Monday, May 05, 2008

You have exceeded your mail quota...

What? You are wondering what that means? For you kids around here, we veterans on the net used to get these messages in our Yahoo! Webmail accounts long long ago. Err.. no, I am still quite young, and that was only a few years back... Funny how things change so fast, isn't it? The days when we used to scream with horror if a moron ended up setting a big file attachment, and we would have to hurriedly delete it off lest we get that dreaded message again and we lose our incoming mail until we make some space...

Then, one fine day, around summer vacations after my second year at IIT Madras, we got to know that Google, the search engine company (Yes, it was more known for being a search engine company, rather than the God of all Internet companies, which struck gold at wherever it struck), is offering a mail service called GMail. What followed for many of us stuck to Yahoo! or Rediff or MSN mail was one of our silent-est days. We were all, so as to say, 'Colon O'd. "What? Wone Geebee-a? Dei.. stop blabbering da!" "No da.. seriously!". But the dampener soon came. Only a few 'elite' people had access to the service, and each of them could hand out some ten invites to others. More madness followed. These elite people became the starlets of the day. Forums started where people could trade 'stuff' for GMail invites. There were others who would invite themselves, so that they started getting more invites. Crazy days, indeed...

Yeah, so this was during the summer vacations after my second year. A few of my friends were slogging out at labs of professors whom they desperately sought for their projects in the final year, or at foreign universities helped by 'US Uncle' or others of that ilk, while the rest of us were essentially jobless at our homes, blissfully ignorant of all the so-called opportunities for monetary and career development abound in internships during second year summer, first year summer, jobless summer before IIT joining, winter, Diwali/Pongal and weekends with Monday bunked. Or so we thought, till we realised that they were more jobless, and even had free high-speed Internet access to inculcate the nuances of subtle art forms like chatting with the fairer sex and making their way into social networks.

It was then that one of these uber-jobless people got this brainwave of starting a 'Yahoo!' Group where all these people colluded to form theories on interesting topics like what pigs thought about human culinary practices. As it was expected, it soon became pretty clear that Yahoo! Mail was no match for the mailing skills of these talented youngsters pepped up with multi megabyte Internet access and GMail accounts (and some with professional typewriting classes). tam_gumbal at Yahoo! Groups thus almost compulsorily needed a GMail account, and if some good samaritan invited you for one, you could join these intellectual discussions.

A set of jobless Chennai localites at IITM not having much work either during the semester or the vacations was a perfect recipe for making a great mailing list. Mail counts reached a couple of thousands a month easily, but the Yahoo! servers were still a bottleneck when compared to the mammoth 1 GB that Google had provided. And after sometime (I don't recall exactly when), GMail doubled its capacity and then later started increasing the capacity slowly, but steadily. Yahoo! servers could be notorious. Some of the mails took days to come, especially under high load. And then, it was in the beginning of 2005, when we decided to break the shackle their servers had on our creativity and moved over to the newly launched Google Groups.

tam_gumbal's (TG) thirst for mailbox space knew no bounds once it moved to Google Groups. A couple of thousands of mails were laughed upon soon, as the ten thousand in a month mark was breached in six months or so, thanks to the third year end summer internships. Compulsory internship, and so more joblessness, including this figure of authority writing this post, who had by then become a moderator of the group. The gap between GMail's space limit and my usage started to reduce, thanks to TG, till around March 2006, when it almost reached capacity, and I had to either delete TG mails or use a different account. "What? You even thought about deleting TG mails?", bellowed an inner self. It took me days to pacify it and stop it from shouting slogans of blasphemy at really odd times of the day. Creating an account for TG'ing alone had its share of problems as well. For one, my mail count would drop to zero, and that isn't like all that good for the ego of a person perched at the second position of the 'Top Posters' list.

I was fortunately saved from a philosophical introspection into wars between religion and fame, as the helpful souls at GMail offered an option to change your 'From' address of your mails to something else, as long as you prove that the other mailing address is yours. Quite a pleasant use of an obscure EMail functionality which we had before used only for sending prank messages to the class mailing list demonstrating that Britney Spears (yes, she was quite popular, and for the right reasons, those days) thought you were hot or something like that. So, I mailed from the TG account, but Google Groups thought I was doing so from my earlier account. And since the TG account was subscribed to the group mails, it got a copy. And my earlier account was set to 'Don't send me mails, I will read them from the net'. Neat, isn't it? To top it all, this mechanism, my geeky inner self reflected, was scalable. I could always get a new account with the same mechanism once this new account gets over as well.

Of course, all this did was to prevent me from going over limit on GMail. I was still inching closer to the capacity, as the number of mails from other mailing lists, forwards from friends etc. still was more than the amount by which GMail was increasing its capacity. Yes, I didn't mention about all the various Linux oriented mailing lists, and other stuff till now right? Quite a proof of how they fade into insignificance in the face of TG's spamming capabilities. So, a third "Secondary" account was started, to siphon off all the mailing list traffic. Me being the moderator of the closed group TG meant that I could create two subscriptions in my name over there. But since this was not all that nice for other groups, I set up filters to forward all these mails from the first account to the third account, and trashed it from the first. And of course, I faked mailing from my only visible account! And that, well, brought things under control. But I still returned to the Yahoo! Webmail days. One big attachment and I would go "Eeek! My mailbox had only 20 MB left!" (GMail actually stops you from sending mail if you fall within 10 MB of free space. Now, thank me. Pretty unlikely that you would have got to know this trivium otherwise!) So, any personal mail with forwards go to the Secondary account (and get labelled here as 'backed-up', so that you can delete them but be sure that you have a copy anyway). You know, thinking of all these solutions you had crafted for such life-critical problems puts you in a state of self-awe! :D

It's been more than two years since then. Somewhere in between, GMail suddenly pumped up its speed of mail box capacity increase by a few orders of magnitude. Today I did a totalling of my mail space across my accounts. 3005 MB on my Primary account, 2646 MB in the TG account, and 902 MB in the Secondary account. My Primary mailbox is now well within half the limit of 6692 MB. TG is still flourishing with quite a few thousand posts per month. So hopefully the story has ended on a 'everyone was happy ever after' note. But still, you can't help but be surprised at the fact that you have got over 6.5 GB of mail across your accounts. At some point of time, I would take a (then old) 40 GB hard disk and keep it as a GMail archive. Such a nice piece of memory (pun unintended) right? You don't agree? You aren't a geek, are you? :)


  1. Multiple responses are being generated inside me :)
    2.I think you should have honored the person who was responsible for this... the person who sent you the invite... Please put a courtesy note.
    3.I think PAGE and BRIN will be proud of such an OASI customer :)

  2. you shall be honoured when the TG nobel prize is announced

  3. Didnt know Gmail accounts were that precious those days. I saavagaasama created an account cos yahoo was getting too much spam.

    Thanks for the pieces of info though. I m sure I wont exhaust this 1gb quota during this jenma (not even next, I m getting moksha remember? :P), but yeah, I can flaunt that info sometime during small talk ;;)

    I'm a geek too. *just pleasing my intellectual ego :D*

  4. @goda: yeah, geek.. i am :D and courtesy note pending to the good samaritan whom i well.. don't remember :D

    @abi: yeah, there's one in Chemistry also pending right from my JEE days :p

    @bulbing lady: yes, you are going in the right direction.. you already uninstalled vista right? :D