problems. Because it's necessary for us to always be able to connect to the Internet, James and I use two different ISPs. I have been known to dial-in using his account, when my provider is dead and vice versa. No ISP is perfect, so it's good to have a fall-back plan.
It didn't used to be this way actually. For years, we had the same ISP and it was great. Long-time readers may remember the strife that resulted when Micron Internet Services sold out to Earthlink. Unless you're a big fan of busy signals, Earthlink is useless as far as I'm concerned. So we both switched to small local ISPs. James' has worked out okay. Mine was terrible. The connection was so slow as to be just about unusable (we're talking 10kbps or something). They couldn't ever figure out why, so I switched to CompuServe, which has been okay.
Sadly, now it's not okay. About a month ago, I inexplicably was unable to send mail anymore. Like a lot of small business owners, we use our domain name (logicalexpressions.com) to route our e-mail. Since the horrible switch from Micron, in fact, I've used my logicalexpressions e-mail exclusively, so I wouldn't have to tell the entire universe my e-mail address every time I switch providers.
At first, I was able to use CompuServe's mail servers to route my mail. Then at some point that stopped working and I had to change my settings so all e-mail goes through the logicalexpressions mail server and its "authorization" process. No big deal. Its supposed to reduce the level of spam, which is a good thing as far as I'm concerned. (I could go on a whole OTHER rant about how I feel about spam.)
Anyway, things were still fine. The official party line from CompuServe is that if you run your mail through the other mail server, they don't care. You just can't send mail through their mail servers if it doesn't come from a CompuServe account. Fair enough.
Until it stopped working. For a while I've been sending mail through James' account. I also whined on the CompuServe e-mail support forums. They kept telling me I should be able to send mail.
Then through a chance reference I saw something on "Port 25 blocking." This term was new to me, but it turns out to be the problem. To deal with an ever-increasing amount of spam, large ISPs like Earthlink and MSN have started blocking all outgoing mail except for those with their own return address. What this means in the real world is that those people who are used to dialing in from home and sending e-mail from a work account aren't able to do it any more.
There's a simple test you can perform to find out if the ISP is blocking Port 25 and sure enough CompuServe is. So now I am in search of a new ISP yet again.