Who's Dabbling

Tuesday, July 19, 2005

.pst Off

So, the exams are over and I'm supposed to be relaxing.... Predictably, however, my body has taken the absence if stress as a cue to give up holding off the flu that I had been teetering on the edge of, and I realise, grudgingly that the things I piled up and ignored during the exams have not gone away (I must have filled in more forms/job applications/questionares during the last two weeks than when applying to UCAS!). Worse, it seems, they have been joined by countless new jobs; subtley returning text books 'aquired' from various departments, thanking teachers without letting them know I'd have spent my time in their lessons elsewhere, and extracting all the useful data, especially email, that I have left scattered about the college servers.

It was this last task, particularly trying to get hy email home on to my PC that has precipitated this blog, because I felt the need to share with someone (anyone!!) my personal experience of why Asa Dotler is right about one of the things Linux needs to do to be ready for the desktop. In this article he disucusses the need for a really good migratioin wizard before tux can make it to the masses, and this is certainly the case for the email programs I've been trying to use. Too often the flaws of something like Linux in this area aren't seen or fixed because the niche of users the product is being used by revel in the challenge of solving their problem, or console (or should that be Konsole?) themselves with the notion that they could have payed money for some software that might have got it right (though as you will see if you continue reading that isn't certain either!). However, that view isn't going to get software on to the desktop, and migrating an email inbox should be straight forward and perhaps even automated (but not too automated, the Thunderbird (on Windows) wizard for importing email from Outlook could be a powerful ally if it wasn't so certain it didn't need to ask the user which .pst files to look at and which mailboxes to convert!).

Now, much of the blame here has to lie with Microsoft. Try as I may I cannot get outlook to do anything with my mail except shove it in a .pst (older versions used to allow you to do it as 'text' but this isn't even an option any more). This is completely useless to anyone who doesn't already own Outlook, or run Windows. Luckily, after talking nicely to the IT guys at school I got all me email off as it was on the exchange server itself, messages saved as *.eml in folders, as I had seen them from Outlook. This, thought I, will be easy to import into Linux.

Now, whether it is possible or not doesn't interest me much...I'm sure it is and I will stop sulking soon and go and find a proper way to do it. What I think has angered me most, and led me to write about this is that it isn't simple, and it needs to be. Most of the people leaving our school want their mail, and for most of them that will only be possible with Windows.

Evolution seems to have been simplified to the point of impotence, telling me kindly after what seems like to short a delay for any real searching, that it failed to find any files it could import from other programs (why the hell won't it let me tell it where they are!?), and the other option allows me only to select a single file and import that, which of course, is either an unopenable pst or not a sinlge file at all!
Kmail was better, and allowed me to import the folder, and attachemts into my account, but somehow lacked the ability to read the subfolders of the folder I gave it, so would have required a lot of work for me to import all the subfolders.
Mozilla Mail got me less than nowhere, because the only import option available to me was from netscape.

Normally, the thing I like about working on Linux is that I can just head to my Home folder and copy and paste stuff in the hiddent files to achieve what I want (but of course, this is way beyond the duties of your average desktop user), but even this wasn't as easy as I had hoped (evolution didn't look to store it's emails in a folder structure like I had, and kmail interpreted all the .eml messages as subfolders!)

So, I will continue trying again tomorrow when I am less tired, and frsutrated. Even if I succeed, it should have been easy, and that means easy for anyone. Like has been said so often already: without your files, in a fully useable condition, a computer is useless, and these days, no set of files is more important than someones emails.
I really wish I could program!

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