Archive for the ‘News’ Category

Gmail News: October 2010

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!

Disabling Conversation Mode

Today Google announced that you can now disable the conversation mode in Gmail. This is huge news. Many people dislike the feature (and I’m being polite when I say that.) That segment can now be silenced and enjoy all the features Gmail has to offer.

I am preparing a Gmail Podcast on the subject as soon as I can. I am currently waiting for the feature to be turned on for my account so I can answer a few questions first. I want to bring you more than just the press release – I’ll get you the real story of how G-stuff works. Be patient.

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.