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Issue 4.3



Building an email client for children

Issue: 4.3 (January/February 2006)
Author: Will Leshner
Author Bio: Will Leshner has spent a good deal of the last several years having a blast building REALbasic applications, utilities, and plugins. His REALbasic accomplishments include KidzMail and KidzLog. You can also check out his REALbasic weblog at http://www.rbgazette.com/.
Article Description: No description available.
Article Length (in bytes): 19,440
Starting Page Number: 11
Article Number: 4308
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Excerpt of article text...

KidzMail is an email client designed so that even small children can send and receive email easily and safely. Children draw pictures that they send to people in their address book. Parents control the address book, so they know who their children are corresponding with. The address book, as well as every other part of the KidzMail interface, uses colors and pictures so that even children who can't read can use it.

This postmortem describes how KidzMail came about, and some of the REALbasic technologies that made it possible. I start off with a little bit of history, and then move on to talk about some of the technical aspects of developing KidzMail in REALbasic.

A Brief History Of KidzMail

Believe it or not, the idea for KidzMail grew out of my first publicly released "freeware" utility, which was a little POP3 client I called MailSniffer. It basically "sniffed" a POP3 mail account for new email and took one or more predefined actions based on what it found. To understand the usefulness of MailSniffer, you have to cast your mind back to 1996. On the Mac, if you wanted to do email, you probably used Eudora. Eudora was free and it worked really well. But, at that time, it only allowed you to check email for one email account.

I decided to write my own POP3 client that could check multiple email accounts at the same time. At the time, I was fortunate enough to have access to CodeWarrior, and with it, PowerPlant, Metrowerks' application framework. With CodeWarrior and PowerPlant, I figured I could knock MailSniffer off in a week or so.

The devil, as they say, is in the details, and in the case of MailSniffer, the details were implementing TCP and writing a POP3 client on top of it. At that time, PowerPlant did not come with all of the TCP classes that it comes with today. If I wanted TCP and POP3, I'd have to write it myself. Fortunately, I managed to track down a TCP wrapper that worked with CodeWarrior. After pouring over the various RFCs related to the POP3 protocol, I managed to write my own POP3 client on top of the TCP wrapper.

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