Thursday, August 18, 2016

My experience Windows 10 and Thunderbird / Firefox freezing

This posting is somewhat off topic for me,  but then it is on topic, because the issues I am discussing initially appeared to be in Mozilla branded products.  I am a glutton for punishment sometimes, and as a result I run daily builds of both Firefox and Thunderbird.  The result of this is a mostly reasonable experience with occasional disaster days where you get a Thunderbird or Firefox that basically does not load at all.

In July I bit the bullet and updated Windows to version 10,  the motivation was more a case of I had seen many people in the support forums with Windows 10 issues and really they appeared to be largely inexplicable than any desire to use the latest and greatest from Microsoft.

In all the upgrade of my Dell Vostro went well.  I read the options closely enough to find the tiny option to keep my existing settings and after a number of hours  I was away with the new Windows 10.  I turned off all the phone home things Windows 10 wanted to do, I stopped Cortana and got rid of all the rubbish in the start menu.  Things were looking positive. 

So here I am in August,  frustrated by Mozilla Firefox.  It is horrible and getting worse.  It just stops responding for anything from a few seconds to a minute or more.  Typing in reply dialogs on support.mozilla.org just stops mid word. When it returns large chunks of what was typed is simply not there, not in some buffer waiting for the freeze to end, just not there.

Then Thunderbird started to display this same abhorrent behaviour.  It just stops responding.  Sometime it says it is not responding,  other times it just does nothing.  At least it is not as bad as Firefox.  But it appears to be getting worse

Then I noticed something new.  The command window in Windows 10 was also freezing.  This was when I realized I had an issue with Windows, or some other software freezing windows,  not Mozilla branded software at all.

I started searching on the web and it really only took a few moments to see I was not alone.  There were lots of folk apparently experiencing hangs or freezing.  In my usual approach to these things I read a few of the first hits I got from Google, looking for similarities and common solutions.  Then I clicked on a link to a YouTube video that offered to fix windows 10 freezing.  Cynic that I am I though what are they selling.  Well nothing is the answer! Except a free solution for me.

I found that of the settings mentioned in the video,  only the PCI express setting appeared in power on my desktop.  So like the guy in the video I tuned the setting in power management off.  That was a couple of days ago now.  I have experienced no  freezing at all since that change.

 The lesson for me was just how much of my computer time is spent in Firefox and Thunderbird.  I had the problem for weeks and never even considered I was looking in the wrong place for a solution.

Thursday, June 9, 2016

Hotmail Proxy errors

The longer I deal with Microsoft the less surprised I become by there aggressive and underhanded marketing.  The latest from Microsoft is that they are converting all of their existing Hotmail/ Live/MSN accounts to their new outlook.com. What these good people forgot to mention is, if you have been getting your mail via the pop protocol until now,  they are going to turn that option off for you.

How did I become aware they had done this for me.  Thunderbird no longer received mails from my Hotmail accounts.  Instead I got this lengthy and opaque  error message.

Sending of password for user {MyEmailAddress]@hotmail.com did not succeed. Mail server pop3.live.com responded: Authentication failure: unknown user name or bad password. [Error="ProxyNotAuthenticated" AuthResult=0 Proxy=SIXPR0201MB0940.apcprd02.prod.outlook.com:1995:SSL]







So now I am aware of this blatant decision to ignore the users settings in favour of some that favour vendor lock-in. I think it is high time for some user instructions on how to set things back to rights.

First log into your account at Hotmail/Live/MSN/Outlook using your browser.   Once you get there you will probably be facing a user interface that is entirely new to you.

To start locate the cog on the right of the toolbar pane. It displays the following menu, and is included in the image




Select options from the menu entry and you will be taken to the following page, where you will need to click on the POP and IMAP settings entry on the left.


Change the POP options to on. and click the save "button"
Click on another folder and then click back on the POP and IMAP settings entry.



You will now see that the settings for the account, including the server name are shown   Make note of that server name.  Currently simply turning the option back on will restart downloads to your mail client,  be it Thunderbird or any other POP client.  However for future proofing, I strongly suggest you change the server name you are using to the one provided by the web site. There is no telling when they will simply remove the old server names.

Right click your account in the folder pane of Thunderbird, and select settings.
In the server setting page for the account insert the server named in your settings on the web page.

In my case I was advised the server name was pop-mail.outlook.com so that is what is shown in the image above.   When I changed the server name Thunderbird warned me about filters.  This is not an issue, as all that is changed is the server name.  Everything else remains the same, really it is the same account on the same server, so just acknowledge the warning. Your user name will not change from what you are using currently, which should be your full email address.









Saturday, January 23, 2016

Outlook.com / Office365 Imap subscribed folders disappear, difficulty in subscribing

Over the past couple of days it has become apparent that there has been an issue with IMAP accounts hosted on office365 and outlook.com.  Support has received a number of complains of subscribed folders disappearing from Thunderbird and attempts to re-subscribe failing.

A workaround has been identified by turning off the Thunderbird option "Show only subscribed folders".

To turn off this option;
  1. Right click the account in the folder pane.
  2. Select the menu entry Settings
  3. In the server settings for the account,select the advanced button.
  4. In the advanced account settings dialog, un-check the option "Show only subscribed folders"


----o0O0o----


Microsoft have now acknowledged the issue as EX41924 and are posting updates here. At the time of writing this post the latest update (update 4) is suggesting a code solution has been developed and is currently being deployed across the office365 and outlook.com web sites to remediate the failure their previous patch caused.Affected users that wish to follow the Microsoft support thread on community.office365.com can find it here.

While it is unfortunate,  there is nothing the Thunderbird community can do in this other than offer the workaround until such time as Microsoft resume normal services.




Saturday, July 18, 2015

LogJam and Thunderbird.

Recently the Firefox core developers patched the LogJam vulnerability in Firefox.  As Thunderbird shares code with Firefox at a low level,  Thunderbird inherited the patch and it made it's largely unannounced debut in Thunderbird 38.1.

Are you affected?  The easiest way to check is look in the Error console Ctrl+Shift+J

The error message is quite distinctive and will take the form shown below;



What this means is that any server using SSL/TLS and 512bit encryption keys is not going to work with the updated Thunderbird.  These keys have a long history.  Introduced in the 1990's to meet US export restrictions on Cyphers.  By the year 2000 these restrictions were lifted.  But by that time the use of the so called Export Cypher suites was well entrenched.

Now 15 years on, when it was assumed basically no one would be using these obsolete suites, up pops a security vulnerability in them and we find that the "if it ain't broke don't fix it" approach to things is alive and well on the Internet. Here on the bleeding edge of technology,  many large organisation, such as the NSA, are still using these obsolete and inherently insecure cypher suites.

There is a short term workaround for those using Thunderbird, by installing the add-on Disable DHE. This add-on is listed in the add-on site as for Firefox,  but it will install in Thunderbird if you download it and drag it over the add-ons entries in the add-on tab.  This is not a long term solution.  You are still at risk of a man in the middle attack using it.  But it gives breathing time to actually make arrangements for new key pairs to be generated for the server. You should contact the server administrator or your mail provider to make these arrangements.

I can not say it better than the team that found the vulnerability, so the following is extracted from their web site
____________________________________________ 
What should I do? 
If you run a server… 
If you have a web or mail server, you should disable support for export cipher suites and generate a unique 2048-bit Diffie-Hellman group. We have published a Guide to Deploying Diffie-Hellman for TLS with step-by-step instructions. If you use SSH, you should upgrade both your server and client installations to the most recent version of OpenSSH, which prefers Elliptic-Curve Diffie-Hellman Key Exchange.
If you use a browser… 
Make sure you have the most recent version of your browser installed, and check for updates frequently. Google Chrome (including Android Browser), Mozilla Firefox, Microsoft Internet Explorer, and Apple Safari are all deploying fixes for the Logjam attack.
If you’re a sysadmin or developer …
Make sure any TLS libraries you use are up-to-date, that servers you maintain use 2048-bit or larger primes, and that clients you maintain reject Diffie-Hellman primes smaller than 1024-bit.
____________________________________________ 
.

Sunday, March 22, 2015

Filter Import/Export

For a short time until Thunderbird V5 was released there was a message filter import export add-on.

This appears to have been abandoned by it's original Author, and around the time of Thunderbird Version 19 someone fiddled the max version and again added it to Thunderbird addons at AMO. I have done the same to increase the max version to 38.  So the add-on should install for a while yet.  I have not used it as yet.but I appear to lack an import option.Looks like I will have to investigate further.

Download

Sunday, October 12, 2014

Sync Hotmail/Outlook.com contacts with the Thunderbird address book.

For as long as I have been using Thunderbird there have been those folk who wanted to synchronise contacts with Hotmail/Outlook.com.  This has been relatively simple for Google account holders, with multiple add-ons available, with relative strengths and weaknesses.  Whilst chasing information on an unrelated subject in the past week I stumbled upon the TZ Push add-on. Something of an unfortunate name as it does not allude to it's ability with activesync or Outlook.com.  This add-on connects to ActiveSync data sources. The add-ons page states Z-Push, Zentyal/Zarafa, Horde, Outlook.com and other Activesync providers.  So there are two things here.

  1. TZ Sync is an activeSync address book synchronisation tool. So any service that offers activSync or Exchange ActivSync should be supported.
  2. There is a truly viable way to syncronise contact information between Thunderbird and Outlook.com.

Lightning and CalDav

While the title of this [post is CALDav and Lightning,  most of the space is going to be taken up with Googles implementation as it is problematical and Google are all over the place with their documentation.  It has taken hours of trawling through Google help and support articles as well as support forums to finally put together all of the necessary bits for Google.  Yahoo on the other hand mange is in about 10 lines on one page.

Traditionally Mozilla have recommended the use of the gdata provider with Goggle calendars to create read write access to those calendars using XML. This process pre-dates Googles adoption of CalDavand requires the Gdata provider add-on as well as Lightning.   CalDav read write synchronisation requires no third party data provider and just works and works the same for other CalDav.

To create a CalDav connection to your Goggle calendars, first you need to establish your personal CalDav URL for connection to the calendar.  If you have a single calendar the calid is your email address.

  • In this example if your email address is something@gmail.com then the URL is
    https://apidata.googleusercontent.com/caldav/v2/something@gmail.com/events
  • Additional calendars have a calid issued by Google so using the base URL replace the calid with the correct Id for your calendar.


 

Enable CalDav synchronization.

Even though it is not referenced anywhere else the page says Select calendars to sync to your iPhone/iPad/iCal* following the asterisk shows or any other CalDAV device.So in typical style the option in there, but well disguised.so navigate to https://www.google.com/calendar/syncselect and enable CalDav.


Note:- I had trouble with my CalDav Calendars on Google and found that I needed to use the config editor to change the preference network.http.spdy.enabled.http2draft to False  

Note that there are other network.http.spdy.enabled. preferences but only the http2draft appears to affect he outcome.  Bug 1081613 refers

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Backup up Gmail with Thunderbird.

I see people in the support forums all the time asking about backing up their gmail mail with Thunderbird and I really do not understand why they are doing so.

Google offer a direct backup of your Gmail mail, as well as all of your Google data, but it is mail that appears to be the thing people want to back up. Google create a backup MBOX mail format file with your mail which they then compress so it is smaller and offer it to you to download. The MBOX format is used by Evolution, Thunderbird, Mac Mail and lots of other mail clients and is a de facto standard for mail storage and exchange.

This archive file can be unzipped and imported into a mail client at any time, now or in the future.

In the case of Thunderbird, the Import/Export tools will import the MBOX file into Thunderbird for you, without fuss.

Sure there are other ways to backup your gmail,  but this is probably the least difficult and most sure of any and uses significantly less bandwidth than any other method to boot.




Friday, February 7, 2014

Basic troubleshooting for Thunderbird.

Like all communications, email to is prone to drop outs and minor and sometimes major faults.  So when you mail is not working,  what do you do.

The following is a list of checks you need to make.


  • If your mail is not downloading, check on your mail providers web site that they are not having some sort of outage, or server down issue.  After all, whilst things have become quite reliable in recent years, there are no guarantees.
  • Next restart Thunderbird with add-ons disabled. (Thunderbird safe mode)  Thus us on the help menu (Ctrl + H). If Thunderbird works like normal, there is an Add-on or theme interfering with normal operations, you will need to re enable add-ons one at a time until you locate the offender.
  • Restart Windows in Safe mode with Networking. Windows 8 Windows 7 Windows Vista Windows XP OSX  If this fixes your ussue, it will be resident software loaded into your computer other than Thunderbird that is the cause.  Common problem applications that are not loaded in "safe mode" are anti virus tools, malware detection programs, memory and disk optimisers, privacy protectors and legitimate spy-ware installed by employers to monitor staff.  No naming of names here,  usually in a home environment it will be anti virus programs, but all security and net nanny type software is suspect.


Finally if you have the urge to say suddenly my mail stopped downloading / working.  It is more than likely not an issue with your mail client.  Sometimes it is the mail provider changing connection settings so these need to be confirmed. Other times it is following an update to Thunderbird, then it is more than likely the firewall component in your internet security suite / anti virus.

Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Windows Contacts

For a long time it has irked me that Thunderbird supported read access to the OSX address book, a really minor player, but did nothing for Windows contacts.  Especially given that windows represents some 70% of the installed user base it just appeared like the developers had lost the plot.  Imagine my interest (and surprise) as I stumbled upon the fact that Thunderbird has supported the Windows Address Book since XP and that the contacts folder is likewise integrated into Thunderbird, in the same manner as, and using the same options, as the Windows Address Book.  It would appear that this functionality is there, just not enabled by default.


So to share this with the world, and get your windows contacts into Thunderbird please warm up your mouse and open the Thunderbird Config Editor.and add the following preferences.

Right clicking on the heading Preference Name will present a menu, select new and then either String or Integer as required in the instruction.

  • First Add a string with the name "ldap_2.servers.OE.description" , when you click Ok set the value in the dialog that opens to  "Outlook Express"
  • Next add a new integer ldap_2.servers.OE.dirType , and when you click Ok for adding it set it to 3.
  • Finally Add another string this time names "ldap_2.servers.OE.uri" , and when you click Ok set it to "moz-aboutlookdirectory://oe/" 
When you are done you will have three new preferences, that look like this



Now for the best part for those using Samsung phones.  The Samsung Suite places your contacts into the windows contact folder and synchronizes them from there.  So with this preference edit contact synchronised from your phone will also synchronize to Thunderbird.

One Caveat.  Contacts in this address book will not have a "show remote images" flag, so remote images for them will not show.

Saturday, September 7, 2013

Expand your filter use

Filters are one of those things, we all expect the mail client has them, and mostly they are used for really mundane tasks like a block list.  But filters have many many uses and if you understand the process, you can probably think of a new use often.

But before talking about filters, there is the issue of when and where they will work.  The default out of the box arrangement for Thunderbird is they work on the inbox of a single mail account. As discussed below, that can be expanded for IMAP accounts and with the use of the Send Filter add-on you can run filters on mail as you send it.

If you have an IMAP mail account the filter will only run on the inbox. The functionality to enable filters to run on all sub folders has been around since Thunderbird version 3, but they never got around to placing a setting in the user interface to set it up, so you need to do it manually.

In Thunderbird select options from the tools menu. Then select the Advanced tab and finally on the General sub tab select the config editor button.  Promise to be careful

In the list of settings, right click and select New and then string from the fly out menu


in the enter preference name dialog, place the following text and click Ok
mail.server.default.applyIncomingFilters 
The next dialog asks for a value for mail.server.default.applyIncomingFilters. Enter the value
True  
and click Ok

Note: These settings are case sensitive, so be sure to copy them exactly, including the camel case.


Now all your filters on IMAP mail accounts will run against all folders. This is a good thing if you want to say auto archive mail based on age.  It is a bad thing if you want to move mail from the inbox to somewhere else..  Enter the filtaQuila add-on.  This add-on, among it's list of features makes it possible to include the folder name in Filters,  so a filter that used to move mail from snoopy@charliebrown.org to the folder snoopy  now needs a folder name in the mix, either as if folder is not "name" so the filter will run on all folders but the destination, or folder is "name" so the filter only works on that folder.


 

Monday, July 15, 2013

Date and Time in mail lists.

The dates and times used by Email are UTC.  This means that for Thunderbird to set up the correct date and time on emails your operating system must be set to the correct timezone and daylight saving settings.

Simply because the little clock on the bottom right of your screen shows the correct time does not mean your time zone is correctly set.

Instructions for changing the timezone are;

XP    Vista Windows 7 and Windows 8  OSX

Thunderbird has only ever displayed the time on messages for today.  The logic involved is fairly simple.  It makes todays messages easier to identify in the list, and you don't need to be shown todays date as you already know it.

If for some reason your feel you must have a date MozillaZine have detailed instructions on overriding date and time formats in Thunderbird.

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Images do not display.

Sometime the remote images in an email do not display  This could be due to the permissions.default.image hidden preference in Thunderbird. If you never see the allow images button on emails from senders not in your address book this setting is the probable cause of the images and the button not appearing.

As I understand this preference, it blocks remote images. 2 blocks everything 1 allows images from the original server, 0 allows images from any server. With 1 being the Thunderbird default.

Go to Tools menu > options > advanced > config editor

Type into the search box permissions.default.image or as much as you need to double click on it in the list below.

When changing this setting, it is advisable to reduce the setting to it's current value -1 as each reduction in values is a reduction in security as well as an increase in convenience.

Sunday, April 7, 2013

The RETR command did not succeed. Thank ATT and YAHOO for the need for this post

This post is about the "conversation" that occurs between a mail client and the mail server when the client is downloading mail using POP3

Because email is one of the early developments of the internet, everything about the connection and download of mails is done in plain text in the English language.  So much so that you can log into a mail server and get you mail by typing text commands in response to text prompts from the server

But we are not going there. If that is your interest there is an article here that discusses how to use Telnet to connect to the POP3 server.

I am concentrating on only Three of those POP commands STAT, LIST and RETR.

STAT is the command issued to the server to ask if there is mail to download.  The server replies with a message that looks like

+OK nn mm
where nn is number of messages and 
mm is the total size of those messages. 
 

LIST is the command that follows and is designed to get the server to provide more information about the messages it is holding.  So when your mail client issues the list command to the server it get a reply that looks something like this.

            
Thunderbird: LIST
Server: +OK 2 messages (320 octets)
Server: 1 120
Server: 2 200
Server: .
 
In this example there are 2 messages available  
The important information for the mail client such as Thunderbird is that the server has allocated the messages a number (in the examples case 1 and 2) that proceeds the message size information.

This allows for the Third command, RETR.  Using the information obtained in the proceeding LIST the mail client can now proceed to ask the mail server for the message.  This is done using the RETR command and the message number.  This command is issued once for each message to initiate a download of that message and looks something like this.

             Thunderbird: RETR 1
             Server: +OK 120 octets
             Server: <the POP3 server sends the entire message here>
             Server: .


As you can see, for the RETR command to fail, there basically has to be a problem on the server as the mail client (Thunderbird) is only asking the server to provide that which it has already said is available.

Further information can be found in RFC 1939 which is the standard that all POP3 compliant mail server and clients must comply with

Friday, March 15, 2013

Importing CSV files

Now this post is very much driven by the fact that there are still plenty of major players in the email world that have never grasped the more advanced methods of exchanging address information and we are continually relying on that old nugget CSV.

It is fine for those that have been using computers for 20 years or more, we used to exchange data between dBase and just about everything else, so CSV is no stranger.  To those that have grown up in the point and click world of Microsoft Windows on the various Mac operating systems, anything that can not be done with a Mouse is foreign territory.

Enter Comma Seperated Values (CSV), a true "blast from the past" having a history that goes back into the 1960s, long before Apple had a computer and well before the mouse was even an idea. CSV is unfortunately a term used to describe a collection of data formats, about the only thing they have in common is that between each pierce of information there is a comma and the information is in "text".


Because there is so much difference between what is called CSV between the programs that generate is (some put text inside double quotes, "This This", others do not. It becomes important to actually have a bit of a visual at the data in the to get some idea of how the data is laid out.  It is to this end that you will often see a recommendation to open the file in a spread sheet application.

The actual data stored in the file looks something like this

 First Name,Last Name,Email Address,Home Phone,Mobile Phone,Business Phone
Willian,Gates,bill@microsoft.com,,,
Rob Roy,mcgregor,rob@mcgregor.com,,,

Developers of Spreadsheet applications have spent many years developing sophisticated import wizards for CSV files so you can tweak the import using options to make the data look like it is in columns under headings.  Ultimately this process results in a "more standardised" data format and your CSV file opening in your spreadsheet looking like a table.


This data layout is generated by Windows Live.  Thunderbird expects there to be a first and last name, but it also expects a display name but Live simply does not include this, so we have to massage the data supplied by windows Live to make things work.  Having the data in LibreOffice it is a fairly simple process to add a column for the display name.  But first things first. You need to save the document as an ODF file, as Libre is stubborn about what you can and can not do with a CSV file.

Right clicking on the letters and the top displayed a menu and you select insert columns from it.

I do this twice, and create two columns on as a temporary display name and the other as the final display name.

Now to get the display name data.  Obviously the information we want is in the first two columns, so we need to include the information from both of these columns into on. ie Concatenate the data.

To do this we use a formula.


For those not used to formulas, once it is entered the first time, you can use the little black square on the bottom right to drag the formula down the list to the end.  What we have now is a formula generated display name, but the cell contains a formula and displays what we want.

The next step is to copy and paste the information from the temp column to the final "Display Name"  when you paste, use the paste special and change the options so all you paste is text.

Now we should have  the Diusplay name in two columns, so right click the Temp Display name column and delete it. so things end up looking like those shown in the image below.

Now  File menu, select "save as" and select the file type of CSV. 
Thunderbird will not do anything but choke if you forget this step.

PostScript
For those using LibreOffice, it automatically changes formulas to the display value when you save as a CSV file. I have no idea is this is the case with other spreadsheet programs.  Needless to say you can skip the copy and paste text part if you are using Libre office, just name the column to "Display Name" in the first place and only create one now column.  For myself, I will continue the two column approach because that way I can see and be sure, I am not relying on the computer program to get it right for me.

Saturday, August 18, 2012

Compacting Data loss.

Data loss through the compact process has become the number one support request, so something is wrong.

The release of Thunderbird 16 should have fixed most of these issues.  Please post a support request on the get satisfaction support site if your still experiencing these sorts of issues,
 https://getsatisfaction.com/mozilla_messaging

Please be sure to try right clicking the folder selecting properties and then repairing it. (not this only repair the index,  If real data loss has occurred it can do nothing) Lots of information about how and what is always good.  Steps to reproduce a problem get it fixed far faster that those issues where magic is involved.



Unfortunately no one knows what it is that is wrong, or really when it 'became' a problem.  I have posted in the past about compacting and stated that data loss does not occur at the time of compacting, at the moment I feel that is not the case.  I may also have been in error then as well.

I am making no claims that I can fix your problem, or that your data can be restored, on the contrary, recent cases of data loss do appear to be permanent.  The usual options of changing the entry on the View menu for folder to ALL does not work and neither does right clicking the folder, selecting properties and then the repair button. I do however encourage everyone to try them.  At this point my desire is to try and establish some sort of base line that can be used to determine the cause.

Is there a fundamental bug in the compact process?  If there is, it is well hidden.  Millions of people have no problem, but an unfortunate few not only see this problem, but in some cases see it repeatedly.  This leads me to believe, rightly or wrongly that there is a secondary issue required or more than one that makes the circle complete and result in the problem.   Thus we need to start looking for similarities between users who have the problem, and we get to the whole point of this post, to ask people to provide information.

I have no idea if this will be useful, but your co operation is appreciated.

Friday, June 29, 2012

Thunderbird and CCleaner or my settings will not stick.

for quite some time I have observed people complaining in support forums that they are unable to get the preview pane in Thunderbird to stay turned off.

I have also seen complaints that other changes to the layout of the folders and other elements of Thunderbird such as setting the folder view to something other than the default will not stick.

Recently I have learned that this action is not accidental, nor is it the result of a bug or some weird interaction between unrelated software.  It is deliberate 

Enter CCleaner

The people over at CCleaner appear to think that Thunderbird is a browser.  They also think that they are preserving your privacy be deleting the Session.json file from your profile after Thunderbird closes and you guessed it.  The file is used to store settings about what elements of the user interface is visible, or which type of folder fview you have selected.  Or even what headings appear on your message list.

The cure is also self evident once you know what is going on.  Complain most bitterly to the people at CCleaner who have caused you inconvenience and turn the silly option off.

Fortunately this is fairly simple and straight forward, just deselect session under the Thunderbird entry in CCleaner.

Thursday, March 29, 2012

Opening Suspicious Emails

Under this heading, I could almost start a topic on urban Myths. The internet abounds with Furhpys  about email, and one of the most common is that something disastrous is going to happen if you open that suspicious email you just received.

Scripts

This is one of those urban myths that has been around for years that actually has a grain of truth attached to it.  In relation to Thunderbird is is basically a mistruth.  However if you are using a mail client from the Microsoft Stable it is in fact a very real risk.  This is because the Mozilla mail client is designed from the ground up with security in mind, where as the Microsoft product (as well as many others I am sure) are designed with ease of use and a glorious and rich email experience as the single most important thrust.  The trouble with this approach is that almost everything you do to your email to make it sing and dance reduces the security of the email process significantly.

To protect you from those with malicious intent, Thunderbird does not allow any scripts (VBscript JavaScript) to run within the email.  This means that the bouncing ball or the funny banner that the sender programs to follow your mouse simply will not work, but it also means that the folks over at virii R us can't get their little gem to play either, so even if the mail contains a script to download every know virus onto your computer, opening the email will do nothing because the script simply can't run.

This is also the case with Flash animations and flash movies.  They also don't work, and for the same reason that the scripts are disabled. They represent a threat to your security.

Unfortunately this does at times catch other legitimate processes, such as the little Plus and Minus that some emailers include with reports.  In my opinion however the negatives are vastly outweighed by the positives.

Remote Content.

Thunderbird likewise blocks remote images from those not in your address book.  This causes many to moan about the fact that they have to make a conscious decision to 'allow remote content'. I have even seen what I would consider rants about how you don't have to do this in Outlook so why should I have to do it in Thunderbird.  The answer remains the same as it has always been.  Remote content can and does represent a security and privacy risk to you and the recipient of the mail.  You will find that many commercial emails you receive (those ones you subscribed to from XYX newservice, paypal etc) contain a special image just for you.  These images are usually a single pixel and the same color as the background of the mail so they add nothing to the content as such, but the link that downloads that image contains your personal identifiable information.  The result is that the sender can identify that you received the mail they sent and that you opened it, what time of day you opened it and to a reasonable extent where you were when you opened that mail.  Just how close to the were, you can get from here   That web site uses the same technology to locate you are is used with these one pixel images.

Now this blocking of remote content can be turned off, by changing a setting in the config editor.
Tools menu > options > advanced > general and click the config editor button.
Acknowledge the half tongue in cheek warning and enter the editor.
Type mailnews.message_display.disable_remote_image or as much of it as is needed to display it in the list
Double click the entry in the list
Set the value to false

A far more responsible way to do this is to set up a list of domains that can sent you emails with remote content.  (The domain is the part after the @ in an email address).

The procedure is the same as outlined about, but instead of editing mailnews.message_display.disable_remote_image you edit mail.trusteddomains (if the entry does not exist, simply add it.) and include the domain you think you can trust.  This example uses domains I would not trust.

hotmail.com,yahoo.com,aol.com,gmail.com,paypal.com,ebay.com

If you were to enter that list into the mail.trusteddomains preference all remote content from people that have email addresses at those domains would be show.  Note there are no spaces between entries.

Remember that once you allow remote content by default you are giving up some of your privacy for the convenience of not having to decide if you really need to see the pictures.

My remote content is enabled on a per user basis and I am providing this information as just that. I do not recommend automatic enabling of remote content.  My theory is that if I don't want them in my address book (thus enabling remote content) I probably don't need their images either. I do occasionally click that little allow remote content button to allow remote images, but I decide case by case.

Summary

 In the absence of any scripting language support and without the avenue of remote content, that email in your inbox is basically quarantined.  Now all things are void if you open any attachment that the mail has, but the mail itself can do no harm because all of it's attack vectors have need closed off from it.

You can still open a virus in an attachment, but it requires you to make the conscious decision to open the attachment. So the risk of opening a mail is almost nil.  I will not say Zero, because there is nothing in computing that is that certain.

Addendum

 Looks like religious web sites are riskier than porn sites

Sunday, March 25, 2012

Your email- Your way :- Customize Thunderbird

I remember hearing once that this was one of a catch phrases used with Thunderbird. "Your mail,your way".

The only problem with this phrase is that while Thunderbird is vastly customizable most people are unaware of the basics of the process.   The support forums have seen many an unhappy camper since the Aero Theme was introduced as default, but it is only one Theme and Thunderbirds appearance is customizable with hundreds, if not Thousands of Themes.

Appearance

The following are four Thunderbird themes which can simply replace the appearance Mozilla gives to Thunderbird







The best approach to get a theme is to use the add-on manager on the tools menu.  When it opens the tab should by default show the get add-ons tag.  If it does not click on the get add-ons. By searching through the Themes this way you get to simply click the install button.  If you do it using your browser, you have to download the files and manually install it. You also get the benefit of only seeing Themes that are compatible with your version of Thunderbird.  This can save time if you are one the current version, but can cause a few problems occasionally if the Thunderbird version is not up to date. Sometime it limits results a little to aggressively.

Additional Functionality

Before you ask for new functionality, check out the add-ons site. it is the official repository of addons for Thunderbird. This site contains hundreds nay Thousands of addons most of which add useful functionality of some sort to Thunderbird.  Simply because there are so many add-ons, the site contains collections.  These are groups of add-ons that users have collected together as they feel they make a set.  I have a collection of the add-ons that get refered to often on the support site at Get Satisfaction. If you are looking for a place to start, there is a chance I have included it in my collection.

One thing to be sure about is that the addon site is not the only place you can get addons. One place I constantly recommend is Kaosmos website This is the home page of some of the best add-ons for Thunderbird. In particular, have a look at the quote and compose manager.  A must have for everyone as it has an option to stabilize the font when composing a message. Without it the font you have selected keeps changing as you move around in the message you are writing.

Remember, that add-ons at the official site are reviewed.  Keasmos also is also a site that can be trusted but it is possible that an add-on can be harmful, so be sure when installing add-ons from sites other than these two that you read what other people have to say about the add-on.  Also be particularly careful of add-ons installed by anti virus and SPAM software. While these are not intentionally harmful, they often break other functionality in Thunderbird.







Sunday, February 26, 2012

Font Sizes

In this post I am going to look at two perennial Thunderbird support questions.  Both related to fonts.

Size of fonts in the program it self.

Due to the extremely high resolution many people are running on their graphics cards Thunderbirds internal fonts often appear tiny and difficult to read.  These internal fonts are sized by default based on certain internal operating system fonts,   The oft asked question is how to modify these fonts and the answer traditionally has been to hand craft a UserChrome.CSS file the specifies the fonts you want for the elements you desire to change.   While it is undoubtedly true that this will work, it is well beyond the technical skills of most people. The element names are not well documented and the intricacies of CSS (Cascading Style Sheets) is not something many people are familiar with at all.  Thankfully in the recent past someone has written an add-on, the Theme and Font size changer, to manager the process for us.  This add-on is simple to use and makes Thunderbird so much easier to read for those struggling with what was often refered to as microscopic fonts.

If you have never installed an add-on, my earlier post on that topic might be of some assistance.

Size of Fonts in Messages being displayed

If it is only the display font of your incoming emails that is an issue,  the settings in Tools > Options > Display >Formating and then clicking on the advanced button will allow you to specify font sizes for the display of emails.  These are only display fonts, and have no effect on the fonts used to actually send email.  Note that the font sizes are set in Pixels, not the points that most people are used to from programs like Word.  Pixels are smaller than points so if you would normally set text to 12 points, that will translate to around 18 pixels.


Size and Consistency of Fonts when composing a message

This is a multi pronged issue.  So I will look at the issues on at a time.

  1. Thunderbird composes HTML mail by default. This style of mail has variable sized fonts that can be specified at the time the message is written. One of the issues many people complain about is that they can not specify their font in points, it is simply sized in the editor as larger and smaller.  This is based on the HTML standard which uses the <font> tag to specify the size of a font.  The font tag in HTML has only 7 values. (ie in the actual HTML code it looks like this <font size="number">with the default being 3) 
  2. HTML font tags are depreciated in HTML 4 and totally absent from HTML 5.  In HTML 5 fonts must be specified in the CSS for the document. So at some point the Editor for Thunderbird is going to need to move forward, not it will not be now.
  3. Fonts change in the middle of typing your message.  This will only occur if you change the default font in Thunderbirds Composer.  This is because this bug  reverts to the default font at seemingly random intervals.  The workaround is to install the Quote and Compose manager add-on and turn on the option it contains to stabilize fonts. This bug has been around for some 8 years, and I doubt there will be a resolution until the composer is completely rewritten to support HTML 5
  4. Some add-ons, for reasons I don't understand, turn on plain text formatting of email.  This is set from the view menu > messagebody as entry. If your fonts are not working, it is likely that this is not set to 'Original HTML'