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Thunderbird in Crisis? 422

Posted by Zonk
from the film-at-eleven dept.
Elektroschock writes "The two core developers of Thunderbird have left Mozilla. Scott McGregor made a brief statement: 'I wanted to let the Thunderbird community know that Friday October 12th will be my last day as an employee of the Mozilla Corporation.' Meanwhile, David Bienvenu blogged: 'Just wanted to let everyone know that my last day at The Mozilla Corporation will be Oct. 12. I intend to stay involved with Thunderbird... I've enjoyed working at Mozilla a lot, and I wish Mozilla Co and the new Mail Co all the best.' A few month ago Mozilla management considered abandoning their second product and setting up a special corporation just for the mail client. Scott was more or less supportive. David joined in. While Sunbird just released a new version no appropriate resources were dedicated to the missing component. And while Thunderbird became the most used Linux mail client it has been abandoned by Mozilla for 'popularity reasons'. Both messages from David and Scott do not sound as if the founders will play any role in the Thunderbird Mail Corporation. What happened to Mozilla? Is it a case of pauperization through donations?"
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Thunderbird in Crisis?

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  • by kimvette (919543) on Monday October 08, 2007 @02:27AM (#20894725) Homepage Journal
    No way. Thunderbird is stable, Evolution is not.

    Thunderbird's renderer works, Evolution's is crap.

    Also, while there is a tiny handful of plugins for Evolution, there is a HUGE selection of extensions for Tunderbird which are extremely useful, including one extension which can be used to automatically purge duplicate messages from one's inbox.

    With that said, I do use Evolution as my primary email program both at home and at work, but only because the scalix connector is available for Evolution. Thunderbird can access via IMAP only, and cannot use Scalix's calendaring features.
  • by HSpirit (519997) on Monday October 08, 2007 @02:29AM (#20894739)

    Not sure if you're aware but there is a Thunderbird project called Penelope [mozilla.org] for those Eudora users stuck by Qualcomm's decision to discontinue the product. I haven't tried the Eudora importers, though...

  • by Osty (16825) on Monday October 08, 2007 @02:39AM (#20894799)

    also, if you're careful enough, Outlook and Outlook Express are perfectly usable on Windows, especially the newer versions

    Outlook has been pretty safe since the XP release (Outlook 2002), and even the 2000 release with a patch. That's when they stopped allowing you to open executable attachments. There was still a minor risk of javascript nastiness, but they fixed that as well. The 2003 (11) and 2007 (12) releases of Outlook have been stable and safe. (Outlook 2007 doesn't use the controversial Ribbon toolbar like the rest of the Office 12 suite)

    Outlook Express is dead, though if you're still using XP you have it. Outlook Express has also been the Microsoft mail client with the most issues, mostly because it's free and more or less neglected. The problem is that "Outlook Express" and "Outlook" actually share nothing in common except for the name and the fact that they both do email. Beyond that they're two separate codebases, managed by two separate teams. It's unfortunate that they're named similarly, since Outlook Express' issues have tarnished the fact that Outlook proper is actually a very good, secure, and competent email client.

    If you're running Vista, Outlook Express is gone. It was replaced by Windows Mail, a more bare-bones mail and news reader that finally divorces the "Outlook" name from the free mail client. Alternatively, you can use the Windows Live Mail Beta [live.com] software (different from Hotmail/Windows Live Mail web interface, as it's client software that can be used for other mail accounts besides just Hotmail). Windows Live Mail integrates with Live services (Messenger, Spaces), where Outlook Express and Windows Mail don't.

  • by SD_92104 (714225) on Monday October 08, 2007 @02:47AM (#20894839)
    If you are still in midst of this conversion, you should take a look at Eudora Mailbox Cleaner [mac.com] - it can do the conversion for you and should give much better results than TB's own import.
  • Don't forget KMail (Score:3, Informative)

    by xaxa (988988) on Monday October 08, 2007 @03:15AM (#20894997)
    KMail is a good option too, or Kontact if you want integration with calendars and a newsreader (KNode), or just run them each separately. I use KMail for all my email, I prefer the interface to Thunderbird's.
  • by deniable (76198) on Monday October 08, 2007 @03:30AM (#20895075)
    Thunderbird uses mbox format to store mail. There's nothing proprietary about it. I just copied the Inbox to a linux box and ran mail -f Inbox with no problems.
  • by sveinhal (469879) on Monday October 08, 2007 @04:18AM (#20895333) Homepage

    Look at Firefox versus IE 6 - heck, Firefox basically "inspired" IE 7 (tabs, search bar on the top right, extensions, etc. etc.) That's what led to the huge masses adopting it.


    You should give credit to the right people. Two of those three are Opera innovations, that Firefox copied. Not that Firefox is not a good browser. I'm just saying who actually did this first.
  • by haeger (85819) on Monday October 08, 2007 @04:31AM (#20895433)
    if you need collaboration, you need... something like Kontact [kontact.org]?

    Still it doesn't do exchange intigration all that well, but I think they're on the right track.
    They wrote about it on the dot [kde.org] a few days ago.

    .haeger

  • Try Claws Mail (Score:5, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Monday October 08, 2007 @05:01AM (#20895581)
    I don't know why this e-mail client [claws-mail.org] doesn't get more attention. I find it similar to Thunderbird but much faster. Also, as far as I remember, included some tools to import from Eudora, which worked very well for me (while Thunderbird didn't).
  • Re:Still good... (Score:3, Informative)

    by AVryhof (142320) <avryhofNO@SPAMgawab.com> on Monday October 08, 2007 @05:15AM (#20895673) Homepage
    GPL?

    I thought it was released under the MPL like all the other Mozilla software?
  • Re:Still good... (Score:5, Informative)

    by MikeFM (12491) on Monday October 08, 2007 @05:17AM (#20895687) Homepage Journal
    I've been using Thunderbird as my main mail client for years and overall I like it. My biggest issue with it is that in Linux it has a 2GB limit per mail folder. If it crosses that limit it losses all the mail in the folder up to that point. IMO that is the cardinal sin of programming - permanently lossing data. They've known about this bug for at least a year - because I made it known at that time and had some not so helpful feedback from developers. But it still happens.
  • Re:Still good... (Score:5, Informative)

    by jkrise (535370) on Monday October 08, 2007 @05:28AM (#20895763) Journal
    Mozilla software is tri-licensed under the GPL, the MPL and the LGPL. So, develeopers are free to use the GPL and create extensions licensed under the GPL as well.

    http://www.mozilla.org/projects/calendar/sunbird/ [mozilla.org]
  • by browman1 (993559) on Monday October 08, 2007 @05:39AM (#20895819)
    Thunderbird is the ONLY mail client which handles IMAP properly on windows in my opinion... sure Outlook can do it, but it's very painful (delete, then purge for example, who's dumb idea was that). Also, components like Enigmail are awesome... nothing on outlook compares in my opinion... I really hope the old tbird continues...
  • Re:Natural Selection (Score:3, Informative)

    by BuGless (31232) on Monday October 08, 2007 @06:21AM (#20896065) Homepage
    Try mutt. It still beats the pants off of everything in the known world when it comes to properly formatting and replying to emails (since it allows you to use your favourite editor). It's the only way to properly trim quotes, still reply with 2 words and sending the mail, in under 8 seconds.
  • Re:Natural Selection (Score:2, Informative)

    by darthflo (1095225) on Monday October 08, 2007 @06:47AM (#20896261)
    Most people don't spend $87 on Outlook but some $250 [pricegrabber.com] on Office 2007 Standard [microsoft.com]. Many will also get it (almost) free by BitTorrent, KaZaA, some neighbourhood geek or their workplace. In that case "it" will probably be the Enterprise or Professional Edition, not Standard.
  • Kmail for KDE (Score:4, Informative)

    by bl8n8r (649187) on Monday October 08, 2007 @08:03AM (#20896927)
    Would be my next Linux choice. http://kontact.kde.org/kmail/ [kde.org]
  • by Jay L (74152) <{mf.yaj} {ta} {hsals+yaj}> on Monday October 08, 2007 @09:22AM (#20897733) Homepage
    MailCo's new (president?):

    Both Scott McGregor and David Bienvenu have posted that they are leaving Mozilla Corp. My understanding from chats with them weeks ago (I hope I'm not divulging anything that I shouldn't) is that they have decided to start a new venture. They've worked on Thunderbird and its predecessors within Mozilla and Nestcape for a long time, and I can certainly understand their desire to do something different[...]

    We're recruiting experienced developers now to focus specifically on Thunderbird and more broadly on improving mail and communications in general. Everyone involved full-time in the development of Thunderbird has been offered a role and we're moving forward as quickly as possible to hire additional developers[...]

    The opinions of the core Thunderbird community are more important than many, so if you care about Thunderbird, please let me know what you think. Now is a great time to influence the future of Thunderbird.


    Open Letter to the Thunderbird Community [ascher.ca]

    Also note that both Scott and David say they'll still be working on TB. Scott's post:

    I plan to continue on, as a volunteer, with my role as a module owner for the Thunderbird project.

    David's:

    I intend to stay involved with Thunderbird and to continue on as a module owner.


    Given the timing and very similar wording of their posts, I'm guessing that Ascher's right - they're going off to work on something together.

    It does suck; those two know more about TB than anyone, and even when they were full-time employees, TB development was fairly glacial - it's just too big and monolithic for that size development team. But I don't know that this necessarily means the end of TB. I certainly hope not.
  • OH, PLEASE NO! (Score:3, Informative)

    by WheelDweller (108946) <WheelDwellerNO@SPAMgmail.com> on Monday October 08, 2007 @10:18AM (#20898431)
    My newest machine is about 7 years old; I'm in a pinch that thousands of hours of intense concentration can show no way out. I play UT, surf, do all the things everyone else does, I even have an icon that'll bring up random episodes of Firefly, since there's plenty of power for media.

    But I load OpenOffice and the world stops.

    I fear that Thunderbird, under the direction of OO will become bloated and laggy as well! I had a friend who didn't know any better; her P2/300 was on loan to show her how to use Linux. She waited over 2H for it to load. It was insane. These guys really need to profile their code.
  • by tepples (727027) <tepples&gmail,com> on Monday October 08, 2007 @11:22AM (#20899247) Homepage Journal

    never liked the mbox approach (one big file per folder). I much prefer the maildir approach (each message in its own file).
    True, maildir has clear advantages on a file system that supports tail merging [wikipedia.org], such as Reiser4. But not all file systems can do this; a 5 KiB mail message takes an entire 16 KiB cluster. Specifically, the file systems that come with Windows cannot, which is part of why, say, Outlook Express uses dbx (a variant of mbox).
  • by mrbooze (49713) on Monday October 08, 2007 @12:05PM (#20899827)
    There's tools like this for importing old mail into GMail:
    http://marklyon.org/gmail/instruction.htm [marklyon.org]
  • by thatseattleguy (897282) on Monday October 08, 2007 @12:13PM (#20899941) Homepage
    I did use Eudora Mailbox Cleaner (and/or the similarly intentioned Eudora Rescue [50webs.com]) at several points in the conversion attempt. They're good, and allowed moving more of Eudora's quirky statuses and settings to Tbird - but they didn't (and really, couldn't) help to get around the bugs in the importer. Just a few of those for drill (and I'm sure I've forgotten some of them for my own sanity):

    • Tbird import silently drops any file from consideration for importing if it doesn't have an _exact_ file type of 'TEXT' - even though it also checks, seemingly, to make sure the first four bytes of the file are _exactly_ the string 'From'. Why the need for this belt-and-braces set of tests for what is, after all, and importer function - something that should be as expansive and forgiving as possible? Why no consideration that files coming from another platform might have a blank type field, no way for the user to specify looser checking (such as "if it ends in .mbx or .mbox it's likely safe to consider it a mailbox") - and no warning to the user that something's been skipped. If no valid files are found to import because of the type code problem, the importer hangs forever. my quick fix: write a Perl script that uses the SetFile() function and call it from a 'find' run at the command line.
    • Line-ending characters. Parts of the importer seem happy with DOS line endings - but other parts choke if they find a DOS line-end (x0D0A) or Unix (x0D only) end. How hard is it to have a "get next line" routine that handles this correctly? After all, we're dealing with an import function here, something that should be able to deal with data that's not exactly perfect.my quick fix: use "find" and "flip" to convert all mailbox files to Mac-style line-endings.
    • High-order characters. If the importer _does_ finally find what it thinks is a mailbox, and gets past the line ending problem, but encounters (seemingly) ANY high-order characters in the mail file, it stops importing the message and skips to the next one, silently truncating it. Unfortunately, characters like x93/x94 (beginning and ending curly quote marks) are really, really popular in HTML-ized mail. So you end up with Swiss cheese for an imported mail store if you've got anything other than old vanilla plain-text email to import. my quick fix: use the (excellent) OS X hex editor 0xED to look at the raw files and test various solutions, then use "find" and "tr" from a bash script to substitute low-order characters for the ones Tbird didn't like in each mailbox in turn.

    As I said, there may have been other steps in this process that I've forgotten.

    My point isn't that these solutions, in my case, were that hard. But figuring out what was wrong, and implementing them, took huge amounts of time and patience. An ordinary user would never have these means (knowledge of command-line Unix utilities, and insight into what might be failing) at his/her disposal. And they surely wouldn't have gone to these lengths to diagnose and correct the problems. (Although, to be honest, an ordinary user wouldn't have 10-15 years of email saved up that they wanted to convert to a new platform).

    And - more importantly, and some of the reason for this rant - I think that import/conversion function, especially in FOSS software, have a greater need to be as friendly and bulletproof as possible, because the user's still quite possibly in the "I'm going to try it out and see if I want to use it instead of my old [proprietary] application if it doesn't work'. But in Tbird, seemingly, Import's it's at most an afterthought, and extremely fragile even AFTER you've used third-party apps like Eudora Rescue or Eudora Mailbox Cleaner to try and get around the known issues, limitations, and deficiencies in the code. That isn't the way it should be in an app that's trying to compete for mind and market share with some pretty damn good commercial or closed-source apps.

  • by bunratty (545641) on Monday October 08, 2007 @01:45PM (#20901161)
    Yeah! Mozilla should stop ignoring Thunderbird. They should create a company whose sole focus is on email and other messaging technology. They should fund the new company with several million dollars so they can get off the ground. Yeah, that's what they should do... then Thunderbird will get the attention it deserves. Oh wait, that's what they're doing already [mozillazine.org]. Nevermind.
  • Re:Natural Selection (Score:3, Informative)

    by yuna49 (905461) on Monday October 08, 2007 @02:26PM (#20901863)
    A lot of spam identifies itself with The Bat in the (optional) X-Mailer header. So few real people use The Bat, and so many spammers do, that I routinely add SpamAssassin points to any messages listing The Bat in X-Mailer.
  • Re:Try Claws Mail (Score:3, Informative)

    by RedBear (207369) <redbear.redbearnet@com> on Monday October 08, 2007 @03:43PM (#20902857) Homepage

    I don't know why this e-mail client [claws-mail.org] doesn't get more attention. I find it similar to Thunderbird but much faster. Also, as far as I remember, included some tools to import from Eudora, which worked very well for me (while Thunderbird didn't).

    Dude, because it bites.

    No, seriously. It says so right on the website. Thanks, I'll be here all day.

    I kid. But seriously for real this time, GTK+? WTF+? That does bite. I know it's a great toolkit that's been in use since ancient times, etc., but it's pretty ugly no matter what theme you slap on it and it's a serious pain to install on any platform besides *nix. The Windows version of Claws is apparently part of a confusing (to non-geeks) package of a bunch of GPG software. The Mac version is one of those ports maintained by one guy on his own domain, which is nice of him but doesn't give me much confidence that it will always be available. I'm downloading it because I've heard good things about it over the years, but I would never recommend it to anyone who didn't know how to build their own computer.

    In short, like so much of the software that has originated on the *nix side, Claws is entirely too *nix oriented to appeal to the masses. The Mac and Windows versions are mere afterthoughts on a page filled with links to versions of the software for a dozen different Linux distros, the BSDs, and even Solaris. If the developers cared about the general computing population using Claws, the Windows and Mac links would be the most prominent links at the top of the page, and they wouldn't send you off to some other website, there would be official Windows and Mac packages right there. You know, like with Firefox and Thunderbird.

    And you wonder why it doesn't get more attention. The developers don't care about attention. They've made powerful software that does what they want, and that's as far as it goes for them. Unfortunately in my experience this is a fairly common mindset in the FOSS software world, which is why few non-geeks have ever heard of any free software other than Firefox.

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