Exchange of email

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Have you written an email to me? If you have please resend it. I might have deleted it… I am sorry for the trouble.

Email is so central part of office life that when we as users get into email troubles it may affect our working life a good deal. I will here tell you my experience with an inconspicuous change at my work switching emailing system from a Unix-based system to a Microsoft Exchange. The sysadm went fine with all my old email (3 Gigabyte) copied, so the rest was just up to me!

I have previously used an simple program called Pine, logged in via ssh. People were laughing at me at the old approach. But I knew my emails were stored at something like /var/mail/fn and /home/fn/Mail/. Now I don’t know where they are. They just come to me. I have started to use Microsoft Office Outlook Web Access (OWA), Mozilla Thunderbird and Evolution and have felt like someone needing a basic email course. I am still learning. Still trying.

Whereas there was only one place to setup up the email before (Pine running at the email server) I now need to setup the email program on all computers I use. And since I presently switching between two (home and work computer) and tried both OWA, Thunderbird and Evolution I got several different systems to setup.

  1. Servers: First you need to setup the incoming and outgoing servers. Solved (at least I think so).
  2. Sent folder name: Pine and the three other email client do not seem to agree what the different folders should be called. I got ‘Sent Items’, ‘Sent’, ‘sent-mail’ and ‘Kladder’ and ‘Drafts’. My old Pine would save sent mail in ‘sent-mail’ so I imaging I could continue with that. You can change sent folder name in non-web MS Outlook, but what about OWA? It seems to always wannabe “Sent Items”. In Thunderbird you go Edit->Account Settings…->Copies & Folders->Other. This is after you have right clicked on the account name in the left side panel and subscribed to the relevant folder. After changing the Evolution folder it now seems to work. Solved.
  3. Folder visibility: Even though (I believe) I have setup the ‘sent-mail’ folder correctly in Evolution I cannot see it. They are stored alright as I can see them in Thunderbird. After some back and forth configuration it showed up. But then away again… In one case I emailed a person twice because I got not indication that the email was sent. Possibly solved.
  4. Undelete: Now I accidentally hit the – what was it? – the delete button I think, and gone is an unknown email. I do think the deleted emails go to a trash folder, but I do not now which email it is. I got an ‘Undelete message’ menu item in Evolution but it is not there when I need it. Also why do I have two ‘Trash folders’ in Evolution? Is it at all possible to have two folders with the same name in the same directory. Apparently on my system. At one point I discovered that some of the deleted messages are actually available when you unset Menu – View – Hide Deleted Messages. In Thunderbird there is only one Trash shown and emails that get deleted apparently end there. In OWA you have ‘Deleted Items’. Not clear to me.
  5. Synchonization: Synchronization is not clear between email server and client. I am now deleting spam mails the second time (no the third time). Perhaps Evolution and Thunderbird didn’t updated the server? Not clear what happened.
  6. OWA Reply format: OWA does not format reply mail the way I want it. Seemingly it does no indentation in text mode for answered mail and it puts no ‘>’. Sometimes I manually add ‘>’… How does people cope with this issue? To me it seems to be really a showstopper. Unsolved.
  7. Evolution reply format: In Evolution ‘>’ works alright, but sometimes the answered text is not rendered… It helps to reopen the email and then press reply again. Also the ‘>’ paragraph seems to be some specially handled by the editor.
  8. Calendar and contacts: Calendar and contacts not available in Evolution. It might have been possible for old Microsoft Exchange servers, but I don’t think it is possible for the new version. Evolution and Google Calender works almost, though updates in Google Calendar seems not to show up in Evolution. Unsolved. I mostly use a paper calendar.
  9. Evolution address book not shown. Sometimes when I am composing a new message in Evolution my contacts do not show. I close the compose email window and start composing a new email, – and then it might show up.
  10. Window title in Evolution. Some times the window title does not change right away. So in the message window you will have a new email shown, but with the title of the previous email that I just deleted. This is a problem when you are deleting spams and basing the deletion on the title.
  11. Link opening: Good old plain nuisance: In Evolution links in emails are opened in a tab in Firefox rather than a new window. I have googled the Internet empty and don’t recall finding a a solution, but now it might work for one of the computers.
  12. Spam: I was supprised to find that after our email system switch I still receive a lot of spam. I would have thought the Microsoft email system would collect spammails and apply machine learning algorithms to better classify spam and non-spam email. That seemed not to be the case: I do not see a spam button in the OWA interface. There are also spam issues for Thunderbird. You can mark email ‘As Junk’ with the ‘J’ or ‘junk’ button. But what on earth does that help the user. Later, I found that the email system switch might not have been fully implemented, so later I would find that the spam detection was much better.
  13. In Microsoft Office OWA the delete “button” moves its position in the menu depending on whether you are in list mode or reading the individual email.
  14. Address book: My Pine address book seems not to have come along. In OWA I both got ‘Contacts’ and ‘Kontaktpersoner’. In Evolution I have managed to get hold on Google Contacts.
  15. The address book of OWA is not available to Evolution. The address book of Evolution (using Gmail) is not available to OWA.
  16. OWA keyboard does not work: When I press ‘delete’ nothing happens.
  17. OWA redirects. OWA redirects external URLs to its own redirect service. I suppose that is for spam and virus monitoring. Thats is was Twitter also tells that about Of course it can also be used to monitor the users.
  18. Evolution hangs: So suddenly Evolution hangs in “retrieving message”. It turned out that it was because I tried the MAPI for communication with the Exchange server. After I change it back some IMAP setting are still set others are lost – as far as I can determine. I think it is solved.
  19. Evolution crash and slowness: Sometimes when I close an evolution window the entire program seems to either close or crash. No indication why
  20. Evolution slow start. When I started it takes suspiciously long time. I gives no indication why. Does it spends the time reading all the email folders? Or communicating via IMAP? My network monitor is not that active. Evolution gives no indication what it actually does during the starting process.
  21. Evolution recovered mailsSometimes when I start Evolutio
    n I get a message box telling me to select whether I want to recover messages. At least in one case I pressed ‘recover’ and sent the message along that afterwards was displayed. Later I was told by the recipient that he already have received the message once. At other times it seems that Evolution did not send the email in the first place. This is a serious problem: I sent an important email Friday, then boot up the computer Monday finding that the email wasn’t send (I thought, until I got an email saying that it was received).
  22. When you reply to your own mails it is usually because you want to comment on an email you send and send the new email to that same recipient. OWA suggests your own email address and at the same time it scraps off the original recipients email. The same goes for forward. Evolution also has this problem. Annoyance.
  23. I got an “The specified request cannot be executed from current Application Pool” error message in OWA. After some googling it turned out to be because I had “owa/” appended too much on the URL. I think. Annoyance.
  24. Signature: So I would like a conditional signature: Sometimes no signature for people I email regularly, while a short or a long signature for other people. This is possible in Pine. I didn’t think it would be possible in Evolution until I discovered the button in the upper right corner. However, Evolution may erase my part of my email if I change the signature. Annoyance.
  25. Addresses: In Pine I would start at the address line, type a nickname, press enter and pine would find the appropriate email address of the wanted recipient. In Evolution you press Alt+T, type the nickname, tab, press enter twice. In OWA I have a very large address book from the university were just those email addresses starting with ‘A’ fills several pages. Finding an email address may take 2 or 4 mouse clicks.
  26. Line shifts: I have been writing blogs by composing them in Pine (or emacs and copy-pasting them into Pine) and sending the email to Posterous. Now with Evolution the line shifts in my email are no longer interpreted the way that I what it. When the post have been saved in the Posterous blog system I need to go there and edit the line shifts.

On the positive side:

  1. OWA is fast compared the web-based email system I have tried before. Probably as fast as Pine.
  2. Attachments are far easier to handle in Evolution than in Pine.
  3. Pine editor had some oddities, e.g., Ctrl+K would delete the entirely sentence rather than the last part from the cursor.

My issues are not specific to the system we have at our work. The problems I have are the same as quite a number of others presumably could have with the combination Microsoft Exchange Server and Linux clients. I remember (perhaps incorrectly) a userbility expert (was it Rolf Mölich) saying that in some cases users prefered graphical windows-based system rather than terminal-based systems – even though the terminal-based system could be shown to perform better in userbility studies. Perhaps because people would think the windows-based system looked fancier. Surely terminal-based Pine looks old-fashioned.

Any conclusion? Well, maybe I should just switch all my emails to Gmail? Or give Thunderbird a better test. They may be better? I guess people on Microsoft Window with Outlook may be better off. At one point I thought I got more used to the idiosyncrasies of Microsoft OWA and Evolution.

Note that I got the email from Joseph Ho from Societe Generale Corporate & Investment Banking (Asia Pacific) that has a good deal. Furthermore, and, you with the vacant position. Something with ‘estate property’. I also got yours. You do not need to resend you email.


One thought on “Exchange of email

    Anonymous said:
    November 27, 2011 at 10:53 pm

    Hi Finn, When I switched from Pine to Thunderbird, I found the Nostalgyextension to be of great help. Still do. Cheers, Lars

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