Hey IMAP, how you NOT doing?

by Meg on April 17, 2010

Before I move in to my new place, I have been subletting from a friend and living with her two lovely roommates. Girl time has been awesome. Their Internet has not been awesome – more specifically, their weird faux router.  I write the below more as the general thought process behind trying to troubleshoot an issue (for those not as familiar with the steps) and to share the reveal of https://www.google.com/accounts/UnlockCaptcha that even some of you geeks’ geeks might not know!!

My first indication something was up with the router was that my mail client would not pull in any of my IMAP inboxes. I was connected and seemingly using the Internet in every over way, but WTF on my mail client (Apple mail – Snow Leopard) not pulling my mail in.  (It was also blocking gchat in Adium.)  I did some initial testing and fiddling around with my IMAP accounts, but no real luck. My friend Rob had me confirm what the error message was (Mail/Window/Connection Doctor =timing out) and another friend Derek, had me ping gmail directly through terminal (telnet imap.gmail.com 993), which also timed out.

The next logical step for me was to do a search of “tech part name” + “tech problem”. In this case, “Motorola SGB900 IMAP Apple mail not working”. What I didn’t realize was that the router I was trying to troubleshoot was ALSO the cable modem.  I didn’t even know things like this existed and as Derek pointed out, it does a really terrible job being a router on top of it.  My guess is the general idea behind these devices is to make it easier for the non-tech consumer to get up and running with wifi.  However, even under the “low” security settings, it had the most unusual default ports unblocked while some very basic ones such as IMAP were not even listed.  I proceeded to unblock any and all IMAP ports that might be needed (143 – for non secure IMAP & 993 for SSL IMAP, 585 for SSL SMTP… oddly 25 was already open for SMTP).  And while I was at it, Derek found the gchat port at 5222.  Ultimately, since I could specify a range for TCPs to unblock outgoing traffic, Derek gave me the top TCP port (65535) and I unblocked 0:65535.  This in turn made video chat work, notifications on my iPad start working, and a few other things I didn’t even realize were also blocked.

This fixed the issue for a while (a day or so).  Then I realized ALL of my portable devices were popping up with the error that my username and password did not match.  INFURIATING.  I verified directly through a web browser that I could indeed login with the same username and password found in all of my account information setup in 3 different mail clients on top of which I was at a friend’s house with my devices and they had been working fine three days prior when I came over for dinner.  This really stumped me, but I had this odd feeling that my constant pining of my gmail accounts from IMAP had some how locked my account out.  But what if gmail was asking my clients to enter in that stupid picture with letters to make sure I wasn’t a spam/hacker bot.  I had no idea how tell google to reset it and it’s not like you can call Google IT and have them reset it for you.  So, I called Google IT – aka, did a new google search “apple mail gmail imap password issues”.  Scrolling through this forum (http://www.google.com/support/forum/p/gmail/thread?tid=15bd690131b15aed&hl=en) most of the answers didn’t seem to apply until I found this lovely post:

Jonathanmiller45 – THANK YOU.  Indeed, https://www.google.com/accounts/UnlockCaptcha saved the day here!!

Now my IMAP is working again, I’ve learned about weird consumer cable modem/wifi router hybrids, refreshed my port knowledge, and my INBOX awkwardly then sent all the emails I rewrote in a web browser the past week all at once!

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