• 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!

    Update February 2018: Meanwhile I have published my mail config incl. astroid, notmuch, offlineimap etc. It is a rather complicated and special setup but perhaps it will help you.

    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!

  • Erste Eindrücke aus Tansania

    Pole pole – das ist die typisch tansanische Mentalität, alles etwas ruhiger und langsamer angehen zu lassen. Und wahrscheinlich ist das auch der Grund, warum ich erst einen Monat nach meiner Ankunft in Tansania dazu komme, einen ersten Blogeintrag über meine bisherigen Erfahrungen zu schreiben. Ich bin hier von Anfang März bis Ende Juli als Freiwilliger in einer Organisation tätig, die die Bildung von jungen Menschen und der ländlichen Bevölkerung durch Einsatz und Schulung von IT verbessern will. Im Folgenden möchte ich kurz einen Rundumblick über mein Leben hier und die Bedingungen geben, konkret über meinen Alltag, die Gefahren, meine Arbeit als Freiwilliger, die einheimische Bevölkerung und Kultur, Wetter und Natur sowie das liebe Geld:

    Mein Alltag

    Blick auf das "Dach Afrikas" von unserer Haustür

    Blick auf das „Dach Afrikas“ von unserer Haustür

    Ich wohne mit meiner Freundin in einer 3-Zimmer-WG im Stadtzentrum von Moshi, nahe des Kilimanjaros. Die Woche über arbeite ich momentan bis mittags im Moshi Institute of Technology, einer Art Volkshochschule mit Kursen im Bereich IT, Buchhaltung und Sprachen, welche von TAREO (Tanzania Rural Empowerment Organization) geleitet wird (dazu später mehr). Der Rest des Tages (nahezu alle Ehrenamtlichen in der Stadt arbeiten halbtags) geht hier mit ungewöhnlich zeitraubenden Aktivitäten wie Kochen, Einkaufen auf dem Markt und vom teils tierischen heißen Wetter ausruhen (zwischen 13 und 15 Uhr gehen selbst Transanier ungern auf die Straße) drauf. Die Länge des Tages wird durch die sehr früh einsetzende Dunkelheit um etwa 19 Uhr limitiert, nach der wir Wazungu (Mzungu = Ausländer, Weißer) nicht auf die Straße sollten, mehr dazu später. Am Wochenende bekommen wir Ehrenamtlichen für gewöhnlich frei, um die Stadt und Gegend zu erkunden, Trips zu unternehmen oder uns von der oft geistig anstrengenden Arbeit zu erholen.


    Eine der häufigsten Fragen ist die nach der Gefährlichkeit. Kurzum: Es ist nicht viel gefährlicher als in einer deutschen Großstadt, wenn man sich nicht vollkommen daneben verhält und ein paar Grundregeln beachtet. Tagsüber haben wir noch nie davon gehört, dass jemand beklaut wurde, obwohl wir allein von der Hautfarbe her natürlich extrem auffällig sind. Moshi gilt als sehr sicher (was auf einige andere südlichere Großstädte in Tansania allerdings nicht zutrifft). Die größte Gefahr im Hellen ist es, in der ersten Zeit auf einen der zahlreichen Straßenverkäufer reinzufallen, die einem zuerst erzählen, wie toll sie arme Waisenkinder unterstützen und nach 5 Minuten plötzlich dubiose Safaris oder Halsketten anbieten – aber da lernt man schnell draus :) [ » Read More…]

  • I love Taskwarrior, therefore I love Free Software

    ilovefs-heart-pxIt’s Valentine’s day and you’re writing a blog post? Are you nuts?“ you might ask. Well, but it’s not only Valentine’s day but also I love Free Software day. This day is proclaimed every year on February 14 by the Free Software Foundation Europe to thank all developers and contributors of Free Software (software you can use for any purpose, which source code you or others can analyze, which can be modified and distributed).

    As last year with ZNC, I want to say thank you to a specific project which easies my daily life. As you might know by other blog posts here, organisation of tasks, mails and almost everything else is a very important issue for me. So this year I want to write some lines about Taskwarrior, taskd and Mirakel which enable me to take some free time without thinking of task which I could possibly forget to accomplish later on.

    My head is full of ideas and mental To-Do lists and so I’m in need of a handy tool which allows me to write down and organise items at any place and time: At my desk, in bus or train, when I’m offline or abroad. And its important that I don’t have (analog and digital) bits of paper everywhere, so I need a system that syncs all task inputs and outputs. I tried a lot of tools but Taskwarrior was the best so far. It used the well-known „Getting Things Done“ concept with different priorities. Taskwarrior also supports tagging tasks, organising them in projects, due dates, postponing, making tasks dependend on others and much more. And Taskwarrior has a (modifyable) algorhythm that sorts your tasks by urgency levels, so that the most important tasks always are on the top of the list. Even now I just took a glance at what Taskwarrior is able to do!

    Picture of a woman with a chalk board which expresses her apreciation for Taskwarrior

    Someone who loves Taskwarrior as much as I do

    Services and programs that organise tasks aren’t very special!“ one might think. But if you prefer sorting tasks digitally, you cannot simply chose a random todo-organising service provider. Most of the tools and services on the market aren’t free and transparent. All input may no longer belong to you, all the gathered information (which is a lot if you think of it!) could be used for targeted ads or worse. You cannot modify the algorhythm to suit your needs. And what happens if the service provider goes bankrupt? All data, all project history and all pending tasks would be lost at once. So using a free (as in freedom), decentralised, maybe self-hosted service is the best idea to organise your tasks decentrally. [ » Read More…]

  • My internship at FSFE

    I recently saw that the Free Software Foundation Europe is offering a new and very interesting internship position. That’s a great opportunity for every student interested in Free Software and political activism — and for me to write about my internship I completed from October 2013 until end of March 2014. Here’s a report I wrote some time ago:

    Starting from October 2013 I was able to work 6 months as an intern for the Free Software Foundation Europe in Berlin. This was an internship required by my bachelor degree course at the University of Konstanz (Germany) where I study Politics and Public Administration. Some years before my internship I already was an FSFE Fellow and then decided to apply there.

    My daily tasks contained monitoring and moderation of the various mailing lists and social network accounts. There were also various technical jobs to do: Updating and creating single websites, sending out newsletters, fixing smaller bugs on our pages and so on.

    The bigger part in my internship was political work. In Germany, various ISPs want to hinder end consumers to freely choose a router because they only want officially supported ones. Such policy comes with serious consequences for security, free competition, trust in technology, and compatibility. My tasks contained analysing regulation drafts, writing statements for public hearings and coordination with other activists. We summarized the issue and our work on https://fsfe.org/activities/routers

    After the parliamentary elections in Germany 2013 I analysed the Grand Coalition’s agreement to identify possible positive and negative effects on Free Software. I also was able to visit several politicians in the German Bundestag to talk with them about Free Software and upcoming important tasks we wanted to work on.

    Besides I helped a lot organising our various campaigns like „Document Freedom Day“ and „I love Free Software“. For many of these political tasks and campaigns I wrote press releases and public statements.

    During my internship I learned a lot about the structure and work in a multinational organisation and how to collaborate and talk with different people around the world. Another plus is the know-how I aquired by helping planning the various campaigns and analyses. When I was in Brussels and Chemnitz to help at FSFE’s booths during conferences I also learned very much about how to talk with people of all kinds and how to carry ideas and convictions to others.

    I will never regret applying for and completing the internship at FSFE. There were so many theoretical and practical things no study course can teach. Being able to work at the interface between communities, companies and politics is something every interested student should be granted.

    I want to thank everybody who enabled the FSFE to offer these internships. Organisations like the Free Software Foundation Europe are important to bring equality and freedom to our society and these internships allow students to get an insight into this very interesting area of activity.

    This internship was a very general one so I was able to work in many different areas of FSFE’s activity. The offered internship is mostly about Document Freedom Day, FSFE’s largest campaign in which I also invested a lot of time. I’m quite sure that this position is also very interesting — and very important as well! So if you want to take responsibility and want to learn much about collaboration, worldwide activism and public relations, go ahead and apply for this internship!

    If you are interested in this internship but you have some questions left, please feel free to ask me anything.

  • 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…]