I’m excited to see the integrated calendar, not that installing Lightning is such a big deal. I’m a huge Thunderbird fan, though. The interface is sometimes overly complex, but you can always Google around to do what you need to do.
I’m also wondering when this will hit the Ubuntu repos. I might be a ways off from seeing 78 in action! It sort of reminds me of when Gimp added a single-window mode. I was using Sabayon at the time, so I saw the new interface pretty much instantly. But when I went back to Ubuntu, I didn’t see single-window mode for months. It was like time travel.
What’s New in Thunderbird 78 | The Thunderbird Blog
My various feeds have featured lots of posts about the utility of email. This point resonated with me:
Everyone uses email differently. Your children might use email to submit their homework; while you might receive emails about your next meeting. I may use an encrypted email provider; you may use Gmail. I may use an email client; you might use webmail. You may prioritise ease of use over security; I might not. It doesn’t matter. For this reason workflow management is a very subjective matter and hence its not for me to say whether email has got this right or wrong. Everyone has a different situation, so making generalised statements doesn’t achieve anything.
Everyone does use email differently, so clients allow the user to take back their preferences. I’ve noticed this with my personal email, where I have a few essential Thunderbird extensions, but even for my work email, where I’ve shifted from the web interface to Evolution, and now feel like I’m able to process email much more quickly.
The freedom of a standards-based tool like email is one of its strengths.
My Take on Email | Freddy’s Ramblings
Someone asked Cory Doctorow about his tech set-up:
Nothing too surprising. But I’m always happy to see an email client get a shout-out. Working from home, I’m shocked how much I actually miss Outlook! But I didn’t want to intermingle my work and personal accounts in Thunderbird, so I’m using Evolution to handle my work Exchange email and it’s been super easy and seamless. I got it up and running in a few minutes.
I don’t see myself ever using Evolution as a primary client, but it’s doing the job as my temporary backup.
I’ve played with Thunderbird and OpenPGP before and it was fairly complicated. It’s not all on Thunderbird, because keys and signatures are just difficult concepts for many of us. But hopefully it’ll be at least slightly easier for people like me to configure encryption in Thunderbird 78.
Thunderbird, Enigmail and OpenPGP | The Mozilla Thunderbird Blog
Thunderbird is one of my favorite tools. It’s easy to customize, yet not overly-fiddly. It does one thing well (two, if you count its calendar). I’m glad Mozilla is keeping things rolling with Thunderbird. There have often been rumblings they were trying to bail on it.
I haven’t spent much time with Evolution because Thunderbird is so easy. And while you do need to tweak Thunderbird, the upside is it does everything I want the way I want it to. I understand the idea that many people want an Outlook comparable, but to me, the fact that Thunderbird isn’t an Outlook clone is very much a positive.
I moved to GNOME from Xfce a few months ago (spurred by a new desktop machine), but I couldn’t find the time to write up my experiences. Canonical announcing the death of Unity last month seemed like a good to finally get my thoughts down.
Way back in November, I got a new desktop. My beloved Thinkpad T420 was aging and slightly slow, but since it never left my desk, a small desktop and large monitor seemed to make more sense. I knew from the beginning I was going with GNOME, since it’s always felt fast and wired for people like me, who don’t want to use their mouse. Of course, Xfce has that same kind of configureability, but if I was using new hardware, why not take advantage of the processing power and use something nice looking, like GNOME?
I went with Ubuntu GNOME 16.04 and it required very little time to perfect. As near as I could tell, it came with GNOME Tweak preinstalled, making it easy to customize (and making me, like Steven Rosenberg, wonder why any GNOME system wouldn’t have it pre-installed…).
After that, I was all set. I wanted to change the background color of my desktop, but I couldn’t figure out how to easily do that so I gave up and my computing life hasn’t suffered too much for it.
I also wanted to use the default system-wide GNOME calendar (aka, Calendar), but to do that, I had to configure an Evolution account (Evolution is GNOME’s default [and bloated] email/calendar application), which felt annoying since I use Thunderbird for my email and calendar. I was able to add and then remove the Evolution account and preserve my Calendar settings, but it would be great if there was a direct way to configure Calendar. The new, much more robust California calendar application, which isn’t installed by default, seems to allow you to manually add calendars. Also, here’s a nice explanation of why GNOME has two calendars.
The California Calendar app
I installed a few extensions (AlternateTab, which should be called NormalTab; Clipboard Indicator; and Hibernate Status Button). I love that the extensions are handled through the web browser. And now you can even use Chromium, which wasn’t the case a few years ago.
Other than that, using GNOME has been easy and uneventful. The worst thing I might say about it is that the software updater hides from my mouse the first time it opens.
Start to finish, from installing Ubuntu (the Dell never even got to boot into Windows!), to having all of my accounts set-up and configured, was like two hours. I think I’ve spent more time deciding what to order for lunch.
My workflow is that I use the super key and type whatever files, folders, or programs I want to open. Everything is fast and looks nice, but most importantly, I don’t have to think about my desktop experience.
In reflecting upon the move to GNOME, I’ve wondered if GNOME is that good, if I’ve gotten good at understanding what I need from a desktop environment, or if I’ve matured and am less concerned with tweaking every aspect of my desktop experience. After much internal deliberation, I really do think it’s that GNOME is a great fit for someone like me, who doesn’t want to use a mouse. It works very well out of the box and requires very little customization to work for me. What little customizations I did want are amazingly simple to implement with the extensions.
I remain surprised GNOME Tweak doesn’t let the end-user easily do more with the overall look and feel of the desktop—especially the desktop background—but it’s an extremely small price to pay for being able to have my desktop environment perfectly configured in just a few hours.
Mark and I connected because of the live distribution he’s working on. Most writers are perfect candidates for Linux. Every distribution has a web browser and word processor of some kind. Plus, it seems more and more publishers are getting away from Word-dependent formats. Or, at the very least, they’re open to the idea that people use other tools. Writing is a craft and craftspeople should get to choose their own tools. A curated distribution for writers could be helpful in transitioning new users to Linux.
- Who are you, and what do you do?
My name is Mark Binner and I live near Manchester, England. I used to be an ICT Technician for a local council serving the ICT needs of about 90 primary schools. I left at the end 2012 because I had become so jaded with doing the same thing every day. Computers had stopped being fun. I started learning about the ins and outs of ebooks. I now format books for a small publishing company based in London. I contributed a 6,000-word chapter to a book on self-publishing. Besides that, I am working on a live Linux setup aimed at writers of all kinds.
Why do you use Linux?
I started using Linux mainly out of curiosity. A friend bought me a Linux magazine with a cover disc of SuSE Linux version 6, I think. I tried it and liked it, although it was quite clunky by today’s standards. I enjoyed the sheer novelty of it and it really appealed to the maverick in me. I’ve never liked being a sheep. The dictatorial attitudes of Microsoft and Apple stink, to be frank. I agree with Linus Torvalds when he said Apple has now become ‘the evil empire.’ I am really impressed by the whole open-source spirit of cooperation; it amazes me how well it works. I wish the rest of the world worked like that—we’d all be better off.
What distribution do you run on your main desktop/laptop?
After a lot of distro-hopping—SuSE, Ubuntu, MEPIS, Debian, Fedora, and more—I found and loved Linux Mint, which I’ve been using for a few years now. I like a proper menu. The Unity desktop wouldn’t work for me.
What desktop environment do you use and why do you use it?
I settled on MATE as the best combination of looks and performance. None of my computers are high-spec and that’s fine for most of my needs.
What one piece of Linux software do you depend upon? Why is it so important?
The one thing I would struggle without now is Thunderbird; I use it daily. It’s a great email client and with the Lightning calendar add-on it is even more useful. Saying that, almost all the software I use and like runs on both Linux and Windows. I think this was a big factor in the ease-of-transition from XP to Linux Mint. RipperX might come a close second though.
What kind of hardware do you run this setup on?
I have a very old Toshiba Satellite Pro laptop with 1GB RAM dual-booting Mint 17.3 MATE 32-bit edition and Windows XP Pro from a single 500GB HDD. It’s so slow I think it’s powered by a hamster on a wheel.
There is a desktop PC with 2GB RAM, 320GB HDD and a Pentium Dual-Core 2GHz CPU running the same version of Mint. This is my workhorse, if you like.
My highest spec PC has 4GB RAM, two 1TB HDDs and a Pentium Dual-Core 2.8GHz CPU. One drive runs Windows XP Pro and the other is Xubuntu 14.04 LTS, which I use as a part-time server. I test Linux distros in Virtualbox on the XP system, which is no longer connected to the Internet.
Will you share a screenshot of your desktop?
The background is a photo I took of an eclipse a few months ago. I added a texture using GIMP.
Interview conducted February 4, 2016
I switched from Outlook.com to FastMail a few weeks ago. There were three variables behind the switch:
- I felt bad using a Microsoft product—albeit a fantastic one!
- My girlfriend switched and was a big fan.
- The nagging sense that Microsoft would eventually bail on custom domain support for Outlook.com (they bailed on new custom domain support two years ago but have continued to support existing setups, which is pretty nice but not encouraging).
I had heard nothing but good things about FastMail and while my initial experiment with it two years ago wasn’t great, I felt more committed this time.
I’m not sure if FastMail’s documentation got better or if I was just in a better headspace this time, but getting it configured was pretty easy. I have a lot of old email addresses from old web projects but setting up the domain records was simple, with detailed steps from FastMail. I had one issue that the help desk resolved fairly quickly (FastMail has great email support).
I was shocked how fast their servers are. I never considered Outlook.com sluggish, but Fastmail flies. I get email notifications within nanoseconds of the mail hitting the server—across all of my devices.
FastMail makes it very simple to manage multiple email accounts from its web interface. Sending mail from different accounts/domains is easy and adding accounts is also easy. I’m not using Fastmail to check other email service accounts, like Yahoo! or Gmail, but the documentation says that’s possible.
The web interface is nice. There are shortcuts and in general, the web interface feels like a client, which is important to me.
Last time I used FastMail, the spam filtering was awful, but it’s been just about flawless this time around.
Fastmail has an Android client that crashed a lot on me so I use CloudMagic and there haven’t been any issues.
Fastmail also has a calendar that uses CalDAV. As long as I was switching off of Outlook, it seemed like a good time to finally get off of Google Calendar, which I don’t use that much anymore, anyway. I moved a bunch of birthdays and personal appointments to the FastMail calendar and I’m now officially done with Google Calendar. I’m able to get the FastMail calendar on my phone with CalDAV, although I did have to pay for an app to make that happen. The Fastmail calendar is great. It has a simple interface, does reminders, and shows dates and times, which is sort of the life’s purpose for a calendar.
Fastmail also allows you to sync contacts with Thunderbird (via a plugin) and with your phone (via CardDAV). I’m not using CardDAV on my phone but I am using it with Thunderbird. What that means is between the calendar, mail, and contacts, that Thunderbird is like an enterprise client. I think of it as Outlook, only faster.
FastMail always had good security options but just pushed out a big update a few weeks ago. They simplified their security tools, making them more like other services. The updates included easier-to-implement two-factor authentication and application-specific passwords. What I like (and appreciate) about the application passwords is that they’re data-specific, so the CalDAV password Fastmail generated for my phone doesn’t provide access to my mail or contacts. And if you lose or retire a device, you can go into FastMail and pull the access. Just make sure you clearly name your application-specific credentials.
The web interface times out after a few hours of inactivity, which is actually kind of annoying on a personal level. But I’m enough of an adult to understand it’s a good feature from a security perspective.
FastMail is based in Australia, which is a privacy-centric country. Privacy wasn’t a huge factor in switching to FastMail, but it’s a nice plus.
FastMail isn’t free, although there is a free 30-day trial. Prices range from $30/year for barebones email without domain management to $90/year for a business class account. I’m grandfathered into $40/year package, but they have something comparable, with more storage, for $50/year. As I’ve mentioned before, I like paying for services since it gives me recourse if something doesn’t work. And less than $5/month is a small price to pay for something as important as email. And your calendar. And your contacts…
FastMail isn’t a Linux product per se, but it uses lots of open standards so that you can interface with it effectively using your own tools. You’re not locked in to one client or tool. And that’s the beauty and dream of Linux-—to use your own tools the way you want to.
I was looking for an old email a few days ago and I wound up in Google Inbox, which is an alternative interface to Gmail. It felt like Google was trying to handle my email for me and I didn’t appreciate it. FastMail lets me choose how my email is handled. Which is the way it should be.
I’m actually embarrassed I didn’t move to FastMail sooner. It’s a great, open product that any Linux user should love.
If you’re trapped in a proprietary email system, why not buy a domain, sign-up for FastMail, and free yourself?
What works: Everything! The email. The calendar. The speed. The service.
What doesn’t work: Nothing!
Who should work with it: Anyone who doesn’t want to be trapped in proprietary email and calendar environments.