Greeks bearing gifts and emailBy Chris Williams. Published: 26th Jan 2005, 23:30:01 | Permalink | Printable
An introduction to the history and future of HermesEvery so often, new commercial software is developed for RISC OS and upon release, is sufficiently covered by drobe.co.uk and other publications. However Hermes, the recently developed email software by Alan Wrigley for R-Comp, has managed to evade us - until now. We caught up with Alan earlier this week to talk about his latest application and what lies in store for Hermes.
As an email transport application, Hermes is described as being like POPstar but with advanced features; POPstar being the popular freeware email fetcher by Joseph Heenan. In a case of convenient timing, while R-Comp were looking for a replacement to POPstar for their Internet software suite, Alan proposed his idea of writing a new application from scratch. As a result, Hermes is now included R-Comp's Dialup2, NetFetch and MessengerPro commercial software titles, but can also be used as a standalone application if you wish.
"I had felt for a long time that POPstar was showing its age and had thought many times about writing a new mail transport, but it was really three things that actually provided the incentive to do it," says Alan, who has authored a book in the past on programming for RISC OS.
"Firstly, having launched the Feathermail anti-spam service a couple of years ago I felt it would be extremely useful to have a mail transport that could interface with it (having said that, Hermes as finally released doesn't actually interface with Feathermail although it will have anti-spam features of its own in a future release).
"Secondly, I have for some years been running Web-based businesses from a RISC OS machine with Datapower at the local end and MySQL at the server end and using email to communicate between them. The method I used was to write external scripts called from Datapower which inserted emails into POPstar's queue, but I always dreamed one day of having a more integrated system with a mail transport which could be activated directly from within applications using SWI calls, which would enable any application to send emails directly.
"And thirdly, the release of Gemini (the PC version of Messenger Pro) gave me some useful pointers on how a modern mail transport system should work, and I have derived inspiration for some of Hermes' features from Gemini."
Written in C++ and built using the Acorn compiler package, development work started shortly after Wakefield 2004 and the first version of Hermes was meekly introduced later that year in time for the October RISC OS show in Guildford. Although the application was initially to be called Weasel (as in POP goes the We... oh, you get it), this was changed to Hermes: the messenger of the ancient Greek gods.
Due to the fact that freeware alternatives are available, Hermes clearly needed an edge over the competition. At the moment its key features include the ability to send and fetch email to and from multiple accounts in parallel. As Alan puts it: "If you have several email addresses, you don't have to wait until every email from every account is downloaded (or until your 10 megabytes of family pics to Aunty Ethel has left the building) before you can read any of them." Hermes also supports various SMTP authentication methods plus APOP authentication, which ISPs are increasingly enforcing to ensure that accounts are used by legitimate users only.
Alan was particularly coy about the future of Hermes, although wistfully added that maybe one day he'll be able to send emails from Datapower with Hermes. He says, "I have agreed with R-Comp a roadmap for development over the next year which will involve probably three major upgrades. The first of these will be fairly soon and will add a useful bit of functionality that is so far missing from RISC OS. The second will add some anti-spam features as I mentioned earlier. As for the third, you will just have to wait and see."
The 'no fuss, no hassle' approach to managing email on RISC OS is considered by R-Comp to be one of the strengths of our platform, and as they told us last December in Birmingham, R-Comp are keen to see this advantage continue. Arguably, this is especially true in our modern virus ridden climate of the Internet: forget the headline of this article, it's a case of 'beware of geeks bearing exploits', more than anything else. The fact that Messenger (originally one of the crown jewels in the freeware Internet application family) has been ported to Windows is, in a way, proof of the strength of our email software. However, as the digital world moves deeper into the realms of instant messaging and similar forms of information and knowledge exchange, there is a real pressure now on RISC OS software development to keep up with these trends.
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