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2014-06-14 — Permalink

Simple mail transfer pondering

tl;dr I like the MIT license, mutt, tagging things, and synchronising my data between my devices.

Simplicity

As I meander through my life and career, one thing stands out as becoming more and more important as time goes by; I've noticed a definite trend in myself towards desiring simplicity above all else.

When I say that, I don't mean that I have a hankering to live in a cave and subsist on fruit. I like the complicated things that my life involves but I increasingly like to deal with them in simple ways. I find that I don't have the appetite or inclination to see an argument through nor the patience for dealing with irrationality; I'll just state my case clearly and succinctly and step away until everyone has calmed down and can accept my point.

When it comes to code, the difference is clear. If starting something new, I'll write down a set of features I want then refine them until I have a clear idea of how the system works before writing a single line of code. If I'm brave, I'll embrace TDD. In the old days, I'd get a vague idea in my head and design the rest in my head while I'm churning out code.

Recently, as an example, I refactored someone else's code from a general-purpose, multi-featured single class into several small functions that are individually very short and meaningful and all hang together to perform just the required behaviour and nothing else.

This all leads me deeper and deeper into the Unix philosophy (of which I've always been a fan) of having lots of tools that each do one thing well that can be combined in any way necessary. Which leads me into deeper and deeper suspicion of the GNU environment (see my rant about netcat). I'm not saying GNU is bad, it's just that I'm less immediately bought into the GNU way being always the right way.

Related to my bent for simplicity, I choose to license the things I write under the MIT license these days where I'd previously chosen the GPL. Socialism is a nice ideal but in practice it's just too complex to work as intended. Both benevolent dictatorship and co-operative anarchy are much simpler and seem far more likely to result in a better society (though not both at once ;)). I guess that sums up how I feel about the GPL these days. #cueflamewar

Discoveries

With apologies to the Linux Voice crew, here are a few discoveries I've made recently:

offlineimap

I don't know why I hadn't investigated this before but offlineimap has recently made dealing with my email much more bearable. For years I've been switching between various GUI clients and in recent months I'd decided to switch to mutt and make a real go of it. I've been enjoying mutt but not it's in-built IMAP support. Offlineimap means I don't have to care about mutt's weaknesses and I can just focus on its strengths as the best client for reading, replying to, sorting, and above all deleting email :)

notmuch

On a very related note, I also discovered notmuch which is a tool for indexing and tagging a collection of email. I'm now using mutt-kz (because it integrates with notmuch) to sort my email into (virtual) folders based on tags that I apply both through hooks in offlineimap and in the course of dealing manually with my email. Notmuch also makes it very easy to find old emails when I need to refer back to something.

syncthing

I've never been very good at backups. I've never had the patience to set up something robust and to ensure that the right things will be plugged in to the right machines and that they'll be at the right network locations at the right times based on a carefully designed backup schedule. Because of my crappy attitude I've lost some precious data in the past.

Through the Bad Voltage podcast, I discoverd Syncthing which is sort of like a replacement for dropbox except that it synchronises folders between your own machines rather than between your machine(s) and a (possibly evil) server.

To summarise how it works, once you've got the service running on two machines, you copy the ID from each to the other and then specify repositories which are just directories that you give a shared name so that machine A can store files from the "Photos" repository in one place while machine B stores them in another place. Adding extra machines to the network is easy and each repository can be configured to share with any number of the machines in your network.

My current set up is:

Machines:

Repositories:

It's incredibly simple to use and configure and thus far, it works very well and gives me just what I needed.

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