The Latest Version of Blackberry Desktop Software Broke Outlook Syncing

RIM have gone and “updated” their desktop software, and they have “updated” it good and proper this time.

They have taken a functional PIM synchronisation tool, and completely broken it.  Worse, the previous version didn’t need fixing.  They’ve not added a single new feature, only bugs.  So many bugs, that it prompted this blog entry, and a downgrade to their previous version.

Lets take a look at the brokeness.

Redemption. How apt. And the lack of it quite ironic.

It starts with this wonderfully ironic error message.  Redemption appears to be a third party library to enable better access to Outlook data.  However, “redemption” is defined thus:

re·demp·tion [ri-demp-shuhn]
noun
1. an act of redeeming or the state of being redeemed.
2. deliverance; rescue.
3. Theology . deliverance from sin; salvation.
4. atonement for guilt.
5. repurchase, as of something sold.

Is RIM is atoning for the complete lack of QA? Or is it hoping for deliverance from a slow and painful corporate death, by releasing suicide software that everyone will hate? (mind you, iTunes is not that much better).

When all else fails, exit the program and announce that you’re done. Computer Science 101.

Syncing with Outlook data, while Outlook is running, doesn’t work.  You don’t know that though, because when it fails, you get the above dialogue. Configuring Outlook sync with Outlook running also doesn’t work.  You must close Outlook anytime you want to view or modify any settings, or indeed sync any data.  This resulted in the following sequence:

  • Try to configure Outlook settings
  • Discover that it can’t see any Outlook profiles.
  • Swear
  • Close Outlook
  • Restart the BB desktop software
  • Try to configure Outlook settings
  • Select the only Outlook profile configured on the machine
  • Configure the sync
  • (… time passes …)
  • Start Outlook
  • Try to configure Outlook settings in BB desktop software
  • All the settings are gone
  • Swear

That actually happened.

Conflict resolution screen.
Conflict resolution, with “Entry Updated” being the only clue
Conflict detail screen with no details.
Conflict details screen with no more details than what was shown on the previous screen. Lack of context makes it hard to know which entry to choose.

Now we come to the crux of the problem.  There are so many things wrong with these screens.  Here are some:

  • No feedback as to which entry you are modifying
  • Name column is fixed, and no way to change it.  Too bad if you have contacts with long names that all start similarly.
  • Since I didn’t trust the data I was being shown but still wanted to sync and eliminate conflicts, I wanted to copy some of the information to the clipboard in case I lost it.  Nope.  None of the text is selectable on any of these screens.
  • If a contact entry has been modified in two places at the same time, there is a chance that you will want to keep some fields from one edit, and other fields from another edit.  You know, merging.  Nope.  Not only can you not select fields from either side to merge, but no other fields are shown.  This lack of context means it’s very hard to know which copy you should take.
Finally, a screen that shows some context about the conflicting entries. But you can’t go back to correct anything!

Once you taken the plunge and  guess which entries to choose, you are presented with this screen, which looks more like the first screen in the conflict resolution process from the previous version of the software.

From here, you click on the information button, and you get a popup that contains the entire record, and highlights what has changed. This is much better, but it should have been the first screen you see, not the last.  At this point, having all that contextual information is useless, because you can’t go back and adjust your choices.  From here, you can cancel, and start all over again.

Lots of people are having problems with this version, many of them far worse than my gripes.  In some cases, the software crashes or hangs, and doesn’t work at all.  I came across this thread at Crackberry.  In it, they point to this link to download the previous version, which I plan to do. Update: That link is reportedly broken.

I’ve been saying for some time now, that I don’t understand it when people say they love their Blackberry.  To me, that is like saying you love your stapler.  And when my stapler starts to piss me off, I throw it away.   Unfortunately this is not my Blackberry.

Lotus Notes can’t edit or extend a meeting reoccurance

You have exactly one chance to get the meeting repeat details right, otherwise you have to delete the meeting and start again.
Or lets say you’re trying to extend a periodic meeting. Sorry. Can’t. IBM suggests you create a second meeting.

Notes is functioning as designed. An enhancement request for this added functionality was submitted to Quality Engineering as SPR #DGAY5NEGS5. There are no current plans to address this request.

I guess it was rejected due to the

Evernote – Was awesome, now starting to suck

The 3.5 client is so slow and cumbersome compared to their 3.1 client. Also, after waiting patiently for a blackberry device that supports their client, it fails to install due to an unsupported carrier. Srsly. WTF has my carrier got to do with a free web-based app. Oh, and apparently the Evernote BB app is just a redirection into their website, which totally misses the point of having a notes database on your phone, because, well, err, it isn’t on your phone.

Re-united with desktop after 6 months

Useful links I’ve used in the last few days to revive the desktop machine after the 6 month hiatis.

  • How to disable Outlook 2003 add-ins. Or indeed, just see them.
  • How to uninstall Trend Micro Virus Checker without admin password. Although in my case, the reg key was a little different, it worked like a charm.
    • Replaced it with AVG
  • Google Desktop Search
    • I installed the Enterprise version on the laptop, and I have it indexing my Lotus Notes databases. This allows me to search my current inbox, and all my archives at once, which is something you cannot do otherwise. You can configure it to index any database you like, so the corporate phone list is next….
  • Tiny DHCP Server[1]. Using this to do internet sharing with the orange USB modem thingy. Since I want to use WiFi to share the internet with, and since I cannot configure what my WiFi access point gives out as a gateway address, and because windows wants to default to use the 192.168.x.x addressing (which I don’t) I had to install my own DHCP server. This one acts as a DNS server too, so I should be able to completely blacklist certain sites (*cough* doubleclick *cough*). Of course, I could just get a proper firewall setup, but frankly, who has the time for that anymore?
  • ViceVersa. One of the best file syncronisation tools I’ve come across. Very configurable. I use a several profiles, each with their own exclusion rules, and tracking databases. After 4 months living out of an external harddrive, the task of re-syncing 400 gig of files is not something for cut-and-paste.

[1] Not freeware.

Explaining the problems of Software using a tree swing analogy

One panel of the Software Tree Swing cartoon
One panel of the Software Tree Swing cartoon, click for full version

Some background research about the tree swing cartoon here.

I saw this many years ago, and it appears it is many years older than that. I still think it is one of the most succinct depictions of the everyday problems encountered in the software business.

Update: The copyright of the above image has been called into question by  Paragon Innovations.  Although, the link provided initially seems to indicate that the idea pre-dates the artwork, nevertheless, credit where credit is due.

Evernote

I’ve been trialling evernote, and it seems pretty nifty, it not perhaps a little insecure.

But it’s better than Outlook notes.  Of course, I’ve known that for a while, which is why I was using Phatnotes which was awesome when I was running a WinCE smartphone.  Now that I’m a crackberry addict, I need something else.  Plus, Phatnotes had no way to sync different databases, or even compare them.

The most slick feature of Evernote is the OCR ability, even for handwriting.  So need to remember that awesome wine at dinner?  Just take a picture, and upload it to your evernote account.  Nifty.

Must be time to clean out the registry….

The LinuxHater has very good points, a lot of the the time, and about a lot of things. I was actually starting to get used to the idea of not running a Linux desktop.
After the big computer rebuild, the machine was running better, but still had some slow areas.
I realised it had accumulated a lot of cruft! Lots of badly un-installed software that you thought you had uninstalled, there were a tonne of services starting up that just no longer required at all!
Well, that’s no real difference to something LinuxHater accused Linux of having to do: namely, get stuck in and maintain your distribution.

I actuality, I wonder if the LinuxHater really runs windows at all, something I’ve always assumed, and I bet I wasn’t alone in doing so.

Update: Turns out he does, a Ubuntu desktop

Because honestly, sometime I really hate computers. You know? Why can't they Just Work. This is usually when people tell me to try a Mac. I've thought about it so much, but I never quite get to the point of actually doing anything about it.