I work in a corporation, cunningly disguised as a university, that shifted from an open-source server suite to Micro$oft about a year ago. Life on the network has been miserable ever since. All the worst clichés apply: local administrators blocking support for Mac software, blanket generalizations about PCs being cheaper, and a vast and covert community of Mac users trying to get their work done from the sidelines. Emails to students with readings attached now fail as the server barfs on large attachments, and my research budget for fieldwork last year skyrocketed due to the smug torpidity of Exchange over dialup links.
So what can a poor Mac do?
Well, there are four problems- accessing files, sharing calendars, accessing user directories, and getting mail. I’ve only been able to find workarounds for some of these.
File access is still a nightmare. Aberdeen has not implemented webDAV or sftp, and thus from offsite the only way to access files is read-only. We do now how a rather braindead version of VPN which isn’t implemented at the network level, only at the browser level. Idjits. For mail, after my research budget last year was torpedoed by spending days – literally – on the phone line trying to make Mail and Exchange, or even Firefox and Exchange, talk to each other over a slow dialup line, I went back to my roots, woke up the postfix installation of my laptop, installed fetchmaill and took my mail directly from the Exchange server without pissing around with interfaces.
The calendars are my worst nightmare. Remember when MacWrite read M$Word files, because it had to in order to compete? Way, way back? Well, that sort of logic should still be in place. iCal should be a fully able Exchange client, and for it not to be is a staggering piece of bloody-mindedness.
When I read My Struggle I knew I was hearing the wails of a fellow sufferer. GroupCal is actually not a real solution – the interface is appalling, it only makes sense to an experienced Exchange user, and it hasn’t survived the transition to Leopard. Apple has raised hopes but not yet fulfilled them with the release of Exchange sync for the iPhone. Several people are rumbling on about a direct calDAV-Exchange sync solution but no such thing yet exists. Over here, judismith is in the same pickle. Wow. What an amazing disconnect. This sort of hole only emerges when developers behave perversely towards each other.
Sitting back to back – it can be a metaphor for mutual support. One of my favourite group exercises from theatre days was sitting in a ring of people, facing outwards, arms linked, and all standing up together. It works. Any prat who makes a profit from decisions to pursue incompatible standards should be made to eat the tyres of his car. (No cyclist would ever behave thus!)