Chrome, iOS mail app, Groups, Clutter, and Novell - a mixed bag of updates

Chrome, iOS mail app, Groups, Clutter, and Novell - a mixed bag of updates

Over the past few weeks I’ve been keeping an eye on what’s been happening with some new developments, extended stories, or stuff that just appears out of nowhere. It’s time to report back to bring you all up to speed.

First up is the situation that occurred when Google decided that no one (except Outlook Web App users) would be all that bothered if they deprecated the showModalDialog method and stopped using it in their Chrome browser.  Version 37 duly appeared and OWA users (for Exchange 2010, 2013, and Online) found that common operations like adding an attachment to a message no longer worked. Well, we’re now up to version 40 and Google hasn’t backed down. I guess no one thought that they would as they seem to pay little attention to the concerns about this issue voiced in the Chromium forum. On-premises users have to deploy the registry hack that keeps showModalDialog alive while Office 365 users see some relief in recent changes Microsoft has made to OWA where new UI removes the need for the offending method. Or just use Internet Explorer or Firefox and all is well.

Also on the topic of Chrome, I should note that version 40 (64 bit) has done nothing whatsoever to cure the problem with Lync meeting URLs. Clicking on a link that leads to a Lync meeting is supposed to allow you to join the meeting, but it doesn’t with Chrome. At least, I can’t make it. As you’d expect, Internet Explorer works correctly, so it’s an issue with Chrome that has appeared since they shipped the 64-bit version of the browser last September.

Update (December 17): Microsoft has updated Lync to inform users that Chrome no longer supports Lync web components... Jeez...

Moving on to everyone's favorite mobile operating system, the problems noted after iOS 8 appeared are being worked through slowly as Apple and Microsoft tease out who is responsible for the individual problems. Microsoft has updated KB3015401 with the latest status on some issues and the general guidance is that if your iOS users are having calendar or email issues when connecting to Exchange, you might want to check that KB first and if you don't find the problem listed there, you should contact Apple and report the problem to them. 

As you might know, I rather like Office 365 Groups and consider them a suitable long-term replacement for the kind of hacked-together discussion and archive solution that we’ve had with a combination of old-style distribution groups and public folders for years. 

Sure, Microsoft launched Groups without any thought to how they might be managed, but that seems to be the way that new stuff is launched in the world of Internet-driven get-the-features-out-fast of software development we live in today.

The speed to get Groups out the door might have contributed to the major issue that occurred when the development group discovered that the way the “Files” functionality was implemented was insecure. No one likes insecurity and the development group quite correctly took steps to fix the problem. The only thing was that they didn’t tell anyone and made the change in a way that disrupted user access to data held in the Files section of Groups (which are labeled as OneDrive for Business but might be a special SharePoint team site). In short, the episode was a classic example of badly communicated and managed change. Thankfully, a fix is now in place.

Maybe Microsoft can now move on to provide a more elegant solution to deleting an item from Group Files as the current situation is not too obvious. At least, not to those with simple minds like myself - until you realize that you can select a file and press the Delete key to do the trick.

On a more positive note, Microsoft has increased the mailbox quota for Office 365 shared and resource mailboxes from 10GB to 50GB. No announcement was made but I assume this was done to facilitate the storage that the mailbox (a shared mailbox in all but name) used by an Office 365 group might need. In passing, let me also note that the PowerShell support for Office 365 Groups is just pathetic. A development group that led the charge to embrace PowerShell for major enterprise applications when Exchange 2007 appeared can do so much better.

Also positive, the new Clutter feature coped admirably with the blizzard of inbound advertising messages generated by Black Friday.  I took the time to “train” Clutter in the week or so beforehand by moving messages from my Inbox into the Clutter folder to provide signals to the machine learning algorithms about the kind of mail I consider unimportant. That approach seemed to work well and my Clutter folder now holds just over a thousand messages, most of which remain unread (and probably unwanted). I know that some other people are not having the same kind of success with Clutter, but really it’s a case of training. Clutter is just like a puppy dog that needs to be told what to do time and time again until it knows. If in doubt, read my Clutter FAQ to understand the ins and outs of this useful feature.

To finish on a somewhat silly note, if you want to read a work of pure fiction and laughable inaccuracy, head over to Novell’s web site to grab a sight of their comparison between GroupWise 2014 and Exchange 2013/Outlook 2013. Generally I like comparison documents because it saves a lot of hard work if someone else can go through competing products to provide a solid overview of where to find the strengths and weaknesses of each. Alas, this does not fall into that category. Nor does Novell’s comparison between GroupWise and Office 365. My favorite comment from the Exchange comparison is the way that Novell’s “Welcome/Tutorial” page is touted as being “stable, reliable and automatic” whereas the opposite entry for Exchange says “Best Practices Analyzer (BPA) has been deprecated; status unknown.”  Hmmm…

I’m sure that potential customers will appreciate the warning in the Office 365 comparison that “Microsoft promise is a simple low per-month, per-user fee, but watch for hidden costs and add-ons.” Quite. I guess we should all be cautious about the corrosive effect of overhyped marketing.

Follow Tony @12Knocksinna

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