One of the features that make laptop computers so appealing is the fact that they are portable. With a laptop you are free to roam where you want to.

A laptop with a wireless internet connection gives you the ability to work in any room in the house and even beyond. With a laptop you have the freedom to leave your home (or office) entirely and still have the full blown computer power that you would expect to have with a desktop machine. And with free wireless “hot spots” popping up all over the place the possibilities are endless – you can get the same amount of work done that you would expect to get done if you were confined to a desk all day from places like coffee shops, airports, the lobby of a fine hotel or even (if you live in a gated community) down at the clubhouse by the pool!

But (as is true with all good things) there are a few “gotchas” that you have to be aware of if you decide to take your machine out on the road.

One issue that causes a fair amount of confusion for the budding “road warrior” is the inability to send email from on the road. Receiving mail is usually not a problem but the inability to send mail when you are on a connection other than your home network is a complaint that I used to hear quite a bit.

Now, not everyone has this problem. There are plenty of people out there who are able to use their laptops wherever they want and sending isn’t a problem but there are others who (try as they might) can’t send an email when away from home to save their life. The answer usually lies in what email service their system is set up to use when the mail fails to send versus the email services that works no matter where they are.

Confused? Let’s back track a bit and talk about the typical home internet service and what’s included. When you sign up for internet service for your home one of the things that you get with that service is an email address. Your Internet Service Provider (ISP) gives you access to the internet from home and sets up a username which typically becomes your email address. Then your email program (Outlook, Windows Live Mail, Etc.) gets set up with your username, password, “POP” and “SMTP” settings. Now the POP settings (POP=”Post Office Protocol”) are the settings that tell your email program from where on the internet your incoming mail can be retrieved and the SMTP settings (SMTP=”Simple Mail Transfer Protocol”) tells your mail program where on the internet your outgoing mail needs to go when you click the “Send” button. The problem sending mail usually lies with the SMTP settings.

You see, Internet Service Providers take SPAM (junk email) very seriously and in an effort to try to thwart SPAM, some providers will prohibit relaying outgoing mail through their SMTP servers. What this means is that when an outgoing mail message is being sent from within their network, it goes along without a hitch. But when you try to use your machine in a network that is different than network you use at home (maybe your home network is AT&T and the coffee shop you are trying to send email from is Comcast for example) then the SMTP server rejects the outgoing mail because it’s not originating from within its network but from some other network. The message gets blocked as part of the service provider’s efforts to thwart SPAM.

So what do you do? And why is it some people have no problem sending mail and others can’t?

Well, many ISPs have a different SMTP address for people when they are on the road but one of the easiest ways to work around this issue is to set up a free “Web Based” email service like Gmail so it doesn’t matter where you are when you try to send email. With an email services like Gmail you can set up your SMTP settings in your email program to point to Gmail’s server and bypass your ISP’s SMTP settings altogether. It’s a simple fix and using a Web Based email service also lets you keep using the same email address even if you move or change internet service providers. But that’s a whole other issue altogether isn’t it?

Sean McCarthy fixes computers. He can be reached at 888-752-9049 or help@ComputeThisOnline.com (No Hyphens!)

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