Robert’s Ramblings

Robert Alonso’s Thoughts on Technology and More…

Archive for May, 2008

May-24-08

Synergy

Posted by Robert Alonso under Software

There are thousands of open source applications available so it is difficult to look at them all and recommend the ones that are best. I recently ran across Synergy. This utility will allow you to use one keyboard and mouse with multiple computers and monitors. Think of it as a KVM without the hardware.

It is different from a KVM in that each computer requires its own monitor. The software is loaded on PCs running any Microsoft Windows operating systems (except Vista which is not listed as supported and has not been tested by me as of this writing), Macintosh operating system (10.2 or greater), and Unix or Linux based operating system. You can then control one or more machines using the same mouse and keyboard. You set it up so that when you move the mouse pointer off to the side of the screen the mouse and keyboard begin to control a different machine and the display that is active is the one for that machine. If you have ever used a dual monitor setup on a PC, you know how this works.

The reason that I think this product is great is that it supports all the most common operating systems and enables you to have a little less clutter on your desktop. One keyboard and mouse does the trick.

Robert Alonso
Alonso Consulting

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May-12-08

Exchange Server 2007 Issues

Posted by Robert Alonso under Hardware, Software

We recently upgraded to Exchange Server 2007 and have experienced some problems with it that may be primarily caused by hardware issues. It appears that the Information Store and the System Attendant services fail and then will not restart automatically or manually. When these services failed to restart, my first inclination was to think that the database that is used for storing e-mails had been corrupted.

It turns out that the real culprit is that the server’s time was 40 minutes behind the time that was displayed on client machines. This sort of disparity is not allowed and results in the Exchange Server services not starting. The error messages that Exchange displayed were not that helpful. Setting the time correctly fixed the problem and the services started immediately. I am adding this blog entry, just in case someone else runs into this problem and finds this simple solution through a search engine.

I think that the problem lies with a faulty server that has timing issues. We will have to look into it.

Robert Alonso
Alonso Consulting, Inc.

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May-6-08

Lame Software = Windows Mobile 6

Posted by Robert Alonso under Advice, Opinions, Software

I have always been a fan of Microsoft products, but the company has definitely lost its way. I have been using Windows Mobile and previously Windows CE for many years, but find that the software has not kept up with the competition. It has fallen so far behind the Apple iPhone and Touch that it is not even in the same league. It is difficult to understand how a company dedicated to creating software could deliver such a clumsy piece of software.

There are so many things wrong with it that I could write a very lengthy entry on all the items. Rather than bore you with every problem, I will concentrate on the two that really bother me. The reason that I have purchased Windows Mobile phones is to read e-mail and do light Internet browsing. Other than synchronizing with Exchange, the e-mail client and Internet Explorer version in Windows Mobile are absolute garbage. I am especially disappointed in the Windows Mobile 6 version because I expected so much more.

I purchased a new phone to “upgrade” from Windows Mobile 5. The reason I made this purchase was to get the extra functionality that I believed was in Windows Mobile 6. I naively believed the marketing hype that I could read my e-mail in HTML and that attachments that were in the newer Office 2007 format could be read with it. Neither one of these is really true out of the box. When you start using a Windows Mobile 6 phone you immediately realize that you need to have Exchange 2007 as the back-end server for your e-mail in order to see HTML e-mails. Otherwise, “HTML” is not available as a message format. I was using the previous Exchange version. Other features like searching through your messages on the server or marking them for follow up also require that you have Exchange 2007 server. I used a workaround to get my HTML messages. I created a separate e-mail account on the phone and used IMAP as the protocol. I set it to download a few times a day and was able to read messages in HTML this way. This proves that there was no real need for Exchange 2007, except for Microsoft’s desire to force you to purchase the server upgrade as well.

The reason I call Windows Mobile 6 lame is that any software that forces you to use a workaround to get something done is obviously seriously flawed. The magnitude of lameness is incredible. Once I upgraded to Exchange 2007, I could stop downloading my e-mail twice–once through the ActiveSynch method and once through IMAP to get HTML messages. After using HTML extensively, I realized that Windows Mobile does a horrible job of rendering the messages and also has problems with scrolling horizontally through a message. You first have to tell the program that you want to scroll horizontally rather than being taken to the next message in your inbox.

Windows Mobile 6 also does not support Office 2007 file formats. You first have to download a free upgrade to get this functionality. This takes up more memory on your device and is a feature that I was expecting to have the moment I turned on my device. The Office 2007 reader programs are part of what Microsoft calls Windows Mobile 6.1. You can download this upgrade here. The only positive thing I can say about this upgrade is that it is free. Apple would have probably charged $20–like they did with the iPod Touch recently.

Internet Explorer is also very weak on Windows Mobile 6. It is better than in previous versions, but it offers a tiny window into the web. In fact, when I first purchased my phone, my bank did not support my phone and I was not able to do on-line banking with my “upgrade”  to Windows Mobile 6–something that I was able to do with my Windows Mobile 5 phone.

The Safari browser on the Apple iPhone and Touch makes Microsoft’s attempt look feeble. I have both and can tell you that the Windows Mobile 6 browser feels like riding a tricycle–you can get there, but you better pedal like hell and hope for some down hills. Safari makes you feel like you are using a fast titanium-built racing bike. The Apple browser works exceptionally well and is ultra-fast. The marvelous touch based interface just makes it an exhilarating experience. Are you listening Microsoft?

It is time for Microsoft to give up on Windows Mobile altogether. It is too tied to other Microsoft products and the development mindset appears to be to create a mini-Windows. To really innovate, Microsoft needs to stop thinking about the “Start” menu and program menus and all other things that are Windows-like. Start fresh. Use inspiration. Hire new people and do extensive usability research. Otherwise, Microsoft’s mobile platform will become irrelevant.

Robert Alonso
Alonso Consulting

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