Daily Archives: January 12, 2006

Changing my mind about Thunderbird

Thunderbird 1.5 is getting on my nerves.

As I mentioned earlier, the News and Blogs (aka RSS/Atom) support is much enhanced over 1.0.x… but having used it for a few hours now, the interface really sucks. It really should be simpler to add, delete and organise feeds.

Not only that, but in 1.5 the News and Blogs folder defaults to loading the web page for each feed rather than displaying the textual summaries, so you have to be online all the time. I've got a web browser for looking at the web pages if I want to. You can change this (the non-obvious series of clicks is right-click News and Blogs -> Properties -> tick "By default, show the article summary instead of loading the web page") but you don't seem to be able to do it on a global basis for all the feeds you already subscribe to; you have to go through the list in Manage Subscriptions, edit each one, and tick the article summary option.

I know there are dedicated applications like RSS Bandit available. On my Linux workstation I use Liferea, which is really nice. I wanted to continue to use Thunderbird, since I already use it for newsgroups, and for managing IMAP accounts. At this rate, I'm rapidly going to lose my patience.

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Reasons to buy a UPS

About midday yesterday, I found that I couldn't connect to my webmail. I run SquirrelMail on my Linux server at home, pulling email from about 7 different accounts I have dotted around the Internet, and aggregating it all for me in one place. I have a DynDNS address where I can access my server, so that my email is always available. If it is unavailable, it usually means that my home ADSL connection has gone down, or there has been a power cut and something hasn't restarted properly.

Yesterday, it turned out to have been a power cut. I got home to find that my entire home network was down, wireless wasn't working, my workstation hadn't restarted at all, and my server was unable to connect to the Internet since the router was refusing to connect, for some reason.

I don't have a UPS. I know, I know, I really should have one. I've just never gotten around to spending money in that direction. Not only that, but I'm not sure I have enough space under the desk, and every time I look into it I get confused about what I really need. A neighbour recently gave me a conditioned power supply with a single plug on one side, and 4 standard power sockets on the other, harvested from an office that was being closed down… but that just has surge protection rather than a battery backup.

Yesterday's failure was fairly bad, but not catastrophic. I run Linux Software RAID on my workstation, so I have two copies of my data and I'm not terrified of data loss there (yes, there are backups too). My server is not RAIDed, although it probably ought to be. These days it just runs my mail, web and news servers really – there's not a lot else I need from it.

The workstation failed to restart twice, but I think that was partly down to the ADSL connection still being down and various services (like NTP synchronisation) hanging. I also had a very strange problem where the X server didn't want to come back up at boot time, complaining about missing fonts. Once I'd ssh'd over from the server (which restarted and recovered from the ext3 journal without problems) I was able to kill the hanging boot services, and start X from the command line. Note to self – remember that you can check the status of the RAID array by looking at the contents of /proc/mdstat and using mdadm to force synchronise the members if needed.

Finally, the router. It simply wouldn't connect to my ADSL provider. A simple reboot fixed that problem, and the wireless connectivity too.

So I'm in the market for a UPS. It needs to support two machines as a minimum, and also to be Linux compatible. Oh, and not to cost a fortune… I need the rest of my money for a new lens for my camera…

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Thunderbird 1.5 is out

My Windows e-mail, news and RSS client of choice, Mozilla Thunderbird, reached 1.5 release status today. I just installed it, and it seems to work fine. There are no immediately-visible changes when you first start it up. The Options dialog is of course now similar in style to Firefox 1.5, and the extension update mechanism is also inherited from Firefox. The Manage Subscriptions dialog has been extensively updated – you can now import OPML files, and create folders for your feeds, which is a big benefit. I guess I have to spend some time reorganising my subscriptions.

There is more coverage of the new features here and here.

Unfortunately quite a few of the extensions that I use are not currently compatible with 1.5 (NestedQuote Remover, Signature Switch, Move Search Items, View Headers Toggle Button, and compact folder), but hopefully they will get updated soon.

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