Engineering Illustrated: The Thunderbird Migration

A lot of people think that an engineer solves a problem in one go. This is a myth.

During the years, I gathered a big number of tricks in my bag and a lot of endurance.

The problem

Last year my home PC crashed. As a free time system administrator, I had the honourable task to fix the problem. The biggest work load was to install the programs and restore the related files. For email, I use Thunderbird, a free mail client.

Solving the problem

First install

The first step was to install Thunderbird. Then I started the program and was asked to enter information about my mail account. That was the moment to close the program.

The program worked as expected. I also knew that a subdirectory with an empty mail file was created. The only thing I had to do was to find the right spot.

Second locate

This was not the first time I had to move my mail to a new PC. I opened the Windows Explorer. Then I went to my subdirectory. It looked something like C:\Users\Mindful Tester\AppData. Alas, I could not find this subdirectory.

I had to change a setting. I went to the options and went to the right tab. Then I had to browse whole list of checkboxes. I clicked on the Show hidden files checkbox and saved the change,

Now my subdirectory was shown in the Windows Explorer. I clicked a few times and ended up in a subdirectory with a name looking like C:\Users\Mindful Tester\AppData\Roaming\Thunderbird\Profiles. It was time for Find and replace.

The old-fashioned way

In the subdirectory I found only one mail file. I made the subdirectory Old and moved the mail file to this place. Then I placed my old mail files to this subdirectory.

It was time for a simple test. I opened Thunderbird and the program was not usable. I restored the old situation and got the known request to set the settings for the email account.

My old trick to dump my files failed. This was not a simple case of Dump and Mail.

Worth note taking

After a few attempts, I opened my word processor and wrote down, what I had done. There were some questions bugging me. What did I do? Did I miss something?

Obviously, because I had the wrong information.

As I read

There was still a thing called search engine. I entered some keywords like Thunderbird and migration and ended up at a web page of Mozilla. This was the organisation which makes and maintains this mail client,

 I dutifully followed the instructions to no avail. It was the same subdirectory, so I was looking at the proper spot. After a few attempts, I had to use another trick to solve the problem.

Pair administrating

For the next trick, I needed an extra pair of eyes. This time I repeated the steps, while one of my kids looked at my attempts. It was like pair programming or pair testing. I talked aloud while following the instructions.

Once again, there was no flaw in my actions. But I could still not see my mail.

Trust the course, Luke.

Educated system administrator guess

A few weeks later I noticed the file profiles.ini in the subdirectory which looked like C:\Users\Mindful Tester\AppData\Roaming\Thunderbird. As a tester, I like to use Exploratory Testing. It is about finding new information and using it for my own advantage.

A file with the extension ini is an initialisation file. During the first startup of the application the file is read and used. It contains configuration information. The operating system Windows let me open this file in a text editor. The contents looked like:




The structure of the file looked familiar to me. There was a link to the file fjer6fh3.default. This file was automatically created during the first start-up of Thunderbird. If I would change fjer6fh3.default to the file name of my default mail file, then it might work.

The result was that only 1 of my email boxes was shown: the default one. I also wanted to see the other 2 mail boxes. There was a nagging need for another trick.

No smart feelings

My recurring subject about the mail client was noticed by my wife. Maybe it was time to hire someone to do this job.

And I really wanted to solve it myself.

This is not the trick you are looking for. TODO quote.

Educated developer guess

Sometime later, I thought about my experiences about adding information categories. Suppose that the product owner wanted to add the country name to customer data. Then a developer had to add an entry field for the country to several forms. Also, the data structure had to be updated. The added country had to be stored somewhere.

In a lot of cases, there is already a lot of customer data coupled to the application. This data has to be converted to the new data structure. When the application is updated, then a piece of code is used for this specific update.

I removed Thunderbird from my home PC and use the old installation program of Thunderbird, Then I dropped my files in the subdirectory with a name looking like C:\Users\Mindful Tester\AppData\Roaming\Thunderbird\Profiles. And I saw all my 3 mail boxes as expected.

A trick to update programs is to look at the version of the program. I went to Help and clicked on About Thunderbird. An update button was available. I pressed on it and a newer version of the program was announced next to the update button. So, I pressed several time on the Update button, until I got a message that Thunderbird was up-to-date.

And it worked for all my 3 mail boxes. This felt so good.

This is the day

It is personal

Joyfully, I tried to open the mail of my wife, but I got that annoying request to enter the mail settings. So, I removed Thunderbird, installed the old version of Thunderbird and the old mail files, and upgraded the program. Then I could open the mail of my wife.

Now this trick had to be used for every account on my home PC.

Hot fix

A refactored solution

There are some readers who are more interested in a set of instructions instead of a long story. This section contains all the steps needed to migrate Thunderbird files.  I used refactoring to remove redundant steps.

  1. Use the old installation program for Thunderbird for the installation.
  2. Start and close Thunderbird.
  3. Make hidden files visible in Windows Explorer.
  4. (Windows 10) Go to View menu.
  5. Select Options in this menu.
    • Go to the View tab in the Folder Options dialog.
    • Go to the Advanced settings, a list of checkboxes.
    • Click on the checkbox with the description “Show hidden files, folders, and drives.”
    • Click on the OK button to save the changes,
  6. Go to the Profile subdirectory which looks like C:\Users\Mindful Tester\AppData\Roaming\Thunderbird\Profiles.
  7. Remove the default mail folder.
  8. Move the old mail files to this subdirectory.
  9. Start Thunderbird and the old mails should be visible.
  10. Update Thunderbird.
    • Open the Help menu.
    • Select the About Thunderbird option.
    • Press on the Update button, until a message is shown Thunderbird is up-to-date.

All mail accounts should be still be available.

If there are more users on the PC using Thunderbird, then

  1. Remove Thunderbird.
  2. Repeat these steps for every user account on the PC.

To be extended.

The Art of Mail Filtering 3.0

Some mails are good, some bad.

The Incident

While I was looking through my emails, I briefly scanned them. This one contained commercial stuff and I put it into the waste bin. Another one promised health benefits and it ended at the same spot. One mail contained a notification of a package delivery.

I went through my short list of checks. The mail looked familiar.  I recognised the fonts and the lay out. Then I read some parts of the mail. The language was flawless. Dutch is not an easy language to learn. I took a good look to the email address. It had a domain of a respectful package delivery service.

There was one thing wrong with this mail. I had not ordered anything. So, I did not click on the track and trace link. This might load some malware on my computer. Then I decided to park this mail in another folder for later action.

The Debrief

That very evening, I had a talk with my wife. After talking about the daily subjects, I told her about this strange notification mail of a package delivery. Then I got a surprising answer:
“I ordered something and I did not hear anything about it.”

The Sting

Of course, I knew that my wife has some good skills like baking bread. But baking is different from hacking. At that moment I had not even time to think along these lines, because she added:
“I used my email address.”

This answer triggered my thought process. She had ordered something at my favourite online shop. Then the shop had to send mails about package delivery to my wife. There was already an account on her home address and that was my account.

The mails were sent to the emails address of my account. This way I got a suspicious mail.

The Story

My wife was searching for a gift and found it in my favourite shop. She wanted to surprise me and wanted to have it delivered, when I was from home. This way, the surprise would be big. There was one thing she could not have predicted, and that was the actual email address, which would be used.

The Hot Fix

During our talk, my wife figured out a solution for this problem:
“The next time, I sent it to my friend.”

Things which were not on my 2022 bingo card

  • In the first half of this year, I wrote a serie of blog posts about accessibility. Is it possible to integrate it into Agile development? I did a thought experiment with Planning Poker.
  • There is a lot of talk about using multiple ways to identify yourself. For certain services is the use of multi factor authentication needed to prevent problems. It is not about technology, but about process.
  • In the spring I went with my family to an in person juggling convention. My kids enjoyed the juggling. Not bad for a dad for showing instead of teaching.
  • After a lot of performances, I did some acts for blind and visually impaired people. Body language and sizes are difficult to show to this audience. I really put a lot of effort to tell how things look like. How big is a duck, if I cannot pass a bird around?
  • As a free time juggler, I could not resist to give some lessons about juggling to blind and visually impaired people. This took me some effort to adjust it to their capabilities. I focused on feeling.For the interested people: I did contact juggling with balls, plate handling, and tricks with rings, pois, or devilstick.
  • I also gave some workshops in balloon modelling to blind and visually impaired people.For me, balloon modelling is twisting and folding balloons into a nice object. The first time I showed a white dog above a white table. This was a bad contrast for some visually impaired attendees.
  • I learned braille.
  • In September I got the “Gives back” badge on the Club of Ministry of Testing. I gave more than 100 likes to other posts and got more than 100 likes on my posts. At the moment of blogging, I am one of the 32 people who got this badge.
  • This year I took piano lessons in piano. The focus was on improvisation.
  • In 2016 I wrote a blog post about a privacy issue on LinkedIn. 6 years later I discovered that this problem was solved.
  • The hardest lesson I learned was to give people the help they asked for. In the past, I gave too much information.Of course, there is a chance that these 2 facts are unrelated.
  • The last months, I started to micro blog again. Once in a few days I extended a blog post with a few lines. This keeps me blogging.
  • At the end of the year, I published a blog post about speaking on tech conferences. Looking at my own experiences, I noticed some specific patterns. 
  • A day before Christmas, the Dutch version of “Condensed Agile Testing” by Lias Crispin and Janet Gregory became available. I translated 1 chapter. I am the Chinese looking guy, who made one of the contributions or bijdragen in Dutch.

Sharing knowledge about testing and other things on my mind