Evolution – The Default Email Client for Ubuntu

Just as I’ve spent a lot of time at this humble WordPress address finding the perfect PIM 2.0 client, my previous blog had a fair amount of space devoted to traditional offline email clients. I’ve got email archives dating back some thirteen years, and I’ve moved them between various apps on OS X and Windows before finally settling on Thunderbird.

The original plan for my spiffy new Eee PC netbook was to dump my email archives on it, but the bundled email client for most Ubuntu-based Linux distributions is Evolution, an app I’ve never tried before.

Since there are barely any reviews of Evolution out there (that I could find, anyway), here’s a quick look…

Evoluion Mail Directory

Finding your mail files in Evolution is pretty straightforward if you know where to look. The default path is:

/home/(user)/.evolution/

In the “mail” folder you’ll find bog-standard .mbox files which you can import into any other email app worth its salt. Evolution also has a nifty backup and restore feature that will compress your data (email + addresses, calendars, contacts, notes & to-dos) into a handy (for Linux users) .tar.gzip file — and restore a full data set from the same file.

As for the actual interface, here’s how it looks in Easy Peasy 1.1:

Evolution Mail Interface

IMHO it’s not quite as efficient as Thunderbird (seen below, running in Xubuntu 9.04) in its use of screen real estate, which can be fairly critical if you’re reading your email on a 9-inch netbook screen:

Thunderbird Vertical View

Another thing I don’t like about Evolution is that there’s no obvious mailbox maintenance utility as there is in Thunderbird. When you’ve got email archives dating back to 1996 keeping them from getting corrupted is a pretty big deal!

But the deal-breaker for me came not from Evolution itself, but from SyncEvolution, a SyncML client written for it. Specifically:

The order of email addresses and phone numbers in the Evolution GUI is not preserved.

While this is actually a reported bug for ScheduleWorld.com only, I found it to be a problem with my own hosted SyncML service Memotoo, uh… too.

If you’re wondering why this is a critical issue, have you ever sent a text message to someone’s home or business line by mistake? Either it won’t get delivered at all, or — in the case of my carrier — will cost you extra and embarrass the hell out of you.

Evolution will also sync data to a Microsoft Exchange Server, but I didn’t bother testing that functionality, as the whole point of my move to Linux is to get away from proprietary software.

If you use Exchange at work and Linux at home, or if all you need is an offline PIM suite and email client then Evolution should suit you fine. Me, I’m sticking with Thunderbird and keeping my PIM data in the cloud.

May Day (My First Day with Linux)

Easy Peasy 1.1It’s an odd coincidence that I chose to make free open-source software my primary notebook OS on International Worker’s Day, but that’s how it went down when I migrated my calendar, contracts and email to Easy Peasy 1.1 on my new Asus Eee PC yesterday.

If you haven’t been following this developing story, I’ve wanted something smaller than a full-sized laptop to carry around with me for taking notes and getting on the proper Internet as needed. The first piece of the puzzle was actually some software for my mobile phone; JoikuSpot (which is really worthy of a dedicated review) turns my Nokia E71 into a WiFi HotSpot, and my (relatively) fat data-plan from my carrier makes it affordable.

I had tried Nokia’s Internet Tablets but found them to be more geek toys than useful computers. I instead settled on the Eee PC because of its solid state drive and diminutive size – zomg, it fits perfectly in my man-purse! 😉

Unfortunately the stock Xandros-based OS couldn’t reliably connect with JoikuSpot, and after testing a variety of netbook-optimized distros only Easy Peasy could do the job.

So, my PIM data has been moved to Evolution, the stock Ubuntu email and PIM app. For my Nokia I’m bypassing local sync entirely and connecting to a hosted SyncML server via SyncEvolution and Genesis – yeah, that’s right… I’ve finally found a suitable PIM 2.0 client! I just have to get caught up on my PIM 2.0 reviews and all will be revealed.

Stay tuned…

Linux: Access as well as Openness

Today I thought I’d share a stellar bit of customer service, courtesy of the Easy Peasy IRC channel.

If you didn’t know, Easy Peasy is an Ubuntu-based Linux OS optimized for Netbooks like my new Eee PC. This particular Linux distro is fantastic — my inquiry below concerns a minor aesthetic niggle with the splash screen at startup.

(04:30:40 PM) The topic for #easypeasy is: Easy Peasy -for netbooks | Forums: http://forums.geteasypeasy.com | Wiki: http://wiki.geteasypeasy.com

(07:39:07 PM) acurrie: i was thinking of installing startup manager and getting one of these themes

(07:39:09 PM) acurrie: http://www.cuyahogapc.com/easy/usplash.htm

(07:39:31 PM) acurrie: but then i read that they might look just as bad

(07:39:35 PM) acurrie: so the question…

(07:39:40 PM) acurrie: should i bother?

(07:40:24 PM) acurrie: to be clear, i’m talking about the splash screen as ep boots up

(07:40:40 PM) lassegul: If you’re able to wait a couple of days i’ll create the default usplash theme for EP 1.1, and i’ll personally give you install instructions if you want.

As you can probably guess, “lassegul” is in fact one of the lead developers for EP. That a busy guy like him would make such an offer to a Linux n00b like me scores major points.

If you’re running Easy Peasy or just want to see EP’s real-time support in action you can get details on where to find the EP IRC channel on their support forums.

Okay, it’s here. Geez… 😉