Archive for the ‘Gmail Podcast’ Category

Special: Dragon*Con session – Webmail Security

This special episode of the Gmail Podcast is a recording of a webmail security presentation I did at DragonCon in Atlanta Georgia on September 3, 2011. I co-presented for the EFF track with my Technorama co-host Kreg Steppe. It’s a little longer than my usual Gmail Podcast. And at times it starts to become a Google support forum, but thanks to Kreg’s facilitation, he gets things back on track. This episode contains many topics discussed on previous episodes of the Gmail Podcast, along with some new information, put together in one package. If you’re looking for better ways to reduce your risk email attacks, then you won’t want to miss this episode.

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Mobile Labels

This entry is part 23 of 23 in the series White Belt

Just a short one today… Some of you may already know this. If you use Gmail from the web browser on your iPad, iPhone, Android, or other mobile device, you might find it a bit annoying to label your messages. When reading a message, use the drop down chevrons on the upper right, select Label, and you are presented with a list of all your labels. Until recently, I would scroll to the label I wanted, check the checkbox, then have to scroll back up to the Apply button.

One day I was doing this and for some reason missed the checkbox and just clicked the word “Finance” and it put the label on and went back to the message – much faster than scrolling back up and clicking Apply! Of course, if you want to apply more than one label, you will need to scroll, tick the appropriate checkboxes, and click Apply, but for just one, tap the label text for a quicker experience.

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Never fear, I’m still here

FYI – I’m still here despite the reduced show frequency in the past few weeks. A number of factors have contributed, mainly short notice work related travel, keeping me from producing podcasts as frequently as I would like. My schedule is supposed to get a little less hectic in the coming weeks so look for more shows then.

We’ve got great things planned as I move in to my seventh year of podcasting!

Thanks

Auto Advance

In this episode, I cover

  • A way to advance to the next conversation without going back to the index,
  • A recommendation from a fellow podcaster whose Gmail account was hacked
  • A quick note about an update to the iPhone interface.

First up, long time listeners will know that I’m a fan of the Gmail keyboard shortcuts. They have been a huge time saver for keeping my inbox organized when using the desktop browser interface. I also understand that not everyone uses the keyboard shortcuts and there are some features that are not available from standard screen interface.

One of those is the ability to archive a message and advance forward or backward in your conversations without going to the index. Keyboard junkies already know about the right and left square bracket keys (“[” and “]”) to do this. Unfortunately, there was no way for those who prefer the mouse to do the same thing. Once again, Google has heard the cries of their Gmail audience and created a labs feature called Auto-Advance that lets you determine if you want Gmail to advance to the next or previous conversation, OR return to the index after you archive, delete, or mute a conversation.

Like other Labs features, click on Settings in the upper right, then click the Labs tab. Look for the feature labeled “Auto-Advance” and click Enable, scroll to the bottom and click “Save”. This turns the feature on, but doesn’t change the behavior until you go to the General Settings and tell it to advance to the next or previous conversation. If you’re the kind of person who likes to start with your newest mail first, change the setting to go to the previous conversation. If you read your older messages first, then set tell Gmail to go to the next newer conversation. If you decide this option isn’t for you, either change it to the setting “Go back to the threadlist” or disable the labs feature.

Whether your a keyboard shortcut junkie or prefer the mouse, the Auto-Advance feature should make it easier to keep your inbox clean without having to go back to the index every time you archive, delete, or mute a conversation. I activated the feature shortly after I heard about it and love it.

Next, I received the following message from Dennis Gray over at the 101 Uses for Baby Wipes podcast:

Apologies to all for the strange e-mail you received from my account.  Google advised me that my Gmail account had been accessed from China, and once I received that notice I locked the account for a few days and changed the password.

If you’ve ever been curious about what the warning looks like, I have attached a snapshot of the warning. (Which I have included in the show notes on the Gmail Podcast website) Sad thing is, the warning doesn’t show up in mobile Safari browsers, which are now my primary web access tools.  The warning also does not appear in the mail app for iPad.

It does show up in Firefox, though, and that is how I captured the warning, saved for posterity in the attached .PNG file.

Once again, my apologies for the spam, and the ‘radio silence’ that followed.

The key take away from this is the recommendation to change your password once in a while, say every six months, and use a secure password with mixed case, numbers, and throw in a symbol to keep those hackers off your mail account. Remember, you can change your password from Settings> Accounts and Import or go to google.com/accounts. If you’re not good at remembering passwords, I recommend using a password tool like 1Password at agilewebsolutions.com or KeePass at keepass.info.

Finally, a quick note for your iPhone Gmail users. You probably already noticed, but the floating toolbar is no more. When you select one or more conversations from the index, the option to archive, delete, and more is at the bottom rather than floating at the top. It’s a subtle change, but a nice one in my opinion. What’s neat is that they are willing to share the JavaScript and HTML techniques used to do this with other developers. Watch for that on code.google.com/mobile. Thanks Google!

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Gmail News: October 2010

This entry is part 7 of 7 in the series Getting Started

I’ve come across several new stories and features regarding Gmail that just didn’t seem to fit in any other podcast so I’ll cover them here. Today I’ll be covering:

  • Buzz on the sidebar
  • A security checklist
  • Watch out for a phishing scam
  • Calendar notifications in Gmail

To start, Gmail has a new feature being rolled out that puts the latest Google Buzz comments from the mail sender on your sidebar. When you open a conversation, look on the left and if the person writes Buzz comments, you will see them there. If you don’t see the option, it could be that the person either doesn’t use Buzz, or that you need to turn this feature on. You can find it under Settings on the Buzz tab just below Your External Apps. If you don’t see the option there, it could be that it hasn’t been released to you yet. Keep watching. Like most features, this is being released in a phased approach.

Gmail is currently Google’s biggest application to date. While Buzz has a few million users, it hasn’t lived up to Google’s expectations and still falls far short of being a Twitter of Facebook killer. Google hopes that by making Buzz messages more prominent in the Gmail interface, it will drive more people to use the feature.

Next up, I came across a security checklist on Gmail’s help site with 18 steps to help make your computer more secure. The checklist includes everything from keeping the latest software and patches installed to changing your password periodically. I’ll include a link in the show notes so you can make sure you do your part to prevent problems and unwanted access to your computer. I went through it and found a couple things that I could probably do a little better. Thanks Google!

On a security note, listener Norb sent along a phishing scam that you might want to look out for. Phishing (with a ph) is a way in which people send fake email messages to try and gain your access information. A typical one would be from someone impersonating PayPal with a link to their site that looks like PayPal to try and get you to login with your account information and bam – they’ve got your PayPal login and password. Bad idea. How do you protect yourself? Watch for key clues.

One key way is to watch for grammatical errors. Things like “we have determine that your account is at risk. Please login to confirm account information.” Another way is to check the links before clicking

Once you become aware that most services like your bank, eBay, and so on don’t send out messages that say “You’ve won”, or “You need to validate your access”, you can  just delete these, or better yet, use the Gmail option to report phishing so it can learn and block these messages so other people don’t receive similar messages.

The message that Norb sent me appears to be sent from Google Service and goes like this:

Our science & technology team has recently launched Google web software to protect and secure all Gmail Accounts. This system also enhanced efficient networking and fully supported browser. You need to upgrade to a fully supported browser by filling out the details below for validation purpose and to confirm your details on the new webmaster Central system.   Account Name:      Pass word: Country:  Date of Birth:   Note: Your Account will be disabled permanently if you failed to provide the details below within 72hours. Gmail will not be heard responsible for your negligence. The Google web Service.
Sent from my Verizon Wireless BlackBerry

Again, the first giveaway is the grammar. Don’t be taken in by threats of your account being deactivated. Just report it as phishing and go on with the rest of your day.

Finally, I wanted to pass on a neat feature that I hadn’t noticed until recently. If you’re a Google Calendar user like me, then you may have noticed that Gmail will put a short alert message in the lower right corner of the screen when an appointment alarm goes off. If you’ve got a browser window open with Google Calendar running, it will fire an alert there and change your browser focus to that window. However, if you only running Gmail, then you’ll get a little alert in the lower right with the name of the event, the calendar it is from, and two links; one to view the appointment in your calendar and the other to close the short alert message. This is far less annoying than Google calendar hijacking your browser and forcing you to look at the appointment in the middle of typing something!

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Disable Conversations

Staying away from Gmail because you don’t like threaded messages (aka conversations?)

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I tell lots of people about Gmail and by far, the biggest reason I’ve heard that some people don’t like is that all the messages are threaded. All messages, replies, and replies to replies are displayed as a single entry in the conversation index.

Well, not any more. As of Wednesday September 29, 2010 Gmail is offering a feature to allow you to disable the conversations mode and use it like a  legacy email system with one line per email message on the index.

If you’re one of the people who stayed away from Gmail because you don’t like the conversations view, you can now find an option to disable this by clicking Settings in the upper right corner. Look for the section that says Conversations View and choose the way you want it displayed. Save your changes and that’s it. If you prefer, you can always go back to the conversations view.

While you’ve probably read all that from the press releases, I wanted to see it, test it, and let you know how this feature really behaves. My questions included:

  • What happens when you go to individual messages?
  • Does archive, label, star, etc. allow you to manipulate just one message?
  • What then happens when you go back to conversations?

The first thing I noticed is that the help screen is not dynamic between the words conversation and message. Everything is still referred to as a conversation.

As for the shortcut keys, they still work the same, j to go down one message, k to go up, x to select, and so on.

Regarding message management, I picked an example with a conversation containing two labels. Removing a single label from one message in a thread and going back to conversations view shows all applicable labels to the thread. if you go back to non-conversation mode, the individual message label settings are remembered. In short, it seems the application does what you expect it to do.

As for me? I love conversations view and plan to stick with it. With so many email messages going back and forth, it’s just made it so much easier to manage in conversations (especially the mute feature.)

If you’re new to Gmail and you’ve just discovered this podcast because now you want to use it because conversations can now be disabled, welcome aboard! I encourage you to go to chuckchat.com and visit the Gmail Podcast website to find out dozens of ways you can be more effective with Gmail.

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Two Factor Follow Up

This entry is part 20 of 20 in the series Gmail Master

George Starcher joins me to share his real life experience with Google’s new security feature.

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In the previous episode of the Gmail Podcast, I mentioned that Google has a two factor authentication available to keep your login information more secure than just using a password. Shortly after I released that, I got an email from my friend and fellow Friends In Tech member, George Starcher to discuss his first week of experience after working with the new security method in his day job.

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News: September 2010

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This week there were several news announcements in the Gmail space that I want to share with you. First, Google is rolling out two factor authentication to make using Gmail and other Google apps more secure. Two factor authentication uses your password, something you already know, with a second, temporary passcode issued to you via your phone. That means if someone gets your password, they still won’t be able to get in unless they have your phone. When you sign in to Gmail, you’ll provide your password, then Google will text your phone with a unique six digit code that you then type in to complete the login process. While this double password may seem like a hassle, I’ve used several two factor schemes in my day job and it really isn’t a big deal to use. However, it is a big deal to someone trying to get at your information. The feature is being deployed in commercial and educational spaces first and will be rolled out to the rest of us shortly. No news if the feature can be disabled or not. Keep tuned in to the Gmail Podcast for updates.

The second update is that Google has updated their Gmail app for Android. They made the message navigation a bit easier and even have limited support for the new Priority Inbox.

And speaking of Priority Inbox, I noticed under Settings, Priority Inbox, that there’s a fourth section you can enable or even change the behavior of the three default sections of Important and Unread, Starred, and Everything Else. As I’ve mentioned in some episodes a while back, I am a practitioner of David Allen’s Getting Things Done methodology. There are times when I need to tag actionable items in email, but they’re not going to be there long enough to enter and track in my system so I label them with @Actions. I’ve told Gmail to use that fourth section for all tasks labeled @Actions. Before Priority Inbox came along, I would occasionally lose items with that label if I happened to archive them. Sure, they’d still have the @Actions label, but they wouldn’t be in the inbox any more. Priority Inbox doesn’t do that. If there are any messages with that label, they’ll be on that front page even if they’ve been archived. That means actions can’t get swept under the rug (or marked completed) until I remove that special label. You could do the same thing with Stars, but I prefer to label things.

Finally, Yahoo recent quoted a study from the Fraunhofer Institute to state that Yahoo and Hotmail’s spam filtering are better than Gmail’s. To quote:

“The Fraunhofer Institute, an independent research firm, found that Yahoo! Mail users saw the least amount of spam out of the five providers tested, with nearly 40% less spam than Hotmail and 55% less spam than Gmail – meaning Gmail users in the study saw more than twice as much spam as Yahoo! Mail users.”

To make a long story short, the study was sponsored by Microsoft and represented six test subjects. So much for independent studies.

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Priority Inbox

This entry is part 35 of 35 in the series Green Belt

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Gmail is attempting to make your email easier to sort through by releasing a feature called Priority Inbox. I have to admit, at first I was skeptical of how this feature would work since I’m one of those people who generally keep their inbox to 10 items or less. A few times a day I go through my inbox and archive the reference information, delete the things I don’t want to see again, take action on the quick items, and mark the other actions for later action. That seems to work fairly well. “What value do I get with Google guessing at the importance of my incoming messages?” was my first thought.

Let me back up a bit. When your account is enabled with this feature, you will see a red message in the upper right by your login name indicating Priority Inbox has been turned on. If you like, there is a short video in the pop up window that helps explain the benefits of priority inbox. Click the “Try it now” button in that same pop up window. Once enabled, Gmail does a few things. First, it creates a new link on the left called Priority Inbox. The regular Inbox is still available just below that link. Second, it goes through your mail and makes some guesses at what mail is important to you and labels them as Important. Finally, the conversation index is divided in to four sections. By default, three of these are turned on. They are for messages labeled Important, Starred, and Everything Else. You can change these and even add a fourth section by going in the Settings under the Priority Inbox tab. You can also tweak a few of the other priority inbox settings from that same screen including the option to not show the priority inbox at all.

Like spam filters, the priority inbox needs to learn what’s important to you. Gmail has one of the best spam filters around and it’s these same methods that help learn and identify important email as well. If it gets something wrong, you can use the new + and – tags on the button bar just above the conversation index to help it get smarter. After only a few days and a few keystrokes, I’m noticing a marked improvement.

It is possible to abuse the priority inbox if you mark too many things important. What does “important” mean? That’s up to you. If you mark too many things important and find that 95% of all of your email is ending up in the Important section, then it has lost its value.

One other thing about priority inbox, I noticed that the shortcut keys g-i take you back to the priority inbox if you have it enabled. There doesn’t appear to be a shortcut for the standard inbox while priority inbox is around, but if you find one, let me know about it.

One final note, Google Voice has added email notifications for missed calls. This is not so much a quick tip, but an FYI . While this isn’t terribly useful for people with Android phones who see the missed call on their handset, it is nice if you are on your desktop where you can have the missed calls noted in your Google Voice inbox or emailed to you.

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Make Calls, Calendar Update, Double Sent Mail

This entry is part 22 of 23 in the series White Belt

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Make Voice Calls

Good news for Gmail users. Gmail has enabled voice calling from within Gmail. Now you can use your computer’s microphone and speakers (or a USB headset if you like) to make outgoing calls for free in U.S. or Canada and very inexpensive calls many other countries.

To see if you have this feature yet, just look on the left side of your screen under chat and look for the option “Call Phone”. Just click on it and enter a contact’s name or start dialing. The other person does not need to have a Gmail account to make this work. You can call mobile phones or land lines. If you happen to have a Google Voice account associated with your Gmail account, the receiving party will see the incoming call with your Google voice number. If you choose, incoming calls to your Google Voice number can be received right from within Gmail. Now I’m really glad I put that Google Voice number on my latest business cards!

FYI – you will need to install the voice and video chat plugin which you can get at gmail.com/videochat.

Other Internet telephony providers have typically charged for outgoing phone calls. Companies like Skype are extremely inexpensive, but free trumps cheap any day for me.

So far, I have only received one call from someone using Gmail. A couple nights ago I received a call on my mobile phone from my friend Kreg in South Carolina who couldn’t resist testing it out before me. The call quality was about the same as typical mobile phone, with the notable exception of any dropouts hiccups or other artifacts typically associated with mobile calls. It wasn’t quite as good as our Skype to Skype calls, but to call computer to phone for free, I’d say it warrants more usage. Based on initial reports of 1,000,000 calls in the first 24 hours, I’d say it’s off to a good start.

Google reports that all US Gmail accounts have the new feature enabled and they will be rolling it out to other countries soon.

Recurring Event Update

If you haven’t done so recently, take a look at the details of a Google Calendar event. There are now two tabs: one for the event details and one to help you find a time with another Google invitee. They also cleaned up the recurring appointment functionality. When you click on the “repeat” checkbox just under the event title, a new window appears with the details of the event. It is now much easier to create a recurring event, although I still don’t see a “Last” feature for my meeting that happens on the last Wednesday of the month.

Double Sent Mail Bug Fixed

Finally, there were some reports of some Gmail messages being re-sent automatically that affected hundreds of users. Google Employee “Mr Evan” reports that the issue has now been resolved. While this wasn’t a widespread problem, it certainly was annoying when a Gmail user sent a message only to get a response back saying “I already got your message.” If you were affected, rest assured that this bug is resolved.

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