Smooth Scrolling in Thunderbird

[for Mozilla Thunderbird users]
Firefox users have an option to enable smooth scrolling in the options menu, but what about Thunderbird? Is that part of the back-end Mozilla code, that they share? Why yes it is! -)

To enable Smooth Scrolling in Mozilla Thunderbird, add the following line to your user.js:
user_pref(“general.smoothScroll”, true);

Or, if you have the AboutConfig extension, go to Tools -> about:config.
Right-click on any preference line, and select New -> Boolean.
Preference name: general.smoothScroll
Value: true

Digitally signing newsgroup posts

I recently did some testing of SMIME signed newsgroup messages. First, I guess I should state how I achieved it in Mozilla Thunderbird (also works in Mozilla Application Suite, and Netscape 7):
First, set up one of your mail accounts to have a certificate for digital signing. Close Mozilla Thunderbird, and open your prefs.js file. The mail identity in which you added a certificate should have a couple of pref lines pertaining to digital signing. For instance, if it were id1, it would be:
user_pref("mail.identity.id1.sign_mail", false);
user_pref("mail.identity.id1.signing_cert_name", "certificate name here");

Copy and paste those lines to the id that pertains to your news account, and edit the id number on the pasted lines. So, if your news account is id6, you should have both:
user_pref("mail.identity.id1.sign_mail", false);
user_pref("mail.identity.id1.signing_cert_name", "certificate name here");

and
user_pref("mail.identity.id6.sign_mail", false);
user_pref("mail.identity.id6.signing_cert_name", "certificate name here");

(Note that if you want your messages to be automatically be signed, you can change the value of mail.identity.id6.sign_mail to true.)

Save and close the prefs.js, and start Thunderbird. Open a newsgroup, and click on “Write.” If you want to sign the message, you can go to Options -> Security -> Digitally Sign This Message.

Okay, now that we know how to do it, what happens when it’s done?

Size
The first message I tested contained a body of one word: “test”. That message was 4KB. I got a certificate with lower encryption. The first was 2048bit, the second was 1024. The same test message with a 1024 bit key was 1KB less in size (3KB). Note that if you’re using the Face header, that will also add another KB to your message, so all in all, you could have a one word newsgroup post, that is 5KB in size.

Usenet
I did a few tests in netscape.public.test to see if the messages would propagate, and how Google will take and display them. Google didn’t take them. As a matter of fact, neither did Giganews. I had to use news.mozilla.org to post them. Unsigned replies to those tests showed up on both Google and Giganews, so I did some digging. The signed messages were sent with the content-type header:
Content-Type: multipart/signed; protocol=”application/x-pkcs7-signature”; micalg=sha1; boundary=”————ms090800060705060603050107″
Both Google and Giganews filter out messages with binary attachments in text groups. Google and Giganews are treating the signature as a binary attachment. To verify this, I tried to post a signed message to giganews.test.binary, and it worked. If you want to sign your newsgroup messages, expect them to be treated as binary attachments.

Display
Okay, the digital signatures are treated as binary attachments. How are other news clients going to display the message. What I have on my system is Thunderbird, Netscape7, Mozilla 1.7.8, Netscape Communicator 4.8, Opera 7.54, Outlook Express 6, and Xnews5.04. All, except Opera and Xnews, recognized the signature as such, and had special display for it (key, etc). Opera and Xnews just considered it an attachment and used the generic attachment display method.

Conclusion
If you’re posting on usenet, don’t bother. If you’re posting on a private server, make sure there’s a clear reason to digitally sign your messages, that is worth the extra 2KB, and take note of the software others are using.

A Proper Signature

For those who didn’t know;

RFC Standard
ftp://ftp.demon.co.uk/pub/news/doc/so1036.txt

“signatures”: short closing texts, auto-matically added to the end of articles by posting agents, identifying the poster and giving his network addresses etc. If a poster or posting agent does append a signature to an article, the signature SHOULD be preceded with a delimiter line containing (only) two hyphens (ASCII 45) followed by one blank (ASCII 32).
Posting agents SHOULD limit the length of signatures, since verbose excess bordering on abuse is common if no restraint is imposed; 4 lines is a common limit..

Let’s recap:
– Your email/newsgroup signatures should be a maximum 4 lines. That’s the standard limit.
– separate your signature from the message body with two hyphens and a space (-- ). You’d be surprised what software can do if it can recognize a proper signature delimiter. 🙂

Choosing my new RSS reader

As I stated in a previous post, duplicate RSS items is my #1 Thunderbird bug. I recently decided to look for alternatives.

Stand-alone RSS readers are out of the question. I prefer to view the actual webpage of the RSS item, instead of the summary. I get to read the comments, and it makes placing a comment much quicker (thanks blogger.com, for only offering atom feeds. -( ). As a result, I think I would be much better off with a Firefox or Thunderbird extension. This way, I make sure the Gecko rendering engine is used.

I should first explain why I don’t use Firefox’s live bookmarks feature. It’s a nice feature, but it does not indicate which RSS items I have read, and which ones are new. I don’t want to have to reread through the list of items on every RSS feed to see if I recognize the titles. Live bookmarks is a nice technology demo, but I have trouble finding a practical use for it.

So I looked at the RSS extensions available. I tried Forumzilla a few months ago on the Mozilla Application Suite and Netscape 7, having been told to add it to http://ilias.ca/MozillavsFirefox. It would not remember any RSS feeds I entered, let alone fetch items. It seems to work for others, so I assume the problem was local.

Next, I had look at Aggreg8. According to the Aggreg8 weblog, development on Aggreg8 has ceased, and Habarixenu is recommended. So I tried Habarixenu. I quickly uninstalled it, after finding no way to set it to display the actual webpage of an RSS item.

So I went to addons.mozilla.org, and saw Wizz RSS. It has the layout I’m looking for. It also has the stupidest caveat I’ve seen in an RSS reader: You have to store your feed list on the Wizz Computers server. Buh-bye.

Next, I tried Sage. It has a good user interface. It keeps track of which items are read and unread. It has a nice “check feeds” button, which checks for new items on all my feeds, and puts an indicator beside those feeds, which have new items. My only problem with it is that the list of items kept on the list is not controlled, like it is in Thunderbird. I like to hold on to certain blog posts, that I find helpful. I suppose simply bookmarking them would do the trick.

And so, I chose Sage as my new RSS reader.

My #1 Thunderbird bug


If I get another duplicate item in any of the RSS feeds I subscribe to in Mozilla Thunderbird, I’m going to puke!

This is a known bug [Bug 258465]. What’s worse is there seems to be no pattern. At least something to help coders identify the source of the problem, so they can figure out how to fix it.

If any Mozilla Thunderbird users out there have any info on what the cause may be, please provide info on the bug 258465 page. (Please only comment on that page, if you have helpful info. No “me too”, or “I hate this bug” posts.)

Bug 258465 is marked as a Thunderbird 1.1 blocker. Thunderbird 1.1 isn’t planned to be released for a long time, but the fact that is flagged as a blocker should be an indication of priority.