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Retrieving URL for software updates to manually download

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Some of us don’t have high-speed Internet connections. I live in a remote location and use a relatively slow mobile data stick for Internet. It’s fast enough to download most things, but the connection can be poor at times, which can result in failed downloads.

Recently I wanted to update an Adobe product. The Adobe Updater has not resume feature. Odd, but true. Adobe Updater would keep failing to download the updates, and would start fresh each time I tried. What I wanted to do was get the URL for the update and download it myself using CURL. This has become my trusty download buddy for hard to complete downloads.

I looked through all the Adobe Updater log files, xml files, etc. It only had records of the URL of past updates which were successful. I did not find record of a currently downloading URL (whilst running the updater) nor a failed one. So the next step was to get a free packet sniffer. This is software that will monitor all data passing over a network connection. I used Wireshark, but it is a pretty clunky app to use, simply because it’s not built in native Cacoa (Mac) style. It runs in what is called X11. That alone took a few minutes to load.

In a nutshell, in WireShark I created a filter. To create a filter you must select a Field Name. Click somewhere in that list, and type “http” (without the quotes). This will jump down to the HTTP related fields. Find in there the “http.request.full_uri” (without the quotes). Then select the Relation “contains”. Then in the Value put a unique word from the URL of the company who makes the software. In my case I put adobe into the Value, because I know that Adobe software updates will come from a URL containing adobe.com.

Before applying the filter, and ran the Adobe Updater and got it to the point where it was downloading the update. Then, on WireShark, I applied the filter, and up came what I was looking for. A line of code that contained HTTP 275 GET /pub/adobe/acrobat/mac/9.x/9.3/misc/AcroProUpd930_all.app.zip HTTP/1.1

Clicking on that then brought up the full URL, starting with HTTP. At this point I stop the update, and use CURL to get the file in question. CURL can resume broken downloads.

Another option I’ve since found is Cocoa Packet Analyzer. But I was not able to figure out how to find the info I wanted just by looking at it and playing around. I didn’t feel like reading up on how to do it, as I’d already done what I needed with WireShark.

Here are images of what I referred to in WireShark:

First picture:  the result, showing the data I needed.

X11

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Next pictures: the filter settings I was referring to:

X11

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

X11

 

 

Resuming broken downloads in OS X

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I often find downloads will not resume when I use any of the common browsers for the downloading. They are meant to resume, but it just fails in many instances. Today I figured out how to resume pretty much any download that fails part way through, is incomplete, and to pick up where it left off.

Let’s say we are downloading a file called big-arse-file.zip and we’re getting it from website.com/files/big-ones/big-arse-file-zip

  • If you used Safari for the download, it will great a file in your Downloads folder called thefilename.zip.download (notice the .download file extension Safari has added)
  • If you use Firefox it will create a file called big-arse-file.zip.part (notice the .part file extension Firefox has added)
  • If you use Chrome it will not add an extension to the file

Special Instructions for Safari download resume

Apple, as usual, has their own “special” way of doing things. Rather than just tacking a new extension onto the file name, it actually creates a folder. In that folded is the original file (big-arse-file.zip) and a info.plist file. This plist file contains info that is meant to help Safari resume the download. But in some circumstances the info in there is not complete or correct. This might happen if your browser crashes during a download, etc. Rather than trying to fiddle around with the plist file (which is an option, but too much messing around for my liking) we can just get big-arse-file.zip out of the special folder and into the Downloads folder where you can do something with it.

To do this, Right-clight / two-finger click /  Control-click on big-arse-file.zip.download to bring up the file context menu (how you do this depends on how you’ve got your OS set up, but Control-click should always work).

Now, select Show Package Contents.

You’ll now see a new finder window (or tab, if you use TotalFinder – which I highly recommend) with the plist file and the zip file.

Drag the zip file into the Downloads folder

Follow the instructions below for Using CURL to resume the download

Instructions for most other browsers

If the browser you use adds a filename extension to incomplete downloads, just edit the file name and remove that extension. In this hypothetical example, the file should end up being big-arse-file.zip

Using CURL to resume broken downloads

Curl is a great tool for download files. It comes with the UNIX operating system which is sitting in behind the pretty interface of OS X.

Open Terminal application. You’ll find it in your Applications folder. Easiest way is to activate Spotlight quick search (usually just Command-SPACE) and then type in Terminal. Hit return when it’s found, and that’s it.

In Terminal type in:   cd Downloads   [hit Return key]

Then type in:

curl -OC - http://website.com/files/big-ones/big-arse-file.zip

Press the Return key.

You should see something like this in the terminal window:

Jonathan-MBP:Downloads jonathan$ curl -OC - http://www.website.com/files/big-ones/big-arse-file.zip
** Resuming transfer from byte position 46259985  
%  Total  %  Received % Xferd  Average Speed   Time    Time     Time   Current
                               Dload  Upload  Total   Spent     Left   Speed 
42 90.7M  42 0.01M    0     0  61007      0  0:06:31  0:06:31 --:--:-- 61340

To interrupt a download and resume it later, press Control/C. When you wish to resume, press up arrow once to recall the command, and then press enter to start it again. The download will resume from where you interrupted it.

Notes

  • Instead of “Jonathan-MBP” you’ll see the name of your computer.
  • Instead of “jonathan$” you’ll see your username with a $ sign after it.
  • The “Total” shown will not be the same as the complete file size. It will just be the amount that is remaining for downloading. So if the file was 100MB and you got 85MB before it was interrupted, then “Total” will show something like “15.0M”.
  • The % (just before Total) will start out at 0 (zero) not at whatever percentage of the file you already downloaded. So if you downloaded 85% of it previously, it will not sure 85%.
  • You can take a look in the Downloads folder in Finder, and make sure everything looks okay. For instance, that the file is increasing in size, and that a new file with a similar name has not been created. If all the above steps were done correctly, there should not be a new file created. Just the old file will start getting bigger.

Using WGET to resume broken downloads

Another option is to use the command WGET.

As per the above instructions, start a Terminal, then type

wget --continue ${URL}

Where ${URL} is the link.

To interrupt a download and resume it later, press Control/C. When you wish to resume, press up arrow once to recall the command, and then press enter to start it again. The download will resume from where you interrupted it.

How to edit or retrieve URL of RSS feeds in Apple Mail

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For a company that prides itself on developing a the worlds most user friendly operating system and software, sometimes Apple gets it horribly wrong. Editing or retrieving the URL of an existing RSS feed in Apple Mail is, as far as I can tell, impossible from within the user interface of Apple Mail or anywhere else in OSX. How extraordinarily strange.

Today I wanted to do something I thought would be very simply. I want to more the RSS feeds I have in Apple Mail (about 12 of them) and put them into DevonThink. As mentioned above, I could find no way to gain access to the URL of each RSS feed. A search on the internet turned up a very useful solution to this odd design feature from Apple. I have provided instructions first for OS X 10.6.x (and earlier), and for 10.7.x (Lion).

In the title of this post I mentioned editing the URL. Actually, I’ve not yet found a way. At this stage it seems to require creating a new feed. But if you simply want to modify an existing feed you will, as far as I can tell, end up with the old feed items split apart from the new feed items. I’ll update this page if I find a way to edit a feed address.

Here’s how to do the undoable:

If you are using OS X 10.6.x
(Snow Leopard, and perhaps earlier versions too)

1) Open the Terminal application.
Simply type “Terminal” into Spotlight quick search (Command-SPACE usually pulls up spotlight quick search). Not familiar with Terminal? Well, to be blunt, Terminal is one part of OSX the average user should never have to deal with at any time. Sadly, Apple doens’t always get its concepts straight, and we have to venture into things like Terminal. It’s basically a doorway into the underlaying UNIX framework of OSX. It’s like lifting the hood on your car to tinker with the motor.

Terminal looks like this:

terminal example

2) In terminal type or copy/paste this command, and hit Return key:

for i in ~/Library/Mail/RSS/*/Info.plist; do defaults read "${i%.plist}" RSSFeedURLString; done

It will produce a nice list of the RSS feed URLs.

You can then copy and paste each of these into an application of your choice.

ALTERNATIVELY:

You can also paste this into terminal

pubsub --client com.apple.mail list

This will produce a list with RSS feed name and its URL. You will probably need to expand the Terminal window across the screen to prevent Terminal from line-wrapping the long feed details onto the next line (which makes them harder to read).

You can also use this in Terminal:

pubsub --client com.apple.mail list | cut -f3 | sed -ne '3,$p'

This will generate a list of the URLs like the first command I shared above.

If you are using OSX 10.7.x (Lion)

Follow the above instructions regarding Terminal, but paste in this command:

IFS=$'\n';for i in $(find ~/Library/Mail/V2/RSS/ -name "Info.plist");do grep "http://" $i | sed "s/.*\(http[^<]*\).*/\1/" >> ~/Desktop/Mail\ Feeds.txt;done

That should do the trick.

Expand All Folders in Apple Finder

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Here’s something simple, but useful for working with Apple Finder.

To expand all currently visible folders in Apple Finder use Command-A (to select all folders) then Command[Right Arrow] to expand. You’ll need to make sure the pane in which you’re wanting to select all is active. Just click anywhere in it, if you’re not sure.

To contract them again just use Command-[Left Arrow]

If you want to expand a folder and all its child folders, select the parent folder and hold down the Option key whilst then clicking the little triangle next to the left of the folder name. Or, if the folder is selected, you can hold down the Option key and click the right arrow key on your keyboard. Use the Option-[Left Arrow key] to close it back up.

If you want to drill down into a folder with Command-[Down Arrow], and back up to the parent folder with Command-[Up-Arrow key].

If you want to expand every folder, and all their child folders, use Command-A (to select all). Next hold down the Option key while you use the right arrow key to expand every folder in the view (Option-[Right-Arrow key]), and every folder inside of those folders, and every folder inside of those folders. This may create some chaos if you have lots of nested folders (like I do). Reverse this procedure by selecting all (Command-A) and using Option-[Left-Arrow key] to but it all back into order again.

Fixing disappearing application icons on OS X 10.6.x

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Relatively often I find that application icons vanish. On the OS X Dock there will just be a blank space for an open application. On the COMMAND-TAB fast application switcher there will also be a blank space. The application still works, and it can still be activated in all the usual ways. But the icon is blank or invisible. Restarting the system usually makes no difference.

Some people find that dragging each Application Icon (or blank icon) off the Dock and then dragging it back on (from the Applications folder in Finder) does the trick. But for me this often happens with Applications I am running, yet which I don’t actually have permanently on the Dock. So whilst the are running they’ll have a blank icon in the Dock and in the CMD-Tab application switcher.

So for me, so far I have found the following will fix this issue:

1) Open Terminal

—> COMMAND-SPACE for Spotlight, then type “Terminal”. Make sure Terminal is highlighted (it will be) and hit the Return key

MarsEdit

 

 

 

 

The Terminal console will now be open.

2) Type or paste in:

killall -HUP Dock

This will reset the Dock. Usually this resolves the issue for me. However, some of the now reappeared Dock and CMD-Tab Application Switcher icons may be in a low resolution. I’ll post here when I find the solution to that.

3) Be sure to also take this opportunity to repair the Disk Permissions. For that again, CMD-Space to activate Spotlight search. Type in “Disk Utility”. Select your main system disk (usually it’s the only hard drive, unless you have other drives plugged in). Select Repair Disk Permission. Take a look at the following picture if you’re not sure. The red circles point out the disk selection and the Repair button.

Disk Utility1

Best Google Voice software for Mac

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[Please see my 2012 update, GV Connect and VoiceMac are no longer the best apps available… if you’re willing to pay $5 for something better]

I’ve been using Google Voice since it was first released. As an extensive traveller with lots of contacts in Canada and America, I find it to be an indispensable tool. On Mac there are a two particular tools which make using Google Voice super easy and convenient. They are GV Voice and VoiceMac.

GV Connect

The first, which I only use for background monitoring of Google Voice now that I’ve discovered the second one (discussed below) is the GV Connect widget for OS X. It provides a small widget interface to send and receive SMS TXT messages, and to initiate Google Voice calls. It also supports Growl notifications, which is handy because if I don’t have VoiceMac running, GV Connect will pop up Growl notifications when I’ve received a new voicemail or SMS TXT message. I can view and listen to these messages via GV Connect.

VoiceMac

The other application, which is what I’ll generally use to manage Google Voice these days, is VoiceMac. It’s OpenSource and developed by Mr Gecko. Because it is a full fledged application with a decent sized window/interface I find it more convenient and less fiddly to use than GV Connect.

Here is the description of VoiceMac from the developer:

VoiceMac is the first Google Voice client for the Mac. Send multiple SMS Messages, send SMS Messages, receive SMS Messages, place calls, look at your call history, receive voicemail, reverse lookup a phone number, and search your contact list in one easy interface. When you receive a SMS Message or Voicemail, you get notifications via Growl and hear sounds that is customizable.

With SIP support you can place calls from your computer using your favorite SIP service and if you link your Google Voice Number with the SIP service, you can place calls with your Google Voice Number from your computer. With the reverse lookup data, you can see who is calling you, even if their number isn’t in your contacts list.
With themes, you can customize your SMS Messages look anyway you like with simple HTML or by downloading a theme.

VoiceMac’s contacts system is one of the best contacts system around, with support for Address Book and Google Contacts. You can search your contacts just like a Search Engine with speed.

Mr Gecko has some other free and potentially useful applications. You’ll find them all here: http://mrgeckosmedia.com/applications/

Links

GV Connect – http://www.andreasamann.com/MacOSX/DashBoard

VoiceMac – http://mrgeckosmedia.com/applications/

 

Enabling Pinch Zoom Trackpad Gestures in Firefox

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You may have noticed that from about version 4 and upwards Firefox has turned off support for pinch to zoom. As a Mac user this will no doubt be something you’ll want to turn back on. It’s simple to do. Here is how:

  1. Open a new Tab and type in “about:config” (without the quote) in the address bar
  2. You will be asked to confirm to continue. Just do it.
  3. Search for the term “browser.gesture” or “pinch” (without the quote marks). Either term will do.
  4. Edit each browser.gesture.pinch setting as follows:
  • browser.gesture.pince.in — Value = cmd_fullZoomReduce
  • browser.gesture.pinch.in.shift — Value = cmd_fullZoomReset
  • browser.gesture.pinch.latched — Value = false
  • browser.gesture.pinch.out — Value = cmd_fullZoomEnlarge
  • browser.gesture.pinch.out.shift — Value = cmd_fullZoomReset
  • browser.gesture.pinch.threshold — Value = 40 to 100 (set it to a number that works for you)

To change the above values you simply double click the Value area on the settings table.

You will be changing the settings from this:

pinch-settings

 

 

 

 

 

… over to this:

Pinch settings new

Choose the threshold that works for you. I have it set to 50. I’ve seen people saying it works well for them on various settings, from as low as 40 and up to about 80. The default is usually 150, and this may make the zooming feature awkward for most people. A lower number typically works better.

Controlling Google Software Updates

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If you use Google Chrome or other Google software on your Mac you may have noticed that the software keeps itself updated automatically. It will check for updates every day. For many reasons this may not be a desirable behaviour. For instance, in a situation where you have a limited Internet data allowance (such as many 3G mobile data plans, or basically all Internet services in countries like New Zealand) having 2 or more computers automatically updating their software is a waste of data allowance. I prefer to download updates manually and then update all my computers using the one download.

Here is the instructions on how to control Google software updates:

Managing updates in Google Software Update

 

Google Software Update is responsible for updating Google applications running on Mac OS X. By default, Google Software Update currently checks for new updates once a day. While this works well for most users, some individuals may desire more control over when updates occur. For these users, Google Software Update offers the ability to change the frequency of update checks or turn off update checks all together.

Update Frequency

To change how frequently Google Software Update checks for updates, execute the following in the Terminal application:

$ defaults write com.google.Keystone.Agent checkInterval <frequency>

where <frequency> is the elapsed time in seconds between update checks.

To disable Google Software Update from checking for updates, execute the following in the Terminal application:

$ defaults write com.google.Keystone.Agent checkInterval 0

Manual Updates

Google Software Update also provides a way to manually update all Google software on a user’s Mac. Here’s how:

  1. In Finder, select GoGo to Folder.
  2. In the window that appears, enter one of the following locations. It’s expected that one of these folders won’t be found:
    • /Library/Google/GoogleSoftwareUpdate/GoogleSoftwareUpdate.bundle/Contents/Resources/
    • ~/Library/Google/GoogleSoftwareUpdate/GoogleSoftwareUpdate.bundle/Contents/Resources/
  3. In the folder that opens, double click the file named ‘CheckForUpdatesNow.command’.

Terminal will open to run the file. When you see the message ‘[Process completed]’ you can close Terminal. Once this is done, your Google programs will be up to date.

Removing the Google Software Updater entirely

If you simply don’t want the Google Software Updater on your Mac any more, here’s what to do:

Delete the contents of this folder.
~/Library/Google/GoogleSoftwareUpdate

Then lock the folder by bringing up its Info and ticking the little lock. After that it will not be able to reinstall. You can then do your Google software updates manually, which is nice for those of us who don’t want massive downloads occurring without our consent (such as people using a 2G or 3G data-stick connection.

How to lock folder

 

Stop Apple SubmitDiagInfo Radar Submissions

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If you run an outbound firewall such as Little Snitch you may come accross notifications which say,

“SubmitDiagInfo”
wants to connect to radarsubmissions.apple.com on TCP port 443
IP Address 17.254.2.214
Reverse DNS Name radarsubmission.apple.com”

From what I have been able to figure out this is a service on Mac OS X which submits diagnostic information to Apple. It typically starts to pop up after one or more applications have crashed. It if likely these reports identify which applications you have running, along with other system information.

If you do not wish to submit this information the easiest way to turn it off (on Snow Leopard) is to open the Console (spotlight for “Console” and you should find it easily).

In Console bring up the Preferences. You should see this:

Console Preferences

Remove the tick from the box indicated in the above image.

If you have privacy concerns (or just don’t like software sending data online without your permission) you can also tell Little Snitch (or the free TCPBlock) to Deny the connection, Globally.

I am told this preference option is NOT there on OS X LION. Apple has a habit of removing things that were useful. Sometimes for the better, sometimes not. In this case Apple have made it easier and more logical with regards to turning this “feature” off.

If you use OS X LION (10.7+) this info will tell you plenty about diagnostic reporting and how to turn it off (or just read on for instructions): http://docs.info.apple.com/article.html?path=Mac/10.7/en/mh27990.html

Basically, you have to go to the PRIVACY section of the Security & Privacy Preferences. Here’s the instructions:

Opt-out of automatic reporting (on OS X Lion)

You can change your reporting options at any time:

  1. Choose Apple >System Preferences, click Security & Privacy, and then click Privacy.Open the Privacy pane of Security & Privacy preferences  <— Click this link to open the panel now
  2. Deselect “Send diagnostic and usage data to Apple.”

Diagnostic and usage information will no longer be sent to Apple.

UPDATE: Well, making the above-mentioned change in the Lion preferences is meant to stop this information from being submitted. Oddly enough, it appears Apple is ignoring their own privacy settings in Lion. I am not sure what more to suggest except to use Little Snitch to permanently block it. Alternatively, if you don’t wish to invest in a program like Little Snitch, you can simply edit the Hosts file on your Mac as per the following instructions.

Blocking Automatic Reporting with the Hosts file

Here’s an easy way to block any application (or system process) for accessing the Internet. It’s free and simple. We’ll use what is called the Hosts file. If you are not familiar with changing the Hosts file I recommend you do it using a free application called Gas Mask. You can download Gas Mask from here: http://bit.ly/L6Y680

Install Gas Mask by dragging it to your Applications folder, as per normal. Gas Mask will likely ask you for your password the first time you run it. This is because the Hosts file it is going to modify is a system protected file. In Gas Mask you will add a line that looks like this:

127.0.0.1     radarsubmission.apple.com

Just put this line at the end of the Hosts file. Hit save. You’re done. Now when your misbehaving Mac tries to connect to Apple’s Radar Submission server, it will be referred back to your computer  which in effect makes the submission process “think” you are not online.

 

Send from any email address in Apple Mail

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In Apple Mail it is possible to send an email message from a different email address than the one associated with the email account you are using to send/receive through.

What do I mean by this? Check out the following examples. For the solution, look further down.

Some examples of the problem

One example: I use email forwarding addresses a lot. This is an alias address that forwards to a real email address/account.

For instance, if I am providing an email address to a web site I don’t necessarily trust with my address (will they sell it to a spam list?) I will provide them with a unique alias  or forwarding address. I set up this unique address on my mail server as a forwarder. For example, sitename@mydomain.com forwards to realemail@mydomain.com. In this example realemail@mydomain.com is my real email address, and sitename@ is the name of the site I am giving an email address to, such as during an account registration process. This way if I ever receive spam to this forwarding address I will know exactly where the address was leaked from.

But here is the issue: What if I later need to send someone (the site owner, for instance) an email from sitename@mydomain.com? With Apple Mail there is no obvious way to do this.

Another example: I use a Gmail account to consolidate emails from a number of other accounts I have. Gmail checks these accounts for me. Gmail even lets me send out messages as though the message originates from one of these accounts. It works well. Gmail has great spam filters so I find it useful to run all my email accounts through Gmail.

Apple Mail has fairly good IMAP support and allows me to access my Gmail account over IMAP. This works well enough and this is how I access my Gmail account. But what happens when I receive a message that was sent to one of the accounts Gmail is checking for me? If I hit reply in Apple Mail, there is no way to send the reply FROM the account that originally received the message.

I recently had this problem with Paypal. I’d sent them a message from my Paypal account using the Email Us form on their web site. Their reply came in by email to a Gmail account that consolidates emails for me. I replied in Apple Mail but then got told by Paypal that they could not correspond with me because the message I sent them did not come from an address not associated with my Paypal account. I had to log into Gmail in order to reply because there was no obvious way to do it in Apple Mail.

The Solution

It turns out that Apple Mail has an easy way to resolve this problem, but it is not at all obvious and not explained anywhere in Mail Help (not as far as I could see).

Go to Preferences > Accounts. Looking at the “Account Information” section there is the field “Email Address:“. Normally you just have the email address of the relevant account stored here. But it turns out you can add as many other email addresses to this field as you like, in effect making a comma separated list of email addresses. Just put in here any other email addresses you may need to send from via this primary “master” account (the account being used to consolidate email addresses from forwarders and from Gmail, etc.).

Here is how it looks: (email@domain.com is the primary account address)

Example

Now when you reply to a message or write a new message you will be able to select any of the addresses you’ve listed here as the From address. Under the Subject field you should see a From field. Here is an example. You can see the dummy email addresses I put into the example above:

Example

If you do not see the From field, click the little options icon as shown in the following image (it has three lines and a downward triangle on it (I have circled it in red in the above image):

From Icon Example

Select “Customize” and you’ll see something like this:

Customize Example

Put a tick next to “From:” as shown in the above example.

Now when you send messages you can select which email address to send them from. That’s it.

This solution came from a tip shared by user “Mal” on MacRumors here: http://bit.ly/medx9z

GMAIL users – Important

If you are using a Gmail account to consolidate your emails from multiple accounts into one gmail account you’ll need to ensure a few settings are correct in your gmail account settings.

In Account Settings (on your gmail account) go to the “Accounts & Import” tab. Look for the “Send mail as” section. (Refer to the image below for an example).

Here you need to add the email addresses you want to send mail from (via Apple Mail). Once you have completed setting up each “send as” account everything should work fine.

Gmail Example

 

Having to select correct address when replying to mail?

Some readers have pointed out in the comments below that each time they reply to a message they have to select the correct From address because it is not selected automatically. I have not had this issue, and as I am now on OS X 10.7.x (LION) I can not test what the situation was/is on Snow Leopard. Using Mail 5.2 I find that the correct From address is selected automatically when I reply to an email (assuming the message was sent to xyz@mail.com, for example, and I have xyz@mail.com set up in the comma separated list of address as per the instructions laid out in this article).