The weird and wonderful world of Microsoft’s Exchange Server comes back to haunt me once in a while. We have been heavy users in the past in our ventures, but these days tend to use Google Apps.
However, one member of the family still has an Exchange-based account. Primarily because she a) doesn’t like using Gmail; b) doesn’t like using Mac Mail (we’re all Mac based).
She has had Mac Office 2004 with Entourage running happily on her MacBook Pro for several years, until last weekend when Entourage started to stall and hang a few moments after it started to check for mail from the remote hosted Exchange service.
Here’s some sense of the saga I embarked on to resolve the issue – and how I completely failed. I document it here, like many other such trials and tribulations a) so I have an archive to refer to in the future; b) in case others have experienced the same problems. I researched and came up with a list of ideas to try to fix the issue, it’s clearly similar to other peoples’ experience. So everything listed below came from a forum or other online resource.
Here’s how it panned out:
- Rebooted the machine. Opened Entourage. I had the Progress window open, it started to to talk to the Exchange server, then after about 5 seconds the pinwheel started to turn and Entourage froze. Had to Force Quit. Tried that a couple of times, including leaving it frozen for half an hour or so in case it just needed more thinking time.
- Move the machine off the wifi to an ethernet connection in case wifi was a hassle. No dice.
- Held down Option key when starting Entourage, to open the database manager. Used the Verify feature, which reported the database was fine. No dice.
- Used the database manager to turn off background database checks. No dice.
- Started Entourage, and before it hung, went to Preferences and disabled Spotlight indexing. No dice.
- My personal favourite – locate the oldest message in the Inbox and delete. No dice.
- Used the database manager to rebuild the database. Left this overnight (because it has to pull a fresh copy of the data down from the remote Exchange server). No dice.
- Installed all outstanding software updates – I noticed there was a firmware update, and also had noticed that the screen on the MacBook Pro was flickering once or twice every couple of minutes). No dice.
- I found a reference online that Entourage doesn’t like more than 1,000 messages in an single folder. The main Inbox had 4,400 emails, so I created a set of ‘Archive’ folders under the Inbox and shifted 900 to each folder until I had less than 1,000 left (I was using the web acess (OWA) interface on the Exchange server, so didn’t need Entourage for this). No dice.
- By now was getting the irrits. I found a copy of Mac Office 2008 in my box of tricks, and upgraded, so we had Entourage 2008. I went to configure a new identity so as to start afresh, lo and behold an error message saying Entourage 2008 Home/Student edition doesn’t have Exchange support. Great. Now I don’t have any email program on the Mac that works with Exchange.
- Checked online and the current software is Mac Office 2011 – with Outlook 2011, because Entourage for Mac has been replaced by Outlook for Mac. I ran down to the Apple store (so much easier now they opened an Apple Store close by me at Southland) and picked up a copy of Mac Office 2011 for Small Business – because Outlook 2011 Home version doesn’t have Exchange support either.
- Installed Outlook 2011. Configured it for the Exchange server … and a big fat nothing. Called technical support at our hosting company, who tell me that the particular Exchange server the account is with, is still running Exchange Server 2003, and that Outlook 2011 is not compatible. The only option is to set up IMAP access from Outlook 2011 to Exchange. But this will only cover email, not her Calendars, Contacts etc. I ask about migrating from Exchange 2003 to Exchange 2011 and am told I need to speak to my ‘partner manager’.
And there as of today it stands. I haven’t had time to call my partner manager. We have email running happily, and the user has her iPhone for Calendar and Contacts.
My overall plan is to shift this Exchange account over to Google Apps, and use the Google sync tool so she can continue to use Outlook. But that will take a bunch of time so will have to wait.
This week we decided to cancel our eFax.com service. A few years ago eFax was a brilliant solution for us. It enables you to have a virtual fax receiving and sending service, with a phone number in your city, but without all the bother of actually installing and paying for another line in your office.
Reality sank in the other day when I wondered aloud just how many times we had used the $18 a month service in the past year or two. Answer? Pretty much none. Email surely has killed the fax.
We mostly only maintained a fax number for the odd occasion when we needed to exchange formal documents, for example exchange a signed contract. Nowadays for most minor documents people are happy if I just drop a scan of my signature onto a PDF. And for anything important there are brilliant services like DocuSign.
So I logged into my eFax account and cast around for the option to cancel my recurrent billing and close the account, without success. I emailed the support address and received a reply saying I needed to call eFax. I dutifully did this, and spoke to a friendly woman who after ascertaining I wanted to cancel my account immediately offered me a free three month subscription. This was AFTER I had answered her question “why do you want to close the account” by saying “because we haven’t used it in at least a year”. Which I thought was pretty clear.
The support person handled it perfectly gracefully after I declined the free subscription, and within minutes the account was closed.
But I got to wondering, just how many people actually take up the three month subscription, and when the recurrent billing kicks in again, don’t just ring again to cancel the account?
What’s the strike rate? How many customers does eFax retain as a result of putting us through this offline process? My guess is not a huge number. If I’ve rung to cancel the service it’s because I’ve decided to cancel the service. Not because I’m torn, or undecided.
I wonder if it’s all worth the effort when online businesses like eFax force us to deal with them offline when we want to end our relationship?
So I log into
I’ve had a fun time the last couple of days moving this blog from its home of the last 5 or 6 years at TypePad, to WordPress.com. I made the decision for a number of reasons:
- I’ve now used WordPress extensively over the past couple of years, and grown to love the software for its ease of use, configurability and flexibility. As an open source product, there is a vast community of contributors, an army of plugins and a battalion of really helpful users hanging out in forums. In contrast TypePad is a proprietary, closed ecosystem.
- TypePad costs money. I’ve been paying them a subscription every month. WordPress.com is free, at least until I finalise the move by shifting my http://www.eedle.com domain, which I’ll sort out in the next week or two. It’s not that I begrudge paying money – completely the opposite given my line of work. But with TypePad I just didn’t feel I was seeing a significant innovation path. The software, in terms of the features I use, really didn’t feel it had moved forward in leaps and strides. By paying money to WordPress.com I’m supporting the development of a community-oriented product.
- TypePad’s design templates are restricted and boring. I never really found a template I liked.I lack the design skills to create one for myself, and I’m not up for paying money to have one custom made for me. WordPress.com gives me a great set of templates, including the one I’m using now, which I think is a much more contemporary presentation than TypePad’s.
- Finally, I actually have several other blogs on my WordPress.com account, for various businesses and ventures in which I am involved. My personal blog was the only thing I hosted at TypePad. For convenience it makes sense to keep everything together.
The actual move was pretty painless for those interested in the mechanics.
- I exported my blog using the Export option in TypePad
- I imported the blog (posts, comments etc) into WordPress.com using the specific TypePad import option. The only hitch with the import I’ve posted about in the forums – just an incorrect file extension, should have been .xml and not .txt. Although it would have been nice if the WordPress import page had validated this.
- I had some problems with images. Some of the images were automatically scraped by WordPress – eg copied over from TypePad. Some were not. I’m not completely sure why this is the case, I think it’s something to do with the way TypePad hosts and names image files. They don’t look like image file URLs so perhaps WordPress didn’t recognise them as such. I wound up downloading a couple of dozen images by hand (eg Save As..) from TypePad and manually editing the posts in WordPress to update the image.
- The text of the posts and comments came without any drama, although my ‘About’ page from TypePad turned up as a post in WordPress instead of a Page. Pretty minor, just a quick copy/paste.
- All the Categories, and allocation of Posts to Categories arrived fine.
My one concern was for post URLs. On TypePad they all had an /eedle directory, because it didn’t actually have a domain in place, it was just http://eedle.typepad.com. I really should know better, but never got around to setting a domain up. Which meant I was faced with a bunch of URLs in Google, pointing to eedle.typepad.com – not much help if all the posts have moved over to WordPress.com.
So solution was to bite the bullet. I’ve pointed my www.eedle.com domain to TypePad, so that blog is now responding to that domain. I’ve never really used the domain for web pages – it’s mostly so I can have a cool email address like firstname.lastname@example.org.
I’ve submitted the URL to Google. I’ll use Google Webmaster Tools to tell Google to drop eedle.typepad.com URLs from the index.
We’ll let Google to its thing for a few days, by which hopefully all my pages in the index will be under http://www.eedle.com. Then I’ll move the domain over to the WordPress blog.
I know, I know, really what I should do is organise a 301 redirect on the TypePad URLs. (For the uninitiated this is an instruction to the search engines that the URL has changed).
Two reasons why I didn’t bother:
- I actually cannot figure out a way to do this with TypePad in a way that is not a complete dodgy hack. Another fail for the software;
- It doesn’t matter much. I don’t have a lot of traffic, I don’t have millions of inbound links. If someone is searching in the future, they’ll still find my pages.