Revisiting Picassa

I’m a long-time flickr fan. Have a couple of thousand photos in my photostream. Shoot, I’m paid up until 2013. It’s a great service. And yesterday I downloaded (copied) all of those photos and posted them to my Picassa account.

The geek-o-sphere is buzzing (wait, no good)… is all atwitter (uh, that won’t work)… talking about Google+, the new social initiative from Google. If you haven’t followed this, it’s not important, except to explain why I’m exploring another place to put my photos online.

I’m a big fan of most Google services (Gmail, Reader, YouTube, Calendar, Maps, etc etc) and all of these will –eventually– be tightly integrated with Google+. It dawned on me that photos was about the only thing I was not using Google for.

No one knows if Google+ will be a success but I’m hoping that it is and decided it made sense to bring my pix under the Google tent.

And if you have an invite…

Why I love Gmail #326

The screenshot above is from a reply to an email earlier today. Note the “Consider including” option. The first two suggestions are on the money (not so “Bill Scott”). Gmail has had this feature for a while but I just haven’t been noticing it. It just gets smarter and smarter. I also like the option of editing the subject line but perhaps most email clients do this.

Chrome Notebook

I was certain I had posted something about Google sending me a Chrome Notebook to try out but I can’t seem to find it [will update later]. After playing with it for a week I handed it off to George Kopp who kept it for a week and then last Saturday, Tom Piper took it. His excellent comments below.

Disclaimer: The first most difficult task is to set aside 32 years of self-contained computer experience (since my first Apple ][ 48K computer), and to stop using hand gestures on the trackpad to make things happen. That being said, I approached the Chromebook as a “new user” with a zest for trying out everything I saw.

Step 1: First impressions of this laptop are very positive. With a screen a little over 12″ diagonal, weighing in at just over 3 lbs, and a petite size of less than 1″ x 9″ x 12″, it feels like a solid package. The rubberized texture of the surface gives it a sense of stability which is easy to handle and carry around. The keys and trackpad are laid out well, and simple to understand.

Step 2: Hit the power button upper-left of keyboard, wait less than 10 second watching the colorful Chrome logo, and I am presented with an opportunity to select my local Wi-Fi network, and setup my Google-based login account, complete with a self-portrait . . . thereafter, I just select my picture, enter my password, hit Return, and I am instantly on the desktop. I am confronted with eight icons to choose from, which is very straight-forward.

Step 3: I start by double-clicking the YouTube icon. which takes me to the YouTube website in about 5 seconds. I select something under Most Viewed, and almost immediately am watching live action. Click on the left-arrow at upper-left, and I’m back to the YouTube menu where I select another . . . very quick response, but the sound on the unit isn’t very good. It’s time to move on, so I click an “x” in the upper tab, and return to the main screen.

Step 4: A double-click on Google Calendar brought up a week-at-a-glance view showing 7am-to-7pm time slots, and pre-posted holidays, plus a full-month minature at the upper-left corner. Buttons at the upper-right easily take me to one day, a week, a month, 4 days or agenda for all posted activities for the year . . . again, very fast. Edits a powerful with times, reminders, colors, guests, descriptions and more.

Step 5: Next, I tried GoogleDocs, which let me access and modify files I had previously posted. Simple and easy to do, little thought needed. I added the Scratchpad by clicking on the “+” next to the top top . . . neat little tool to capture and save thoughts while using another application. Gmail brought up a familiar screen showing email that I usually receive here . . . no surprises. GoogleTalk is my next tab opened, which appears that it will let me chat with another Google account holder, maybe even with video since I see a little green videocam silhouette (did not use this feature).

Step 6: Chrome Web Store is my next open tab showing lots of opportunities to get more programs, divided into descriptive categories. Popular Science (a hardcopy magazine I already get) was my first selection, which immediately appeared on screen and installed as a new main screen icon. Within 5 seconds of double-clicking, I’m in the animated magazine complete with movies and sound (adding earbuds improved the sound quality) . . . very fast access! I couldn’t resist installing Angry Birds (free) which played incredibly well. WeatherBug was my next installation (very fast installment) which worked great, giving excellent and quick information.

Step 7: Entanglement was my next tab to engage . . . cool music, with nice tutorial, but a little confusing, and very unusual game. I’m not much of a gamer, since this program, though intriguing, didn’t hold my interest.

Conclusion: The more I do, the more fun and engaging the experience with the Chromebook becomes. Overall, I found the response to be very good, the detail to be satisfyiing, the opportunities to be alluring, and the future to be full of possibilities (in spite of a trackpad that kept moving the cursor when I was trying to click on something). With a current market price of $430-$500 (Samsung at BestBuy), this device seems overpriced, but perhaps retail buying will get better with competition. In a fixed environment like an office, or at home (but not traveling), I could see real value in this unit.

Tom describes the battery life as “very impressive.”

UPDATE (6/26/11): Andy Small test-drove the Chrome for a week and shares his impressions.

Email Experiment

I’m going to try a little experiment next week. Beginning at midnight this Sunday (12-June), I’m only going to check email once a day. At 7:00 a.m. Central. I want to see if eliminating the distraction of checking and replying to email throughout the day allows me to be more productive. Those who need to reach me have options:

Co-workers can send me a private message on the company Yammer network. Or call. The rest of you can message me on Twitter (@smaysdotcom) or AIM (smaysdotcom). Google Chat would require me to keep Gmail open and I don’t want the temptation.

UPDATE: I’ve terminated my little experiment. After just 48 hours. Turns out I didn’t get that many emails and Gmail did such a good job or sorting and prioritizing, it really was less of an issue than I had assumed. Another revelation was that I send a lot more emails than I receive. I’ll have to think about that. I also became aware of how integrated my email is with my calendar and task manager.

Gmail accounts (not) hacked

UPDATE: “Google was not hacked, a company spokesman tells Fast Company. Some users wereduped into supplying passwords to fraudulent emails masquerading as trustworthy sources (known as phishing)–a very common occurrence.” More…

If stick a gun in the tellers face and make off with the money, the bank got robbed. If I call you on the phone and trick you into giving me your ATM pin number, the bank did NOT get robbed.

………..Original post below…………

From the Post Tech blog: “Google said Wednesday a hacker in China obtained access to hundreds of Gmail accounts, including those of senior U.S. government officials, military personnel, Chinese political activists and journalists.

The company said it recently detected the security breach and stopped what it described as “a campaign to take users’ passwords and monitor their emails, with the perpetrators apparently using stolen passwords to change peoples’ forwarding and delegating settings.”

Gmail is all I use. But any site can be hacked. So when Google offered the 2-step verification option, I immediately signed up.

So if they have my password, they also need my iPhone. Bullet-proof? Probably not.

Software reconstructs shredded spy files

"A research team in Germany has developed a computer-software system to piece together some 45 million pages of secret police files ripped into 600 million pieces. The files were torn up nearly 18 years ago by panicking agents of communist East Germany's dreaded State Security Service (Stasi).

"…piecing together all the 600 million slips of paper by hand would take 30 people 600 to 800 years; their computer program should hopefully be capable of finishing the job in a little more than five years.

Advanced sign-in security for your Google account

I love most things Google. Gmail, Google Docs, Google Reader and most of the tools and services they’ve come out with (Wave and Buzz notable exceptions).

If someone hijacked my Google accounts, they’d have to take my belt and shoe laces. So I was eager to try their recently announced 2-step verification process. From the Gmail blog:

“…it requires the powerful combination of both something you know—your username and password—and something that only you should have—your phone. A hacker would need access to both of these factors to gain access to your account. If you like, you can always choose a “Remember verification for this computer for 30 days” option, and you won’t need to re-enter a code for another 30 days. You can also set up one-time application-specific passwords to sign in to your account from non-browser based applications that are designed to only ask for a password, and cannot prompt for the code.”

I’ll have a better feel for this in a few days but I’m willing to put up with a little extra hassle to know my account is safe.

Rapportive. Making Gmail just a little better

Gmail is –and has been for some time– my primary email tool. The reasons for this grow longer every day. The most recent is a little add-on called rapportive.

Once installed, rapportive searches the web for each of your email contacts and displays profile information (if available), links to social networks, even recent tweets. There’s also a place for notes about that contact.

It looks like rapportive replaces the Google Ads but I’m not sure why Google would allow that.

If your first reaction is, “I don’t want the people I email knowing this stuff about me,” well, you need to run out and buy some stamps and envelopes. If you want to get into my in-box, transparancey is the price of admission.

It’ll take a week or two to know if this is as useful as it first appears. If you are a fan of Gmail, give rapportive a try (it’s free) and let me know what you think.

Phone calls from Gmail

The new service puts Google in competition with Skype (and all the other telcom providers). Gmail has offered voice and video chat for two years, but both parties must be at their computers.

I made a couple of calls tonight and the quality was pretty damned good. Will I call someone from my laptop instead of just picking up the mobile? Probably not when away from my desk, but I can imagine using my MacBook as a speed-dialing speaker phone. And my brother and I have been calling (laptop-to-laptop) back and forth from Indonesia for a couple of years. Sounds like he’s in the next room.

Calls to numbers in the United States and Canada will be free at least through the end of the year. International calls range from 2 cents a minute to many countries.

And if you need to reach me, my Google phone number is 573.200.6776