iOS 9 + Autodiscover + Amazon WorkMail

I kept seeing the error “Exchange Account: Unable to verify account information.” while configuring my iOS 9 devices for access to my Amazon AWS WorkMail account. I gave it several days hoping DNS propagation would address the issue. I verified every setting and DNS record possible. I reset devices, accounts, and passwords. Then I read the following very carefully:

The client performs the following AutoDiscover phases to detect the server endpoint URLs:

Phase 1: The client performs a SCP lookup against the local Active Directory. If your client isn’t domain-joined, AutoDiscover skips this step.
Phase 2: The client sends a request to the following URLs and validates the results. These endpoints are only available using HTTPS.
Phase 3: The client performs a DNS lookup and sends an unauthenticated GET request to the derived endpoint from the user’s email address. If the server returns a 302 redirect, the client resends the AutoDiscover request against the returned HTTPS endpoint.

My problem turned out to be “Phase 2”. Because there was web hosting configured the A record for my TLD was allowing the first query which returns my web provider’s https://company.tld/… response rather than my WorkMail’s… domain’s response. I deleted the “A” record and boom…autodiscover worked from my iOS device successfully.

Of course, I could have probably resolved the issue on my website, but all it does is redirect to this blog so I can deal with that another day.

I tried the Pebble and didn’t like it

Why in the world would I, a virtual Apple Fanboy, watch the live announcement of the Apple Watch with great enthusiasm and then immediately go purchase a Pebble Steel?

The Display

Sure, eye-popping retina super high-color sounds great and all, but what I really want is to be able to see what I want to see at a glance. I have read e-books on my iPad, a Kindle Fire, and a Kindle Paperwhite. By far, the best experience is on the Paperwhite simply because of the display. When reading a book, it is not the animation or color or any other kind of bling that improves upon the experience–it is the content. The electronic paper style of display simply provides a superior experience in a wider variety of lighting conditions. In full sun the contrast is excellent and does not require shielding the display to attempt to read the content. In a dark room only a subtle backlight is required to make the display easily readable without blinding you with the intensity of a smartphone’s harshly lit LCD. You don’t need entertainment–you need content.

The Buttons

The digital crown sounds like an excellent method of scrolling if you have small fingers and are not wearing gloves (and do not have long fingernails). I might very well change my mind on this after I play with it some day, but I don’t think that it is going to be a very convenient method for providing very quick responses to a very simple user interface. Watch the demonstration videos. It appears to require quite a bit of attention to the digital crown to be able to scroll, zoom, and select because of all of the available features. Having four very easily accessible buttons has been very suitable for the features that I want out of this device.

The Gimmicks

Sharing my heartbeat with someone? Drawing tiny pictures as a communications mechanism? Tapping morse code on their wrist? Nah, but thanks anyway. The walkie-talkie feature might be interesting, but it seems Apple has taken the strategy of throwing a bunch of stuff against the wall to see what sticks rather than delivering a laser-focused yet dramatically superior product.

The Battery

No mention of the battery life? Can’t be good news. Apple has a mixed history with battery life (MacBook Air vs. iPhone), and I doubt this many high-performance features will come without a power cost–especially given the effort in making charging easy and failing to mention how long it will last without a charge.

The Integration

Pebble on iOS has some rather weak access to features of the iPhone. For example, without a jailbroken phone you can’t send simple SMS replies or activate Siri. The deep integration between the iPhone and Apple Watch will have to open up additional APIs to allow Pebble deeper access to notifications and messaging features. If that is not the case, I can’t see how Apple is not inviting an anti-trust suit. In other words, I expect the Apple Watch to make the Pebble experience on iOS better in the long run.

Don’t get me wrong, I see a lot of things that I would like to have in the Apple Phone that I will never get out of this Pebble:

  • Siri Dictation
  • Walkie-Talkie
  • Colorful Maps
  • Touch control of Apple TV
  • Passbook / Payments

But, in the end I really just wanted a few critical features from my smart watch such as being able to tell time, showing caller ID information, reading messages, seeing who new emails are from,  and keeping up with news alerts. So far, my Pebble Steel is doing that well.

Update 2014-09-12 – I am unhappy

You had one job, Pebble. Notify me! Why are you letting me down? For reasons unknown to me I only get about 75% of email notifications delivered to my Pebble. About 95% of text messages make it through–but not all of them. Combine that with the content of every iCloud email being the single word “Loading”, and I am a bit disappointed right now. I have a support request into Pebble, but after 18 hours all I have received in return is an automated response. The clock is ticking before I get my money back from Best Buy.

Update 2014-09-14 – I returned it

First, Pebble support was not very helpful. I didn’t get anything out of them other that what was on their website already (in other words no support at all). But, I did finally understand the problem. If the Pebble app is not running on my phone I will not get notifications. It is that simple. As long as I am not using my phone for anything else and the Pebble app is still running in the background everything was great, but as soon as I started using other applications Pebble would eventually get closed and I would stop receiving notifications. Each time the notifications stopped I would launch the Pebble app. Instead of it resuming where it was last, I would see the splash screen and the default initial display indicating the app was not running before. Notifications would be fine for the next period of time until the application was closed again. After restarting the Pebble app about seven times yesterday I had enough. The Pebble has been returned to Best Buy (who gave me no difficulty in obtaining and full-priced refund).

Now, can I put up with the things I don’t like about the Apple Watch (non e-paper display) and might not like about the Apple Watch (the digital crown and battery life)? I guess I’ll find out in “Early 2015”.

Step 1: Believe

Would it have been possible to invent an airplane if no one believed heavier-than-air flight was possible? Would it have been possible to break the sound barrier if no one believed that it was possible? Would it have been possible to send satellites into orbit if no one believed that it was possible?

Although accidental discovery can lead to breakthroughs in technology, more often than not there is a person with a belief that the impossible-to-date is actually possible. First, believe. Once you have yourself convinced and committed you will either succeed or fail. But, if you refuse to believe then you fail before you start.

Xbox One

So Microsoft is touting the new Xbox One today. I’m not terribly impressed so far. It seems to be a whole lot more about convergence of media devices than about next generation gaming.

Watch movies and play games in stunning HD with a Blu-ray player.

Ok, my Blu-Ray player already does that. I also heard that the “new” PlayStation 3 is going to get that in 2006.

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Moore, Oklahoma

In 1987 a tornado ripped through Palestine, Texas and destroyed the A.M. Story Elementary School where I was a fifth grade student. But unlike what happened in Moore, Oklahoma today, there were no kids there at the time. It was a Sunday afternoon. One of my teachers was there, but was unharmed in the damage as the tornado seemed to have left that single classroom intact.

Moore was not as fortunate today when a much more devastating tornado did not choose a weekend, a holiday, a time after school had let out, or a summer to release its furious energy upon Oklahoma.

I try to consider myself “blessed” to have been personally spared the experience of that occurring to my school when I was there, but I cannot assume that the children, teachers, and families somehow deserved less blessing than I did.

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WinHEC Day 3

I have heard claims (here on Slashdot and here on apc) that Vista is the last 32-bit client OS. I have only heard that Windows Server 2008 will be the last 32-bit available server OS. Unless I missed something, Microsoft has not excluded the client operating systems from having 32-bit versions. Did I miss it? The article refers to Bill Laing’s keynote; however, I am pretty sure that was only in reference to servers.

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WinHEC Day 2 (Part 2)

Lesson Learned: When thousands of computer nerds are going to be in town for WinHEC, don’t stay in the hotel with free Internet access (like the Holiday Inn City Center, LA, CA). Otherwise, your call to the front desk may also be responded to with “I am sorry sir but the number of people accessing the Internet is overloading our bandwidth. If you are patient and try again later I am sure the system will have reset itself.” By my lack of another update last night I am sure you can tell that it didn’t “reset itself”.

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WinHEC Day 2 (Part 1)

Day two of WinHEC has so far been better than the first. Whereas the Mike Nash and Bill Laing keynotes were rather dry and difficult to sit through, Mark Russinovich was a breath of fresh air for the conference. Maybe Microsoft purchased his company last year, but they haven’t yet assimilated him into the Borg that the remainder of Microsoft seems to be.

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WinHEC Day 1

Day one of Microsoft’s Windows Hardware Engineering Conference has drawn to a close. The most remarkable thing is that nothing is remarkable (to me). Bill Gates and Craig Mundie delivered their keynote speeches this morning. Bill’s highlights included calling Windows Code Name “Longhorn” Windows Server 2008 (which has been on the web for quite a while), turning the show over to a couple of Microsoft PM’s who demonstrated the ease of use of installing Windows Vista certified hardware on Windows Vista and interoperability with Windows Vista devices, and turning the show over to a Microsoft PM who demonstrated some of Windows Home Server. Vista is no longer news at this point in time and I find a keynote that I expected to be focused on the future directions of Microsoft and Windows plagued with highlights of recent accomplishments.

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Determining the version of a file in Windows using Win32 API

Microsoft makes some things harder than they should be. One of those things is determining the version information of an executable file from C/C++ using the Win32 API. Here is the pattern:

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