For years my e-mail address was firstname.lastname@example.org, but don't write to me there - I lost that address shortly after I stopped writing for that paper in 2002.
I have an e-mail address at cbsnews.com but I don't give that out outside CBS because, as much as I love being the technology analyst for the esteemed network, I don't know if that might change in the future. One thing that won't change is my name, which is my e-mail address now: email@example.com.
Having my own "domain" is surprisingly affordable - it costs only $10.19 a year to maintain larrymagid.com and I pay nothing for my e-mail service.
To get your own address all you need to do is register the domain with any registrar that's accredited by ICANN - The Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers. You can get a complete list of registrars here, but shop carefully. Registrar pricing and services vary widely.
I have been very happy with Gogaddy.com because of its price ($10.19 a year or cheaper if you register for multiple years) and excellent 24/7 service. GKN.net, which is also quite good, is slightly less expensive.
Both of these companies will forward your mail to any address you choose. For an extra fee, these companies can host your Web site, but you can also host your site elsewhere or use the company's free forwarding service to have your web address (URL) forwarded to another site, including a free page you can set up on social networking or blogging sites like MySpace, Facebook or Blogger.com.
So you can not only get e-mail at your own domain but have a Web presence, too.
Of course, you don't have to use your name for your domain - you can use any available string of characters, and if your name is relatively common, it's possible that someone else might have already registered that domain. For example, I have also registered radiolarry.com, pcanswer.com and several other domains. (You can also reach me at firstname.lastname@example.org.)
And speaking of e-mail addresses, by disclosing my e-mail address I just violated one of the cardinal rules of avoiding spam, which leads me to my next point:
Although I could purchase a mailbox to receive my mail through godaddy or GKK, I've found a better way which happens to be free. I use these services to forward all my mail to a Gmail account. Gmail, which is operated by Google, is one of several free Web-based e-mail services. I use Gmail mainly because it has incredibly good spam filters - so good that I'm not nervous about giving out my e-mail address to the public.
The spammers long ago harvested that address but very little spam actually gets to my inbox thanks to Gmail's excellent spam filters. Gmail also gives you a very large inbox and the ability to quickly search for mail, no matter how long ago it arrived. I don't give out my actual Gmail address because I don't want people writing me there; I want people writing me at email@example.com, because if I later switch e-mail services, I can just change the forwarding address and get that mail on whatever service I use. Gmail can be configured to use another e-mail address for outgoing mail, so even when I send mail from Gmail it still uses my larrymagid.com address.
PODCAST: Google has just released free software that allows Microsoft Outlook users to synchronize their Outlook Calendar with Google Calender, enabling users to access their information anywhere. In her conversation with Larry Magid, Google's Jennifer Grant calls that "Cloud computing."
Gmail users can access their mail at gmail.com but you can also use any e-mail program. I sometimes do check my mail at Gmail.com but I also use Microsoft Outlook, as well as Mozilla's excellent free Thunderbird e-mail program that works on Mac, Windows and Linux - and that brings me to my next point.
For you to access your Gmail from an e-mail program you need to first configure Gmail to allow for POP or IMAP access. Gmail has long supported POP but has recently added IMAP. The difference between POP and IMAP is that pop simply sends a copy of your mail to the program while IMAP actually synchronizes your mail between the Web site and whatever program or programs you use to access it.
With IMAP enabled, you see the same inbox, outbox and other folders regardless of how you access your mail. So what I see using Outlook on my desktop is the same as what I see using Thunderbird on my notebook PC, or Gmail from a cyber cafe. If I delete a message in one place, it's deleted in all the others. If I move a message to a folder on my desktop machine, it's automatically moved to the same folder on my laptop or on the Web. It's actually a very powerful way to manage your mail.
There is one drawback to IMAP, but there's a fix for that. One of the best things about Gmail is that it archives your messages but if you delete them from your PC in IMAP it deletes them on Gmail, which defeats the purpose of the archival system. The solution is to set up two Gmail accounts - one that you use to access from a PC or Mac, and the other that simply archives your mail. You can have your registrar forward your mail to both accounts, or you can use Gmail's forwarding system to have one of your accounts forward your mail to your other account. You can even have Gmail forward mail to a Yahoo, AOL or MSN account or to your work account.
A syndicated technology columnist for over two decades, Larry Magid serves as on air Technology Analyst for CBS Radio News. His technology reports can be heard several times a week on the CBS Radio Network. Magid is the author of several books including "The Little PC Book."
By Larry Magid