Microsoft Outlook 2007 Wishlist

From 2001 to 2006, Microsoft Outlook was the email client I used for work (and on my home computer to access work stuff). Back then, Exchange was not available, so a number of the features were more hacks than reality. However, it worked pretty well.

When I changed jobs, Netscape and Thunderbird were the pre-installed clients. I opted for Thunderbird. It worked pretty well for me. Calendaring was in MeetingMaker. Everything worked pretty well.

Recently work shifted to Exchange, so going back to Outlook made sense. Maybe because I have so much experience, the transition was not as bad as it might have been. Still… These are gotchas which have annoyed me lately:

  1. Editable subject usability: The emails from our client issue tracking system put the description where its hidden. I was really pissed that I could not edit the subject until I figured out unlike most software which changes the shading to show it is now editable, Outlook just lets me edit at any time. Also, editing the subject after it is used by something else like a task results in the change in the email but not the task. (The main reason I want to change them is so it appears correctly in the task list. ) Copying to a second email results in the same problem. Apparently I have to either create a new task and copy-n-paste the subject I want or forward the email to myself.
  2. Spacebar moves to next message instead of next new message: I really like the Thunderbird method of skipping to the next unread message when I hit the spacebar at the end of the current message. It even will find the next unread message in another folder. Outlook just advances to the next message.
  3. Boolean is more than OR: I had this fantastic Thunderbird filter which looked for user@ AND domain.tld. Outlook only honors OR. We have 15 admin nodes and databases which send up reports. Alerts and tickets come from a different source and unaffected by this.
  4. Search ignores special characters: I thought in the past I had sent email to abc-defghi@domain.tld. However, the message bounced, so I searched my email for part of the address “abc-defghi” as its not in the address book. I got results which match “abc” not “abc-defghi”. So it ignored the hyphen and everything after. FAIL!
  5. Send email as plain text or paste a plain text: Yes, I know lots of people have HTML capable clients. I hate Outlook puts my replies in a sickly blue font. When I copy and paste from the elsewhere in the message, it changes the font. So then I have to go and do formatting to have a presentable email. I just want to type and send. I don’t care about fonts, colors, etc. If I did, then I would create a web page. … (Added 2009-JUN-03)

That’s it for now.

Week Two Almost No Twitter

Since I cut back on Twitter, my sneezypb account’s password was changed to something completely random and unknown to me. Tweetdeck was uninstalled. Most of the few on my subscription list I still need to follow now reside in my RSS reader for now.

Productive? Check.

  • We tell real stories instead of how talk about how Twitter is good/bad/indifferent.
  • I’ve posted 11 times to this blog in the last 16 days vs 22 in the 120 days before the change.
  • Work days seem significantly shorter. I only still have to transition between meetings notices, IM notifications, people dropping by my cube to understand my emails, phone calls, conversations over the cube walls, people lost in the cube farm, and YouTube watchers.
  • I’m only having to read status updates once.

Twitter was obviously way too much of a time sink.

Heather asked about my absense from Twitter. Changing the password broke Ping.fm from updating my Twitter status. I’d just need to give Ping.fm the password to keep those on Twitter in the loop. I’m starting to think I’d rather those few left on Twitter just to sign up on Facebook rather than give up on the cold turkey.

I’m such a bad friend.

Propaganda

Wow… I have been ignoring a lot of propaganda lately.

Work will often send email to all the employees. A filter sends those to my propaganda folder. I only have 5 for the first three days of September and 11 for the first three days of October. Not a promising start.

Of course, it is election season, so both the DNC and GOP are asking for my vote.

Meetings, meetings, meetings, meetings.

Event invitations from all corners.

Need to hit reset in my brain and boot from ROM.

Details Matter

During the UGA vs. Arizona State game, a number of us who post on pictures of Athens, GA on Flickr met to hang out and shoot. With just seven of us there, we were able to stay as one group and get shots of stuff and each other. I enjoyed meeting new peoole with similar interests.

The photographers who showed:

Still need to go through what I took. I certainly wasn’t prepared. First, I forgot the release plate for my tripod so it was useless. Next, I forgot the CF card for the Rebel. So I ended up using the Elph the whole night. I think I got some good ones anyway. I’d have been happier to take a crack at them with the Rebel.

webctbackup

John made a good point… While telling Blackboard about this is pointless, the community at large ought to be aware of another undocumented workspace issue. I found an 8GB .bak in the /u01/app/nodeA/weblogic81/webctbackup on the active JMS node. Taking out user accessible nodes is okay in my book as with 18-20 of them in our clusters, we can lose one and no client would ever know. Mail, chat, learning context administration and other services in CE/Vista fail without a functional JMS node.

An administrator did a template reassignment with “Force archive before template reassignment” set to true. For some reason the file was placed on the JMS node. It should have been deleted. However, it was not. I caught it in time as another large file was dropped within 10 minutes of me deleting the first. I only caught it time because I was at my desk working (not in meetings, at home, or asleep).

This came within one GB of completely filling up the file system. We do not have huge hard drives on these nodes, just 3 times the size we need except for this. Nor do we allow the nodes accrue a ton of logs or junk.

Maybe this is something Blackboard has resolved this for future versions like Vista 4 or 8. Maybe one day we will have official or unofficial documentation about this kind of stuff.

The answers I anticipate from Blackboard:

  1. This is functioning as designed. I bet composing the archive requires something from the JMS node, so it must reside there. The JVM is too small as is /var/tmp, so the file system is the best place.
  2. Use a bigger hard drive.
  3. Set “Force archive before template reassignment” to false.

Even if Blackboard agrees this is bad, then it might get fixed on Vista 8. Certainly it will not get fixed in the officially supported  Vista 3.
🙁

If you want to confirm if you have the potential for this problem, then you should have a $NODENAME/weblogic81/webctbackup or a $NODENAME/weblogic92/webctbackup directory. We only have them on all four JMS nodes, but have have seen them on four (out of 76) other nodes. The other 72 nodes lack this directory. While you are at it, make sure you know about the other undocumented work spaces I have mentioned.
🙂

Bbworld ’08

My cameras (yeah, two of the three) have lots of pictures. Expect some this weekend. Hopefully they will be paced to last the week rather than an insane dump all at once. Watch my Flickr.

Yet again, I failed to blog at BbWorld. Probably I would had wifi been available in the sessions. Instead, I paid more attention and tookk notes. Hopefully this weekend I’ll compose some thoughts. Certainly, the repercussions of what I have learned this week will occupy my thoughts for months to come as it gets rehashed over and over in meetings. So… No rush.

Also, as a recruiting trip, it has been a dismal failure so far. I do have a couple sessings later today which might yeild something.

Search

Information is only valuable when found. It is great someone took notes during the conference call, but four months later, when I do not recall the date of the meeting or who sent the notes, I’ll rely on my computer searching for it.

Thunderbird returns pretty quickly when it searches subjects only. So I will start there. I will try a few terms. Probably it will yield a few results without what I seek or too many results to browse through because people rarely use descriptive subjects.

Next, I will turn to searching the bodies of emails. As long as the notes were taken by someone technical, they will be text in the body of the email. So I will find them easily. Non-technical folks send the notes inside Word or Excel documents. So I won’t find the notes.

Not finding information because notes are inside attachments has burned me lately, so I have taken to copying out the text and sending it to myself as regular text.

VLE vs PLE

PLEs reflect the needs of a student information gatherer. VLEs (aka LMSs) reflect the classroom and institution online. (PLEs vs VLEs) Blackboard Vista is a VLE. Its competitors are all VLEs. Vista is the worst VLE of them all as its designed to host multiple institutions in one site. The GeorgiaVIEW project takes the VLE approach to the extreme by getting a number of institutions to collaboratively host together (though the technology doesn’t scale out to 170,000 active users).

The questions I have though is: Are VLEs worse than PLEs? Would students learn more through PLEs?

Back when I had direct instructor contact, instructors wished to combine multiple classroom meeting times into one WebCT CE or Vista online section. The universal reason being so all the students studying the same topics could discuss these topics. This was before social networks… unless you want to count the now defunct sixdegrees.com? The idea being that student interaction is where they would learn.

Bill Huitt describes the classroom model as old world, without foundation, and eventually will collapse to the dismay of educational administrators everywhere. The student-teacher relationship is the key to the learning.

Input Into Decisions

Fear brings out the worst in people. Fear of change or the unknown manifests in criticism, anger, and overreaction. Yes, I am guilty of this like everyone else… I am not somehow above all this.

The idea of democracy, I think, where everyone is able to provide input into the making of a decision was created so everyone feels like he (and more recently she) has had the opportunity to influence the decision. True, a decision could go the wrong way, but at the least opinions were heard. Athens in ancient Greece is the society we remember as the inventor of this form of government. The decisions they made were also chaotic… During the Peloponnesian War, a general would be sent off to complete some objective and a faster ship sent days later to rescind the hasty orders and replace with equally hasty orders. Decisions were highly influenced by charismatic individuals.

Some people need to feel like they provided input into the decisions which affect them. Either they can provide the input in the beginning before the decision is made, or they can force a revisitation of the decision to take into account the same input. Here is an article from San Antonio College in the aftermath of their decision recently to use Blackboard Vista the newer version of WebCT CE 4 which they use now:

More than just knowing what is happening, many faculty members were unhappy that those who use Internet courses regularly had no input in the matter.

“We’ve sort of been hung out to dry on a lot of these issues,” philosophy Professor Richard Oliver said. He expressed the need for regular meetings between those who teach Internet courses regularly because they encounter problems specific to the Web and can address them better then those who do not teach Internet courses regularly.
Switch to Blackboard Vista prompts concern among senate members

They wanted to know who made the decision. My experience is generally such decisions are not made by a single individual. Probably the idea floated about a number of individuals. Probably it was brought to a committee who didn’t feel they had the power to make the decision who passed it on to other committees. Eventually they all agreed, as did the upper administration, but now some in the faculty senate are upset they were not the ones who made the decision. So they will push back and probably make the same decision once the anger subsides.

Rock Eagle Wrap-Up

Index of posts:

  1. RE 2007: GeorgiaVIEW Meeting (Pre-Conference)
  2. RE 2007: Birds of Feather: GeorgiaVIEW Vista
  3. RE 2007: Top Ten Disruptive Trends
  4. RE 2007: Birds of a Feather: Luminis
  5. RE 2007: Administering Sakai
  6. RE 2007: GeorgiaVIEW Vista File and Content Sharing
  7. RE 2007: USG Digital Content Repositories: Resources to Share

After this point, I got wrapped up in other things, moderating, fireworks, a Texas Hold ‘Em tournament, and dealing with tickets. The above are all sessions which affect my area even tangentially. Hope you enjoy.