It’s Still Not Done

What to do about the ongoing to-do list.

Your faithful pundit was sorting through a few boxes from the attic the other night as an idle way to avoid working on this very column. At the very bottom of one box, under some old high-school yearbooks from the class of—well, never mind—there’s this very nice brown and red hand-knit sweater—or rather, three-quarters of a sweater. What with one thing and another, over the years, Auntie never did finish that particular Home Ec project—which is where Exchange Server 2003 comes into the picture.

That old sweater is fabulously warm, but with the needles still stuck in one arm and a ball of yarn trailing behind, it’s not quite perfect. And Exchange 2003 is a fabulous e-mail server, but it still has the odd bit of trailing yarn to trip over (and even a few needles to poke you).

So, what sort of things am I talking about? Here are half a dozen modest things that the Exchange 2005 team might add to its to-do list if it’s so inclined:

1. When I open the Exchange System Manager, it’s all squished up into a tiny corner of my high-resolution screen. I resize it and drag the splitter around so I can see everything that I want to work with. The next time I open System Manager...it’s up in the corner again. What is it, shy? Would it be so hard to write half a dozen values to the Registry to persist the size and position of the window?

2. Auntie owns eight or 10 domains, all of which feed into the Exchange server (it’s like eating potato chips, you know). Of course, mail comes in to postmaster@ and abuse@ and webmaster@ and various-random-addresses@ all those different domains. So why can’t I set up a catch-all mailbox for everything that’s not delivered elsewhere? (And yes, I know about KB article 324021. I want to fill in a text box, not spend my time writing the part of the product that you left out.)

3. What’s with all these hooks, anyhow? I don’t want anti-spam hooks and anti-virus hooks. I want spam blocking and virus protection. After paying a boatload of money for Exchange, I don’t really want to shell out two other boatloads to finish the job. Sure, the companies that you call your partners would howl, and the antitrust lawyers would start sharpening their quill pens again. But who do you want to satisfy—your customers or a bunch of lawyers?

4. Yes, the new Outlook Web Access is very pretty. It’s also very fat. Now, I know no one in Redmond ever uses a slow dial-up connection from a hotel in East Nowhere, but those of us on the conference circuit must endure that fate from time to time. Where’s the low-bandwidth, eye-candy-free version of OWA?

5. Great, so services are turned off by default in the interest of security. I’m all for security, motherhood and apple pie. Now, if I click the Start button for the POP3 service in Exchange System Manager, that means I want to start the service. Get it? It doesn’t mean that I want to wait 60 seconds while the service fails to start, be directed to the event log, discover that there is nothing there, remember to open the services MMC console, enable the POP3 service and then start it from there.

6. There’s a bug in there somewhere that causes servers to take 20 minutes to reboot if you try to reboot with Exchange 2003 running. I’ve seen it with my own two eyes, and anyone who cruises Google Groups can find other reports. Please find this and fix it. Thank you very much.

Exchange suffers from the same problem as many a Microsoft program: It’s always easier (or more fun for the developers) to put in hot new features than to tidy up loose ends. A pity, because the loose ends stand out more than the features.

I could go on, but the wonderful Fabio just called me for dinner. We’re having lobster soufflé tonight, set off by a pretentious little Italian wine. I guess I’ll finish that sweater some other time.

About the Author

Em C. Pea, MCP, is a technology consultant, writer and now budding nanotechnologist who you can expect to turn up somewhere writing about technology once again.

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