2015.02 Tip: Dealing with the New TDS E-Mail System

My internet service provider (ISP) is TDS Telecommunications, identifiable by the "tds.net" suffix on my eddress. Back in 2009, TDS decided to abandon its own e-mail service in favor of using one operated by Google under its "partners program". Basically, it meant that my e-mail service looked a lot like Gmail, because that was the underlying engine, except I could access it directly thru the TDS website. Or, since I'm a Mac user who prefers to use the Mac interface, specifically Apple's Mail program, I could configure my computer to use either a POP or IMAP account to read the TDS website on my behalf. And so I did, and hadn't been back to mail.tds.net for years.

Well, joy in Mudville, sometime last year Google decided to discontinue its partners program, which left TDS scrambling to institute its own e-mail system again as a replacement. The original plan was that they'd roll out the replacement to their customer base in stages, beginning around Halloween of 2014 and ideally wrapping up by the end of the calendar year.

To nobody's great surprise, that proved to be unduly optimistic. They finally got around to my account this morning (Feb. 18). While the instructions accompanying the transition were opaque, my Mac OS tried to shield me from the worst of the tech-speak horrors by automatically reconfiguring my e-mail accounts. (I'm still not exactly sure how, or what I did to inspire it to go ahead, but it just worked, and I'm not that curious as to the details.)

Here's the unpleasant side effect, tho. All the messages that I had marked as "read" under my old (Gmail-based) account were only recorded as "read" on my own computer. They were all still being stored on the TDS mail server as "unread". So when TDS helpfully reloaded my inbox with all of what they figured were its previous contents, this is the appalling sight which greeted my eyes:

Now, if you're like me, you will occasionally leave messages hanging around in a mailbox indefinitely, on the theory that you may need them at some time in the future. For example, in my "Housing" mailbox, I have messages from my naborhood listserv about removing old oil tanks and finding a good appliance repair person. Someday I may need that info, and I know (or knew) right where to look for it.

The problem is that now those wanna-save messages are buried in an endless stream of thot-they-were-gone messages. It's still possible to identify which ones they are, because they lack the little blue "newly arrived" dot which graces the presence of all the formerly-dealt-with messages that TDS has just restored for me. Here's a good one, a keeper, in a sea of "dealt with" messages:

But who wants to wade thru literally tens of thousands of messages looking for the few that lack the magic dot? Not me, fersher. Probably not you, either.

Fortunately, Apple has provided us with a convenient tool for resolving this mess. See that "Sort by" command at the top of the e-mail list? I normally leave it set to "Date" (with the "Oldest First" option, if you must know), but there are other possibilities as well. In particular, if you switch it over to "Unread", it'll bubble all the messages you wanted saved up to the top of the list, and then you can trash (or, honestly, re-trash) the rest:

Granted, this is a pain, and it took me the better part of an hour to wait for all the old e-mails to finish reloading before I could re-trash them, but it sure beat the living daylights out of having to search for my favorite needles in those giant haystacks.

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