Node-RED 3

Node-RED is a brilliant project and one that's had significant coverage in these pages, most recently when version 2.2.0 appeared. Version 3.0 is another major upgrade and consolidates its brilliance at being the glue for your various data sources while remaining easy to use and supremely powerful. In this release, for example, the addition of a right-click context menu lets you access all the most common features from where your cursor is, which is exactly where you need this kind of menu. This is important because it wasn't always clear what you could do and where in previous versions, and you would often need to switch between editing and adding nodes in the flow and then go back to the inspector on the right to configure the elements you wished to use.

Another great feature is the effortless upgrade process that takes you from 2.x to 3.x era. There are several ways to do this, but the well-documented install and upgrade script worked faultlessly on a Raspberry Pi. With a single restart of the service, we had old flows running just as well on the new version, complete with lots of shiny new potential. You can now add junction nodes to better see and route your data paths, for instance, which is especially convenient when you have lots of destinations for a single source, because the nodes hugely reduce the clutter. Instead of multiple lines from a single place, you can now route a single line to a point where you add the junction and route the ongoing connections from there. You will also find that new nodes have sensible default names, and while debugging their full path is revealed via a new tooltip. All of this makes Node-RED a real pleasure to use and one of the best ways to build bespoke messaging and data flows for your own hardware.

Project Website

The new junction can be used by selecting multiple connections and selecting Insert | Junction from the equally new context menu.

Email client


Recently, Mozilla's Thunderbird email application has been trying to reboot its popularity with a promising modern redesign and a partnership-plus-rebranding of the open source Android client, K-9 Mail. This is great news for Thunderbird and new potential users, but it also helps to remind us that desktop email clients are still a thing, and that they can be a great alternative to web-based clients. Scribe is another great alternative. Although it's not as full-featured or as capable as Thunderbird, it is less than 10MB to download and can be run from its unarchived directory. It's also fast to load, easy to navigate, and convenient even on low-powered devices with very little storage. There are also versions for macOS and Windows, which means you could theoretically run executables for each off a USB stick when traveling and not knowing what kind of computer you might have access to.

Despite its size, Scribe is also very capable, at least for day-to-day email work. It supports POP3, SMTP, and IMAP, with or without SSL. It can therefore talk to every major email vendor and even includes built-in spam filtering. You first need to mark about 100 spam messages as spam before the Bayesian filter can start to accurately predict whether new messages follow the same pattern, but it works well if you already have a large folder or previously filtered spam messages – which you will if you're hosting your own email server. The application design is reminiscent of Java or Gnome Evolution circa 2012, with a folder list on the left, messages on the right, and account selection below. The message list shows a preview of an email itself and will display the full body in the pane below when a message is selected. It can feel a little dated, but that's also what makes email such a survivor in a world of unlimited online distractions and clickbait, and for that, we're grateful.

Project Website

Scribe has been around since 1999 and is a small, fully functional email client that can run from almost anywhere.

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