Thursday January 26, 2006Category: General
I managed to convince a client to use Firefox, Thunderbird and OpenOffice 2.0 in their 10-men office. A small victory for the open source solutions world. :) So far their experience has been ok, with only a handful of users complaining about certain additional steps needed in OpenOffice 2.0 when compared to MS Office to perform the same task.
However, this week a problem that I have not encountered before occurred: the director's Thunderbird on her notebook refuses to work! Basically, the symptoms are as follows:
- When Thunderbird is opened, Inbox is displayed as blank, with the message "Building summary file" in the status bar
- The memory usage of Thunderbird grows to a very big value.
- The CPU Usage soars.
- Other applications cannot response with the usual speed.
After a very long time building the summary file, the Inbox is displayed with around 1000+ files, but once I clicked on another folder and click back to Inbox, the same long building started again. It puzzled me because I remember also having large folders with more than 8000 emails, and I never encountered that problem before. I first thought it was a virus/spyware problem, but after scanning for everything, the machine was reported as clean from such problems. I even upgraded her Thunderbird client to version 1.5, but still the same problem appeared.
Took me a while with different search strings at google to finally find the mozillazine article on Inbox stays blank. Apparently the Inbox file was corrupted, and Thunderbird was not able to complete the building of the summary file properly. And the reason I did not encounter the problem was because I have more than 8000 emails in a folder but my folders are never larger than 50MB, whereas her single Inbox file was more than 200MB.
I followed the article until the point where it says "if this succeeds, you can move .....", and the next point at that time was "if this also fails, you may have to take your loss". The problem is when I tried to import the Inbox file the MboxImport extension reports that the file is not a valid mbox format file.
No way for my client to lose her 1000+ emails though, so I have to find another way to solve the problem. Knowing that the mbox file format is just a plain text, I proceeded to open it with Vim (which resulted in my other problem with Vim), and finally was able to see that the first line was corrupted and somehow became a very long time. I removed the first line and corrected the From statement (looking at other emails down the file and copied the From statement). I repeated the import using MboxImport and luckily now the file was recognised as an mbox file!
After being about to recover the emails in the one big Inbox, I proceeded to compact folders and moved older mails into separate folders, with the aim to keep individual mbox files small. Problem was solved, but I believe it will recurr some time in the future if the user is not educated to perform housekeeping regularly.
I updated the mozillazine article with 2 additional points to summarize my solution, hoping it would help someone else with a similar problem. However, it is quite puzzling that Thunderbird does not suggest a limit on the mailbox size so that users will know that keeping all emails in one folder is going to be hazardous to their "informational health".
Lesson learnt: (1) Compact your Thunderbird folders often. (2) Split up mails into folders to avoid single large mbox files. Maybe when I figure out how to submit enhancements/bugs to Thunderbird, I will submit a suggestion for Thunderbird to remind users to archive and compact emails (MS Outlook has such a reminder, but I almost never say yes to "Do you want to archive your emails" though. :P).
Trackback URL: http://jroller.com/trackback/dunpanic/Weblog/thunderbird_inbox_blank_problem