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Gmail With K-9, and an Identity Change

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In my previous article, I described how to set up Thunderbird for use with your Gmail account. That solves my annoyances with the Gmail web interface, and allows me to use PGP encryption in my emails, something I’ll probably write a post about later. However, I also have a series Android devices on which I also read email, and the Gmail app on them has a few of the same problems, namely the lack of encryption. How much does the NSA pay the major vendors so they don’t implement this, and make it harder on us?

In this article, I’ll show you how to set up the free K-9 Mail app, and add a new identity to it, so we can prepare our eventual exit from Gmail altogether. You may not choose to do that yet, but I did.

Send in the K-9 team

Before you install K-9, you should install APG. It provides PGP encryption for Android, and for reasons I’ve never understood, K-9 insists that it be installed first if you want to use both of them together. For now, forget that you did that, I’m going to deal with encryption in a later posting.

After that, install the K-9 Mail application on our phone. Get it from Google’s Store, or Market, or whatever your phone calls it. These app are very undemanding, and I’ve installed them on anything from an old Froyo phone to the latest KitKat tablet.

After you’ve installed K-9, you’ll have to configure it to use your Gmail account. As with Thunderbird, you will need to create another application-specific password for this if you are using two-factor authentication. You want to use a different one, so that if you ever lose your phone, you can just revoke the password that it used and cut off access to your email.

From the menu, choose “add account”, enter your full email address and the password, and let the app find the incoming and outgoing server settings for you. Just like with Thunderbird, this should happen automatically, so no memorizing of host names or ports required. When all is done, you’re prompted for a name for the account and your own name, and taken to the account view. By default, your account will be set up to not poll the inbox repeatedly, so you might want to change the folder poll frequency in the settings to something like every 15 minutes. Take a look around all the settings and consider what you want your phone to be doing.

New Identity

I’m ultimately trying to get out of Gmail entirely, and I have a domain that’s hosted at netbeat with a catch-all email account on their POP3 mail server. It would be cool if I could slowly migrate to an email address on that domain, but I don’t have the patience to set up my own IMAP server for it yet.

First step in this is to configure Gmail to fetch the emails from that domain. I’ve been doing this for a while now, and even though it means Google gets even more data about me, it was worth it for their superior spam filtering. Instruction on how to set up Gmail’s Mail Fetcher can be found in Google’s support pages: Centralize mail from different accounts with Mail Fetcher.

The one disadvantage of this setup is that email now takes longer to be delivered, because on top of K-9’s polling frequency, each message now has to first go to my domain host’s servers, and then gets picked up by Gmail on a regular schedule (up to an hour), so you should take that article’s advice and set up direct forwarding, too. How you do that differs based on your domain host, so you’re on your own there. When I did it, it caused my emails to arrive almost instantly.

Secondly, you’ll want to be able to send emails through Google’s servers from your new email address. Again, this is documented in the Google support pages: Sending mail from a different address

Once this works, you should have a drop-down in Gmail’s web interface that lets you choose which identity you want to send email from. By using your new identity, you are slowly training everyone you communicate with that you’ve got a new address – the address will get collected into their address books. their replies will be sent to it, etc. You may also want to add a signature to your emails that explains your new address. Just make sure not to tell the spammers :–)

Back to K-9: In the account settings, under “Sending mail”, select “Manage Identities”, and from the menu choose “New Identity” to add your alternate email address. Then long-press on the newly created identity and choose “Move to top / make default”. K-9 will use this identity for all new messages, but in replies, it will default to whatever address the email went to, and not switch. Don’t worry if that’s confusing, you can always change whatever identity it chooses from a drop-down at the top of the composition screen, for any message you write.

Thunderbird has a similar mechanism for multiple identities, and you might want to set it up there, too. Rather than describe it here, I’ll just link the Mozilla Knowledge Base and hope you’ll figure it out for yourself.