I’ve been doing a bit more testing of using Google Apps for pupil email this week, and all I can say is that if the adverts in GMail really are tailored to the messages in your inbox, this has to be a bad omen:
If you’re wondering, it really was a recipe for spam tortillas.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m very glad that the Google Apps .NET API library exists. Unfortunately, the documentation can be a little obscure, and there isn’t a lot in the way of example code around for it, especially when it comes to OAuth. Even the official documentation page has only a single .NET example, and that uses an API call that is deprecated in the latest version.
To make matters worse, getting user data out of Gmail isn’t really supported at all by the Google Apps API. You can change settings and provision accounts, but not get any actual email. However, there is a single feed for Gmail to retrieve unread email details in Atom format, and you can use it with 2-legged OAuth. This isn’t mentioned at all on the page that lists the API scopes, and there’s no official support for it. But it works.
The big advantage of using 2-legged OAuth, in case you’re unaware, is that you (as the Google Apps administrator) can create an application which retrieves data for your users without them having to supply their credentials or go through the standard OAuth approval mechanism. This is especially advantageous in, say, a web portal application in a school. You need to set up 2-legged OAuth in the control panel to get your consumer key and secret, but that’s the easy part.
I recently happened upon a Computerworld blog article asking “Is Apple morphing into the Microsoft of smartphones?“, highlighting their use with the iPhone of the same sort of anti-competitive practices that Microsoft got in so much trouble for in the past with some of their products. The article immediately attracted the ire of a legion of Apple apologists in the comments, but it was one of the least inflammatory parts of the article that struck a chord with me:
“The irony of it all hit me yesterday as I was deciding how to move music from my PC to my Pre, given that iTunes syncing has been turned off. And my first stop was Microsoft’s Windows Media Player, which does indeed sync natively with Palm’s Pre.
That’s right. I was turning to Microsoft to solve a problem with a proprietary, closed data exchange format.”
I found this interesting because I recently encountered something similar myself. After finishing the deployment of my new Exchange 2010 server at work, I invited the Deputy Head to test the Exchange ActiveSync synchronisation with his iPhone. “I’ve tried,” came the response, “but as I already have an account running through Exchange it won’t let me add another.”