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  1. #1
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    Syncronize Thunderbird Using OneDrive

    I'm not sure if this is as much about Thunderbird as it is about OneDrive, but here it is anyway.

    A while back, I started a thread about the notion of trying out a hybrid computer as a laptop/desktop/tablet replacement. As a result of that discussion, I purchased a Surface Pro 3 and upgraded to Win10. You will find that discussion as well as my resulting reluctant adoption of OneDrive elsewhere if you are interested.

    While I was setting up Firefox (POP3) on the new SP3 to sync with my laptop, I had a thought - could I make Firebird sync as well. Since I now had a 15gb OneDrive, I thought it might be interesting to see if I could put my profile on it and "share" it between my laptop (my main computer) and my new SP3.

    My first piece of advice for anyone reading this is to hold off trying to replicate what I did and think long and hard about whether this is a good idea or not. I will say right now that it does work, but it's not without it's issues.

    The primary issue is that some of the files can get to be rather large if you keep any amount of history. This means that it can take a while before OneDrive finishes moving stuff up to the cloud then down to the other computer. If you try and use Thunderbird before that process is finished, you can have problems with emails being lost and duplicate mailboxes showing up.

    Here is the problem in a nutshell. After you finish using Thunderbird on one computer, it has to move any changed files up to the cloud. If the other computer happens to be asleep when this takes place (a very likely situation) it will not even start to download the changed files from the cloud until you wake it. You then have to wait for an unknown amount of time before the download is complete.

    I'm not sure what I am going to do about this situation. There would not appear to be any simple way to make this work since I'm depending on a background application that I have little or no control over. As long as I am working at home, I can use a shared drive so I do have an alternative. I just won't be able to use it when I'm not at home - which may not be that big a loss.

  2. #2
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    Short Answer: the primary issue is the TB files are not intended to be shared by multiple clients. They are definitely not intended to be accessed simultaneously by multiple clients. The sync issues with OneDrive are a secondary effect.

    I have done something similar in 2 variants:
    1. Accessing the same local TB folders from different instances of TB under WinXP later Win7 & Linux (Ubuntu) installed on the same dual boot PC.
    2. More recently accessing TB files stored on OneDrive accessed from 2 different laptops running Win8.1

    The dual boot option worked most of the time providing each system was closed down properly before trying to work from the other system. Periodically I ran into a file lock problem which prevented access. This could be fixed by booting back in the other system, opening & then closing TB. I think once or twice I had to mess with or delete a config or .ini file.

    Working with OneDrive works fine from the pc where I started but I have not been able to get TB on the second laptop to access the files properly. Aside from the issues from delays in syncing across OneDrive you have the more fundamental problem that TB was not designed as a multi-client with concurrent access.
    Although I've not tried it, I'm sceptical that a shared folder in a home network will get around the problem of file locks.
    With a deeper knowledge of the TB files you MIGHT be able to finesse a configuration that gets around this but having spent some time on the Mozilla forums I've not found any posts that would support this.

    After giving the matter some thought I decided that a more robust solution is to host my e-mail archive on an IMAP server. This can then be accessed from a variety of client UIs, devices and OS. Properly "cross platform and concurrent. Obviously there is a decision on the platform for the imap server (home network or cloud) and if you go for the cloud option - subscription "free service" like Gmail or outlook or one of the paid subscription services. Alternatively you can "roll your own" server eg. Dreamhost or Amazon Cloud Services).
    A further option is to look at Microsoft's hosted Exchange service - typically pitched at Office365 (small business) users.
    Your choice based on skill, budget, security concerns....

    Currently I'm piloting this using a outlook.com account (I'm cheap). The biggest challenge (which you will probably find on any subscription imap service) is it was VERY time consuming & tedious to load the e-mail archive (only 6GB and a few thousand emails) back into the Outlook.com account. Bulk uploads look like an "attack" and the host responds by closing down the pipe or throttling the number of requests.
    For a desktop client like TB on a pc with lots of space you can obviously tell TB to sync some or all folders. This means you can access your archive even when offline or on a slow connection.

  3. #3
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    I've considered the IMAP option and my ISP supports it and I may change to it next year. The only thing that has kept me using POP3 is messages going back to 2002 that I need to keep and do refer back to from time to time. I can probably just archive these and leave the newer stuff on the mail server for 6 months or so then archive it locally.
    Graham Smith
    DataSmith, Delaware
    "For every expert there is an equal and opposite expert.", Arthur C. Clarke (1917 - 2008)

  4. #4
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    If your ISP supports IMAP ask them if you can just change your POP3 account to an IMAP account.
    Then (like I did) you migrate your archive of old e-mail messages back onto the IMAP server and create a mirror of the current folder structure that you have in TB. That's the tedious part and might take a number of sessions over several weeks or months...

    If you have to create a new e-mail address to go with the IMAP account then set up both in TB and as new stuff comes into the POP account copy it to the IMAP account (& migrate the archive over time).

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    Here is where I am on this... My ISP supports both POP and IMAP but there is 120MB limit on storage. I do, in fact, use an IMAP email client on an iPad to read mail sometimes and then download it to my laptop using POP later.

    What I'm wondering is if I can use an IMAP client on a day-to-day basis and then archive the email using POP periodically. I'm going to have to spend some quality time with Thunderbird to be able to see how to make this work but there doesn't seem to be any reason why I can't.
    Graham Smith
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    "For every expert there is an equal and opposite expert.", Arthur C. Clarke (1917 - 2008)

  6. #6
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    Ouch, 120MB is tiny. Can you change mail provider?

    cheers, Paul

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    Quote Originally Posted by Paul T View Post
    Ouch, 120MB is tiny. Can you change mail provider?
    I could but I've had this email account for about 20yrs and there are people in several countries that I correspond with. Hate to have to change it. I could probably get it expanded but have never had the need.
    Graham Smith
    DataSmith, Delaware
    "For every expert there is an equal and opposite expert.", Arthur C. Clarke (1917 - 2008)

  8. #8
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    Quote Originally Posted by gsmith-plm View Post
    I could but I've had this email account for about 20yrs and there are people in several countries that I correspond with. Hate to have to change it. I could probably get it expanded but have never had the need.
    What you want to do is certainly feasible. The longer the interval between downloading to you offline archive the greater the risk of hitting the 120MB limit.

    If you are happy having your mail archive local (& have it backed up - Mozilla have a tool for that) it's a minimum effort solution.

    I went with an IMAP archive solution (which has a painful migration process for the archive) but will give me access to my archive from any device, any place. Some people maintain an anonymous archive account and they forward / copy mail from their "public facing" accounts to the archive account.

    Overall I guess the thread has gone some what off the topic of TB & One Drive - yes you can do it, but not to service multiple mail clients, to how to manage e-mail accounts and mail archives...

  9. #9
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    You are correct that the thread has drifted quite a bit - as is prone to happening. In this case, it's moved from a way to sync T-Bird on OneDrive to any way to sync it.

    I did test out the notion of putting my T-Bird profile on OneDrive, but the size makes it painfully slow to update. Right now, I've got it on a NAS that allows me to share it (one at a time) between computers in my house. Works out quite well this way, but obviously if I have to go anywhere the whole thing falls down because I can't even open it.

    I could put the profile on individual machines and set up something that would sync to the NAS from time to time but I'm quickly getting into more of an intellectual exercise than a practical necessity. OTOH, I've spend a lot of time on just such exercises over the years and they have always given me ideas for other things down the road. R&D is seldom time wasted.
    Graham Smith
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    "For every expert there is an equal and opposite expert.", Arthur C. Clarke (1917 - 2008)

  10. #10
    Silver Lounger wavy's Avatar
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    Or maybe put the profile on the NAS, just don't access with more than 1 client at a time.
    FYI FF seems to have a Sync function, I have not figured out how it works or just what it does.
    David

    Just because you don't know where you are going doesn't mean any road will get you there.

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    Quote Originally Posted by wavy View Post
    Or maybe put the profile on the NAS, just don't access with more than 1 client at a time.
    FYI FF seems to have a Sync function, I have not figured out how it works or just what it does.
    I do have the TBird profile on a NAS. And FireFox does have a cool sync that is easy to use.
    Graham Smith
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  12. #12
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    If you will continually (daily) move mail from your IMAP folders to your local folders in Thunderbird, then you hopefully will keep the size of the IMAP folders down below the maximum.

    The only problem I see with this is that you will need to decide which computer will have the "local" copy of each email, because once you move an email from the IMAP folders to the local folders, it will be only on that one computer.

    You could do a variation on the POP3 option: Adjust your settings so that emails stay on the server for a bit, say, for a week. Hopefully this will give both computers enough time to download each email before it gets deleted off of the server.
    Last edited by mrjimphelps; 2015-09-29 at 16:38.

  13. #13
    Silver Lounger wavy's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by gsmith-plm View Post
    I do have the TBird profile on a NAS. And FireFox does have a cool sync that is easy to use.
    Can you get the FF sync to work over a local network and not go on the internet?

    David

    Just because you don't know where you are going doesn't mean any road will get you there.

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    Quote Originally Posted by wavy View Post
    Can you get the FF sync to work over a local network and not go on the internet?
    They use their own sync server so that would not appear likely.

    However, FF uses the same type of profile that TBird uses so you could try putting it on a network drive and share it (one machine at a time) in the same way I am doing with TBird.
    Graham Smith
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    "For every expert there is an equal and opposite expert.", Arthur C. Clarke (1917 - 2008)

  15. #15
    Silver Lounger wavy's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by gsmith-plm View Post
    They use their own sync server so that would not appear likely.

    However, FF uses the same type of profile that TBird uses so you could try putting it on a network drive and share it (one machine at a time) in the same way I am doing with TBird.
    Had not seriously looked had a feeling that would be the way thay did it. Do not like he idea of throwing my info to the winds of the internet.

    David

    Just because you don't know where you are going doesn't mean any road will get you there.

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