Monday, October 30, 2006


New Improved(?) Thunderbird

After uninstalling Thunderbird 1.07, I began the installation of 1.5. All went smoothly. The only installed extension, "Calendar 0.8", was de-activated: it is not compatible with this newer version. I expected that, and intended to install the newer calendar extension, "Lightning 0.3". The evolution of the version number from "0.8" to "0.3" was worrisome, but it is that or run year-old software. Maybe there is nevertheless progress on some of the things that annoyed me with the older version.

As recommended, I backed up my .ics calendar files. The instructions say "uninstall the Calendar Extension before installing Lightning. " Fine, it is already de-activated, do I really need to uninstall it, too? Meanwhile, I had already added the "Lightning" installation to the extension list, which indicated that it would be installed next time I started Thunderbird. I hesitated before electing to install, because it is not signed. All this fuss about security (T-bird now detects "scams" as well as "spams") and yet I can't remember when I found an extension for either T-bird or Firefox that was signed or provided with a MD5 to match. I selected "uninstall" for "Calendar", which appeared above "Lightning" in the list, and hoped they would be executed in that order, so that the uninstall would occur before installing Lightning. Hope is all I could do: it is impossible to remove an extension from the list if you change your mind about wanting to install it! At best you can toggle it to "uninstall", but what does that really mean when it wasn't yet installed?

"Lightning" appears to have been correctly installed. My first reaction is: I don't like it. I want to choose where it appears, I don't want it to amputate my list of mail folders in the sidebar. It is added to the menubar, but does not have a shortcut. And the clincher: it can't read the .ics files I could edit last week. It seems that the "old" Calendar extension was sloppy about writing and may not have used UTF-8 as required.

Another open source iCalendar application (Chandler from, 0.6 version--professedly only experimentally usable) can't read them either. However, phpicalendar can, and has a nifty annual view. Lightning adds a couple of megabytes to Thunderbird; Chandler adds about sixty-five (but is its own mail user agent); phpicalendar is relatively minuscule, but only displays calendars, it cannot edit them (nor display vjournals, I suspect). I've also found a Python library that enables editing, but haven't yet evaluated its ease of use (by me) nor whether it can read my .ics files.

Back to Lightning. Adding a couple of toolbar buttons helps: new event and new task.
I haven't yet tried everything, but so far I am underwhelmed.

T-boid itself.

What has changed? The two bugs I was most concerned about (because I spotted them and was among the first, the few, or both, to note them in Bugzilla) are obvious things to check. Both result(ed) from mishandling of character set errors or violations.

Why did I switch from OutlookExpress to Thunderboid? The spam filter, if I recall correctly, but it has been a few years so I'm not sure. The spam filter seems to work about 60% these days (I haven't checked lately), although the "learning" file is now about 10 megabytes. I haven't checked in detail whether the address book has improved, but it doesn't seem so (it is so poor, there are "extensions" to help prevent or correct duplicate entries!).

What justified adding "0.43" to the version number?

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Uninstalling Thunderbird

Once upon a time, when Internet browsers were new and one was supposed to buy one, I did. That was before Microsoft made one an integral part of their operating system. That was when one could download Netscape for a free three month trial, and do so every three months (to get the latest version, too). Or one could use Compuserve, and the browser they provided. I decided that I should support Netscape, and bought a boxed version of Navgator. It never worked. Its installer was too buggy. It even broke the previously working connection: I spent hours reinstalling Compuserve and cleaning up stuff.

When Microsoft stopped selling IE separately, it was obvious that if Netscape hoped to continue charging for Navigator, they would have to bundle it with an operating system. Incapable of making that leap, they gave up, and gave Navigator to "the community".

I've been using Firefox and Thunderbird for a few years. I'm usually glad I do, and, although I don't consider myself apt to add or improve their c code, I have contributed by providing information on bugs.

I recently decided it was time to update the version of Thunderbird I use: I'd been using 1.07 for months, and 1.5 is now current. Yesterday seemed like a good time to undertake this: a cool, cloudly/rainy late October Sunday with an hour time change.

Maybe Mozilla software has gotten more stable, its installation more sure-fire. I, for one, liked the more thorough notes on releases and installation of the earlier versions. They would explain the directory structure for each platform, note changes versus earlier versions, and advise on how best to install over an older version. But no more: simply download, click to indicate agreement after reading the license, wait a moment, and it is done! No need to back up your mail files or bookmarks.

This time, I decided, I would do a cleaner installation. I would uninstall first, and install to a new directory to be double sure all the old program was gone (or if bits remained, I could find and remove them). Why? To avoid accumulating more and more obsolete files on my disk. For example, whereas my current mail files are in "Application Data\Thunderbird\Profiles\", there is an "Application Data\Mozilla\Profiles\default\" branch with "Mail" in it, last accessed over two years ago. Has all its content been imported to the newer directories? Can I delete it? Why didn't the installer do so, or propose to do so, two years ago? I backed up my mail files and ran UninstallThunderbird (via Control Panel, etc.) before install.

After uninstalling, I note:
  1. The "Application Data\Mozilla\Profiles\default\" branch is still there. Not surprising, since it was not supposed to uninstall Mozilla. Maybe I'll delete it myself.
  2. The "Application Data\Thunderbird\Profiles\" is still there (good, I won't need my mail backup), but not just mail and address book data has been preserved: Mozilla-specific such as "chrome" and "extensions" are still there, and not empty.
  3. The "Program Files\Mozilla Thunderbird\" directory is still there, and not empty.
  4. The registry still has about a hundred keys including "Thunder" (plus some including "THUNDE~1" which I didn't count). Yes, I actually searched with regedit and exported each of the involved keys to a file. Took about an hour, I guess.

Since I'll be installing Thunderbird fresh, I won't actually take the risk of editing the registry by hand. But I'm really disappointed that this uninstall was so incomplete.

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