If you are any kind of developer then something you may know or may not know is that your past returns. And while it's sometimes good, the way in which it returns is sometimes odd at best, bizarre in the middle and just plain freaking ass weird. From 1987 to 1996 I ran a hypertext tools company named NTERGAID that made a product named HyperWriter (among others). Yes that was pre-web. And, yes Virginia, hypertext existed long before the web. The product and company were ultimately acquired and our award winning products were utterly and completely shelved. So shelved in fact that when this company's technology assets were sold off, our tools weren't even listed on the due diligence forms meaning that the acquirer didn't actually buy them.
Anyway yesterday I get a random email over the transom looking to convert our document databases into HTML. I can't legally provide the tools (I could do it but that could get me into legal issues since this stuff is very unclear and just finding out the answer could take months). So I offered to look at it as a consulting project. And I very foolishly said a fatal statement "Zip it up and email it to me". One thing that I didn't tell you is that towards the end our products were mostly used for building CD-ROM titles. And she did zip it up 250+ megs and send it to me as a 73 meg zip file. That's right. A 73 meg email. Oh dear god.
So Outlook got just plain weird and refused to pick up my mail. Finally looking thru the QMail directory structure, my buddy Apokalyptik realized the problem and said (approximately) "Dude. You got a 73 meg email !!!" (and then laughter ensued). His second comment was "That's the largest email I've ever seen".
Emails by outlook can rarely be retrieved when they are greater than 5 or 6 megs. I'm past that by more than a factor of 10. This then raises the issue of "How do you download and extract the attachments from a 73 meg email". We kicked it around again and I thought about switching to Outlook Express or Eudora both of which tend to be better in my experience for big emails. But I knew that was a stretch so then we came on the idea of FTPing it to my local box and "de-mimeing" it with a script. Mime stands for Multipurpose Internet Mail Extensions and is the technical standard that encodes an email message for transfer. It also encodes the attachment so "de mimeing" is the process of extracting an attachment. I've done this before in Perl and I know there are PHP tools so it was off to Google. After looking at a bunch of php and Perl stuff, none of which looked fast or easy, I raced over to Download.com and guessed that there must be a utility for this. I mean I can't be the only one who's ever been stupid with email? Can I? Apparently not. There were several tools there and after sorting through them I found the Decode Shell Extension from FunDunc. It worked absolutely rippingly well. About 2 minutes after download I had my 250 odd meg set of files on my hard drive.
All that just to get a damn email. Now you are probably thinking "Why didn't you just ask her to FTP it to you". Answer a) Geek Pride. Answer B) When I saw how large it was I realized that this wasn't a trivial consulting job and could be real revenue and I didn't want to do anything to possibly mess up the deal. I told her to email it to me and she did so. It's not her fault that I was a bloody idiot.
So then I went to extract the data and realized that a bug in the last release of our old software would mean that I would need to press ENTER more than 22,000 times to extract the data. And so it goes. Need to try again with different extraction settings? Another 22,0000 times. Sigh. Maybe I can train the cats to hold the ENTER key down.
And so it goes.