Migrate Thunderbird from WindowsXP to Linux or OSX

Using Mozilla Thunderbird over other email applications is mostly a matter of preference. However, the fact that it is an application that runs on Windows, OSX and GNU/Linux is a very big reason for using it rather than other similar applications. Not only is it running on these operating systems, but it is extremely easy to move your mail and all of your settings to another computer and/or operating system.

I discovered this after temporarily moving one of my sisters onto my G5 after her Windows machine stopped booting. I was able to use the Ubuntu 6.06 live cd to access her hard drive and copy all of her important documents to my iPod Mini.

The files you need to retrieve from the Windows PC are in the following directory:

Documents and Settings/
<username>/Application Data/Thunderbird/Profiles/xxxxxx.default/

These are the files you need from there:

Address Book: abook.mab
Preferences: prefs.js
Mail: Mail (folder/directory)

It is probably also a good idea to go to Address Book while in Thunderbird and export your addresses to one of the more universal formats like ldif or csv. I won’t make any promises if you try to import them to another email application, but you can at least open those with a spreadsheet application if all else fails.

Keep those files in a safe place or back them up along with anything else that’s important to you. Now go to the new machine or go ahead and install another operating system, whatever. On the new system install Thunderbird and then load it and walk through the account set up with some dummy info. I do this so that when I go into the directory to find the place for my old files to go there’s something there for me to replace. It also reaffirms that I am putting them in the right place.

Close Thunderbird after you finish the account set up. In your file browser find your Thunderbird files. Following are locations for those files in different OSs to the best of my knowledge:

HD/Users/<username>/Library/Application Support/Thunderbird

C:/Documents and Settings/<username>/Application Data/Thunderbird

(Most Linux OSs will be similar. Note that .mozilla-thunderbird is a hidden file. In most Linux file browsers there is an option under ‘View/Show Hidden Files’.)

Okay, now all you have to do is copy your old files to this directory and in doing that you will replace or overwrite the existing files:

Address Book: abook.mab
Preferences: prefs.js
Mail: Mail (folder/directory)

Once that is done, load Thunderbird and it should look like you never left home!

I am offering these instructions to be helpful. By attempting to do this you are accepting all responsibility for the outcome. I cannot guarantee success. Make sure that you take notes on any information regarding access to your mail servers and accounts before deleting your existing Thunderbird set up.

Open Source Applications on OSX for Graphic Design and More

This is for people using OSX, but a lot of these are ported to Windows. Actually, in Windows you can get true, native apps, while in OSX you have to use the X11 emulator most of the time. Regardless, here’s a few tidbits that might make open source more attractive and easier to acquire.

X11 or simply ‘X’ predates all of the operating systems us laymen are familiar with. It is the original graphical user interface. When young Steve Jobs went over to Xerox Labs this was what caught his eye (yes, Xerox invented the mouse, if you didn’t know). It started on Unix machines, was adapted slightly for Linux and now you are running an emulator within OSX. OSX install disks come with this since 10.3. If you are doing a fresh install, it’s under the ‘Customize’ button that appears shortly before the ‘Install’ window. Just check a box. Otherwise, you can install it after the fact, but I’m not going to describe that here. If you are using 10.3 there is a download on Apple’s site. Apparently for 10.4 they recommend installing from your original disks. You MUST have this to run the following unless otherwise stated.

The only thing the GIMP (Gnu Image Manipulation Program) lacks is CMYK support and Layer Sets. Okay, that’s not the only thing, but it’s pretty close to Photoshop 6, and that’s not bad. There is a variant of the GIMP out there that targets Photoshop users. This brilliant individual changed the menues, tool shortcuts and some of the graphics to make the GIMP look and feal more like Photoshop. Google ‘gimpshop’ and download. If you already have X11 installed, installing and using GIMPshop is like using a native application.

This is cool, but difficult to understand if you are not familiar with Debian or Ubuntu Linux. It’s an application that downloads and installs applications for you. Specifically *NIX applications. It allows you to avoid ‘Dependency Hell’. If you don’t know what that is, revel in that fact. To get Fink, go here: http://fink.sourceforge.net. It installs like a standard application. After that’s installed you’ll want to drop the application ‘Fink Commander’, which comes with Fink, into your applications folder. Follow their instructions. Once that’s all done you can use Fink Commander to review the list of available applications. The GIMP is available this way, but it’s a much older version, so use the above suggestion instead. The next few apps can be installed through Fink. You will have to add any X11 applications installed through Fink to your X11 Applications menu manually, but if you want to know more about that, just ask. To install apps, open Fink Commander and browse the list or use the search feature to look for what you need. When you find the right file, highlight it and click the button on the far top-left. Fink will take it from there.

This is a layout application. It’s a little rough around the edges, but worth checking out. I can’t find a kerning function, but it can be a powerful app. The best feature about Scribus is that its document files are actually written using xml. This means that the file can be opened by a text editor and edited. Maybe that doesn’t sound sexy, but it allows you to manage the content more like a web page. Granted, the markup can get complex and messy, but it’s much more future-proof than the closed binary proprietary file formats tha the commercial apps use.

Like the name indicates, this application allows you to create or customize your own fonts. Sounds like fun, but in reality is fairly complex. Great tool though. Can also be used to convert PC fonts to Mac fonts and vice versa (so I’m told). A handy tool to keep around. Installs through Fink easily. I’ve successfully created a font with only the first 6 letters finished. It’s cool if you have a little patience.

KDE Games
Okay, not a design tool, but who doesn’t need a little old-school gaming action every now and then? Here’s a few of the games included: Battleship, Poker, Solitaire, Tetris, Connect-4, Putt-Putt Golf (and you can make your own courses! Killer!), Black Jack, Mahjongg, Minesweeper, Tron and Asteroids. Just use Fink Commander to search for ‘KDE Games 3’ and click the little (less than intuitive) button in the top-left to install. The files don’t have little sexy icons though. You will find the files (after you install them) here: /sw/bin/. I’ve found that OSX doesn’t recognize these as applications, so you can’t make a shortcut for your doc by right clicking. However, if you make a shortcut for a native OSX app and then Get Info, you can change where it points to. So, take that shortcut and name it after one of your new KDE games, and then point it at the appropriate binary file in /sw/bin.

Inkscape is a pretty solid vector drawing application. It’s documents are an svg file type and that means written in xml. Sound familiar? SVG is the W3C standard for vector graphics. Which is why SVG stands for Standard Vector Graphics. Unfortunately, you can’t install Inkscape via Fink. However, it’s easy enough to download and install by going here: http://www.inkscape.org/download/?css=css/base.css from there you can download the OSX version. It will work pretty much like the GIMP, which is pretty much like a standard OSX native app.

Well, there you have it: A complete graphic design suite. If only Adobe CS came with Asteroids! There are endless amounts of apps out there, but I need to get some sleep. Let me know if any of this interests you or if you have something to add to the list of information.

Ubuntu 6.06 on 1.6 GHz PowerMac G5 (part 2)

Well, I finally got to a point where my OSX installation wasn’t doing a lot of work for me. As I have said in earlier posts, I have an Ubuntu 6.06 disc (see part 1) and a good friend with cable internet downloaded all of the Yellow Dog 4.1 discs for me after my failed attempt over dsl.

I have booted from the Ubuntu cd before, but was disappointed with the screen resolution topping out at 1024 x 840px. That wasn’t acceptable. So I started with Yellow Dog. Yellow Dog specifically makes Linux for PowerPC processors. With that in mind, I figured the video hardware they needed to support would be a fairly short list. They should be able to keep track of the very few video cards that Apple uses right? I guess they support other PowerPC computers, but for the general consumers Apple Computers and Microsoft’s Xbox are pretty much the only available PowerPCs on the market.

For starters I used the OSX install disc to boot and used the Disk Utility from there to erase my current 74GB OSX partition (along with some files I forgot to back up) and set a new OSX partition at 20GB while leaving the rest of the disk empty. I set the OSX partition at the end of the disk since I intended to install Linux on the front. I can’t say if the partition order really matters.

I installed OSX in its new 20GB home. I then booted from the Yellow Dog 4 disk. Anyone familiar with RedHat will find YD’s Anaconda installer pretty much unchanged. It is a great installation experience and definitely gives you confidence that this will work :). I think I did a ‘Workstation’ install, but after I did some manual editing of the application list, that might have all gone to hell. The installation went fine and on rebooting I had a boot option for OSX. Very easy and straight forward.

Problem number 1: Screen Resolution
I don’t understand the difficulty here, since my G5 is already two years old, supporting the hardware shouldn’t be difficult. However, the 1024px cap that I experienced in Ubuntu was there in YD. I attempted to alter the resolution from the ‘Display Resolution’ application as well as altering /etc/X11/xorg.conf but to no avail. I successfully changed the setting at one point only to find myself without a display. So it wasn’t really successful. Fortunately, I remembered the Control-Alt-Backspace feature for restarting X11 and it walked me through correcting the problem. So back to 1024. šŸ™

Problem number 2: Dual Monitor/Head Support
At that point I had also discovered YD’s ‘Display Resolution’ had a tab for dual-head or dual-screen set up. That’s pretty cool and definitely looks as simple to manage as OSX’s. Unfortunately, it didn’t jive well with the fact that my single video card had the ability to output two displays. In the error log I noticed an error stating that it was sending the data to a device already in use. So, it is likely that with two physically separate video cards this would be a snap. Alas, but not for me. šŸ™

Problem Number 3: I Hate RedHat and RPMs
Looking at my brand-spanking-new desktop was not inspiring. I was starting to remember why I had a bland response to my initial Linux install all the way back two years ago: RedHat’s main menues are sloppy and confusing and the RPM system sucks if you don’t know where to get dependencies (this state of mind is called ‘Dependency Hell’ for any of you that are newer to this than me). I realize that I can customize the menu, but I don’t want to do that and there are so many applications that seem to have similar names or would do similar things that it just doesn’t seem worth it. When I first used XFCE I was amazed how the makers took the time to group all of the System Setting applications into one dialog box. What a novel idea! KDE should get some credit for that as well, but KDE just isn’t quite my cup of tea. XFCE, for all of its limitations and faults, is a great desktop environment for people coming over from Windows and OSX. I think XFCE has even out simplified Apple. But anyway, RedHat’s implimentation of Gnome is simply revolting. Ubuntu has them beat with a much more organized menu from the start. I think the way Synaptic makes installing applications easy is the other important feature. Not much learning required. And so, Yellow Dog failed to meet my expectations. šŸ™

My next move was to install Ubuntu instead and see how the dice rolled. I had already screwed my OSX installation, I might as well try everything now. I started from scratch, erasing the whole disk and reinstalling OSX. Why? Because OSX, though it shows you one nice and simple partition, is actually creating two or 3 small partitions additionally that contain boot instructions for OSX (the equivalent of a Master Boot Record, I assume). From what I understand, the linux distros have to write to one of these specific partitions in order to alter the boot options. Actually, I did initially try to install Ubuntu right over the YD 4, but when it came time to reboot I did not see the boot option text. It booted straight into Ubuntu. No OSX. So, I went back and started from the beginning.

This is getting long, so I will finish up in a PART 3 soon.

OSX: Print Contents of Folder as Text List

This Explains how to get a text version of any folder’s contents in OSX (and possibly other *NIX) added to the clipboard to be pasted wherever you like.

  1. Open the Terminal.app and CHANGE DIRECTORY to the folder you want to print
    1. Open Terminal and type
      followed by the directory path to the folder you need the list of contents for (example: /Users/jason/Desktop/foldername)
    2. press ‘enter’
  2. Change Directory in Terminal

    NOTE: Copy/Pasting these right now doesn’t work. I’ll get a little smarter on this and update this post as soon as possible.

    1. To get just the file names of the directory to which you just moved your Terminal, paste the following into Terminal and press Enter:
      1. ls -lT | awk ‘{print “\””substr($0,index($0,$10))”\””}’ \ | pbcopy
    2. To get file names, Creation Date, Size in CSV (If you don’t know what ‘Comma-Space-Delimited’ file is, look it up. Actually, this output is semicolon-delimited. Keep that in mind when importing into spreadsheet program) format, paste the following into Terminal and press Enter:
      1. ls -lT | awk ‘{print “\””substr($0,index($0,$10))”\”””;””\””$6″ “$7”, “$9″\”””;””\””$5″\””}’ \ | pbcopy

This seems to work, though not as smoothly as I remember OS9 doing it. šŸ˜€ However, I seem to recall OS9 having a few other problems that are not replicated in OSX. I attempted to write an applescript to execute this, but every time I try to get interested in AppleScript I quickly lose interest. If anybody out there can help me out with this, please do. I would think it would be as simple as that “File Path to Clipboard” applescript, but that’s a post I have yet to make. Let me know if this improves your Data-CD burning efficiency.

OSX: Mounting Digital Cameras, Getting and Deleting Pictures

Initially, these cameras were being used with a WindowsXP box. The camera would be connected via USB to the computer, it would mount as an external drive, the files would be copied to the computer’s hard drive, the files would be deleted from the camera drive and the camera would be unmounted and turned off. When the camera is used to take more photos the compact flash disc would be empty and ready for another shoot.

Well, our department changed a bit and the main photographers for the company were now two OSX users. It seemed like a waste of time to continue using the now vacant WindowsXP box just to pull the files off of the camera. I’m all about diminishing silly myths regarding OSX and its support for external hardware. “Puhshaw! Of COURSE it works with a Mac!”

So, we plugged in the camera and tried it out. Everything worked as expected. Once the files were transferred, we hit the ‘Delete’ button on the finder (or Command-Delete or dragged the files from the camera’s folder to the trash) and unmounted the camera and turned it off. Everything’s cool.

When the next shoot was began however, we realized everything wasn’t cool: the files from the previous shoot were still on the camera. Sort of. There were no existing images to browse through, but the available picture counter wasn’t showing its usually capacity. So, we plugged it back in to the Mac and to our surprise the folders on the camera showed that they had no contents. Where were these mysterious files? Well, an obvious clue if you noticed is that those files you thought you had deleted reappear in the Trash when you remount the camera.

To make a long story short, this is an excellent example of how OSX handles deleting files. It was a little frustrating, but after thinking about the process I realized that it’s really a great method for saving people from deleting the wrong file. Here’s how it works:

When you tell OSX to delete a file on any drive you’ll notice that the files are quickly removed (unless it’s a network drive. In that case, after telling OSX to delete the file you will be reminded that the files will be completely deleted and asked if that is indeed what you had intended.) This process is quick because the files are simply moved to a folder on the same drive named ‘.Trashes’. The specified trashes directory is hidden on every drive. Any file whose name starts with a ‘.’ will be hidden in OSX and all Linux OSes as well. This is a little confusing since anything you trash on any locally mounted drive shows up in the ‘Trash’ on your dock. The Trash would seem to be one location on the computer, but in reality the ‘Trash’ is a collective display of the contents of all .Trashes folders in all locally mounted drives. If you’d like to see these hidden files in Linux it’s usually an option under ‘View’ in the file browser. OSX’s Finder doesn’t have that option for the general user, but it’s easy enough through a simple command in the Terminal or the use of an AppleScript to run the Terminal for you. Anyway, here’s what you need to see hidden files in OSX.

This method works flawlessly as long as your mounted drives do not get moved or unmounted very often. You know that those files won’t be deleted until you remove them from the Trash. So, the secret to working with any digital camera or external drive is to move the old files to the Trash and be sure to empty the Trash before you unmount the camera or drive. That action will completely delete the files. No more mystery files on your camera.

Now, this brings up an issue with using OSX’s Trash as a holding place for files you are not quite ready to completely delete. If you want to delete files from your camera those files will be permanently deleted as well. To avoid interrupting this method of using OSX’s trash I create a folder inside my home folder and I name it ‘Not Quite Trash’. I then drag it to the dock and set it right above the ‘real’ Trash. This way you can still drag files to it just like the ‘real’ Trash. It’s not perfect, but it’s pretty good.

Finally, I have to say that OSX should probably ask the user about what to do with the contents of the Trash that are associated with any drive they are attempting to unmount. That would make the above post completely unnecessary. However, Xubuntu 6.06 doesn’t even have a trash mechanism. You just delete the file and it’s gone forever. Definitely getting some use out of my ‘Not Quite Trash’ folder on this system.

Reconsidering OSX’s Text/Edit

Text/Edit preference pane

NOTE: The first paragraph is a rant about using commercial html editors. Continue to the second paragraph for the meat and potatoes.

As a web designer I prefer to work with a text editor that usually can assist me with the markup (Quanta Plus, BBEdit and the text editor side of Dreamweaver) but I also use plain vanilla text editors as well. I resist becoming dependent on an application like Dreamweaver. In the past I’ve made the mistake of becoming an expert in a specific application rather than understanding the details of what that application was doing. I think web design is a common victim of that evil. Dreamweaver is very powerful, makes complex things easy and from what I can tell is writing pretty good html these days. However, it is proprietary software and you must pay for it. Right now a full version of Dreamweaver is $399. That’s perfectly fine, but if I had $400 to spend, I’d probably buy a ‘newer’ laptop šŸ˜‰ More importantly, html is available for our uses for free. I like to think of it like a spoken language: It’s a part of our culture, there are different levels of knowledge about it and if you know it well it can be a very powerful tool of communication. No need for a liaison.

Whew, that was a long introduction! Let’s get down to brass tacks:
A lot of people don’t even know what Text/Edit is even though its name is self explanatory. A lot of other people complain about its default rich-text mode and how it saves ‘.rtf’ files. A few others hate that when you open html files it tries to read the html markup and show the appearance of the web page rather than the source (and very poorly at that). Well, this is all true. However it is also true that on the menu bar, under its name, is a link to Text/Edit’s preferences pane (hey, it took me two years to get around to going there). Go there now and apply the following changes:

  • New Document Attributes
    • Check ‘Plain text’
    • For editing html I recommend turning off ‘Wrap to Page’. You can always turn back on via the ‘Format’ menu.
  • Saving
    • Uncheck ‘Append “.txt” extension to plain text files

These changes turn Text/Edit back to a simple text editor that doesn’t interfere with what you are trying to do. Anybody remember SimpleText in OS9? Exactly. Aside from not having html markup assistance capabilities, or even the ability to apply color codes to html markup, Text/Edit works great. Remember that Text/Edit will no longer automatically add an extension to your files. Happy text editing!

Burning ISO files as boot disks with OSX


So you’re interested in GNU/Linux as either an operating system to install or a ‘live CD’ to use for formatting and retrieving files from hard drives. Either way you will need to be able to download ‘.iso’ files and burn them to a cd in order to get anywhere. It doesn’t take many cd-coasters to realize that whatever method of disc burning you are using isn’t doing the trick.

I’ve yet to have a Linux-box that is recent enough to have a cd-burner and the PowerPC version of Ubuntu 5.1 that I have, although it works fine on the old iMac G3, doesn’t appear to work on the perhaps more sophisticated G5. So, the only experience I have at the moment is using OSX 10.3.9 to burn ISOs to disc. I sure couldn’t find a lot of information about doing this in OSX when I needed to know how.

  1. Download the .iso file that you are interested in. My first was actually a set of four or five Fedora Core 4 discs.
  2. Then in OSX go to ‘/Applications/Utilities/Disk Utility’ and open that application.
  3. In the menu go to ‘Images’ and click ‘Burn’.
  4. Browse to the .iso file that you wish to burn to disc and double-click.
  5. Insert blank CD-R disc and hit the ‘Burn’ button. I usually don’t bother with ‘Verify’ since you’ll know soon enough if it doesn’t work and generally there are few problems unless you have a janky internet connection that causes problems with your download. I take it that if you are downloading something like Fedora Core that you are on broadband and that you won’t have any problems.
  6. Insert the disk into the computer on which you’d like to install (You’ll have to set up your PC to boot from the CD drive via the BIOS settings. If your PC is too old to boot directly from a CD you will have a whole other beast on your hands.) and boot or reboot that machine to see the fruits of all of this labor.

That’s all there is to it. If you poke around a bit you will see that the Disk Utility application is a very powerful tool for creating iso files as well. However, I don’t have much use for all of those features. You are now on your way to the world of creating boot discs. No doubt you will have the envy of all of your friends.

iPod as OSX/Windows/Linux USB drive

iPod MiniTake advantage of your iPod as a cross-operating system file transfer or backup usb drive. If you’ve read my ‘About’ page you know that I employ OSX and Ubuntu Linux at home and use WindowsXP at work as well. Having a usb drive to plug into all three of them is what makes using three different operating systems livable. Hopefully this short post can save you all of the time I spent reading on the net about this idea. In the end it was so simple I vowed to start my own site where I could give advice to other power users that don’t want to sell their soul to the tech-geek gods.

First: What is the operating system you use to alter the music/video content of your iPod? Windows or OSX? I use OSX. If you use Windows this is going to be very easy. In the iTunes preferences make sure your iPod is set to ‘use as external drive’ or whatever (sorry I don’t have the exact wording).

Second: Something to keep in mind is the file system that the two different operating systems employ:

  • Windows: FAT32 or NTFS
  • OSX: HFS+

When an iPod is first used on either operating system it is reformatted with either a 3-partition HFS+ file system or a 2-partition VFAT (which I can only assume is another name for FAT32 or some relative of FAT32) file system. (The iPod may technically not be reformatted depending on the format it is initially formatted in. The difference is irrelevant to the issue at hand.)

Linux uses its own file system (usually ‘ext3’). However, Linux has been working with Windows for a long time and apparently it has no trouble reading FAT32 file systems. The same goes for OSX because, let’s face it, when you’re 3% of the personal computer market you adapt to work with the competition. So, you guessed it, if you already use Windows to manage the content of your iPod you don’t have to do a thing. Just plug your iPod into either a Linux or OSX box and it will mount as a removable drive. With Linux this experience can vary depending on the version of the Linux Kernel being used as well as the distribution of Linux. With Fedora Core 4 I had to manually alter a text file to allow the system to mount the drive. However, with Ubuntu 5.1 usb drives mount automatically. (NOTE:If you think the word ‘terminal’ is usually associated with some sort of illness, I recommend installing Ubuntu.) In OSX you’ll see a generic usb drive icon instead of the iPod icon. That’s easily corrected with a simple trip to the ‘Get Info’ window of the iPod and copy/paste of the correct iPod icon.

Now, for those of you using OSX to manage your iPod content. You need to reformat your iPod for Windows. Don’t worry, you can still use your iPod with iTunes in OSX. I do it all the time. File transfers are a little slower with FAT32 (VFAT) but the benefits of going between operating systems outweighs the cost in file transfer speed. The other issue has to do with file name length and possibly a limited use of certain characters in file names. Seems like a small cost.

The trick is finding a Windows box to use for the reformatting. Find a friend with Windows and bring a $7 six-pack of beer with you.

Next, you’ll need to download the appropriate ‘iPod Updater’ for Windows from Apple.com. Try this page:


This will have to be installed on the Windows box. Then you’ll plug in your iPod and start the program to reformat your iPod. NOTE: Backup any music or files you have on the iPod prior to this step. Reformatting will erase the iPod’s drive and create a new file system. If you have music on the iPod that you don’t have on your computer, download this applescript to pull those songs off of your ipod šŸ™‚

Import iPod Audio Files Applescript

Once that’s done you’re ready to go. The reformatting is easy. You will now be able to take files in between different operating systems.