Better Mozilla Replacements

Last month I wrote about replacing all the Mozilla stuff on my computer, as a kinda-sorta protest against their stupid, purely political decision to fire their CEO because he dared to hold and dared to express a politically incorrect opinion about gay “marriage.” I love the Mozilla products, especially Seamonkey – the wonderful Internet Suite risen like a phoenix from the ashes of the Netscape project. I was hoping to find an equal replacement for Seamonkey that is entirely free and open-source. I tried out a few and settled on two awesome applications that not only give me everything Seamonkey did, but with less demand on system resources.

My browser is Xfce’s own wonderful ultralight browser, Midori. It can “identify” as any browser you wish, has built-in and customizable “add-on” options like Ad Blocker (which I don’t use, by the way, perhaps more on that later). It used to crash inexplicably all the time. Now it’s rock-stable on Linux Lite, Xubuntu, and SalixOS.

KMail

KMail is a sweet little KDE application that does almost everything quickly and simply, but it doesn’t allow for embedding images while composing HTML messages. That’s it’s only drawback – that and, of course, all the KDE dependencies that come with it when trying to install it in Linux Lite (Xfce desktop environment). Very nice, but not as full-featured as Thunderbird or Seamonkey just because of the Composer.

Geary / Pantheon-Mail

Pantheon-Mail is ElementaryOS’ own fork of the little Gnome e-mail client called Geary. I found absolutely no difference between the two at all, installing Geary from the Ubuntu repositories and Pantheon-Mail from ElementaryOS’ PPA. Both seem identical to me. The only difference was the default icon for the Xfce Panel, and the absence of any icons for certain options in Pantheon-Mail. Why fork a good project just to change it’s name? I found no difference whatsoever in my week-long comparison of the two. Neither has a proper Address Book, but depend on gathered addresses from incoming and outgoing e-mail. Rich Text is available but without any choice of font – just the default font and size, and the only rich-text options are color, Bold, Italics, Strikethrough, and Underline.

I didn’t even bother with the very popular and supposedly “full-featured” email clients Claws-Mail and Slypheed. I didn’t bother because neither has a mail composer that offers anything but plain text. It’s possible to write HTML messages, but you have to add a whole ‘nother application, an external editor. Hey I’m just a simple little sidekick, still scared of “complicated” software, and I prefer to keep things simple. For those who are aware of HTML’s “risks” and prefer only plain text, these two are very popular in the Linux world.

Evolution

I guess I have avoided this one for so long because of it’s association with Novell, a big office software company. But it’s FOSS, released under the GPL license, officially a Gnome project distributed by Novell (whatever that means, I got my copy from the repository, lol). Not available in Slackware or Salix because there’s just no Gnome stuff available for Slackware users, it is absolutely awesome. Full HTML composing using a Thunderbird-like WYSIWYG editor (oh, that’s “What You See Is What You Get”) and a truly super-cool interface, friendly enough for a little, mildly technophobic sidekick.

That’s the options available in the Composer window. Actually more options than Seamonkey offers, believe it or not. This post is being composed and published entirely via email, which is simply the way I prefer to do it when I can. Perhaps a leftover habit from back when we were on dial-up Internet and I did all my reading and writing offline anyway using an e-mail client (Eudora on Windows, then Thunderbird on Linux, and now Evolution (on Linux but not available as a Slackware package or Slack-build). When I’m ready I’ll test them out on Void Linux and write about it!

More Mozilla Replacements

Last time I wrote, I was describing replacement software for Mozilla products. Not because I’m one of those rabid FOSS activists who runs only GNU, open-source, non-proprietary software (I really don’t know how anyone actually does anyway), but because of Mozilla’s politics.

I had replaced my once-beloved Seamonkey with Midori (Xfce’s own awesome lightweight web browser) and Geary (A Gnome project, unsupported for awhile and recently resurrected and updated). Both are wonderful!

Just out of curiosity because of some minor limitations with Geary and Midori, I wanted to try the GNU versions of Mozilla’s Firefox and Thunderbird. They are IceCat (GNU’s version of Firefox) and Icedove (GNU – Thunderbird).

I installed them on my custom Xubuntu-core machine by adding the repository from Trisquel Linux (all GNU software) and using Synaptic to load ’em up.

IceCat refused to display anything with Java until I modified the settings, which I expected. Other than that it’s every bit like Firefox or Seamonkey’s browser, but a whole bunch quicker and more nimble. A good Mozilla replacement!

Icedove is awesome, and right out of the chute it has all the features I loved about Seamonkey’s mail reader and composer, including in-line links and images, Address Book, etc., which Geary lacks, as awesome as it is. Another good Mozilla replacement!

So if you think you can’t do without Mozilla’s great products, but don’t want Mozilla’s branding or to use their products showing, even unwittingly, some support for their political corruption, check out these sweet GNU alternatives.

Oh My, Slackware Has No Gnome!

Gnome has been removed from Slackware, some months ago. It’s nothing against Gnome, I guess, but I was surprised when I went to try out a couple of Gnome applications because my favorite web browser (actually, Internet Suite) Seamonkey, has started acting up.

Not available in the repository, not available as a Slackbuild. Salix has a couple of Gnome things in their repository, but not the applications I wanted to try. Geary and maybe Evolution for e-mail and maybe some other browser (besides Firefox).

But I had to use another distro to try them out! Grrrr. Oh well, back to Xubuntu for this trial-and-error experiment. But not exactly full-on Xubuntu.

Xubuntu Core
is a nice little invention. Available as an .iso file from one of the Xubu developers, the official way to get it is to install the Ubuntu Mini iso, which installs only the base Ubuntu system and a terminal without any applications or desktop environment. Then do the

sudo apt-get install xubuntu-core

thing. This installs only the Xfce desktop with some of the wonderful Xubuntu settings that set Xubu apart from other Xfce distros for it’s elegance and classy looks. No bloat, just stripped-down, ultralight Xubuntu awesomeness. Next I installed Synaptic Package Manager and chose some very lightweight applications (Abiword and Gnumeric instead of LibreOffice, for example) and the applications I wanted to try out.

Oh, by the way, note to first-timers with that Ubuntu-mini iso: After it installs and asks you to reboot from the HDD, you must bring up the Grub menu the first time it boots from the hard drive. So that by holding down the Shift key during it’s boot-up. It works better than typing

start
run
begin
commence
engage
do something, dammit!

Trying them out on Xubuntu Core, Geary just plain sucked. Random crashes in the middle of composing an e-mail or even reading one. No wonder the Elementary team forked it (Pantheon Mail). And Evolution (a Novell product, I should have known, I hated it when I had to use their crap in the Fire Department) refused to connect to the Internet. Okay then, lesson learned. No wonder Slackware dropped them, I guess. Not just the Gnome 3 debacle, but these native apps suck.

The lightweight Midori browser no longer crashes randomly, however. It always did before, every time I have given it a try over the last couple of years. Now it’s working just fine! My long-beloved Seamonkey may be replaced by Thunderbird and Midori.

It’s always trial-and-error with Linux, ain’t it? Yeah, that’s really half the fun I guess.

LXLE on an Ancient Spare Desktop

Her computer is even older than mine, with even less RAM. I thought Puppy Linux or AntiX would be the only choices, since my previous experience with SalixOS was so disappointing. But just for grins and giggles, I put LXLE’s newest 32-bit version, Electra (16.04) on it. It’s Dell Dimension with an ancient Celeron processor and 512 mb of RAM. WindowsXP was brand new when this computer was new (still the best Windows version ever in my opinion).

Maybe Lubuntu would have just as good as LXLE or better, but I have a special fondness for this spin-off, partly because it’s choice of default applications is better, but it offers a downright luxurious experience for most users.

Four things disappointed me this time around. The installer took forever to successfully install this distro, much longer than I’m used to. Notification windows refused to close, slowing it down even more. Whatever, I chalk that up to the computer’s age and lack of resources. But the other three things that bother me this time around are:

Adding a new panel to the bottom is not possible. The panel has to go on the right or left side, period. I don’t think that’s an LXDE thing, since it has always been possible to put a panel anywhere I wished before now. My desktop has a wicked-kewl Xfce panel on the bottom with just launchers, analog clock (unavailable in LXDE) and weather applet (also unavailable in LXDE).

The weather applet is LXLE is unsupported and doesn’t work. I think I read somewhere that it has been forked, and the new one might work, but it isn’t included or listed among available applets for the panel. Not a deal breaker, as the user doesn’t even care about that since she goes to the web for weather and stuff anyway.

Whatever they did to Seamonkey – in my opinion the best web browser – on LXLE rendered it impossible to use on this ancient relic. The visible browser screen takes only a third of the screen and won’t expand to a viewable area. It’s faster than Chromium, which is what I installed after experimenting with Epiphany for a bit. Midori is still buggy and crashy, and Epiphany is just okay. Soooooo… I dropped all the extensive and abundant modifications and reset Seamonkey to the ordinary defaults from Mozilla, and bingo! Zips along faster than Chromium or Firefox, and it’s more reliable than crashy Midori and just-okay Epiphany.

Seamonkey is still the bestest, most wonderfulest and awesomeful internet suite in the history of ever!

I completely disabled screen-blanking, since when it “wakes up from a nap,” it’s all oversized and pixelated. Graphics driver issue, I think. Now set up to auto-detect and never blank the screen.

So LXLE – with modifications and un-doing some of the “improvements,” will probably keep her old relic going for months to come!

Seamonkey Themes!

Y’know those wicked cool themes that make Firefox look so cool? Well guess what! They work on Seamonkey now too! One of the reasons I like Seamonkey better than Mozilla’s more popular separate browser (Firefox) and e-mail client (Thunderbird) is because it’s so nimble and quick to load even on my modest hardware. Much quicker than either Firefox or Thunderbird, but this is both in a beautifully integrated package. And it has real actual buttons that you just click on instead of menus to muddle through and then click on. It’s “old school” simplicity.

Some of you old timers might remember the awesome Internet suite called Netscape. Well this is Netscape, only better! The old Netscape suite is a Mozilla project, free and open-source! And for people with older, modest hardware it’s ideal. It’s also ideal for us “old school” folks who like nice simple clickable buttons instead of weird-looking menus that make you search through a bunch of options. It also is fully compatible with most Firefox add-ons! And now, the latest version can be better-looking than ever now that many Firefox themes run in Seamonkey without slowing it down.

Enjoy!

The Last Thing Before Upgrading RAM

I suppose I could “downgrade” my OS to AntiX, a wonderful Debian-based Linux distro intended for ancient, relic hardware like mine. Or maybe LXLE, an Ubuntu derivative intended for older computers. But I just can’t be without my awesome Xfce desktop! My earlier flirtations with LXDE were dismal – at least on any Ubuntu base. It may not be the same on a Debian base, but since Ubuntu is built from Debian I have little reason to think LXDE would be any less buggy on a Debian base than it is – on my computer at least – on even a minimal Ubuntu base.

Xfce is wonderful, simple, and infinitely configurable. Even for a technophobic user like me, it’s easy on the eyes and doesn’t tax much brain power. Besides, I’m in college for goodnessakes, my brain is already being taxed near it’s limits. So I just won’t part with that Xfce desktop. Period, finished, end of story, end of discussion, game over, don’t even think about asking me again!

So I’m lovin’ my MX-14, Debian-Stable, rock-solid. Except when I had to do a little multi-tasking between Iceweasel (Debian-branded Mozilla Firefox) and Icedove (Debian-branded Mozilla Thunderbird). All I wanted to do was copy a URL from an e-mail into a post to a forum. No big deal, right?

So I’ve got Iceweasel open to the page I want to write a post in, and I click to open Icedove so I can copy the link from an e-mail message. And I wait. And wait. And wait. The little round cursor thing spins away, then disappears. No Icedove. It’s not indicated in the tool bar that Icedove is even running, so I click again, and wait some more. I have to quit Iceweasel just to get Icedove to open. The same thing happens when I click on a link in Icedove and waaaaaiiiiiiiiit for Iceweasel to open. They are both set as the default browser and e-mail applications in my Xfce Settings Manager, so that ain’t the problem. Still waiting. Aw, come ONNNNN! “This ain’t Xubuntu, get on with it,” I shout at the monitor as though it gives a damn.

It doesn’t.

Seamonkey (or it’s Debian-branded equivalent, Iceape) does not appear in the regular MX repositories. But in Synaptic I can enable other repositories that offer it. Why Seamonkey? Because the browser and e-mail are integrated; because, Seamonkey uses less RAM than Iceweasel/Firefox; and for me at least, it loads a lot faster than either the separate browser or the separate e-mail client. It uses the same add-ons that I use on Firefox. Win, win. Why not Clawsmail, the ultralight default e-mail client in MX-14? Because you have to use an external editor to compose HTML mail, like this post (I post to WordPress by e-mail)! So I’d be waaaaaaiiiiiiting for a third program to load up on this poor old dinosaur. Old hardware, yeah, but perfectly good if I can solve this problem.

But mark this thread [SOLVED]! It’s Seamonkey to the rescue, and setting it up is as effortless as good ol’ Thunderbird. The interface is familiar to users of previous versions of Thunderbird and Firefox, too. Good ol’ fashioned buttons and stuff, instead of scrolling through menu options. Built from the wonderful old Netscape Internet Suite by the folks at Mozilla, Seamonkey has – for the time being at least – staved off the absolute necessity of adding RAM to this old relic hardware.

But I’m still gonna do it. Because no matter what, I’m not parting with my beloved Xfce desktop environment.

Enough Already, Firefox!

The fancier and “better” Firefox (Mozilla’s popular web browser) and Thunderbird (the e-mail client) get, the better I like Seamonkey! Since my upgrade to Xubuntu 14.04, Firefox crashes randomly, doesn’t communicate properly with Thunderbird, and until I figured out how to fix it, it looked like this:

All of the text in the Address bar disappeared under these blankets of solid color. Fixing it was a matter of installing a new theme in Firefox called FXChrome. But come on, man. Wasn’t this discovered a month or two ago? According to Google it was, so it could have been fixed or patched or at least mentioned in the release notes, but noooooooo.

Remember the old Netscape Suite? Great, simple, reliable browser fully integrated with a fantastic built-in e-mail client. Netscape Communicator, Netscape Composer, all that cool stuff – well it’s still alive and well, under Mozilla’s umbrella, but separate – thank goodness – from Firefox and Thunderbird. Now called Seamonkey, it’s a bit more nimble than Firefox, can use many of the same add-ons, and is free of the bugaboos that have showed up in their flagship browser and email client. It also has good ol’ fashioned clickable buttons instead of search-and-destroy menus all under some unfamiliar-looking icon. I’m writing this post using Composer.

But getting Seamonkey was a whole ‘nother frustrating effort. I don’t do the “tarball” thing in Xubuntu, even though the process is now simpler than ever. I went to the Ubuntuzilla web site (on Sourceforge) to find the repository, and that’s a vicious circle! The web site directs visitors to download the instructions, and the instructions – two sentences long – direct readers to the web site. That’s just stupid. If not for Google I would have just grabbed the tarball from Seamonkey’s web site, but I found instructions for adding the respository to Xubuntu: Open a terminal and input these two commands:

To set up the key:

sudo apt-key adv –recv-keys –keyserver keyserver.ubuntu.com C1289A29

And then add the repository:

echo -e “ndeb http://downloads.sourceforge.net/project/ubuntuzilla/mozilla/apt all main” | sudo tee -a /etc/apt/sources.list > /dev/null

Then open Synaptic, reload it, and Seamonkey now appears among the available packages listed. Because it’s a repository, it will update along with everything else using the Update Manager.

I offer this just because I bet I’m not the only one a little bit frustrated with “improvements” that complicate, slow down, or outright break my most-used applications. If you prefer free, open-source software, Seamonkey is a better choice than Opera, which is proprietary. Think of Netscape and how easy it was and fun to use – and rediscover it under it’s new name.