Save your email! Avoid the Thunderbird 78 update

Saturday, June 19, 2021 

History repeats itself as the TB devs learn nothing from the misery they created by auto-updating 60x users to 68 without providing any warning or option to avoid the update.  This is crappy user management.  On updates that will break an installed add-on, the user should be informed of what will be disable and asked if they want to proceed with the update, not silently forced to conform to a stripped-down, unproductive environment as if the user’s efforts at optimization were childish mistakes unworthy of consideration or notice.

The Thunderbird devs have increasingly adopted a “if you’re not doing it our way, you’re doing it wrong and we’re going fix your mistake whether you like it or not” attitude.  This is highly annoying because the org already alienated their add-on community by repeatedly breaking the interface models add-on developers relied on.

For a while add-on devs gamely played along dealing with reputational damage as idiotic and poorly planned actions by Thunderbird devs broke their code and left them to deal with user frustration and scrambled to fix problems they didn’t create.  Many, if not by now most, add-on developers finally had enough and abandoned ship.  This is tragic because without some of the critical modifications to Thunderbird provided by developers it is essentially unusable.

I eventually came to peace with the add-on-pocolypse between 60 and 68 as add on developers worked through it and very carefully set my TB 68 to not update ever again, even though 90a finally fixes the problem that 68 caused where it became impossible to display dates in ISO 8601 format, but that’s a whole ‘nother kettle of fish.

Still, despite trying to block it, I got a surprise update; if this keeps up, I’ll switch to Interlink Mail and News.

So if you, like I did, got force “upgraded” to 78 from a nicely customized 68, this is what worked for me to undo the damage: (If you weren’t surprise updated, then jump right down to preventing future surprises.)

  • Uninstall thunderbird (something like # sudo apt remove thunderbird)
  • Download the last 68:
  • Extract the tar file and copy it (sudo) to /usr/lib/thunderbird
sudo mv ~/downloads/thunderbird/ /usr/lib/thunderbird
  • Create a desktop entry

 

# nano ~/.local/share/applications/tb68.desktop

[Desktop Entry]
Version=1.0
Type=Application
Name=Thunderbird-68
Icon=thunderbird
Exec="/usr/lib/thunderbird/thunderbird"
Comment=last TB version
Categories=Application;Network;Email;
Terminal=false
MimeType=x-scheme-handler/mailto;application/x-xpinstall;
StartupNotify=true
Actions=Compose;Contacts

 

  • Prevent future updates (hopefully) by creating a no-update policy file:
# sudo nano /usr/lib/thunderbird/distribution/policies.json

{
  "policies": {
      "DisableAppUpdate": true
  }
}

and then, just to be sure, break the update checker code:

# sudo mv /usr/lib/thunderbird/updater /usr/lib/thunderbird/no-updater 
# sudo mv /usr/lib/thunderbird/updater.ini /usr/lib/thunderbird/no-updater.ini
  • Start the freshly improved and downgraded to the last remotely usable version of Thunderbird with a special downgrade allowed option the first time from the command line:
# /usr/lib/thunderbird/thunderbird --allow-downgrade

If you were unlucky enough to launch TB 78 even once, your add-ons are screwed up now (thanks devs, Merry Christmas to you too).  Those that have a 78 compatible version will have been auto-updated to the 78 version which isn’t compatible with 68 (w00t w00t, you can see why the plugin devs quit in droves).  At least this time your incompatible add-ons weren’t auto-deleted like with 68.  Screen shot or otherwise capture a list of your disabled plugins, then remove the incompatible ones and add them back to the 68-compatible previous release.

If the “find plugins” step doesn’t find your 68 plugin (weird, but it happens) then google it and download the xpi and manually add it.

  • Restart one more time normally to re-enable the 68 compatible add-ons without 78 updates that the 78 launch disabled.

One more detail – if find your CardBook remote address books are gone, you need to rebuild your preferences.

  • Find your preferences folder: help->Troubleshooting Information-> about:profiles -> Open Directory
  • Back up your profile (good thing to do no matter what)
  • Uninstall the CardBook plugin
  • Quit TB
  • In your profiles directory, delete all files that end with .sqlite (rm *.sqlite)
  • Restart TB (the .sqlite files should be recreated)
  • Reinstall the CardBook plugin.  Your address books should reappear.  (if not, the advice on the interwebs is to create a new profile and start over).

PHEW! just a few hours of lost time and you’ve fixed the misery the TB devs forced on you without asking.  How nice.  What thoughtful people.

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Posted at 07:16:58 GMT-0700

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  1. […] UPDATE:  78 just repeated history with another unwelcome surprise update. […]

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