[b-hebrew] Hebrew in messages

Peter Kirk peterkirk at qaya.org
Mon Jul 18 18:14:25 EDT 2005

On 18/07/2005 21:53, Karl Randolph wrote:

> ...
>>Karl, I do not appreciate you copying to this list material which I 
>>sent to you on list (snipped from below).
>Peter: Sorry, I forwarded only that which I though you would find 
>inoffensive. Sorry, my mistake.
Your apology is accepted.

> ...
>What is leaving my computer is html standard. Somewhere, and 
>the headers of messages you sent me do not show where, it is 
>being translated to MIME: is it when it leaves email.com, as a 
>front end program accepting emails at ibiblio, or at an 
>intervening node? Neither of us knows. ...

Actually, I do know. Because you sent messages both directly to me and 
to b-hebrew. The versions I was looking at had come to me direct, not 
via ibiblio. And they contained the same corrupted data as are in the 
ibiblio archives. So the corruption must have taken place at the last 
common point: your mail server.

>... An html messages will arrive at another html reader without 
>losing content, however, it will show up on a MIME reader as 
>gibberish. Obviously, MIME is far more limited than html.

Well, not entirely gibberish: it will appear as HTML source, which 
consists of characters in a specified encoding. But this is not what has 
happened: I did not receive from you proper HTML source, but plain text 
apart from what looked like HTML character entities.

>Html mail is a feature. MIME is a far more limited email 
>standard, is a feature. The two are incompatible, that too is a 
>feature, not a bug. ...

They are not incompatible. Rather, HTML e-mail is built on MIME. MIME 
provides facilities for indicating whether e-mail (in fact a part of an 
e-mail) is HTML or plain text, or another format, or an attachment. 
Plain text e-mail can be either basic MAIL format (which is ASCII only) 
or MIME (which can be in any of the encodings registered for MIME 
including Windows-1255 and UTF-8).

>... That there is not a good translator from 
>html to MIME is also a feature (unless there is a claim that 
>such a translator exists). ...

No converter can translate the formatting information of HTML into plain 
text, or of HTML MIME e-mail to plain text MIME e-mail. But converters 
can extract the plain text from HTML e-mail and convert it to plain text 
in a suitable encoding. But for generality a suitable encoding must 
support all Unicode characters, which means it must be UTF-8. The 
problem arose because your mail software attempted to convert HTML into 
ASCII or Windows-1252 encoded e-mail. But it could not do this 
conversion properly when it came across Hebrew characters, encoded in 
HTML as character entities. So, instead of aborting, or asking for user 
input (as my mail program does in these circumstances), or inserting 
question marks (some programs do this), it passed through the character 
entities unchanged at the encoding level - which unfortunately meant a 
change in the content. This is perhaps not a stupid decision, but it is 
an unfortunate one in this context, and compounded by the reverse error, 
which is actually avoidable, of interpreting anything that looks like a 
character entity as a character entity, even in plain text when such a 
string cannot be a character entity.

> That ibiblio accepts only MIME 
>encoded messages is a feature. 

This one is in fact a deliberate choice of the moderators of this list.

>Be up front about features, that ibiblio accepts only MIME, and 
>it would have saved a lot of hassle and time.
Well, I think it has been clear from the very start of this discussion 
that the b-hebrew list accepts only plain text MIME e-mail, and not HTML 
e-mail. In fact Kirk Lowery wrote this on 10th July; he didn't 
explicitly mention MIME, but he made it clear that (for reasons which I 
would contest, but that's another matter) HTML is not accepted by this list.

Peter Kirk
peter at qaya.org (personal)
peterkirk at qaya.org (work)

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