Your Obedient Serpent (athelind) wrote,
Your Obedient Serpent

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Thunderbird Sucks. E-Mail Sucks.

I need a new e-mail program.

Some background:

For years, I used Pegasus. It was kind of annoying, because I had half-a-dozen e-mail accounts, and Peg dumps everything into a single inbox. I set up filters to direct mail from different accounts into different folders, but Peg doesn't have an option for "account you downloaded from". If you try to pick out "To:", no matter how many filter rules you add, multi-person cc:s and bcc:s will always slip through the cracks.

As spam became a bigger and bigger part of e-mail traffic, I just... stopped checking mail. I got out of the habit. I let it pile up to the point that I COULDN'T deal with it. Pegasus -- at least the older version I was using -- didn't have any spam filter capacity.

Quel switched to Mozilla Thunderbird a couple of years ago, and I've long put off following suit -- in fact, part of my e-mail procrastination was "I'll catch up and start checking it regularly when I get Thunderbird installed." A major hinderance was that I have an idiosyncratic system configuration: as far as I can manage it, I reserve my 20-gig C: drive for applications only, and I set up those applications to save documents and data onto the 80-gig D: drive. Given my druthers, I'd druther not use the nested Windows "Documents and Settings" folders at all.

While Pegasus will let you change the location of the MAIL folder without issue, the standard version of Thunderbird has no simple or convenient way do do so. Instructions abound online for using C++ to apply PERL commands to grep the edlin logedit of the INI file -- okay, I'm making that up, but it's a convoluted set of hoops for something that should be a simple dialogue box. Trying to move the folders to the D: drive, as one site suggested, left Thunderbird drooling like the victim of a 72-hourBeavis and Butthead marathon.

Finally, I went with Thunderbird Portable, a version designed to run off a thumb drive or other portable media. It's self-contained, so it doesn't treat a permanently-installed drive as any different from a removable drive.

Unfortunately, that doesn't mean it's stable.

The crux of the matter is that there's something about Thunderbird that destabilizes my whole system. At first, I was opening it up and leaving it running in the background, checking for mail every few minutes. My system started acting erratically, hanging up for a few seconds at a time, and taking an unusually long time to perform simple functions like switching from window to window**.

The temperature readout on the front of my computer told me that it was well past time to dust it out; when it starts pushing 100F, it starts acting glitchy, and with the central heater running this time of year, there's that much more dust and heat to worry about. So, a couple of cans of compressed air later, and a 113F operating temp was back down to a cool, happy 84F.

And the glitches kept on coming. I'd have to reboot every couple of days.

I'm still getting back in the habit of checking mail regularly, so I'd frequently go a day or two after a reboot without firing up Thunderbird. After about a week, it dawned on me... my system ran just fine until I opened up Thunderbird. It ran notoriously resource-heavy and buggy software like Second Life, it ran with heavy multi-tasking on two monitors, it ran as well or better than ever... until. I. Opened. Thunderbird.

I started changing variables. First, I changed the settings so that it wasn't checking mail every few minutes -- it only downloaded when I specifically told it to. That didn't help; the glitches continued until I rebooted.

I changed the way I used the program: instead of leaving it open and hitting the button to check mail periodically, I'd open it, read mail, and close it immediately. It didn't matter; the system continued to destablize even with it shut down.

I think Thunderbird has a serious memory leak, or something of that nature.

And I think that, ironically, it Doesn't Play Well With Firefox, particularly when Firefox is trying to interact with other software. My MUCK client, BeipMU, features clickable links. When my system is running smoothly, they pop up without a hitch. When there's some kind of glitch, they're the canary in the coal mine. This morning, I noted that the transition from "a little twitchy" to "completely unusable" didn't happen until I clicked on links in BeipMU to open them up in Firefox.

Thunderbird had, at that point, been closed between 8 and 12 hours.

Older versions of Second Life used to do the same thing. If I had SL, BeipMU, and Firefox open all at the same time (which I do regularly), clicking on a BeipMU link would slow the whole system down like the 880 at rush hour***. On the other claw, that would clear up once SL had been shut down for a while. This glitch requires a reboot every time I open Thunderbird.

And that does not facilitate my New Year's Resolution to keep caught up with my mail.

An important note: it's not just my system. quelonzia reports that Thunderbird makes both her work and home systems unstable, too -- to the point of crashing, thanks to the heavy number crunching her accountantware does. However, she also says that this is a recent development; it may be something peculiar to the current version.

So, I have a twofold question:

Poll #904263 E-Mail Alternatives

Have other people had this problem with Thunderbird?

Yes, all the time.
Yes, but it only started recently.
No, never.
How dare you suggest that an Open-Source product could possibly be flawed? You just want proprietary DRM on everything, you tool!
Shut up! Just... shut up!!

What should Your Obedient Serpent do about his e-mail problems?

Outlook! Are you crazy!? Is that your problem? Why not just log onto IRC and ask people to send you viruses directly? That way, you can cut out the middleman!
Try Eudora! Really! It's still around!
Go back to Pegasus! When was the last time you updated it, anyway?
Try some other client I rave about in the comments!
Stick with Thunderbird, and hope the glitch goes away with the next update.
Install Thunderbird on an otherwise-unused machine (like your laptop), and use it as a dedicated mail computer.
Go back to ignoring your e-mail entirely and snapping angrily about how the whole e-mail system is broken any time someone tries to send you something.
Stop trying to make your computer do what YOU want to do, and just accept the decisions the software designers make for you.
Learn to program yourself, dammit.
Shut up! Just... shut up

* If I may digress, I don't consider spam filters to be a solution. When 80-90% of the global e-mail traffic comes from unsolicited advertisements, that's a burden on the entire infrastructure. Local filtering doesn't stop that, it only hides it. There's also the contiual problem of mail that you actually want getting caught in the filter. "Oh, just go through your junk folder before you delete it all!" Um, how is that helpful? I still have to pick through all the spam to find the stuff I want to read!

** Yes, I know that from a programming standpoint, task-switching is a complex, sophisticated function, but the OS is supposedly designed to handle them at a low level, so when they get glitchy, it's a Sign Something Is Wrong.

*** For those of you who don't live in the Bay Area, the the difference between the 880 at rush hour and a parking lot is that you have some hope of getting out of the parking lot.

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