If I appear to be slower to respond to e-mail lately, it’s because my two-year-old MacBook Pro broke down last week, leaving me without access to my local data. It started with some occasional graphical glitches (see video) but it only took a few days until the computer wouldn’t boot anymore. Interestingly, during this gradual fail, the rEFIt boot menu that normally allowed me to start Linux suddenly disappeared. The first time it disappeared, I could restore it by resetting the PROM memory, but now it’s just gone.
Macs are weird in so many ways. You can’t just install Linux and expect it to work — you have to install additional software like rEFIt just to boot into another OS than Mac OS X. Furthermore, you can’t just plug a USB stick in and boot from it. In short, Apple is the very definition of locked down proprietary technology and it annoys the hell out of me.
I’m sick and tired of Macs and I’ve decided to even out the remarkably unbalanced Mac/PC ratio at Mozilla by getting a PC as my next computer. I’ve also decided to give in to my passion for Linux and use it as my full-time OS from now on.
While I’m waiting for my new computer to arrive, I’m writing this from Sofie’s little 12″ PC running Ubuntu. It works like a charm, but I am definitely not as productive as I was with my own computer. I sometimes have to let go of the computer for a few minutes so Sofie can check her mail — after all, I’m the one borrowing her computer. However, the biggest reason why I’m not as productive as I was before my MacBook broke is that I don’t have access to my local data.
Two things I’m a lot more dependent on than I ever thought:
The local address book of Thunderbird
The local AwesomeBar data of Firefox
I’m working on getting a Linux Live CD (Sofie’s laptop doesn’t have a CD burner) to boot up my MacBook and transfer all my local data to this computer so I can resume full productivity speed again.
For various reasons (the main reason being pretty bad experiences with the Thunderbird development builds in the past), it’s been almost a year since I tried the nightly builds of Thunderbird. Today, however, is a new day, and I was pleasantly surprised when I decided to give what will eventually become Thunderbird 3 another go.
I like what I see so far! The most obvious change is the addition of a tab bar, which on first thought might seem like a pointless concept in a mail application. However, when thinking more about how e-mail works (and just about any other form of communication for that matter), you realize that it’s very much and constant exchange of information back and forth. Incidentally, tabs are about exactly that.
I often find myself switching between reading an old e-mail and composing a response, and having those as two tabs would be much more convenient than switching windows (which is always a hassle on the Mac if both windows belong to the same app). Right now it doesn’t look like it’s possible to get the compose window in a tab, but let’s hope that will come in the future.
I’m also hoping that a double click on an e-mail would open in a new tab rather than a window. Or how about dragging an e-mail to the tab strip!
There is some UI redundancy that I’m guessing is still being thought out. For example, when you select an e-mail you see two Reply buttons; one in the main toolbar with an easily recognizable icon, and another text-only button in the preview pane. The latter feels more contextual, but it makes the traditional icon feel redundant.
Shredder –- using the retro looking icon made by Jason Kersey.
The development builds of Thunderbird 3 go under the not exactly reassuring name “Shredder” and can be downloaded from mozilla.org — obviously at your own risk; be sure to back up your mail first. Overall, I’m really excited to see that things are moving forward with Thunderbird Shredder and I’ll definitely stay on the trunk from now on (or at least until it actually lives up to its temporary name).