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

Joshua Cranmer 🐧 pidgeot18 at gmail.com
Thu Feb 11 19:19:59 UTC 2016

On 2/2/2016 4:38 PM, R. Kent James 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.

 From what I've heard, the quality of undergraduate students can be 
highly variable, although I will admit that this in the context of 
research projects which tend to require highly specialized knowledge 
compared to "average" OSS development. I'm also notoriously bad at 
estimating how much time it would take to implement or prototype 
something, so it's hard for me to gauge the appropriate scope, 
especially since this seems to be on a scale which is somewhat larger 
than a typical GSoC project. On the other hand, given that this is a 
software engineering course project, I would assume that ensuring that 
there is high coverage of corner cases and tests has higher priority 
than you tend to see in a GSoC project.

Nevertheless, there immediately comes to mind a few projects that might 
be feasible:
1. The ensemble project, aka, the new address book. This is 
2. Rebuilding the S/MIME UI (and potentially integrating Enigmail into 
that UI). The current UI and UX, particularly when it comes to managing 
the known certificates, is basically structured around the assumption of 
SSL certificates, which S/MIME certificates are quite emphatically not, 
and hence it's particularly nasty to use for novice users. The biggest 
challenge here is finding a capable mentor for the project, since I 
suspect none of us are particularly cognizant of NSS internals with 
regards to certificate validation.
3. Fixing compose UI. The smaller segment that comes to mind is the 
addressing widget, which is thoroughly in need of a complete rebuild. 
The larger segment would be tackling issues with regards to the editor, 
as well as rebuilding things to use HTML instead of XUL. Ultimately, 
though, I do fear that the backend is unsuitable for the changes that 
need to be made, and I don't think it would be terribly feasible for the 
students to have to deal with ongoing changes there, as much as I would 
like to see this sort of project go forward.

There's a few other projects I can think up, but they run afoul of the 
"mission-critical" or the "mostly bag of bugfixes" that we are suggested 
to avoid.

Joshua Cranmer
Thunderbird and DXR developer
Source code archæologist

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