Office 365

I’ve recently been looking for a replacement for Google apps. I wanted something that had reliable email and calendar. While Google does provide both of those things, I find myself wanting to be controlled by Google’s services less and less. I also wanted something that was reasonably priced (comparable to the monthly price of Google apps). That’s when I decided to give Office 365 a shot.

Now, I’m no stranger to Office 365. We use it at work and I interact at a daily basis. The web mail and calendar are good (or good enough to replace Google), but the real power is with my devices. Because Office 365 is hosted Exchange, mail, contacts, notes, and calendar events sync instantaneously. With Google I would often have to wait several minutes for the data to show up, especially with events. This always left me feeling a bit uneasy wondering if my data was actually there. This is not the case with Office 365.

The setup of Office 365 with my domain was incredibly simple. They walk you through every step of the way, even verifying that your DNS is set up properly. With Office 365, you also get more mail and OneDrive space than you get with Google (50 GB mailbox and 1 TB file storage for the Business Essentials plan). So far, a week into my trial, everything is running smooth. I never thought I’d say this, but I may actually not only use, but choose to use willingly, a Microsoft product.

Gmail Gadget Problem

I’ve been getting a lot of hits on my site because Google picked up a tweet I posted yesterday on Twitter about the Gmail Gadget problem on iGoogle. The error people are getting is:

The Gmail gadget does not support the “Always use https” setting that you chose in full Gmail. If you would like to use https, please open full Gmail. Learn more

Obviously, this is a new problem and I’ve yet to see a solution for it, besides switching to another Gmail gadget. I’ll keep you updated.

What is Happening at Google?

Google is really starting to lose my loyalty and I don’t think I’m the only one. There are several things that have been bugging me lately, and many of them have to do with the breaking of their products.

I recently migrated my feeds from Feedburner’s servers to Google’s servers. All feeds are being migrated at the end of February, so I thought I’d get a jump on it. Google owns Feedburner so you think there would be no problems. That was wrong. The move broke the API so stats weren’t working for several days. The API is still broken on a lot of third party applications because not everyone has switched over yet so app manufacturers have not updated apps to pull from the right API. You may say that it’s Google’s product and they can do what they want, but the internet is becoming an more and more open and social place where data can be mixed and with other data, and Google has traditionally tried to be a part of that. Now they are breaking thing preventing that from happening.

One of the bigger problems I’ve run into the past couple days is Google has changed the way their search works. They are using Ajax in the search queries now. It appears it’s still in testing phase, as not everyone is getting the new search. The new ajax enabled search is breaking all stats packages search engine referral tracking. When you perform a search for shep in Google you would usually see the query in the url in your browser, something similar to this: search?q=shep. With the new ajax the search string has changed to #q=shep. The problem with this is that browsers stop sending anything after # in the referral string. So all referrals look like they are coming from and not That means my stats can’t tell me how people are finding my site. Another thing Google has broken without any official word from the company. Some people think this will be their way to get more people to use Analytics and that Google is abandoning their “Don’t be evil” motto. While this is just speculation, it wouldn’t be surprising if they changed their services to break competitors in order to gain more customers, even if their product is inferior (in my eyes).

The last issue, which is quickly becoming moot as I’ve been moving away from Gmail, is every single day I get some kind of error in Gmail. It either logs me out right after logging in or I get the popular “Error 500, there was an error processing your request. Trying again in 5s…” error.

Seems Google is messing up a lot these days. Maybe, instead of buying up other companies and releasing useless features on products that are out there, they should do something to stabilize their current products, without breaking everything.

What Will Happen to Flickr?

Ever since Microsoft began its attempt to takeover Yahoo I started thinking about the future of Flickr. That’s really the only Yahoo service I use (and I pay for). Microsoft does not have a good history with web services. Yeah, at the beginning of the web everyone had a Hotmail account, but they quickly fell behind in the times with that. They couldn’t keep up with the features and storage of other competitors, like Yahoo and Google. It seems that every attempt they’ve made has failed. Does anyone actually use Microsoft’s Spaces? Can anyone actually find anything via their Live Search? Personally, I think Microsoft’s Live search has to be the worst search engine out there.

I know thinking that Microsoft going in and breaking a winning formula (winning in the user’s views, not necessarily in the business sense) probably isn’t going to happen, but it is Microsoft. I don’t have much faith in them. No, they won’t rewrite Flickr to use ASP.NET or something crazy like that, but I do worry about what they can do to mess up Flickr. I also think that a lot of the passionate Flickr users, especially the ones that were there pre-Yahoo, will definitely not like the change of hands and move to a new photo service. I really wish Google would spend some time developing their Picasa and Picasa Web services, up the storage allotment, and make it a real competitor in the online photo storage market. It has great potential, and with Microsoft trying to take over Yahoo, now would be the perfect time for them to woo users. Of course, I may just be paranoid about what will happen to Flickr, but it’s a service I pay for and a place where I store my photos, so I do wonder about the future. Do I really want to feed my money and data to Microsoft? Not likely. If Microsoft buys Yahoo, will you stay with Flickr? Will you move somewhere else? If so, where?

Feedburner Broken API

For a few weeks Feedburner’s API has been broke. If I try to pull the statistics of the title and URL of my posts it comes back “NO TITLE.” The statistics package I use, mint, has a Feedburner pepper and it has been showing NO TITLE for quite a while. Apparently this has been reported but has yet to be fixed. Come on Google, fix your stuff. If you’re going to provide an API, make sure it works. I want to see which posts people are viewing and clicking in my feeds. NO TITLE doesn’t help me very much.

Moving to the Desktop

There is something I don’t quite understand. Maybe someone can explain it to me. A few months ago Google gave IMAP support to Gmail. Everyone was happy to have this sought-after feature enabled finally. In my opinion, it was a few years too late. I never use desktop mail clients anymore (except when I was working for a technology company and we used Exchange). For something like Gmail, I just don’t see the point. The only thing I use a desktop email client for (and I use Thunderbird for this) is to back up my Gmail accounts. I don’t send mail from Thunderbird and I don’t read mail in Thunderbird. Maybe I would use a desktop email client if I used a different email service. I like Gmail’s interface too much to do that though.

Recently, Newsgator released their popular NetNewsWire and FeedBurner desktop RSS clients for free. You no longer have to pay for them. Again, I don’t understand why people would want to use a desktop RSS client. Sure, it can synchronize all your feeds so even if you aren’t at home it won’t give you the same feed as unread over and over. But you know what else does that? Web-based feed readers, such as Google Reader. Why download something to read when you could just as easily open up your browser to read it? Chances are, you’re already going to be on the net anyway.

Another thing I never understood was using things like Microsoft Live Writer and other such desktop blog publishing software. Why work with desktop software to publish to your blog? I know a few people who do that, but for me, writing in the administration of my blog software is perfectly fine. I don’t need to write my post in a piece of software that wasn’t even specifically designed for the blog engine I use.

Gmail and IMAP

Ever since I got my first Gmail account a couple years ago, I wished it had IMAP support. As many probably know, Gmail has recently enabled IMAP on accounts. My account still doesn’t have it enabled, but my Gmail for domains does. I was excited at this news, but then I started thinking about it. What do I really need it for? This isn’t a few years ago when desktop email was more popular. With everything going web-based, this is a step in the opposite direction. Sure, I can use it so I have a backup of all my mail, but I could do that with POP access as well, which is what I’ve been doing for backups the past year. I don’t have an iPhone or another phone that does IMAP, so I don’t need it for that. Truthfully, I don’t have any reason for IMAP. So, here is my request Google. Change the interface of Gmail. Make it look more like the redesigned Google Docs and Spreadsheets or something. You’ve had the same interface (for the most part) since you began. A new design would be a welcome change. (Just don’t do reading panes. I hate those and hate how Hotmail and Yahoo both now feature them so they can be more like Outlook.)