Three reasons to follow Mozilla Thunderbird development

Since Mozilla Messaging launched Thunderbird 3 I started using it to see if this new version is better than GNOME Evolution, the email/calendar application I used in the past 4 years. Evolution is a decent email and calendar client and I love the integration in GNOME, but it stopped evolving and its GUI has many annoyances. I’ve used Thunderbird 3.0.1 for a couple of weeks and here are three reasons to choose it and why I decided to postpone the adoption.

Search and indexing: Thunderbird 3 indexing is fast and very good. The interface for searching and drilling your mailbox is fantastic, very well done and fast. Check the screenshot.

Tabs: I like to be able to read messages in different tabs. Lightning calendar and tasks conveniently open in a tab and it’s also possible to run Google Wave in one. This shows the power under the hood of this client: it has the potential to become a messaging hub for all services.  It’s annoying that Addressbook and compose new mail open in a new window instead of tab though.

Add-ons: just like Firefox, there are many ways to add functionalities to Thunderbird. The first add-on I installed is Funambol in order to test it and help its development. Then ThunderBrowse, in order to avoid opening Firefox only to check a link in an email and EnigMail to add GPG/PGP support. Nothing mind-blowing yet, but I hope somebody will develop a replacement of the Addressbook with more ‘social’ features. A topic for another post 🙂

Bonus reason: finally! There is an “Archive” button: once you’re done with a message or a thread, and you don’t want to delete it, you hit a button and the message goes into the archives (archiving criteria can be specified). A neat solution for Capo’s problem 🙂

The Addressbook, on the other hand, is pretty lame. It doesn’t contain enough fields, it still has space of a ‘pager number’ (anybody  still using them?), it opens in a window and not in a tab. I hope it’ll improve in next version.

I’m still using Evolution as my main source of data, especially address book and calendar. Even if Funambol add-on for Thunderbird 3 works decently, it’s still unstable and it has other small issues (if you want to help, Funambol offers Code Sniper grants).

How To Mix Agile And Software Developed By A Community

Back from Italian Agile Day where Stefano Fornari of Funambol with Marco Abis of Sourcesense animated a debate about mixing Free/Libre Open Source Software (FLOSS) and Agile development methods. I used to think that there was no issue because, after all, free software is a way to release software and it’s not a development method like many still think. Strictly speaking, what makes software free and open source is its license, not how it’s developed. But a lot of FLOSS is indeed developed in similar ways, with distributed teams, volunteer based contributions, merithocracy based leadership and so on. Some of these traits make FLOSS and Agile difficult to mix.

At Funambol we love Agile, me included, and we love to try new things so we proposed an experiment mixing Agile methods with community based development into a new Funambol Code Sniper program. The slideshow below summarizes the basis of this experiment based on the assumption that the community is the Product Owner of the new software.  The community will have to define the user stories and also to define when they’re DONE.

There are still a few grey areas, the biggest being how to distribute rewarding to contributors. I think they should be proportionate to the efforts put into the project. Even if it is possible to evaluate code contributions proportionally to story points (or hours/weeks), code is only a part of software development. Bug reporting, quality assurance, feedback and even writing user stories is important as well: how to evaluate these other kind of contributions? What do you think?

New Maemo UI and new Funambol Code Sniper

funambol-maemoNokia has shown the new UI framework for the next Maemo SDK, codename Freemantle. They finally are getting rid of the stylus keyboard and a lot of very cool new features. Ars published an overview and more up to date details. I’m a fan of the N8xx devices but I’m still waiting for devices with phone capabilities. Speaking of which, I think it’s time for a Funambol client to also run on Maemo. There is already Syncevolution, a powerful syncml client compatible with Funambol, but it’s missing a GUI. Funambol can offer $750 to develop a full graphic user interface for Syncevolution to run on the stable Maemo 4 or on the new Maemo 5. Do you know somebody interested in developing on Maemo? Go to the Funambol Code Sniper community for the details.

Make Funambol work on QTopia, get paid and get a free phone

Why wait until summer to code and earn $3,000? Funambol has just announced the availability of a $3,000 bounty to develop a plugin to allow Funambol to run on Qtopia devices. Trolltech, the makers of Qtopia, was just acquired this week by Nokia and as a result, Qtopia will become more commonly used.

Trolltech and Funambol would like to make sure that Funambol software works on Qtopia, so we are happy to provide you with a free Trolltech Green Phone or OpenMoko phone, a free Trolltech SDK and, of ourse, Funambol software. This would involve developing a plug-in to sync PIM data (contacts and calendar to start with) and maybe push email later.

If interested, follow the procedure on the code sniper page and submit a proposal.

Developers looking for information on Funambol’s code should look at Funambol’s wiki and at code from other community contributions (like the Android plugin, for example or the simpler Jajah plugin).