Behind The Driver

Checking In

22 Feb 2013

It’s been a while since my last blog post. Stuff:

Google fixed an issue that has been bothering me for a few weeks now. I opened a support ticket with Google Enteprise Support on the first of this month because of a problem syncing Google Calendar with Microsoft Outlook using the “Google Apps Sync for Microsoft Outlook tool”. This is a place where I’m not sure whether I should be happy that it is fixed, or angry that it took 3 weeks to fix. The SLA that comes with Google Apps is limited to the core services such as web access to Gmail, web access to Drive, web access to Sites, etc. I can fully understand how they would not want to deal with desktop software at all given all of the insane combinations of operating systems, anti-virus software, buggy device drivers, etc.

A few years ago I decided to start working out. I was given an old stationary bike and started regularly spending 15-20 minutes doing medium-high intensity workouts in the evening. Over a period of a few months I noticed some interesting effects. I no longer felt as cold at any point during the day in our Nothern California climate. On days ranging around 60 degrees F I used to wear several layers during the day and sleep under a bunch of thick blankets at night. After just a few months of regular exercise in the evenings I became that asshole that everyone always asks “aren’t you cold out here?”. This seems like kind of an odd minor thing, but it greatly improved my quality of life living in an area where the weather is primarily somewhere between 50F and 65F. Another effect took a bit longer to become apparent. I seemed to have a much better resistance to getting colds and the flu. I used to get colds at a rate of about 5 per year. After starting regular exercise it dropped to less than one per year.

I had a phone some years ago called the Palm Pre. It was a small phone with a 3.2in capacitve touchscreen and a slide-out portrait keyboard. It had some hardware issues and a few small software issues that can be mostly blamed on Palm’s limited company resources. Despite these issues it is still had some of the best concepts in smartphone operating systems I’ve ever seen. Two things in particular still stand out to me. It had a system it called ‘Synergy’ that combined text messages and instant messages from every common protocol into a single unified contact list and inbox system. I could receive a text message from a friend, check my list and see they were online on AIM, and send them an instant message in reply. This was possibly the best thing ever for keeping in contact with my friends and family. I have found a few somewhat acceptable solutions on Android and iOS, but nothing that really worked the way the Pre did. The Pre also used a multitasking system that if I remember correctly they called ‘Cards’. Each application existed in it’s own card and you could zoom out and see the cards you currently had open. Applications remained open in the background until closed by swiping the card off the screen. Because of the state of mobile technology when the Pre was created it had such limited RAM that there could only be one to four cards open simultaneously. This limitation was never really an issue for me. It is very frustrating to me that even with my phones on Android 4.1 and iOS 6 I am still dealing with the same regressions in functionality in messaging and multitasking that I experienced when I had to give up the Pre so long ago.

Blogging and Writing

09 Feb 2013

In some ways it can be hard to find good information on the internet. There are a lot of very smart people who can make wonderful contributions to the internet via blogging or other means. In some cases they do and I enjoy reading their work. In more cases these people are too busy to post online. I feel as though I occasionally have something interesting to contribute. Finding time to write a blog post never seems like a very high priority.

I have never been very pleased with my writing ability. I always received high marks in the high school ( secondary school outside of the U.S. ) and college english composition classes I have been required to attend as a C.S. major. The classes focused on a standard essay structure that did not allow much room for anything outside of the template. I suspect this has a lot to do with my success. Given a blank page and no structure I feel a bit lost. I’d like to believe that every writer sees their own writing this way, but this is wishful thinking.

I need more writing practice. Over the last few years I have tried to spend some time writing every once in a while. Most of the time this writing is a bit technical and I’m never really pleased enough with it to bother posting it online. I’m going to try writing regularly on this blog. I’m not going to spend as much care as I would on a school or professional project. This will be more of an exercise in writing quantity than quality.

A Few Google Aps Observations

08 Feb 2013

I just transitioned my current employer to Google Apps a few weeks ago. As I labor to try and make everything fit together I have had time to reflect on the current state of GMail and how we got here.

I transitioned my previous company to Google Apps in 2009. It was the best thing ever. Their primary workflow was to receive a massive quantity of email, find other previous email in the threads, and respond in a timely manner. This is quite possibly one of the best possible use cases of GMail.

One of the reasons GMail is such an effective tool is that Google basically re-implemented email from scratch. Rather than displaying individual email it displays threads. Rather than folders and files every email exists as an object in the cloud. Rather than searching email in a folder you just search every email with an appropriately specific query.

This can create a few interesting scenarios:

Email clients become a big problem. If you are not going to use the GMail web interface or an email client designed pretty much from scratch to work with GMail, the features are just not going to line up quite right. Rather than labels most email clients expect to see folders. Rather than archiving and labeling messages they expect to move or delete email. With the rise of the iPhone and later iPad this became critical. The iPhone only allowed certain protocols for email, calendar and contact syncing. The solution was to receive email over IMAP and to sync calendar and contacts over Exchange ActiveSync. Somewhat recently these problems have been solved by CalDAV, CardDAV, and a native GMail app in the App Store.

Exchange and Outlook is a big problem. It is a massively complex system. If Google ever plans to reach complete feature parity with Exchange and Outlook they have a long job ahead. I suspect that they probably do not want to reach feature parity as the UI required to support that kind of feature set would be very messy and deep. Regardless, users who have been on Exchange and Outlook for any significant period of time expect some very obscure features to just work.

This is about all I have to say on the topic for now. I may come back in a future post and detail a few differences between Exchange and Outlook and Google Apps.

Autocross Calendar

10 Jan 2013

I am posting the shared google events calendar. If anyone needs access to modify it send me an email.

This is my first post to Jekyll

27 Dec 2012

This is the first post I’ve ever made to the new blog project I’m starting with Jekyll .

I will follow up with more posts on this subject soon.

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