Sunday, February 28, 2010

From the Learn Something New Department

About 10 or 12 years ago I began using a little-known (at least in the USA) proprietary e-mail program called "The Bat". I used the program for years, but over time I became more & more immersed in mainstream corporate and IT environments, and I concluded life would be indescribably more simple if I just used Outlook for all of my e-mail accounts, both personal and business. (I still intend to segregate business and non-business emails within Outlook.)

So I needed to extract my decade+ worth of messages from The Bat and import them into Outlook. That task was nothing I looked forward to, so for over a year I've been using the web interface from my ISP to manage my personal emails, while I put off the necessary task of exporting my data from The Bat.

Tonight I need some information from an old email message buried somewhere in my The Bat data, so I finally bit the bullet and have begun trying to move the data into Outlook.

Here's where things get interesting. To be clear, I'm using the word interesting to suggest "What a damnpainintheneckwhyohwhydidMicrosofteverdosuchastupidthing!!!!!%$%#^&@*)".

I don't think it's possible to export the messages from The Bat directly into a format Outlook 2007 can import. I AM able to, with some minor futzing around, to export the data from The Bat and import it into Windows Live Mail. (I have Windows Live Mail, not simply Windows Mail, because I needed to examine it for a client.)

So with a moderate amount of effort I've moved a specific subset of my messages into Windows Live Mail. So far, so good.

Windows Live Mail is a Microsoft product. Outlook 2007 is a Microsoft product. Neither product is particularly exotic, and it's a no-brainer that I should be able to export messages out of Windows Live Mail and import them into Outlook 2007.

As a matter of fact, that IS easily done. But there's a really, really aggravating screw-you in the process. Unlike every other computer program I've ever used in my life, when I export the data from WLM, I am not asked where I want the exported data saved, and I am also not informed as to where WLM is going to save the data for me.

SO tonight I ran the export repeatedly, trying to sleuth out where exactly the data was being saved. I searched my hard drive for .pst files. (A .pst file is the file format Outlook uses for local data.) I checked time stamps. I made sure I turned on hidden file visibility.

Finally, I looked at a Microsoft user forum focused on Windows Live Mail, and found my answer. WLM helpfully took the messages I was trying to import into Outlook, and added them into the PST already being used by Outlook.

The result is that I now have 13,622 messages, spanning approximately 13 months, stored in the same Inbox that holds my business email messages from the last 12 years. Everything is mingled together, nice and cozy.


I'd already set up a brand-new folder, specifically for the personal emails. And while I was trying to figure this out I probably ran the export at least 4 times, so I may have about 55,000 of these messages when you include duplicates.

For those of you that aren't familiar with the way these processes USUALLY work, the program I want to export the data FROM will typically ask to where do you want to save the exported data, and that program will create a file in the spot you specify. THEN, in the program that you want to use the data going forward, you would import the data yourself, specifying where you want the new program to maintain the data.

For WLM to take it upon itself to just put the data into Outlook for me, without telling me where the data would be inserted, is REALLY, REALLY RUDE.

IMPORTANT UPDATE: As it turns out, Windows Live Mail exports the messages into whatever the default 'drop-point' is for Outlook. As my Outlook was configured to place messages into the server-based mailbox by default, that's where the exported messages were placed.

And as it works out I ran the export a total of 5 times - adding about 60,000 messages to my Inbox. Aside from the additional clutter and the undesirability of hqaving my personal and business communications mixed, Outlook then couldn't send/receive within a reasonable amount of time as it was busy trying to upload 60,000 messages to the server during the sync process. I cancelled the sync and spent well over an hour trying to find all of the personal emails and move them to the appropriate folder.

WLM Developers -- BAD. BAD. BAD! THINK!

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Let it snow, let it snow....

So I moved from the New Orleans area up to the frigid & often rude northeast almost 12 years ago. Yes, property taxes are insane, strangers are less friendly, and anything automobile-related is downright hostile. You can add to the list of negatives the aggravations associated with snowfall - it's cold, damp, impacts traffic, requires painful and tedious shoveling, etc...

BUT, most people will admit, it's very pretty to look at:

I took the above pics walking around my house today. After a snowfall the entire world just seems more tranquil and serene. The world, when the kids aren't home, is quiet. Mardi Gras raucousness is surely something to appreciate and celebrate, but if I can't be down South partying as Argus rolls by, I can enjoy the snow up here.

(Full disclosure: I'm not, of course, blowing off Mardi Gras entirely! I've had authentic King Cakes sent to me, & this evening will be taking my family out to dinner at The New Orleans Steakhouse in Jefferson, NJ for the third year in a row, to attend their Mardi Gras party.)

Friday, February 05, 2010

Too Good To Be True?

Over time I've accumulated a lot of old computer junk. Some was purchased, but a lot was given to me by others after the particular item was replaced due to malfunction, old age, or obsolescence.

Printing in our home has been a mess for a long time.

As this week began, there were 10 printers in my house:
* HP 612C - given to me when a friend replaced it - no clue as to its condition
* HP 682C - was Jessica's, purchased in the late-90s. This printer worked up until a housecat attacked it while it was printing something a few years ago. Since then it had paperfeed issues.
* HP 3620V - given to me, never removed from box - unknown condition
* HP LaserJet 5L -- frequent paper misfeeds
* HP PSC500 All-In-One -- Untested - got this as part of a bundle, used, from CL or Freecycle a long time ago - was reported to work perfectly, I've never opened it. (includes box)
* Canon Pixma ip4000 -- works sporadically - I think it needs a new printhead ($50). When it prints, it is a beautiful printer.
* Okidata OL600e - needs drum and paper pickup rollers. As-is it provides a readable, but marred printout, and has paper pickup issues.
* Primera inkjet CD printer -- hasn't been used in 5 or 6 years, probably.


* Lexmark Z52 with unopened black ink cartridge -- works perfectly, but there is no Win7 64-bit driver for it. This has been used regularly by Jessica (from WIndows XP) for sometime now. We bought the printer shortly after Nate was born in 2001.
* Okidata OL400e -- works great if something small is placed underneath it to press up on the paper tray, otherwise has paper misfeeds (needs revitalized pickup rollers) I keep a small notepad underneath it and it works flawlessly. This printer has been used regularly by me from my Windows 7 laptop. I bought this printer new in 1993 or 1994.

In order to print to either of the printers from our laptops I had to print through a Windows 2000 desktop on my network. I've never found a USB printserver that worked properly, and the Okidata is a parallel printer so it wouldn't connect to modern equipment anyway.

The desktop is 10 or 11 years old and I'd like to decommission it altogether.

The final motivating factor was a recent purchase of a ReadyNAS storage unit. The ReadyNAS has 1TB (mirrored) storage, so I can move all of the data on three un- or underused desktops in my house on to the NAS, and then get rid of the three desktop PCs. That will reduce noise, heat, clutter, and electricity use in my house. PLUS, the ReadyNAS has a printserver built-in. Considering this isn't a low-end budget device I'm hopeful the printserver might even work.

So yesterday I posted an offer on Craigslist. I described 8 printers I had (forgot abotu two of them at the time), and wrote that I'd like to trade all of them for one decent USB printer that was Windows 7-compatible.

This afternoon I completed the trade. I gave the 10 above printers to somebody, and in return he gave me a brand-new, still factory-sealed in the box Hewlett Packard CD055A.

He and his girlfriend came to pick the old printers up and seemed genuinely happy about the haul, explaining that they planned to recycle the old printers. Obviously I was thrilled to get a good, new, printer that I can use on the network from all of our computers.

Plus, the printer has wireless functionality built-in so I don't even need to use the printserver on the ReadyNAS if I don't want to do so.

Everything seems too good to be true, but so far all seems OK. Admittedly I haven't removed the printer from the box yet, but I expect it to be exactly as if I'd brought it home from Staples myself.

It will be a mystery for me.