• I love astroid! #ilovefs

    Hugo and me declaring our love to astroid

    You cannot imagine how long I’ve waited to write this blog post. Normally I’m not the bragging kind of guy but for this year’s edition of my „I love Free Software“ declaration articles (after 2014, 2015 and 2016) I just want to shout out to the world: I have the world’s best mail client: astroid!

    Okay, maybe I’ll add two or three words to explain why I am so grateful to the authors of this awesome Free Software application. Firstly, I should note that until ~6 months ago I have used Thunderbird – extended with lots of add-ons but still a mail user agent that most of you will know. But with each new email and project it became obvious to me that I have to find a way to organise my tenthousands of mails in a better way: not folder-based but tag-based, but not to the expense of overview and comfort.

    Thanks to Hugo I became aware of astroid, an application that unites my needs and is open to multiple workflows. Let’s read how astroid describes itself:

    Astroid is a lightweight and fast Mail User Agent that provides a graphical interface to searching, display and composing email, organized in thread and tags. Astroid uses the notmuch backend for blazingly fast searches through tons of email. Astroid searches, displays and composes emails – and rely on other programs for fetching, syncing and sending email.

    My currently unread and tagged emails

    Astroid is roughly 3 years old, is based on sup, and is mainly developed by Gaute Hope, an awesome programmer who encourages people – also non-programmers like me – to engage in the small and friendly community.

    Why is astroid so cool?

    That’s one secret of astroid: it doesn’t try to catch up to programs that do certain jobs very well already. So astroid relies on external POP/IMAP fetching (e.g. offlineimap), SMTP server (e.g. msmtp), email indexing (notmuch), and mail editors (e.g. vim, emacs). This way, astroid can concentrate on offering a unique interface that unites many strenghts:

    Saved searches on the left, a new editor window on the right

    • astroid encourages you to use tabs. Email threads open in a new tab, a newly composed message is a separate tab, as well as a search query. You won’t loose any information when you write an email while researching in your archive while keeping an eye on incoming unread mails. If your tab bar becomes too long, just open another astroid instance.
    • It can be used by either keyboard or mouse. Beginners value to have a similar experience as with mouse-based mail agents like Thunderbird, experts hunt through their mails with the configurable keyboard shortcuts.
    • Tagging of emails is blazingly fast and efficient. You can either tag single mails or whole email threads with certain keywords that you can freely choose. Astroid doesn’t impose a certain tagging scheme on its users.
    • astroid already included the possibility to read HTML or GPG-exncrypted emails. No need to create a demotivatingly huge configuration file like with mutt.
    • Theming your personal astoid is easy. The templates can be configured using HTML and CSS syntax.
    • It is expandable by Python and lua plugins.
    • It’s incredibly fast! Thunderbird or Evolution users will never have to bother with 20+ seconds startup time anymore. Efficiency hooray!

      On startup, I see my saved search queries

    Because it is open to any workflow, you can also easily use astroid with rather uncommon workflows. I, personally, use a mix of folder- and tag-based sorting. My mail server automatically moves incoming mails to certain folders (mostly based on mailing lists) which is important to me because I often use my mobile phone that doesn’t include a tagging-based email client, too. But with my laptop I can add additional tags or tag unsorted mails. Based on these tags, I again sort these mails to certain folders to reduce the amount of mails lying around in my unsorted inbox. Such a strange setup would have been impossible with many other email agents but with astroid (almost) everything is possible.

    Did I convince you? Well, certainly not. Switching one’s email client is a huge step because for most people it involves changing the way how most of theor digital communication happens. But hopefully I convinced you to have a look at astroid and think about whether this awesome client may fulfill some of your demands better than your existing one. If you already use notmuch, a local SMTP server, offlineimap, procmail or other required parts, testing astroid will be very easy for you. And if your way to using astroid will be longer, as mine was, feel free to ask me or the helpful community.

    PS: FSFE activists in Berlin carried out two awesome activities for ILoveFS!

  • Endgerätefreiheit testen – Es sind wieder Router verfügbar!

    mirsasha, CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

    mirsasha, CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

    Seit dem 1. August herrscht – auch dank der langfristigen Arbeit der FSFE – gesetzlich Endgerätefreiheit in Deutschland, sprich alle Kundinnen und Kunden eines DSL- oder Kabelanbieters sollen die Freiheit haben, ein Modem oder Router ihrer Wahl anzuschließen, ohne systematisch benachteiligt zu werden. Doch halten die Anbieter das wirklich ein? Die FSFE testet das mit Hilfe großartiger Freiwilliger, denen wir alternative Testgeräte zuschicken. Und davon sind aktuell wieder ein paar verfügbar und warten auf neue Tester!

    Auf der Wiki-Seite für den Anschlusstest haben wir mittlerweile für viele größere wie kleinere Anbieter Erfahrungen von Leuten gesammelt. Man erhält dadurch eine schnelle Übersicht, bei welchem Anbieter es Probleme geben könnte und wie diese am besten zu lösen sind. Für einige Anbieter wie Unitymedia haben wir schon viele Ergebnisse erhalten, doch bei einigen anderen populären wie zum Beispiel der Telekom oder 1&1 sieht es noch mau aus. Daher würden ich und die FSFE sich freuen, wenn Kunden solcher Anbieter versuchen würden, einen alternativen Router anzuschließen. [ » Read More…]

  • I love Free Software (Apps)

    Yoda-ilovefsDo you know being in a restaurant and getting a menu which is longer than the average novel, and you cannot decide for a single meal because every single one sounds more delicious than the other? That’s similar to the problem I was having when writing this blog post…

    Today is the „I love Free Software“ day, on which people all over the world say „thank you“ to contributors of Free Software, often created in free time and with lots of passion. This is software you can use for any purpose, which source code you or others can analyse, which can be modified and distributed – any program respecting these essential freedoms benefits a fair society, and our most personal privacy and security in return.

    After I thanked ZNC and Taskwarrior last Valentine’s Days, this year I want to focus on software running on the device that’s almost always in my pocket. My mobile phone is the gatekeeper of most of my communication: short messages, pictures, emails, social media, todo lists, calendar… it’s amazing thinking about what this tiny computer has to achieve to satisfy my needs. But of course, I also want to use as much Free Software as possible to secure my sensitive data. And because of that I cannot name a single software but have to list a few which I depend on almost every single day, and I want to sincerely thank the people contributing to them! [ » Read More…]

  • Setting Openstreetmap as default in Thunderbird’s contacts

    Thunderbird contact map buttonIf you use Thunderbird and its contact functionality, you might already have stumbled over the „show on map“ feature. If you add addresses to your contacts (no matter if directly in Thunderbird or via CalDAV) there appears a button which enabled you to open a map with the contact’s location.

    The default search provider is Google Maps. If you don’t like this service and prefer free and open systems like me, you can also add openstreetmap.org as your default map service. You only have to change a value in the advanced configuration.

    Open the Settings menu, select the Advanced panel, select the General tab, and click Config Editor. Now copy in the search field: mail.addr_book.mapit_url.format and double click on the string to edit it.

    You should now see the default value. It’s nothing more than an URL with variables defined by the street, the country or the postal code of the respective contact. If you want to use Openstreetmap, fill in this value:

    Restart Thunderbird and test again with an existing contact. By clicking on the button you should now see OSM instead of Google Maps where you can select one of the results in the left sidebar. Congratulations!

    Further reading:
    For more information about Thunderbird’s config editor, see the official knowledgebase entry
    If you want to set other variables in the map query, there’re some hints on Mozilla’s Hidden prefs guide

  • Birthday Calendar with ownCloud via CalDAV

    Thunderbird Lightning

    Not a big issue in this blog post but an important one. Maybe I can save you some valuable time if you ever look for such a function.

    As you know I’m a heavy user of ownCloud and you also might know that synchronisation is a big topic for me. And the third thing you should know that forgetting a good friend’s birthday really su… well, it’s no good style. This almost happened to me some days ago because I couldn’t check it on my Notebook with Thunderbird. My setup looks like this: All contacts (with birthday tags) in ownCloud, and these CardDAV address books are synced with my Android phone and Thunderbird/SOGo-Connector on my notebook, as well as the CalDAV calendars with Lightning.

    For Android there are several free software apps which enable the inclusion of birthdays from your contacts into any calendar app. Some calendar apps even can do it theirselves. But for Thunderbird there are only some outdated add-ons. All of them don’t work with TB31 anymore and if you modify the install.rdf-file to make them run anyhow, they’re very buggy or just nonfunctional. And if you look in your ownCloud instance (where contacts‘ birthdays are visible in the calendar tab) for a downloadable/syncable calendar you’ll reach the same conclusion like me: There is none.

    But there is! [ » Read More…]

  • Guter E-Mail-Stil

    Heutzutage ist schriftlicher Stil in E-Mails ebenso wichtig wie eine angemessene Sprechweise oder standardisierte Floskeln und Höflichkeiten in Briefen. E-Mails sind trotz Short Messaging wie per SMS, WhatsApp oder Facebook weiterhin die bedeutenste digitale Kommunikationsmöglichkeit.
    Das ist auch der Grund, weshalb ein guter E-Mail-Stil so enorm wichtig ist: Wir werden von E-Mails regelrecht bombardiert, auch wenn man den Spam nicht einmal mit einberechnet. Daher sollten wir uns und unseren Kommunikationspartnern die Sache erleichtern, indem wir einen guten, effizienten und dennoch freundlichen Umgang und Stil pflegen.

    Der Erstkontakt

    Sollte man derjenige sein, der eine E-Mail versendet, sind bereits einige Dinge sehr wichtig:
    [ » Read More…]

  • Organising micro task emails in Thunderbird

    The title of this post sounds very significant but to be honest, it’s a small thing.

    Everybody has her/his/its own workflow regarding emails. For example me: I LOVE folders! When it comes to the crunch I probably would be able to organise my whole life into folders.
    Well, at least this is what I thought until I began my internship at FSFE. I was used to a high income rate (do you say so?) before but something changed: Normally I read my emails and if something’s important, I open a new task in my taskmanager or simply write it down. In the office I also read lot’s of emails and can put them easily in folders via filters (in Thunderbird and with qmail/maildrop on my mailserver), for example emails in mailing lists.

    But now it is more often the case that by reading those emails, there are beginning some mini-tasks: Commit this translated file on the server, answer these emails, send out that package to a fellow (but not today, do it next Monday), and most importantly, book some restaurants for the General Assembly. You see, these are all small tasks, but they exist. In dozens. And I’m quite sure they will increase. But creating for each micro task a new task in my task manager (Getting Things Gnome by the way) is overload as well.
    For that I’m a forgetful technocrat sometimes, I wanted to pre-empt any mistakes and searched for methods to mark/tag those emails when reading them. Afterwards it should always be possible to find these marked/tagged with one click. In short, I needed a Remembrall, that additionally tells me, what I exactly forgot.

    Dear ladies and gentlemen, here’s my odyssey of finding the perfect method for me: [ » Read More…]