Qutting Thunderbird and moving to Evolution and Mail

2019-07-12 00:00:00 +0000

thunderbird-logo

For years I have been using Thunderbird and really enjoyed it and recommend it to friends, family, and colleagues, and to be honest that is not something I do lightly. Thunderbird have been easy to setup and use across all my machines (Linux and MacOS) and I have not really had any complaints with it, until now.

So why have I started to have complaints? Well the latest update I have installed is v60.8.0 and for some weird reason the user interface is no longer the same on Linux and MacOS and I have not been able to tell why. One of the things that are different is that on Linux the search bar for searching in mails is gone and I have not been able to get it back. Even after a LONG! time of searching and talking to people also people who actively develops Thunderbird. This is bad for a guy who receives over a thousand relevant emails every month. I even went as far as trying to uninstall Thunderbird and reinstalling it on Linux. Next, after update to major version v60 I have had nothing but problems with my Google Mail account, yes I still have one of those, it locks up, is signed out and is in general behaving weird. This is kind of a problem to me, as I really do not like gMails web interface and prefer to not use it at all. Then, I started having problems with a mail which I have Unoeuro hosting for me. Basically every third time, or so, I tried to send an e-mail it would say that I had to type in the login information for the SMTP server, which I had already done. Finally, the last straw, Exchange support. This is not a problem with v60 but rather Thunderbird in general. At a lot of companies and Universities, Aarhus University include, Microsoft Exchange is used as the mail server, which I am actually not against. This means that my mail client must provide some form of Exchange support Thunderbird does not offer this out of the box, but there is a plug-in ExQuilla which enables this. I love ExQuilla it made my life a lot easier when using Exchange on Linux. However, again after updating to v60.8.0 problems started with ExQuilla, my credentials kept dropping for the Universities Exchange server and I had to reset my Exchange account often. Another thing that has been confusing to me, is that Apple Mail provides built-in Exchange support for free and so did Nylas N1 when it existed so it was weird to me that Thunderbird does not. Other minor things have started to break to, but they are nothing to write home about.

evolution logo

So I started looking at alternatives I could use on both macOS and Linux, and well I could not find a good one. BUT! BEHOLD! I found out that Evolution, standard mail client in Gnome, comes out of the box with built-in Exchange support. So I started playing around with Evolution and realised that it fulfilled all my e-mails need and the built-in calendar in Gnome also support Exchange calendar so well Gnome native apps here I came and so far it has been a month and I am in love with these Apps. The calendar has a few bugs when creating events, but it is like start an event a day before but that can be solved with a drag on the event after creation. Now these Apps are not available on macOS for well obvious reasons, so I had to look for things there as well and I was considering to use Airmail by Bloop S.R.L and I did test it, but I simply could get use to how it requires two windows to write mails, one for the mail list and composing window. So I looked and looked, and every time I ended back at Apple Mail and the Calendar, and it is a bliss to use, so I am back in closed source Apple land when it comes to mail and calendar on Mac.

NOW! Does this mean a permanent farewell to Thunderbird for me. I honestly hope not, I love client and has been using it as my main email client since 2005. So what needs to change? Well I would like a nicer user interface and I have wet dreams of Emacs as an editor for mails. I would also like to see built-in support for Exchange and a proper built in Calendar, just start Sunbird again, it is really nice to have two separate apps for this. Another thing is that the Thunderbird team release this blog post: Thunderbird in 2019 and it contains a lot of promises, promises I have yet to see being fulfilled but they make me hopeful for my return one day. Maybe if I can find the time I can help a bit, but that remains to be seen.

sunbird logo

Notice: I would like to extend a special thanks to R Kent James for ExQuilla and I am sad to here about his health problems. I hope he will get better soon and best wishes to him and his family.

-Lars

Why I am using Tutanota and Signal

2019-06-03 12:00:00 +0000

Will add references later I have them

So over the last 5 - 10 years many people have become more focused on privacy when communicating, not just with colleagues, customers, and employers, but also for private communications. The reason for this is that we now know that Google, Facebook, and other companies “peek” in our correspondence with others, to identify relevant, for them, information. It is known that Facebook use the information to tailor commercials more aggressively towards you and its know that companies, not just Facebook, sell the information to other companies and we simply do not know what they do with the information. So how can we as users of this service combat this and can we actually defend combating these procedures?

I will start by answering the later. Well the answer is complex, if one can remember as far back as the mid nineties one would remember that we paid to use certain services such as mail services and search engines, even web browsers if you can believe it. However, this changed with the introduction of products such as Internet Explorer, Altavista, Yahoo, MSN, Hotmail, Google Search, and more, with these products the “free” internet was born. The problem was/is that the companies which provide these products still need to make money, and how can they do that? Well, advertisement, remember a time before NoScript and uBlock when the internet was covered in adds? That was a solution, however, how did companies prove that an add campaign was effective? Well you could correlate increase in revenue with the period of the add, or you could do something much simpler, track how many clicks the add. Sounds familiar? No? Well this is one of the ways tracking started, there are multiple others, and after some time some people thought; Well, what if we can create a profile of the person to target adds more specifically to that user?, letting to user profiling. So tracking rose from a need to earn money and by avoiding tracking we reduce a company’s money flow. So, because we did not want to pay for internet services we are at directly at fault for tracking. However, companies are super invasive and does not necessarily require you to use their system to track you, an example is Facebook, they track who ever visits a website that has a Facebook like button. So if I do not use Facebook why should I allow Facebook to track me? Well I should not. Additionally it is know that Google scan our gMail content to, amongst other things, build a profile of you. Well it is fair because gMail is free, but why then not offer a paid version where you can avoid that? Why can we not opt out of tracking? Simple to much money is to be made and tracking is now a core part of a lot of systems. So to summarise, if you use a services for free it is fair that you get track, it is your own fault, but if you do not use a company’s service they have no right to track you.

But I do not like tracking either way so how do I avoid it? Well it is close to impossible to 100% avoid tracking and I cannot. I use NoScript to block Google Analytics and other fancy stuff, I use uBlock to say f… you to adds. That is all good and well, but how do I avoid Google, Facebook, or who ever, the NSA for instance reading my emails and messages? Well I use products that provides privacy. For email there is multiple options, ProtonMail is a good example, and of those options I went with Tutanota which is located in Germany. Tutanota encrypts your mail on their server and allows you to send encrypted emails, even to people without Tutanota accounts, whilst avoid the need to exchange PGP-keys. It is super easy to use, only problem for me is that there is not a desktop application. But the web client is pretty good. Instant messaging on the other hand… that is a tough one, the reason for that is that in Denmark most do not use SMS anymore but use Facebook Messenger or SnapChat, exactly what I am trying to avoid. However, due to the resent public focus on privacy more and more are switching back to SMS or other services, for instance WhatsApp. But again a problem, a Cell Service Provide can read your SMS’es and WhatsApp is owned by Facebook. So what do we do well we can look at service such as Telegram, which I also use, but the problem is that companies such as Telegram do not explain how they make money or what legal restrictions they are under. So the main option for me is Signal from Open Whisper Systems. They explain how they make money, what legal restrictions they are under AND more importantly to me, almost everything they make is open source, so we can evaluated what is actually happening. Signal provides end-to-end encrypted messaging so they cannot analyse your data and neither can others. So that is why I use Tutanota and Signal.

-Lars

Why I stopped being a danish liberal

2019-03-07 10:00:00 +0000

I have been interested in politics since I was very young, I remember discussing it with my grandmother when I was 11, how the political system in Denmark works. From the get go I have been oriented towards the right and even some times to the far right with regards to financial and social politics, and if I am honest when I was young and naive I leaned towards the far right on immigration as well. However, when I reached my late teens I had moved closer to the mid of the right wing, so parties such as Venstre, Konservative, and in later years Liberal Alliance.

For a long time I saw these parties as protectors of the people, who believed in freedom of the people and provide a good society with minimal interference from the government. But a shift in danish politics have happened with the last decade, or it actually started in 2001 with the 9/11 terrorist attack in New York. The shift was that instead of having a trusting and at ease population, the politicians was/is now making decisions for- and leading a people which is terrified of terrorist attacks, immigrants, and refuges. The problem with this is that the leaders of the politicians are the voters and when the voters are scared, the politicians capitalise on this by implementing a lot of strict policies with regards to immigration and refugees. The tension internally in Denmark have been hidden from the outside for quite a while, but over time our integration and refuge policies and how they have been tighten have reached outside our country. However, one thing that most do not know and which surprises most when I talk to others, is the surveillance laws which have either been suggest or either implemented. These laws includes CCTV surveillance, ISP customer session logging, and implementation of DNA register. The last two have not yet been past in to law, but it is balancing on the edge of knife. What surprised me and still does, is that the parties which suggested this was the liberal parties that I was such a strong supported of. I had to realise these parties was capitalising in a manner I could not support as it was not liberalism it was something else. They want to build a surveillance society that hasn’t really been seen in the countries which are members of European Union since the east block exist and was destroyed in 1989 and early nineties.

Another thing is also that a lot of the parties, especially looking at you Venstre, has changed from a liberal and capitalist parties too almost solely capitalist parties, which is also terrifying as the capitalist mentality always moves towards the money and not always what is beneficial for the society. For example privatising DSB, a danish railways company, have made it so bad and it was predicted by most people.

I simply cannot stand by the ideals of these parties which calls them self liberal and are not. Therefore, with elections coming up I am currently reevaluating my political stand points and what I should vote for. One thing is for sure I am still a liberal and I will help fighting the new Stasi society that a lot of European government are trying to create.

-Lars Nielsen

Why I stopped using Snapchat and uninstalled Facebook from my mobile devices

2019-01-07 10:00:00 +0000

Since Snapchat became available in Denmark, I think it was late 2011 maybe early 2012, I have been a user and since 2005 I have had a facebook account. I have actually had two, the first was deleted for some reason, so my current one is from 2008 and I have been using it almost religiously ever since then, both on my computers and mobile devices.

One of the things that comes with social-networks in general is notifications and the expectations from your affiliations. That is one of the few things I have detested from the beginning. I started disabling notifications in all social network applications I used such as Instagram, Twitter, Facebook. The only communication tools I have were I still had notifications enabled is Facebook Messenger and SMS. However, that did not remove the always available expectation from my affiliations. The app that surprised me the most was Snapchat, everyone expected me to answer with in a few minutes, even during my school/work days, and certain persons continuously got angry with me for not responding.

Then, last summer I got a new phone and I decided to not install Snapchat, delete my account, and not tell anyone, after a week one of my friends sought me out and actually started yelling at me for not responding to her snaps. I told her I had uninstalled the App and deleted my account because she and others expected my constant availability. She got even more angry with me and didn’t speak to me for months. This kind of behaviour was a result of how integrated instant communication have become in our daily life. So I have decide to completely stop using Snapchat, I have added a public statement on my facebook profile for all my friends to read that I am no longer using Snapchat.

Now the Facebook App, I am a member of several groups on facebook where Magic the gathering, Linux, and BSD is discussed. The tone in these groups the tone got extremely rough and often the discussion turned into personal attacks instead of a discussion of the actual topic. This annoyed me so much, but due to the facebook mobile app I had constant access to this flow of negativity and often it actually put more stress on me than I thought. I discovered this because I accidentally deleted the facebook app and forgot to reinstall it, and I slowly became more relaxed and a positive. So for this reason I have decide to keep that App uninstalled as well.

-Lars Nielsen

Alexandria - A book management system for private book collections

2018-12-21 10:00:00 +0000

So for quite some time I have had an issue with my book collection and that problem is simply that it has gotten out of hand. I no longer have a full overview over what books I have, who have lent what, and what I actually what I thought about all my books.

For some time I tried to use Delicious Library 2 and 3 [1] by delicious monster and I have been quite happy with it for a long time. But unfortunately the prices is more than I am willing to pay for what for me essentially was a library system. I looked for open source alternatives, but most was either too complex to use, required custom building of the software, and most required me to have a server running. None of which I was interested at the time. Another issue is that most of the open software solutions out there were developed with the intent of being run in a full library setting, integrating with identification system, I also did not want to use. I did find a solution at one point called books which was all what I wanted but it is unfortunately no longer maintained. I finally ended up using Good Reads [2] started by Otis Chandler and Elizabeth Khuri, now owned by Amazon. However, it has a lot of faults, firstly I couldn’t create a account without a Facebook account and the site is extremely slow, it also have a lot of features I never use, and a lot of features I am missing.

Due to the above mentioned reasons I have for a while wanted to implement my own system, and I have from the start wanted to call it Alexandria, after the Library of Alexandria. [3] I have started the implementation, dropped it, and started again over and over again. Because I couldn’t decide on the correct technologies to use, where my main problem was what to use for the frontend user interface and for the programming language on the backend.

The reasons for my indecision on the programming language for the backend, is that I over the past two to three years have run into so many programming languages that I wanted to learn and try, that I simply could not decide between one I knew or one to learn. One of the longest running contestants have been Rust [4], but I simply had to realise that Rust is a programming language of epic proportions, but I simply do not have the time at the moment to learn to use it for more than a system programming language. Another contender was Go [5], I like the structure of Go and how it feels like C, but does not want to kill you pointers (I like pointers). But I also through my experience at Chocolate Cloud, realised that Go may not be ready for such as system and the way Object Oriented Programming (OOP) is done in Go I don’t really like and this is purely from a syntax and structure perspective. As these are just two of the language, you can see that I have had some problems deciding. I have come to the decision using either Ruby [6] or Python [7]. Most who know me in person, will know that of the programming languages I have ever tried, Ruby will for ever be my greatest love, it is actually one of the reasons this blog uses Jekyll and not Pelican. But that is simply not fair to use as an argument for choosing it for this project. Also I have some experience developing similar systems in Python, so Python makes more sense. So the plan is as follows, use Python until I am done with PhD afterwards I may switch to another language, I may even write a few parts of Alexandria in other languages just to test the out, sound idiotic but HEY! my project. My issue on the frontend is that I do not really know what is good and what is crap, the only thing I know is that I don’t really like Angular. However, after reading about different libraries and frameworks, I have come to the conclusion that I will be using Vue.js [8]

So what I will be using is Python, Vue.js, and I will design the system to be usable with multiple database backends.

The system will be developed incremtially and when I have time, and I will release it under either the BSD-3 software license haven’t decide yet.

Hope you will follow the development on gitlab [9].

./Lars

  1. Delicious Library
  2. Good Reads
  3. Library of Alexandria
  4. Rust
  5. Go
  6. Ruby
  7. Python
  8. Vue.js
  9. Alexandria GitLab Account

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