Thursday, July 29, 2010

Gmail - When SaaS fails

I've mentioned before that we use Google Apps for my work and recently one of my colleagues ran into this problem:
Searching around on the net showed that many others have hit this problem and there doesn't appear to be any fix. There are some rumors that Apple's Snow Leopard is causing it to crop up more, and the conspiracy theories that Google is doing this to hurt Apple, but either way its an issue.

What made this problem worse is that once the lockout period expired, what ever triggered the problem re-triggered the problem. The result? He was locked out for 6 days. He is no longer using Gmail except for routing.

If your SaaS vendor can decide on some arbitrary undocumented rule that will cause them to lock you out of their product for 24 hours then there's a problem. Combine that the inability to get any real support from Google other than posting in the littered groups or paying for their "premium" support to get a support answer within 48 hours and you have a disaster. Businesses can't live with vendors that behave this way.

I mentioned previously how I use Google Voice for routing my home phone calls, and it seems that Gmail may only be suited for routing too unless Google wakes up and fixes things like this.

The problem didn't hit me, but I fear the day it does and I have no idea what triggers it. I have at least as much mail as he does, but something about his usage pattern set them off. Who will they hit next?

Monday, July 26, 2010

White iPhone 4G appears in Apple Case Selector - oh the irony

Call me jaded but I think its ironic that Apple's magic fix to the antenna problem is the iPhone 4 Case Program app which shows pictures of the ever-elusive white iPhone 4 in the Apple black bumper case as your make your case selection. Are they trying to irritate people further? Perhaps the contrast from black to black wasn't good for the pictures, but since anyone who gets the black bumper will be putting it on a black iPhone they may as well show reality, contrast or not.

Frankly I think the band-aids that some enterprising people are selling are a better idea than the cases and are only $5. I hate wrapping the beautiful iPhone with plastic and rubber. If Apple had thought of this perhaps they could have saved themselves a few million dollars.

Saturday, July 24, 2010

Free GPS for the iPhone and Android

I have no idea why I haven't seen this in reviews, press etc, but there is a totally free GPS for the iPhone and Android called Waze. They call it a "Social GPS" which means that its learning from all the users streets, direction of traffic, speed of traffic etc from the users, but in the US it has a good map to start. It speaks directions (even in the background on devices that support it), does the routing. You can flag traffic areas for other people to know about, report speed traps etc. So its a decent GPS with a social feature. I've been using it for a week and its good. 

Some notes: 

1) When in the foreground it eats a lot of battery updating maps etc. In the background it doesnt consume much
2) Whether you're routing or not if you run the app and quit it it keeps running and learning streets etc. They should have an option whether you want this to run this way or not. They do have some logic in there to shut it down if you're not moving for some period of time. I dont know if thats apple's task manager killing it or if its doing it itself, but either way I think the default setting should be to not run when you exit unless you're routing. Fortunately you can kill the process if you want: Double click to bring up the task switcher, hold your finger on the app you want to kill and press the x.
3) You earn points for driving new roads, miles driven, reporting incidents etc. Something to track for the daily commute.

I haven't tried any of the paid apps, but to me this is a decent enough GPS to travel with and the price is right :)

Apples password management on mobile devices is thoughtless

Good security dictates a decent password, but Apple has a problem with that when it comes to mobile devices. Entering the long passwords repeatedly on mobile devices is frustrating at best. They're riding a dangerous line with caching these passwords as crazy things can happen. My suggestion? Allow a shorter password to be created on the mobile device which essentially protects the longer password. The longer password is still the correct password for the account but the shorter password is used on the device. Sure you're essentially weakening the longer password -- but only on your device. The long password is still in effect on the web account which is the real one that matters as its subject to more attacks. The 1Password guys got this right and use a short password for basic access and a longer one for the more secure stuff. Why can't Apple figure this out?

MobileMe Beta - Skip it

Apple recently came out with an improved MobileMe Calendar in beta. I gave it a shot and it still falls short. The motivation for even trying it was that only one of my Google Apps calendars was getting sync'd to my iPad and iPhone so I was missing my other calendars (I split out my home from my work calendars etc). The problem with MobileMe calendar is that it requires iCal which just plain stinks and has all sorts of notification and scheduling issues I wrote about previously. The issue with MobileMe service is that you can't export it to other services like Google Calendar -- although this is a Google calendar issue since they don't have the true concept of adding a WebDav account into Google calendar. 

After failing with MobileMe Beta, and after suffering through their crazy sync lags with no indication of whats going on etc, I searched around for a better solution and found a help page at google showing how to sync you other google calendars with my mobile devices. I tried that and it works great.

Now just use Fluid to make it an app for your desktop and you can keep ignoring iCal and have everything you need. It also handles Outlook invites well.