Journeying Abroad – Life without Mozilla

2 10 2007

It’s become almost a truism that if you use a Linux machine for your desktop, you must be running Firefox as your web browser, and Thunderbird as your mail client. The former is certainly more prevelant than than the latter, but even so, both of these programs are fairly common in the greater Linux community.
However, despite their popularity, they have their drawbacks. On the Firefox side, the program suffers from it’s core dependance on XUL, the XML based rendering engine that is at the core of the product. While XUL is remarkably flexible, powerful, and useful, it is also a performance hog. Firefox, even on yawl, my desktop machine, which should have enough oomph to drive it, can come to a painful crawl after only a few hours of use.
The memory leaks in Firefox are well known, and to Mozilla’s credit, they are being addressed in Firefox 3, currently under development.
On the Thunderbird side, I’ve been having some absolutely infuriating problems with sending mail. Hitting send will regularly cause a pause of 5-10 seconds in my complete desktop before the mail actually gets sent. I’ve checked DNS, my SMTP configuration, everything, I can’t find the problem.
So why not use this opportunity to play the field?
Here there be dragons…
For the last week, I’ve been on a No Mozilla campaign, with an audience of one. I have on occasion needed to start Firefox (most notably to view Google Calendar), but for the most part, I’ve been using Konqueror, the browser within KDE, as my primary web browser.
Konqueror has been remarkably stable and useful, I will happily admit. It is noticeably faster than Firefox in almost every way, and I’ve seen only 1-2 websites where rendering has failed completely (noteably Google). KDE’s inherent ability to allow keyboard redefinition has made the transition to Konqueror quite easy (for instance, Firefox uses ^L to jump to the address bar and edit/copy/whatever your current URL. Konqueror has ^L bound to ‘clear address bar’, something that was driving me bonkers for a few days, before I realized I was simply using the wrong function. A quick key redefinition, and I was happy again).
For the most part, all my plugins are working correctly as well. Konqueror adapts the Flash, Java, and Shockwave plugins as used in Firefox without any problems. In stream videos and animations work just fine.
Will I continue using Konqueror? Most likely I’ll stick with it for a while. I do miss a few basic things though. For instance, I use Google Browser Sync to make sure all my bookmark folders are synced across all my machines. My Konqueror installation does not have my, er, large selection of bookmarks I’ve accumulated. Secondly, I’ve been using Sage as my RSS reader (as it syncs in with the Firefox bookmarks quite nicely). That naturally won’t work with Konqueror, so I’m without a centralized RSS reader right now.
Even with these niggles, I’m finding myself using Konqueror more and more. Speed, stability, and functionality. How pleasant!
Great Dave, but what about mail?
Oh yeah, the mail. Well, this one doesn’t have quite as happy a story.
In my journey away from Thunderbird, the first choice was naturally KMail, the mail component of the Kontact system in KDE. I’d used KMail on and off several times over the year, and I’m sad to say, it really hasn’t improved at the pace other applications have. In many ways it’s quite pleasant to work with, snappy rendering, good layout and feel, complete and workable dialogs, but it still suffers from a Linux ‘half complete’ feel. The keyboard bindings for mail navigation are obtuse and, oddly, impossible to reassign (I even have a bug open on it – it’s still not fixed). The thread model in KMail is abysmal – making it very easy to freeze the entire interface on very large mailboxes, etc etc.
So KMail was okay for a bit, but wasn’t cutting the mustard for regular use. The next natural check was of course Evolution, the Gnome mail client.
I’ve used Evolution off and on a lot over the years, and in general, it’s okay. I don’t particularly like GTK based apps (I find them overly hungry for screen real estate, and a bad combination of eye candy and ham-handed attempts at UI design), and Evolution shows many of these traits. However, even with those faults, it’s not a bad client. I got it up and running without any problems, and it’s working fine.
So why am I gripey?
I miss Thunderbirds spam filtering. I get a LOT of spam. My monitors regularly log 500-700 spam messages a day into my inbox. boomer does an awesome job of catching the lions share of the spam (about 80%), but the rest shows up in my inbox. Thunderbird was catching perhaps 90% of -that- spam, and tagging it for me. I could review what was tagged, agree with whatever it set, hit “purge”, and it would all go away.
Evolution has very rudimentary junk filtering, and it’s not catching much of this spam. I’m finding myself spending much of my time just deleting spam messages, and growling.
Will I stick with Konqueror for a while? Yes, I think so. I have to rethink my RSS aggregation and viewing. I’m not keen on a locally managed RSS list (because I change machines so often), but I’m also not excited about a remote ‘web’ based system (Web 2.0 can bite me, and old sk00l type applications are not fast enough for my reading habits). So that need is still missing.
Will I stick with Evolution? Perhaps, if I can fix the spam filtering problem. Evolutions handling of multiple accounts is FAR better than Thunderbirds (have a bug open on that one too), and the UI is one I can deal with, if if if…
I’m just never satisfied I guess.




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