The Quest for PIM 2.0: An Unfortunate Exchange

mail2web Live

(In case you’re wondering, that calendar entry relates to a previous post…)

If you’re one of the vast majority of computer users running some version of Windows you’ve probably at least heard of Microsoft Exchange. If you don’t know exactly what it is, think of it as an online version of Outlook.

Just like Outlook, Exchange can sync your PIM data to a Windows Mobile device, or a BlackBerry, or just about any other PDA or smartphone on the market. But unlike Outlook, Exchange can sync you up over the internet, push email to your device in real time and let you share events and such with users on the same Exchange Server. Oh, and it also connects seamlessly to your copy of Outlook should you need to work offline and/or sync up your handheld in the same way.

Near as I can tell Exchange is pretty much ubiquitous in the corporate world, and therein lies the problem. You Mac zealots out there can raise your pitchforks and light your torches now, because just as you’d expect Microsoft has once again punished us for choosing OS X.

Exchange Public Folders

Sure, they’ve recently updated the Mac version of MS Office to run natively on Intel-based Apple machines, and Entourage — the bundled clone of Outlook — does indeed connect to an Exchange Server… But only up to a point. I stopped using Entourage myself ages ago, but both MacWorld and Wikipedia report that the app is unable to synchronize tasks or personal folders with Exchange.

To make matters worse, the Exchange web client (or Outlook Web Access, just to confuse you more) isn’t 100% functional in anything but Internet Explorer on Windows — but really, if you can’t sync half of your crap to Exchange in the first place you won’t care about browser compatibility and will have already moved on to something else.

Enlightened users of Linux proper apparently have full integration with Exchange thanks to Novell Evolution — there’s even a Mac version available for download, although it’s two years old and looks like it’s an unsupported release.

For ninety percent of the computing world Microsoft Exchange is the perfect PIM 2.0 candidate, but because it doesn’t quite fulfill the promise of “everything available on every device” this Mac snob can’t in good conscience give it a passing grade.

E61i Firmware Update & (ugh) Windows

It’s a known fact that Nokia keeps tabs on what bloggers are writing about their products… If anyone from Nokia is reading this, please write more desktop software for the Mac!

I say this after having to bring my old Lenovo laptop out of storage just to install new firmware on my E61i. Here’s what I had to endure…

Getting Started

The welcome screen for Nokia’s Software Updater… I must be a design snob because this window looks absolutely hideous to me. Not a single element, from the font to the close box even, has anything in common with the standard Windows interface. How can the same company that published a book on usability get away with such fugly-looking desktop software?

New Firmware Available

Checking for the update was easy enough, but I got a little anxious with that disclaimer and decided to install the Nokia PC Suite so I could make one more redundant backup of my data. This proved to be a bit problematic, as installing the PC Suite after the Nokia Software Update mucked up the USB drivers for the phone. Restarting the computer didn’t help, and I was about to erase both programs and reinstall when I found the PC Suite’s built-in repair utility, which did the trick.

Through all of this Windows did a fantastic job of constantly reminding me that it was running the show, and that I should be grateful that anything worked at all…

Hello...?

Once the update began I was surprised at the lack of visual feedback on my phone, especially after upgrading the firmware on my old TyTN. In fact, that only evidence that anything out of the ordinary was happening was the lit message indicator light. That, and disconcerting alerts from my laptop as the handset repeatedly unmounted from it.

Update Complete

I guess I should have timed how long the update took. It seemed to me like it was somewhere in between ten minutes and half an hour.

Welcome Screen

I untethered my E61i quick as I could, and was greeted with this friendly offer to launch a tutorial, which I immediately skipped. To get the phone part fully functional I merely had to set my voicemail number. Nokia has somehow managed to trump their own configurator service — all my Fido data settings made their way back onto my handset auto-magically. Freaky.

And now I’m back in the world that Nokia knows best, looking at a small but high resolution Symbian S60 screen and some very Mac-like anti-aliased fonts. I don’t ever want to use their desktop software again, but I’ll probably end up turning to the PC-only Map Loader to restore my Nokia Maps.

Unless my fine Finnish friends care to write a version for OS X…? Please?

Is This a Windows Virus?

An odd re-occurence on my Lenovo laptop.Here’s an odd thing: A couple of times since I got my Lenovo laptop last summer the screen has suddenly gone blank on me, displaying a random colour — in this case, purple.

Fixing it is easy enough; I just close the lid, wait for the machine to hibernate, then open it up and log back in to Windows. My thinking is that the onboard video card just gets overwhelmed every once in a while, but maybe this is the first documented case of the dreaded Metrosexual Virus, where the user’s computer is taken over by a pastel colour, thereby forcing a rethink of the interior paint scheme in their home or apartment.

In any case it’s easier to deal with than my G5 tower‘s latest affliction — it’s decided to ignore the video signal from any camcorder plugged into it… Yippee! 😦

A New Outlook

image

What you’re looking at is a utility from Fido that syncs data from my trusty hiptop to my new PC notebook. For the first time since switching to the walled garden of the hiptop OS I now have a current and complete local copy of my address book on a computer, and it’s all thanks to Microsoft Outlook, the killer app for Windows.

In and of itself Outlook packs a powerful punch, similar to Entourage for Mac but much more secure. Instead of lumping all your critical info into a monolithic database it allows you to split it up into smaller, more manageable archives.

But here’s the knockout blow: Because Outlook is the gold standard PIM for Windows, every conceivable smart phone on the market will sync to it—BlackBerries, hiptops, Treos, this thing… With Outlook, the universe of wireless devices is your to command.

And to a mobile junkie like yours truly, that’s great news!

😎

Hell Hath Frozen Over

image

A funny thing happened on my way to Linux…

When I opened up my new Lenovo laptop I was surprised to find that there was no backup software included. It’s apparently a common practice with these budget machines to put that stuff on a hidden hard drive partition instead of on optical media. But that wouldn’t do for me, as I was all set to wipe the drive clean and start anew with Ubuntu. I thought it prudent though, to hold off until I had the necessary recovery software in hand, so while waiting for my backup discs from Lenovo I made do with Windows.

And it almost pains me to say this, but honestly… It’s not that bad.

I’ll be reporting more on this in the days and weeks to come, but so far I can sum things up by saying that the general clunkiness of Windows is offset by the simple fact that more apps work better with it. For example, I can now say with some certainty that web surfing with Windows is significantly faster, even when compared to a faster, more powerful Mac. I’d never have believed it, but the truth is right there in front of me every time I open a new page!

In regards to viruses, spyware and the like I’ve installed some free tools that run in the background—that, combined with some good common sense, like not clicking on an attachment in an email promising free Viagra from a Nigerian banker, seems to be working for me so far.

Now to be perfectly clear here I am not switching entirely to Windows; I still have my desktop Mac for media editing and viewing, and if Ubuntu was able recognize my new laptop’s built-in Wi-Fi card I would most certainly be running Linux instead.

Thankfully, most of the good open source software is also available for Windows, making it a little easier for me to resist the siren call of cracked commercial apps. I think the lesson here is that so long as you’ve got a good web browser and office suite your desktop OS really doesn’t ultimately matter all that much.

So with that in mind let’s consider this little foray into Windows as an opportunity to go slumming…

😛