Now for the Hotmail Woes

I switched from gmail to hotmail, and initially was very happy. Things worked fine. Its only been a couple of days, but now hotmail seems to have forgotten that my timezone is PST.

I can send myself a message at 11am, and it arrives reasonably quick in my hotmail mailbox, but its got a stamp of 6pm! Maybe this is the new “predict the future feature”.

This really confused me this morning when I had emails from colleagues dated 5am this morning, but they were really sent late last night, and Hotmail just broke all the dates.

I can’t figure out how to fix this – there are no mail-specific settings for timezone, and the timezone on my passport profile is set correctly. Argh.

I’m not sure which is worse, slow, unreliable mail at gmail, or completely broken timestamps on my email at hotmail.

God have mercy, please don’t make me run my own mailserver?

The Unexpected Savior from Gmail – Windows Live Mail

I ditched GMail today. I liked it overall, but there is one thing more important even than search…. reliability. It was just too slow on GMail. To my friends that work on gmail – I’m sorry! (I wasn’t a good customer anyway :-)

The Problem
The problem is that I like getting my mail at “belshe.com”. I don’t know if it’s the Narcissus in me or just the cool factor of having your own name as a dot-com, but I don’t want to give up my email there. Plus, it’s where I’ve received my mail for several years. Unfortunately, switching to an ISP generally means you’ve got to use their domain name. The hacked solution I was using at gmail was to receive my mail @belshe.com, and then forward to @gmail.com so that I could use webmail. This meant that I had two mail addresses that I was syncing. It’s kludgey, I know.

Since I run a linux mail server at home, I had been thinking of trying either Zimbra or Scalix. Problem is that my linux is so old its just a lot of work to get either to run. Upgrading the OS is never fun.

Thinking of my employer, I considered running an Exchange server. But, I don’t really want yet another server in my office, and my web stuff is already linux based, so it would be a big change. There was just too much to learn and way too much to debug for this to be a viable option.

Lastly, I was just about ready to install an IMAP server and run RoundCube, which has a very nice interface for IMAP servers. I think this would have proved the easiest, and I was very excited about the sexy UI.

The Solution
Turns out the solution was right here in my backyard. I had heard of Microsoft’s Custom Domains for Windows Live Mail before, but hadn’t looked at them seriously.

Custom Domains are a relatively new Windows Live service which allow you to run your own domain’s mail through the Hotmail (Windows Live Mail) system. If it could work, this turns out to be ideal for someone like me that wants his own domain but doesn’t want to run a mail server. Postini uses a similar trick for spam-filtering your mail.

All I had to do was point my the DNS MX record for belshe.com so that my mail goes to my “custom domain” at hotmail rather than to me. Then, custom domains provides a quick interface to setup the various accounts that I want to use. The overall setup time was about 30 minutes, and most of that was me doing research and being extra careful that there wouldn’t be any unanticipated side-effects.

So far, I’m pretty happy. Hotmail is very reliable; I’ve used it for my “junker” email accounts for years and it never seems slow. It is, after all, the largest internet email service provider on the planet. (Gratuitous plug for employer – raises and bonuses are coming)

While the traditional Hotmail interface is a bit stale, the new interface for Hotmail called “Live Mail” is actually pretty decent. If you haven’t seen it take a look.

Another benefit of the switchover is that I finally have decent spam protection (which was always a hassle on linux for me). The only thing I have to tolerate with using Hotmail is the MSN tagline that goes at the bottom of every outgoing message.1 Not a bad tradeoff.

I guess I’d say that I am quite happy joining the millions of others that don’t host their own email servers. But, I still have a custom domain – belshe.com – and I think the hotmail solution is one of only a few solutions that can do that. Congrats to the Hotmail team for making it so simple.


1The tagline on the outgoing mail currently reads, “Don’t Search. Find. Try MSN.” That tagline makes me proud, because I proposed that tagline to Dane Glasgow here at MSN over a year ago. Even though I don’t know for certain that someone else didn’t think of it too, I know it was original when I came up with it, so I’ll take the credit :-) I’m sure the marketing folks would deny that a tagline like that could ever have come from a lowly engineer.

US DOJ Rejects Google Claim that IE7 Hinders Competition

I had started a draft blog a few weeks ago when I first read of Google’s filing with the DOJ to block IE7 because they claimed it would hurt their search business. I was pretty disappointed when I read it – because working internally at Microsoft I know that there are zero companies on the planet working harder than Microsoft to make sure everything is legal. Microsoft is double and triple checking every product to make sure it’s fair. I’d bet no other company spends so much on legal defenses before shipping.

The good news is that the DOJ agrees with me, as documented in the NY Times.

For those readers out there that think I might have an anti-Google bias, I do not. I just hate being at a company that everyone loves to hate, so I try to keep things fair. Google is a great company, and they’ve done wonders for search and the software industry. But, they’re a monopoly, just like Microsoft. With 85% of the search market wrapped up, how can they not be? And so far, their brand is wonderful. They’ve done a great job at keeping a positive image with the public. That’s great, but lets still be fair to Microsoft.

Gmail horribly slow

I’ve griped about gmail before, although I still use it.

But over the last few weeks, it seems they’ve finally hit their scalability wall. Performance has been slow…. then slower…. now abysmal! I’m often waiting 10+ seconds now for it to load up an email.

I’m okay with a few glitches, but this has been persistent for days now, and its starting to impact me. On my list has been to ditch gmail, and if this keeps up, I certainly will.

2006 Honda Civic Hybrid Actual Gas Mileage

Since I bought my 2006 Civic Hybrid in January, and it is supposed to have great gas mileage, I figured I’d post my MPG results. Yes, I track my gas mileage. Don’t blame me, blame my statistics-freak father.

Overall, I’m pretty happy with the real world gas mileage. The EPA rating is for 50MPG city, and 50MPG highway. I’m mostly doing highway miles, and I’m getting a little shy of 48MPG. You can tell when I’m driving the speed limit and when I’m speeding based on the ups and downs in this chart. What I really like most about the civic is its range. I get an average of 517 miles per tank of fuel. My Accord can only go about 400 miles per tank, and the boxster gets around 275.

If you drive a Civic or Prius – post your charts too!

Date Mileage Price/Gal Total Price Gallons MPG
10-Jan 4
15-Jan 480 $2.23 $23.87 10.71 44.45
22-Jan 1007 $2.30 $24.86 10.81 48.74
31-Jan 1528 $2.54 $28.02 11.04 47.21
6-Feb 2034 $2.48 $27.04 10.91 46.39
13-Feb 2573 $2.56 $27.09 10.59 50.92
19-Feb 3088 $2.40 $25.65 10.69 48.17
27-Feb 3637 $2.33 $26.84 11.52 47.64
5-Mar 4137 $2.33 $24.57 10.55 47.40
13-Mar 4659 $2.68 $28.87 10.78 48.44
20-Mar 5164 $2.54 $26.69 10.51 48.04
26-Mar 5662 $2.54 $27.70 10.91 45.65
31-Mar 6186 $2.74 $28.89 10.55 49.68
5-Apr 6712 $2.76 $30.99 11.23 46.83
12-Apr 7233 $2.85 $31.74 11.14 46.77
19-Apr 7747 $3.00 $32.29 10.77 47.74
25-Apr 8278 $3.16 $34.25 10.84 48.98
2-May 8797 $3.32 $34.18 10.30 50.40
TOTALS 8797 $2.63 $483.54 183.84 47.85

One last note – my previous cars got 21MPG and 27MPG. If I had driven those cars for the miles I’ve put on my Civic, I would have spent an extra $592.70 and $353.53 on fuel (not including the extra per-gallon charge for premium!)

Blog Maverick

I’ve been reading Mark Cuban’s blog for a while, and this is just to pump his blog. While he does call himself a maverick – he really does think differently. Read his blog, and you won’t read the same old way of thinking… If you don’t know who he is, he’s the founder of a number of various companies, most notably broadcast.com, and now the owner of the Dallas Mavericks (there is that word again) basketball team.

There is a phrase that “great minds think alike“, which as far as I can tell is patently false. It’s the great minds that specifically don’t think alike…Mark thinks different, and that is cool.

I enjoyed this article recently: Don’t Blame Me – I’m just a Stupid Shareholder

Dumping Google

An article was forwarded to me about Alexa (part of Amazon) dumping Google.

Google’s roots are in indexing other site’s content. They did that really well, but the content belonged to others. You could quibble about whether the Google Cache was Google’s taking of content, but most users liked the feature for perf and out-of-date reasons, so it’s a bit different.

Going beyond search, Google is now showing clear steps that not only do they want to index the data, but they want the content too. Google Base is the biggest example of that. I’m not sure why Google Base even wants the content. Seems like a liability to me. But they do, so far. And Google Base is probably about the smallest of the Google services.

Google services that want to own your content include gmail, google talk, froogle, google base, picasa, google calendar, blogger, etc.

I’m not sure if this really leads to major players shifting away from Google, but it might. It certainly may end up “restoring balance to the force”.