The University Record, September 26, 1994

Correct e-mail addresses crucial as U moves to distributed computing

By Rebecca A. Doyle

If words like uniqname, X.500 or viewable imaging make you run screaming from your computer terminal to the telephone, preferring voice mail to trying to send or receive electronic messages, take heart. The Information Technology Division (ITD) assures you that things will get better.

On the road from a centralized computing environment, where most computing functions were funneled through one large computer, to a distributed environment where units and departments have freedom to choose programs and software, there are bound to be a few bumps.

New electronic mail packages installed in some of the schools and colleges or in individual departments offer a much broader means of communication within those units, but at a price. Sending messages outside to other units that do not have the same mail programs can create a number of problems. In addition, the move from MTS’s Userdirectory to the new phone book (X.500 online directory), uniqname registration, and learning about ethernet connections and local area networks are sometimes overwhelming.

Most problems occur, says computer systems consultant Joe Gelinas, when mail is incorrectly addressed. Gelinas, who heads the postmaster group for ITD, has seen an increase in undeliverable mail over the past two years and says incorrect mail addresses are responsible for many of the bounced messages.

It is possible, he says, for mail to be lost if the sender does not have his current e-mail address updated and sends a message to an incorrect address. The message would be flagged as undeliverable but not be returned to the sender since the return address would also be incorrect. Postmasters at the U-M would try to return the message to the sender.

He offers these suggestions to those who are not sure of the address:

  • Check in the X.500 directory for a current name and e-mail address.

  • Send to the person’s full name

    separated with periods (Rebecca.A.

    Doyle) instead of guessing at a uniqname (beckyd could be bdoyle or something entirely different).

  • At the U-M, the suffix @umich.edu will get mail delivered (kari@umich.edu), even if the recipient is at another mail server (kari@k.imap.itd.umich.edu).

    Giving your detailed e-mail address may cause problems later if you ever switch mail systems or departments.

  • If you are in a department that has its own mail system, there is a postmaster who knows your mail system and how you can best send or receive mail. Each mail system has its own server, which is named and part of your e-mail address, called the domain name. For instance, the domain at the Medical Center is med.umich.edu. Send questions to the postmaster at your domain name (postmaster@med.umich.edu).

    Some communications problems have resulted when one person tries to send a file that may have been encoded as part of a message through a local mail program to a colleague whose department does not have the same mail program, or to someone who is still using MTS as the primary message service.

    “There are utilities available for encoding and decoding mail,” says Kari Gluski, ITD systems project coordinator. “Calling 764-HELP or sending a message to online.consulting@umich.edu will put you in touch with someone who can help provide them.”

    “But MTS will never be able to deal with messages other than plain text,” she continues. “Even the Internet MIME (Multipurpose Internet Mail Extensions) standard that is beginning to be used is not usable on MTS.”

    Gluski says those sending files to

    others should save documents as “text only” to transfer them unless they know that the recipient will be able to decode the files. If you receive unreadable files or messages, contact the senders and let them know that you could not read what they sent.

    Help for confused users is available through Oct. 28 at the InfoTech Expo, 611 Church St.; online by sending messages to online.consulting@umich.edu; by calling 764-HELP; and printed instructions are available on most topics at campus computing sites or by calling 763-8961 to request documents.