Examining mail log files in Exchange Online..

.. just isn’t as good as Google Workspace.

I sent my local MP an email the other day regarding digital rights. That is, if you purchase something from the Apple TV store, or a Kindle book, or an Audible audiobook – you should have, at the very least, the rights to transfer them to another service (since breaking the DRM and making a backup copy is treading in a very grey area). 1

I thought I might get an automated reply to my email, but didn’t – so I wanted to check my mail server logs.

ALAS!

Unless you want data quickly, you have very limited options. Essentially anything outside the defaults will result in Microsoft’s server having to work hard to get the data you want – and that means waiting. In Google Workspace, you can define a series of filters and get your results back instantaneously.

I’ve been waiting 10 minutes already and the report isn’t complete, and I asked for all outgoing mail that was sent yesterday to be listed and the status of the delivery. This isn’t good, Microsoft. It shouldn’t take this long for something so simple. I’m the only user of the service!


1 One reason that brought this up – Amazon is giving me some cause for concern (along with removing features from Prime Video TV that are now an extra cost without telling anybody about it first). This is crazy given Amazon sells TVs – and TVs with those very features it now demands extra payment for. And like most U.S. tech companies, if they keep acquiring more companies (like they did MGM), prices will continue to rise to pay for the acquisition.

I think Amazon yields too much power across a variety of industries and services (shopping, TV streaming, computing and many more besides). One of my prime (geddit – Amazon Prime) concerns is that having sent them an email about an issue I’m having, days went by without any answer, so I contacted them again. I was told they never received my email. I proved them wrong (at least the email delivery between me and their server). For crying out loud, they run one of the world’s biggest computing platforms and they’re telling me they never received my email. What a load of crap.

I also find it really difficult to get in touch with customer service – they rarely publish a telephone number. It’s either a text chat or being sent through the labyrinth of help articles until you go mad and give up. When you do get to customer service it’s through to an international call centre where the operator usually speaks English as a second language which can occasionally make it very difficult to communicate – plus they’re all working to scripts (which are often wrong too). Amazon are being cheap bastards, and it shows.

Microsoft Licensing.. grrr…

Just getting the right combination of licenses for Microsoft 365 is .. interesting. I’m currently using the full 60 day evaluation of Microsoft 365 Business Premium, Teams Premium, Teams Phone Standard and Domestic Calling Plan. Microsoft Defender for Business is being paid for right now, and dad is going to find out why soon enough 😉

I’m likely going to cancel the Teams Phone and Domestic Calling plan as, well, I have a mobile phone. But on the other hand, having an extra number which can be configured to do all sorts of things that I can’t do with a home line is another matter. I’ll be playing around for the next two months to see if the cost (around £15/month) is worthwhile – and that includes 50 hours of calls to both landlines and mobile phones.

When playing with the Teams Phone (which is effectively Skype for Business), I tried the International Calling Plan trial and was rather disappointed to discover that you need a physical address in the USA to get a phone number (for emergency services – the US has some weird rule that you need to provide a physical address for virtual phone numbers in case of an emergency). You also can’t allocate more than one phone number to a user even if two numbers are in different countries. So I cancelled that trial as it’s not just going to get much use. Would have been useful 10 years ago when I was conversing with a lady friend in Washington State, but.. *sigh*.

And the list of trial products I pretty much junked straight off:

I gave the WIndows 365 Business trial a go because even though I’m on Mac which is capable of running the ARM edition of Windows 11, and that in turn can run 64-bit Intel Windows applications (mostly), there are a few factors which prevent me from running certain applications. So having a Windows PC “in the cloud” seemed an interesting proposition. But the specs are too low and even with gigabits of bandwidth at one’s disposal – it’s slow. Slow and expensive. No thanks, Microsoft.

I continue to explore and play with Microsoft 365 and I must say despite the confusing licensing system, it’s actually great fun – and I’m learning more and more that’s helping me in my job. Heck, I’m even thinking of asking work if they’d be able to support a certification or two.

Asking customers to pay through the nose for A.I. without a trial is a BIG ask

Up first, bodged UI of the week goes to Adobe’s Frame.io. Try deleting the one and only project and you’ll end up in an infinite loop of Whoops.

But as I settle down into Microsoft 365 Business Premium land, the one thing that really gets my goat is Microsoft’s gaul for charging nearly £30 per user per month for its A.I. Copilot service. With Google Workspace you pay a similar charge, though you can pay monthly and you get a free 30 day trial. With Microsoft, you WILL pay up front for a year and bloody well like it, and there’s no free trial.

Asking customers to rely on your new fancy-pants artificial intelligence service and asking them to fork out the money up front without testing it first is rather cheeky, some would say. I say: Microsoft are taking flippin’ liberties. I have no idea how it works, how well it works, and does it justify a nearly £30 per user per month cost? Google’s Duet didn’t. It was pathetically meagre.

This weekend’s tech project: Moving to Microsoft 365 Business Premium from Google Workspace

I’ve been using Google Workspace from 2006 onwards when it was first called Google Apps For Your Domain. It’s been rebranded a few times along the way, but essentially I’ve been a paying customer of Google Workspace since it was possible to do so. I’ve used almost all levels of the service – from Business Starter through to Enterprise Plus – and it’s been interesting playing with all the features it has to offer.

But for the past 6 years, I’ve been using Microsoft 365 at work. We migrated away from Google Workspace at KPS to Microsoft 365 as part of the company standardising on one platform. I didn’t handle the migration – that was something our German partners were responsible for. Thank goodness they did the heavy lifting because I’m personally moving to Microsoft 365 (Business Premium) and found migrating is a massive pain in the arse and I have only ONE account to migrate. I’m doing this because if you can’t beat ’em, join ’em. Also: I’m doing a lot of work supporting Microsoft 365 right now and it’d be good to get properly under the hood without affecting production. I take enough backups of my own stuff that it doesn’t really matter if I muck things up with my own set-up. This will be the first time I’ve really used Exchange Online in anger.

I thought migrating might be easy – and with the Microsoft 365 console, it appears to be – though a lot of fuss has to be made over subdomains. Even using the automatic settings of Google Workspace within the Microsoft 365 Exchange admin console results in abject failure. I even tried BitTitan, but that just sat there and shat itself after taking a age to do anything and with little to no on-screen feedback (and this is why I often hate the cloud).

So, I’ve reverted to do a straight forward IMAP migration, but even that had issues. I initially tried an app password after enabling IMAP for the Google Workspace domain – but that didn’t seem to work until I realised that you had to leave in the spaces that Google gives you for the app password.

When testing IMAP, I downloaded Thunderbird and tested the login credentials that way. Google’s security is good – it wouldn’t let me log in if I disabled 2FA. But re-enabling 2FA and setting up a password (and making note to leave in the spaces) got me started. I updated the user CSV file that you need to upload to Microsoft, and the process started successfully.

I wanted to die many time when the API process failed. Thankfully IMAP migration seems to work.

I had to consult with Google Workspace support in getting IMAP to work, and as you can see from this conversation with the support agent, I get praise for being “the most patient and polite person he’s ever worked with”. He wouldn’t have said if he had discovered that I had destroyed two decent keyboards over the course of the years – out of a fit of absolute rage. I don’t get angry often, but if I’m provoked enough, keys will fly..

You wouldn’t like me when I’m angry… but thankfully I tend to remain calm, patient and polite 99.999% of the time

Anyway, things are now up and running on Microsoft 365 and I’m happy. Well, mostly happy. I’ve signed up for afi.ai backup (which I’ve been using with Google Workspace) for backups and Microsoft’s APIs keep seem to be throttling the backups. It may be due to the IMAP migration going on in the background. I don’t know. I’ll be keeping an eye out for the next week or so.

What amused me was issuing PowerShell commands from a Mac terminal. There are a few things that are quicker or can only be performed using PowerShell for Exchange services, so I downloaded and installed PowerShell for Mac ARM64. It’s all rather bizarre.

PowerShell.. for MacOS ARM64!

The whole set-up will cost me around £25/month for the one user license after the month’s free trial. But this cost is similar to that of the Google Enterprise Plus subscription. I’ll continue to buy the personal 5-user edition of Microsoft 365 as my family makes use of it – £65/year is a bargain and I’ll be using the 1Tb storage as additional backup space.

And what of Google Workspace and my Google account? Well, if it all works out, I’ll be deleting Google Workspace which will also probably mean me losing my YouTube channel and videos (which are already backed up). This is my major gripe with modern identity management – having a single identity to cover so many different services poses a risk if the account were to ever be locked or closed. Trying to get a consumer Google account will be.. interesting.

Another IT fail..

This made me chuckle

If there is one thing that really gets on my nerves is that every localised search engine used in web applications or mobile apps are usually absolutely rubbish. Even YouTube has problems – I usually find what I want by using Microsoft’s Bing, strangely enough, as that does a better job searching for specific YouTube videos than YouTube’s own search engine. Bing can find stuff within YouTube descriptions when YouTube’s own search engine seemingly cannot (although it is meant to).

This is another thing that leaves me bitterly disappointed in modern information technology.

No adverts in Google Workspace? Think again.

I am so incredibly angry with Google (but similarly with Microsoft and Apple who also pull this kind of shit). I pay Google for business-grade email that’s supposed to have no adverts. But this morning I discover this when logging into Gmail:


It’s an advert informing me that if I upgrade my edition of Google Workspace, I can protect my data with Google Vault. Firstly, this isn’t entirely true – Google Vault isn’t what you think it is. Secondly, why the bloody hell am I seeing this in my Gmail account? Do other administrators see it? Why did Google think it was such a good idea to put it in Gmail and not the administrative interface where it may have been better received?

In any event, promoting your own products this way is an utterly shitty way to go about things and it isn’t just Google that does this. Microsoft does it with Windows 11 and Apple does it with just about every device they sell. It’s intrusive, self-servicing, and potentially anti-competitive. And most of the time I’m already aware of what they offer, how much it costs, and what it does. Or I already have it. Pointless and <CENSORED> annoying.

I really hope that the EU commission and UK CMA investigate US Big Tech’s use of this kind of advertising and slap them with substantial fines, or – better still – threaten to break them up or kick them out.