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Pegasus and Mercury Circling the Drain 217

Posted by ScuttleMonkey
from the check-is-in-the-mail dept.
Daemon Duck writes "One of the web's oldest and most respected email clients is flickering out of existence. Pegasus mail and its companion SMTP server, Mercury32, have been discontinued due to lack of funding for the ongoing development. On the website, the author David Harris states that if some funding becomes available he would consider opening the source code or continuing the development."
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Pegasus and Mercury Circling the Drain

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  • by Cerberus7 (66071) on Monday January 08, 2007 @12:28PM (#17510328)
    If the funding has dried up, and he's prepared to move on to other things, why not open it? Pegasus was my first mail client, and I for one would like to see it bloom as an open source package rather than die a slow, horrible death as abandonware.
    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by Secret Rabbit (914973)
      No shit! It's like this guy is looking for a bribe to open the code.
    • by Anonymous Coward on Monday January 08, 2007 @12:39PM (#17510570)
      To think that the project will automatically bloom by virtue of it becoming open source seems a bit presumptuous to me. Sure, it will definitely help towards it remaining a viable project, but taking a look at all the dead unmaintained projects in SourceForge tells me that having it open source is by no means a guarantee that it will bloom.
      • by nuzak (959558)
        > To think that the project will automatically bloom by virtue of it becoming open source seems a bit presumptuous to me.

        It's very presumptious, I agree. But no more so than presuming that without funding, it will die if it's opened up.

        Here's how you maintain pegasus:

        1. Delete all DOS assumptions. This is best accomplished with rd/q/s pegasus
        2. Download another open source mail client. ...
        3. Profit. Or don't.
      • by timeOday (582209)
        taking a look at all the dead unmaintained projects in SourceForge tells me that having it open source is by no means a guarantee that it will bloom.
        But most of those are weekend projects by a college student that never reached version 1.0, and "this is not that."

        Then again, personal email solutions are a dime a dozen. At most.

    • by Sfing_ter (99478)
      You guys are making it sound like he wants thousands of dollars, the quot is "modest funding", the only thing he has ever asked for is support fees, and a fee for the analog manual... :)
      If you need a simple smtp program for your home or office and are stuck with the windows platform, this is very nice and easy to configure. I use it for a couple of clients who fell for the sco fud, and need an smtp server on the local site.
  • by Zontar_Thing_From_Ve (949321) on Monday January 08, 2007 @12:29PM (#17510360)
    I went to the web page and see that, as reported by Scuttle Monkey, the author says he might continue working on it or make it open source with some funding. What does funding have to do with making it opern source? He could make it open source today if he really wanted to. It just seems to me that he's yet another guy who's pissed off that he can't make a living off the internet, so he's holding his source code hostage. I have to admit I know nothing about his program, but I fail to see the connection between open source and him getting paid.
    • by cascadingstylesheet (140919) on Monday January 08, 2007 @12:36PM (#17510496)
      >I have to admit I know nothing about his program,
      >but I fail to see the connection between open
      >source and him getting paid.

      1. One or more people want it to be open-sourced.

      2. The author (like you, unless perhaps you are
      a monk) wants money.

      An exchange either will or won't happen.

      If there aren't enough people in #1 above, or if they
      don't want it badly enough to pay, then maybe he will
      eventually give it away for free, like something that
      wouldn't sell in a garage sale or on EBay.

      He doesn't have to give his work away for free if
      he doesn't want to.
    • by Zigg (64962) on Monday January 08, 2007 @12:37PM (#17510512)

      He may be considering the inevitable time investment that would come from helping people actually understand the released source. Or (though less likely), there may be IP rights involved.

      • by Lumpy (12016)
        That is all fine and dandy, but today ther are no less than 30 Open source apps that already do what pegasus does and more. This is not like Blender where there was no decent 3d app for Linux, there is a mountian of email apps that are as good as or better than pegasus.

        I know some people still like it, but in my mind it is certianly not worth it even if he open sourced it.
      • by Rob T Firefly (844560) on Monday January 08, 2007 @02:59PM (#17512770) Homepage Journal
        If his code looks anything like mine, he's just too damn embarassed to show the world his tangled mess of strings, variables, and "Mystery Science Theater 3000" references that can only be called "code" due to its inarguable existence as electronic data that someone could tentatively try to run through a magical compiler if one were extraordinarily optimistic that the whole wretched thing would somehow do something not all that far from its intended function without damaging anything or anyone else near the computer desk physically or emotionally.
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by micromuncher (171881)
      Moving something to open source and give it a chance at survival is a lot of work. I tried to move a bunch of my libraries to open source only to discover a total lack of documentation; not just API but architectural. If its put out without polish, its DOA.
    • by LWATCDR (28044) on Monday January 08, 2007 @12:46PM (#17510684) Homepage Journal
      "What does funding have to do with making it open source? He could make it open source today if he really wanted to. It just seems to me that he's yet another guy who's pissed off that he can't make a living off the Internet, so he's holding his source code hostage."

      I used to use this program a long time ago. It was a very good program.

      1. Holding it hostage? He wrote it so he can do with it what he wants.
      2. He did a lot of work. He would like to get paid for his work so funding is important. Things like food, mortgage, health care....

      So it comes down to this. He will sell his work to the community if they pay him. It is his work so he has that right. If no one wants it enough to pay for it he is going to walk a way. If you don't like it use thunderbird.
      These programs have been around for a long time. I used it on a Novell V3 system for email.
    • by www.sorehands.com (142825) on Monday January 08, 2007 @12:58PM (#17510870) Homepage
      You can't just open source software, there is work to do to open source it. First, you have to inspect the licenses of any module/code that you include to make sure that it is open sourceable. You also have to have a build system in place that works with open source. Is it truly open source, if you have to buy Microsoft's Visual Studio to build it?

      I finally got the source code for Post Road Mailer (native OS/2 application). Before I can start working on it, I have to build a project file for Visual SlickEdit, then linting (or is it de-lint) it, then port it over to Watcom or Gcc. There may be some legal some issues that prevent me from open sourcing it, but I hope to get it working well enough to start distributing it -- legally, free as in beer.
      • And I forgot, you have to remove the obscene language used in variable names and comments such as "// my %%@!! boss XX must be on drugs if he thinks that I will do this."

      • You can't just open source software, there is work to do to open source it. First, you have to inspect the licenses of any module/code that you include to make sure that it is open sourceable. You also have to have a build system in place that works with open source. Is it truly open source, if you have to buy Microsoft's Visual Studio to build it?

        Short answer: Yes.

        The compiler/interpreter/whatever used to compile/interpret/whatever the source code is utterly irrelevant.

  • Opening the Source (Score:3, Informative)

    by TrailerTrash (91309) * on Monday January 08, 2007 @12:29PM (#17510368)
    From TFA:

    if sponsors could be found to provide modest ongoing funding, I would be happy to
    continue developing the programs, and would even consider opening the source.

    -------------

    Does it cost to open the source? It's not as simple as opening a SourceForge account and posting the source under the GPL?
    • by morgan_greywolf (835522) on Monday January 08, 2007 @12:40PM (#17510584) Homepage Journal
      Does it cost to open the source? It's not as simple as opening a SourceForge account and posting the source under the GPL?


      Lots of people seem to be asking this, but the question that they don't ask is this: is the source to Pegasus and Mercury 100% an original creation of David Harris? If not, he may have to pay off other authors who wrote libraries or other code written by Harris. One reason so much of the Netscape source code had to be rewritten to produce Seamonkey (and ultimately Firefox), aside from so much of it being crufty, is that there was a ton of third-party code that came from Sun and other companies.

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by jfengel (409917)
        Theoretically, he could open the parts that he owns and leave it to other developers to replace the bits that he can't give away. Or ask you to download them yourself, the way you have to download lame separately from Audacity due to licensing issues.

        Nobody ever guaranteed that any particular piece of open source would compile.
  • by Generic Guy (678542) on Monday January 08, 2007 @12:30PM (#17510376)

    One might be inclined to think Pegasus is flickering out of existance because is isn't open source. I remember early on moving from Pegasus to Eudora email because Eudora's simplicity and features were better. When Eudora became an advertisement-laden mess, the open source Thunderbird showed up to fill the gap and I haven't looked back. Now Thunderbird offers in-place spell-check and other features which were considered very advanced just a few years ago. Evolution in action.

    • by i.r.id10t (595143) on Monday January 08, 2007 @12:34PM (#17510448)
      No Evolution is that outlook like email app that comes with gnome...
    • by 99BottlesOfBeerInMyF (813746) on Monday January 08, 2007 @05:08PM (#17515020)

      Now Thunderbird offers in-place spell-check and other features which were considered very advanced just a few years ago.

      I can't help but express my disappointment that this is still an issue. Spellchecking should not be implemented on a per-application level. It should be implemented at an OS level and offered as a service to all applications (along with other such services). I mean sure it's nice to have spellchecking in your mail client and your word processor, but what about your chat client? What about in vi? What about in your Web browser and calendar and graphics program. More importantly, why should you have to train dictionaries for all of these programs separately? I already taught my layout program that MPLS isn't a misspelling, why should I have to do it again and again? And what about my grammar checker? Should I wait another four years until they add that to Thunderbird? What about online dictionary lookups, and thesaurus, and language translations, and bibliography references? All these things I can do today in most programs on Mac OS X, which is great, but it is high time Linux and Windows caught up. That would be evolution in action.

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by Spacejock (727523)
        The best solution is to install spell checking in the brain. You can get a grammar checker, too.

        The downside is that they take ages to install and don't run with computer-like efficiency.
  • It was a godsend for me when I first found it. Working for a rural publisher meant we got *big* files down our 56k line. The ability to see and manipulate the mail queue for those of us not fortunate enough to be on *nix was truly empowering. There was no webmail, no alternative. We had been downloading 30Mb files overnight to try and get at our email... Heh. Good old simple "viruses come on floppies" days :)
  • see the look of inconsolable sadness on my face: :-) Too bad my university won't have migrated away to a proper email system (by which I mean one where I can access my email from outside uni by using something other than squirrelmail) by the time I leave.
  • by macadamia_harold (947445) on Monday January 08, 2007 @12:33PM (#17510424) Homepage
    It is official; Slashdot now confirms: *Pegasus is dying

    One more crippling bombshell hit the already beleaguered *Pegasus community when /. confirmed that *Pegasus market share has dropped yet again, now down to less than a fraction of 1 percent of all clients. Coming close on the heels of a recent /. survey which plainly states that *Pegasus has lost more market share, this news serves to reinforce what we've known all along. *Pegasus is collapsing in complete disarray, as fittingly exemplified by failing dead last in the recent Sys Admin comprehensive networking test.

    You don't need to be a Kreskin to predict *Pegasus' future. The hand writing is on the wall: *Pegasus faces a bleak future. In fact there won't be any future at all for *Pegasus because *Pegasus is dying. Things are looking very bad for *Pegasus. As many of us are already aware, *Pegasus continues to lose market share. Red ink flows like a river of blood.

    There can no longer be any doubt: Pegasus is dying.
  • When this story was on Digg last week I said the same thing: I really hope he decided to open source both pieces of software. I guess we'll have to wait and see.
  • by Anonymous Coward
    ...but BSD was plugging up the drain hole. Or so I've been told from time to time.
  • by grasshoppa (657393) <skennedyNO@SPAMtpno-co.org> on Monday January 08, 2007 @12:42PM (#17510618) Homepage
    Correct me if I'm wrong, but doesn't the lack of funding indicate that nobody wants to use it anymore? Free market in action and all that?

    Further, what would Pegasus do that thunderbird or outlook doesn't do? Would it be better money spent writing custom plugins for thunderbird?
    • by hey! (33014)
      OK you're wrong.

      The free market does not give people everything they want. It doesn't give them everything they need.

      What it does is efficiently distribute resources provided that certain criteria are met. It is, in effect, the most ruthless and effective system of rationing ever devised, precisely because it doesn't really care what you want or need; it only takes into account what you are willing and able to spend.

      Within its scope, the free market is highy efficient. But it doesn't do a good job at th
      • by monkeydo (173558)
        As the other poster pointed out, many times the newer drugs treat a wider range of people, and are generally more refined. However, the pattern you point to is also related to how the the drug companies deal with patents and generics. The name brands keep ahead of the generics by introducing new (usually slightly better) versions of the drugs right about the time generics start coming out. This is much more profitable than developing entirely new drugs for different diseases, since much existing R&D
  • by Pig Hogger (10379) <[moc.liamg] [ta] [reggoh.gip]> on Monday January 08, 2007 @12:47PM (#17510710) Journal
    Old dinosaurs wither...

    Pegasus mail was great when it started. Then a Windows version emerged, with was potent, flexible and useful, despite some quirks (you could not select anything less than a line in message text -- this gave me the habit I still follow to put URLs in e-mails on a single line without unrelated text).

    But it is obviously a product that evolved by slapping-on additions haphazarldy; the configuration was nothing but unified. Related features were spread accross several configuration screens amongst several configuration options, without a grand master plan.

    In the end, it was a sorry kluge that was easily replaced by other clients (Eudora, Thunderbird) who eventually evolved to Pegasus' capabilities, but without the configuration nightmare.

    So it arrived at it's natural end of life. It cannot compete against nimbler and swifter clients, so it now belongs in the annals of internet paleontology as a reverable footnote, much as the Great Eastern does in steamship paleontology or The Rocket in locomotive paleontology.

    R.I.P. Pegasus, you won't be forgotten, but certainly not missed.

    It's time to move on. Perhaps Mr Harris could bring his expertise and experience to Thunderbird, where he would be more than welcome.
  • by Control-Z (321144) on Monday January 08, 2007 @12:58PM (#17510868)
    I subscribe to the Mercury mailing list and last week David Harris (the author of Mercury and Pmail) posted a message about the future semi-commercial direction Mercury would take in 2007. There was one follow-up post that complained (in a polite way) about having to pay and David, in my opinion, went off the deep end. That same day he posted on pmail.com that they were both discontinued.

        The only money he ever asked for Mercury was for a set of manuals. I never needed a set of manuals, Mercury is easy to set up and use, and of course the mailing list is a good resource. I think a Donate button in Pegasus and Mercury would have kept him much more interested. As someone on the Mercury list said, if Pegasus Mail has 1 million users and everyone donated a dollar, that would make things much more interesting. Mercury was stagnating, new versions were few and far between.

    • by King_TJ (85913) on Monday January 08, 2007 @01:10PM (#17511060) Journal
      I think "it takes money to make money" is still as valid a saying as ever. The problem David Harris has is shared by MANY software developers out there. They initially get motivated to "build a better mousetrap", and they succeed. Their product is adopted by millions of users (often because it costs them nothing to use it, but has obvious benefits worth the switch and learning curve). Over time, the author feels that he/she deserves financial compensation for the now highly-regarded product and becomes disenchanted with the situation. Development stagnates, and new products overtake it.

      To overcome this, I think the real answer is to invest some money in advertising a newer, more advanced version of the software product. (The old one can then serve as a "lite" version, maintained simply to help keep your "brand" alive, and to introduce new people to the product's existence.) Otherwise, you can't really break free of the "development/ascent/decline" lifecycle that all products undergo.
      • I think the real answer is to invest some money in advertising a newer, more advanced version of the software product. (The old one can then serve as a "lite" version, maintained simply to help keep your "brand" alive, and to introduce new people to the product's existence.)

        I'm sure I'm blinded by my primary dependence on Free software, so can you cite a few products that have had long-term success with the lite-is-free, full-is-pay model? I mean I've seen plenty try it, but over the long term I don't reca
        • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

          by FLEB (312391)
          Trillian, Doom (and a thousand other Shareware titles), MS Outlook (via Express), Winamp (although I don't know if that's "succeeding" or merely "subsidized")
          • Trillian, Doom (and a thousand other Shareware titles), MS Outlook (via Express), Winamp (although I don't know if that's "succeeding" or merely "subsidized")

            Other than Trillian, your list is bogus. ID Software does not in any way market their older games as free "lite" versions, and the thousand other shareware titles are exactly what I am talking about - none of them particularly successful. No one buys outlook as an express upgrade, outlook is sold to business, express is just bundled with the OS (if i
        • Not exactly the same but I found AVG Antivirus for free, tested it myself for a while and then started recommending it to my friends/family/co-workers. Now I never bought the Pro (paid for) personal version but because I liked the free product well enough and got few complaints from those whom I'd recommended it to I ended up settling on it for in house corporate antivirus.

          Now our mail server runs it, our main file server runs it and our domain controller runs a network version that allows us to push it out
      • To overcome this, I think the real answer is to invest some money in advertising a newer, more advanced version of the software product.

        That sounds like a terrible business plan. After it has already been free as in beer and when your client base is built up of those users, you need to run with that theme. Keep it free as in beer and open source the project. Then profit in the following ways:

        • Add features and customizations on contract for any company that wants them. You the number one expert on this.
  • More details here (Score:3, Interesting)

    by alexgieg (948359) <alexgieg@gmail.com> on Monday January 08, 2007 @01:04PM (#17510950) Homepage
    You can find more detailed information on this move the following link, by a Pegasus Mail beta tester:

    http://www.vandenbogaerde.net/pegasusmail/dh_upd1. html [vandenbogaerde.net]

    By the way, I'd love to see Pegasus Mail open sourced. It's a marvelous e-mailing package. It's UI isn't the most intuitive around, but once you get used to it, it becomes a very powerful tool for your mail needs. Many years ago I evaluated a lot of e-mail softwares, including Eudora, and ended up choosing Pegasus Mail. It's really worth it.

    I would surely help if a fund for purchasing and open sourcing it was established.
    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      From http://www.vandenbogaerde.net/pegasusmail/dh_upd1 . html [vandenbogaerde.net]:

      "I will probably never be able to describe just how horrible it has been to be me for the last three or four years, and I certainly will not insult you now by attempting to do so; suffice it to say that anything must be better than this dubious existence. [...] I will be shutting persephone down for an indeterminite period while I try to work out whether I have a future."

      That sounds to me like the guy is borderline suicidal. It's sad.
  • by rueger (210566) on Monday January 08, 2007 @01:06PM (#17510978) Homepage
    In the year since I moved to an Apple machine I've come to understand how solid and useful Pegasus Mail had become. In twelve months I've moved from Apple Mail (which I found much too limited), to Eudora [eudora.com] (what a bizarre interface, at least for me) to Thunderbird, and now to Gyazmail [gyazsquare.com].

    Each of these lacks at least a couple of must have features that I used extensively on Pmail. Thunderbird tries hard, but it always seems that the feature that I need most isn't quite finished.

    Gyazmail comes close, but still has some gaping weaknesses, like the apparent inability to add addresses to the Addressbook from within the program, and a good Search function.

    Ultimately Pegasus was probably best loved by those who live and breathe e-mail, and who need power and flexibility, as well as reliability. yes it was free, but it was one of those programs that I would have paid for because it suited my needs so well.
  • Back in the late 80's I worked at a college that ran Netware (3.12) and everyone, from the dean to the part-time night students used the DOS version as their email client. It was rock solid. At that time I would hazard a guess that many colleges and universities which ran Netware and DOS machines used Pegasus as well.

    I was quite sad to read its being discontinued.
  • Thank you very much for a Pegasus Mail, so solid, so powerful, and my email program exclusively from 1992 to 2005, when I finally completely ditched my windows partition in favor of running Ubuntu exclusively. I had been running Pmail under wine from 2003. I really loved the filtering system, it was wonderful!

    I am sorry to see you won't be continuing the program. Open sourcing is a nice idea, but my guess is it will then become a weak Eudora or Thunderbird copy.

    I wish you all the best in your future. So

  • I thought the story was about Battlestar Galactica [scifi.com] until I read the summary. :)
  • Some time ago, I wrote a Perl-based mail program called PMail. The Pegasus folks decided that, despite their product never having been called that, they "owned" the name and threatened me with a lawsuit to make me change its name. I'm glad to see them finally swirl the drain.
    • Well, who had the name first? It sounds like they were justified in pursuing some sort of trademark action against you, since on the surface, you were using the same name and competing in the same software market.

      Unlike Firebird and (now) Firefox.
      • by Improv (2467)
        PMail != Pegasus Mail. It's one thing to claim one name, it's another to claim anything that might be even sort-of close.
  • Pegasus handles my secondary email, and my parents' primary email. It's always suited us, becase we're juggling multiple mail accounts and identities, but don't need to be "locked apart" from each other (sometimes it works nicely that my dad can read my mum's emails - she's happy for him to do so, etc.).

    Can anyone offer any insight on exporting the masses of back emails out to some other client? (We can probably switch to Thunderbird I guess, if we can take our old emails with us)
    • by alexgieg (948359)
      You can either use an exporter found in Google, as the AC suggested, or tell Pegasus Mail to create some empty mailbox in the Unix format and copy your archived messages into them. This kind of mailbox doesn't have all the features of the proprietary ones, but there are tons of tools out there than can handle them, and also a ton of 3rd party mail softwares that can use them directly (this probably includes all Linux ones, but I haven't tried).
  • Those three attributes have always been my term for something that gets the job done, but may be a little ugly.

    I set my wife's biz up with Thunderbird, but there's two big areas we still use Pegasus for:
    1) Quick forms, such as notifications of shipment, are impossible to do in T-bird without significant XUL programming
    2) So far as I am aware, T-bird still doesn't do mailing lists where the "To" address shows as a list name, rather than listing out all the recipients

    It's got its problems (command line creati
  • Although I don't haven't used it beyond testing, I must say it's the easiest to install and configure email server I've tried. Exchange 2003, for comparison, was and still is a nightmare.
  • Gimme $$$s (Score:2, Redundant)

    David Harris states that if some funding becomes available he would consider opening the source code or continuing the development.

    While I can understand the need to eat and keep a roof over one's head while continuing to provide and improve free software, how much does it cost to simply open source the code?

  • cause it needs some extra hands on deck. It is awfully buggy and likes to crash with bigger attachments. BTW conversion tools are available, you just have to look for them. Or you can just create a unix format mailbox under pegasus, move your files you want to that, and convert it to what you want from there.
  • Here's the message [vandenbogaerde.net] David first posted. . .

    # January 3rd, 2007
    David Harris decided to pull the plug out of Pegasus Mail and Mercury, since his final message to the beta team, his e-mail service is (temporary) shut down.

    Here is that message:

    I have just updated the pmail.com web site with my last
    announcement. I have terminated both products with immediate effect.

    I do this with sadness - the knot in my stomach is so large at the
    moment that I can barely type - but I suspect that once the emotional
    trauma wears of

  • I used Pegasus for years. Probably the best feature was the filtering rules and their integration with the distribution lists. Back in the 90s, I was able to use a ruleset to essentially make Pegasus Mail a listserver, managing a list of over 5,000 subscribers.

    But, yes, as time passed, Pegasus was passed in so many other areas by commercial and OSS apps that eventually about the only advantage it had were those powerful rulesets and they just did not make up for its shortcomings in other areas.

    I bou
  • You mean all those spammers using Pegasus didn't contribute money to its development?
  • - My first email client was pmail. On a non-Internet connected IPX network.
    - I got my first job using pmail... I wrote a stupid script to spam a friend of mine and got the sys-admin's attention. He hired me a couple months later.

    It's sad to see it go... of course I wouldn't trade Gmail or Outlook for my child's right leg so it's not too sad.
  • I used Pegasus Mail almost exclusively 1997-2002, when I switched all my e-mail & internet activity to *nix.

    Thanks to David for Pegasus Mail.

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