Going Full Gmail

So I finally gave in and moved my email to Gmail. Specifically, I’ve moved the urth.org email handling to Gmail via G Suite with my own domain.

The first email reader I used was Pine, which I used for ages. Later I got real modern and switched to Alpine. I would shell into urth.org and run alpine to read my mail. This worked fine except for all the ways it didn’t. I had scripts I could pipe to that would open links from email on my desktop, as well as attachments.

But more and more email has become hard to read in a text-based system. In particular, things like hotel and airline reservation confirmations are gibberish in a text reader. The last straw was a couple weeks ago when I misread my wife’s plane departure time. Fortunately, my misread caused her to be early rather than late, but this was a clear sign from the email gods that it was time to modernize.

I struggled with Mailpile for a few days first. It seems like a really nice piece of software, and it has a lot of great features. Unfortunately, getting it to just read all my existing mail was really difficult and I gave up, since I’m really not sure of its long-term future, and hacking on an email app is not how I want to spend my time.

Of course, Gmail is also terrible at importing email. I mean really really terrible. First I tried the data migrator that is part of G Suite. It claims it can import from an IMAP server. Problem #1, it needs SSL. Solution #1, I already have dovecot set up with SSL. Problem #2, it will only connect if SSLv3 is enabled. WTF, Google?! I’d report the SSLv3 thing but it’s Google, who the hell would I report it to? Dear web crawler, please read the previous paragraph and use your AI to tell the right person.

Problem #3, once I enable SSLv3 it just fails mysteriously. It probably has something to do with my weird folder structure as a result of using procmail for so many years.

Next approach, copy all my mbox files locally, fire up Thunderbird, and use the ImportExportTools extension to import each mbox file. Problem #4, it can’t handle very large (1+GB) mbox files. It just truncates them. Solution #2, use a gross awk solution that seems to make some mistakes, but is good enough. Then connect Thunderbird to gmail and copy emails from the Local Folders to Gmail. It’s super slow but it does work. Of course, if one of the emails has attachments larger than 25MB Thunderbird dies mid-import without telling me which message failed. Solution #3, create a Thunderbird filter to find all messages with large attachments and delete the attachments before doing the import.

I still have a good 6+ GB of old email to import, so I’m also going to experiment with import-mailbox-to-gmail, which will probably suck in some other way, but claims to log errors so maybe I can just throw it at the remaining 6GB and sort out the errors later. You’d think Google would want to make it easy to switch to their services but I think they’re mostly catering to Enterprise Outlook users.

I’m also trying to move all my Google stuff (drive, photos, etc.) to my new account, which of course Google also does not make easy. Am I really the first person trying to move from a gmail presence to a custom domain hosted in G Suites? Really? Why are you so half-assed, Google?

On the plus side, once I’m done, I’ll have a halfway decent email reader to use.


mark, on 2017-07-07 18:58, said:
This is somewhat interesting because I have considered to abandon all Google-related products since quite some time. I dislike their growing de-facto monopoly in general.

Dave Rolsky, on 2017-07-11 23:49, said:
I see where you’re coming from. But for me the principle was not significant compared to the practical ongoing (time and energy) cost of maintaining my own mail server, using a not-so-great mail reader, etc.