Protonmail is a web-based email provider, a la Gmail, based in Switzerland, on Swiss servers, run by a Swiss company, offering encrypted email – Protonmail themselves cannot decrypt your email.

Their web-app does not work in the Android browser for Android 4.4. You can log in, but there is no list of emails in whatever folder it is you select, so you cannot read email. Additionally, if you try to compose an email, adding an attachment causes you to be logged out (the email is not saved as a draft, so it is lost).

The web-app does not display *at all* in Orfox, or in Tor Browser on Linux.

They offer a .onion URL, but this does not load in Tor Browser on Linux.

The desktop versions of the site (on Android) also do not work.

I have just come home from the observation deck of The Shard, a skyscraper in London.

I booked at 6pm ticket, to see the city at night, and it is *incredible*, Breath-taking. Astounding.

After about fifteen minutes of walking around in a daze, I took a photo or two and wanted to email them a particular and very special friend.

The Shard offer wifi, but block port 587, so I could not use my normal email client.

I then spent 30 minutes trying to get Protonmail to work, and failed, and gave up.

On The Shard site, they say there is no time limit; you can spend as long as you like, once you’re in.

What they really mean is *until they close*, and they close at *7pm*, so if you have the 6pm ticket, you actually have *one hour*.

Just as I finally gave up with Protonmail, accepting – as I had to – that would not be able to share this moment as I dearly wished, the observation deck closed.

This is my last night in London – I leave tomorrow – and I will not be back for many years, if then.

I cannot really put in words my sense of disappointment and loss, both of being unable to share the moment and of my visit there instead of being a truly astounding memory, is rather the bitter taste of a idiotic struggle to try to make an on-line service work.

There are a couple of lessons from this. I think one of them is never to try to make something work; it never, or so infrequently it is absolutely not the worthwhile choice, works. Software is too complex. If it works first time, then fine, but if it does not, there are SO many ways it can be broken, and complexly broken, that it is a 99.5% loosing game to try to fix things. You WILL fail, and you will NOT be able to do as you wished, and you will ALSO have wasted a bunch of time and effort. It is better just to fail right away, and save the cost of the time and effort failing to fix the problem.

With regard to Protonmail, the problem is that email is a core facility, and if I use a service, I will be using it for important things, and so depend upon it working; and if then it in many cases does not work, I am most definitely taking a risk that my plans will be dislocated.

Good news

I’ve written the core functionality of a mailing list.

Python of course; I’ve completed the crontab scrpt – it reads email from a given user, looks at the email address it was sent to (using Postfix virtual addresses), checks the database for lists and who is subscribed to which list, and emails the incoming email on to the subscribers.

Also wrote two CGI scripts, one for subscribe/unsubscribe, the other is called from the confirmation email. Another day of work and it’ll be done.

Two days to write my own mailing list.

I think I must have spent two or three weeks all told experimenting with every mailing list available, and finding them all bad enough, in their different ways, that they were impossible to use.

I have really hopefully finally learned the lesson from this : use open source only if there is absolutely no other way for you to solve he problem. Write your own software if you possibly can, rather than use open source. Open source is *awful*. It does not work, in any way, at all, ever. Open source has no quality, configuration management, user experience or documentation. It is broken, out of the box, without any docs, and often without any logs or error messages (not to mention spurious and incorrect error messages). You must be a developer, and learn the application yourself, in all its unprofessional horror, and fix it, to make it work *at all*, and having done this, you will find it’s totally unfit for purpose anyway.

To say there’s a quality problem would be to somehow imply there was any quality *at all* to start with.

Do not use open source software.

Giving up on mailman 2

Ya, screw it.

I’m bailing on mailman 2.

I tried, I failed.

It doesn’t work out of the box, with virtual addresses on Postfix – the file permissions are wrong. After some Googling I found a post from many years ago where the poster detailed what the correct permissions should be.

Note there were no logs or error messages of *any* kind.

Now what I find is when I subscribe to a mailing list, the request turns up in the lists directory on disk, but when I through the UI ask to see pending requests, I get “there are no pending requests”.

Fuck himself know why. I certainly don’t. Googling doesn’t help, no docs relating to anything like this, no logs, no errors.

*You can’t do this*. This is not software development. People making food for a living don’t sell food which is poisonous. In exactly the same way, people making software should not publish software which doesn’t work.

As an aside, check out this URL;

“How to Create Announcement or “Read-Only” Lists in Mailman”


Open source blues

Well, mailman 2 is going pretty much the way of all open source software.

It’s broken out of the box, and there are no logs.

“Your mission, should you choose to accept it, is to debug some random, large application, which you’ve never touched before, purely from the source code, as there are no logs.”

I’ve spent two days on this now. I’m getting dem open source blues.

Basically it’s this : don’t use open source.

For some large projects, like a database or compiler, you have no choice, because you can’t write those yourself. For anything you *can* write yourself, for the love of God, write it yourself. It’s quicker, and the quality is infinitely higher, and it’s infinitely more flexible.

Mailing lists

Are not working yet, but we’re getting there.

Mailman 3 is a joke – a mailing list front-end should not require a beefy server, guys.

Mailman 2 is, apart from the truely mind-blowing issue of mailing passwords in the clear, looking spot on.


The Ryanair web-site has a timer, which if exceeded, times out your booking session.

This time does not reset on activity.

It’s a fixed period of time.

You’re forced to make an account with Rynair – no guest bookings – so I’d needed to check if I had an account, then I decided to make a new account anyway, to stop Ryanair from building up tracking data on me, etc.

So I’ve done all this, I’m typing away my card details to pay and…

…”your session has taken too long – you have been logged out”.


And then when you think it can’t get worse, it does.

I tried to pay. The payment failed. One of the fields you have to select is card type – “Mastercard”, or “Mastercard Debit”. There’s no credit facility on the Revolut cards, so I had selected Debit. If you chose normal, you pay an extra 4.50, so I thought I’d try entering the card details again – maybe there was a typo, or a glitch in their back-end.

I enter the stuff again and retry, it fails again, okay, so maybe I’ve picked the wrong card type – BUT –

Having failed twice – the Ryanair web-site WIPES YOUR BOOKING AND SENDS YOU BACK TO THE START.

*hangs head in hands*

Also I tried to use their on-line chat help – I wanted to make sure they were not going to sneak a currency conversion on me. “We’re too busy to answer you right now.”

I’m going to look for a different airline.

Annnhhhhhd we’re back

Proper post tomorrow.

Brief now note – I’m installing GNU mailman version *two*. Version three is a resource hog – completely insane for a mailing list.

Version two however has it’s own completely unexpected and utterly incompetent drawback…

Namely, it emails you, en clair, the password you set to control mailman.

Why not just post it to 4chan and have done with it?

It’s truely staggering. I mean, mindblowing. EMAILING A PASSWORD. Holy Jesus Christ on a fucking stick. I mean it’s *so* bad you’d never think to worry about it, because no one, and I mean, NO ONE, is going to do something SO BLATANTLY WRONG, are they? are they??

Oh wait. Mailman just did.

And you know what? mailman is actually the least worst mailing list out there.

I mean, it just posted my low-security password in public on the Internet during the install procedure, but APART from that…