in post

Things that I’ve learned this week

I've been spending some more time with plain text, the console and email programs

Email clients

Although I've embraced Mutt as an email client, in parallel I've also been in a fight to find a better system. I revisited Evolution and Thunderbird and tried Claws too. I thought that if I would use Evolution with OfflineImap, things could go better. But I had a great deal of difficulty with the Nametrans that is supposed to make that possible and in parallel, continuing problems with crashes on sending emails. And sometimes the program would refuse to shutdown properly. I abandoned it as unstable. With Thunderbird, my problem was that it would choke on my email store and become unusable for precious minutes, so I gave up on that too. In fairness, I did not give Claws enough time: there were some problems, again due to Imap. In order to use Claws with OfflineImap, I would need to set up a mail server, such as Dovecot. But I didn't feel like playing around even more. I already had a mail client that works (Mutt) and decided I should stick with it.

In the beginning I found various obstacles to using Mutt. There's something about looking at a console that (for a person that became used to a gui), generates panic. It's like groping around in the dark. For instance, I found it difficult to attach files. And did not understand properly how to get my search results from Mairix (the search engine that can be used with Mutt). There are also so many things that can be configured with Mutt that this too took me a while. The temptation to just go back into online Gmail was and remains great. But slowly I'm getting used to Mutt and discovering its power. I can see how so many people get hooked.

Plain text editors

For my editor in Mutt, my options are somewhat limited since I also need to use Hebrew. There is one console that is supposed to work with right to left languages: mlterm. I haven't studied it. Besides that I can use Gedit, Yudit or a KDE program like Kate. I've stuck with Gedit so far for my email editor.

But when I'm not writing email, I need only English. So there my options are wider. I can use practically any of the myriad text editors that exist on Linux. I prefer an editor that offers syntax highlighting for Markdown, but I haven't settled on one single editor so far. I've tried Gedit, Scribes, Cream (a Gvim variant with more intuitive shortcuts), Joe, Pyroom and Retext.


In all my 12 or 13 years with Linux I've probably never spent as much time in the console as in recent weeks. One of the things that I've learned to do in the last couple of days has been to learn to upload my console-powered static blog (under Blazeblogger), without going into Filezilla. I found a recipe for a simple LFTP script on the web. At first it didn't work with my server. I didn't understand why, but then found that I needed to add a line to LFTP's configuration file (set ftp:ssl-allow no). Using this script takes another hurdle out of blogging with my static blog. It's all about psychology, after all.

Working offline

There's something about the internet that makes me want to restrict the time that I spend there, at least in the classical way of surfing the web and participating in social networking sites. So I'm devising a number of ways to avoid this. First of all, I've started not to visit, and to avoid entirely sites that only permit me to follow conversations when Online. I'd rather use a client like Gwibber, which allows me both to follow what's being said on Twitter and while offline. I can also post my own status, of course, which somehow I feel more comfortable about doing when I'm offline. It may not so conventional but for me the future of social-networking involves being able to read all of my messages in one central location outside of a web browser, just like email.

Gwibber is not really an "offline" client, but only a desktop social networking client. However most of the articles I read on the web I discover first either in my RSS feeds or on Twitter. RSS does allow me to read many of those articles offline. I aggregate them under Opera. It makes them look like email, but recent changes in Opera have improved their appearance. The problem of course is that many sites do not provide a full rss stream but only a line or two from the article. Then I need to visit their web pages. There's an additional problem that when I want to bookmark these sites, my method for doing that has been to use Pinboard. I use Pinboard not so much because I want to share these articles, but because I don't so much like Opera's bookmarking system. So I have to follow the link to the original site even though I have already read the article. Now I'm thinking that instead of visiting the original articles, I will flag or label them like email messages under Opera. It's true that this will mean that some articles are flagged, and that others are shared on Pinboard; but anyway I subscribe to my own rss stream on Pinboard, so it doesn't matter: they all end up in Opera's email system.

I've also been playing with wget in order to download articles rather than visit their websites (a la Richard Stallman), but that's just an experiment that I'm still thinking about.