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Month: May 2017

Linux Daily Driver (Part 3): A Glimmer of Email Hope?

Linux Daily Driver (Part 3): A Glimmer of Email Hope?

Well it’s been a few weeks. My daily Linux use continues, so far, Ubuntu has been friendly on the Dell E7450, although I did bump the stock 8GB of RAM to 12GB (1 4GB and 1 8GB stick). I’ve been able to solve most of my problems. In a Windows environment, it’s taken some tricks, but I’m getting there.

  • Windows PC in my LAN room + RDP (Remmina Remote Desktop Client) for Active Directory management
  • Chrome/Firefox/Chromium for browsing
  • Sky – Skype for Business on Linux – (I think this is the most pleasant surprise of my switch to full time Linux. I was using the web based SfB client in Office 365 but it’s ok at best, Sky has been a breath of fresh air, I have some complaints, but it seems good overall.)
  • LibreOffice – Office…duh.

There’s still one unfilled need. Email clients. I can hear everyone now…and yes, I’ve tried using webmail, but with 4 email accounts, (2 work, 1 professional, 1 personal/social) it’s pretty shitty tabbing through those in a browser. (Yes I could only focus on the 2 work emails, but still not ideal).

In the last article, I mentioned Thunderbird’s runaway memory use, I haven’t tried it again with the extra 4GB of RAM, but with it being responsible for full system lock ups, I’m wary.  I seemed to have settled on to Geary. It served a need, it showed me my email, and let me send messages, great, barebones but effective. Then I heard Nylas Mail mentioned on Linux Unplugged. I think I came across Nylas in the past, when it was just the email service, not the application, but when I went to the website, I saw there was a free email client. It seemed to fit the needs of what I needed, so I downloaded it and got moving.

Well it seemed too good to be true. The interface was pleasant, I spent some time fiddling with the themes, browsing all the settings, it had great keyboard shortcut support and it just worked! It synced with my exchange account, 2 Gmail accounts and a FastMail account. So far so good. I could files emails in folders, I could send emails, this is good right? But then the problems popped up. It start with my exchange account, it was still syncing my folders for my exchange account DAYS later.

folderlistinNylasMailNow I have a lot of folders in my inbox, around 150, with a 100GB available inbox, everything I have is in my inbox. I’m only using <4GB of total space, but other apps allow me to set only 2 weeks of mail to sync, etc. Maybe I’ve found the practical limit for folders in Nylas, the other accounts were syncing fine, but not my exchange. And now, I wasn’t getting emails in my inbox, maybe the syncing folders was taking all of Nylas’ resources? I could deal with a lack of some synced folders, but no email in my inbox? That’s a basic need of email clients, show me my inbox. There is no way to manually sync email in Nylas, like a “Send/Receive” button or “Refresh”. (There is a “reload”, but it looks like that just refreshes the interface). I found myself needing to quit the app, kill any residual processes, and then relaunch to see new mail. No thanks.

Contacting support lead to an “uninstall/reinstall” for a fix, I’m an IT manager, that’s where I started. So after another uninstall, clearing the local email cache, and all that, I’ve started the sync OVER and now I’ll wait another few days and see what happens. Until then, I still don’t have an email client, I guess I’ll install Geary again.

So What’s This LinuxKit Thing?

So What’s This LinuxKit Thing?

Docker Logo
Docker Logo

So in the recent Dockercon announcements, a little dated by the time I wrote this (I move slow it seems), I was very intrigued to hear about Linuxkit. In the blog post announcing LinuxKit, Engineer Justin Cormack said that LinuxKit came about because “users wanted Linuxcontainer support but the platform itself did not ship with Linux included.” Docker was released on Mac OS and Windows, but the need was still there to have a Linux subystem as part of the container system.

What does that mean? Well Docker runs on Linux, configure your Docker containers on your Linux system, and get going. But not everyone in the world uses Linux, and to bring Docker to the Windows and Mac platform, Docker had to build a system to allow them to run the Linux subsystem parts they needed on the non-Linux platforms. That is, if you’re running Docker on Windows or Mac, you’re still running on Linux. Thus, LinuxKit was born. Swapnil Bhartiya said in is CIO Article – “LinuxKit…allows organizations to build their own containerized operating systems that are secure, lean, modular and portable.”

Docker partnered with some big names to make this happen, companies like HPE, Intel, IBM and Microsoft, and of course the Linux Foundation. It’s as architecture compatible as possible, bare metal, Virtual Machine, x86, ARM, LinuxKit allows you to run the subsystem you need for your containers wherever you need.

With LinuxKit, here’s the ability to build a custom subsystem, with only the needs in place that the run time needs, with sizedown to 35MB with the minimal boot-time, and of course, it’s OpenSource. Docker started with the barest of the bare essentials to get this down in size, the kernel, the system libraries, it’s all as small as it can be.

Docker was security minded about this, and in today’s fast paced world, security is paramount. With a read only root filesystem, among other features, container specific OSes remove points of attack, instead of a general purpose OS. Cormack says –  “All system services are containers, which means that everything can be removed or replaced.” This means that services are sandboxed, only given the permissions they need.

Best Laid Plans…

Best Laid Plans…

Seems like my MO these days has been to publish one blog post and promise a series.

Buy a laptop? Let’s do a series of reviews. Nope.

AWS Summit Announcements? Let’s review all the pieces. No.

So I’ve made a mental note that I’ll ignore to post here more. Let’s see what happens!

Linux Daily Driver (Part 2): Are They Any Good (GUI) Email Clients on Linux?

Linux Daily Driver (Part 2): Are They Any Good (GUI) Email Clients on Linux?

I asked a question. I’ve yet to find an answer, are they ANY good email clients on Linux? Don’t say Mutt. Don’t do it. GUI email clients. Outlook on Windows (and Mac) has me spoiled. Email. That was the first task I needed to solve on this, my quest to use Linux daily, in a decidedly Windows (and Mac) environment. I have five email addresses total, 3 for work, and 2 personal, and ultimately I’d love to be able to access them all in the same client, I’m needy, but let’s see where this leads. Theoretically, I could just access these all in Webmail, even using the user switching in Gmail, (3 accounts are Gmail, 1 exchange, 1 IMAP), it would still take 3 tabs to view my mail, less than ideal.


1. Thunderbird

First up, the ever present Thunderbird. Mozilla was the name of the game in years past. Firefox was the go-to, and I spent a decent amount of time using Thunderbird as my mail client on Linux machines in my early first run with Linux and even on my MacBook Pro in college, before Apple Mail became usable, but alas, the years haven’t been kind to this once strong contender.

Everything looked good at the start, set up all my accounts, imported my signature, (plain text, didn’t bother with HTML). 2 or 3 days into my experiment my machine locked up. Completely. No killing apps, no switching spaces, I was frozen HARD. A hard shotdown later, I rebooted, logged in and returned to my work. No hard no foul, things happen.

And happen. And happen again. Every day for the next 3 days or so I had a lockup, full machine, hard shutdown, try again. I decided to keep a “top” running in the terminal, always on screen, just to see. The culprit was Thunderbird, it just ran away, sometimes after sending a message, sometimes after deleting a folder. (Full disclosure, I used plugins to access Google calendar, and Microsoft Exchange, this may have caused an issue). Sometimes I was left with a zombie process, but the machine remained usable, sometimes, as mentioned before, full stop.

Maybe I could tolerate it on a home machine, but for my daily drive for work it was a non-starter. No-go. So Thunderbird was sent to the back burner. Gone but not forgotten. It’s a huge bummer, I love Mozilla, I love what they do for the internet community, but until Thunderbird is a little more stable (and maybe Firefox too) I just can’t drive from it 8 hours a day. It’s still installed, I open it once or twice a day to sync mail and see how it performs, but I’m not ready to re-commit. (I do hope to sit down, disable all add-ons, and work through them and see if there is a single culprit).


2. Geary

That lead me to where I’ve currently landed. Geary (taken from their website) “is an email application built around conversations, for the GNOME 3 desktop.” Well that sound ok. I like conversations, I can deal with that. Now believe me when I say this thing is light on features. Email, that’s it. No calendars, no reminders, nothing. (Not saying those are must haves, obviously not, just stating).

Now their website states that they support Yahoo, Gmail, Outlook and other IMAP servers. That being said, I haven’t gotten it to accept my IMAP account (which truthfully is the account I use least), but I may be migrating to Fastmail or a similar service, so I can let it slide. Maybe I’ll file a bug report if further testing fails.

So I guess here we are, found an email client. I haven’t tried out Evolution, I had poor experiences in the past. CLAWS never appealed to me….and that’s it I think? Kmail, N1, the list doesn’t get that long. So for now, I’ll stick with Geary, it fills a need, isn’t terrible to look at, and hasn’t taken my CPU and RAM for a ride, while my computers fans spin fast enough to enter orbit.

I think I need to find a decent calendar program now…