Tuesday, January 10, 2012

My personal KDEPIM upgrade status

Some time ago when we were filing the first stable request for KDE 4.7 I decided I'd have to give KDEPIM-4.7 also a try. I used to be a pine (and later alpine) user for ages, some time ago I switched to kmail1 (maybe at version 4.2 or so) and have been using it ever since... About the setup, incoming mail is stored and filtered server-side (Novell Groupwise), and accessed as disconnected IMAP.

1) Office desktop.
This one's usually running the latest and greatest KDE RC or beta, with a static IP and something like a 100MBps-FD link to the mail server. No local folders, so this was the natural candidate to test first. I did not even try the data migration, but wiped my entire local configuration of the KDEPIM programs as thoroughly as possible before updating. On the whole this went rather well. From 4.7.3 to 4.7.95 I've seen my share of kmail2 / kontact / akonadi crashes, but none of them really led to bigger problems. Impressively, I could also see each of these crash bugs I hit get fixed on KDE bugzilla in the meantime! Since upgrading to 4.7.97 I haven't had a crash anymore.
The only thing that is really bugging me a the moment is that I absolutely can't drag an e-mail message into another folder (I always have to right-click on the entry in the message list, select "Move to folder", ...). However, that is likely a problem in one of the underlying libraries. :| I would really like to help debugging this problem; if you can give me any clue where to look, please message...

2) Laptop.
Going home for christmas meant spending some time on a train. The days before I had upgraded this box to QT-4.8.0 and KDE+KDEPIM 4.7.95. Again, clean start with a new configuration. On the train I spent some time ironing out bugs there. The GPRS connection was happily going down and up again with every tunnel or less-populated countryside. That's when the akonadi backend started really acting up. When I arrived at my family's place, my e-mail had become fully non-functional (no fetching e-mails, no sending e-mails, the backend making kmail hang, regular crashes, and all fumbling with akonadiconsole did not help). After a while of trying, I gave up, wiped my entire KDEPIM configuration and data and downgraded to 4.4 again. I was impressed how responsive my e-mail program suddenly became.
Talking to other people, it seems that some have problems with bad internet connections, some don't. Maybe I should have used networkmanager, at least Alexxy reports that it's working fine with it.

3) Home desktop.
Well... Here I store my e-mail archive since 1996- that's maildir folders with roughly 50000 messages. Maybe I'll consider upgrading KDEPIM sometime around KDE 4.9.

I'm sorry if this blog entry is demotivating for the program developers. Some time ago I followed part of an animated discussion on irc between a kdepim user and a kdepim developer. Quoting a small part,
<user> first: fix bugs. second:dont change data formats. third: change gui only if absolutly nessary.
<developer> no
<developer> first: have fun; second: make it work for others
While this is of course oversimplifying, both points have clear validity, the first because people have come to rely on the software, the second because it's volunteer work by people enthusiastic about their creation. In the end we'll have to find a good compromise.


  1. I'm also frustrated with the quality of KMail2 too. In Linus words, it looks like an untested crap. I'm sorry to say that, but it feels like that to me... As a software developer, I'm happy when my program is helpful to anybody. KMail2 doesn't help me in any way, I cannot use it.

  2. From that IRC snippet: if we followed that user's 'advice' we'd never make anything ever, and we wouldn't have any of the stuff in KDE that does rock.

  3. I'm sorry for having to say this (and, especially, using these words), but KMail2 is probably the biggest piece of crap I've ever seen.

    It's completely unusable. I don't even think it ever worked for the developers. It's just that there's no way of using it without stumbling with one of its bugs (and it has a lot!).

    I even had to left KDE for this. Yes: a mail/calendar application is essential for me and KMail2 was not functional at all.

    Mail not downloading, mail not being sent, folders or mails loading forever, Akonadi crashing, Akonadi + mysqld taking 100% cpu for hours...

    I'd like to make a post or a video: me using KMail2. And then I'd like to see the developers saying that it's a fault of mine, or that I'm probably the most unlucky person on the earth.

    KMail was one of the best Linux applications out there. And they ruined it. Twice.

    Ah, btw, Andreas: thank you very much for talking about this in your blog. This way, it appeared in the Planet and we *may* get a word from the developers.


  4. @Neiko, so you didn't like KMail so you changed your entire desktop environment?

    Why didn't you just change your email client...

  5. I'm not using some software that it's not integrated in my DE.

    Btw, Evolution is rock solid. Give it a try. Even if you're not on GNOME (but I don't recommend doing so). That's the way KMail2 should be. Is it that hard? Come on, man; people don't care about backends.

    Nobody cares about Akonadi. It may be great if it worked well, but it's all full of bugs. Or at least the way you made KMail2 use Akonadi is wrong. Or whatever. I don't know how these things work...

  6. I'm not arguing that Evolution isn't great (FYI that has a separate backend too). That wasn't my point.

    I'm really against this misnomer that I see everywhere of "you must use all from X or all from Y". Mix and match. It's fine, you really don't lose anything.

  7. Except for the fact that KMail regularly re-downloads the entire mail content of the server (emails since 2003, many hundrets of megabytes) from time to time (especially if it cannot move some mail for some reason or it crashes, then it gets all crazy and does this), it works quite well. Emphasis on "quite".
    If just Akonadi wasn’t so talky. If I instinctively click on "Fetch new e-mails" in the kmail right after opening it, it throws an error "Fetching is already in progress. Cannot fetch again", yeah, wayne? And once NM gives the "OK" that the connection is established, which means, as soon as you've clicked on the WiFI connection or the mobile broadband, Akonadi starts throwing 20 error messages (one for each email account set up, for my google calendar ressources and stuff) that "Server unreachable" or "SSL handshake failed" and lots of crazy stuff.

  8. As much as I have tried to stay with Kmail2 I cannot in any shape or form say it has been a pleasurable experience. I won't bother pointing out those distractions as many here and else where have done that. I am about to the point of at least for my use declaring Kmail2 a dead horse and move on to something else.

    The primary hold off of that declaration has been the shed load of bug fixing done by Sebastian TrĂ¼g on akonadi, strigi, nepomuk to name a few. Many kudos to him and someone really should hire the guy and so I wait for 4.8. But if the same kind of experience greets me, well all I can say is; that's enough.

    I can appreciate the huge amount of work that went in to transform the under belly of kde3 into kde4's new direction. An astounding amount of work indeed. I can even appreciate what they are trying to achieve with the "semantic desktop".

    But since that transformation I have sensed a very different perspective with the developers. It now feels like to me they are of the same mindset that existed in the 1800s here in the States during the great land rush to the west with the attitude of manifest destiny. In the process all the fiddly bits do not get the attention they deserve while "the big picture" seems to consume them all.

  9. This is a bit off-topic, but at the end of the day I also ended up searching for another good, fast and configurable mail client. I put lots of hopes in Evolution, but to it was a disappointment - there's a lot less configuring options and it's much-much slower than KMail1 was.
    So I am on Thunderbird, but it seems it gets slower as time goes by. And then there are these integration problems etc.

    So I'm one of unhappy users who have been forced to give up their favorite e-mail client :(

  10. I use kmail2 with Akonadi since KDE 4.7.0, and it works fine for me. I have 3 imap accounts with about 25k mails and 200 subfolders. The synchronisation of all folders is done in ~6 seconds at my office and in ~15 seconds at home, whereas the cpu usage is about 40% with a little peak up to 70% at the start of the synchronisation (Core2Duo 2,5GHz).

    I have also added a a DAV-Groupware to access the calendar (zimbra) from my office. The synchronisation of this ressource hangs from time to time (once or twice a month). KMail2 and Akonadi are far away fom being perfect and I miss some features. But they are good enough for my daily work.

  11. @smurfy: Stay with KDE 4.7 KMail2. Do not try to upgrade to 4.8's KMail2 now. My experience from beta1 and beta2 is horrible (completely unusable) and for rc1/rc2 it got little bit better. I tried clean ~/.kde4 and ~/.local configuration and it worked as long as I didn't have my old email added back...

  12. @xin4@seznam.cz : I am already at KDE 4.8 rc2 and I don't have any problems so far, even without to clean my ~/.kde4 or ~/.local folders. But I didn't tried the betas. I switched directly to rc2.

  13. Kmail2 is also working fine for me in KDE 4.7.3...in four different computers!! (so I don't think it's a fluke :) ) Maybe it's distribution-related...(I'm using Gentoo, by the way)

  14. I think you are interpreting too much into the IRC conversation.

    My guess is that the developer was merely being sarcastic after being lectured on the obvious

  15. I also switched to TB on most of my machines. Integration is not much of an issue, you can select TB as the default mail client and there is a service menu extension to attach files to TB emails. The only thing I miss is a systray icon indicating whether new mails have arrived.

    Actually I like this setup more. TB is very conservative, so there is hardly any risk that an upgrade screws up my setup -- unlike with KDE 4.x, where you never know what will stop working in the next release or whether you have to delete ~/.kde4 every once in a while.

  16. @ Andreas:

    Concerning the drag and drop problem: I have experienced something similar: whether something moved depends above which part of the target folder the mouse pointer is located when the button is released.

    When the mouse is over the lower part, nothing happens. There is also a visual flaw accompanying this, as in this case there is an issue with rendering a frame box around the target folder, and only the lower part of the border is rendered.

    On the other hand, when the mouse hovers over the top half of the target folder name, the entire frame box is rendered and releasing the mouse button brings up the context menu with "Move, Copy, Cancel". Very strange.

  17. I was in that discussion, although those words were not from me. And I agree, that the fun factor is important. If you don't like what you work on, you will find something else that you like. And this won't improve the original software.
    Luckily (speaking from my POV), there are many cases when it is fun fixing bugs, especially when you see the users are happy afterwards. And of course, it is also great that you don't see the problems.
    Regarding KMail2: people (users) tend to think that developers don't care about or don't even use it. This is false. I use it and many other devels use it. And run into the bugs. And care about it, but sometimes you just don't have time to look at them and try to fix them. Or there are bugs that can't be reproduced on the developer's machine. Also most (if not for all) developers have a manual setup, because they had to recreate the setup several times. This means many migration issues are simply not visible. Also migration is very hard to do failsafe because of the wide variety of the configurations out there. And it is especially hard to fix as the bugs are not reproducable, all we get is "KMail2 doesn't work after migration". And in most cases the user will not be able to provide - understandably, as it is confidential - the data to reproduce the bug.
    Though situation. :(

    I agree KMail2 has a lot of rough edges. Is it unusable? For some yes, so please use KMail1 from KDE4 now, if you feel so. For me it is not. I use it well...I don't know, but for years already, way before it landed in 4.7.0. And I run into bugs, blame the various pieces, but still use it, as it didn't fail (yet) in a way that rendered unusable.
    My patience might be bigger then someone else's. ;)

  18. @Kai Uwe, some days ago I commited a change to kde-runtime that should prevent the problem with "unreachable server". The problem is that when NM signals that the system is online it is not actually online. I added a 2s delay to the online signal, that was enough to fix a problem with the comic plasmoid, probably it will solve other similar problems as well. The change is going to be in 4.8.0.

    I am still using kmail1 with 4.7.97, it works without problems. I want to upgrade to 4.8, but have not had time to do the migration process yet.

  19. @Richard
    To get system tray icon for Thunderbird, you can use Thunderbird's extension FireTray.

    You are one lucky guy that KMail2 works for you so well. I wish it worked for me too, but.. yeah. Maybe it's because of the hardware? I tend to use not the latest and greatest computers as I accept being slightly out-of-date with my hardware, but at least it comes mostly free :)

  20. Kmail2 is like something Moss from the IT crowd would program that no one could correctly setup because it is a convoluted buggy mess. anakondi crashes, it keeps asking me for passwords for accessing email server for "local" folder???? I went to disable that and ended up deleting my inbox and all my mail. I just gave up after using kmail as my exclusive email client since KDE1 Mandrake 5.3 and went to thunderbird. please, someone stop this Moss-like dev from using a way to in your face, buggy "backend" for KDE and go back to the simple and user friendly way it was.