Gmail IMAP and Mac Mail: Houston, we have a problem

Glad to hear I’m not alone…. here, here, and here. I’m posting the link in entirety for emphasis and to point out once again that Google has a lot to answer for with the spastic approach to end user support featuring negligible communication, cryptic “maintenance” messages, and most significantly, contact on their terms only.

Ironically, I am using Apple Mail primarily because the fear of my gmail account getting blown away is terrifying (over 15k messages) so my desktop mail client gives me a backup of the message store.

This is at least my third mention of a problem between Gmail IMAP and Mac Mail, but I’m raising it again because many others have the same issue and I believe resolution is near. Switching from my hosted Exchange server to Gmail’s IMAP service has worked well in general, but for no apparent reason it just tanked for me about three weeks ago. There were no changes in my environment, nor to Mac Mail and I suspected something changed on the server side.

I spent the next several days doing my own testing and isolated the issue occurrence only when Mac Mail was running. No other client caused the delivery delays and constant message caching I was witnessing. My next step was to share my information directly with the Gmail support folks and over the past three weeks, I’ve written well over 1,000 words to them presenting the evidence in detail. It probably shouldn’t have taken that much effort, but I really don’t mind because I believe I finally got their attention on the right information. Here’s what they said:

“We are aware of this problem, and our engineers are working diligently to implement a solution for all users. We apologize for any inconvenience this issue may have caused.

In the meantime, during the course of our investigation, we’ve identified specific technical circumstances that would allow us to implement a fix for your particular account by placing it under maintenance for up to an hour. You’ll be unable to access your account during this time. Please respond to this message if you’d like us to implement the fix, and also please provide general timeframes and dates during which the maintenance of your account would be least inconvenient.”

I provided them with the OK to take my account down and then proceeded to have no e-mail access for appproximately 18 hours… not the 1 hour I was told. I actually didn’t mind because that tells me all the more that there’s an issue between Gmail IMAP and Mac Mail. Unfortunately, I saw no change in the mail behavior after the maintenance, which was reinforced by the next message from the Gmail support team:

“We regret that your account will require additional maintenace in order to resolve this issue.

Please note that your account will be placed under maintenance again starting at 5:00 pm Pacific Time. We’ll make every effort to complete the maintenance as soon as possible, but please note you won’t be able to access your account for several hours while it is under maintenance.”

I set up a time for that maintenance (yesterday), but didn’t see the account go down. It was just under maintenance a short while ago for a brief time, so I’m hoping that the issue is now resolved. If so, I anticipate a note from the support team indicating it is. If I’m correct in my premise that there’s an issue that’s more global than just my account, I expect it will get quietly fixed on the back end although I’d hope for some public information to come from Google. Needless to say, I’ll be happy when it is resolved. I can avoid the problem by keeping Mac Mail closed and using the web or other clients, but I like to have choices about what clients I want to use.

[From Gmail IMAP and Mac Mail: Houston, we have a problem]

Microsoft launches its alternative to Amazon’s SimpleDB

It was long thought that open source would represent the biggest challenge to traditional database vendors, but fast forward to today and the law of orthogonal technology innovation kicks into high gear as hosted databases go from a “wouldn’t that be pretty cool” to very real offerings.

Microsoft has begun signing up testers for SQL Server Data Services (SSDS), a forthcoming service that will allow customers and developers to host their data in a Microsoft-hosted database. So what is (and isn’t) SSDS, exactly? [From Microsoft launches its alternative to Amazon’s SimpleDB]

While the idea of taking down Oracle’s database business is indeed appealing to me, I doubt that will be the outcome of both SimpleDB and SDSS (seriously, why the hell can’t Microsoft acronyms as product names habit?) because for the time being the core enterprise software market is still oriented around on-premise offerings.

However, two interesting things have happened in recent years… I can’t think of a single company that has built a new product or company on a BEA stack or with an Oracle database or any other proprietary software stack. Open source technologies get their fair share of attention but if you were to poll 100 startups that have formed in recent years you would find a significant number of them are built on Amazon Web Services.

Secondly, non-relational database technologies are making inroads into the traditional enterprise market. StreamBase is one example, founded by one of the fathers of relational database technology, Mike Stonebraker, the company has been focusing on complex event processing in financial services. SimpleDB itself is another example, representing a dramatic departure from relational database systems.

These services are starting to make their way on to enterprise desktops and just like was the case with open source we can expect that enterprise osmosis will bring them into IT. Salesforce.com is also playing a role in this as well with their Force.com offering, which combines data storage with application development tools.

I haven’t seen any acceleration of Force.com in the marketplace, but this is probably less about the technology and more about the peripatetic approach to marketing it, which certainly hasn’t been helped by their identity crisis that drives the confusion around what name is it being called this month.

Give it a couple of years and I strongly believe that big enterprise IT shops and systems integrators will be enthusiastic users of these new hosted infrastructure technologies if for no other reason than the cost of building with them and maintaining them as needs scale is a fraction of on premise infrastructure.

I Have Seen The Future and It Works

Broadcasters should be very afraid.

I’ve watched the quality of streaming video increase substantially in recent years and with the advent of exciting new technologies like Silverlight it is not beyond speculation to suggest that with the barriers lowering for new entrants to create and distribute compelling online video content and user experience that we will see an explosion of offerings.

It almost ironic to think that the television industry once thought that 500 channel cable would be their salvation, enabling them to syndicate niche content and offer specialty channels that provided more inventory for advertising, but it’s the proliferation of broadband (often through cable) that may well be the undoing of television as we know it.

(post title courtesy of journalist Lincoln Steffens)

At the MIX conference this afternoon, Perkins Miller of NBC demoed the Silverlight powered video platform for NBCOlympics.com. Duncan Riley liveblogging for TechCrunch called it “kickass,” and it deservedly got the largest ovation of the day.

[From Move + Silverlight + NBC Olympics = “Kickass”]