Cyberis rattus maximus is hightailing it to Lagos after office e-mail fiasc

The Rat and his minions were faced with a Herculean task: upgrading the agency's e-mail
system before morning. He had seen this coming.


There had been a rash of standards talk at the last meeting with the agency chief
information officer, and his boss had come back with that gleam in his eye that said,
"I've just committed us to being the test bed."


The last time his boss had come back with that look, the Rat's crew spent three weeks
physically verifying that all the agency's desktops were year 2000-ready.


"Our support costs for our e-mail and messaging are too high," the Rat's boss
said. "We're going to start moving toward intranet-based mail and groupware. By this
time next week, I want to have everybody in the HQ on IMAP mail clients."


Oh, dear, thought the Rat, he's learned a new acronym. Until last month, the Rat had
him convinced that MIME stood for guys in white greasepaint who used semaphore to relay
binary files.


The Rat is all for standards as long as he makes them up. He's been playing around with
Internet Messaging Access Protocol 4 mail clients, and they all have one thing in common:
They're S-L-O-W.


He spent more time staring at a "selecting mailbox" menu bar signal than he
spent with the ratlings last month. Despite pleas about staff vacations, lack of server
resources and Capitol Hill budget squabbles, the cyberrodent couldn't persuade his boss to
reconsider.


"But our system won't support IMAP for another six months," the Rat pleaded.


"Well," the boss responded, "we can always migrate to something else,
right?"


It wasn't as if the Rat's options were too constrained. Lotus cc:Mail Release 8 is on
the cusp of shipping for Microsoft Windows NT and includes both Post Office Protocol and
IMAP client support. And then there's Netscape Mail 2.01, also with IMAP access, and
available on NT.


Somehow, the idea of moving to cc:Mail to implement IMAP appealed to the Rat's perverse
humor, so he rounded up an early release copy and got his troops to work.


The problem was there were no migration tools to move to cc:Mail.


And because cc:Mail doesn't integrate with any sort of network directory service, there
was no easy way to move user information over.


With only 12 hours left, the furry one was out of options. So there the Rat was,
creating a reverse bas-relief of himself on the console table. He had to move 250 users'
existing mail onto a new mail server, and the migration tools had failed.


As a last resort, the weary rodent's underlings had been deployed to log on as each
user and forward the contents of their mailboxes through a Simple Mail Transfer Protocol
gateway to the new server. The Rat prayed to the electron gods that he would at least get
a good backup tape that night in case he had to leave the country.


Then he got an even more perverse idea. Because the cc:Mail native client registered as
a Messaging Application Programming Interface under Windows 95 and NT, it could access
other IMAP mail services installed on the same machine. Because the old mail system used
IMAP clients as well, the Rat could simply install the proprietary clients for accessing
the old mail system, turn off its SMTP gateway, bring up the cc:Mail SMTP gateway and let
users get their mail off the old server at leisure.


Meanwhile, he'd start up the IMAP service for cc:Mail, demonstrate that it worked with
an IMAP client and declare victory. He rallied his troops, set up the software
distribution scripts and went to work.


The next morning, the Rat's beloved leader came around with the agency CIO to see how
things went. Unfortunately, the Rat's ruse worked so well that he's been placed in charge
of migrating the rest of the agency-by next month.


"It looks like I'll be needing those one-way tickets to Lagos after all,"
muttered the Rat as he buried his head in his arms. Well, at least the backup tape was
good.


The Packet Rat once managed networks but now spends his time ferreting out bad
packets in cyberspace. E-mail him at rat@gcn.com


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