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on January 25, 2002
I thought (and still think) that it is a good idea to write such books. Well written standard specifications (in terms of readability and immediate applicability) are rare, too often they are too dry or "academic" for immediate use in all-day programming practice (best example is the MIME specification, which stretches across several complex RFCs, which constantly reference to each other).
This is where "companion" books like this come in, providing the reader with guideance, with information about real life situations and examples. They point out pitfalls, emphasize parts of the specs that are "more important" than others, or are (or can be) implemented differently in reality.
Alas, in my opinion the book falls short of achieving this goal. It barely does more than picking (sometimes random) parts of the specs and retelling them in the author's own words.
I have yet to find a book about email that doesn't confuse its reader with acronyms. It seems there is an internal competition between authors of these books to squeeze MTA, MUA, MDA and MRA in one sentence as often as possible.
Another example of the author confusing the reader is that the text keeps mentioning gateways to other (proprietary, non-internet) mail systems, and that/how messages must be converted between these different mail systems. While it's OK to mention this *once* in the introduction, this is clearly not the focus of this book, as it is geared towards folks who write software that handles INTERNET MAIL messages, and not gateway implementors (at least this is how I interpret the book's title).
Also, quite often there is bad coverage of the real world. For example, two chapters are devoted to understanding and implementing MIME, including a lenghtly explanation of "interesting" message types like message/external-body and message/partial (both of which I knew of, but have never ever encountered in my work that includes a fair amount of mail
programming). On the other hand, the "multipart/alternative" type (which is very common in today's email world - ever got a message from is barely mentioned at the very end of the MIME discussion.
All in all, it's a good idea from O'Reilly to have such a book, but the execution definitely needs polishing.
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on September 18, 1999
This is a great book, and I think it is TOTALLY geared towards programming a working email app. It doesn't just rehash the protocols, it discusses them a bit and gives them some context. No, you can't find code in this book that you can copy and paste and have an email app running immediately, why would you WANT that? That's what code repositories are for, this book is for someone who needs to make a custom application of some sort.
Yes you need to know some programming to use this book, that's why it's not called "how to program and also how to program internet email". This book gives you the CONCEPTS (although they go into pretty good depth) of what your email program will need to do, and yeah, ugh I just can't believe how badly those last two emails missed the point.
This book is way way more than a rehashing of protocols, it's an essential reference for any serious programmer who needs to do any work on an internet email application. Awesome awesome book, and much needed.
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on November 5, 1999
I really wanted to like this book. We've needed a good book or books on email protocols and how to implement code using them for a long time; I hoped this would be it.
Unfortunately, it isn't.
First of all, the coverage of the actual protocols is incomplete. The basic protocols are there, but many essential extensions are missing. For example, the coverage of ESMTP mentions but doesn't describe the very important DSN extension (delivery notifications). The SASL extensions (secure authentication) to ESMTP, POP3, and IMAP4 aren't described. And so on. Understanding and use of such facilities is vital in implementing modern email software.
Second, there are many incorrect technical details in this book. For example, the MAIL FROM command in various example SMTP dialogues is missing the required <> delimiters around the address. While omitting these delimiters will work with some servers, it won't with others. The devil is always in the details in protocol design and implementation, and reference works need to get these sorts of details right.
Third, various fundamental aspects of email systems aren't covered. For example, there is little if any discussion of mailing list implementation. A significant fraction of email applications have to deal with such things.
Finally, the best thing about this book is that it presents some actual email applications. Unfortunately, the applications that are presented are very limited in scope. It is almost as if in trying to be both a protocol reference and an implementation guide this book hasn't done justice to either topic.
In summary, if you want a reference book on email protocols, Kevin Johnson's new book, "Internet Email protocols: A Developer's Guide" is much more complete and accurate. Unfortunately, the world is still waiting for a book that covers the nitty gritty details of writing email applications.
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on September 17, 2000
This book is an excellent introduction to e-mail programming and protocols. It is as easy to read as any novel, explains everything neatly and concisely, and provides excellent examples.
This covers what a mail server does and how it works, but really concentrates on mail client-server interaction. It goes into SMTP, ESMTP, MIME, POP3, IMAP, and vCard format. The examples are clear and concise, and it includes actual code in Perl and Java. This provides the reader with excellent, platform independent ways to do what they need to do.
The writing style is excellent. One of the most fluid technical books I've ever read. In fact, all I needed was one Sunday to read the book from front to back.
The code provided is superb. It's easy to use, easy to understand, and aides in the learning process. For me, the code is invaluable. It has personally saved me countless hours of work.
Finally, this book doesn't delve in tremendous detail. It tells the reader how to program for e-mail, but doesn't go into the RFC's as much as many people would like it to. I think, however, that this is a real strength. Many technical books bog the reader down with irrelevant information. This books avoids this, but still gives the user information on how to retrieve any additional information if needed.
Though there are not many e-mail programming books out there, this is by far the best one. I cannot recommend this book highly enough.
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on August 27, 1999
This is a basic book that really should not have the word "Programming" in the title. It does have some PERL and JAVA programs but these are not for real-world use.
It does however have some good information on different protocols such as IMAP, POP3, ESMTP, MIME and ACP. The book describes the protocols with flow diagrams and examples. This is useful to understand what is happening with a protocol. You could get the same information from the RFCs but the book is clearer of course.
No actual mail programs are discussed or mentioned. No information is given on HOW to actually use or even program Internet Email in the real world.
The book does have a list of RFCs, and MIME types. Also is included is a list of URLs but this list is woefully incomplete.
This isn't necessary a bad book. It has some very good points but it really has nothing to do with "Programming" Internet Email. What "programming" is has is of limited use.
This book would not prepare you to actually run, administer, troubleshoot, or program any email system.
The book is a good book to gain an understanding of Internet Email and an understanding of the protocols in use. A good book to gain an understanding of the theory and operation of Internet Email protocols.
An OK book to have but the title is misleading.
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on December 3, 1999
Six months ago there were no books on how to program email using standard protocols. Now there are three! Kevin Johnson, John Rhoton and David Wood have all brought out excellent books on the subject. My only gripes with this book are that it has no sample code available and too many errors. If your budget is tight just get Rhoton's book and a copy of the RFCs, but if you are serious about this stuff you are going to need all three books as well as all the mail RFCs.
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on September 7, 1999
The previous reviewer hit it right on the head. This book is very light on programming. Don't expect to build an email client by copying and modifying examples out of the book. But it does a good job on explaining the various mail protocols. I appreciated it on that level because books on internet protocols are rare.
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on August 17, 2002
Bought this book to learn more about how email works so I could fight all the spam I am receiving. I did learn a lot about headers and how email works in general, but it didn't answer all my questions. Still, if you're looking for a general overview on email, this is a good book for the money.
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on November 24, 1999
I liked this book but like the other reviewers have said it's not exactly heavy on programming. Still I thought it was a good companion to John Rothon's book Programmer's Guide to Internet Mail.
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