July 31, 2007
So over on The Apple Phone Show, Liana Lehua posted an article entitled POP and IMAP, what's the Buzz?, that while well - intentioned, (wants to explain such things in an easy to understand manner), ends up looking like a badly done, (has real factual errors) article on IMAP that was really, in theory about Yahoo Push email.
If it seems confusing to you, well, it is to me as well. The fact that when I pointed out some of the errors, I got snarked at by Scott Bourne, my comment was deleted, and he managed to throw in a few comments about how I need to learn about targeting my audience. Evidently, I am incapable of relating to a non-technical audience. The people I've supported over the years would be amused by this, but oh well, Scott's more concerned with saving face than being right.
However, I am far more bothered that an article with real factual errors is being held as something it's not, so in the spirit of of the intarweb, I'm going to to do an overview of POP and IMAP, then talk a little about Yahoo's Push email. If you're fairly technical, this isn't the article you want, it's really for people who are perhaps dealing with things like IMAP for the first time, and want to know just what the heck is going on. I will do my best to avoid waxing technophile but it's kinda hard for me to avoid ;-)
Of the three, POP, aka POP3 is the oldest email protocol. POP is really quite simple to understand, and conceptually, it works rather like going to the UPS store to get a package. When you connect to your email server, all email in your inbox is copied to your email program on your computer or iPhone, and it is deleted off the server. Just like when you get your package from the UPS store, it's in your possession, and no longer in the UPS store. POP is very simple to deal with from the user and the programmer perspective. It does have some disadvantages. If you have a slow connection, and a lot of email, well, you're going to be waiting a bit for all that to download to your computer or iPhone. If you have a lot of attachments, then you'll be waiting even longer, as the entire message has to completely download to your system before you can read it. If you aren't at the computer you normally read your email from/don't have your iPhone with you, then you can't read any of your old email. By the same token, any email you download to the computer you are at won't be easily available to the computer you normally use. Now, if you only have one computer that you ever use, and only read all your email in one place, this isn't a real problem.
But you have an iPhone. Now what? Well, as it turns out, POP has an option to kind of work around this. This options leaves the email on the server after you download it. In fact, this is the default for the iPhone, which makes sense. So now, as long as you have your email program set up to leave the email up on the server, there's no problem right? It's always available, life is good.
Well, only kind of. Remember, with POP, you have to download all the available email when you connect. If you leave your email on the server, that can start taking longer and longer. On a slow connection? It's even worse when you consider that spammers are now trying to use PDF attachments to spam you with. So if your email provider doesn't have a good anti-spam setup, then you get all those attachments downloaded to your iPhone. Then you get them all downloaded to your main Mac or Windows machine. To keep using our UPS analogy, this would be like every time you went to a different UPS store, they gave you another copy of every package you'd ever had delivered. No one needs that many packages. Another issue with POP is that your email storage is only as reliable as the machine it lives on. With POP, if you aren't careful about backing up, a hard drive crash could easily destroy all your email archives. Of course, we ALL back up, right? ;-)
So if you're using multiple computers or devices to read your email, (and if you're an iPhone user, this is probably you), and you have a slow connection, POP is still simple, but it's no longer so great. However, there is another answer: IMAP.
IMAP was created to make up for POP's deficiencies. The most important difference between POP and IMAP is where your email lives. By default, with IMAP, your email lives on the server. Assuming your mail server is run by competent folks, this is actually a good thing. If nothing else, servers tend to have redundant drives, better backups, more reliable hardware, better power, etc., than your typical laptop/desktop/phone. Face it, you don't see a lot of Xserves taken out by small children, pets, or people tripping while carrying them to a meeting.
IMAP is also designed to be more efficient over bad connections than POP. In a perfect world, when you connect to an IMAP server, (Yes, I know Liana said IMAP = Push email. That's not correct as we'll see), you download a list of headers. Headers are the parts of the message that let you see who sent it, when, the subject of the message, and the like. Email headers are, as a rule, very small, and so a lot of them can be downloaded very fast even over a slow connection. As an example, way back in the dark ages, when I was running Netscape Communicator 4.5 on a Powerbook 3400c, I could download over 3,000 IMAP headers in under 5 minutes on a 33.6K modem connection. For all you people kvetching about EDGE speeds? EDGE is blindingly fast compared to that. The important part here is that by only downloading the headers, our perfect IMAP client lets you see how much email you have very quickly, without making you download the whole kit & kaboodle.
So now you want to read a message. You select the message, and our perfect IMAP client then only downloads the body of the message. Since the body of the message is the part you read, this makes sense. Rich text, HTML, plain text, doesn't matter. Even a fairly long message isn't going to have that much stuff in the body. So over a typical EDGE connection, this is not a long delay. Even over a modem, it's not really long. But what about attachments? What if you have a 2MB or greater attachment that you don't want to deal with? Well, this is one of the beauties of IMAP. You don't have to. The attachment isn't, or at least shouldn't be downloaded until you explicitly choose to. So you can read the message and blow off the attachment until you get to a faster machine, one with more storage, a faster connection, whatever. Keep in mind, I am talking about a "perfect" IMAP client. Not many clients are that perfect.
Now, when I say "download" here, I'm not talking about how POP does things. What I'm really doing is copying the information in the message to my local mac/iPhone/whatever. It's all still "physically" on the server. Why is this good? Because if someone sends me a big horkin' WMV file as an attachment, I don't want that on my iPhone. For one, I can't view it, for another, it's too friggin' big. With POP, I'd have to set my client(s) to always leave mail on the server. With IMAP, that's how it works until you move it off, either to a local folder on your client, or you delete it. This means that by default, that same message I saw on my iPhone will still be there when I get to my Mac. However, unlike POP, since IMAP is a smarter protocol, when I bring up my email client, it will show the message as being read already, since I did read it...on my iPhone. If we go back to our UPS example, this would be like the "Star Trek" version of UPS, where no matter where I went, I could get to any package in UPS's system nearly instantly, but I'd always have access to that one package, instead of making copies. I could get just the information I wanted on the package, or even open it up. Then when I was done, just walk out, and know that the package would still be available for me whenever I wanted. IMAP is the email equivalent of having your cake and eating it too. Only with less calories and fat.
If I really want to get all complicated, I can create email folders on the server and use rules to move my email to those folders out of my inbox. That way, even when I file my mail, it's still available from well, any IMAP client. If I have a really kick-butt ISP, then they have a server that lets me create server-side rules. These are rules that live and run on the server. They work just like rules in Mail, Entourage, Eudora, etc., but since they run on the server, they don't require me to leave my email program running to use them. So even my iPhone can reap the benefits of server rules. Server rules just leave POP in the dust.
Now, there are some disadvantages to IMAP. First, if you have an email provider that is stingy with space, IMAP makes it really easy to run out of space. This is why I have 2GB with over a GB dedicated just to email in my .Mac accounts. Secondly, deleting email can be more complicated with IMAP in that you can either say "Move it to a 'deleted items' folder" or 'Mark' it for deletion. (For a point of reference, the iPhone does the latter.) With the former, you have to be careful, because even though it's in a deleted items folder, it's still up on the server, and can still count against your email quota, if you have one. The latter is more obvious to see in an IMAP email client, (for example, in Microsoft Entourage, items 'marked' for deletion have a line through them), but you still have to take another step to really delete the email, aka "purging" items marked for deletion. On my Mac, I just have things moved to the deleted items folder, and I empty that when I quit my email client. For stuff I 'delete' on my iPhone, I just manually purge them in the email client. Off-line access can be tricky too. After all, the only way to have off-line access with IMAP is to cache the messages (and optionally attachments) locally. This would seem to make IMAP about as useful as POP, but remember, unlike POP, you haven't removed anything from the server, and most email clients don't require you to cache the entire message, attachments and all. So even IMAP caching can be more efficient than POP. Finally, a lot of email providers either don't do IMAP outside of webmail, (which almost requires IMAP), or they're so stingy on your server space that it's almost worthless.
Now, while IMAP is most definitely not "Push" email, it can emulate a lot of the features of a push email service/client, such as Goodlink or Microsoft Exchange. The way it does this is via the IDLE command. The IDLE command, at a VERY basic level, lets the client tell the server "Hey, when something happens, tell me". The server, when something happens, i.e. new email shows up says "Hey! Something happened, and here's what it is." So, as new email shows up, you can get it without having to do an actual email check. This is technically not Push email, as the client has to start the process, whereas with true Push, the server says "Yo, here's your email".
However, not all IMAP servers support IDLE. This is not a big deal, it's not required by the standard.
A clarification supplied by a reader who is smarter than I about such things. IDLE is not actually part of the IMAP standard. It is an optional extension to IMAP4 and IMAP4rev1. IDLE's not the only one here, there are a few IMAP features that are not a part of the actual IMAP4 standard. There are new versions of IMAP that have been proposed, such as P-IMAP and Lemonade that incorporate IDLE into the standard, but as it stands currently, the IMAP4 *standard* does not include IDLE. Much thanks to this reader, who wishes to remain anonymous.
Amusingly enough, Apple's .Mac servers don't support IDLE. (If they do, they hide it well.) Using Microsoft Entourage's ability to get the features an IMAP server supports, we see the following:
Now, there's a lot of stuff in there that's really only of use to email administrators, but what we don't see is the word "IDLE". What should we see on a server that does support IDLE? Check out the same information for my bynkii.com email server:
Looking at that screen shot, we see the second word from the right is "IDLE". So this email server does support it, whereas .Mac doesn't. If I had to guess, I would say that .Mac has a lot of email servers, and upgrading a large server farm is not something you do often, (or at all if you can help it). I'll also hazard that this kind of upgrade is not minor at all.
So where does this leave Yahoo!'s push email?
As near as I can tell, Yahoo! is just using IDLE, although based on some of the comments I've seen, not very well. However, in Yahoo!'s defense, based on how the iPhone deals with my two accounts on servers that support IDLE, it may not be all Yahoo!'s fault. So, until I get better info, which can always happen, I'll go with Yahoo! using IMAP's IDLE feature to emulate "push" email. I would also REALLY like it if the iPhone actually used IDLE better. That would leave me with only my .Mac account being the one IMAP account I have that doesn't support IDLE.
And behold, the intarweb did bring people with patience, such as Conrad who did reference traffic-sniffing and say that Yahoo! does not in fact appear to use IDLE, but rather some other scheme which looks to involve sending the new message notification over the cell network. That wouldn't be unheard of, Microsoft did something similar for early versions of OTA, (Over The Air) ActiveSync. Now I'm almost really curious as to just what Yahoo! really is using, and I wish I knew someone over there who could tell me.
So that's a very basic look at POP, IMAP, and Yahoo! Push email on the iPhone. Hopefully, it helped you more than it confused you. If not, leave a comment, and I'll try to make it more clear.
On a personal note, this article was started as a bit of a finger to The Apple Phone Show, particularly after a few emails where my evidently odd insistence that one be correct even when talking to the less-technical crowd was viewed as "nitpicky" and an attempt to drag the article down into "pixel - pushing". I cannot possibly disagree more. Like everyone in my field, I started out knowing, well, nothing. I had to learn, and make the journey from ignorance into knowledge just like everyone else. Without accurate information along the way, that journey would have been impossible. I find it rather insulting in the extreme that anyone would defend inaccuracy for any reason, but especially in an article aimed at beginners, who, because they don't know any better, need to be able to trust that what they're reading is accurate, no matter how it is written, or at what audience it is aimed at.
While my normal audience is well able to catch any errors, I don't feel that a non-technical reader is any less deserving of accurate information than someone with a decade of experience. It's for that reason, along with the attitude I got from the Apple Phone Show that I have stopped reading that site.
okay, it was mostly the snark. Dude, when someone points out real factual errors, don't get your damned hackles up. Just admit it, correct it and move on. Yeesh.
July 26, 2007
For anyone wondering why I'm getting married...
So not letting her get away from me.
And no, I didn't pay her, she's not blind, nor insane.
Okay, not going to go 100% on the not insane part.
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Well, whaddya know...
July 25, 2007
I'll give it a try
Thanks to Daring Fireball who pointed me at the post on increasing the iPhone "friendliness" of a site, by Craig Hockenberry. I just modified what Craig set up for DF. I'm not sure if it will make a difference, since the overall site design goals are different. That is to say, John created an elegant, balanced, beautifully minimalist design. I created what looks good in my head. Obviously, John wins here.
June NPD Game Console sales
Oy vey, it took me until almost August to get these. Yeesh.
Anyway, on to the numbers for June:
Playstation 2: 270,700 (Not NPD numbers, but from Sony PR)
Xbox 360: 198,400
Playstation 3: 98,500
Comparing these to May's numbers, we get:
Wii: Up just under 13%
Playstation 2: Not calculated due to different source of numbers, (I really want to be consistent here).
Xbox 360: Up just under 29%
Playstation 3: Up just under 20%
Percentage - wise, Microsoft had the biggest sales increase, followed by Sony and Nintendo. However, just to show you that percentage isn't everything, if you look at raw numbers, we get:
Wii: 43,522 more units sold in June
Xbox 360: 43,468 more units sold in June
Playstation 3: 16, 896 more units sold in June
The difference is that Nintendo sold almost twice as many Wiis as Microsoft did Xbox 360s, so even though Nintendo had a greater increase in units sold between May and June, by 54 units, the Xbox 360 shows a greater percentage of increase. What do you take from this? Don't rely on a single statistic.
Looking at the graph for Q2 2007, it's pretty obvious that Nintendo is still winning this horse race by a large margin. The other three are competing for second place, and cries of game attach rates, price differences, or techno-superiority don't change one fact: Every month, Nintendo is outselling everyone else by huge amounts.
For the year to date, the graph looks like:
2007 is NOT being kind to Microsoft or Sony, especially Sony. If we look at VG Chartz data for total sales of the Wii/360/PS3 since their respective launches, we see that while posting lower numbers, the PS3's sales resemble the 360's, but the Wii? Well, again, having only been out for around 8.5 months, in total systems sold, it's only 699,754 units behind the 360 in terms of lifetime sales. That curve is not something that Microsoft wants to see right now, especially after having the Xbox post $1.9 billion dollars in losses, $900,000 of which would have happened anyway, even without the $1B charge they took for defective unit repair/replacement.
The year's only half over as far as these sales are concerned, but from what I can see, it's no longer a race for Microsoft or Sony to win, but rather one for Nintendo to lose.
My "real" iPhone article
Right here on InformationWeek.com, and yes, it's long. (6,000+ words long to be precise.)
It's not the longest. There's one that clocks in at over 9,000 words. Anyway, hopefully, it'll be the last one I do for a while on that subject, barring actual new information or news.
Technorati Tags: iPhone| Comments ()
July 19, 2007
THIS is journalistic integrity?
Harry McCracken, he of the "I'll quit rather than compromise my integrity" scandal at PC World was evidently not talking about his right to run important stories that affect his readers.
Nor was he talking about the right to be able to criticize advertisers.
Evidently, that entire fight was to defend his right to publish poorly-written lamer "Top Ten", (or thirteen) lists ad nauseum.
Wow. Never let it be said that Harry won't defend his right to create tripe unto the ends of the earth. I wonder if he'll finally succeed in his quest to be president of the Dvorak fan club. Moron.
Harry McCracken: Dumbass DuJour
Technorati Tags: dumbass du jour| Comments ()
July 13, 2007
Great answer to the "America is English - Only" crowd
Much love to Language Log for this quote from James D. Nicoll:
The problem with defending the purity of the English language is that English is about as pure as a cribhouse whore. We don't just borrow words; on occasion, English has pursued other languages down alleyways to beat them unconscious and rifle their pockets for new vocabulary.The hilarity in the original "Speak English, Your(sic) in America Now" article that inspired the Language Log post is even better when you keep Nicoll's quote in mind.
Is it just me, or are the most rabid "English - only" devotees simply unable to write a proper sentence in the language they defend so stridently?
Technorati Tags: Language| Comments ()
Once a nimrod, always a nimrod
Poor Brett Arends.
It seems that he is not very happy with the reaction to his fearmongering. Of course, he doesn't apologize for it. In fact, he's right proud of it:
"Brett Arends," raged one, is just trying "to scare people into saving more money."The ends justify the means and all. Machiavelli would be proud. Of course Brett is like everyone who's ever been caught bullshitting and fearmongering. He bends over backwards to point out that because his ends, (get more people to save better) is noble, that his means, (scaring people with alarmist bullshitting) don't matter. In fact, not only do Brett's ends justify his means, in Brett's mind, his fearmongering is ennobled because his ends are just that good.
You know what? He's right.
And just for that, I'm going to do it some more.
There's a word for Brett's justifications, all 4 pages of it.
Not his point that people should save better. That is correct.
What I am saying is that when you set yourself up as an expert, especially a financial expert, advising people, whether indirectly or not, on things that can literally change their lives in huge ways for good or ill, not only do the means count, but they are every bit as important as the ends. In fact, no matter how good Brett's advice is, I would advise going elsewhere for it, even if someone else says the same thing, because fearmongering is unethical behavior for someone in a position of trust. I don't need to be scared into doing the right thing. That's not going to help me do the correct thing as a part of my life. That's going to make me fear the consequences of not doing whatever Brett's shilling. (yes, I specifically mean "shilling" as we'll see in a second) Brett's fearmongering will help no one make educated decisions about the long term cost of things like phones or cars. All it's going to do is scare people from using anything but bottom line price as the judge of a purchases worthiness.
However, after reading Brett's article, I'm modifying my Technorati Tag for him. Brett Arends is not a fearmongering douchbag, he's a doubletalking hypocrite. For my proof, I give you this, the last thing in his article:
P.S. Just $99 a Month for TheStreet’s 5 Most Popular Investing ServicesNow we come to the real reason Brett's so anti-luxury purchase...if you buy an iPhone that will cost you, in immediate terms $2,039 according to Brett, (I'm ignoring his tax bracket and credit interest bullshit), you might not have the $2376 for the RealMoney Silver package that TheStreet, Brett's employer, and Brett, are pushing.
RealMoney Silver brings you a balanced toolkit of 5 services to protect and grow your profits in any market. Get Action Alerts PLUS with Jim Cramer’s personal portfolio stock picks...RealMoney for unlimited access to up to 15 exclusive stories daily...Stocks Under $10 that identifies top bargain stocks PLUS Value Investor and Earnings Calls. Get it all for just $99 a month.
Evidently, that extra $337 that Brett and TheStreet want you to spend is okay if it goes to them. It's only when Apple and AT&T get it that it's a complete waste of money.
Brett of course would argue that spending that $2376 will help you earn FAR more money. But he couldn't of course, guarantee it. That would not only be lying, but it would most likely be illegal. Brett of course, would have to admit that there's not one iota of information in RealMoney Silver that isn't available for free from the internet, or your local library. Of course, you might have to prod him a bit on that last one.
So let's see, what is more likely:
- Brett Arends and TheStreet are beside themselves with worry over how people are pissing away their retirement money on luxury crap like the iPhone, and will do anything to help Mr & Mrs America, and all the ships at sea do the right thing so their golden years are truly golden.
- Brett Arends and TheStreet are trying to scare you so badly that you won't notice them trying to take more money from your pocket to line theirs
Based on Brett's self-admitted pride in his fearmongering douchebaggery, I'm going with #2.
Brett Arends: doubletalking hypocrite.
I wonder how happy he is now.
July 11, 2007
Adobe: Killing you a little more every day
While I am really glad that Adobe released a security patch for Flash, could someone...anyone please get them to STOP USING FRIGGIN' INSTALLER VISE? It makes *distributing* said patch a few orders of magnitude harder than it should be.
Oh wait, that's right, Adobe doesn't think Macs exist in more than groups of 5 in graphics departments.
Ow...I rolled my eyes too far, and they cramped.
July 10, 2007
Oh lord, now the Exchange team is doing it
Okay, I know this will not surprise anyone, but look, the Exchange 2007 blog is doing its best to make IMAP look like something only the abused kids use. "The kids whose parents really love them use Exchange Active Sync, so if all your parents let you use is IMAP..."
I'll leave off how even Outlook 2007 still can't do IMAP as well as it should, it never has, and who here thinks IMAP, (Client OR Server), is more of a priority to the Exchange team than color coding door handles?
Right. So on to the FUD:
Both IMAP and EAS give the mobile client the capability to read email with rich html formatting, and view their inbox as well as subfolders of their inbox and reply/reply-all/forward/compose email (technically, the iPhone uses SMTP to send email. SMTP for outbound email is configured along during IMAP/Exchange account setup on the device).
Okay, so first of all guys, the ability to read email has nothing whatsoever to do with the protocol used to deliver it. Really. I know this seems pedantic, but since you are, in theory, developers of a system that has a vague association with email, can we get the details correct? It is not the MTA, (Mail Transfer Agent, i.e. Exchange, Cyrus, etc.) that enables the reading of email in any form, rich, poor, or in debt up to its eyeballs. The MTA, as its name suggests, transfers email from node a to node b. These nodes may be user machines or other email servers. It is the MUA or Mail User Agent, that enables the reading of email and deals with rich text. But then again, Microsoft couldn't be bothered to let you read HTML email on a handheld until Windows Mobile 6, which is not much older than the iPhone, so I guess some confusion is normal. Especially from Microsoft.
EAS also supports capabilities for:
Direct Push, which provides an up-to-date messaging experience designed for mobile networks
(Craig, this one's for you to take note of) Could someone please send, to whomever the hell teaches communication skills/techniques at Microsoft, a copy of the Chicago Manual, and perhaps a sixth - grade grammar text? I swear, there's almost no one from that company who can write a proper English sentence. For those of you not fluent in weasel, Direct Push lets you get email et al without having to manually check for it on a schedule. Those with a clue are thinking, "You mean like IDLE in IMAP?", and that would be correct. Direct Push covers more than IDLE, but (as we see later in the article), IMAP does indeed allow for a Direct Push-like function. Even if you only speak English.
Email flagging to improve the triage experience on the device
Again with the weasel. Jesus, why not say "EAS lets you flag email so that you can manage it easier from your phone." You're not Hawkeye Pierce, you're not even Noah Wiley, stop using terms that don't apply because you think they look cool. I'm also not sure that this isn't a WM 6 - only feature. However, it is correct to say that IMAP doesn't support this. It is also correct to say that IMAP doesn't not support this, because in the world of email servers, flagging messages is an MUA function. It is also completely correct to say that if you, (HORRORS) use an MUA that doesn't support Exchange/Outlook's flagging feature, the flags are exactly as useful as a third nipple on your forehead. When you're male. In other words, what they kind of forget is that flagging, at least in their implementation, is not implemented in a way that is of use to other MUAs. But this is the Exchange team here, "denial" is their summer home.
AutoDiscover to simplify the process of setting up a new device over-the-air
As long as it's a WM device talking to Exchange. While there has been a lot of work in doing this better for IMAP et al, this is one area where I really wish the IETF people would spend a lot more time. Client configuration should be simpler, and this is one area that Apple appears to be looking at for Leopard. The downside is, I'm going to guess it will be an Open Directory - only feature.
Server-side logic to preserve the formatting of rich email on reply/forward if the mobile client doesn't support rich html editing (most don't)
You mean "Most WM clients don't". The iPhone handles this just fine, but in any event, this is not a function of IMAP. Maybe if Microsoft hadn't shipped broke-dick email clients with WM until WM 6, they wouldn't be cheering about such an obvious feature like being able to properly read HTML email. As far as editing, the iPhone doesn't support creating HTML email, but then again, I can't see how doing that on any phone would be anything but teh suck. In any event, this is not a protocol/server issue, it's a client one. Maybe if the Exchange team didn't have to do client dev as well, they'd remember the difference.
Numerous bandwidth optimizations to reduce data charges and improve battery life
Okay, this is not only a post full of weasel, but now it's not even making sense. Here's an idea: Don't ship your devices with shitty batteries, (Motorola Q? Looking RIGHT AT YOU PAL), and stop suckering people into limited data plans for WM and similar devices. iPhone users don't have to care about data charges, it's all unlimited. Yay for foresight. However, IMAP is, when implemented correctly, (something the Exchange team has yet to really do), quite parsimonious with bandwidth. I can tell you from personal experience that a proper IMAP setup can let you download over 3000 mail headers in under 5 minutes on a 33.6K modem. What the Exchange team doesn't want to point out is that unlike quite a few of the implementations out there, (including, sadly, Entourage's, and it would appear, the iPhone's too), IMAP is designed to work in three stages:
- Get the headers from the IMAP server and nothing more.
- When a message is selected for reading, then and only then, download the body of the message, and nothing more.
- Attachments are left on the server with naught but a pointer on the client until the human decides to download them
Offline use is enabled via caching. Unfortunately, most MUAs don't do this correctly, but rather operate like IMAP is some form of POP, and you have no option to do it the correct way. Pity really, it makes spam handling easy on the bandwidth. So yes, contrary to what the Exchange team would have you believe, IMAP is designed to be every bit as nice to the bandwidth and power gods as EAS, and, unlike EAS, is fully documented and available for all to use sans licensing agreements.
Now, on to the areas where Exchange has an advantage, but only kind of.
A significant part of the Exchange user experience goes beyond email. The IMAP protocol only supports email. EAS is designed to enable a great over-the-air companion experience to Outlook and OWA and supports many facets of Exchange beyond email, including:
EAS enables a great OTA experience as long as you sign the licensing agreements. Who here trusts anything from a Microsoft team that has anything to do with Windows as far as you can throw them? That's what I thought. However, this is also a bit disingenuous. IMAP is not an end - all and be - all protocol. It is designed to do one thing: Deliver email from an MTA to an MUA. That's it. For that matter, EAS isn't any of that. It's designed to be a middleman between Exchange and EAS clients. It is more correct to say that EAS makes for easier delivery of Exchange data, because sister, if your server ain't Exchange, Kerio, or another server that's licensed EAS, you ain't doin' squat with that. However, the implication that sans EAS, you're cut off from all things but email is incorrect. There are current, or about to be current standards that handle this, and considering the updates Apple is making for Leopard, I'll go out on a limb and say that you'll see a Leopard-friendly update for the iPhone.
Contact synchronization - view, create and update contacts
Handled by LDAP for everyone else, not currently in iPhone, but not unique to EAS.
Calendar synchronization - view, create & update appointments, schedule meetings, and accept/decline/propose new time for meeting requests
CalDAV, almost done, not currently in iPhone, but not unique to EAS.
Global Address List (GAL) lookup - look-up users in your corporate directory
Out-of-office (OOF) email responses - turn on/off and change the OOF message directly from your mobile phone
Handled by a boot to the head...sorry. This is a server - specific implementation, and EAS's won't work with anything but Exchange. OOF's are the stupid's work, and a sign that you think you're far more important than you really are.
Access to documents stored in Sharepoint document libraries and UNC shares
WebDAV and SMB, and what the fuck does this have to do with groupware? Wait, nevermind, it's Microsoft. I'm sure they can come up with a way to tie Halo 3 into this shit. Nonetheless, this has fuck-all to do with either IMAP or anything else vaguely on-topic unless you're a Microsoft PM.
Search your entire mailbox on the server regardless of what's cached on the mobile phone
BAAAHAHAHAAHAHAHA...wait, IMAP doesn't allow you to search the server store separately from the client cache? Wow, Exchange/Outlook's piss-poor IMAP performance makes sense now: The devs behind them don't know the friggin' protocol specs. I suggest they take a look at a Microsoft product that actually gives a rat's ass about IMAP, namely Entourage, talk to the E'rage team, and learn what IMAP actually does. See, this is what happens when you really want to rag on the iPhone, but are pretending to rag on IMAP. Focus guys, I know Microsoft has no clue about what "focus" means, but go look at your own dictionary, it'd be a start.
Allowing users to manage their mobile device(s) using OWA - see device activity, help retrieve forgotten PIN, remotely wipe lost device, etc
How about some versions in there guys? Somehow, I don't think you're doing this with older versions of Exchange or WM. But again, none of this has anything to do with IMAP. See, this is what happens when your brain is replaced by a wonky hard drive running Vista Ultimate. You can't stay on bloody topic. Half of what you're on about has nothing to do with IMAP. It's like bitching a Ferrari can't out-dive the Alvin, so therefore, it's a crappy submarine.
EAS and IMAP both secure data on the network; EAS also protects data once it's on the device
Repeat after me until you get it: "IMAP is an email protocol, and only an email protocol. It has nothing to do with client device management. Email is not whatever I want it to be, and no matter how brainwashed I am by my Young Frankensteinish Overlord, bullshit doesn't change reality".
Microsoft Exchange does have IMAP support that provides for an adequate email experience. The iPhone can access email via IMAP if the IT department has enabled IMAP connectivity for users. However, IMAP has limitations from both an IT and user standpoint with respect to security and richness of experience that prevent it from being a complete solution for mobile device access to Microsoft Exchange.
"We are so brainwashed that we'd believe anything if the sender of the email's last name is Ballmer" Go back to the chant guys, you're huffing the Flavor-Aid at this point.
Christ, if this is what passes for analysis on the Exchange team, no wonder Exchange sucks.
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July 9, 2007
A *good* iPhone article
Lest ye think that I only look for crap when it comes to iPhone punditry, please, allow me to present a well-written iPhone article from Computerworld, by Jon Espenschied.
Of course, my favorite blurb, (because it's biting, well-written, and correct, a hat trick that not enough pundits pull off) is this one:
What's bothersome is the nonsense put out by analysts declaring -- sans experiential data -- that the iPhone is unsuitable for business use, essentially because it does not look like what came before it. That kind of talk is good for getting your name in the newspapers, but there are two problems. The first is that IT analysis and pundits seem to have forgotten that suitability is closely related to the notion of technical standards, and that standards are not products. The second is that some technical aspects of any device are unknown without practical use; they can't be judged by the specifications alone.
Jon does an excellent job of pointing out that popularity != standards. IMAP is a standard. MAPI is simply popular. People can call MAPI a standard all they like, but that won't make it true, anymore than the insistence of well-intentioned parents will make strained beets taste like candy. Jon makes the outstanding point that we need to be concerned with standards and protocols more than implementation, and he's so right, he'd have to turn three times to be left. Another great quote:
We choose standards because products and platforms change -- and if nothing else, for purely monetary reasons, it's handy to be able to switch technology vendors. An oft-ignored but common situation in many organizations is a change in business and functional requirements without a concomitant upheaval in the security level requirements. For example, a medical products company may choose to become a service company, radically changing its communication-use cases without any decrease in the sensitivity of data handled by the technology. If such an organization's communications infrastructure were tied directly to business function, the company would likely face a major reconfiguration or rip-and-replace event. An organization communicating with open standards such as IMAP and iCal, on the other hand, might only need to reconfigure clients or obtain new endpoint software.
If you settle on data and protocol standards that are truly standards, then your vendor going out of business, or, (as is more likely), going in a direction that is incompatible with your needs is not a company-wide upheaval. If you're using standards, changing vendor products is relatively painless, because you aren't changing your infrastructure, you're just changing the implementation of existing standards. Going from IMAP server A to IMAP server B is far less problematic than going from say Groupwise to Domino, because you can change IMAP servers with an extremely high probability that your users will never need to know, and may never really know in the first place. If you have to change client applications, that can be more annoying, but you can mitigate that with the wider range of choices, so that you have a great chance of finding a new application that won't make your users hate you. Or just stay with the old one if you like, and can live with reduced or non-existent support.
If more iPhone pundits followed Jon's lead, the Intarweb would be a far less annoying place.
July 6, 2007
The Sky....it's full of stupid
Einstein was wrong, stupid is far faster than light. Today's installment of "Writing stupid tripe about the iPhone to get more than three people to read my column" goes to Mario Apicella, InfoWorld's "Storage Insider", and his burbling puddle of colon-blow entitled:
iPhone: Proceed with caution
Apple's latest gadget charms -- but it also increases your data-disclosure risk
There are two real problems with this article. First, as you'll see in my evisceration, it's pathetically obvious that Mario has, at best, been in the same ROOM as an iPhone. But not for long. Secondly, it barely talks about the "great risk" the iPhone evidently entails and offers no useful information whatsoever on the subject. In other words, it's crap, in the most literal sense of the word.
It's not that I don't like the iPhone's captivating look or slick UI. In fact, I think the iPhone comes closer than most to being the ideal gadget to take with you on the road. What stops me from buying one is that it lacks one vital feature in its remarkable bag of tricks: an Internet connection faster than EDGE (Enhanced Data GSM Environment).
This may be one of the few sensible things is the only sensible thing in this article. I agree that there are people who need cell network connectivity that is faster than EDGE. If that's a hard requirement for you, don't get an iPhone, as it will make you unhappy. Get another device, or wait for an update to the iPhone. There is nothing wrong with allowing needs to outweigh wants. Really.
And if you're a storage administrator, you might benefit from reluctance like mine because you can bank on your end-users bringing these little beauties into the workplace.
Let the douchery begin. First of all, currently, to get any "real" data whatsoever onto an iPhone other than via email, you have to physically connect it to a computer. You can't do it via Wi-Fi or Bluetooth, and even if you could, so what? Keeping unauthorized devices off a wireless network is a well-solved problem, and keeping Bluetooth off your network is not rocket science either. Even with USB, there are well-known, reliable ways via GPOs on Windows, MCX on Mac OS X, and a dozen ways on Linux/Unix to lock down access to USB ports. At that point, you only have the camera to deal with, and if you care about those, you already have policies in place to handle that problem. But hey, if Mario doesn't fearmonger a bit, then he doesn't get his Dvorak Gold Star.
As for throughput, yes, the iPhone can connect via Wi-Fi to a wireless network at home, in the office, or wherever you can find one. But that's not enough. When you travel, a faster connection such as HSDPA (High-Speed Downlink Packet Access) or EvDO (evolution, data optimized) is a must-have. These days, EDGE no longer cuts it.
As someone who has only ever had EV-DO on one phone in the last 6-7 years, and that a seldom used work cell which is really just a Goodlink testbed, Mario's claim, sans context and qualification, is bullshit. I had a Sprint PPC-6601 for two years. Windows Mobile 2003, 1xRTT. Not EV-DO. Prior to that, a Kyocera 6035 Smartphone running Palm OS 3.5. I think that used carrier pigeon. The point is, no Mario, EV-DO is not a hard requirement for all. In fact, it's only a hard requirement for a small strata of the phone using public. Stop confusing "Mario" with "The population of the planet Earth". Your perceived IQ will be much higher if you do.
As a Cingular -- pardon me, "new AT&T" customer, I know all too well the difficulties of getting on the Internet via EDGE. Downloading multimedia files on the EDGE network is like sucking honey with a straw, only without the sweetness. Uploading files is even worse, much like using dial-up.
Here we see Mario showing us that he knows as much about the iPhone as I know about negotiating diplomatic agreements with the North Koreans: Not a fucking thing. First of all, outside of web page/web 2.0 data, the only way you can use EDGE to specifically get data to or from an iPhone is via email. Considering standard attachment practice, we aren't talking about an insane amount of data here, and about all you can email FROM the iPhone are photos. One at a time. Who the fuck does this by the GB? Mario is talking out his ass here, but hey, when you're going for a two-fer for Dvorakism and Scobleosis, that's what you gotta do.
Certainly, the main appeal of EDGE is its ubiquity. But any mobile gadget that mixes multimedia and the Internet shouldn't require proximity to a Wi-Fi hotspot to offer adequate download capabilities. No wonder hackers are trying to unlock the iPhone and use it on other networks.
How the fuck does someone who thinks that moving an iPhone to a different carrier will have a damned thing to do with EDGE get a column in what used to be a solid IT publication? How? Were I to wax Gruberesque here, I would simply say I'm so fucking high, I can't even see the keyboard. But John's far more precise than I, so I'm going to go with my strength: anger and verbosity. Mario, try actually reading the articles, not the headlines. They aren't hacking them to switch networks, but to switch carriers. Try to keep up, I have to use big words here. Unless Apple has provided 3G GSM hardware in the iPhone, which all indications show they have not, then EDGE is what you get from the cell networks. Period. Just because you hack the iPhone to a different carrier like T-Mobile, or Vodaphone, (yes, I know, in Germany, they're almost the same thing. They may be the same thing in fact, I'm not totally sure.), that doesn't magically take it from EDGE to HDSPDA. Even if it did, it's still on a GSM network, it's just able to use a faster version of that GSM network. In no way can you, in software, turn a GSM EDGE device into a CDMA EV-DO device. That's fucking Star Trek, and you need to take off the Spock ears if you think that. Again, carrier != network. I think Mario's adding Enderlisia for the hat trick here.
Hopefully, future iPhones will have the ability to connect -- without hacking -- to the faster HSDPA or EvDO, two networks that provide a better fit for the product's multimedia prowess. Perhaps even WiMAX to the desktop, when it finally becomes available. Until then, you can reach me on my smartphone.
Hopefully they'll come with Sprint's "anti-theft" technology so I can spang it off your forehead until some sense is able to penetrate the rock therein. It's sad when this is the second most intelligent thing in the article thus far.
From a storage administration perspective, the iPhone -- with its 4GB or 8GB flash drive -- may not seem like much, especially when considering the petabytes of data populating many corporate datacenters today. Yet, taken together, these satellite storage devices could add up to one big burden.
Holy shit, they might also be awakened by the AllSpark, transform, and combine to form Dumbassatator, Pundit Decepticon. Where are the Dinobots when we need them? Are you actually going to tell us something useful, or hand out vague warnings like some kind of lame carnie medium?
According to the Blackfriars' Marketing blog and others, Apple will have sold 500,000 iPhones in the first weekend of availability alone, which if true proves that not everyone is as put off as I am by the lack of 3G connection. Considering just the smaller-capacity device, for every million iPhones sold, the overinflated storage universe will host another 4PB of data.
Quick sojourn into random useless fact shows that Mario is not in fact, a good predictor of the rest of the United States. There is a god. Mario also shows that he's mastered enough math to correctly use a calculator and Wikipedia to figure out what a petabyte is. This is, by the way, the third most intelligent paragraph in the article thus far.
Of course, as an admin, you won't have to manage millions of iPhones. But even the few dozen or hundreds sold to your users will create quite an asteroid belt around your solar, I mean, storage system.
Lame carnie medium it is.
You'll likely not have to worry about those users who just store songs and make calls on their iPhones, but many will find it all too convenient to store e-mail and work-related files on their new toys.
Only if you allow it. If your company has policies against this, then it's not a problem. If they don't, then it's no more a problem than your laptops. If it's only now occurring to you that phones can contain company data, then maybe you should have been a tad more aware of what was going on around you for the last five or so years.
And these users will need help from their admins to sync, back up, and recover those files and messages.
If your users need handholding for iTunes, get them one of those keychain - sized Etch-a-Sketches, they'll never know the difference. Okay, that's a bit of an exaggeration, but again, we see that Mario hasn't bothered to even spend some time with someone who actually has an iPhone, and is again, talking out of his ass. Based on this sentence, I doubt he even owns an iPod. Or knows anyone who does.
What's more, an iPhone carrying sensitive files could easily be lost or stolen, landing your company's name in the wrong section of the news. Are you ready to manage that risk?
You mean, just like laptops and USB keys, and all the other ways people can carry around company data? What, this wasn't a problem until June 29th, 2007? What deserted island has Mario been living on if this issue just occurred to him now?
Each company will need to deal the iPhone tsunami in its own way, but whatever your approach, don't underestimate the added risk of data disclosure. Call me paranoid, but just thinking of how many credit card numbers can be stored on a 4GB flash drive is enough to make me cringe.
Not nearly as much as the fact that you got paid for this shit makes me cringe.
Mario Apicella: InfoWorld columnist, douche, and dumbass du jour.
July 5, 2007
The REAL dumbass du jour
What kind of idiot does this comparison for everything they buy? Does Brett? Okay Brett, what's the "real" cost of your glasses. What's the "real" cost of your car? I bet that 20-30K you plunked down could have earned you an assload of money at 5.5% over inflation for the next 35 years. Okay, so you'd be walking everywhere, but still, look at all the cash mo-nay you wasted on cars, eyeglasses, and clothing. Pfft, some "financial expert" you are.
This is a classic "I don't have anything to say that's worth a tinker's damn, so I'm going to create some inane proposition, and use it to criticize a popular gadget so I can sponge off the massive hit count increase that the word 'iPhone' brings you, even if it means I look like a goddamned fool." What Brett fails to tell you is the reason his "true price" is so inane: because it applies to everything you will spend money on other than a mutual fund.
No really. Take that money you spend on a car, and invest it. When you factor in what you'll save on cost of ownership, like gas, insurance, etc. alone in addition to all that juicy interest you won't be earning, why the very idea of buying a car instead of investing that money is the embodiment of a fool's errand.
Nope, don't hear the rumble of people running to sell their cars, or never buy another one and investing that money. Not even Brett. Why? Because face it, it's a stupid way to calculate the "true cost" of things. However, if you read the whole article, you realize that Brett's just fearmongering to scare you into saving more money. If you want to push his "logic" to a slightly more extreme example, the iPhone potentially costs you millions, because you could have used that money to buy the winning Powerball ticket. But that's stupid, and so is the rest of Brett's scare tactic. Getting people to save more is a good idea, one that deserves better tactics than the douchery Brett employs.
Sorry Brett, but fearmongering doesn't make you a responsible financial columnist, it makes you a douchebag, and it also means that you're the dumbass du jour, and winner of a brand new Technorati tag, just for you. How about the next time you don't have anything intelligent to say on a subject, you just keep quiet, and find another subject to not say something stupid about? Financial columnists should not use Dvorak as their spiritual leader.
Dumbass Du Jour
Reading this article in Computerworld, I don't know what's sadder:
Going to jail for stalking a musician via misuse of government resources at Sandia National Labs, (You know, the nuclear weapons lab...GREAT place to pull this kind of shit)...
Or the fact that she was stalking the singer for LINKIN PARK...
I did not know that being a whining wuss, and singing about wedgies, getting your glasses broken, and GIIIIIVE ME BAAAACK MY SWEATERRRRR made the ladies so hot.
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If you're the right age...
...to remember the old "Nair" commercials, this is HI-larious:
Cyanide & Happiness @ Explosm.net
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July 3, 2007
WANT NOW PLS!!!
Yes, I will pay far too much for tickets to a Zeppelin reunion tour. I know it's only a possibility, but I'll take what I can get.
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It brings me no joy to note that Fred Saberhagen died on June 29th. (There is some irony to linking to his Wikipedia entry since I found out about his death on Chuqui's site, in an entry talking about how fubar'd Wikipedia is.)
I discovered Saberhagen via Omni magazine, who had published some short stories of his from his Berserker line. I can't say that I was instantly a Saberhagen fanboy, but I enjoyed them quite a lot. He came up with some rather fascinating scenarios for how life was able to fight back against its greatest threat.
However, it was The Dracula Tape, and its lesser-known cousin, The Frankenstein Papers that I ended up enjoying far more. Saberhagen broke no ground in telling a monster story from the monster's point of view, (Grendel by John Gardner beat him to that by a few years.) But he told Dracula's side with panache and style, and a voice that was completely believable as that of Vlad Tepes. True, the rest of the series was a bit hit and miss, (Sherlock Holmes is Dracula's nephew in some bizarre way), and sometimes stretched a bit thin, (Fighting Morgan Le Fay on a frozen Lake Michigan in Chicago), but even in its weaker moments, Saberhagen kept Dracula from getting too silly as a character. That alone makes that series a highly enjoyable read.
So goodbye Fred, you'll be missed.
I think that's one of the downsides of getting older...you see the people who created what you love dying off.
July 2, 2007
iPhone - Friendly Email Provider
Heh...not that Chuck asked me to do this, but ;-)
So what you all may not know is that I am a digital.forest customer, and have been for quite some time. This blog and my email accounts are hosted through them, and I have to say, they have been nothing but excellent from a QoS and support POV. In fact, I would almost rather take down the site than switch ISPs.
They also are, quite by accident, a very iPhone - Friendly email provider for a couple reasons:
First, their primary anti-spam method is Postini. Postini works, (and damned well mind you), by intercepting the mail before it gets to the mail server. The server doesn't have to deal with it. It's really effective, and instead of deleting it, it just holds it. False positives, (of which there are few), are easily dealt with via a simple Web UI. So for me, I've had no real spam issues on my iPhone. In fact, there's been a zero increase in spam on my iPhone vs. any other client, because it's all handled well before it gets to the server, much less the client. So spam? Not a problem.
Secondly, the mail server they use has a basic UI for setting up server-side rules. (By "basic" I mean, "really poorly - designed crap UI that only an email server programmer could love), but it DOES work. So all my mail on those servers can be filtered before I ever even connect.
This was not something that d.f. intended, it just happens to work that way. Luckily, that makes for a really pleasant iPhone email experience. If you are looking for a better email provider for your iPhone, check out d.f.