Young Again

Written by Barry Warsaw in historical on Fri 04 April 2003.

This is a repost from my earlier blog. I totally disavow everything my younger self said. He doesn't know what he's talking about.

So I'm blogging. All the kids are doing it and it seems like a great way to rant and vent in a write-only forum. I feel like I did the first time I recompiled my Linux kernel. Once again I can put off my mid-life crisis without having to waste money on a fast car or have a divorce-inducing affair with the babysitter. Blogging is much less likely to have an impact on anybody else in the world, and that's probably a good thing.

Thanks to my colleague Jeremy Hylton for finding a nice Elisp blogging tool which makes it really easy to write these things. Expect a lot of content early on, followed by long periods of inactivity. But no one's reading this anyway, so who cares?

The main thing I've been doing lately is immersing myself in graphical IMAP based mail reading clients. I've been a VM user for years, preferring of course the One True of the One True Editors. But lately I've been disappointed with VM, primarily because of its lack of true remote IMAP support. I use at least 3 different desktop machines (Linux and MacOSX -- I'm Windows free!) regularly, as well as my laptop in various locations, and tunneling XEmacs over SSH is just not cutting it. VM has some support for IMAP but only by sucking all your mail over from the server to the local client, and that just defeats the whole purpose. I might as well burn a DVD with my gig of 20 year old email so I have it with me at all times.

I started out by using Apple's Mail application for OSX. I'm a huge OSX fan, so this felt like a good place to start. On the plus side, is nicely integrated with the OSX desktop, has very good drag-and-drop, and has a quite nice integrated spam detection system. I've been aware of spam classifiers through my off-and-on dance with the Spambayes project.

However, suffers from Bruised Skull Syndrome, caused by its many missing features and defects. Chief among these are the lack of message threading and folder subscriptions, virtual foldering, and its really horrible performance at times. It's unfortunately a lot like Apple's web browser Safari; really cool software that needs more baking. I'll keep an eye on the oven and hope the cookies are moist when they come out. Mmmhh, moist.

Once again, Jeremy turned me on to a cool tool, Ximian's PIM tool called Evolution. Get it? Ximian, simian, monkey icon, evolution? Evo, as it's quaintly called by us insiders, is really excellent, even for someone like me who won't buy into the whole Gnome desktop conspiracy. For a graphical mail app, it's about my ideal. Except for one huge, fatal flaw. Its IMAP implementation is horrendous. When it works, it's great, but it has a nasty and prolific tendency to drop its connection to the server all the time. It helpfully reconnects automatically, after shoving annoying click-away windows which let you know it hiccuped. I almost wouldn't care if it didn't display that annoying window. But really, its imap implementation should be better. As nice as Evo is, this one bug is getting to be too much so I may start looking around at other mates.

The Ximian folks claim the problem is that I tunnel cleartext imap over ssh, but I don't believe it because even running Evo on my local network in the clear, I get constant drops. And I've been tunneling XEmacs over ssh for years -- if XEmacs isn't a client sensitive to network glitches, I don't know what is (although they've gotten much better lately). Nope, the underlying connection is solid.

Mozilla's mail client, as well as its co-joined sister Netscape are just too pitiful to be usable. Enabling IMAP mail should be dead simple, with just a few configuration options necessary to get you started. But no, both Moz and NS were just too hard to configure properly and I couldn't get them to talk with my IMAP server. To give them a fair shot, I spent almost an hour trying to get the basic connections to work, but my impatient bastard side won out and I gave up.

Ditto for KDE's KMail application. Admittedly though, they have newer versions that what comes with my Redhat 7.3 version of Linux, but I haven't spent the time to install KDE 3.1 RPMs. I may come back to this though because Kmail had one extremely neat feature: I could use XEmacs as my external editor for composing email. This is great because of the huge number of Emacs hacks I've got going. I've been a heavy duty (as opposed to heavy doodie) Emacser for almost 20 years (yes, I'm a fuggin' old dinosaur) and a XEmacser/Lucid Emacser for maybe 12. So I like that environment a lot.

My netbud Jason Mastaler reminded me that Gnus has an imap backend, but treating my mail like news was just a little too jarring for me. Jason also pointed me to Wanderlust which I plan on taking a close look at. I wouldn't call either of these graphical, but there's an appeal of keeping everything in XEmacs.

I'm sure I've missed some, but if you know of any other decent clients for Linux or MacOSX, feel free to let me know. But you're not reading this anyway, so I guess you won't.

Okay, I've puked enough on this subject, so I'll wipe the chunks of lisp off my lips and see if I can clean myself up. Of course, with a blog you can turn any crap into art...


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