Brickbats; Mail


Two programs that have hindered me lately through design decisions that might well have been right on the money, but not my money:

Epiphany has everything I want in a browser except for one thing. (Well two things, I don’t know how to make it pretend to be Mozilla for Windows in order to fool my bank’s dodgy browser detection software, but for some reason I’m inclined to be forgiving here.) When I go to the location bar and start typing a URL, say, and I see in the auto-completion list, I would like to select and then just have to type foo. Epiphany, I love you but you have betrayed me.

workrave, I think you’ve saved my hands, but I wish you wouldn’t be so punitive when someone types during a break. Sure, block the input, but let the break run. Without exception, anyone who needs to quickly grab my keyboard for something is soon found in the middle of a break ritually pounding on the keyboard and cursing at you while you obstinately sit at "time left: 13 seconds". Stopping typing seems to be something that just doesn’t come naturally. And all those curses will add up eventually.


I’ve been working one day a week as an administrative assistant for the last year (it’s hard to get someone with LaTeX knowledge unless you’re willing to pay for someone with typesetting/publishing experience or… you know some computing students). I’ve just finished training my replacement, and if there’s one thing I’ve realised, watching her, it’s what a mail-hound I am.

My entire computing routine is focused around email, and a bunch of my computing knowledge, especially Linux knowledge came directly from trying to ensure that I have round the clock access to email. I’ve read much of the mutt manual. I taught myself regular expressions so that I could use procmail. About half of what I know about my editor comes from a desire to output email as fast as possible. I’ve spent hours on an elaborate setup involving multiple copies of my mail, automatic spam filter training, various From addresses and other such things.

Thanks to an alignment of the planets, that’s exactly what I needed for this position, which involved, among other things, accepting tarballs as uuencoded data smacked into the body of mail messages. (I could automate this, and mutt should, but it turns out that Evolution can get it out automatically, and then I use mutt to delete the attachments. Oh well, noone’s perfect.)

My custom setup for handling medium to large amounts of mail is by no means unique among people I know, but it certainly seems pretty rare among people as a whole. I wonder what processes admin staff have evolved in parallel?