Migrating Apps — KMail — 1

My last major app to migrate is KMail. I saved the most challenging migration for last. I have delayed migrating KMail for a long time. My reason for procrastinating is simple. I have been using KMail for many years. My comfort level runs deep with respect to migrating to a different mail client. Email is important. Only a successful migration is acceptable.

I am using KMail from the Trinity Desktop Environment (TDE) and previously KDE 3. KMail is the only mail client I have used with Linux based systems. Previously in my Windows NT4 days of long ago I used Eudora.

Email is one of those apps that once configured people tend to forget the gory details. I am no different. Plodding through new configuration options as well as security and privacy tweaks is not something I am looking toward with enthusiasm. I still remember my migration from Eudora to KMail. The process took several days with much tinkering and tweaking of migration scripts. I expect no less with this migration.

The KDE 3 and TDE versions have worked well enough for me. I am not an email power user. I am content with the basics, some filtering, and templates. I have no need for message tagging or priorities. I am not an email junkie or pack rat. I use a 2 or 3 year limit for archiving most mails.

While I did try KMail in the early KDE 4 days, I have since refused to consider the KDE 4 version after Akonadi and Nepomuk became PIM non-negotiable requirements. Even if those “pillars” were ripped from the system or truly optional, there are other unwanted changes made to KMail, not to forget all of the dependencies just to run KMail. Browsing the web indicates more than a few people have abandoned KDE 4 PIM apps. Too bad because KMail often had decent reviews in days long gone.

My primary reason for migrating KMail is to have a cross-distro email client. I dual boot my office system between Slackware running MATE and Ubuntu MATE 16.04. I would like to access my mail from either distro. I do not have KMail installed in Ubuntu MATE. Likewise when I use my laptop with the same distros. While installing TDE apps in Ubuntu is a simple process of adding appropriate repositories, in Slackware I have to compile the apps. I do not want to compile a boat load of TDE dependencies just to run KMail.

I want an email client that fits MATE.

There really is only one free/libre email client that is cross-platform and cross-distro. Thunderbird. Thunderbird now supports maildir. I am hoping to migrate my KMail maildir structure. While I much prefer migrating all existing mail folders, I am not making that a rigid requirement. Nonetheless I prefer to remain with maildir rather than mbox. Another reason I want to remain with maildir is eventually I want to install a local network IMAP email server. Then my mail access will be centralized and not machine or app specific.

I spent several afternoons tinkering with Thunderbird without a serious migration push. Just learn my way around, such as the differing terminology, layout, and settings.

On first starting Thunderbird users are greeted with a dialog to configure an email address. A helpful gesture. Sadly, even when the user selects the “later” option, each restart of Thunderbird prompts the same annoying dialog. We all are adults here. “Later” should mean later as in leave me alone and stop nagging. Shades of Windows 10 nag notices.

I configured a system mail address. I use system mails a lot in my LAN to notify me of LAN events and potential problems. These are standard mbox files stored in /var/mail.

I configured maildir as my default storage. Sadly there is no GUI control. Users have to edit the config prefs:


@mozilla.org/msgstore/berkeleystore;1 -> @mozilla.org/msgstore/maildirstore;1

Having been a Firefox user from the Netscape 3 and 4 days, I long have used a user.js file to keep certain preferences fixed. Using my Firefox user.js file as a template I built a new user.js file for Thunderbird. Despite many articles online about using user.js to configure security and privacy options in Firefox, there are almost no such articles for Thunderbird.

An oddity with Thunderbird is search engine support, something called Open Search. While I am a Thunderbird newbie, at the moment I see no need for web search engines in an email client. Any web searching I do would be performed in Firefox. That said, I copied a few search engine plugins from Firefox to Thunderbird. Yeah, like I really am going to use Bing or Yahoo. I prefer privacy oriented search engines.

I am surprised there is no built-in minimize-to-tray option. Such a fundamental feature in all computer desktops these days.

I am uncomfortable with the fine line Thunderbird offers with respect to web interfaces. Thunderbird defaults to always activating the Flash plugin if installed. The default should be Ask to activate or Never activate. I appreciate that this pseudo web support is because of the RSS support, but safe defaults should be used.

I am not a calender junkie. I disabled Lightning. ReminderFox has been doing well for me. With ReminderFox installed in both Firefox and Thunderbird I am unlikely to miss reminder events.

While I see some potential benefit with tabs in a mail client, I want to use Thunderbird with as much similarity to KMail as possible. Basic comfort level. I disabled the tab bar (mail.tabs.autoHide). As I never used the preview pane in KMail (or Eudora), I likewise toggled off the preview pane in Thunderbird (keyboard shortcut F8).

Next was disabling Chat (mail.chat.enabled). I want an email client and not the kitchen sink. Disabling chat also requires opening the Customize dialog to remove the Chat button from various toolbars.

Font sizes were another challenge. Once again, font sizes are too small for my comfort. Small font sizes are an epidemic nowadays in software and web design.

To mask my computer’s internal host name I modified the mail.smtpserver.default.hello_argument option to I prefer to mask the host name of my system in the mail headers. Just a nominal security and privacy layer. I accept that my public IP address is part of the standard header information and I am not hiding my origination location, but I see no reason why anybody should know the host name of my computer or the internal private IP address. I prefer to mask that information. Basically sending a custom HELO string to SMTP servers.

More work remained. I have 8 accounts to migrate. I have to test certain accounts in certain ways. For example, BCC is used with one account almost all the time. One account supports aliases. I have to import maildir folders and files. Templates and filters are needed.

Posted: Category: Usability Tagged: General, Migrate

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