RoadTrip America

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Wi-Fi Email Secrets
, by Del Albright

Wi-Fi email on a roll
With the right settings, you can send email on a roll

It's been a long day of driving. You've settled in for the night. You hook up your laptop, turn on your wireless card to get your email and, boom, you get a message saying you can't send emails. You can receive, but not send. What's up with that?

The harsh reality of the WiFi world is that so many times it will drive you nuts before you get it to work. Here are some tips and tricks that can make this whole WiFi process a bit easier and more useable.


The main thing you need to understand is that it's easy to get on the Internet with WiFi if you have a WiFi (wireless) card in your computer, and by simply leaving your email and Internet browser set up to Automatically Detect your IP address and configuration.

This does not work in all cases. Hotspotzz, for example allows you fairly good access to the Internet, but you will pay dearly. In one place, Hotspotzz charged me $5.95 for 12 hours -- nearly $12.00 for a 24-hour stay (overnight).

I'm finding more and more road trip places (RV parks, campgrounds and motels) are charging extra for WiFi. Find out before you commit. WiFi providers like Linksys, AmeriSpot, and Hotspotzz are making quite a business of hooking up camp parks and hotels with wireless service.

"Web mail" -- an email utility that works through a Web browser -- is an easy-to-use alternative to sending and receiving emails using your own email program. Web mail doesn't work well for me. I want to use my email program because it has all my inboxes and contact list. To use it, however, requires learning about how to change the setting for SMTP (Simple Mail Transfer Protocol) in each new location. (SMTP is the protocol through which outgoing mail is sent, a server address usually beginning with "smtp.")


First, let's review the main tricks for getting a good connection to a WiFi.

  1. Make sure you ask (before you select an overnight spot) where the WiFi antenna signal strength is strong enough for you to surf the Web and transfer email.
  2. Ask if the WiFi service is configured to send outgoing email. In other words, ask the attendant if there is a special SMTP setting (which often looks something like "") needed to get outgoing email to work. You will most likely NOT get an answer that makes sense (from my experience).
  3. Grab a business card from where you are staying and make note of the email address, as this will tell you what Internet service provider (ISP) is providing the basic service. This information will often be enough to allow you to configure your own email program's SMTP setting (as explained below). If it still doesn't work, you can:
  4. Surf the Internet for local ISPs. Use your web browser (and a search engine such as Google) and type in the local city plus ISP -- like this, "california+sacramento+ISP" and see what pops up. If you see Sacramento ISP Directories, then bingo, you're ready to find some new SMTP addresses to try. Sometimes, ISPs provide these on their home page - but usually, you need to click on "Troubleshooting" and you can usually find these SMTP addresses near the bottom of those pages. You may have to try two or three settings before you find the right one. Keep trying.
  5. RTA reader Patrick Martin has suggested using the "Command Prompt" to identify the SMTP server for the ISP you are attempting to use. Find your Start button (in the lower left of most monitors) and follow these steps: Start > Run > and then enter CMD. When the Command Prompt appears (it opens what looks like a DOS window) type in "ipconfig." This will list the details of your Internet connection, and, depending on the configuration of the ISP, many times it will list the name of the ISP you are connected to in the "Connection Specific DNS Suffix" line. Once you know the name of the ISP, it can make the task of searching for the SMTP server a bit more direct.

Open the program; click on TOOLS; ACCOUNTS. Find your home ISP account. In my case, it's called (that's the Incoming mail setting). Then highlight this ISP setting and click on PROPERTIES; SERVERS. Here is where you'll see the SMTP setting. In my case, it's (Outgoing Mail). This is what must be modified in each new location if you want to be able to send email -- it has to be a local SMTP setting.

Open your email and click on TOOLS; OPTIONS: GETTING STARTED - OUTGOING MAIL (SMTP). Change this SMTP setting to the one you found above. In my case, my home ISP setting is I change this one to fit the local provider (such as, and my email works like a champ!

You can also buy services from providers that give you a permanent, use-it-just-about-anywhere, SMTP outgoing mail (forwarding) service, so you can use your Eudora or Outlook Express anytime without having to change the settings. is one example. One drawback is these services can cost you as much as an additional $50.00 a year or more on top of whatever else you're paying for your Internet and email.

Another option, also suggested by Patrick Martin, is to use Google Mail (GMail). GMail uses SSL for its outgoing mail server, and SSL is configured to use port 465 instead of port 25. Port 25 is the port that many ISPs block, which results in those error messages described above. The only down side of using GMail is that mail sent will be sent from your GMail account, but you can still receive mail from any POP3 account that you specify.

If you have a Hotmail or Yahoo email account, you may be able to still send through these services -- but don't count on it. However, this may be a simple way around the SMTP problem if you don't mind limited email functionality.

I rely on email as a way of staying in touch on the road. If you, too, want to be rolling out the email while on a roll, learn to configure your SMTP and stay connected!

Del Albright



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