A Linux Soul in a Windows World

EvolutionAs I start work with a new company, I exposed to all sorts of strange and wonderful things. First off, they provided me with an email account. Apparently they run MS Exchange Server, and there is something I have never seen before called OWA or Outlook Web Access.

So I point my happy Firefox browser to the website and log in. Its webmail with calendar and whatnot. No folders along the side, or easy access to drag and drop…but its web mail so what should I expect? Except, I am told by a friend that OWA looks different if you use Internet Explorer.

“Oh really?”, I ask. So I flip the bit on User Agent Switcher in Firefox to report that I am IE6 on Windows XP (and no longer Firefox 1.5 on Linux). Lo and behold, it does look different. Granted not everything works, but I can see a folder tree in the sidebar, and the display is obviously different.

At this point, it really is not functional, so I go back to telling it, I am Firefox. My next step was to see how it works with actual IE6, which I have installed to run using Wine. I only use IE6 to just see what the unwashed masses might see on my websites.

From IE6 under Wine, I can log in, but I can’t get to the companies internal website, nor to the place to read my mail…so that is useless. I find humor in the fact that I can read my email using Firefox, but not using IE6…not sure why it refuses to work, but its not that important for me to delve into it.

It took me a bit of time to figure out what was going on in OWA, and where certain settings were, etc. The first thing I looked for, was how to change my password…and apparently that feature, isn’t available in their set up. The IT guy said I can only do in internally, and I have to change it using Ctrl-Alt-Delete. I will take him at his word since that key combination just runs shutdown -r now for me in linux.

After playing with OWA, I found it to be unacceptable for day-to-day communcations. Its cute and easy if I need quick access to email from the road, but it is certainly something that will not work for me long term.

My main email app is Thunderbird, or Gmail on the web, I had heard there was a way to get Thunderbird talking to Exchange Server, but it was more complicated than I cared, and it did not access all of the features. I saw this as the perfect opportunity to try out Evolution, which I had tried years back as an email client, but didn’t like it because it tried too hard to be like Outlook, and Outlook did not allow me to use my email the way most efficient to me. (I come from the PMMail/2 days, and Thunderbird most resembles the interface of PMMail)

It took me about 2 minutes to configure Evolution, just needed the OWA Url and my username and password. I was connected to Exchange, had access to the calendars, shared folders, task lists, etc. It worked, and as far as I can tell, does everything you can do in Outlook. The one thing not configured is the Global Address List. The only reason for this is the IT guy has no idea what I am talking about, and has yet to provide me the location of the Active Directory Server, since it is not at the same address as the Exchange Server.

After using Evolution for a few days, it has enabled me to efficiently integrate Exchange Mail into my work flow.