Wednesday, 30 April 2014

Getting my old Thunderbird profile into Icedove

Do we have to play these branding games with directory names - especially hidden-by-convention ones?

I just wasted half an hour or so trying to coax Icedove into seeing the account that I used with Thunderbird just a month or two ago. So it could just magically see it, or even just permit me to import the old folder into a new one. Whatever, I just wanted my mail!

Making software easy to use for non-geeks is a laudable goal, but I don't think you reach that goal by disappearing so many control elements that the configuration dialogs appear empty. It reminds me of something one of our computer science lecturers said once, long ago: "Emacs is an operating system masquerading as an editor; Vi is an editor masquerading as nothing." "Nothing" is not a good user interface. It has no affordances, and so while it might not be an intimidating interface, it is undiscoverable (yay, start clicking random elements whose appearance suggest little about their function).

After some helpless flailing around and a quick look through some unhelpful forum threads (I swear, they're becoming less and less useful with every passing year as each generation of cargo cult users passes down its placebo magic spells to the next) I got some help on Freenode, in #debian:
<mtn> berndj-blackout: rename the folder to .icedove ;)
TL;DR at this point: doing exactly that solved my problem.

Unfortunately I had already started icedove before I got to IRC. So when I blindly did
$ mv ~/.thunderbird ~/.icedove
hoping it would simply rename the directory, it actually moved ~/.thunderbird into ~/.icedove, since by then the latter directory already existed, so mv(1) interprets the command as a request to put the source into the destination as a subdirectory:
stat("/tmp/a", {st_mode=S_IFDIR|0755, st_size=4096, ...}) = 0 lstat("/tmp/b", {st_mode=S_IFDIR|0755, st_size=4096, ...}) = 0 lstat("/tmp/a/b", 0x7fff31da12e0) = -1 ENOENT (No such file or directory) rename("/tmp/b", "/tmp/a/b") = 0
(Can you spot the race condition? You can't use mv(1) as a synchronization primitive.)

It took me a while to realize what had happened. This was the clue:
$ du -sh ~/.icedove/2qeibe1d.default/ 16M /home/berndj/.icedove/2qeibe1d.default/ $ du -sh ~/.icedove/ 5.7G /home/berndj/.icedove/
Where are those 5.7GB?Hiding in ~/.icedove/.thunderbird of course!