Geek Alert: Matthew Gets A New E-mail Client

The Great Pine, by CezanneI’ve written before about Pine, the e-mail client I’ve been using for more than a decade. My love for Pine is hard to describe. I cannot think of another software application (of any type) that so perfectly lets me do exactly what I want to do, quickly and efficiently, no more, no less, never crashing, never surprising me in any way even as it has slowly evolved and sprouted new features. Pine is very easy to learn and use for geeks and non-geeks alike. No, it does not look modern. It does not need to. E-mail is a text medium.* A text-based app can handle things just fine. Pine does better than that. Pine kicks ass.

And now even moreso. Earlier tonight, the Free Software ecosystem grew a bit richer with the first public release of Alpine, the successor to Pine. Alpine looks and works just like Pine always has, and runs on Windows, Linux, and the Mac OS just like Pine did, but they’ve cleaned things up under the hood and rebirthed the whole thing under the Apache license, which is good news for everyone. Pine’s source has long been available, but Pine was never Open Source (or Free Software) because though you were allowed to meddle with Pine’s source code on your own, you were not allowed to share any modified or improved form of Pine. That restriction is gone with Alpine, so if the University of Washington chooses not to accept code contributions from the hacking public, legitimate, supercharged versions of Alpine could still emerge.

It will be interesting to see what happens with Alpine. All I know is, I like the idea that if I just learn enough C, I can make the slight changes I’ve been itching to make all these years and bequeath Mahna Mahpine to the world. I like that this part of my essential software stack is Free at last.

Here I present what may be the Web’s first screenshot of Alpine.

* Or is it a textual medium? Is there a copyeditor out there to make the call?