Older blog entries for dwmw2 (starting at number 126)

2 Mar 2006 (updated 2 Mar 2006 at 13:00 UTC) »

I took a quick look at the bandwidth and latency graph for my home DSL line -- Evolution's misbehaviour is fairly obvious on it.

I started the 'new and improved' Evolution at about 7pm on the first day, and it spent about two hours downloading headers before it fell into a pattern of thrashing the link once every few minutes, downloading the flags of every mail in the folders it was checking.

Note that this was after I'd applied some of my own fixes to it, to make it check mail only in active folders rather than in all folders. Without that, the problem would be about an order of magnitude worse, because it would do have been downloading flags for about 3 years worth of historical archives each time, rather than only for mails in the currently active folders. Out of the box, Evolution would probably have given me a solid mass of green in the graph.

On the afternoon of second day, you can see that I stopped it -- that was when I was playing with the patch which I then submitted to Red Hat bug #183219. After an hour or two I gave up on pursuing that approach myself and restarted the original -- you can quite clearly see when that happened too. I looked at the bandwidth graph and then killed Evolution at around 12:45 on the third day, and then the line usage went back to normal.

I'm now looking at kmail; once I add the facility for accessing an IMAP server over SSH, it should do quite well as a replacement. In fact, if I'm going to start using KDE programs I might as well just switch over to KDE wholesale -- it'll save me from the constant temptation to kill someone when I have to deal with the insane GNOME file dialog box.

Looks like the Evolution hackers have been smoking some really good crack recently.

In its folder tree, Evolution shows folders with unread messages in bold, with the number of unread messages in brackets after the folder name. A relatively sane and useful thing to do.

Once upon a time, Evolution would check how many new messages there are in each folder by issuing a STATUS command -- a relatively quick transaction which looks something like this:

--> 000 STATUS lists.random.goatsex (UNSEEN MESSAGES)
<-- * STATUS "lists.random.goatsex" (MESSAGES 221 UNSEEN 221)
<-- 000 OK Status completed.

Now, it wasn't particularly clever about this -- it would do this for every folder on the server, even folders which were inactive and which never actually received new mail. And it would do this to the detriment of all else -- ignoring user commands to actually fetch mail to be displayed, change folders, etc. until it had finished doing this check on every mail folder. So if you're on a high-latency link it would appear to go off into the weeds for minutes at a time, failing to display mails which you click on because it's busy doing other things you don't immediately care about.

But now it's worse. Instead of the STATUS command, Evolution now issues a SELECT to actually open each mail folder, then proceeds to fetch the flags for each and every message in the folder and also even the headers of each and every message in the folder, if it doesn't already have those cached. Then it iterates over its list of mails, counting the ones which have the 'unseen' flag set. It comes up with a number, which it uses to display the unseen-count in the folder tree.

I have to offer my congratulations to whoever made this change -- you've turned a three-line IMAP transaction into a multi-megabyte download taking many minutes, for every mail folder on the system. When I started Evolution for the first time after 'upgrading' it, I had to leave it overnight to let it finish starting up and doing this check.

Now put down the crackpipe and back away from the editor...

Throw away your television
Time to make this clean decision
Master waits for its collision now
It's a repeat of a story told
It's a repeat and it's getting old

Finally got found to playing with my Nokia 770 over Christmas. It's a very cute toy, although the email application it ships with is a complete pile of crap. But now I have pine running, I'm happy again.

Although it's a text-mode application, pine actually works really nicely on touch screen devices with its 'enable-mouse-in-xterm' mode. It uses the xterm escape sequences to capture mouse clicks, and you can tap on menu items and actions on the screen, and navigate through folder trees and indices just by tapping on them. You only ever need to resort to the 'keyboard' to actually compose a mail.

In conjunction with xterm running full-screen on its 800x480 screen, it makes the Nokia 770 into a really nice box for roaming email access.

It seems that Demon Internet seem to have gone downhill in recent years. They used to be quite clueful, but now they seem to have lost the plot entirely.

Just over a year ago, the local telephone exchange was finally upgraded and I was able to get DSL. I chose not to go with Demon; I used Andrews & Arnold instead after they were recommended to me. (I've been very impressed with A&A -- real IPv6 connectivity (with native IPv6 over PPP on the DSL line now), as many Legacy IP addresses as I can eat, proper delegation of reverse DNS and fast, knowledgeable technical support, which is also available on IRC.)

In January (11 months ago), I mailed Demon to tell them that I no longer required the dialup account which I'd been using. However, since I wanted to keep the Demon hostname which was associated with that dialup account, I wanted them to switch my father's DSL (which was still with Demon) to use that account. They replied, saying that "a representative will be in contact in due course".

I reminded them occasionally through the year, but nothing ever came of this. In September, I mailed them again, this time telling them that I had cancelled the direct debit for the dialup account in an attempt to encourage them to act upon my request.

In November, they called in a debt collection agency to attempt to collect payment for the continued service on that same dialup account, which I haven't wanted for almost a year now.

Their debt collection agency, a company called 'First Credit', took to calling my mobile phone with prerecorded messages giving no details but saying that it was important for me to call them, giving an 0870 number -- a number from which they profit when I call them. That's an interesting scam in itself, and not something I expect from a legitimate business. I originally assumed it was just a scam, in fact, and ignored the messages completely. They also sent a text message with a similar request, and since that was from a normal phone number I did reply to it. I told them never to contact my mobile phone again, but gave my email address in case they had a genuine reason to wish to communicate with me. Nevertheless, the abusive phone calls continued -- and I even accidentally answered one while I was in Germany, so I paid international rates for the pleasure of hearing a message asking me to call their for-profit phone line. First Credit's web page says "We aim to negotiate and resolve with professionalism and integrity". Their behaviour doesn't really seem to match that statement.

Tired of this, I chased Demon again. Now they tell me "we have no records in our database that you have contacted us to cancel your dialup service". That's interesting, since I still have their original replies to my email from January. Either their database is very poorly kept, or they were directly lying to me.

They now seem to be under the delusion that there is still a chance of me paying the "outstanding balance" for the dialup service for September and October. I find that somewhat unlikely.

I've now switched my father's DSL to A&A too; I don't think I want anything more to do with Demon.

Sanity prevails in some parts of the world, thankfully. Earthlink have dropped the horribly broken snake oil which is SPF.

For the benefit of all those who wanted to know where I got the T-shirt I was wearing yesterday but weren't amongst the 20-odd who actually asked: http://www.cafepress.com/leuksman.7112875

After closing a bug in bugzilla, I found it re-opened. The original reporter says "How can you tell me my specific DVB bug is fixed, when I haven't told you what the DVB bug was yet?"

Now, I can understand that some people are incompetent enough that they file bug reports without enough information to do anything useful about it -- but to complain when I guess that it's a duplicate of a more coherent bug that I actually fixed last week, and explicitly point out that he hadn't actually told me what his problem was.... that's just _weird_.

Looks like certain parts of the world are coming to their senses. Amazon.com no longer publish a '-all' SPF record; instead they've reverted to '~all' which doesn't ask people to throw away forwarded mail, and which of course renders SPF useless for its most commonly stated purpose.

Hopefully Amazon will roll out one of the various alternative anti-forgery schemes which doesn't have such significant problems, rather than just being discouraged by the whole thing and leaving it as it is. The brokenness of SPF has potential to be actively detrimental to the fight against spam, because people are being tricked into implementing it without fully understanding the consequences of the way that SPF tries to simplify the way that email works. Those people could be put off trying other, saner, schemes.

I've been keeping the dual G4 under my stairs busy. This weekend it built Livna packages to complement the Fedora Extras repo for Fedora/PPC.

[livna-stable]
name=Livna.org Fedora Compatible Packages (stable)
baseurl=ftp://ftp.uk.linux.org/pub/linux/fedora-ppc/fc3-livna/RPMS.stable
[livna-unstable]
name=Livna.org Fedora Compatible Packages (unstable)
baseurl=ftp://ftp.uk.linux.org/pub/linux/fedora-ppc/fc3-livna/RPMS.unstable
[livna-testing]
name=Livna.org Fedora Compatible Packages (testing)
baseurl=ftp://ftp.uk.linux.org/pub/linux/fedora-ppc/fc3-livna/RPMS.testing

We also got autopartitioning on the Mac working in anaconda, and we're making progress on fixing the X autoconfiguration. I managed a graphical install on the G3 PowerBook for the first time.

It's looking good for a real Fedora Core 4 release on PPC.

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