First, let me say that I’m glad this iPad tablet is out in the open. If I had to read another drool-soaked article filled with speculation and rumors I might just go crazy. I don’t think it is exactly revolutionary, but it is cool. Almost big enough to serve drinks on, then play some Doodle Jump. The one thing I’m curious about is the cable connection. Apparently this thing uses the standard iPhone to USB cable, but I thought Apple was in on the consortium that settled on micro-USB as the universal charging format for mobile devices!? Maybe they didn’t get invited to that meeting. That minor quibble aside, I’d like to try one. Let me know if you need my mailing address to send me a demo iPad.
A while back I upgraded to Thunderbird 3.0. It has been pretty successful so far. I found the tabbed interface confusing at first – I would close the whole app instead of a single message since I was used to standalone windows – but found the option to switch from tabs to windows and back. Now I am full-time tabbing in Tbird and liking it. My Lightning calendar plugin was finally updated to fit in with 3.0, just in time for me to not need it anymore, but I appreciate the update.
A few other Thunderbird notes: Some users have found that Thunderbird attachments function in a very different way than Eudora. I refer to this as an issue of “attachment permanence”. Eudora had a discrete folder for attachments, so that when you received a message with files attached they were stored in a permanent place. This meant that some folks would open an attachment from an e-mail, edit it, save it, and reply. This reply would contain the modified file, since the original attachment had been modified but kept the same name. I suppose this means that their original attachment would not exist in its original form, but that is a separate issue. Thunderbird doesn’t do this. Attachments are part of the message and have to be saved or detached before you can modify them. Then they need to be reattached to a new message. The same thing is true of our web portal at IWU. If you open an attachment directly from a message it opens in a weird temp folder. Saved changes will be lost. This adds up to be a little more cumbersome than Eudora. On the other hand, Eudora hasn’t had a bug fix since October 2006 and the 8.0 beta is just built on Thunderbird anyway. I don’t think this issue alone can keep anyone from moving forward from Eudora to Tbird.
A second issue with Thunderbird is the quoting of headers. If you reply to an e-mail in Tbird, you get the original message quoted, but not the headers. You don’t see the date or sender or subject of the original message in the text of your reply. This is a strange problem and I don’t understand why there is no configuration option to customize what exactly is quoted in a reply. I have found, however, that the headers are quoted when forwarding a message. So I have proclaimed this to be a workaround: Don’t reply, just forward. Then change the “FWD” to “RE:” in the subject and copy/paste the recipient address and all is well.
I was compelled to upgrade Thunderbird to 3.0 today. Maybe my desktop has a thing for odd numbers. Windows 7, Firefox 3.55, Office 2007.
So far I can say that my settings and local mail are all intact. The layout of things is a bit different. It does the “smart folder” thing that has been part of Outlook and Mail.app for a while. This can be nice as I have three separate accounts set up in Tbird. Smart folders automatically allow me to display all three inboxes merged together.
My Lightning calendar plugin had to be disabled but I wasn’t using that anymore anyway.
Time will tell – we’ll see what else I find!
I suspect that most users don’t think too much about software choices. They use what is available or what is familiar. In many cases any gain in productivity made by switching to a different application for a given task is offset by the labor and training required by the switch itself.
E-mail is one case where this trade-off needs to be more closely examined. Eudora is widely used at IWU but is no longer supported by Qualcomm. Thunderbird is a popular free and open source e-mail application. It does a great job supporting things like authenticated outgoing mail (needed for sending mail from off-campus) and IMAP (needed for storing and manipulating incoming mail on the server) while Eudora has not done so well working with these technologies. This would not be a big problem if it were easy to switch from Eudora to Thunderbird. Unfortunately the import procedure is anything but smooth if there is a lot of mail involved. And one thing is for sure – people keep a lot of mail.
Recently a development has occurred that brings me hope – Eudora has stopped developing their old code and begun to build Eudora 8.0 based on the core of Thunderbird. So the underpinnings will work well with the protocols we need here at IWU, but there will be user interface features borrowed from the “classic” Eudora design. In the recently released beta (test) version of Eudora 8 the following features were announced:
- menu structures will be similar to classic Eudora
- shortcut keys will largely be the same as classic Eudora
- mailbox list can be separated from the actual mailbox
- improved importing from classic Eudora to new Eudora, including filters and address book
My hope is that the new Eudora 8 will provide a smooth transition from the old unsupported classic versions into a much more productive, supported Thunderbird-based e-mail application without trading away any ease of use AND without a painful upgrade process.
Please note that Eudora 8 is in beta test and SHOULD NOT be installed on University computers.
If you’d like to read more, here is an article from Wired Magazine about the release:
Patrick and I were talking yesterday about the “types” of people who want to read news and blogs on the internet. Nearly everyone uses the web to go out and read articles, so even if they don’t know it they are gathering feed-based information. This most basic method of information hunting-and-gathering is just fine, but there might be another way that fits your personal work patterns better.
Here is the breakdown as I see it. People will tend to do one or more of the following:
- go out to multiple websites each day and read articles, columns, journals, and news on their own “home pages”
- use a web-based service (Bloglines, Google Reader) to collect, or aggregate, the information on a single web page
- use a program (like Thunderbird) to collect articles from favorite news sources and treat them like e-mail
I personally like getting my news alongside my e-mail using Mozilla Thunderbird. I check my e-mail quite frequently and tend to fall behind on reading my favorite websites. By getting a message every time a new article is posted, I can keep up with things better. This is solely a factor of the way I like to work, not a choice based on efficiency or “correctness.”
We at IT expect other people feel the same way, so I’ve prepared a quick guide for any Thunderbird user who might want to try out gathering feeds in this way. Let me know if it helps!