Client cert authentication is oddly elusive given the practical value. I found a neat bug:
I get a request for identification in firefox, no problem. If I choose the right certificate to respond with I get an instant child pid 61501 exit signal Bus error (10). Every click on the “OK” button gets another seg fault. Yay. Magic.
PIMs (Personal Information Managers, what we used to call things like Outlook, or Sunbird, or Lightning, or Zimbra before they were integrated with email) haven’t progressed much in the last 20 or so years. Actually, neither have email clients. Perhaps the most essential of our daily tools, these classes of products have failed to progress much at all over the decades.
Sure, email has styled text now and you can compose a message in Outlook using Word, but these wizzy tricks distract from the function of email–communicating the written word. There’s rarely any reason to style text in email and HTML mail has only been a boon for spammers and a distraction for users. One of the few useful enhancements is inline images which I do find useful.
The best email clients ever, Eudora and Mulberry (the BAT might qualify too, though I haven’t used it) have failed to keep up in OS level support. Thunderbird is OK, and pimped out with extensions to enable proper formatting, forwarding, text wrapping, etc. it is usable, though it still doesn’t handle frequent IMAP disconnections all that gracefully (it pains me to admit it, but only Outlook does this really well).
PIM functionality has actually gone backwards as the years have gone by. Calendar programs have always handled reminders and notifications and scheduled events fairly well. DateBook was great in 1990 and there’s very little useful that has been added since . In the mid-90’s Motorola shipped a great little PIM along with their TimePort phones called TrueSync Desktop. You could create an event in a time zone other than the one you were in. Wow. Amazing. The developers actually considered the possibility that you, the user, might have some business in a time zone other than the one you’re in. At the time, some people pointed to Outlook’s then “dual time zone” functionality as the be-all end-all. True, two time zones are better than one, but hardly a solution suitable for the whole of the US, let alone the world and the pixel heavy dual time zone stripe precluded anything more comprehensive. At the time, the official M$ work-around was to change your computer’s time zone to the time zone you wanted to create the event in, create the event, then change the time zone back. Brilliant.
Lightning (for Thunderbird) and Sunbird (stand alone) Calendar programs have finally incorporated some timezone functionality, you can at least set the starting and ending time zone of an event independently and differently from the time zone you’re in:
It is a start, but the time zone picker is still pretty much unusable:
This is a huge enhancement though, one I’ve been pushing for a long time:
The right answer is a simple pop-up menu with my favorite time zones in it. I can use the semi-infinite list of seemingly random city names as a geography quiz along with Wikipedia to figure out what my favorite time zones are as long as I don’t have to spend 10 minutes scrolling through them every time I’m trying to find America/New York for ET or America/Los Angeles for PT (or America/Dawson Creek for MST, no DST).
Oddly, Lightning actually has a half-decent map view that shows you the time zone you’ve selected, but you can’t click on it to pick the time zone you want (!?):
I really like worldtimezone‘s view as a graphical picker:
Something like this, plus a search tool into a database of time zones for cities would be just perfect for creating my list of favorite time zones. Even the most worldly traveler is unlikely to need more than a dozen time zones in their favorites list and thus a popup would make selecting the start and end time zones very straight-forward. Way back at the start of 2007 I proposed something like:
Which is pretty much a copy of Starfish’s TrueSync Desktop (though TSD didn’t support different starting and ending time zones). Someday… maybe someday I’ll have a calendar program as advanced as they were in 1993.
Like many people, I have to use Outlook. It is by far not my favorite email or calendar system; I use Mulberry personally because it does not suck at all and it has a cool calendar I can use offline. I haven’t quite figured out my own webdav server, so I use Google Calendar to keep track of shared events with my girlfriends and others in my life. And everyone can use Google calendar and it does not suck either, so there’s no reason not to.
But it does create a sync issue. One which can be solved with free software and services by the following fine providers:
I end up using Google as my shared hub, sort of. Technically scheduleworld.com is the hub, but it’s invisible to everyone but me. To get there I use the Funambol outlook plug-in to sync my outlook calendar with scheduleworld.com (following these directions). It is not able to sync directly to Google yet because Google has to do it their way. Fortunately the clever man behind scheduleworld has that figured out. I also sync contacts using funambol to scheduleworld, but Google borked the contact API and so they don’t make it to Google Contacts from scheduleworld any more: scheduleworld does have an LDAP server though.
On the well-designed side, I use gcal daemon to sync my Mulberry calendars with Google (my directions here). I also subscribe to the scheduleworld LDAP server from Mulberry so I can access my outlook contacts from mulberry.
Now, oddly, Outlook’s contact databases are painfully borked and the local address book and global address books do not collaborate at all. Stupid. Unfortunately neither does Mulberry offer an option to sync the local address book to one or more remote LDAP directories, which would be very useful. I think there is still an odd disconnect on the part of developers who tend to work stationary and assume everyone has an always-on connection with very rare moments of disconnect, but as someone who gets on at least 4 planes a week can attest: this is not always the case. Even Mulberry, which is the only IMAP client I’ve found that supports a workable disconnected mode, does not make frequently disconnected mode trivial to use – neither to keep IMAP mailboxes in sync nor to provide off-line lookup of LDAP databases.
But Cyrus is responsive and I am optimistic we might, someday, have a good solution. If not, Adobe Air is pointing the way toward a viable seamless connected/disconnected (or periodically disconnected) world. I think this will become increasingly essential as the world goes to frequently interrupted wireless connectivity. Currently we tolerate wireless (WAN) interruptions because we have to, but that rules out far too much of what we’d like to be able to do and solutions thus far are generaly ad-hoc. We need an imperfect WAN connected world that is perceptively as relaible as a wired one.