Email clients on MS Windows

The following could be a long rant on bad email clients for MS Windows, but instead of describing the agony I’ve experienced with various email clients in the past few years, let me just ask this one question (from a user perspective):

“Why do we have really smart apps on our mobile phones, but when it comes to email clients on a desktop computer, there is no perfect solution?”

Yes, there may be legal reasons for this development (i.e. patents) and the fact that most consumers just don’t care, but then: it’s email, the most important (business) application next to Excel or Word. How come this still !!!!! has such a low priority? I don’t get it.

I keep coming back to this blog post on the subject. Matteo is a Linux dev who occasionally uses a Windows machine. For a project, he required a “perfect desktop mail client”. Ha! Welcome to the club, Matteo. They obviously all suck for one reason or another, and my particular requirements are rather mundane:

  • Fast and reliable IMAP sync
  • Decent HTML rendering
  • Integrated calendar and contact sync
  • Global Inbox

That’s it. And yes, support for encrypted mails would be a huge bonus, but one step at a time.

Going by this list of requirements, I have now eventually switched from MS Outlook 2010 to eM Client. Which also means: no Postbox, no TheBat!, no Mailbird, no Thunderbird,  no Windows Mail (lol), no Eudora, no EssentialPIM, no Sylpheed (which is really nice). Conversation threading? Hell, no. Or the new N1 by Nylas? Not yet. Just a client that looks like MS Outlook 2010, imports all the stuff from there (!) but also doesn’t bug me with idle time. All email accounts accessible via IMAP, calendar and contacts sync without issues (like they used to with plugins in other clients) and all mails show up in a global inbox and global junk mail folder.

Looks like MS Outlook, but with less bugs: eM Client.
Looks like MS Outlook, but with less bugs: eM Client.

Em Client is advertised as the “best email client for Windows”, which Mailbird 2.0 btw also claims. The Bat! also claims to be “the best secure email client software”. Which is probably true, but also begs the question: if they are all “the best”, how come they are still not as popular as the rest? Costs? Em Client is expensive, a full licence costs around 47 EUR (incl. VAT), no discounts granted. A free version is available, but limited to two email accounts. I will still cough up that amount because a good email tool should cost money. Which is why I also bought Postbox in the past. I am willing to spend money on good software. A) to support the developer and show my appreciation and b) because I don’t want my data to be their business model. But that’s just me, others are more into open software, or even the “free” (as in free beer) side to it and probably don’t agree.

Coming back to my initial question: how come that we have a lot of nice apps on our mobile devices, while email is so neglected? Why can’t email as an application be as smart as SMS or the use of other Instant Messengers? Kids have their mobile number and user name as an entry card into the digital world – not necessarily email (like we did). While this may answer the priority on optimized communication channels, it still doesn’t answer why MS Outlook or even Lotus IBM Notes (and Thunderbird for many private and Linux users) should be the best options. Could we please have a great email client software? Something that just works?

Upgrading from a Dell Latitude E6430 to an E5450

Dell Latitude E5450 vs E6430
Dell Latitude E5450 vs E6430

My Dell Latitude E6430 has a great performance, has enough room for an extra SSD, has never let me down during the last two years and came as a refurbished, 1yr-old laptop from a dealer in the UK. It also shares the same birthday (date) with me and is just a very, very solid workhorse. The keyboard is great, it has extra keys for volume control, the touchpad does support two-finger scrolls, it has a very durable frame and to clean the vent, I just need to remove 5 screws. Even it’s bulky size and waste of space (= 14″ laptop in the body of a 15″ machine) are okay in the end. I don’t care about that extra inch or the weight. I am a tall person and small laptops look stupid on me. Continue reading “Upgrading from a Dell Latitude E6430 to an E5450”

Webkamera schützen

Aus gar nicht so aktuellem Anlass, aber für viele muss das Fass ja wohl erst umkippen damit die Füße nass werden: die Webcams meiner Geräte schütze ich jetzt schon seit einer gefühlten Ewigkeit mit Schiebeschaltern. Erst waren das reine Papierschieber, jetzt sind es kommerzielle Lösungen aus ca. 1mm dickem Kunststoff, die etwas besser sind. Die Papierschieber haben den Vorteil, dass sie sehr dünn sind und bei Geräten mit wenig Spielraum am Display nicht weiter auftragen. Toll sind natürlich Laptops, an denen die Schiebeschalter schon integriert sind. Das ist aber (noch) eher die Ausnahme als die Regel.

Webcam Schiebeschalter

Je nach Kamera- bzw. Linsengröße eignen sich unterschiedlich große Schieber. Die Preise bewegen sich so zwischen 2 und 10 EUR, je nach Bezugsquelle und Händler. Derzeit wohl auch weniger – mein letzter Kauf liegt schon mindestens ein Jahr zurück. Und obwohl Deutschland bei dem Thema sicherlich besonders aufmerksam ist, gibt es bei ebay.COM derzeit noch mehr Auswahl als bei ebay.DE. Bei den üblichen Direkthändlern aus China (dx.com, fasttech.com, usw.) habe ich die Cover noch nicht entdecken können. Eigentlich wären Webcam Cover die idealen Konferenz-Goodies (“swag”) – mit Logoaufdruck des Sponsors usw..

Bei eBay gibt es auch webcam cover aus (ferro)magnetischen Materialien, bei denen eine Scheibe auf einen Ring gelegt wird. Das hatte ich mir als Vorlage für die Absicherung der etwas größeren Logitech Webcam genommen. Mit Magnet(klebe)band kann man ganz nette Dinge produzieren. Zur Befestigung eignet sich das ca. 2mm breite Doppelklebeband von den Chinahändlern, welches auch gerne für Displayreparaturen verwendet wird.

Webcam cover

Aufgrund dieses Artikels bei Netzpolitik.org habe ich mir jetzt auch noch unverbindlich die Aufkleber des Bundesministeriums für Familie, Senioren, Frauen und Jugend (sic!) bestellt, die dann an Freunde & Verwandte weitergereicht werden.

Aus meiner Sicht geht es beim ganzen Thema der Webcamspionage nicht um die technische Durchführung oder den tatsächlichen Missbrauch, sondern vor allem um die psychologische Seite: a) dass wir nicht die totale Kontrolle über unsere Geräte haben und b) dass wir hier als Verbraucher in einer Situation sind, in der wir uns proaktiv schützen müssen.

Das ist es auch, was mich am ganzen (Mega-)Überwachungsskandal am meisten ärgert: diese negative Seite, dass wir vollkommen ausgenommen werden und uns vor einer unbekannten Macht irgendwie schützen müssen. Dabei bieten große Datenmengen auch jede Menge positive Chancen – die aber bei all dem irgendwie komplett untergehen. Ich würde beispielsweise die Standortdaten von Mobilfunkgeräten noch viel mehr zur Verkehrsflusssteuerung nutzen wollen und sehe auch in manchen location based services eher eine Vor- als einen Nachteil. Leider ist das ganze Thema jetzt durch den Überwachungsskandal negativ behaftet und ich gehe davon aus, dass es die “guten” Firmen dadurch noch schwerer haben werden und die anderen ihren Missbrauch – ohne Regulierung – weiterbetreiben. Schöne neue Welt.

s/HP/Dell

I have recently upgraded my main computer from an HP EliteBook 6930p to a Dell Latitude E6430. After 7 years of using HP business laptops, the transition to the Dell range is a welcome change. Here’s why:

1. LED screen
Both machines are 14.1″ laptops with a slightly higher screen resolution than the usual (and rather horrible) 1366x768px. While the HP is from 2009 and still came with a 1440x900px screen, this new Dell laptop has 1600×900. A lot of programmers / web workers actually prefer higher screen resolutions, and I meanwhile also, but in the beginning the tiny font was a problem. Since I usually only go for business laptops with docking stations, my main screen is an external 22″ monitor at 1680×1050 – so this screen issue is secondary to me.

What matters though is the illumination technology – which is based on cold-cathode fluorescent lamps (CCFL) on my old HP. As mentioned in my 2009 review of the HP 6930p vs. the Dell E6400, even the E6400 already had a nice LED screen, just as about half of all Lenovo T400 laptops sold. Of the 6930p sold since 2008/2009, most models only came with the CCFL version – and the few available LEDs only had a WXGA / 12800×800 resolution. It is only recently that someone came up with a hack to install a WXGA+ (1440×900) LED screen from a Lenovo T410 into an HP 6930p. I once thought about doing this hack and already bought the cables, but such 14.1″ LED screens usually sell for ~ 140 EUR alone. These days, second hand 6930p laptops sell for around 200 EUR, so any such investment would be rather stupid.

New laptop, new screen, issue solved.

The bitter truth may be that I should have picked a 14.1″ laptop with a WXGA+ LED screen in 2009 (e.g. the E6400 or the T400). The WXGA++ LED screen on the E6430 is an instant LIKE (even though the CCFL version had better colours).

It seems there are no 14.1″ laptops with really good screens. It’s either 12.5″ (Lenovo), 13.3″ (Apple) or 15.x”/17.x” if you’re interested in something like IPS panels.

Continue reading “s/HP/Dell”

Is it just me?

I don’t want to keep on repeating myself here, but as I’ve just returned home from a friend who had a problem syncing his iPhone with Gmail, iCloud and his local Outlook 2003 on a WinXP machine: just how come that we’re already so advanced in 2013, yet when it comes to some basic IT functionality like operating systems or e-mail, we’re still way behind the optimum?

unrelatedan unrelated image to illustrate the state of affairs

Operating systems

Windows, OSX, Linux distros – is there any desktop operating system that will work like S40 on basic Nokia feature phones? One that doesn’t try to cover up a shitty energy management with stupid gfx effects and other gimmicks probably no one ever needs? What happened to the good-guy-computer approach from back in the days? It feels like we’ve evolved from complicated (CP/M, MS-DOS) to buggy and ponderous operating systems that really don’t add much difference to the basic functionality, but will at the same time require more resources and create more problems.

E-mail

Electronic mail has been around since the 1970s, yet in 2013, we’re still talking about formatting options and have to come up with an emailcharter to define this basic communication method. PGP? Where the f*** is PGP? Why isn’t it part of Gmail already? How come we’re measuring our workflow by the amount of unanswered e-mails in our inboxes, yet e-mail itself still is a very vague product that also currently competes with other private or public messages on social networks?

This friend of mine with this Outlook 2003 problem: we sat there for four hours, trying to figure out a sustainable solution that will automatically sync his PIM client on the desktop PC (e-mails, contacts, calendar) with the phone. Unless you pick a manual solution or one that will only work within it’s own framework (i.e. iCloud), you’re easily lost or have to invest some more money in a working solution.

Acceptance

I am using Gmail as my common denominator for all this user data, but many people also don’t want to rely on Google products (for various reasons). At the moment, the only working strategy seems to be to accept the data chaos and to live with different data on different devices where the quality of your search parameters defines the success. Maybe similar to what David Weinberger once described in his ‘Everything is Miscellaneous’ book where information isn’t sorted in a linear fashion any more. But where are we heading to with this missing data discipline?