Open Source: Oooo that rackin’ frackin’ … e-mail!

I grew up in the USA during the end of the age when kids were allowed to just be kids and cartoons on Saturday morning television were not a “statement” of some nanny state group trying to brainwash kids with some political or social agenda. Yeah, I mean the days when Daffy Duck could actually get his beak blown off with a shotgun, pick it up, put it back on, then say, “You’re desthpicable!”. That was hilarious to an eight year old boy sitting in front of the television on Saturday morning. No matter how many times it happened. (Cue the nannies, “Oh gee! The kids will think they can shoot each other and live! Ohhhhhhhh Nooooooeeeeessss! Kids must be stoopid!” … break, gimme, please.) As a young boy getting my Saturday morning Captain Crunch sugar rush while watching cartoons, one of my favorite television cartoon characters, other than Daffy, was Yosemite Sam. I mean, he could “swear a blue streak” and never actually “cuss”. I loved that!

Recently I have been emulating Yosemite Sam, but with less creative verbiage. “Why?”, you may ask. Well, it is due to the “new and improved” Evolution 3.4.1 in my shiny Mageia 2 upgrade on my daily use tower PC. Oh, it works fine to download e-mail, it is more stable than the old Evolution 2.32.2 I migrated from, it works great with the Maildir tree I have meticulously created over several years of e-mail storage. It just will … not … send mail via our SMTP hosted e-mail provider for our small business. I have tried on this PC, on another PC, from a fresh VM install on this PC, from a fresh VM install on another PC. I have even tried the 3.4.2 release that was kindly placed in Mageia Cauldron for me to try. (Thank you, Olav Vitters! I do appreciate that!)  No, 3.4.2 will not send at all with our SMTP host either. You can see my bug report if you want details.

Yes, a VM install of Mageia 1 with Evolution 2.32.2 will still send e-mail via our hosted mail SMTP server. Yes, Thunderbird will send e-mail via our hosted mail SMTP server. Yes, every other e-mail application I have tried will send e-mail via our hosted mail SMTP server. But not Evolution 3.4.x in Mageia 2, which is what I want to use since I settled on Evolution after abandoning Kontact + Kmail many moons ago. Again, I am considering yet another e-mail application switch due to a broken e-mail application following an upgrade. (Broken for me! I don’t care if it “works” for you!) I do not care to go back to KDE’s Kmail since my experience with that breaking following upgrades was just as problematic. My requirements are still the same as last time:

  1. It should be targeted toward businesses and thus be more likely to avoid disruptive changes in the future.
  2. It must be able to import most or all of my data from the former application.
  3. It must support Maildir mail directories.

Well, I thought I had #1 with Evolution, but that proved false in the past week+ that I have been on Mageia 2 with Evolution 3.4.1. Not being able to reply to clients from within my chosen e-mail application is fairly disruptive as far as I am concerned. I would use Thunderbird, but the Thunderbird developers have been avoiding proper Maildir support for well over 10 years now. For me, a local Maildir store is an immutable requirement for my mail application.

So, I am looking around for yet another e-mail application on Linux that properly supports Maildir, does not have disruptive updates, might have some chance of importing my dozens of filters I have created by hand in Evolution and works with my hosted mail provider for authenticated SMTP mail sending. At this point I am desperate. So, I am thinking about downloading and compiling Balsa for myself. Balsa is not included with Mageia. But if it ends up working for me, you can bet I will be requesting it be added to Cauldron for the next release of Mageia.


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Gene A.

Gene is a "Unix Guy", network technologist, system trouble-shooter and IT generalist with over 20 years experience in the SOHO and SMB markets. He is familiar with and conversant in eComStation (a.k.a. OS/2), DOS (PC, MS and Free), Unix, Linux and those GUI based systems from Microsoft. Gene is also a follower of Jesus (forgiven, not perfect), and this does inform his world view.

6 thoughts on “Open Source: Oooo that rackin’ frackin’ … e-mail!”

  1. FWIW, I and some other “kmail refugees” have found claws-mail great for us.

    It’s not /quite/ meet #3, as it’s not maildir, but mh-dir, but that maintains the message-per-file and directory-tree=mail-folder-tree semantics of maildir. (The two are related specs, mh being the earlier form.)

    One of the traditional goals of mh-dir mail clients is the ability to extend their functionality via shell-script or the like (perl/python/whatever), and claws-mail is no exception, so they aren’t going anywhere (like the databases used by evolution, akonadified kmail, and thunderbird, all three) that will disrupt the ability of probably thousands of shell-scripts between all the users to work with the data. Thus, while I don’t know that I’d describe it as business targetted, they aren’t going anywhere with that data — DEFINITELY not tying it up in a database.

    Conversion isn’t the simplest walk in the part, but there’s several ways to do it. Here, I used two scripts (python and perl based) from the claws-mail site, one for the maildirs, one for the addressbook. I was importing addresses from kmail’s vcfs and that script was actually for evolution vcfs, with slightly different field names, but I was able to fix that, even not claiming to know the scripting language to do it. But since the script was designed for evolution, hopefully it’d just work, there. It’s also possible to simply leave the addresses in vcf form, but I wanted the flexibility of native format, so did the conversion.

    For mail import at least, there’s other options besides the script I used, as well. I said I knew several kmail refugees that had gone to claws-mail. One of them used mutt, the text-console-based mail client, to do the conversion, as it understands both mh and maildir. Someone else had an IMAP mail server so just used it. Another guy actually installed dovecot (imap) just temporarily, uploaded his mail to it, then downloaded to claws-mail. Of course if you have an imap server it’s not so bad as the mail can be stored there, but he wanted the claws-mail storage so uninstalled dovecot again after the transfer.

    I had to do the kmail filter conversion manually and I had quite a few (50 or so, I guess the other folks only had trivial filters so it wasn’t a big deal for them), but after entering a few filters via the UI to give me a text pattern to follow, I was able to text-edit the filterfile itself using cut&paste, etc, making the process much faster than it’d have been in 100% point-and-click.

    So it might not be a perfect fit, but they aren’t going to be going database or anything like that any time soon, as the scriptability of the interface is seen as a major feature. And it’s gtk-only, not full gnome or kde, which should fit with your light desktop ideas. (I really don’t know how you picked evolution given that, it really is rather heavy and bloated for mail. And given you were moving off of kontact/kmail as it bloated too… Just doesn’t seem the best fit, so I guess I’m not entirely surprised you’re looking at moving again. )

    Meanwhile, FWIW, I ended up with claws-mail as my feed reader as well, seeing where all of kdepim was going with the akonadification and wanting off. I liked the claws-mail interface, configurable hotkeys, and scriptability, and with the feed-reading plugin, claws-mail really does handle feeds pretty well, actually better than akregator, IMO, with better robustness and filtering than akregator had, plus of course the usual emphasis on scriptable extensions common in the mh community (not just with claws-mail). My one hangup was that unlike you, I strongly prefer separate apps for all this, and didn’t want my feeds and mail handled together. I worked around that by running two separate claws-mail instances, one for mail, one for feeds, tho I had to set a couple environmental vars differently for the feeds instance to keep them apart. (I also use different icon themes, so they’re visually distinct, but I use a common hotkey scheme.) But I see you switched to liferea and presume you like it, so this bit won’t be of much use for you. But it might be for other readers. =:^)

    Meanwhile, the other two mail clients I’ve known kmail refugees to switch to are evolution (which you tried) and thunderbird, neither one of which fitted my needs. I don’t know whether claws-mail is best for you as it /doesn’t/ quite meet some of your bullet points, but it was DEFINITELY one of MY better choices and a very good match for me. =:^)

    Duncan (I can be found hanging out on the kde-general and kde-linux lists, as well as various gentoo lists. I don’t follow your blog closely, but have stopped by before, arriving from the lxer feed. Hope this helps someone anyway, even if it’s not right for you.)

    1. Thanks for the “book” Duncan! 🙂

      It is interesting that you should mention Claws-Mail. I have Claws-Mail version 3.8.0 installed for my NNTP feeds. I had not considered that for e-mail as well. I may just have to reconsider my options now.

      Added 2012.06.06: Claws-Mail – Playing around with the available converters for Claws-Mail shows me that there is nothing available right now to correctly convert and import my 400+ addresses from Evolution. I have exported from Evolution to VCard then converted that to LDIF and tried a direct import. This partially succeeds. But over 200 of my business addresses have more than one e-mail address … only one of the e-mail addresses is imported. So I ran a tool that converts LDIF to CSV … but the csv2addressbook Perl script does not work as it only recognizes “becky | thunderbird | kmail | gmail” CSV exports. There is no way to specify a custom CSV import to handle something other than those four. So, I would like to give Claws-Mail a serious try, but I am not going to do that if I have to hand edit all 400+ addresses in the address book. I am still researching though, so I may find something that works yet.

      Added 2012.06.06 #2: Claws-Mail – Another item I noticed was the ability to directly access a VCard file. So, I tried that. While it does show the full name and all e-mail addresses from the exported Evolution 3.4.x VCard file, there is no other information shown. Physical addresses, web site URLs, notes about the person or business, nothing. Further, it only displays the VCard file. There is no way to modify the file from within Claws-Mail’s address book tool that I can see. (I seem to recall running into these problems long ago when I was looking for a replacement e-mail client once before.)

  2. Okay, I managed to lose access to my e-mail for a couple of days, including all the new/unread mail on my PC, trying to get off of Evolution onto Claws-Mail. Basically I moved directories (a.k.a. “folders” in Microsoft-speak) out from under Evolution before I had a clear idea what I needed to do. Anyway, I ended up copying a backup of the directories to our local IMAP4 server running on another Linux system that we use for inter-office mail. It is a courier-imap server that has been running here for a while. It does use Maildir format, which is one of my big criteria as that allows easy incremental backups with ‘rsync’ or Bacula (which we also use here) or whatever one wants. After the copy all the new and unread messages from the backup magically reappeared. Did I say, “I love Maildir” yet?

    I have all my 400+ contacts in a .csv file and several other file formats (LDIF, vCard, Sanskrit … okay, not Sanskrit.) from trying to get something that will convert to a format I can use with Claws-Mail. I am actually considering setting up a LDAP server of some sort on the same system that is running the IMAP and loading all the contacts into that. LDAP is definitely a non-trivial option as I am a LDAP “virgin”. But that is an option that should work with most modern mail applications as well as groupware, should I ever need groupware. Plus it too is easy to backup with a scripted solution.

    Obviously, or maybe not so obviously, this is not the “average Joe User” e-mail solution. But it should work for me once I get all the pieces in place. 🙂

  3. Regarding Daffy getting his beak blown off, the video was taken down because Warner Brothers had a copyright tizzy.

    Party poopers.

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