DateMonday 15 October 2007

Mail 2.1: could we have some better IMAP, please? Because 33 crashes in 6 hours is too much.

As days go it’s been a bit like this, a bit like that. Today, Apple’s Mail crashed on me 33 times between 10.49am and 4.46pm. That’s six hours, including one hour when I was away at lunch. That’s five crashes per hour, though at some stages it was launching and then crashing at once on relaunch.

First was the wonderful answer to my problems, as provided by jp (hello, St Louis!): there’s something about Mail which can corrupt everything around it, including other programs, the “paste” function across applications, browser downloads. That’s quite some problem, eh?

The solution: quit Mail, grab the ~/Library/Mail folder, drag it to your desktop (or anywhere), launch Mail, and then click “Cancel” when it says “Hi there, let’s import some mail or just have a wild time”. Then drag the folder back (saying yes, replace the newer folder), and launch Mail again. Return to nirvana. (It’s nothing to do with the ~/Library/Caches/Mail folder: they’re for stuff like HTML mail you’ve looked at.)

That’s fine. Except for this crashing thing. Which was caused by the fact that while I was thrashing around over the weekend, I thought that I might try this interesting menu option for the mailboxes called “Rebuild”.

Why, oh why, doesn’t this come with a huge red warning saying DO NOT USE THIS ON IMAP MAILBOXES IF YOU VALUE YOUR TIME ? Why doesn’t it come with any warning at all? Why is it there?

Thing is it’s really, really dangerous if like me you have any number of messages in any single IMAP account and you rebuild it. Doesn’t matter whether you’re connected to the server or not, but you’ll have a bad time. Like, really bad. As in, Mail will fall over after, having deleted all the IMAP messages (and possibly attachments) – you didn’t know it will delete everything? Oh yes – it tries to repopulate the mailbox.

Unfortunately, Mail stinks at repopulating big IMAP mailboxes. Mine’s about 300MB (judging by the two-week-old backup I’ve put in place which somehow doesn’t include 2007 but, well, I’ll get back to it). I got really sick of it falling over. Really sick. Really really sick. To the extent that I was writing messages cursing the programmers in the “What were you doing when this happened?” questions which they’d certainly not want to show their mothers.

But it doesn’t make sense. Would Apple really let something out the door which is so screwed up? Why can’t it figure out downloading 300MB of stuff?

(Later… hmm, well, Mail 3.0 in Leopard looks pretty nifty. I can see that one might spend the entire day there.)

Think you’re an Apple genius? Diagnose my Powerbook’s problems

While wrestling with a cold I’ve also been wrestling with my computer, which since last Tuesday evening has been acting completely weird. I know I’ve said this a few times, but this outranks those. This is complete unusability.

Basically: replying to email crashes Mail. That’s why I haven’t been replying to people. Apart from a brief window on Friday when it worked, it’s been screwed. Every attempt to reply crashes. *Every* one. *Every* time. It’s kinda annoying. Plus I can’t do any browsing. Now, that’s serious.

Relevant bit of the crash report, in case someone out there can parse these things:
Thread 0 Crashed:
0 libobjc.A.dylib 0x90a40100 objc_msgSend + 32
1 0x0004bb34 0x1000 + 305972
2 0x0004b090 0x1000 + 303248
3 0x0004af60 0x1000 + 302944
4 0x0008a370 0x1000 + 562032
5 0x9383fc4c -[NSApplication sendAction:to:from:] + 108
6 0x9389a4b8 -[NSMenu performActionForItemAtIndex:] + 392
7 0x9389a23c -[NSCarbonMenuImpl performActionWithHighlightingForItemAtIndex:] + 104
8 0x93899ce4 -[NSMenu performKeyEquivalent:] + 272
9 0x938998c4 -[NSApplication _handleKeyEquivalent:] + 220
10 0x937a3408 -[NSApplication sendEvent:] + 2944
11 0x0003363c 0x1000 + 206396
12 0x9379ad10 -[NSApplication run] + 508
13 0x9388b87c NSApplicationMain + 452
14 0x000871d8 0x1000 + 549336
15 0x00087080 0x1000 + 548992

It’s completely perplexing because it all works fine if I log in as another user. Oh, bad preferences, you say. Trash them, start again. Except:

-why should bad Mail preferences mean that my browser (Camino) doesn’t work? It won’t load pages. It starts and never, ever, ever finishes. If I try to close a window or tab, it crashes. Those prefs work fine, in another user space.

-Why would it mean that Voodoopad won’t make a link from a page?

-Why would it mean that MarsEdit won’t create a new post when I type Apple-N (which means “new” in pretty much any application)?

-Why can I load any web page I like in Webkit-oriented apps, like NetNewsWire (which still soldiers on, untroubled)?

In other words, how could bad prefs in one app affect so many others? That makes no sense. It must be something else.

I discovered, inter alia, that my machine is affected by the “dead lower RAM slot” problem, though the Apple guy didn’t say if it would be covered by my Applecare (which is still live). (Can’t like to the lower RAM slot page – my browser will kill the system if I try.)

But if that’s the cause – given I still have 1GB of good RAM in here, which is plenty on this 1.67GHz PPC Powerbook – why doesn’t it affect other users?

There have been a couple of days when this has run fine – but this morning I came down to find that the browser had locked, unable to load, and crashed and nothing been right since then. I’ve warm booted, cold booted, shut down, shut down and taken the battery and power cord out, restarted, logged out, logged in, and done everything I can think of to fix it.

Help me, lazyweb. My machine is ill and needs your help. You’re our only chance.

Though I’ll tell you one thing. It’s a good thing Leopard is only 12 days away (by best estimates). This machine gets a backup and clean wipe the day I get my hands on that install disc.