Stupid Outlook Peeves

That’s the actual title of a scribble note I made a long time ago. 

See, while I mostly love Outlook 2003, and it’s greatly improved since v2000, it still has a bunch of annoyances and artificial limitations that really get my goat.  To finish dumping the note:

  • Only 1 Exchange account setup is allowed per Windows (!) profile
  • POP accounts can only go to default delivery location’s inbox (unlike IMAP or Exchange accounts)
  • “After Sending” rules are missing several action options (which “When Arriving” rules do have).  In particular:
    • No “Move To Folder” option (Copy only)
    • No “Mark as Read” option
  • Tasks & Appointments which are outside the default delivery location are ignored (no reminders)
  • Can’t copy items from one PST to another (Move Items or Copy Folders only)
  • Folder views spontaneously and regularly get messed up
  • Subfolders can’t inherit parent folder’s view (an automatic option would be ideal, but manual would still be nice).

I noticed most of these while trying to maintain multiple accounts in Outlook, and keep their contents separate.  I used to use Outlook profiles, but switching is way too slow for that to be convenient.

Googling just now, I found a couple similar ruminations on the same subject: Limitations of Outlook (without Exchange) at inluminent.com, and
Outlook Limitations at outlookwise.com

More as it bugs me.

Final Vacation Tidbit: Hand Dryers

photo of World Dryer™ hand dryer, with built-in sales propaganda:
DRYERS HELP PROTECT THE ENVIRONMENT.
THEY SAVE TREES FROM BEING USED FOR PAPER TOWELS
THEY ELIMINATE PAPER TOWEL WASTE
THEY ARE MORE SANITARY TO USE THAN PAPER AND HELP MAINTAIN CLEANER FACILITIES

These annoying hand dryers are multiplying lately.  Well I’ve hit my limit, and I gotta debunk (or at least deflate) their labels’ claims.

Yes, I grant they are very well marketed, but the actual advantages for the user/patron and the environment are exaggerated, and the disadvantages are skipped (of course). 

Dryers help protect the environment.
They save trees from being used for paper towels.
They eliminate paper towel waste.
They are more sanitary to use than paper and help maintain cleaner facilities.

World Dryer’s main claims:

Dryers are good for the Owner, because they’re cheaper and create no paper waste to clean up.

I won’t second guess their electricity-vs-paper supply cost comparisons, and dryers certainly keep the paper waste to a minimum.  So no problems here.

Dryers are good for the Patron, because they’re more sanitary

The “more sanitary” claim is mentioned in World Dryer’s Waste Reduction PDF and references a report comparing hot air and paper for killing germs.  Problems with this:

  1. Who kills germs with a dryer? (If you washed your hands right, the germs should already be gone!)
  2. “Hot air” is not the same as a Dryer, which requires pushing a button with wet hands, thereby picking up the germs of previous, less-thorough patrons.
  3. Busy bathrooms.  The 1 minute/person process stacks up patrons (making it all the more inconvenient), and patrons end up drying their hands on their (surely less sanitary) pants.

Dryers are good for the Environment, because they don’t use up trees.

Sure, dryers don’t use trees, but guess what: Trees are a renewable resource! We won’t run out! (responsible logging companies act like tree-farmers, planting more trees).
    In contrast, dryers do use electricity, which comes from Coal, AKA “not-a-renewable-resource” (so we will run out of that).
    Besides electricity, we get something else from Coal: Pollution!
(World Dryer also claims that “paper towels cannot be recycled!” — they never substantiate that, though.  Any ideas?)

To summarize the problems:

  1. Convenience:
    • World Dryer’s own Waste Reduction PDF says “the fact is, it does take a few seconds longer to properly dry your hands with warm air.”
    • Dryer inconvenience is further compounded by multiple patrons.  Using a paper dispenser is a 3-second process.  Using a Dryer is a 60-second process, which stacks up patrons.
  2. Sanitation:
    • Dryers create another “touch” surface to spread germs.
    • Dryers are inconvenient enough to skip in favor of pants or other unsanitary clothing.
    • There are plenty of no-touch (motion-sensing) paper-towel dispensers.
  3. Pollution:
    • Dryers use Electricity.  Electricity is made from Coal.  Burning Coal pollutes the air. 
    • Waste Paper fills landfills, but quickly biodegrades.
  4. Natural Resources:
    • Coal is a non-renewable resource and will run out.
    • Paper is renewable and will never run out.

So, I can’t believe I actually just thought through and typed that all out, but I guess I hate feeling “marketed at” when I’m already annoyed by the inconvenience.  That the marketing claims are mostly unsubstantiated or spurious makes it all the worse.

The genius of it, though, is that they propaganda itself is an attempt to make the process seem less inconvenient — you get something to read while you dry, instead of a blank wall.

For more entertainment, how about an address-label sized sticker saying something like:

Electric Dryers are highly inconvenient to use.
Electricity is made by burning coal, which pollutes the environment.
We’ll grow more trees, but not more coal.
Dryers require touching germy buttons.

Or perhaps:

Dryers are convenient for the owner.
The owner values his/her convenience more than yours.
“The environment” sells more dryers.
These signs are here to distract you from how long dryers take.

Seems like 5 or 10 would easily fit in a wallet…

Aladdin NetHASP and SP1 for SBS 2003

I ran into the following the hard way recently.  Since I don’t trust anybody’s tech support to actually test new service packs or publish known issues, I figured I’d mention it here: SP1 for SBS 2003 breaks Aladdin NetHASP, and programs which use it.

NetHASP is 3rd-party software which programs use to tie software licenses to a physical dongle (known as a “hasp” or “sim”).  In my case, our client was using SigmaTek’s SigmaNest and Develop programs (line-of-business stuff), we had the Network sim plugged into the SBS box and the NetHASP License Manager program running on it.  After the upgrade to SP1, SigmaNest on all workstations could no longer find the Network Sim, and would not run.

Anyway, judging by known issues I’d read about, I pursued a firewall angle.  I found out what port the NetHASP connection uses (475), and made sure workstations could see that on the server (they could).  I reinstalled the NetHASP License Manager.  I reinstalled SigmaNest.  Nothing worked. 

Finally, dreading a bad support like I’ve had all too often, I caved and called SigmaTek support.  After an hour on the phone with a well-intentioned, but lower-level support employee, he finally contacted Aladdin support (at my suggestion).  Eventually he got hold of them and the three of us worked together on it for a good while.  Eventually we tried a new (command-line) version of the NetHASP License Manager driver, and voila! it worked again.

For the record, we had purposely waited a month after SP1’s release to let any kinks get worked out (or at least known).  I’d also immediately mentioned the SP1 install to both SigmaTek and Aladdin’s support reps, since it was a likely culprit.  Seemingly neither had run into the issue. 

Now, I’m not sure, but this suggests to me that neither company is proactively testing new Windows patches and service packs.  If true, this is a very bad thing (if not, I’d love hear otherwise!).  It’s also possible that they did know, but simply hadn’t communicated that info with their support reps (and certainly had not via their support websites).

I asked them to document what we’d found, but I don’t have high hopes.  So… hopefully this anecdote will help out some other poor NetHASP clod like me: get the new/other NetHASP driver, and push the vendors to publish the problem and solution.

SBS2003 VPN: What were they thinking?!

I thought I’d share some Small Business Server 2003 security silliness.  Following is a series of Internet Explorer dialogs when you setup VPN via the Remote Web Workplace:

---------------------------
Microsoft Internet Explorer
---------------------------
After you install Connection Manager, ensure that all users of this computer have strong passwords to protect the security of your Windows Small Business Server network.
---------------------------
OK   
---------------------------

---------------------------
File Download - Security Warning
---------------------------
Do you want to run or save this file?
    Name: sbspackage.exe
    Type: Application, 503 KB
    From: ---
---------------------------
Run   Save   Cancel
---------------------------
While files from the Internet can be useful, this file type can potentially harm your computer. If you do not trust the source, do not run or save this software. What's the risk?

---------------------------
Internet Explorer
---------------------------
The publisher could not be verified.  Are you sure you want to run this software?
         Name: sbspackage.exe
    Publisher: Unknown Publisher
---------------------------
Run   Don't Run
---------------------------
This file does not have a valid digital signature that verifies its publisher. You should only run software from publishers you trust. How can I decide what software to run?

---------------------------
Connect to Small Business Server
---------------------------
Do you wish to install the connection to Small Business Server?
---------------------------
Yes   No   
---------------------------

Notice the Big Red Flag??  Microsoft’s SBS team never signed the VPN installer (sbspackage.exe), so IE on XPSP2 (and presumably 2003SP1 now) does its scary “don’t take candy from strangers” warning.  (How long has Microsoft been touting executable signing now?!?) 

*sigh*