Monday miscellany


Some random thoughts to fill in the vacuum of a boring Monday afternoon in January…

First, why doesn’t the Nokia Lumia 800 running Windows Phone 7.5 display a status bar to show the current state of the battery, wireless connectivity, and so on? You can reveal the status bar, but it’s annoying that this has to be done with a swipe rather than just being there. I guess there is an argument that a status bar occupies valuable screen real estate but…

Also on the Nokia, the device is very pleasant to use and is nicer in many respects to my iPhone. However, I have a nagging sneaking feeling that the software is still a tad immature. Little things like phone reboots (two to date when making calls) and the relative slowness of email to show up on the device (same message sent to my wife’s iPhone and my phone ends up on the iPhone first by quite a distance – we both use the same carrier).

And although it’s an excellent feature to have Nokia Drive (GPS maps and driving assistance) available free of charge, three aspects bug me when compared to TomTom or other GPS devices. The Nokia is slow to track its position (moving along a motorway sometimes barely budges the pointer), the pointer can’t seem to make up its mind whether it’s going north, south, east, or west, and you have to be online with the phone to be able to look up a destination address. It seems that “online” means a 3G or wi-fi connection as anything else declines to find your destination. The GPS works just fine and seems fast to find satellites, but it would be nice if the application worked better. Those wanting more information on the Nokia Lumia 800 can check out its review on themobilefanatics.com. I don’t agree with all of the conclusions reached by the review’s author, but it is very detailed and provides a good basis for anyone to make their own assessment.

Second, is it just me or has Gmail slowed down a tad? Operations such as deleting messages (yes, I know, you shouldn’t need to delete anything with such a large free mailbox but old habits die hard) don’t proceed at the same fast clip as I seem to remember. It’s not as if I use Gmail for anything complex or have lots of Labs add-ins enabled. I have conversation view and mail notifications turned off but do show snippets of messages. All in all, mine is rather a boring configuration.

Perhaps the slowness is because I am communicating with the Googleplex at bad times or maybe it’s because so much email is now being stored by so many people in Gmail that it’s an inevitable side-effect of success. But perhaps it’s another indication that Google needs to give Gmail a slam-dunk client that’s capable of working offline in a much more intelligent fashion than is available now. After all, a client can do so much to insulate users from the vagaries of networks and servers, a fact that Microsoft keeps on thanking Outlook for because that client has contributed so much to the success of Exchange and now Office 365.

On the subject of Exchange, I see that Neil Hobson has done a good job of explaining how a product deficiency can be overcome by intelligent use of PowerShell. MailTips is a new feature of Exchange 2010 and is designed to inform users that they might be about to do something stupid, like sending a “have a nice day” message to all 12,451 recipients across the organization. The data that MailTips depends on is sourced from the Active Directory (is a recipient on vacation, for instance) or calculated by Exchange (the number of recipients in a distribution group) and the Client Access Server is in charge of the magic that provides the data to clients. Of course, you need the latest clients to be able to use the magic, so those of you still using Outlook 2003 or Outlook 2007 need not apply.

In any case, MailTips don’t work for recipients outside your organization unless they are known contacts, in which case you can adda custom MailTip to their Active Directory object. Custom MailTips are also supported for the other Exchange objects and therefore can also be added to mailboxes, distribution groups, and so on. Neil suggests that you can scan Active Directory to find mail-enabled contacts for various domains and add appropriate MailTips. His example of scanning for contacts who use Hotmail is a good one as Hotmail is more of a consumer email service than anything else and anyone who sends business email there might like a reminder just in case they send out the latest (secret) corporate results by accident.

Last, I see the redoubtable Glen Scales, master of Exchange Web Services (EWS) has published yet more valuable posts about how to use EWS to solve real-life problems. If you’re interested in programming against Exchange in such a way that you think you need to access mailbox contents, you should bookmark Glen’s web site and check it regularly. His latest epistle on enumerating and manipulating folders is very interesting and should be useful for those who are looking for a good way to start playing with EWS.

Now back to the really boring stuff. I think I have a wall to paint somewhere…

– Tony

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About Tony Redmond ("Thoughts of an Idle Mind")

Exchange MVP, author, and rugby referee
This entry was posted in Email, Exchange 2010, Office 365, Outlook and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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