Groupwise webmail – a rant

I have been saying nice things about openSUSE, which is part of Novell, and Novell is now part of Attachmate.  So, in some sense, I have been heaping praise on Novell.  Now it is time for the anti-praise of Novell.  I am required to use Groupwise mail by my university campus.  Campus adminstrative mail is sent using Groupwise.  I guess somebody on campus likes it, though I am not sure why.  To me, Groupwise is a piece of worthless junk.

Back when I was full time faculty (I am now semi-retired), I had the Groupwise client software bloatware installed on my office Windows system.  So I would occasionally bring up the Groupwise client to check for mail.  But now that I am only teaching part time, I read most mail from home.  Thus, I use the Groupwise webmail interface rather try installing their bloatware on my computer.

I have just finished my morning check of Groupwise email.  Most of it is what I call spam.  Typically, it is from some do-gooder on campus who thinks that what they do is so important, that everybody on campus has to be informed about it by email.  But I guess that’s what you expect.  Some of the spam is from off-campus, typically from some corporation that thinks what it does is so essential to education, that they must send email about it to all faculty.

The webmail client uses encryption (ssl).  That’s fine.  Since I am required to give a password, it should be encrypted.  They make the whole interface encrypted, and not just the part where I sign in.

While reading email this morning – it was one of those corporate spam messages from Oracle – I notice at the top of the page “GroupWise has prevented images on this page from displaying. Click here to display images.”  Well, okay, that’s good practice.  When the email has links to images, don’t automatically open them, because links in email can be web bugs that are used as tracking.  There were still images on the page, coming from the groupwise webmail server itself.  And there can still be images seen in the mail, if the message contains the complete image instead of a link to an image.  So I approve the precautionary blocking of links to images.

Here’s the problem.  While opening that email, firefox gave an alert “You have requested an encrypted page that contains some unencrypted information.”  Why does that happen?  It is because the email uses a background image, accessed via a link.  And the completely idiotic Groupwise webmail software is allowing that background image to go through.  Sorry Groupwise or Novell or Attachmate (whatever should I call you), but this is just stupid.  Background images could be used as web bugs just as easily as foreground images.  It makes no sense to block one class of images, but not the other.

While I am ranting about Groupwise webmail, here’s another problem.  It does not give me easy access to the message headers.  I can click on “properties” and see the date, sender and subject information.  But the other header information is not visible unless I download the message as a file, and then examine it on my own computer.


About Neil Rickert

Mathematician and computer scientist who dabbles in cognitive science.

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