Zarafa 6.04 on CentOS (finally)

posted in Rants on September 16th, 2008

Two years and three months ago, a friend of mine and me decided that it would be moderately awesome to have access to our own Microsoft Exchange Server technology platform.

Being students, however, meant that we could not pony up the cash one needs to get the appropriate licenses and required hardware to actually run those tools, so we set out to find the best solution that would work for us, with the hardware (Linux servers) we have and, obviously: the lowest cost to us, in both the short and long run.

Looking back over the last two years and three months, I think it is a fair assessment to say that we have seen it all:

In the beginning, there was Zoho’s Virtual Office, which performed so sadly that it regularly crashed on our server with only one user actually using it and doing nothing but syncing a few calendar items.

We spent long evenings on doing our best to get it up and running and even managed to get a license for free, by translating the Virtual Office suite into Dutch but we still could not get the hardware to run.

Zoho realized that the Virtual Office platform would not work in its current form, so they rolled it up and created a new product from it: Zoho Mail, promising that there would be an on-premises version of Zoho within a couple of months.

It never happened, but we did not feel too sad about it, for we had discovered Mintersoft’s Truedesk, which, like Zoho Virtual Office, utilized a Java backend and managed to crash our server a number of times.

Once again, while testing it on different hardware, it turned out that the software was flawed and Mintersoft folded pretty quickly, too - another bit the dust.

Then came Scalix and PostPath, both of which we were not even able to install for whatever reason(s) I do not remember, so we had to skip those in their entirety.

@Mail, on the other hand, looked promising, but too expensive since there was no real entry-level license (and who can blame them?), but there was light at the end of the tunnel:

At one point, Jeroen discovered Zarafa, built by a Dutch company and, in our eyes, the most interesting contender of all, for Zarafa licensed the actual looks of Outlook Web Access and was able to re-create the original style.

Moreover, Zarafa offered something all the other tools did not: a PHP version. Both their Webaccess component and the Windows Mobile device syncing gateway utilize PHP and can be modified to your heart’s content.

At first, Zarafa, like the others, did not play well with our set-up: a CentOS 4.x server with Plesk 8.x running on it but we kept at it, mostly because we got a good price on a three user license for Zarafa and we did not want to waste our own money.

Try as we might, it would not work and at one point, we just gave up. Up until a year ago, when we moved to the CentOS 5.x branch and gave it another try, again, to no avail.

For one reason or another, we were always able to get one of the three main components working: we either had syncing with Outlook or syncing with Mobiles or access to our data via a browser, but never, had we access to all three of them.

Ever so often, mostly days after new Zarafa updates were released, we would give it another try. We knew that it worked, we had seen and experienced it first hand, we just never figured out the magical combination that would allow us to make all three components work at the same time.

We went from 5.x to the 6.x branch of Zarafa, we tried 32-bit and 64-bit solutions, but all of them, somehow, did not work the way we wanted them to work, so eventually, we stopped trying again and waited for the next release cycle.

A couple of days ago, I decided to give the whole thing another try. I had managed to get Zarafa working on my personal fileserver at home, which also runs on a 32-bit version of CentOS and I was able to sync contacts and Outlook with it, so I knew that there was a way.

Lo’ and behold: I have finally succeeded and created a working solution that encompasses Zarafa 6.04, Plesk 8.3, CentOS 5.2 (32-bit), mySQL 5.0.58 , PHP 5.2.6, Outlook 2007 and Windows Mobile 6 - all secured via SSL and not killing your CPU.

If you are interested in setting up a low-cost, high-yield Microsoft Exchange-compatible gateway, that utilizes your current (CentOS) Linux hardware, click here to read my tutorial on it.

Microsoft is getting friendlier

posted in Rants on April 22nd, 2008

A few days ago, I was installing the newest version of Windows Messenger to test out some features that my chat client of choice does not currently have and saw this:

Microsoft Windows Live Installer


At first sight, this may look like an install process gone sour (and in fact, it did take longer than it should have), but what is interesting, is the way Microsoft notifies the user:

Sorry, this is taking a little longer than expected. Please bear with us just a few more minutes.

Simple, yet powerful and even better: they use the same simplistic thinking to describe the various other utilities that are available, summing up their respective functions in a short sentence.

Nothing world breaking of course, but not bad by any definition.

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iPhone Price drop

posted in Rants on September 5th, 2007

iPhone prices dropped by one third yesterday and apparently customers started reacting. This is just crazy:

In response to yesterday’s iPhone price drop, a number of shootings in Apple stores across the country have been reported. Preliminary reports suggest that at least 15 people lost their lives in the line of duty.

Only two hours after the shooting, local police forces, working with the security firms that provide perimeter security to Apple stores, have been able to identify all the assailants and while no video footage has yet been officially released, our sources report that all gunmen appear to be early adopters of the iPhone platofrm.

Eye witness reports from different stores all claimed that the gunmen stormed into the store, armed with customer-level submachine guns and filled the iPhone demo stands with bullets. When approached by so-called Apple Geniuses and asked, in a calm, manner, to stop the shooting and put down the gun, many of the attackers seemed to snap and started shooting at the store’s employees.

Although many police departments deployed SWAT teams on-site almost immediately, the massacres could only stopped after the shooters ran out of ammunition, all the while police forces had to watch helplessly and try to contain the situations as good as possible.

Due to the large scale of this rampage, the FBI has taken interest in the case and will be conducting investigations.

A FBI spokeswoman would not give us any more comments at this time, stating that until a thorough investigation was conducted, everything was simply speculation. The FBI also would not comment on the backgrounds of the killers and their, possible, affiliations with each other.

Once again it becomes evident that Apple’s way of toying with it’s customers is not the right way to treat customers. Liberated in thinking by famous customer-related weblogs such as The Consumerist, this time, customers really did bite back, with lead.

I wonder when companies will realize that the first adopters are, in part, the most important customers a company has, not only because they help iron out any bugs that made it through quality assurance, but also because these are the guys (and, of course, gals) that help create a buzz around your product and ensure that more people feed the machine…

Please note that the above article is a work of fiction. Any resemblance to actual events or persons, living or dead, is entirely coincidental. No harm, misrepresentation, libel, malice or copyright infringement is intended. At no time is this meant to be construed as reality.

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Spb mash up

posted in Rants on August 17th, 2007

After writing my last two reviews on both Spb Phone Suite and Spb Mobile Shell, I came to the conclusion that Spb really needs to do one thing: mash up.

As a mobile power user, you most certainly have at least one, if not multiple Spb products installed on your device. While there is no problem at all with that, Spb would be well advised to just create one application that contains all the features people need, namely:

from Spb Pocket Plus:

  • Explorer: ZIP Support
  • Explorer: Properties
  • Pocket IE: save image
  • enhanced close button
  • useful shortcuts on Today screen

from Spb Mobile Shell:

  • big icons menu
  • World Time
  • Now Screen

from Spb Phone Suite:

  • (automatic) Profiles w/ Wireless Settings
  • Call Filtering

That is all there is to it. Put all those things into one application and you will have a(nother) bestseller. The codebase is there already and while I am no developer myself, I do not believe this would take that long to implement.

Yes, Spb released their Communication Pack, but that still is not what I am looking for. The communication pack, while offering two out of three of the applications that this mash up would require, is really only a software bundle, not one, single application.

So, Spb, how long until you release this application?

Mysterious Flames (Missing Applications from the O2 XDA Flame)

posted in Rants on August 13th, 2007

Let me preface this article by saying that it is not really a rant, more like a big question mark above my head.

When I first researched the XDA Flame, I came across a listing that stated that the device came with a selection of commercial applications, namely:

All in all, three very good applications with a total retail value of $85 and even though O2 probably does not even pay 50% of that value, the applications still add tremendous value to the device.

You can guess how amazed I was when I found out that only one of the three applications was actually included.

Granted, I did not mind much at first, since the application that was included (on a companion CD) was Jeyo’s Mobile Extender, which is the only application I needed anyway because I use different products for the other tasks.

Earlier today I found a way to access the Extended ROM of the XDA Flame and guess what? Two setup files, one for CodeWallet 6 and one for WorldMate 2007, right there, working and licensed.

It really makes me wonder as to what prompted O2 to include the files but not install them automatically. My guess is that 95% of the XDA Flame users have no clue at all on how to get access to the Extended ROM and as such, will never have access to the two missing applications, which would constitute a loss of value of the device.

Strange, strange indeed.

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