Category Archives: the battle of the computer

MUA

today is the third day of NOT using Kontact, the MUA that i have been using pretty much ever since i switched to linux, back in the dark ages.

i really liked kontact. it did EXACTLY what i wanted it to do: it handled all of my email addresses in a logical way, made it easy to switch from one email address to another, worked well with my business set-up, my installation of sigrot

but it had a fatal flaw which i have been trying (and, mostly, succeeding) to work around for quite some time now, and that is its use of akonadi, which is the interface between the MUA and the SQL database that lives behind it.

for the first few years i didn’t even notice a problem, but then i upgraded my operating system, and everything blew up. i ended up installing the new operating system from scratch, and summarily trashing three or four years worth of collected email. it was a difficult process, but i got through it.

through the years, i have tried installing a number of MUAs, in order to try and get away from kontact, but either they didn’t do what i wanted, or they simply didn’t work at all, so i gave up and went back to fighting with kontact…

“the devil you know”, right?

after that, there were a number of times, primarily during updates or upgrades, when i had to battle with kontact/akonadi/SQL, to get it to work, and i had to trash a number of years of collected email at least one more time before reaching the point at which i am, now.

four days ago, i ran the operating system updates, and, after i was done, i tried starting up kontact, and nothing happened. i tried starting it from the konsole (rather than “clicking” on the “icon”, which is how you start it in the GUI), got a vaguely worded, cryptic message about being unable to start “hebrew.wgz.sizes.sonnet.plugins.hspell”, and then it hung up.

which is very odd, because i have never even installed the hebrew language pack, and have no idea why it would even be attempting to start the hebrew spelling dictionary…

i tried asking Kubuntu Forums for solutions, and got the same answer that i have gotten every OTHER time i have asked about how to fix kontact, which is “kontact is broken, install thunderbird instead”.

so i tried installing thunderbird (AGAIN), and, after having some “words” with my operating system about whether this new piece of software actually worked (or not), i successfully installed and more-or-less correctly configured it, and started using it.

it’s a little different than kontact… or, at least, my perception is that it is a little different than kontact. after some futzing around, i learned how to configure it to use more than one email address — actually, i may have done it “the other way” first, because the terminology for “accounts” and “identities” is slightly different on kontact — and, as far as i can tell, there is no easy way to add an “X-” header line to outgoing email, like there is in kontact, but that may just be because i have yet to find the place where such a thing is configured.

and, then, yesterday (after i had, more or less, given up on kontact), i discovered that kontact actually worked… it had been a few days since i had given up trying to start it, because of “hebrew.wgz.sizes.sonnet.plugins.hspell” not working, and, without thinking about it, i “clicked” on the “icon” and kontact sprang back to life!

so, the first thing i did was transfer all of my contacts, and most of my RSS feeds (i got bored and antsy, so i’ll finish them later) to thunderbird.

for some time, now, when i “quit” kontact (select “quit” from the “file” menu), i have had to go to the konsole, and “kill” the process that kontact was running, so that it would actually quit. i also discovered that “kill”ing kontact STILL allows incoming mail to be downloaded, a process that i don’t completely understand (it may have something to do with akonadi interacting with the POP3 mailserver).

also, for even longer (i recall at least two kontact upgrades that have had this behaviour, prior to the one i am currently (not) using), when i first start kontact, after booting up my computer in the morning, about 98.9% of the time it gets to the point where it’s displaying correctly on the screen, but before i have the chance to do anything, it puts up a dialogue box that says that there has been a fatal error and kontact will quit now. the dialogue doesn’t say what the fatal error is, and it only has an “OK” button, which makes everything disappear when i click it. under this circumstance, when i run “ps -u salamandir | grep kontact” in the konsole, kontact is, actually, not running (unlike when i select “quit” from the “file” menu), and if i restart kontact, it works without any further problems…

except that, sometimes (usually at least once a day), it freezes for anywhere from a few seconds to several minutes, and when it does, there’s a very good chance (greater than half the time) that it will crash. usually this happens when i have just selected a message to reply to, and/or usually it happens when it is in the process of downloading new mail or RSS feeds. sometimes i can anticipate when it’s going to happen, when i have to reply to a message and it is in the process of downloading.

thunderbird doesn’t have these problem. when i select “quit” from the “file” menu, in thunderbird, it actually quits, and doesn’t keep downloading mail anyway. thunderbird doesn’t crash for no reason, or freeze and crash. it may not be kontact, but on the other hand, it’s not kontact.

my impression is that the operating system struggles when there is more than one MUA running, and, because of the difficulties i’ve been having getting kontact to quit, i don’t like to keep both of them running for long periods of time, especially since, apparently, kontact’s interface with the POP3 mailserver takes precedence, even after i “quit” and “kill” it, and even when i start up thunderbird first (which it shouldn’t, but it goes to support the fact that “kontact is broken”).

victory… sort of…

once again, the most recent instance of the battle of the computer has come to a close, and, once again, i am victorious… sort of…

i just transferred ownership of the fremontplayers.com and fremontphilharmonic.com domains to someone else. i still host fremontphilharmonic, fremonstor.org and cirquedeflambe.org for the moment, but i hope to have them gone by may 1st.

they are, now, officially, SEP. 👍

of course i strongly suspect that they are going to try to wheedle me back into working with their site again, especially since it’s pretty clear that they don’t know what they’re doing, which is why it is now hosted by wix…

which, in my opinion, is probably several steps backward… but it is, officially, SEP, and i’m done with being actively involved in the administration of web hosting clients.

i also bit the bullet and opened yet another ticket with the VPN provider, which took the form of an extended chat session in which the technician claimed that they responded when they didn’t… which is, apparently, the reason they ignored my SIX EMAILS from 190405 (two weeks ago) until 190415 (today)… 😒

but, in the end, i got that fixed, as well, so now i can send email from my local computer, using SMTP, instead of having to login to a web site and send mail using IMAP, which i DO NOT LIKE!

but now it’s better, and i don’t have the added stress of a mailing list whose members send email to the wrong address and get MY PERSONAL EMAIL blacklisted and threatened with having to move.

oy! 😖

the continuing saga of the mailing list fiasco has reached a new plateau:

so, it started out that one of the subscribers to the list sent a message to the list that didn’t go through, for some unknown reason (demons).

when his message didn’t go through IMMEDIATELY — as he was used to them doing — he started looking around for other addresses, and he found two of them. one goes to the list owner, and one is a “machine only” address that sends bounce notices to the owner. it is not for sending email TO, and it is definitely not for sending mail to when your message doesn’t go through, because that triggers the MTA on the user end to blacklist your message.

i found out about this whole fiasco about 6 hours into it, when he sent mail to my personal address, asking me if there was something wrong. i noticed that he had sent mail to the machine-only address, and got blacklisted by micro$awful, so i wrote to the host provider to see if there was something that could be done to reverse the problem.

the host provider’s response was to accuse me (and my mailing list) of sending spam, and they have a zero-tolerance policy when it comes to sending spam. 😒

they generously offered to set me up with a new IP address instead of arbitrarily closing my account, but the new IP address they gave me didn’t have a PTR (pointer) record, or a RDNS (Reverse DNS) record, which only made the machine that controls the email list mad, because usual mailing lists have a PTR and a RDNS record, and the end result was that i was blacklisted by a number of services with which i have been exchanging emails without a problem for years.

fortunately, these other services were ones for which i could submit delisting requests myself, which takes the host provider and their sensitivity about spam and spammers out of the loop.

nevertheless, i started losing patience, and i might have said some things in my communications with the host provider which ended up making things a whole lot worse, ending up with yesterday, when they asked me to move my web sites to a different host provider immediately.

at EXACTLY THE SAME TIME, the PTR and RDNS records that they installed on my new IP address took effect, which meant that i can no longer send email from my local email client, because it’s not the same server that my VPN has been talking to for more than a year, and i lost it. i didn’t actually curse at them, but i did everything but that.

while i was in the process of figuring out that it was my VPN that was my primary problem, i had, simultaneously, to explain the mistake to the guy who sent the original message, re-assure the members of the mailing list who were trying — and failing — to send messages to the list that they weren’t actually the problem, despite the fact that their email addresses were not interacting correctly with the mailing list, and fend off the more and more insistent demands that i leave, immediately, from the host provider.

long story short, i didn’t sleep very well last night. 😠

at about 3:30 this morning, i finally wrote a letter to macque, saying that i was no longer able to host the web sites he has me hosting, i was no longer able to maintain the mailing list, and that i was retiring from the hosting business.

then i checked, once again, with micro$awful, and determined that I HADN’T ACTUALLY BEEN BLACKLISTED AT ALL!

the WHOLE THING had been caused by “demons” in the machine! 😖

and, to top things all off, we’re scheduled to go to the beach for a week, starting monday, which meant that, if i was going to move, i would have to find a new host and give them the information they need to move my web sites in 3 days, or wait a week, and do the same thing when i got back from vacation. both of these options made going on vacation TO BEGIN WITH not a very exciting prospect, and i was getting severely depressed about it.

and, to put the cherry on top, it turns out that sketch, the drummer for Snake Suspenderz, died yesterday, which made me even more depressed… primarily because he, being dead, didn’t have to worry about all the CRAP that has been going on in the world, while i, being not dead, had to deal with seven times MORE CRAP and had no say in the matter, whatsoever.

then, things started to get better… kind of…

the first thing that happened is that, when i told them that i would be moving my web site in two weeks, that micro$awful hadn’t really blacklisted my IP address, and that i had dumped the client that had caused the whole fiasco, they let up a little bit, and allowed that, since i had paid access until july, that i could stay until then. with a bit more discussion back and forth, they relented even further, and allowed me to keep my web sites where they are.

but i’m still giving up being a host provider for people who don’t know how it works, because it’s WAY too stressful.

so, in the end, i can go on vacation without having to worry about internet SHIT, either while i am on vacation, or after i get home; i will no longer have to deal with people who don’t know doing things that they shouldn’t do and feeling awful about it afterwards, and i won’t ACTUALLY have to move my web sites that aren’t going away anyway (which is an entirely different ball of wax)…

but sketch is still dead, which means that, either, Snake Suspenderz will break up, or that we will find a new drummer… neither of which are very attractive alternatives at this point.

bleh 11

#drumpf. 🖕 the less said about him, the better.

🍄 one mushroom yesterday. i went out for a walk and had pretty much the entire “trip” while i was out, which wasn’t very much. depression sneaking back in, but not in unmanagable amounts… yet… fewer mushrooms every time this happens, and eventually i’ll run out. hopefully i will have either wildcrafted, or obtained some more by then, but who knows… they are illegal, after all, even though my doctor counsellor recommended them… 😒

trolloween on wednesday. i’m doing sound effects, which means bullroarer “pre-show” and thunder for the first part of the show. nothing else, which means that i’ll be able to actually haunt fremont, for the first time ever… i’ve been a part of the show at the troll, and the dance afterwards many, many times, but i’ve never gotten to go on the haunt… mushrooms? it’s possible… but i think i’d have to find a place to crash in town, if so. i’ll ask macque…

so, in the realm of the computer, i’ve decided that, if i tiptoe around this version of kubuntu, it works 95% of the time. i have, literally, changed the way i interact with the computer interface, in order to prevent it from crashing on a more regular basis: kontact/kmail/akregator — which used to be a relatively stable part of the distribution — has become something which works if i DON’T do things like try to open links in akregator using the middle mouse button (right click and choose “open in external browser” works, though, which is annoying), or forward a message, about half of the time (which is something i do on a regular basis when i’m reporting spam). and kubuntu, itself, has got some annoying bugs which i don’t know to whom to report… which, in itself, is annoying… when i boot the computer, the desktop wallpaper appears to be set to “blur” around the background, even though when i look at the configure panel, it’s set to “solid color”, and when i set it to “blur”, nothing happens, but if i, then, set it back to “solid color”, lo-and-behold, it suddenly displays with a solid colour background. and, because of the fact that it’s part of the system settings, i don’t have the first clue who should get the bug report.

and i’ve, basically, given up on amarok. i love the interface, but the fact is, my music is on a disk that isn’t mounted at startup — because it is a NAS, mounted via WIFI — and amarok refuses to see it. i haven’t figured out how to get it to mount at startup, and it appears that the amarok user list is, for all intents and purposes, dead… which is really annoying.

on the other hand, i’ve figured out a way to play the music on my NAS from my phone, my tablet, and from the linux box, at the same time, using the same application, which is VLC media player. i don’t love the interface, but it’s definitely better than nothing, and the fact that i can play my music, basically, anywhere, without having to make copies of it, should make the copyright drones happy.

and i found the disks containing approximately 10,000 fonts, left over from when i worked in a print shop… and i can get around 90% to 95% of them to work on both my mac and my linux box, also from my NAS, which makes sharing documents a lot more reliable.

grr update

i installed the debugging packages for both kontact and dolphin, thinking that would help me get a better idea of what’s going on.

it’s a little difficult with dolphin, because it doesn’t actually crash, it just gives me an “unknown error” message.

with kontact/akregator, it made a considerable difference, but i’m not sure how much it helps: now, instead of crashing about half the time when i middle-click on a link (which would produce the backtrace for which i installed the debugging packages), it doesn’t crash at all… it still does nothing when i middle-click on a link — now 100% of the time — and it still works exactly as advertised when i right-click and choose “open link in external browser”… 😠

ETA: this is the primary reason why, if there was ANY other alternative, i would use that instead of linux: i looked at the URI in dolphin, after it gave me the weird “unknown error”, and it said “smb://@/” which i thought looked kind of odd… so i put the username for the drive to the left of the @ sign, and the name of the drive to the right of the @ sign…

and it worked. 😕

no clue how it got that way, no clue why it worked before, with no username in the picture, and doesn’t now, no clue what the error messages mean, i have absolutely NO CLUE why it works now and didn’t before…

but it does. 😕