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Old 06-19-2012, 11:45 PM   #1
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Location: Long Beach, CA
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Unhappy Missing text in some email msgs after Thunderbird upgrade

I can't figure this one out. My wife has two computers: a desktop running Linux Ubuntu 10.04 and a laptop running WinXP SP3. We have Thunderbird installed on each of them. She usually uses the desktop for email but when she travels, she takes the laptop. When that happens we've always simply copied the entire Mail directory from Thunderbird on the Linux machine and replaced the Thunderbird Mail directory on the WinXP laptop after renaming the original Mail directory to something like "Mail_Old." When she gets back from her trip, we reverse the process. In effect, she only uses one of her computers at any time to handle email.

Until now, this has always worked well. Recently, for another trip, I transferred the Linux Mail directory to her laptop computer as usual. She was gone for about a week and her email worked fine during the trip on the laptop. When she got back, I transferred the WinXP Mail directory back to the Linux machine as we normally do. But, when I checked it out, I discovered that all of the emails that she had received while on her trip were there and normal. Also, all of her old emails in her inbox were there and readable up until a date approximately one month before the day she left on her trip (Note: she tends to leave a lot of older emails in her inbox). However, all of the emails from May 8 through June 9 had headers and subjects, but THE TEXT WAS ENTIRELY GONE on the Linux Thunderbird installation. ALL messages--old, month of May, and her recent emails--were normal and visible on the WinXP machine, using the exact same copy of the Mail directory.

I used the Bless Hex editor in Linux to examine the inbox file in the Mail/ directory, which is the account she uses, and confirmed that the text of the missing messages was definitely in that file. Again, it showed up fine under the WinXP Thunderbird installation, but had a month's worth of emails with missing text on the Linux Thunderbird installation. This had never happened before and I spent many hours trying to figure out what was wrong.

Finally, I got a clue. I discovered that the version of Thunderbird of her Linux installation was 12.0, while the version on her WinXP laptop was 10.? (I didn't write it down), Ah ha! I thought. It's a simple upgrade problem. So, like a fool, I immediately upgraded her WinXP Thunderbird to the latest: 13.0.1. Lo and behold, now that same month's worth of emails that we were able to read on the older WinXP Thunderbird (10.?) installation was acting just like it did on the Linux 12 Thunderbird installation; i.e., the messages were there, including the subject and header info, but NO BODY TEXT!

So, bottom line, this looks to me like some kind of upgrade/incompatible Thunderbird versions issue. I still have a copy of the original Mail directory, which has all the text for the missing emails, but I don't know how to get those emails back on either of the newer versions of Thunderbird on either our Linux machine or the WinXP computer. I can, of course, retrieve the text matter by painstakingly editing the Mail/ file with a hex editor, but I'm hoping there's an easier way. I'd also like to know what went wrong. I'm pretty sure that the weird one-month hiatus in email msg text is related to the dates of some automatic upgrades and my swapping of the Mail directory that got out of sync between the two Thunderbird installations.

Any suggestions?
Old 06-20-2012, 01:14 AM   #2
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I might be oversimplifying here, especially after such a wonderfully described problem(which is rarely gotten without begging a user for more detail),.. but,.. would it be simple enough to just downgrade ThunderBird back to 10.x?

I know that it's important to use updated versions, etc, etc, and to inform the TB community of a bug in the program, but until all of that is hashed out, would it be sensible to just downgrade and worry about the new version later?

Last edited by szboardstretcher; 06-20-2012 at 01:16 AM.
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Old 06-20-2012, 05:32 PM   #3
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Registered: May 2009
Location: Long Beach, CA
Distribution: Ubuntu 12.10
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Yes, I already thought of downgrading, but I anticipated a problem: upgrades typically arrange for backward compatibility; e.g., things that worked on 10.x are likely to work on an upgrade (although my current problem may indicate otherwise). That is NOT typically the situation when going backwards. Thus, I suspect we might have to abandon such things as address book, email account configurations and folders, etc. That would be a pain, but I realize I'm merely speculating without having actually tried it.

Actually, since we still had the header and subject info for the month's worth of missing texts, I was able to use that text to search the Mail/ file and retrieve the text of those messages that were important to my wife. In that sense, our problem has been solved. I would still be interested in learning what exactly went wrong and suspect that this post will be of use to others who have experienced the same problem. However, I would defer to your more experienced judgment as to whether or not we should mark this problem "solved."

As an aside, upgrades can be a disappointing experience. As a prime example, I'm currently stuck with Ubuntu 11.04, the last release (as far as I know) which allows the classic UI. I've tried upgrading twice now and have returned to 11.04 both times out of frustration with the new Unity interface. Roaming the web has convinced me that I'm not alone in my dislike of Unity. Unless the Ubuntu people implement an option to use something comparable to the earlier UI, I don't intend to upgrade. I understand that some other flavors of Linux (Mint?) still utilize the interface we've all come to know and love. Perhaps there is another thread on this site that discusses this problem and has workarounds. I'll have to look.

Thanks for you interest and comment.


email, thunderbird, upgrade, winxp

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