Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Geek fail

Okay, I've been playing with Fedora 15 Linux and their brand new ultra-cool Gnome Shell, which re-imagines how you interact with windows and virtual screens. It's really neat. It's got lots of cool ideas that Apple and Microsoft are ripping off for their next releases. Too bad I can't read my email on Linux.

I mean, c'mon. This is just ridiculous. You got this ultra-cool user interface and then you can't even read your fucking EMAIL?! Talk about pathetic! I mean, the three things that *everybody* does on a computer are... browse the Web (okay, Google Chrome does pretty well there), write documents (OpenOffice/LibreOffice does okay there), and read email. So what does Linux have for reading email? It has Thunderbird -- a re-implementation of the Netscape circa 1998 mail reader (as in, today's college graduates were in THIRD GRADE when it was created!), and Evolution, a clone of Microsoft Outlook 2003 -- gosh, *only* eight years obsolete. Evolution, as befits its creaky vintage, won't connect properly to any version of Microsoft Exchange email server later than Exchange 2003 (and our corporate email is Exchange 2007 -- too bad for me, huh?), while Thunderbird says "Exchange? What's that?" because, doh, Microsoft hadn't even invented Exchange at the the time Thunderbird was invented, back in the days when Larry and Serg were geeky college students at Stanford University rather than filthy rich multi-billionaires, there was no such thing as Amazon.com, and Yahoo was the way you searched the web.

So what's the response of the Linux types when I ask, "dudes! Where's my email?" Well, it's, like, "why would anybody want to read corporate email from Linux?" Just complete and utter bafflement that anybody would want to do such a thing. And if you say "but Linux is useless on the corporate desktop if you can't read your corporate emaiL!", then they pull out their ultimate trump card: "If you want a great email program for Linux, write one yourself!" Uhm, yeah. Right. Look. You give me a budget of $2,000,000, four of the most gifted engineers that I know, one of the most gifted QA types that I know, and one of the most gifted IT types that I know, and I will have you a world-class email reading program in 18 months. Guaranteed. But the days of one single person writing a world-class GUI-based program in his back room are over. You do the math. That's 90 man-months of work. That's 7.5 *YEARS* of work for one person. Err... yeah. Not happening. If I could interest other Linux geeks in the problem that'd be one thing. But Linux geeks appear more interested in making sure that Linux runs fast on 1024-core processors. Apparently they're fine with using gmail.google.com to read their email, because they're sure not reading it on their Linux systems.

- Badtux the Geeky Penguin


  1. Maybe Mr. penguin might consider being a ludite.

  2. I am not a Linux geek by any stretch of the imagination - I'm firmly in the I-just-want-it-to-work school. But I am quite pleased running Xubuntu 8.04 on a creaky old laptop at home; it's fast and hasn't broken down on me yet. And yes, I read my email on gmail because
    a) it works all the time too and
    b) my messages are there at gmail.com, where I can get to them from anywhere and
    c) I'm stuck using Outlook at work, why repeat the experience at home.

  3. Speaking as a linux guy, I have absolutely no interest in implementing an interface to a proprietary protocol, such as Microsoft Exchange, which the Borg can -- and does -- change whenever they feel like it.

    Remember the Borg in Star Trek, who would change their shield methodology every time they took a few hits. I guarantee you, if thunderbird incorporated a MS Exchange interface tomorrow, there would shortly be a new version of the protocol which would break thunderbird.

    There are already long-standing standards for email exchange -- pop, SMTP, etc.

    Sorry that you've been assimilated -- but the only thing that can be done once that happens is try to avoid the contagion...

  4. See? That's *exactly* the attitude that I was talking about on the part of Linux geeks. They're, like, "why would anybody ever want to use something newer than a 20 year old protocol that was designed for an Internet that was entirely academics and defense contractors? And gosh, why would anybody *ever* want to read corporate email anyhow?"

    I can avoid Exchange quite easily by being an unemployed bum. But every single corporation I've worked for over the past ten years has been Exchange. Every single one of them. That's because of the close integration between calendar, email, and address book that Exchange offers -- integration that *NOTHING* in the Linux world offers. Nothing. Absolutely nothing. Because Linux geeks simply don't think like real everyday users. They think like nerds, freaks, and dweebs, not like real people. And then you wonder why Linux usage on the desktop doesn't even break 1% in the surveys?

    'Nuff said. Linux nerds are the reason Linux will *never* get any desktop share, because they simply don't understand real people.

    - Badtux the Geeky Penguin

  5. badtux,

    Sorry, but "integration" in the sense you are using it is simply another term for "create a gaping security hole".

    And if you think it's so valuable to integrate the calendar and email program -- stick with Microsoft.

  6. Uhm, it's not whether *I* feel it's valuable or not. It's whether *REGULAR* people feel it's valuable or not. Like it or not, ordinary people do feel it's valuable, and thus both Outlook and Apple's Mail / iCal support the integration of calendaring and email that Exchange supports.

    Regarding security holes.... uhm.... you ARE aware that the vast majority of security breaches involving email have been in imap and smtp services, right? Exchange has used certificate authentication for quite some time now, while it's an optional thing with smtp. Indeed, in order to do a proxied ssl smtp transaction, I had to a) install Exim4 on my Red Hat Enterprise Linux 6 server, b) configure it with some very special magical arcane commands, and c) then, and only then, could I send smtp to my local branch office and have it proxied via SSL to the master email server in the data center (outgoing smtp is filtered at our firewall for obvious virus control reasons -- we have no desire to send penis porn spam to half the universe due to some moron executive clicking the wrong thing, and yes, it usually *is* the executives who do that kind of crap, executives are typically dumber than a box of rocks, being a grifter doesn't require brains, just a good line of bullshit and the right Mommy and Daddy). With Exchange, on the other hand, it Just Works. The domain controller tells the local Outlook that to go outbound it must proxy OWL via SSL to the remote Exchange, tells it what certificate identifies that remote Exchange (i.e., the user does *NOT* get presented with some certificate that he's asked to accept, which, invariably, he does -- even if the certificate is for an entirely *wrong* server due to caching domain server poisoning), and all is well.

    It seems to me that a) you don't have an understanding of the corporate environment, and b) have no idea what modern Microsoft email software is capable of doing. Congratulations. That makes you a typical Linux geek!

    - Badtux the Snarky Penguin

  7. badtux,

    Yeah, I'm just totally unaware of how safe Microsoft is. My office-mate just got an intro into that, and a colleague a couple of weeks ago -- they've both been on the receiving end of trojans and viruses contracted through email.

    I, on the other hand, have in a long career of using unix and linux, have never had such infect my system.


    And I'm very aware of how corporate America "works". And I'll admit up front that, for corporate America, Microsoft provides you with the service you want -- and deserve.

    Your rant is just another of the standard "linux doesn't do what I need, therefore linux sucks" rants. I'm not impressed.

    And I'll back you up on the fact that linux is not the OS of choice for the typical desktop user. Criticizing an OS for something it isn't intended to be leaves me unmoved.

  8. That last sentence is exactly why Linux will never have any market share on the desktop. It's not a case of technology -- MacOS is the same basic technology (Unix). It's a case of attitude. Linux geeks just don't think like users, so they don't care that Linux isn't useful on the desktop for anybody who isn't a software developer, because they're a software developer and it works fine for them so why bother?

    If Steve Jobs had thought like that, Macs would be selling a few hundred thousand copies a year to graphics artists and musicians, rather than having over 10% of the market for desktops now (and over 50% of the consumer laptop market)... but then, Steve actually cared about, well, actual user experience, while Linux geeks call users "losers" and disdain them. So it goes.

    - Badtux the un-blindered Penguin

  9. Oh yeah, my first experience with penis spam... must have been around 1998 or so. Red Hat 4.2. There was an rpc.bind exploit. A customer called saying they couldn't get into their email server. I didn't have the contract for their email server, but as a favor to them (since I had the database server contract), I took a look at the email server, booting it into single user mode and running my own shell environment rather than the one in bin / usr/bin. Yeppers, sure enough, the rpc.bind exploit had been used on it because they hadn't patched their system (gosh, how typical!), and the t0rn rootkit was installed. I looked at the outgoing mail queue and it was full of penis and breast enhancement spam (this was from a *school district*, mind you). I examined the file full of passwords that t0rn had gathered and tried one on our database server. Oops, the morons had used the same passwords on our database server, and sure enough, our database server had t0rn installed too. So anyhow, I told them to re-install their email server from scratch and *update the damned thing*, and then proceeded to re-install Linux on the database server just to make all the t0rn stuff was off of it (wasn't a big deal, all the data plus the database program itself were on a different partition because I'd been using Linux for enough years by then that I'd re-installed Linux dozens of times because upgrades back then were rather problematic), and there we are.

    Point being that no OS is immune to exploits, and given that Linux servers tend to be attached to fat pipes, they're a nice juicy target -- and are targeted.

    - Badtux the Linux Penguin

  10. badtux,

    It's really a bit low to bring out a straw man argument here. I never referred to users as "losers" -- so why did you imply that I did? And neither did anybody else here, so far as I can see.

    Linux cannot compete with Microsoft in the corporate environment for the same reason as, back in the ancient days, smaller companies could not compete with IBM or DEC in the corporate environment.

    Linux does not have a marketing department. It does not have a centralized organization. It doesn't have corporate lawyers.

    If there is going to be functionality you (or, more properly, the corporate masters you serve) want in linux, someone is going to have to step up and implement it. If it's not worth it to you to do it, then it will have to be someone else.

    Why would a company do this when their resulting effort could be negated by a simple protocol change on the part of Microsoft?

    Once you've explained this, maybe you can find someone to do it.

  11. badtux,

    A friend of mine had his (windows) machine off for a couple of weeks while he was on vacation. When he returned, he had hundreds of patches that had to be installed, and his system was unusable for the better part of a day.

    I don't believe that there is any operating system that is immune to bad management (failing to enforce password rules, keeping the system patched, failing to ensure physical security). Let me know if you find one.

    Do you know how the system you relate in the case you mention was hacked? Was it hacked from the outside, or was it (as linux systems usually are) by someone with access or by poor password security?

    Please note that linux systems are not, typically, rooted by simply clicking on an email, as windows systems almost universally are.

    So: sure, linux isn't immune. But it isn't corruptible by simply opening the wrong email.

  12. Uhm, I already mentioned which exploit it was. Google "rpc.bind" and get back to us -- it was a remote Internet exploit done from Romania or some such place (I don't recall the exact details, that was over 12 years ago after all!) that used a stack crash in rpc.bind to inject code into the system as root. The morons put their firewall as a bastion host (one network interface into the internal network, one outward-facing interface) so it turned into a rootkit vector into the local network too. Gah!

    Regarding the notion that Linux has no corporate sponsors... what's Red Hat? a croissant? What about Canonical, did they somehow vanish off the face of the Earth since their last release? Did Attachmate suck SUSE into a vacuum cleaner since they bought the carcass of Novell? And, uhm... who, exactly, is paying *my* salary, if not a corporation that's paying me to write Linux software? And, uhm, if writing an Exchange compatibility module is such a loser, why did Apple do it, and do it better than Outlook even?

    And you completely ignored my point that the newest Linux email client is a clone of Outlook 2003 -- i.e., an 8 year old technology that doesn't implement any of the new email paradigms that have come down the pike, such as unified inboxes. I mean, I have SEVEN DIFFERENT EMAIL ACCOUNTS for various roles I play -- my work role, my professional role as a Linux developer, my personal role as a human being with family and friends, my role as a ham radio operator, my role as an Apple user and advocate, my role as a snarky penguin... in Outlook 2010 I drag their inboxes to Favorites and all those inboxes are right there. In Apple Mail, all the inboxes get put into a single aggregate inbox (which I can also open to view individual component inboxes if I desire). Crap, even hoary old 1998-vintage Thunderbird at least puts inboxes together at the top of the display rather than doing the Evolution thing of scattering them all over God's creation. Where's the innovation? I don't see any...

    - Badtux the Innovation Penguin

  13. badtux,

    I hesitate to offer advice to one so knowledgeable, but, according to the FAQ for Evolution, If you would like to connect to an Exchange 5.5, 2000, 2003 or 2007 server via MAPI (as would Outlook), install the Exchange MAPI plugin. You can also use the Evolution Brutus Plugin at http://www.omesc.com/node/22. Evolution Brutus supports complete access to your Exchange mail, calendar and tasks.

    YMMV, of course.

  14. Yes, MAPI works IF YOU HAVE DIRECT ACCESS TO THE EXCHANGE SERVER. If, instead, you're using a PROXIED Exchange server via OWA because you're a branch office, it does NOT work because, uhm, OWA IS NOT MAPI.

    - Badtux the Exchanging Penguin

  15. Uhm, and Brutus is no longer available because its developer has abandoned it, but that's another story, and an all-too-common one.


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