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How to set up a Blackberry with Exchange (without using Blackberry Enterprise server)

Since this article was written in Jan 2007, it is now possible to do the following:- 

  • On the Blackberry- an application called NotifySync* has been developed which can be installed on the Blackberry and uses ActiveSync for full mailbox synchronisation over the air. We use this for our own customers and recommend it as a solution.
  • On your Server - BlackBerry Professional Software Express which provides the functionality of 'Blackberry Enterprise Server for Exchange' for small businesses and it comes with 1 free user and can grow up to 30 users.
  • With your mobile/cellphone provider - IMAP and Outlook Web Access (OWA) have been made available via the Blackberry Internet Service (BIS) with mobile/cellphone providers. This supports synchronisation of your mail with move/delete (not calendar/contacts/tasks though)

which all provide a superior solution to this setup. However not all situations are equal and there may sometimes be reasons for reproducing the setup below and is kept for historical reasons and for its comments.

Most individuals that use their Blackberry in a small businesses environment would not buy Blackberry Enterprise Server for Exchange as it is simply too expensive and quite pointless for one or two users. Here is one method to bypass this and use the (UK) mobile phone providers Blackberry infrastructure and run it in conjunction with your Exchange system. (I'll also mention here that runPCrun can provide fully managed Microsoft Exchange hosting*  with the ability to add full "over the air" Blackberry synchronisation - starting at £14 p/mailbox/month, call us if you are interested in this.)

The main main advantages of the following set-up compared to just setting up standard POP3 collection are:-

  • immediate (push) delivery of messages (rather that waiting for the Blackberry service to poll the POP3 provider)
  • No need to open POP3 ports through your firewall
  • Items sent via your Blackberry are kept in your Sent Items in Outlook/Exchange.

This is attained with a little bit of tweaking and performs very well, although (obviously) the calendar,notes and tasks are not synchronised over the Internet as with the full blown server. In a small company this is not an issue and the synchronisation can occur easily using the cradle.

What this method does in a nutshell - when an email is received, it is forwarded immediately to a mobile providers blackberry address. When a new mail or reply is sent from the Blackberry, it is sent masquerading as the Exchange email, and a copy is BCC'ed to the Exchange email address. This email is the sorted into the Sent Items folder using a server side rule.

The steps to attain this are thus:-

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Create your own VNC support package in 640Kb

Like a lot of people, a lot of my friends are computer-savvy - either they are in the field or have grown up with them and like using them. With that comes the expected responsibility, usually family or sometimes friends will say "My computers broken, come and fix it for me"

Assuming you are going to help them (one friend came up with the solution of telling people they need a new PC every single time or taking their PC home with them and never bothering to return it) carting yourself to your parents/family/friends every time they have an issue or question is not always convenient, so remote assistance (of course!) is the answer.

Now, there is a remote assistance built into XP. However, unless both sides are set up with uPnP routers, Windows XP, MSN messenger (and some luck) it can be troublesome.
With this in mind, we created a package at runPCrun using the popular and open source TightVNC. We've used it successfully for many years at runPCrun using reverse connections to get around the problem of NAT traversal and it's always worked very well.

I'm releasing a cut down version of the Inno Setup source we use to package it, along with simple instructions for you to follow to create your own support package.
It's a simple piece of scripting but it can be deployed quite effectively. Now I am aware there are things like UltraVNC Single Click (here is a good Lifehacker article on the subject), and it definitely has it's place and we use it ourselves. However two main limitations apply

  • It can't be run as service, so no logoff/logon can be performed and Ctrl-Alt-Del is not supported.
  • Other useful utilities aren't packaged with it
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Using Callbacks in RT

We've used Best Practical's Request Tracker (RT) for several years now for managing both customer support queries and our own internal processes, and over that time I've always customised it by simply hacking the existing Mason pages and putting them in rt3/local/ to override the original versions. However this is always a huge pain when it comes to upgrades as I have to backport all my changes to the new version.

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