Tuesday Sep 22, 2009

Google Sync now supports Mail on the iPhone

I became a Google Sync user awhile ago when they released support for over the air calendar syncing from the iPhone.  It has worked well and I've had no issues with it.  At the same time, and actually before using Google Sync, I have been using the built-in Mail app on the iPhone to access my Gmail account which treats it like an IMAP server and this too has worked well.  As Google Sync didn't support mail, this meant configuring two accounts, one for calendar and one for mail, but you do that once and then you are all set.

I was interested then when Google announced today that Google Sync was adding mail support, and especially push mail support for Gmail.  Now, I have to be honest that I'm perfectly happy with my current setup and in fact am leery of adding anything with push as it is likely to impact battery life and we all know that under heavy use the battery on an iPhone is not its strongest point.  And I'm not really losing anything without push as I get enough e-mail that my phone would be going "ding" all the time and because I get enough mail, I don't really need a notification to know I have new messages so I just go run the app and let it download the messages then and I'm set.  The few seconds spent downloading is well worth not taxing the battery.  But I decided to give it a shot anyway as I can always turn push off and have the optimization of a single account to configure and manage.

So I followed the instructions, deleting my existing Gmail account then going to the settings for the Google Sync account and turning on mail syncing.  Worked great, that is until I went to try to look at my mail.  I immediately get a message saying unable to connect to the server and no messages are listed.  I try again a few times and same result.  After waiting a bit and trying again, it finally works and I can see the messages just like I could previously.  So what, I had that before and while I now have a single account to manage, lets see if push really works as that would be the perk of having this.

I make sure push is turned on, get back to the iPhone's Home screen and send myself an e-mail from another account.  I stare closely at the Mail app to see the unread message count go up and listen for the ding, but nothing.  I wait 30 seconds and nothing.  A minute and nothing.  In the meantime in the web interface on my laptop I saw the message arrive about 5 seconds after sending.  "What's up?" I ask.  I again run the Mail app and get the connection error again.  So I give up for the time being.

An hour or two later I gave it another shot and this time there is a friendly "ding" and the message count jumps up, ... but by 3?  I look at the web interface and only my test message arrived so that doesn't make sense.  So I run the Mail app to see what the three messages are.  To my surprise when I go to my Inbox the Mail app doesn't show me any new messages and proceeds to try to connect to download them.  Huh?  I thought I had push?

I suspect that the failure to connects and perhaps other issues are caused by Google's servers being overloaded, so I may try again later.  But to test the theory out I turn mail off on the Google Sync account and recreate my old Gmail account.  When I use it, the Mail app connects quickly and downloads 200 messages in seconds.  Hmmm, so either it isn't the servers, or the more likely explanation is that the "Exchange" servers supporting the push and syncing are overloaded but the standard servers for serving up POP and IMAP are working just fine.

For me, I'll just stick with my 2 accounts and no push for now.  I may try the push again later when Google figures things out.

But what is your experience?  Have you successfully gotten push working from Gmail on the iPhone?  Post your comments!

Sunday Feb 11, 2007

Switching to Thunderbird

I joined Sun as part of the SeeBeyond acquisition in 2005 and as such there has been a transition of IT systems and tools since then. The majority had been done in 2006 but we were still using our old e-mail server and tools. That is, until a couple weeks ago.

SeeBeyond had used Microsoft Exchange and as such we were all using Outlook at our client. This combination works very well as evidenced by the number of companies using it, but if you aren't into vendor lock-in and proprietary software you need to look elsewhere.

As you can imagine, Sun is not a big Microsoft shop and so we SeeBeyonders have had the opportunity to switch to Thunderbird for our client. Now, I have been a long time Netscape/Mozilla/Firefox/Thunderbird user both at previous jobs and for my personal e-mail so this was not a big change for me, but I have gotten to find a few new plug-ins and extensions as part of getting fully set up with Thunderbird at work.

First, I'm using Thunderbird 1.5. I'll probably switch to the 2.0 beta soon but wanted to get things working with the stable version first. Being and Outlook user, one of the key things I was looking for was integrated calendar support. For this, I turned to Lightning extension that is part of the Sunbird Mozilla project. Since we use the Sun Java System Calendar Server I went for the build with integrated WCAP support.

After install and configuring a connection to my calendar server, everything works great and I can view my calendar and create and edit entries. So mission accomplished.

I also configured Thunderbird to use our LDAP server for addressing so I have auto-completion of addresses as I type them. Very nice.

Last, I had been using the Firefox RSS Ticker plug-in for reading RSS feeds, but I'm now experimenting with the built in RSS support in Thunderbird and think I like it better. I'll let you know how it goes.

I'm also in the process of getting all set up again with my mobile device and will blog on that soon.

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