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Issue #242: March 11, 2012

It’s the second Sunday in March, Geeks!  For those of you asleep at the switch, that means that Daylight Savings Time officially began at 2:00 AM.  If you haven’t done so already, move your clocks forward an hour.  Here’s hoping that doesn’t make anyone late!

Q: I’m a snowbird from Michigan (8 years now) and I truly enjoy reading your column in the NW Daily News. I’ve learned a lot.

I wondered if you are syndicated in any other newspaper or if you column is online. I’ve searched for it with no luck.

We are in a large condiminum this year that is a wireless building serving 240 rooms.  In years past, we had the service come into our condo and we brought our own wireless router which worked great. We continue to use our email addresses from our home cable company paying a fee to do that during our time away.  Unfortunately, our outgoing email has not worked. I have always changed the outgoing server to Cox in the past, but because the whole building is wireless, I was told by the man from Miracle Strip Network (or whatever it is) that we should get a secure outgoing service # from our Charter Communications back home and change so we would never have to change setting no matter where we go.

Charter has told us that they don’t have one to give us. I did an Internet search and found a setting (25) but it didn’t work. When we visit relatives in other states that have hi-speed Internet, we just change to their outgoing server (i.e., comcast) with no problems.

The connection is very slow due to heavy usage and the Miracle Network guy came out and put a booster in the laundry room area, but we have our computer in a bedroom probably 25 feet away and it receives low bars unless I go closer to the booster.

Do you have any suggestions or ideas for me? I hope this makes sense. We have an HP dv7-3065dx laptop, 64 bit, lots of memory, etc. No problems anywhere else but here. We tried to get our own connection but because we are a renter, we couldn’t get it in our name.

Also, we get tons of spam since we have been on this network. It says unsecure but the Miracle Network guy says his wireless setup has a heavy duty industrial filter to prevent hackers, etc.

I have AVG for anti-virus free edition and spamfighter in my email.

Thanks in advance for any help you can give me.

Kathy L.
Michigan / Miramar Beach, Florida 

A: Wow – long question, Kathy!  Most of the time I pass on questions that are so long, because I don’t have room to answer them, but in your case, it was good stuff, so I cut out a lot to save space for an answer. (Note: here on the website, Kathy’s letter is re-printed in its entirety.   -Geek)

First off, I’m flattered by the question, but no, I’m not syndicated.  I am on the web, however!  In case you missed the announcement, my new website just opened last week at (not .com).  In fact, readers, you can see the complete text of Kathy’s question online.

Second, it sounds like you actually have three different issues, 1) outgoing e-mail not working, 2) slow connection, and 3) Spam.  I’ll handle them in that order.

When you are here in Florida, you are accessing the Internet from a connection that does not belong to your home ISP, Charter Communications.  When you try to send e-mail through their server, you are doing what is called a mail relay.  This is one way that people who send SPAM get away with sending bulk mail without consequences – they simply relay it through some ISP’s mail server.  I had a long chat with Charter, and found out from their rep that Charter does not allow mail relaying via their servers, so the bottom line is that there is simply no way for you to send e-mails from a mail client such as Outlook while outside of a Charter-owned internet connection.  To get around this, you’ll have to either use Charter’s webmail interface, or my preferred option, scrap the ISP-specific e-mail altogether in favor of something like a free Gmail account.

The slow connection speed is something you’ll have to take up with your local provider.  While it could be a matter of WiFi signal strength, I suspect it’s more a matter of available bandwidth.  It sounds like 240 users are sharing a single data pipe.  I have no way of knowing the system load, but contemporary bandwidth demands being what they are, he’d better have a pretty big data pipe to keep 240 users satisfied.

As for the spam, I assume you mean spam e-mail, so the industrial filter your guy claims to have installed is not going to stop even a single one of them.  The reason is because unlike your outgoing mail, your incoming mail is still coming from Charter’s e-mail server, and although the packets have to pass through your provider’s system, it’s very unlikely he is filtering your e-mail packets based on their content.  By the way, a Gmail account like I mentioned above will go a long way to reducing the amount of Spam that winds up in your inbox.  By the way, “Unsecure” does not even refer to his network.  It means that the wireless connection from your computer to his WiFi access point is not encrypted.  His magic filter won’t help you with that either.

Bonus Web-only Content:

You know, I sometimes go to great lengths to get answers to questions for you, my beloved readers.  Take this week’s question from Kathy S. for example.  I had no idea whether Charter Communications allowed mail relays, so I hit up their website to do some research.  Finding no mention of it in their online help files, I initiated a chat session with their online help personnel.  The following is the log from my (rather unproductive) chat with Charter’s Customer Service rep, of whom I suspect English is not his or her primary language.

You have been connected to TTD Jasonette.

TTD Jasonette :  Hi, Jeff! Thank you for contacting Charter Customer Care. This is Jasonette. How may I help you?

Jeff Werner:  Hello. I write a Computers and Technology newspaper column out of Northwest Florida, called It’s Geek to Me. You can visit my website at I’m currently researching an issue for a Charter Communications customer who is a snowbird visiting our area. It has to do with e-mail access while they are away from your service area.

TTD Jasonette :  I would be glad to assist you with your email concerns.

TTD Jasonette :  Please go ahead with your questions.

Jeff Werner:  Basically, she says that their outgoing e-mail doesn’t work from here. They are getting internet service piped into the condo they are staying in from some local ISP, which has told them to contact Charter to get “a secure outgoing service #” from you. (I assume she means the configuration for a secure outgoing e-mail server). She was told by Charter that no such thing exists, which I believe was told to her simply because she asked the question wrong.

Jeff Werner:  Can you please point me to a page in your help files where I can get port numbers and setup information to provide to her? She must already have a CHarter username and password.

TTD Jasonette :  Thank you, Jeff.

TTD Jasonette :  If your computer is connected to another Internet line, not Charter’s, your computer does not recognize Charter SMTP. It will not allow you to send out emails. Unless, you change the SMTP (outgoing) mail server which your computer can recognize. You can retrieve this information from your current Internet connection provider.

TTD Jasonette :  At home, your computer is connected to Charter, and your SMTP mail server is set to . This is why your computer acknowledges the outgoing server, and works properly.

Jeff Werner:  Are you saying then, that there is NO WAY for her to send e-mails through Charter’s server outside of a Charter connection?

TTD Jasonette :  No. I would suggest that they send emails through webmail at They can also change the outgoing server. For the information about the outgoing server they can use, they can get it from the local ISP they are currently using.

TTD Jasonette :  Please let me know if you are still connected to the chat session at this time.

Jeff Werner:  Yes, webmail was going to be one of my suggestions to her, but she is telling me that because the entire condo is on Wifi, their ISP is recommending she use a secure connection through Charter. The local ISP doesn’t have one, because I think they are simply re-selling a connection from another provider, similar to what a hotel does when you stay there. You get a connection to the Internet, but nothing else.

TTD Jasonette :  I am sorry, but there is no other way for them to be able to send out emails using their email program but to change the outgoing server. They can ask the personnel on that condo where they are staying as to what is the outgoing server they are using.

Jeff Werner:  Well that’s not quite the answer I was looking for. You said above that the reason it wouldn’t work is that their system couldn’t resolve “SMTP.CHARTER.NET” unless it was connected to a Charter connection? I am able to resolve it from the computer I am currently on (it resolves to and I am not connected to a Charter line.

TTD Jasonette :  If you are connected to a different Internet line or different Internet Service provide, the computer won’t recognize the Charter SMTP You need to change it, so you can send out emails using your Outlook or any other email programs.

TTD Jasonette :  *provider

Jeff Werner:  ??? That’s what you said above. But my computer DOES recognize it, and I am NOT connected to Charter.

TTD Jasonette :  Are you also using a Charter Email accoun?

TTD Jasonette :  *account

Jeff Werner:  No! I said that above. Twice.

TTD Jasonette :  I am sorry, but I was talking about Charter email account set up on an email program wherein the SMTP server will not be recognized if the computer is connected to a non-Charter Internet line.

TTD Jasonette :  It would be better if they send out emails through webmail.

TTD Jasonette :  That way, they need not to worry about mail server settings.

Jeff Werner:  I think we have two differing opinions on what you mean by “recognize”. Do you not mean that the assigned DNS Server would be unable to resolve to it’s IP address?

TTD Jasonette :  What I meant is that if your computer is connected to a non-Charter Internet connection, you won’t be able to send out emails using your email program where the Charter email address is set up using as your outgoing server.

Jeff Werner:  Okay, you’re talking in circles without really answering my question. You don’t need to tell me that it’s not possible because THAT IS WHAT I AM CONTACTING YOU TO ASK ABOUT. I already know they are having problems doing it. I have read all of what you have written, so if you find yourself typing it again, please stop, because that is not helping.

Jeff Werner:  If you don’t understand what I’m asking, perhaps you can connect me to someone who does?

TTD Jasonette :  I am really sorry if I wasn’t able to answer your question. Which portion would you like me to explain further?

Jeff Werner:  What do you mean “your computer does not recognize Charter SMTP”? And please do not tell me “if your computer is connected to a non-Charter Internet connection, you won’t be able to send out emails using your email program where the Charter email address is set up using as your outgoing server.”

Jeff Werner:  The Charter SMTP server is nothing more than another computer on the internet. With the right credentials, it should be accessible from anywhere, including outside (non-Charter) lines.

TTD Jasonette :  Thank you.

TTD Jasonette :  Mail relaying is the practice of using, in the case of Charter, its outgoing mail server ( to send emails from non-Charter internet connection. Relaying is not allowed by Charter. In order to send emails when connected to the internet through a non-Charter internet connection, please log in to Charter’s webmail service by logging in to your email account at

Jeff Werner:  Okay, NOW we are getting somewhere. It’s not that “my computer doesn’t recognize it” it’s that “Charter doesn’t allow it.” That’s a big difference.

TTD Jasonette :  Yes, you are right. Charter doesn’t allow it. I am very sorry.

Jeff Werner:  From a security and anti-SPAM point of view, I can see why they would implement this, but it’s not particularly friendly to legitimate customers.

Jeff Werner:  As in the case of this user, there are legitimate reasons why people need to access the SMTP server while away from home, and some people simply do not WANT to use webmail.

TTD Jasonette :  I understand that it is not convenient to legitimate customers.

Jeff Werner:  Well, I have to get back to writing my newspaper column. I will explain Charter’s prohibition to this user, and recommend either webmail, or a non-Charter mail service like Gmail.

TTD Jasonette :  However, it is not impossible that Charter will be working on this matter in the future to make it convenient to our subscribers.

TTD Jasonette :  I appreciate your time chatting with us. Will there be anything else I can help you with today?

Jeff Werner:  Feel free to let me know if that happens. Even though I’m not a Charter subscriber, my column is read by about 150,000 people in 5 states.

TTD Jasonette :  Sure.

Jeff Werner:  That’s all. Thanks.

TTD Jasonette :  You are welcome.

TTD Jasonette :  We really appreciate your business. Thank you for choosing Charter as your Internet service provider.

Uh, okay sure Jasonette. Did I mention that I’m not on a Charter-owned connection?  Or a Charter Customer?  That would make me — oh never mind. 

Until next week, Geeks — good luck and happy computing!

– Geek

7 Responses to “Issue #242: March 11, 2012”

  • kratsmit says:

    Glad to see I’m not the only one that has these go-nowhere conversations with tech support!

    P.S. What kind of a name is Jasonette?!?

  • jchobin says:

    Follow your column weekly and got a very good chuckle with the communication between you and the Charter CSR. I find it hard to believe in this day and age of portable communications that a company the size of Charter would not allow their customers to securly connect to email from a remote location. Today’s users have laptops, smartphones, tablets, and other handheld devices to stay connected while they are on the go. I know I do. Surely, Charter must understand this and would implement Secure SMTP or IMAP so users can authenticate with the email host and securely send and receive email–it is not that difficult to implement.

    I found the following on Charter’s site.

    Mobile Email Settings

    Use these settings when setting up your Email on a mobile device. (Laptop computers, Smartphone, PDA, Tablet Computer, eReader, etc…)

    Note: For the best user experience and to ensure the best connection between your computers and mobile devices Charter recommends that you use these settings for your laptop computers and mobile devices
    Username: (Make sure you enter after your username or you will be unable to login)
    Password: The password you use to login to your email account
    SSL: This setting should be on for both SMTP and IMAP
    Protocol: IMAP
    Incoming Email Server:
    Port: 993
    Outgoing Email Server:
    Port: 587

    If applicable: a login will be required when sending and receiving mail.

    Hope this helps user Kathy L., and again I enjoy reading your column.

    • The Geek says:

      Well this is the kind of info I sought by contacting Charter in the first place. You can see in the chat log, the rep insists Charter doesn’t allow this. You went a bit farther than I did in listing the legitimate uses for this capability, and like you, I was rather taken aback that a provider the size of Charter couldn’t figure out how to secure their servers without an outright prohibition on such a desirable functionality. Hopefully what you suggested actually works, and I’ll follow-up here if I hear anything more.

      Thanks for the input!


      • I also had a good laugh at your conversation with the Charter rep.Been there – done that. With regards to the previous reply giving ports etc. most of that is related to incoming e-mail and you still have to specify the address of your SMTP in your outgoing server paramteres. I am a Firefox user but I have found the same thing applies to Outlook and Outlook Express. You must change the SMTP address in your outgoing server settings of the e-mail handler you are using. I have had great success in contacting the internet supplier that I’m using wherever I’m located in the world. For instance, my SMTP address in Canada is but that doesn’t work down here and I must switch to which is the address that my Wi-Fi supplier for our condo here in Fort Walton Beach gave me. Same thing in British Columbia Canada where I switch to Suppliers are generally very cooperative giving out the smtp address info. I hate webmail.
        This is the first year we have had WiFi in our building down here and I miss the old hardwired capability. In fact some of the devices I bring with me don’t have WiFi capability. Next year I’m bringing a wireless router extender that has four cat 5 connectors ( ethernet ) to make connections. You will probably be getting questions about that situation if you haven’t already as more and more building are going the WiFi with splash page route.

        • The Geek says:

          So it looks like I guessed right. If your condo internet supplier is telling you to use a Cox-owned SMTP server, then they are most likely just re-selling a connection to Cox within the condo building, and sharing it out among all the residents.

          The information jchobin provided included both incoming and outgoing servers, as well as the ports to make them work. If you check out the Charter web page he cited, they have a separate SMTP server for what they call “Mobile Email”. To me, this is an obsolete way of looking at things, because where exactly does one draw the line and say that everything on THAT side of it is “mobile”. Charter cites “laptop computers and mobile devices” and recommends connecting to “” instead of Well I pinged, and while it resolved to an IP address, the server did NOT respond. My question would be, WHY do they need a separate mail server for “laptop computers and mobile devices”? Would not their “regular” SMTP server, secured by username password and, if necessary, SSL do the job equally well?

          – Geek

          • jchobin says:

            This is a common setup used frequently by organizations (including the DoD). From a security perspective, you would place your external facing mail servers in the middle of a DMZ and create a trusted connection back to mailhosts located within trusted zone (intranet). The same thing holds true with ecommerce. You would put your external facing web server in the DMZ and create a trusted connection to backend middleware or database servers. This minimizes the internal servers exposer to the internet. In a DMZ setup an external firewall (exposed to internet) would be configured to block all ports/protocols except those that are allowed allowed to pass through to DMZ servers. An internal firewall is then configured to block all ports/protocols except those coming from trusted MAC/systems located in the DMZ.

            So in the case of Charter, when you are on the trusted portion of the Charter network, using straight SMTP is fine. However, if you are coming in from a untrusted network such as Cox or AT&T, you need to pass through a DMZ to gain access to internal servers.


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