Customizing Ubuntu

Posted by tadelste on Apr 3, 2006 6:11 PM EDT; By Herschel Cohen
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  Thunderbird Latest Version   Simple steps to install version 1.5 with previously used data and configuration files. A few words about extending the customization to enable a few nice features.

Thunderbird Latest Version


In order to have a working desktop I needed several programs: mail, browser and editor(s). Moreover, the first two required their complete data sets: current email, filed structure and stored emails with regard to Thunderbird. In addition, this application needed to retain its fairly good ability to filter out junk mail. In most respects, Thunderbird was one of the easier to effect.

The task of adding the Thunderbird mail program is a bit simpler due to Ubuntu's using a limited set of default applications. Ubuntu's choice of a mailer is Evolution found under the menu > Applications > Office. since this was an application I never used I would have less of a problem moving to my choice of a mailer. Another advantage was the configuration and data storage would not conflict with a current version as was the case with Firefox. The problem here was reduced to installing a new version of Thunderbird, which is version 1.5 and moving all data, configurations, etc. to the Ubuntu side.

RTFM or Check Out the Instructions:

To make life relatively simple, Ubuntu lists changing the mailer to Thunderbird as almost a frequently asked question (FAQ) status. However, the page refers to older version of Thunderbird: 1.0.7, which was the version I already had on the Debian side. Nonetheless, there is a discussion of how and where to install version 1.5. If you wish, you need not read this article any further if your only goal is upgrading and/or adding Thunderbird to your Ubuntu installation. The contents of that page should suffice. Most of my observations and comments are directed at those running more than one distribution (and/or) machines and some customizations not mentioned on the web wiki page.

How I installed Thunderbird 1.5:

Oddly I forgot that I had in this case made some notes, hence, after researching what I might have done I confirmed my conclusions by finding a page of hand written notes that I essentially followed the directions described in the Ubuntu Wiki page for Thunderbird. However, I changed the order because I wanted my Thunderbird configuration and data installed prior to starting up Thunderbird the first time on Ubuntu.

As I showed in the last article about modifying grub, I had the Debain home file system mounted1. upon boot up of Ubuntu as:


on the ha2 drive. So all I had to do was copy the contents in from that file system to the home directory under Ubuntu, where we wish to take not only the initial directory, but all files including deeper directories recursively. Hence, the command I used was (cp -r):

UserName@NameServer:~$ sudo cp -r
                                            > /mnt/debian/home/username/.mozilla-thunderbird
                                            > ~/.thunderbird

where the back slash indicates command continued on the following line and the tilde "~" means user's home directory, i.e.


[Note: These same procedures will work if you were migrating to Ubuntu from a different machine using your copied home directory archived on a cd or from the same machine doing a new installation again from stored data. To keep most of your application settings also archive your /etc directory. Indeed, the same operation would be performed transferring from a different distribution on the same disc or a different machine, however, in the latter case unless you are on an isolated lan the connection should be made linking the machines via ssh and the copy performed using secure copy2.: scp. You should know too, that the server names become part of the paths.]

The loading of Thunderbird 1.5 follows pretty closely to the directions in the web page cited right at the beginning. That is, take a copy of the Linux version to your machine by via http://ftp. I tend to use the tar (tape archive) dot gz (zipped) compressed file version. To be cautious run check md5sum3. Once there move it to the /opt directory:

UserName@NameServer:~$ sudo mv thunderbird-1.5.tar.gz /opt/

this is followed by decompression into the thunderbird directory just beneath /opt:

UserName@NameServer:~$ sudo tar xzvf thunderbird-1.5.tar.gz
                                           > /opt/thunderbird

Finishing Touches

At this stage the installation is completed, except perhaps for some niceties. For myself, email is a core application that gets heavy use, hence, it is one of the few icons I place on my desktop. I am not particularly fond of gui tools, nonetheless, I do several things that differ from the tutorial on the Ubuntu Wiki4.. There are just a few things I will call your attention and show you primarily the different means I employed.

Let's get started: right click on the desktop away from any other object, chose "create launcher ..." where the three dots indicate more to follow. A small window opens with Create Launcher at the top, you can fill in most as you please, because they are mostly merely text. Moreover, at the "Command: " line level, if you follow the directions in the Wiki you could use the symbolic link file. However, I have had experiences with orphaned and/or lost symbolic links. In addition, having run some applications in multiple versions in fairly rapid sequence when under testing I tend to put in the exact command line that fires the version I wish associated with the launcher. In this case, I would just type in: /opt/thunderbird/thunderbird and be done5..

The final point I am going to make on the gui, is the finding and selecting the icon. You will not have access rights to apply the proper icon, hence, I suggest choosing none. Select ok in the launcher and a generic icon appears with your text describing this application. Right click on this icon and select properties. Now near the bottom of this configuration window chose Select Custom Icon..., then follow these directions. At the upper right of the Browse Icons window hit the Browse ... button, where a large Browse window appears with directory listings. We wish to move to the root directory, that can be reached just to the left of the usr (read it as /usr) button along the top, center. Scroll down to /opt and select it. Then select thunderbird, then icons where two are shown: mozicon15 and mozicon50 (both with xpm extensions). Since, I run at high resolution even the 50 for Thunderbird is rather small. Make a choice, i.e. your best guess and select Open. If it either too small or too large, repeat these steps and use the better of the two.

First Run:

Start from the launcher - hope it works as well for you as it did for me.

At first I had some issues with the new version (1.5), where it initially seemed that the older (1.0.7) worked better recognizing junk mail. I was appalled by the necessity of labeling obvious junk that came from the old junk mail file. Moreover, upon labeling they ceased to have bold print indicating they were read. While this may have been true on the old version where their contents would be readily readable on the new version it seems primarily to indicate it was not recognized as junk mail at the onset. It appears, however, that the recognition rate of SPAM is lower on the new version a bit above 50%. This might be due to my just now reaching the early stages of the new version startup where it began at an extremely low rate.

While I am not certain this is the reason, I am seeing less SPAM overall despite now having two active mail accounts. Hence, though I cannot assure you that your load may be lessened, I would suggest at least one further configuration change on your Thunderbird configuration. In the menu Tools > Junk Mail Controls where you check the box: "Trust mail headers set by: " and chose SpamAssasin6.. One other suggestion, that's not security related is under the menu: Edit > Preferences select the Composition button and if you spell as badly as I check off both "Check spelling before sending " and "Enable spell check as you type". My experience has been the spell check is better at identifying spelling errors than in suggesting properly spelled word choices, hence, try this: that has a Thesaurus, Encyclopedia and Web options for getting the proper word and spelling.

Now you have to admit, if this works for you as well as it did for myself this went quite smoothly. Hence, I strongly suggest coming back when I describe my experiences installing the newest security update of the Foxfire 1.5 series where I really screw it up. You will see by leaving one option off a command I lost what some might consider a critical piece of the Ubuntu installation. Moreover, by taking too hasty an action afterwards I lost a critical piece, which would have allowed me to have recovered the original installation. Nonetheless, despite this set back I could only conclude it was still a better desktop than most I have worked. Furthermore, I like Ubuntu and the attitudes of many associated with this distribution I find commendable. These people seem to regard being helpful as a positive attribute and I agree with them on that. Nonetheless, I would probably trade it in an instant if I could recover the lost Debian Testing and Unstable that met most of my needs.

Well until next time, when I make a mess of Firefox where you are invited to learn from my errors and chuckles for some others let's continue to customize the desktop. Right now, I think I will play a bit with my Fedora Core 3 laptop and see how easy it is to update. Who says I am not constant, committed individual? >____________________________________


1. Simply run: ~$ sudo mount to see the files systems that are mounted from /etc/fstab or if you need a bit more reminding check out the discussion in just prior to section modifying grub.

2. Here is a line where you can begin to read about secure shell and copy, which includes a quick introduction to the remote commands that are now recognized as being too insecure. The latter type commands sent data in clear, non-encrypted text.

3. Check out this documentation for md5sum. This may be overkill, since I am not sure Mozilla provides a MD5 security id.

4. Odd, no mention there on the placement on the desktop per se.

5. When uncertain, use the browse button on this window to find the executable. Confirm by doing a ls -l on the file to see access rights and note the green color for an executable file.

6. Though I had done this previously, I found it unset as I rechecked the steps for this write up.

» Read more about: Story Type: Tutorial; Groups: Community, Debian, Fedora, Mozilla, Ubuntu

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