Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Entourage is taking a work break

I honestly don’t remember when I first started using Entourage. I suspect it was back before Project Athena was named Entourage, and was simply the Mac version of Outlook Express. I’d hooked up my work Exchange server account via IMAP, and later Entourage’s built-in Exchange support. Yesterday, for the first time in many moons, I can’t use Entourage to access my work e-mail.

The reason: We’re moving on up. Many Microsofties’ accounts are getting migrated to Exchange 2010 so we all can dogfood, dogfood, dogfood. And WebDAV in Exchange 2010 has gone the way of the dodo1.

Never fear, intrepid Mac Office users: in lieu of switching to the aging, legacy, Windows-centric MAPI, the Mac Office folks are designing forward to the newfangled Exchange Web Services (EWS), the faster replacement for WebDAV. EWS works on Exchange 2007, and will have expanded capabilities in 2010.

Nonetheless, we dogfooders are stuck choosing between hot dogfood-on-dogfood action (i.e., the latest builds of Entourage EWS against the pre-release Exchange 2010) or waiting until Mac Office makes their release. Since I’m no longer on the team (i.e., not building and debugging it day in and day out), and it’s both about my home and my work data, I’m inclined to sit this one out, and wait on pins and needles until they come out with the new coolness.
1A better list of changing APIs for Exchange 2010 can be found here.

Saturday, July 11, 2009

Home networking and its woes

A couple weeks ago, I updated all of the Ethernet hubs in the house to support gigabit ethernet. It’s not that I have many devices that would take advantage of this, but I suspect more and more as time goes on will. Nonetheless, this most recent upgrade still didn’t quite work out perfectly: the Netgear ProSafe GS108 in the office connecting to the Netgear ProSafe GS105 up inside the Leviton Structured Media™ box won’t train to gigabit speeds, always falling back to 100 megabit. Grr. Not sure exactly how to diagnose the problem. (The same problem doesn’t occur between the 105 and an identical 108 unit in a different room.)

At the same time I updated the hubs, I decided it’d be nice to actually have more than one working telephone jack available. (I mean, it’s downright tragic to have this awesome patch system in the Leviton box and yet only have one real phone line—connected to the modem itself.) I could put little DSL filters in front of them, but that posed a problem for the only other (prospective) phone in the house — a wall-plate-mounted kitchen phone. We didn’t have a DSL filter that would fit that and have it stay on the wall. So, I did some research and found that of course Leviton makes a DSL filter board (47616-DSF) to stick into the box. When I got it, I realized that I didn’t have (nor really know how to use) a punchdown tool. Fortunately, one of my friends who is a hardware geek did, and gave me the explanation on how to use it. I rewired the phone to go through the board first, but got zero love -- no signal seemed to come out of the “to modem” (or at least it never reached the modem), even though the phone lines still seemed to work correctly. Double grr. Now it’s re-patched to the original configuration, and there’s still no phone in the kitchen.

After all this, we started noticing that our internet service seemed seriously degraded. We have Qwest “Platinum Package” using Drizzle as our ISP. Today, I looked at the modem’s web interface, and it said that our 7 Mbps connection was connected at 3360 Kpbs. That seemed rather unreasonable, so I did some research and found some ugliness — the current description of “Platinum Package” advertises “up to 7 Mbps” (and that makes sense to some extent, seeing as though they could have the fastest modem connection ever, and the ISP may still be the slow link), but they only guarantee at least 3 Mbps! I don’t remember that being part of the deal when I signed up; perhaps they changed the policy? (It’s not like they publish the historical policy changes so that you can see when the terms of the service changed out from under you.) I thought that it was possible that it was my forays into rewiring the punchdowns that caused the problem, but after connecting the modem directly into the telephone test jack where the phone comes into the house, it got even worse training. Putting it back where it was retrained it to 4400 Kbps, but then I updated the firmware on it (which required a reset and retrain), and now it’s back to 3700 Kbps. Let’s just say that our instant-watch Netflix movies on the Xbox 360 went from 4 bars, sometimes dropping to 3, to starting at 2 bars and bailing out entirely within a couple minutes. Really rather frustrating. Qwest’s web page talks about a “Quantum Package” (aka Fastest) that goes “up to 12 Mbps” (with a guarantee of what?), but their availability query suggests it’s not available for my phone/address.

I am tempted to jump the Qwest DSL ship (or at least them running the show — using Speakeasy or something) and venture into cable-internet. I just really want to have something akin to a guaranteed 1 MB/s (8192 Kbps) down and not have it preclude the ability to connect from the Internet into a machine on the home network.

With all of these sequential failures, I’m even less inclined to continue to plan an updated wireless network, complete with a guest VLAN. I had hoped that perhaps the ReadyNAS NV+ would support some RADIUS service so I could just make the denizens use 802.1x, and route guests only to the internet. Maybe someday.

Friday, July 10, 2009

Silverlight 3

Our partners over in the Silverlight Runtime (SLR, formerly Jolt) have done a bang-up job working on Silverlight 3, which is released to the public today. There are scads of new features. Go check it out!

We did some very targeted features in the CoreCLR for Silverlight 3, but it is largely the same engine as it was before. One of the important parts for Mac users is that there are some changes to be compatible with Snow Leopard in there. (Silverlight 2’s CoreCLR mostly works, but there are some edge cases that might show up issues, depending on the Silverlight application.)

Over here, we have our heads down for the most part, putting the finishing touches on the Visual Studio 2010 (aka Dev10) release. We’ve already released a Beta 1 of the new .NET Framework v4 (including our CLR bits). Finally, the desktop CLR will see some of the stuff that we’ve been showcasing in the CoreCLR! Furthermore, Visual Studio will have several improvements to support the design and debugging of Silverlight content.

It’s always nice to see one’s work finally make it to the public.

Thursday, July 09, 2009