Wednesday, June 30, 2004

Lookout email search for Microsoft Outlook - Lookout Software

Lookout is lightning-fast fulltext search for Outlook email archives and files. Works as Outlook plugin. The version 1.1 is still free.

Sub-second fulltext search in my 3 years - 1.5 GB email archive. And the index is as small as 40MB.

Friday, June 18, 2004

The IT spend time bomb | The Register

There are companies who are operating legacy systems for which the associated expertise has all but disappeared. The functions delivered and the design therein may no longer be recorded and understood. Even trying to construct a replacement and migration strategy alone may incur significant costs to just reach a point where the scope and consequences are understood.

Joel on Software - How Microsoft Lost the API War

Monday, June 14, 2004

IT still matters - It's what you do with it...

Interesting article about Nicolas Carr's Harvard Business Review article, the current trend to "utility computing" - i.e. commoditizing of the "lower layers of IT" - coming up with a result I fully agree with it: It's what you do with it...

What 2007 means to your data center | The Register

This article questions today's blade server technology and suggests that multi-core chip technology will have the potential to dramatically change the datacenter architecture by 2007. I agree - so far I never really understood the benefit of blade servers, not just because of their surprisingly high cost, but because faster multi-core processors and virtual server technology might make blade servers obsolete.

Rockin' on without Microsoft

How Microsoft sometimes treats its customers ...

Saturday, June 12, 2004

Learnings: Dont buy stuff for an IT project from different suppliers

Recently I've been purchasing a SAN including Datacore storage routers. This includes HP Servers, storage enclosures, fibre channel equipment and the storage router software. The project leading supplier is someone having special knowledge in the type of SAN and storage router we wanted, not our standard supplier for server hardware.

I thought: lets buy the HP server and storage enclosures including disks from our standard supplier: so we have a bigger volume which may lead to getting better discounts in the future; and also we would always know that all HP equipment is from this single supplier. Therefore I decided to get only the fibre channel stuff and the Datacore software from the project leading supplier.

Bad idea. What happend: the HP servers arrived from our HP supplier way too late only for us to discover that one of them has a hardware defect. Took HP several days to fix it (is this called "next business day" service?) because the replacement motherboard was also broken... This screwed up of course the schedule of our Datacore supplier because he had already reserved staff to do the installation. Furthermore, in case of a project failure, I can return the Datacore and fibre channel stuff to the project leading supplier, but I'm stuck with the HP equipment (ok, this would be not too bad in this case because we could still use it).

Anyhow, in the future, if I have a project like this, I will make sure to get all parts from a single supplier.

Thursday, June 10, 2004

Thinking about PDAs and mobile communication solution

1. Why a Pocket-PC based PDA

So far I was quite happy without a PDA - my small Siemens S55 phone did most what I needed - triband phone functionality, bluetooth headset, syncing the phonebook with my Outlook contacts at work, and syncing my Outlook calendar and notes.

While looking for my next car, most likely a BMW 3series again, I noticed the steep price of the "Navigationssystem Professional" of 3230 (!) Euros. The light version "Navigationssystem Business" is still 2300 Euros, does not have a map display and is not even able to receive and process information about current traffic jams ("TMC").

I actually need a navigation system only occasionally because I am not doing much business travel by car. I'm commuting to work every day, and visiting friends and parents often involves already well-known routes. Anyhow, a navigation system would still be very nice and helpful from time to time.

So, I'm looking for a car navigation system but without the steep price of the BMW one.

There is currently a lot of innovation going on with navigation systems: speed improvements, 3D view, point-of-interest overlays (e.g. gas stations), point-of-interest alerts (e.g. traffic speed control ...). Innovation on a standard plattform like MS-PocketPC is always much more dynamic than innovation on proprietary systems like the BMW one. Bundles consisting of a PocketPC-PDA, navigation software+map and GPS module are available for less than 1000 €. Navigation software is almost exclusively available on PocketPC-based PDAs - not for Linux or Blackberry and only rarely for PalmOS based devices. Finally, with a PDA, you actually have much more than just a navigation system: some PDAs have phone functionality and the PDA can provide mobile email, calendar and web access too - for less than a 3rd of the price of the BMW navigation system.

Short summary: to get a reasonably priced car navigation system, I would need to get a MS PocketPC based PDA!

2. Mobile Email and Web

I keep private and business contact and calendar information in my Exchange Server account at work. Additionally I have a private email account on a shared hosted Exchange Server at 1und1. I dont use the private account for calender information. From time to time I import the contacts folder of my company Exchange account into my private Exchange account (via .PST export and import).

With my current Siemens S55 mobile phone I do not use remote email access or email sync, although there would be different options to make this work:
- wireless via S55 built in POP3/IMAP client
- wireless via S55 built in SyncML client (would require an agent on the Exchange server which we dont have and actually I'm not sure if SyncML already does email sync - it used to be contacts and calendar only)
- in the sync cradle via the included XTND connect software

Areas where I would like to see an improvement are:

1) I often forget to sync the S55 with my Outlook calendar because the sync needs to be initiated manually on my PC.

2) It is not possible to do the sync at all without my notebook and a LAN/VPN connection to the Exchange Server at work. This would require a SyncML gateway on the Exchange
Server at work, which we do not have (available from

3) It would be nice to have mobile access to private and work email both on my notebook and on a PDA. The S55 is too small for reading and writing email

4) Blackberry-like "always-up-to-date" or "push" functionality regarding the sync of email and calendar on the PDA would be nice, but I think this is not a must have for me.

Once I have a PDA, I think I will sync only the addressbook of the S55 mobile phone, which does not change so often. Issues (1) and (2) would therefore obsolete for the S55 then.

Exchange 2003 comes with "ActiveSync", which allows a PDA to sync contacts, calendar and email e.g. via a GPRS connection. I'm not sure if a PocketPC-PDA can manage and sync two different profiles (private+work) via ActiveSync, I need to find out.

Exchange 2003 and Outlook 2003 together provide a whole bunch of great features for mobile email/calender access from a mobile notebook. Outlook will automatically detect if a online connection to the Exchange Server is present or not and will even detect the bandwidth and quality and automaticall adjust its download behavior (headers only, full message, etc.). It will do so not at launch time only (like previous Outlook versions did) but continously. An interrupted sync can be resumed. Sync traffic is optimized and compressed. Does not even require a VPN connection because it works via https - this is a great advantage since mobile VPN clients are a hughe security risk.
See this Word document for details on mobile access to Exchange 2003.

So this solves issues (1) - (3), but not yet (4). Microsoft claims to have "push" synchronization in Exchange 2003: Exchange sends a SMS message to the mobile client which then in turn initiates the sync via ActiveSync. Given the pricing of SMS messages, this does not seem to be practical in Germany. See also this article.

But there are solutions coming in the near future which will provide push sync both for PocketPC-PDA and Smartphones:

Press Release April 2004: Blackberry client for future Siemens Mobile Phones
Press Release March 2004: Blackberry client for T-Mobile MDA II

Unfortunately, since these press releases have been published, it became quiet regarding these promises. So far no release dates have been published.

A Blackberry device would be an option as well of course. Its great advantages are "push-synchronization", end-to-end security, its keyboard and its battery life of up to a week, while a PocketPC PDA battery lasts just for a day. This article has a comparison between Blackberry and PDAs. However because of its proprietary operating system I do not expect GPS navigation on Blackberry in the near future.

3. GPS Navigation Software for PDAs

Apparently there are three main products: TomTom (currently Version 3), Navigon Mobile Navigator 4 and Falk Navigator 4. Falk is a new entrant in the market, so TomTom and Navigon are really the major players. Navigon is the only product that is processing the free TMC traffic information. The TMC radio signal is received by the GPS device. TomTom offers traffic information as a subscription service via GPRS ("TT Traffic"), which means you have to pay for the subscription and also for the GPRS traffic.

This German article has some very interesting recommendations regarding the assembly of the full solution (PDA, Memory-Card, GPS-Hardware, Navigation Software, Accessories).

Another article describing the combination of T-Mobile MDA II + Navigon Mobile Navigato 4 + Bluetooth GPS Module.