i use pine to read and compose email. many people call this “checking your email with telnet” as we used to telnet to isis.unc.edu in order to check our email on the library computers intended primarily for web-based research. actually telnet is just the protocol, analogous with the “http” of web browsing, but i suppose it does convey an air of 1970’s-era character-based displays.
normally i use securecrt to connect to ISIS to check my email with pine. this is ok on campus, with 100MBit/s connections, but off-campus, even with broadband, the character delay can be bothersome. (telnet and ssh work by sending each character you type as a seperate message to the server, which sends a message back saying “yep, i see that you just sent me an ‘s’–thanks!”. only once that acknowledgement returns does the character appear on your screen. if that message has to travel half way around the world or just across town but through a beleaguered server, you may type a few characters and not seem them appear until several seconds later. delayed feedback like this makes it very difficult to write an email.)
then there is file attachment, the killer piggy-back app of email, which is also difficult with pine because the files you want to attach must exist on the server (requiring a painfully cumbersome ftp or afs upload before anything can be attached).
i’ve often thought that i should create a client version of pine, until the other day i wondered whether the pine people at the university of washington might have already created one for me. low and behold, they have, it’s called PC-Pine, and it looks and smells just like everything i love about pine (ctrl+x ctrl+c, etc) while acting just like an outlook, mozilla mail, or mulberry.
the added bonus is how it takes advantage of the windows gui environment. you can use the mouse to scroll through messages, you can click on URLs, you can attach files from your local computer–and you can still use the keyboard for 100% of the program’s beloved functionality. (just make sure that when/if you’re installing it, you choose to store your profile locally.)
pine’s got a bazillion configuration options, and I’m still not sure how to send my password securely (using ssh or kerberos), or configure it for UNC’s ldap server, but if i happen upon anything interesting, expect to hear about it here.