Curse you Kolab
This weekend I began a colossal undertaking. I was going to install Kolab, the much praised open source groupware solution developed by the Germans. It was going to revolutionize my life… network enabled calendars, contact lists, journaling, and more reliable email. Brilliant.
Today, 72 agonizing hours later, I have totally abandoned my efforts. Oh, I’m sure it could work… eventually. But even I have limits on how many times I’m willing to run full speed into a brick wall. Eventually you remember that it hurts when you do that.
I think the biggest difficulty with the project was the shear number of components that I just simply didn’t understand. Kolab combinds a lot of big technology to work its magic. Things like LDAP, SMTP, IMAP, and SASL are just the big acronyms you need to know. Then you have to deal with the particular implementations of those technologies: openLDAP, postfix, cryus, and sasl2. Throw in things like DNS, apache2, and php4 & 5 (technologies I know, but not very well) and you’ve got a real party.
In the end, the deadweight of all those impenetrable technologies got the better of me. I began to feel like I was tossing stones down a well and using the resulting sounds to not only decide what was down the well, but how to throw the next rock such that whatever was down there would magically convert into an Saturn V Rocket.
But there is a valuable lesson here, the same one the Iraq War is teaching the neo-cons. Understanding a few of the parts is not enough when dealing with interdependent systems. Once you’ve gone through your old tricks, tried and true though they may be, you are left with a vast network of unknowns, left pulling at various strings in a desperate game of trial and error. After my defeat at the hands of Kolab I was able to purge the entire project, losing nothing more than a few days of productivity. Iraq may prove a different story…