Tag Archives: ubuntu

It’s Official: Thunderbird will be the default e-mail client for Ubuntu Oneiric

Word has just come down from Canonical:  Thunderbird will be the default e-mail client in Ubuntu Oneiric!

Woo!  And there was much rejoicing!

Breakdancing Bear

Now, you might think this news is a bit late.  Thunderbird has been set as the default e-mail client on the past two Oneiric alphas.  Isn’t this old news?

Well, kinda, yeah.  But the thing is, those first alphas were just to get a sense of how Thunderbird would work as the default client, and to gather feedback.  At a moments notice, Canonical could have backed it out and switched it back to Evolution.

But they’ve given their thumbs up, and they’re fully on board.

So, at the risk of repeating myself:  come early October, Thunderbird will be shipped by default!  Woop!

UPDATE (Aug 10, 2:41PM EST)

I forgot to mention that this would not have been possible without the enormous efforts of both Chris Coulson and Andreas Nilsson!  You’re both awesome!

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EDS Contacts Integration for Thunderbird – So What?

Some of you might be wondering what the advantage is of having Thunderbird share address books with Evolution.  I mean, what’s the point?  A user will most likely use Thunderbird or Evolution – but rarely both.  Why is sharing contacts between the two interesting at all?

So, the answer lies in how Evolution stores contacts.  If you’re running Evolution, you’re actually running two pieces of software – the Evolution client, and the Evolution Data Server (EDS).  The client is what most users think of as Evolution – it’s the program with the GUI that allows users to access and manipulate their mail, contacts, calendar, etc.

But the heavy lifting is really being done by the Evolution Data Server.  The EDS is the program communicating with the e-mail servers to get and store your mail.  It’s the program communicating with your various address books (local or remote, like Google Contacts).  It’s the program that’s communicating with all of your calendars and task lists.

Essentially, if your Evolution experience was a restaurant, then the Evolution Data Server is the kitchen.  The Evolution client is just your waiter.  The waiter takes your orders and passes them off to the kitchen, the kitchen does all of the cooking, and then the waiter brings you the tasty results.

The fact that GNOME has split Evolution like this is really handy.  It means that alternative clients can access Evolution’s mail, contacts and calendars.  Essentially, the user could uninstall the Evolution client, but keep EDS installed, and still have access to all of their mail, contacts and calendars.

To stretch the restaurant analogy a little bit, what I’m saying is that the GNOME developers made it possible for you to order take out from the Evolution restaurant via a third-party.

So what’s the advantage of that?

Well, for one thing, Evolution Data Server talks to some services that Thunderbird doesn’t – for example, Google Contacts (although, this extension suggests that Google Contacts integration for Thunderbird is possible without EDS).

The other big one is Ubuntu One contacts sync.  Ubuntu One contacts are stored in CouchDB address books that are accessed through EDS.  Now that Thunderbird can read your EDS address books, it means that you get your Ubuntu One contacts as well (at least, it will be able to, once Ubuntu One contacts sync starts working in Oneiric).

Not bad, eh?

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An update on my Thunderbird work…

It’s been a really long time since I posted any updates about what I’ve been doing with Thunderbird.

There’s a good reason – I’ve been hauling ass. My Unity Launcher and Messaging Menu extensions have gone through several iterations, and are shaping up well.  The plan is to bundle those extensions with the latest Thunderbird 5.0 beta to get some more user feedback.

The majority of my work lately has been on a project called EDS Contacts Integration.  Do you remember when I talked about Ubuntu One contacts sync, and how I wanted to integrate that with Thunderbird’s address book?  Well, I went to UDS a few weeks back, and I learned that a bigger / better goal would be to integrate with EDS (Evolution Data Server), which acts like the global address book, task list, calendar, etc for Ubuntu.  If I integrate here, then *all* Evolution address books (including the Ubuntu One address book and Google Contacts address books) should be available in Thunderbird.  So it’s a pretty big win.

So, like the Unity Launcher and Messaging Menu integration, this integration is currently being implemented as a Thunderbird add-on.

Currently, this add-on has basic read-only.  I can view EDS address books, contacts and mailing lists.  EDS contacts appear in the auto-complete when I start typing an e-mail address.  They’re searchable.  I can view the photos of EDS contacts.  There are some edge cases that I haven’t addressed yet (reading address books that require authentication, for example).  That’ll be coming soon.

Here’s a screenshot.

I’ve also started work on write capabilities.  I can now add and remove addresses on a mailing list, and set whether or not I want e-mail addresses to be hidden when I send mail to the list.

So, in short, I’m making pretty decent progress.  Not bad for a month’s work.

But I can’t just fork over the add-on for you to play with, because this work has several other moving parts.  The first moving part is the core address book de-RDF’ing work I started a few months backThe patch for this is landing in Thunderbird’s trunk shortly, which I’ve very excited about.  And the second moving part:  a patch in trunk where I’ve made a few slight modifications to the address book infrastructure.  This makes it easier for add-ons (like my EDS integration add-on) to extend the behaviour of the address book.  This will also, hopefully, be landing shortly once I’ve polished it up, and gotten it through review.

Once those patches land, my add-on should work properly on trunk.  And not long after that, the patches will land in an Early Bird release for you all to try!

More blogging soon.  And more screenshots.  And maybe a video.  Stay tuned.

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Getting the RDF Out

As I mentioned last time, I want to extend the Thunderbird address book to support Ubuntu One contacts synchronization.

But there’s a problem:  currently, the address book relies on something called RDF, which prevents me from extending the address books outside of C++.

“So why not just write it in C++?”, I hear you cry!

The answer:  because Thunderbird has been trying to shake RDF like a bad cold.  A developer named Joey Minta officially declared war on RDF in March of 2008.  The campaign to rid Thunderbird of RDF is almost complete.

So I’d hate to damage the war effort by adding more RDF code to Thunderbird.

The solution?  I have to finish what Joey Minta started – at least for the address book.  I have to replace all RDF-dependant code with something better – something extendable.

Then I can get down to work on the Ubuntu One sync.

So saddle up.  We have to hunt this RDF bum down.  For justice.

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My Campaign to get Thunderbird Integrated into Ubuntu Natty Narwhal Continues…

I’ve been silent about my work for a few weeks, which is a shame, because one of the top reasons why I accepted a job with Mozilla Messaging was because I was free to talk about what I was doing.

I’ve been neglecting that right, but only because I’ve been holy shit busy.  I’ve been blitzing my Ubuntu Unity integration work like a MoFo, and have gotten two Thunderbird extensions up on Mozilla Labs:

  1. Messaging Menu integration
  2. Unity Launcher integration

So what’s next?

Ubuntu One

Ubuntu One is a service that allows you to sync things like files, bookmarks and contacts between different computers.  (Incidentally, Mozilla has their own service called Sync to do something similar with bookmarks and passwords.)

That’s a pretty cool idea.  Imagine it – you get a brand new computer, hook it up to Ubuntu One, and blam:  all of your bookmarks and contacts are already there waiting for you.

Currently, however, Thunderbird does not support sharing contacts via Ubuntu One.

And that’s what I’m tackling next.

Ubuntu One Contacts Integration

At this point, my goal is to write an extension that will add a new address book to Thunderbird.  Any contacts that are currently stored and shared via Ubuntu One will appear in that address book.

I’ll deal with adding new contacts later – for now, I’ll just do read-only, to keep the complexity down.

So stay tuned.  Ubuntu One Contacts integration is coming…

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