Fwd: Re: Thunderbird Project as 3rd-year Engineering Group Project

Tanstaafl tanstaafl at libertytrek.org
Wed Feb 3 15:33:22 UTC 2016

This could be really great for Thunderbird - and this could reveal a
huge untapped resource for Thunderbird to get some things done...


There are really only two things that I think would make a huge

First, I second Axel's suggestion for the rewrite of the HTML/Composer,
I think this is the biggest problem TB has right now.

However, if this project is attempted, while one editor should be
selected as the new editor - I believe TinyMCE has been suggested and
seems to be a good candidate to me - in my opinion, it should be
imperative that it be rewritten in a modular fashion, so that any HTML
composer could be relatively easily 'dropped in' as a replacement if it
ever becomes necessary

My second choice would be for a complete rewrite of the Address Book,
replacing the MorkDB backend with SQLite (or whatever is deemed

Same caveat applies here - the rewrite should be such that it wouldn't
be too difficult to drop in a different DB backend if it ever became

Also, I'd love to see full and proper Card/CalDAV support implemented,
but I guess it would only make sense to make CardDAV support a part of
the AB rewrite project.

Last - a rewrite/JSification of the main UI code, so that things like
proper tree/widget support  (not sure my terminology is right) for all
UI elements.

This would hopefully make it easier to implement some useful UI changes, ie:

Treerows need a way to hold richer content

So that bugs like the following are easier to implement:

Mail/message listing/thread pane needs more organization in 3 vertical
pane view (like Outlook, Lotus Notes et al.)

Allow customization of choices in View > Folders (Folder Views)

Allow 'Pinning' (and re-ordering) one or more 'Folder Views' to the top
of the Folder Pane

Make column pickers sticky/persistent (menu should behave like a panel,
i.e. stay open for selecting multiple columns until user clicks outside
or ESC)

On 2/2/2016 5:38 PM, R. Kent James <rkent at caspia.com> wrote:
> I've had some discussions with James Quilty about major student
> engineering projects involving Thunderbird. Here is his proposal, and he
> is asking for specific suggestions of appropriate projects.
> -- 
> R. Kent James
> Chair, Thunderbird Council
> @rkentjames
> -------- Forwarded Message --------
> Subject: 	Re: Thunderbird Project as 3rd-year Engineering Group Project
> Date: 	Wed, 3 Feb 2016 01:41:21 +1300
> From: 	James Quilty <James.Quilty at ecs.vuw.ac.nz>
> To: 	R. Kent James <rkent at caspia.com>
> Hi Kent,
>  Here's the proposal I made for a 3rd-year engineering group project
> working on part of Thunderbird, edited for coherence. I'd be happy for
> this to be forwarded to a mailing list for wide consideration.
>  The School of Engineering and Computer Science
> <http://ecs.victoria.ac.nz/> at Victoria University of Wellington runs
> group projects as part of its project management course. The School has
> students from three specialisations, Electronics and Computer
> Engineering (ECEN), Software Engineering (SWEN) and Network Engineering
> (NWEN). I'm running these courses from this year.
>  I'm looking for suitable projects for a team of 4-6 students which
> could run across our academic year (March-October) with a workload of
> about 5 hours per week for a total of around 150 hours. Both figures are
> per student. The purpose of the project is to give the students
> practical experience in applying the project management tools they are
> learning about in
> lectures. An achievable but challenging project for SWEN (and NWEN)
> students would be really good - this is where I thought a Thunderbird
> project might be appropriate.
>  To give you an idea of what students have been able to produce last
> year in a half-year project, please see the WaiNZ <http://wainz.org.nz/>
> homepage. The map UI and the Android, iPhone and Windows Phone apps were
> all produced or refined in a half-year project. I'd like something with
> similar scope for 2016, just run across the full year. If you want to
> know what kind of background the students have by 3rd year, please see
> the SWEN and NWEN course descriptions on the School's homepage. One
> relevant course SWEN students may take in 3rd year, for example, is a
> course in UI engineering.
>  Any project for the students would have to be "SMART":
>   * Have goal or end-point that can be specified and refined through
>     student discussion with the client. For example, a project involving
>     the completion of a coherent set of bug-fixes and/or enhancements. 
>   * Produce measurable/testable effect - something that can be observed
>     in Thunderbird.
>   * Be reasonably achievable in about 150 hours per student (about 900
>     hours for a team of six students).
>   * Delivered by/at the end of a single academic year.
> What I have in mind when I write "coherent" is bugs or enhancements all
> related to, say, one component of Thunderbird. It shouldn't be a
> grab-bag of miscellaneous work, nor a year experiencing "business as
> usual" in Thunderbird development.
>  An example, (somewhat trivial and completely focussed on my own niggles
> with Thunderbird) would be a project to complete a set of bugfixes and
> enhancements to the Attachment pane UI for incorporation in an upcoming
> release. There are a set of bugs and RFE's already filed, and it's a
> reasonably self-contained part of the UI.
>  It's not important for the students to write new code for brand-new
> functionality. Some code maintenance and migration is perfectly fine,
> even a desirable experience, but I do think it's important that their
> projects are not dominated by migration or bugfix work. If it were, then
> I fear there could be limited opportunity for them to practice project
> management and/or they will lose interest.
>  Other projects up for offer in 2016, to give two examples for context,
> will be (1) making a DIY laser cutter with a usable software and network
> interfaces, and (2) making a 3-in-1 oscilloscope, function generator and
> digital multimeter with undergraduate-friendly UI for use in our
> teaching labs.
>  What I am asking from you for a Thunderbird project is for a useful
> project of about the right scope and difficulty to be identified, for a
> 1-page high-level spec to be prepared before 29 February (NZ time!) and
> for someone to commit to being acting as the client for the project over
> the year. I'd anticipate a time requirement of 1-2 hours per week over
> the course of the project to interact with the project team to answer
> the usual questions clients are asked (usually clarifying what the
> client actually wants).
>  One thing the School does advise external clients for these sorts of
> undergraduate projects is to not rely on the student team to produce a
> 100% functional working result, and to not entrust them with a project
> which is mission-critical. That's not to say that we haven't had some
> very successful projects in the past.
>  I'd love to hear ideas that people involved with Thunderbird
> development would have after considering what I've written above and I'd
> really like to have a Thunderbird project as part of our group project
> work this year!
> Regards,
> James.
> -- Dr. James Quilty Senior Lecturer School of Engineering and Computer
> Science, Victoria University of Wellington, P.O. Box 600, Wellington
> 6140, New Zealand. Phone: +64 4 463 5233 ext. 4090

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