Some of us have now become so dependant on email (me included) that we experience withdrawal symptoms whilst on holiday or business trips. The signs to look out for are a feeling of isolation, an unwarranted fear that hundreds of vitally important emails are accumulating in your mailbox and itchy typing fingers.

Really hopeless cases pack a portable PC and modem with their luggage. However, you know you've hit rock bottom (me again…) when you take a mobile phone as well. The latter is a truly desperate measure since downloading emails takes ages over a pitifully slow cellular telephone link running at maximum 9600 bps (if you are very lucky). It can be eye-wateringly expensive and don't even think of trying it if you're abroad, unless someone else is picking up the bill

If you don't mind lugging a PC around with you then it is the most painless way of accessing your mailbox, providing you are travelling in the UK and you can plug the modem into a phone line. You can set the PC up with your chosen email client software and since most ISP's dial-up lines are charged at local rates it shouldn't cost you much more than if you were at home or in the office. That's assuming that you have to pay someone for the use of the telephone. However, beware of using telephone sockets in hotel bedrooms since the cost of making outgoing calls can be extortionate.

Outside the UK using a portable PC and modem is not such a good idea. The main problem is that very few ISPs have dial-up connections in other countries, so even if you can hook your PC up to a phone line you will have to make a costly international call back to the UK. The exceptions include AOL and CompuServe who have 'points of presence' numbers in many countries around the world, though they do charge extra for this facility. If you subscribe to these services you can find out more from the members services pages, which also list the numbers concerned, so make sure you note them down, before you leave.

The other difficulty of using a PC and modem abroad is the diversity of phone sockets. The American standard RJ11connector is the closest to an international standard – it's the type used on most modems and telephones – you may be able to simply unplug the lead going into the back of the phone and plug it straight into your modem. However it's better to be safe than sorry and take an adaptor designed for the country you are visiting, or buy an adaptor travelling kit. They're available from most leading PC suppliers or you can try: Don't forget you'll also need a mains adaptor, for the PC's battery charger. Seasoned travellers often take a screwdriver with them as well, to get at phone lines without a wall socket, but don't try this unless you know what you are doing.

If you haven't got a portable PC then you can still pick up your messages and send emails in the UK and abroad for a relatively modest outlay at an Internet café. There are now almost 3,000 of them in 155 countries, including many places well off the beaten track. An up to date list can be found at: There are a couple of provisos. First your ISP's email server must use the POP3/SMTP (see Jargon Filter) mail systems – most of them do nowadays – and you must have the mail server's address and your account password with you. You will need this information in order to set up the email client software on the café's PCs; we'll look at how to do just that in a moment. If your ISP doesn't support POP3/SMPT or you don't mind setting up a new email address then you could do worse than sign up for a web-based email account such as Hotmail ( or Yahoo Mail ( They're free and the advantage is that you don't have to mess around with email software on an unfamiliar PC. Simply access the site with an Internet browser, log on with your email name and password and read your messages.

To read your email using an Internet café PC or someone else's computer you will need three items of information. They are your user name (i.e., your personal password and details of your ISP's incoming (POP3) and outgoing (SMTP) server mailboxes. These usually look something like or This information is provided when you sign up for your Internet and email account, otherwise you can usually find it in the help or FAQ section on your ISP's home page, or in the email software on your PC.

The two most popular email client programs are Microsoft Outlook Express and Netscape Messenger. In Outlook Express click on Accounts on the Tools menu, choose the Mail tab. Click the Add button and select Mail, to start the connection wizard. Enter your Display Name then click the Next button. Now key in your email address and the details of your ISPs incoming and outgoing mail servers, you will then be prompted for your user name, password and a name for the account. Select the dial-up connection being used by the PC and you are ready to go. Remember to delete the details afterwards otherwise others using the PC after you could interfere with your email account.

Netscape Messenger can only handle one account at a time so if you are using someone else's PC remember to make a note of the settings, so they can be restored afterwards. Select Preferences from the Edit menu and click on Mail Server in the Category window to enter your user name and POP3 mailbox details. To retrieve your email click on Get Messages on the File menu, you will be asked for your password and the dial-up should begin. Again don't forget to remove your details afterwards.




The password chosen by you, or issued to you when you opened your Internet and email account


Post Office Protocol 3 – system used by most Internet Service Providers to deliver email


Simple Mail Transfer Protocol – system used to move email messages around the Internet



Here's a simple trick to personalise the title bar on Internet Explorer 4.0. It could be your name or a helpful reminder message (Don't forget to disconnect dummy!). It's a Registry fiddle, so take is as read that it's for advanced Windows users only, who are prepared to take the risk.

Close down Internet Explorer if it is running and on the Start menu go to Programs then Accessories and open Notepad. In a new document type the following three (double-spaced) lines, exactly as shown, inserting your own text where it says "Your message here":



Microsoft\Internet Explorer\Main]

"Window Title"="Your message here"

Select File and Save As and give the file the name 'title.reg' and store it a folder where you know you'll be able to find it. Open Windows Explorer, locate title.reg, click on it and you'll see a message saying that the Registry has been updated, your name or the message will appear in he title bar when you next start Internet Explorer.

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