Infra dig

I started using FastMail a few years ago after Gabe Weatherhead recommended it. Initially, I used it just for my personal email, but a year or so ago I moved all my work email there, too. The migration went smoothly, as has the service in general. The great thing about it has been that I never think of it, which is exactly what you want in an email service. Or any service, for that matter.

There was a minor glitch a few days ago. I got an automated email from The FastMail Team that said

Your domain is:

Unfortunately the domain you’ve setup is not currently delivering email to our servers because the MX records for the domain do not point to our servers.

Current mail exchanges pointed to by this domain: (none detected)

Required MX records for delivery directly to FastMail: 10 20 (This is the raw content of the DNS MX records. Depending on your name server configuration, you may be required to enter the numbers 10 and 20 into a field called “priority” or “preference” instead of including them at the start of the record.)

It seems that there is currently no mail exchange setup for your domain. This is probably because the nameserver details have not fully propagated yet. Depending on your registrar, this may take up to 48 hours so please be patient.

This was the middle of a work day, so I didn’t want to spend much time thinking about it, especially since I felt certain FastMail was mistaken. The domain was the first one I set up1 with FastMail; there hadn’t been any changes, and I knew that both the web hosting and domain name registration accounts were paid up.

So I sent an email to as a test. It took a couple of minutes to arrive, which was unusual, but it did arrive. And while that should be proof enough, it seemed a little simplistic. I decided to use dig to look up leancrew’s MX records.

I hadn’t used dig in ages, but it wasn’t hard to get back into the swing of it. There are, as the man page says, “probably too many query options,” but I didn’t need to do anything tricky. I just needed the MX records. Running

dig MX

got me several lines information, the most important of which were these:

;; ANSWER SECTION:       1800    IN  MX  10       1800    IN  MX  20

As I suspected, everything was fine. Why did FastMail think it wasn’t? Who knows? Maybe a temporary network glitch. Whatever, I replied to the original FastMail message with the information I got from dig and told them my email seemed to be working fine.2 Back to work.

Then I got a response from FastMail telling me I had to go to their website to refile the email so it would fit in their support tracking system. Or something like that. I didn’t pay much attention to it because

  1. My email was fine, I didn’t need anything from FastMail, and I had real (paying) work to do.
  2. I am not FastMail’s administrative assistant. I have my own project files to keep track of, and have no desire to do unpaid work for someone else.

Now, it’s true that I sometimes jump through these hoops because I need something done and don’t trust the customer service people to take care of it. But it always rankles. And as I get older, I’m less inclined to go out of my way to help those who are being paid (by me) to help me.

Later that day, I got another automated email from FastMail:

The domain you’ve setup appears to be correctly configured and the DNS is now correctly pointing to our servers.

The DNS changes you made should propagate across the Internet over the next 1 to 48 hours or so, and email will start being delivered directly to our servers for your domain.

Fine. I will not tell them that I made no DNS changes, nor will I explain the setup/set up distinction.

I’m still happy with FastMail. The service is great, despite this little hiccup. And I got to write about dig, a program you should remember whenever you have network questions. There’s even an iOS app that seems to let you do most of what you can do from the command line.

iOS Dig

As you can see, it doesn’t go out of its way to reformat the output to fit on an iPhone,3 but it gets the job done.

  1. Set up is a verb phrase, setup is a noun or adjective. Don’t make the mistake, as FastMail does, of thinking that setup is a modernization of set up. It’s like the difference between login and log in

  2. After the dig, I sent myself another email, and it came through almost immediately.) 

  3. If you tap the Help button, you get the output of dig -h, also not formatted for an iPhone in portrait mode.