Lately I’ve been spending less time coding and designing web sites and more time troubleshooting Microsoft products. It wouldn’t be so bad except that there are so many other options available that just plain WORK and don’t require a PHD in untangling knots to get them to work correctly.

One client has her email hosted on Exchange. Every time an email comes into Outlook, the default reply is some crappy “” which gets set up when you establish this tomfoolery, and you can’t get rid of it! Or even change the name or cloak it! The only way to get a default reply field as your email is to use the online version of this software. Outlook just can’t seem to change this, even installing add-ons. Well there is a PAID one but the client is already paying $6 per month per email. Instead you have to manually select the reply-to address in a drop down.

So that’s one of about 15 problems, another was that getting that exchange email to send and work from a WordPress install using SMTP, the guys on the forum couldn’t figure it out, most of the web hosts tech support couldn’t figure it out (oh no, we don’t support third party SMTP scripts, anything else? have a nice day), finally, finally, after searching the WordPress forums someone said something about changing their email settings to not send or receive mail locally… did some digging and discovered that there are these things called Mail Exchange (MX) settings. They look and read totally scary but there was an option there to turn off local delivery (making it sound like you’d never receive another piece of email again!) and change the pointer to the server. This was after a two page thread on the Exchange forum and three conversations with Bluehost. (And Brett on Bluehost, you are an asshole. No thanks to you for ending our chat while refusing to look at the conversation that got dumped onto you.)

Since she’s not a big corporation, I’m hoping to get her shifted over to Google Apps. They make you sign up for the trial first, but you can delete the business apps and just have the free ones. They don’t advertise this anywhere. I’m trying to do this with another business I’m trying to promote but the email isn’t working consistently.. so I’m wanting to use Google Apps but I have to go in and change that MX setting I mentioned above to use it… and in Plesk it is not available to me, maybe I don’t have the correct permissions? I don’t know, I’m not going to spam people about our business services unless the email works! Control Panel, how I long for thee!

Now this client’s father is not exactly the most computer savvy person in the world but he does pay the bills and has six domains that needed attention. And his old mail worked when it was on a different server using Windows Live Mail. Why didn’t it work now? There’s nothing in the sent items folder! I gave myself an account, fired up VirtualBox with Windows 7 and installed Windows Live, and low and behold it wasn’t just the client: it was not storing any copies of sent mail on the server. (Thunderbird was even more buggy.) Turns out, you have to go into the account’s property settings, hit the far tab on the right and type a path for the sent items: Inbox. They do show up in your ‘storage folders’ which are not shown by default (these are just local copies anyway). These settings wouldn’t be filled in unless you’re using IMAP. So of course they’re not advertised well when setting up an account, as they expect you to use POP.

I have another client who is trying to publish a book and needs to share the images for the book with me. Being that they are going to be in print they are going to be large. He has supposedly tried three times to share images with me from Sky Drive. I’ve sent him two share requests through the site to test it and see from his view. Mine got through to him, but so far nothing FROM him. For the amount of time messing around with yet another crappy MS product that doesn’t work without a PhD in onion peeling, I could have had him install Drop Box and share everything in a matter of minutes.

Now I don’t know who makes Plesk, but I will refuse any web host who offers this nonsense as part of their back end services.

*Update: I did manage to get into the correct place in Plesk after the host adjusted my account settings so I could get to the access point. Still not a fan of this backendware!