Hula calendar and mail server proprietaryness

I played with Hula a few weeks ago. I really didn’t spend very long with it, but managed to get it working on Ubuntu Breezy and connected to it with Evolution IMAP client. A big fat tip if you’re planning on having a go with it: don’t use the official Ubuntu packages. The ones I used were old and really sucked; I got nowhere with them. There are packages for Debian on the Hula site that worked well for me.

The new web interface is pretty, but still in development. For example, I couldn’t sort mail. It was just in some kind of random order. I guess it works for newly delivered mail, but I imported all my mail from local mailboxes using IMAP. This obviously *will* be fixed.

The Hula project was kickstarted with Novell licensing it’s proprietary Netmail product under the LGPL and MPL. And you know, it shows. Hula certainly has an air of proprietary software about it. It seems overcomplicated, ungainly and kind of fragile.

I mean, Netmail has sites supporting tens of thousands of users, but I managed to render it completely unstartable after a few minutes tinkering (I really don’t know what I did to break it or to get it working again tbh). The configuration seems way too complicated. I really had no idea where to start and couldn’t get a handle on what was going on when I was following the HOWTOs. In fact, it seems to have a tool to manipulate the configs for you, which worries me somewhat.

I guess it’s due to Novell having to develop Netmail in a proprietary vacuum. They couldn’t draw on other free software systems to build it. They had to reinvent the wheel for everything (or buy in other proprietary stuff).

I’m no software engineer, so my judgement on this isn’t worth much, but I’ve been working with free software services for many years now. I know proprietary software when I smell it and my experiences of it have been largely negative in comparison with free software (in a free software environment).

Having said that, there seems to be a lot of work going on around Hula and it seems to be building rather a good community, so hopefully it can overcome these problems. But, as with Netscape opening Navigator, it’s difficult to say if it’s such a good starting point.

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