Dougal Campbell's geek ramblings

WordPress, web development, and world domination.

500-mile Email Limit

I ran across a great sysadmin story about a problem sending email farther than 500 miles. To a technical person familiar with how SMTP works, that sounds like a user jumping to an incorrect conclusion. But sometimes, life can be stranger than fiction….

“We could send email. Just not more than–”

“–500 miles, yes,” I finished for him, “I got that. But why didn’t
you call earlier?”

“Well, we hadn’t collected enough data to be sure of what was going on
until just now.” Right. This is the chairman of
*statistics*. “Anyway, I asked one of the geostatisticians to look
into it–”


“–yes, and she’s produced a map showing the radius within which we
can send email to be slightly more than 500 miles. There are a number
of destinations within that radius that we can’t reach, either, or
reach sporadically, but we can never email farther than this radius.”

About Dougal Campbell

Dougal is a web developer, and a "Developer Emeritus" for the WordPress platform. When he's not coding PHP, Perl, CSS, JavaScript, or whatnot, he spends time with his wife, three children, a dog, and a cat in their Atlanta area home.
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4 Responses to 500-mile Email Limit

  1. Sean MacLennan says:


    Thought readers might be interested in the fact that the above link resides on a gopher server. The server has a gopher to http gateway that allows web browsers access to the gopher space. The “real” URL is gopher://

    Some links of note.

    The gopher server root:

    Info on the NetWinder it runs on:

    Info on the gopher server:

    Stats on the gopher server:

    Sean “Head Gopher” MacLennan

  2. Dougal says:

    I had noticed the gopherish link, but hadn’t yet had time to investigate it. I ran a gopher server once upon a time, when I was part of an ISP start-up. In the beginning, our ISP was about a dozen 14.4kpbs modems (actually, 16.8k, if you had a compatible modem) dialing into a Major BBS system. The BBS server was linked to a box running Linux (back in the version 0.9x kernel days). That box, in turn, had a SLIP connection to the internet. We provided internet email gateway service and a gopher interface to the outside world.

  3. Blake says:

    That reminds me of a story I heard from a co-worker in Tech Support. He got a call from someone who claimed that their password didn’t work when they were standing up. Naturally, he didn’t believe it, so he went over to the user’s computer. Sure enough, when the user typed the password standing up, it failed. After a few hours, my friend noticed that a couple of the key caps were switched on the keyboard. Apparently when the user was sitting down, they could touch-type their password, but when they stood up, it was enough of a change that they had to look at the letters, and so got it wrong.

  4. PaulZ says:

    OMG I so miss gopher. In the early days I wondered why I needed a web browser when I had gopher.

    Glad to discover the units program. How cool is that?

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