Fixing vanity email

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It is incredible what folks charge for things that should be free. They seem to rely on people forgetting what is going on and automatic charging. My buddy Holden had a web site package for $140 a year that was essentially just forwarding email. If you have the same problem here is how to get out of the mess:

  1. Figure out who is hosting your vanity site. For instance, Network Solutions (man are they expensive!) looks you into multiple year contracts. In this case, he had one going to 2018, so at least he doesn’t have to worry until then.
  2. If you don’t need web hosting, then what’s the best way to get a free vanity domain with mail. Well, Google Apps charges $5/month. You do get everything from storage to calendar, but https://simplyian.com/2015/01/07/Hacking-GMail-to-use-custom-domains-for-free/ points out that you can get free vanity domain hosting by using mailgun.com

It is for power users, but here is what you do:

  1. Get a free gmail.com account. Make sure to turn off all the pesky tracking in the settings menu.
  2. Sign up for mailgun.com and use that gmail.com
  3. Now go to your registrar and suck back your DNS provider and then you have to set up a huge set of domain name records.

Here are the records:

  1. TXT records. You need this for spam prevention with SPF. If you want it to run against the core domain, then the subdomain is (bizarrely named an @ sign). * means all other domains.
  2. TXT record with the id_rsa public key for mailgun.com
  3. MX records for mxa.mailgun.com and mxb.mailgun.com
  4. CNAME so email. points to mailgun.org

Then on mailgun.com add:

  1. Add a route that matches the forwarded address to the new gmail address
  2. In the Domain section create a new SMTP credential with a new login
  3. In gmail.com choose add a new SMTP account and add it.

Unfortunately when it starts.

  1. Mailgun.com doesn’t seem to like the SPF record that Network Solutions needs and does not match the SPF record.
  2. Gmail has bizarre problems (I’ve encountered these before), where you try to login into one account and sadly, it logs you into an entirely different account based on password. It does look as if Google accounts are password sensitive rather than account sensitive. Basically, make sure that every password on every google account is different, otherwise, you will try to login with account A and if  you type the password for account B, it will log you into accountB?!!#$#@
  3. And anyway I could not email directly into the new gmail account but it appears to take a while.
  4. Another strange gmail bug is that you can have two emails pointed to the same account and gmail doesn’t appear to know about them. So we have one name with a ‘.’ in it and another without it and it delivers to the same mailbox but the user interface doesn’t show two gmail names. Confused yet.

Finally there is a delay when you setup your new DNS records, so if you point away from your old mail server it will take time for the new one to show up. And you get after about 15 minutes:

  1. Delivery of your vanity mail via mailgun.com. As long as you get less than 10,000 mail/month this is free.
  2. Next up is testing the smtp side of it.

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