Wednesday, August 6, 2008

What are we doing today?

We have a few 'interesting' blog articles in the works, but since none of those are ready yet I thought I'd begin the blog by simply describing what we're up to today. Today is an important day because it's essentially the first day since the iPhone 2.0 launch that we haven't had some kind of developing crisis to deal with. No servers melting under load; no exponentially growing Internet traffic; we're not creating duplicate events in users' calendars. We've also been successful in reducing the support e-mail load by making improvements to our web site and configuration process.
So today we're focusing on the top three reasons users are currently not able to sync successfully. We know what the reasons are, and how many users are affected because we write a detailed problem record into a database whenever our servers encounter an error. In the past, we would find this information in our server log files. As our user population grew this became impractical (our servers generate 20 Gbytes of log data per day). The new database view we have onto user errors has allowed us to get a much better understanding of the range and frequency of problems.
So what do we see ? The number one problem that leads to persistent inability to sync turns out to be when the user enabled e-mail sync on their phone. At present we don't support e-mail sync (perhaps these users really wish we did !) but we're working on it. At present our server just can't deal with a device that says it wants to sync e-mail. It throws an error and no further syncing can happen. Later in the day we are planning to compile a list of all the affected users and send them an e-mail asking them to turn e-mail sync off on their phones. They should then find that sync begins working.
The second and third most common problems that lead to non-working sync are to do with inconsistent data. Our server code performs consistency checks in a number of places. For example it checks that when Google sends us calendar event changes, that they don't give us two changes (that are different) for the same event. It turns out that sometimes they do ! When this happens our server can't continue processing the sync request, and the result is no sync for YOU! We have some good clues about the cause and are working on a fix which we hope to deploy soon.
The last of the three more common problems also relates to data consistency. What happens is that the user's device sends us changes to events, but there is no 'server id' for those events. This is logically impossible, yet it happens for a fee users. We have a few theories about this one and hope to understand the problem in more detail soon.


Xiao G. Wu said...

Can we get a status update on the Support for email via a gateway to IMAP? Are you guys any closer? Need alpha/beta testers?

neil said...

i am still getting inconsistent syncing of calendar items, with no rhyme or reason.