Save your email! Avoid the Thunderbird 68 update

Thursday, November 28, 2019 

UPDATE:  78 just repeated history with another unwelcome surprise update.

I’ve come to some peace with 68 as most of the really critical plugins were updated.  But 78 is a long way from there and TB devs have continued to create some really bad blood with add-on developers.  I’d argue that the strategy being taken by the devs toward compatibility is defensible, but they seem deaf to the empty wasteland they’ve made of the add-on marketplace.   For me, one of the critical deficiencies is losing the support of the Enigmail developers (curiously, this 2019 post seems to be a bit behind release 2.2.4.1, which apparently adds support (!).)

A key issue is that many add-ons require hooks into the base code to be able to do things like add menus or interact with users and most of these were terminated.  There is a mechanism by which tentative experimental access to many (but not all) of the previously available hooks can still be connected, but taking advantage of that experimental access still imposes a burden of rewriting, refactoring, and retesting – and then recovering user trust.  All for a provisional access status that the TB devs helpful advise developers they should beg and plead to make core lest it be capriciously disabled at any future update.  Understandably, those devs who stuck with TB through several major revisions of the add-on architecture and suffered reputational and time cost because of them, perceive this “convince us you’re worthy and we may grant a permanent reprieve to your code should we consider it not utterly beneath our notice” attitude as off putting.

(This is now a bit obsolete, referencing the last screw-ya’ll update that was pushed out without notice or option, it is clearly too much to hope that TB devs stop being so sure that “if you don’t do email our way, you’re doing it wrong.”)

TL:DR

If you’ve customized TB with plugins you care about, DO NOT UPDATE to 68 until you verify that every plugin you use is compatible.  TB will NOT check for you and once you launch 68, the plugins that have been updated to 68 compatibility will not work with 60.x, which means you better have a backup of your .thunderbird profile folder or you’re going to be filled with seething rage and you’ll have to undo the update. This misery is the consequence of Mozilla having failed to fully uphold their obligation to the user and developer communities that rely on and have enhanced the tools they control.

BTW: if you’re using Firefox and miss the plugins that made it more than just a crappy clone of Chrome, Waterfox is great and actually respects users and community  developers.  Give it a try.

Avoid Thunderbird 68 Hell

To avoid this problem now and in the future, you have to disable automatic updates.  In Thunderbird: Edit->Preferences->Advanced->General-[Config Editor…]->app.update.auto=False, app.update.enabled=False.

Screenshot of no update prefs thunderbird

On Linux, you should also disable OS Updates using Synaptic: select installed thunderbird 60.x and then from the menu bar Package->Lock Version.

screenshot of locking package in synaptic

If you’ve been surprise updated to the catastrophically incompatible developer vanity project and massive middle finger to the plugin developer community which is 68 (and 60 to a lesser extent), then you have to revert.  This sucks as 60.x isn’t in the repos.

Undo Thunderbird 68 Hell

First, do not run 68.  Ever.  Don’t.  It will cause absolute chaos with your plugins.  First it showed most incompatible, then updated some, then showed others compatible, but had deleted the .xpi files so they weren’t in the .thunderbird folder any more, despite being listed and shown incorrectly as compatible.  This broke some things I could live without like Extra Format Buttons, but others I really needed like Dorando Keyconfig and Sieve.  Mozilla’s attitude appears to be “if you’re using software differently than we think you should, you’re doing it wrong.”

The first step before breaking things even more is to backup your .thunderbird directory.  You can find the location from Help->Troubleshooting Information->Application Basics->Profile Directory.  Just click [Open Directory].  Make a backup copy of this directory before doing anything else if you don’t already have one, in linux a command might be:

tar -jcvf thunderbird_profile_backup.tar.bz2 .thunderbird

If you’re running Windows, old installers of TB are available here.

In Linux, using a terminal, see what versions are available in your distro:

apt-cache show thunderbird

I see only 1:68.2.1+build1-0ubuntu0.18.04.1 and 1:52.7.0+build1-0ubuntu1. Oh well, neither is what I want. While in the terminal uninstall Thunderbird 68

sudo apt-get remove thunderbird

As my distro, Mint 19.2, only has 68.x and 52.x in the apt cache, I searched to find a .deb file of a recent version.  I couldn’t find the last plugin compatible version, 60.9.0 as an easy to install .deb (though it is available for manual install from Ubuntu) so I am running 60.8.0, which works.  One could download the executable file of 60.9.1 .and put it somewhere (/opt, say) and then update start scripts to execute that location.

I found the .deb file of 60.8.0 at this helpful historical repository of Mozilla installers.  Generally the GUI will auto-install on execution of the download.  But don’t launch it until you restore your pre-68 .thunderbird profile directory or it will autocreate profile files that are a huge annoyance.  If you don’t have a pre-68 profile, you will probably have to hunt down pre-68 compatible versions of all of your plugins, though I didn’t note any catastrophic profile incompatibilities (YMMV).

Good luck. Mozilla just stole a day of your life.

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Posted at 07:51:32 GMT-0700

Category: HowTotechnology

Frequency of occurrence analysis in LibreOffice

Tuesday, November 19, 2019 

One fairly common analytic technique is finding out, for example, the rate at which something appears in a time referenced file, for example a log file.

Lets say you’re looking for the rate of some reported failure to determine, say, whether a modification or update had made it better or worse.  There are log analysis tools to do this (like Splunk), but one way to do it is with a spreadsheet.

Assuming you have a table with time in a column (say A) and some event text in another (say B) like:

11-19 16:51:03 a bad error happened
11-19 16:51:01 something minor happened
11-19 12:51:01 cat ran by

you might convert that event text to a numerical value (into, say, column C) for example by:

=IF(ISERROR(FIND("error",B1)),"",1)

FIND returns true if the text (“error”) is found, but returns an error if not. ISERROR inverts that and returns logical values for both. The IF ISERROR construction allows one to specify values if the text is found or not – a bit complex but the result in this case will be “” (blank) if “error” isn’t found in B1 and 1 if “error” is found.

Great, fill down and you have a new column C with blank or 1 depending if “error” was found in column B. Summing column C yields the total number of lines in which the substring “error” occurred.

But now we might want to make a histogram with a sum count of the occurrences within a specific time period, say “errors/hour”.

Create a new column, say column D, and fill the first two rows with date/time values separated by the sampling period (say an hour), for example:

11/19/2019 17:00:00
11/19/2019 16:00:00

And fill down; there’s a quirk where LibreOffice occasionally loses one second, which looks bad. It probably won’t meaningfully change the results, but just edit the first error, then continue filling down.

To sum within the sample period use COUNTIFS in (say) column E to count the occurrences in entire columns that meet a string of criterion: in this case three criterion have to be met: the value of C is 1 (not “”), The value of A (time) is before the start of the sampling period (D1) and after the end (D2). That is:

=COUNTIFS(C1:C500,"1",$A1:$A500,">="&$D2,$A1:$A500,"<"&$D1)

Filling this formula down populates the sampling periods with the count per sampling period, effectively the occurrence rate per period, in our example errors/hour.

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Posted at 08:36:41 GMT-0700

Category: HowTotechnology