GMail contacts and Thunderbird

Friday, 9 May 2008

For a while now I've been using the Sync Kolab extension for Mozilla Thunderbird to synchronise changes to the Thunderbird Address Book.

This works quite well, but it only synchronises with other Thunderbird sessions. What I really wanted was to use the Contacts from GMail and synchronise with that. That way, whether I'm using Thunderbird, or just the GMail web interface, I'll have the same details available for all the people in my contacts list. The problem is that Google hadn't provided an API for accessing the Contacts data, but that all changed last month.

The good news is that Zindus are already working on a new extension for Thunderbird to synchronise with Google Contacts. I plan to try this out very soon.

There's also support for the Contacts API in Google's .NET Client Library, should you wish to use this in a .NET application.

SQL 2008 Reporting Services renderers

Friday, 9 May 2008

Yesterday I caught Keith's talk on new features in SQL Server 2008 Reporting Services at the monthly meeting of the Adelaide SQL Server User Group. I must say, as someone who's only just started using the original SQL 2000 Reporting Services a few weeks ago, I was drooling at the pretty new designer. Not to mention the new features and enhancements. Very nice!

Talking with my DECS colleagues this morning, the question of renderer support arose. Specifically will 2008 natively render reports as a Word document? (I understand that to do this previously, you needed to purchase 3rd party addins)

Turns out the answer is "Yes!". As of the February 2008 CTP, the following renderings are supported:

More details of the new features (grouped by CTP release) are published on the SQL Server 2008 TechNet site.

Tech-Ed 2008 Registration

Thursday, 8 May 2008

Chuck mentions that the Australian Tech-Ed 2008 conference site is now live. Not sure if it's a firewall issue, but I tried clicking on the 'Register Now' link, and it doesn't work.

The only time I've missed attending in previous years was when family commitments coincided (eg. birth of children). That's also why I decided I wouldn't travel to Wagga for this year's CodeCampOz - the timing was too close to the due date for G3, and I didn't want to risk being stuck in regional NSW should my wife suddenly go into labour!

The other big difference is that previously I had the support of my work paying for registration, travel and accommodation.

So if I did attend this year I'd have to cover the costs all by myself. $AU1,749 just for early-bird registration sounds like a lot of money, especially when it's your own!

One thing at a time though. G3 is due next week, so by mid-June I might have a clearer idea of whether popping off to Sydney in early September is a good idea (or not!)

Converting minutes from midnight

Wednesday, 7 May 2008

Jane asked me how to convert "minutes from midnight" into hours and minutes in Excel.

Turns out the TIME() function can do this for you.

Say you have 585 minutes. Use it like this:

=TIME(0, 585, 0)

Then format the cell for time, eg. "h:mm", and you get

"9:45 AM"

Just what the doctor ordered!

Before you ask, no I'm not an Excel expert, but I am pretty good at knowing where to find the answer most of the time.

Hotmail rejecting forwarded email

Tuesday, 6 May 2008

I've been using ZoneEdit to manage the DNS for our domain gardiner.net.au with reasonable success. About the only problem I've had is every few months, I'd discover that email sent to my wife's Hotmail account (via her @gardiner.net.au address) is rejected with a message like the following:

<[email protected]> (expanded from [email protected]): 
host mx4.hotmail.com[65.54.244.232] said:
550 SC-001 Mail rejected by Windows Live Hotmail for policy reasons.
Reasons for rejection may be related to content with spam-like characteristics or IP/domain reputation problems. If you are not an email/network admin please contact your E-mail/Internet Service Provider for help. Email/network admins, please visit   http://postmaster.live.com for email delivery information and support (in reply to MAIL FROM command)

To their credit, the Live Hotmail guys are pretty quick off the mark to resolve this once you submit a request via their support page.

I think the problem is that because ZoneEdit hosts so many domains, some of those turn out to be used (or hijacked) by spammers, and so inevitably their IP ranges end up on spam black lists. ZoneEdit don't have any SPF records for their mail servers either which probably doesn't help.

So tonight I bit the bullet, and signed up with Google Apps to manage the mail for our domain. I'm hoping that pointing my MX records to Google will mean that things all look legitimate when Hotmail goes to verify that the domains match up with the SPF record.

Signing up was pretty straight forward. After verifying that I control the DNS records, I added accounts for all the people who have @gardiner.net.au email addresses, then logged in and configured their email to forward to their preferred address. There's even a 'test' email address so you can try things out before you update all the MX record information.

We'll see if this turns out to be a good idea or not.