Friday, March 30, 2007

Staying Red, Part 2

Back in May of 2006, I wrote about the fact that Ken Muir had taken over the GroupWise product at Novell and how his presence there alone caused us to place on hold our disdain for their flagship collaboration product.

Today, Ken commented on that post and asked if I'd provide an update on our experience with GroupWise since 7.0 SP1. Despite my other issues with Novell's general direction and execution, as hoped, GroupWise has been polished into a state nearly befitting a crown jewel.

We run GroupWise 7.0 SP1 exclusively on Linux, and since my days here, our GroupWise systems have never been as stable or feature rich. SP1 was a home run for Ken and his team, proving that he's able to lead and deliver excellence in both gilded halls and gloomy basements.

As you've no doubt read, I've converted to a MacBook Pro's now my sole production computer. I've cleared my desk of the IBM T42p, the docking station, second monitor, external keyboard and mouse, etc., in favor of two cables - the Mag Safe power supply, and my external speakers. Sure, I had to deploy 802.11g access points, but people have been asking for that anyway (grin).

The Mac client for GroupWise isn't bad per se, but it's not on-par with the features in the Windows GW7 client. It's very much like GW 6.5 on Windows, but slower (thanks again, Java). I know Ken intends for GroupWise to be feature-identical on all platforms, and I sincerely hope that happens soon with a native-binary version of GW on OSX. I must however say that a recent e-mail discussion with Novell's John Dragoon was a bit more tepid toward Mac's than Ken and his group. Ken, I sincerely hope the pro-Mac mindset prevails - at least until SLED is a realistic competitor in the non-Windows space.

During the Mac evaluation, I was using their native Mail application (along with Mac's iCal and Address Book) over IMAP. I was frustrated by the way iCal in particular looked for appointments from Mail, and quickly found myself missing features like "Forward as Attachment". What GW lacks in visual appeal, it more than makes up for in functionality.

I wasn't in attendance at BrainShare this year, so I cannot speak to the new release of GroupWise and what it intends to do with regard to Exchange/Outlook feature parity and collaboration in general (much more important than keeping up with the Redmond Joneses to me). Ken provided some links, which I've included below, for those who may find themselves among the masses abandoning the S.S. Microsoft.

GroupWise "Bonsai" Demos -

Friday BrainShare 2007 Keynote w/ GW Demo - (about 1:10 minutes into the stream)

Per Ken, "As always, you and all customers have an open line to me."

Ken remains excited for Novell's future, and in so far as he's able to rally people elsewhere in the company around his principles and standards, he's probably right to be. There's still a very, very long row to hoe in Utah.

Monday, March 26, 2007

Of Fruits and Vegetables

For several months, my VP and I have been having somewhat informal, tongue-in-cheek discussions about adoption of Mac systems. We've been so frustrated by Dell (in the past), and now IBM, in addition to being faced with an avalanche named Windows Vista, that we're ready to look at any alternative.

I'd evaluated SLED 10 from Novell late last year, and found it to be somewhat half-baked. I had to re-install GroupWise twice, and rebuild the entire system three times in the span of about a month. Simple stuff like dual-monitor support and switching wireless networks from work to home were exceptionally cumbersome on my IBM T43p eval system. I gave up and went back to Windows XP on my now two-year-old T42p.

So, the frustration had been mounting again, and I offered that I could get a MacBook Pro to evaluate from Apple's refurb store for relatively cheap. My VP wasn't at all hesitant to OK the endeavor. And so now, here I am, updating this Blog on a shiny new-to-me 17" Glossy MacBook Pro. 2GB of RAM, 8x SuperDrive, AirPort Extreme wireless, 160GB HD, 2.33GHz Core 2 Duo processor, etc.

I can sum up my impression of the MacBook I've been using for the past month in one word. Unbelievable. This is EXACTLY how technology is supposed to work. Call Steve Jobs whatever you want, the end result is the most evolved, refined, performant, and impeccably crafted work of functional art ever to communicate on a LAN. EVERYTHING about it is art. EVERYTHING about it's interface and operation is frighteningly simplified. It's as if Apple has been studying human behavior for the past 20 years, and developed an OS interface that plugs directly in to your psyche.

The challenge isn't in learning how to use it, the challenge is in learning how to break it. The shackles we bear from years of Windows use are tough to shed, but the feeling is very rewarding when you eventually do something you'd have thought wasn't possible. This is what drag-and-drop is supposed to be. This is what plug-and-play is supposed to be. This is what a computer is supposed to look and act like. Forget everything else you've been using - I've used them all, too, and I'm here today to tell you this: they're all toys.

Sadly, the vegetables in this story are the vendors in the enterprise management space. I know far too little about how to manage Apple equipment. Perhaps I'm well ahead of the curve for the first time since beta-testing ZEN 1.0...but I don't think I should be. OS X is a mature operating system, not some garage-based skunkworks project. The mystery to me is that vendors like Novell, etc. haven't woken up to the fact that they build the eggs from which these chickens will hatch. Apple won't find mainstream adoption in heterogeneous environments based on the state of our industry today. That can only mean two things...1) a lifetime of a Microsoft-based, super-homogenous, mind-numbing, unrewarding IT as a whipping-post approach to IT, or 2) a lifetime of an Apple-based, equally homogenous, mind-numbing, smash a square peg into a round hole approach to IT. Neither is very attractive.

Here's hoping the fruits can influence some of the vegetables to grow some seeds.