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Stranded by Single Sign On

I’m in the midst of a mini-crisis at the moment. I woke up thinking about it, which is why I’m here, typing away, long before my alarm would normally wake me up. The crisis is, I can’t log in to any of my work accounts. Not my email, the library’s proxy server, an internal library staff blog… nothing.

I noticed this at about 8:00 last night and sent an email to the IT help desk on campus (using my gmail account because, remember, no work email for me). A really helpful IT guy emailed me back saying he’d unlocked my account (note that this is well beyond normal working hours for the poor guy). I tried logging in, but nothing happened. This cycle repeated itself several times between 8 and 10:30-ish, all to no avail.

As far as we can figure it, the problem is Zimbra calendar’s iCal feed. Apparently, the feed needs to authenticate against the LDAP server, or something, and right now any feeds I have from my Zimbra calendar to anything else are trying and trying to authenticate using my old password (I had to change mine on Tuesday). The feeds try and try and fail and fail, and then they lock my account. Unfortunately, even after I killed my iCal feed to Google Calendar*, my account was still locking up. Now I’m sitting here wracking my brains and trying to think if there are any other feeds out there.

If this is the problem, and that’s still a big “if” at the moment, then people on campus are in big trouble. [See update below. It turned out not to be the iCal feed.] In Zimbra, if you want to share a calendar, your iCal feed is prominently displayed among the sharing options. And in the Zimbra training we received, we were all told that this was our iCal feed and that Mac people could continue to use their iCal programs. One of my co-workers even has his feed displayed on his web site for anyone else to import into their iCal-compatible systems. And if feeds have to be killed and regenerated every time we change our passwords (every 3 months), we’re in major, major trouble. Because, you see, nobody is used to the idea of a feed not being shareable, especially when the feed is included in the “share your calendar” dialog box. But the way this seems to be set up, if you share your calendar and then change your password, you’re hosed.

So here I am, frustrated and worried that I’ll have to go through the day with no access to any of my normal work tools, including the network drives that house a bunch of the projects I need to work on. All this on the last day before classes start. I could just about scream … or cry. Instead I’ll sit here, stare at my computer screen, and will my account to unlock itself. That should help.

[Updated to add: As it turns out, it wasn’t the iCal feed after all. What a relief! Instead it was a forgotton copy of Zimbra Desktop. I’d installed Desktop version, never used it, and forgotten about it. But unbeknownst to me it kept merrily syncing itself up with the server using my old password. Thankfully, everything is back to normal now.]

*I feed my calendar to Google Calendar so that I can see when I’m busy and fill in the spaces where I’m not busy with my “availability calendar,” when then gets fed to my public schedule page. It’s a terrible workaround stemming from Zimbra’s inability to publish to an HTML page. Until everyone on campus has migrated to Zimbra, though, we need a way to publish our availability. And even after everyone is on Zimbra, sometimes it’s easier to just scan a week or two rather than set up an appointment, invite me, see if I’m free, and then click “next day” over and over looking for a time that works well for everyone. Because of this, we’d decided to maintain our published Google Calendars.

Published inTools and Technology


  1. Steve Lawson Steve Lawson

    Glad you got that cleared up. Makes me think of those poor folks who take their iPhones overseas, are very careful not to transmit much data, and then get a bill for $1,000 because the phone continued to check for email every 5 minutes or whatever.

  2. Iris Iris

    Yikes! At least mine didn’t cost me thousands of dollars.

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