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Thursday OC Meeting

February 28th, 2006 by Ian

Who: You and the original cast of Star Trek: Enterprise
What: The Thursday Commentator Meeting
When: 6:30pm on Thursday March 3rd
Where: The Commentator office in EMU Room 319, looking down on the Emerald

Thursday OC Meeting

February 22nd, 2006 by Ian

Who: You, assuming you’re a current staffer or interested in joining
What: Commentator Staff Meeting
When: 6:30pm Thursday, the 23rd
Where: The OC Office, Room 319 in the EMU, looking down on the Emerald
How: That’s for you to figure out, lazy git.

In Defense of the Computing Center

February 17th, 2006 by Ian

The Feb. 15 Ol’ Dirty has an article about the University’s decision not to outsource email services to Google. The argument posed by Junior Mike McNeeley is that the University should’ve accepted Google’s offer of hosting because Gmail’s interface is far superior to the University’s own web-based email client. As far as the interface is concerned, McNeeley’s absolutely right: The Gmail interface is wonderful. It’s superior to any other commercial offering in terms of speed and ease of use, and once you’ve become accustomed to it, one can barely stand using another web client. As McNeeley points out, it’s far superior to AlphaMail and the horrible, horrible production client the University uses. But that’s only a part of the story.

Computing Center Director Joe St. Sauver gives a good reason that this move wasn’t made (such outsourcing would conflict with University policy,) but the technical reasons to not make a switch were either not given or not reported on. So, I’d like to give some additional reasons why it’s good such a switch wasn’t made (warning: geekspeak follows):

  • While web email interfaces are important to have, most sensible users have a real email application on their computers like Outlook Express, Outlook, or Thunderbird. These applications are snappier and more flexible than even Gmail’s interface. But they’re only as good as the servers they’re connected to, and there are basically two common methods email applications can use to retrieve messages: POP3 and IMAP. Gmail only offers POP3 access, the University offers both.
    • POP3 is a simple retrieval system that is widely supported but severely outdated. Mail is intended to be stored on the client (your computer) rather than on the server. You cannot organize the mailbox into directories on the server: all changes are made on the local computer.
    • IMAP is an advanced way of storing both email and files in a directory structure. Mail is intended to be kept on the server, ensuring that you can access it no matter which email client you’re using or where you’re accessing it from. This means that if you’re someone crazy like me you can access your mailbox from different computers at home, work, or school and have the directory structure and unread state of individual messages perfectly preserved. It’s simply better.
  • If Gmail were adopted, who would users contact if things went wrong? As it is, the Computing Center can solve any University-related problem… when they don’t, at least you know who to direct your nerdrage at. If your mailbox stopped working, you’d have to go through the Computing Center who would then go through Google. And Google may make great interfaces, but their support is notoriously meager.
  • Google’s offer would have essentially made the University’s email system a testbed for a more universal system that they plan on implementing in the future. The University’s email system, on the other hand, is extremely well-tested and, despite the occasional problem, very reliable. Considering how many important emails are sent around campus nowadays, it would be horribly irresponsible to move to a new system in flux.
  • Finally, you can already have your campus mail forwarded to a Gmail account, thus enabling to use the Gmail interface for campus mail. (Kudos to the ODE for pointing this out in the article.) You can even send mail through Gmail and use a non From: address (like In other words, you can already have every benefit that one might receive from a campus-wide switch without any of the pitfalls.

I could really go into more detail here, but this is waaay too long already.

OC Meeting 6:30 Tonight

February 16th, 2006 by Ian

Apologies for the late notice, but we have a Commentator staff meeting at 6:30pm tonight in our offices. Should be pretty quick and to the point.