Gmail comes out of beta

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I know, I know. Pick up your jaw. We’d all rather got used to the fact that Gmail and all the Google apps were in some sort of permanent beta over the last five years. Google has now decided that the time is right for their web software to be fully-fledged in its own right but not because it’s passed a bunch of tests.

It seems that all sorts of potential users – largely in the corporate world – might have been put off by the idea of using software that was only half ready or half safe or experimental or whatever the connotation might have been. So, by removing the label, Google hopes to be removing the stigma too.

They promise to continue developing their mail and office products all the same but those of a nervous disposition may now use the joy of the software in piece. If you haven’t, I heartily recommend you do.

GBlog

Gmail turns babelfish with auto-message translator

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The addiction that is gmail has added yet another feature to its burgeoning tool kit in the shape of an automatic translator. “Yay,” I hear you cry, “now, I can read about cheap VIaGra in all the languages I can possibly be spammed in.” Thanks gmail.

If you’d like to sample this dawning of a new age, you’ll have to switch on the Google Labs feature to enjoy it. It’ll automatically translate whatever e-mails arrive in your inbox in Johnny Foreigner’s tongue and put them into Google’s version of your own land’s language.

Naturally, it’s bound to produce large piles of unintelligible nonsense whenever it has a go at proper nouns or anything approaching an idiom, so it could be worth it just for the craic. And the VIaGra.

(via Shiny Shiny)

Five ways to win when Google fails

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So Google freaked out over night. Thousands of people all over the world were cut off from all things G as an error in the internet giant’s system diverted vast amounts of traffic through their Asia servers. It caused 14% of all their users to have a slow and interrupted service. That’s a lot of users.

For many it brought their web life to a standstill, so reliant are they on Google and all its products but there’s no need to fear. Google don’t and will never own the internet and there’s a million and one alternatives to everything they do. So, next time their service goes down, here’s five ways to keep you winning while Google fails.

Search

Before Google came along there was a huge choice of search engines. The likes of Webcrawler, Lycos and Ask were around a good five earlier and they’re still going strong – just not compared to the G monopoly.

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I entered the term “Squeaky Bum Time” into Google, Alta Vista, Yahoo!, Lycos and the self-proclaimed “World’s Biggest Search Engine” Cuil. All of them came up with relevant results, most of them started with the definition of the idiom as the first result and they all returned pages on Alex Ferguson – often in relation to the Russian and Swedish football teams.

Each engine demonstrated understanding of the phrase and its relevance to modern culture. The bottom line is that you’re going to find what you need, certainly, between them, if not, with each individually, and design-wise, there’s plenty to chose from for something that’s both straight forward and pleasing to use.

E-mail

I don’t use gmail but I understand I’m in some kind of minority here. I know that there’s plenty of good things about it, such as IMAP and POP3 options, the layout and the spam filter that’s pretty much as good as it gets, but everyone has back up e-mail accounts, right? Tell me you do? Everyone needs junk mail services – ones that you might use for entering competitions or signing up for newsletters or just when some website makes you register with them before you use it.

Just make sure that you don’t put all of your e-mail eggs in one basket. Spread your e-mail service of choice around a bit. They all go down from time to time so you unless you want to be stuck every time they do, keep all your contacts in a few different ones.

Hotmail may be a bit of a dinosaur but it still works well. They keep up with the times even if they don’t innovate and functionality is very straight forward. Your ISP will have probably given you a free e-mail service when you signed up for them and if, it’s obscure enough, you might even still be able to get [email protected]

At the end of the day, e-mail’s e-mail. You can attach a world of bells and whistles but so long as you’ve get plenty of storage, you can search, you can send and receive and it doesn’t cost anything, then it’s good enough.

Oh, and if you really can’t face leaving Google’s bosom on this one, then at least use one of the online services that stores all your contacts like 02’s Bluebook or Mobyko. At least then you’ll be able to contact friends and family when meltdown next arises.

Online Office

“My Google Docs!” was a typical cry yesterday on Twitter as access to all manner of the most important spread sheets and cloud office files were rendered inaccessible. The first thing I can suggest here is a bit of an obvious one – back them up.

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Now, I’m not saying back up everything – no one can be bothered – but don’t leave the most important files at the mercy of the whims of the web. If Google doesn’t go down, your own home or office network might so keep mutliple copies of the grade A important bits and pieces. That’s really down to discipline though and either you’re that kind of person or you’re not.

Don’t worry, I’m not either but I am the kind of person to spread my footprints around the web and I use Zoho Docs as well as Google’s service. It’s got more than I could ever use from docs and spreadsheets through to calendars, planners, projects, invoices and business reports. In fact there’s more than any other service, it’s easy to use and it looks pretty too.

Video Players

When Google goes down, all its little buddies do too including the enormously popular YouTube. Sure it’s got over 62 million videos and gets at least five times more daily plays than anyone else but there’s still plenty of competition and, more to the point, weeks’ worth of footage to enjoy on all sorts of others services.

Vimeo, Imeem and Metcafe are all good choices and, because they’re not quite so big, there’s probably a better overall standard of quality, a little less of the happy slapping and not quite the insanity of the famous “YouTube community” to contend with. The other bonus of being smaller is that any copyright sensitive material is more likely to remain there unseen without the big companies demanding its removal.

Web Analytics

Websites relying on Google Analytics had a bit of an issue last night with many refusing to load while they were waiting for the stat service to kick in. Now sadly, as a user, there’s not a lot you can do about that if the site in charge hasn’t done the decent thing and disabled the service to keep their site afloat.

What I can at least do, is recommend a few other good stat services that’ll run at the same time as GAnalytics so that you can keep an eye on your traffic even when Google throws a wobbly.

StatCounter is one. It doesn’t necessarily give you the most accurate reflection of what’s going on but it is consistent, so you will be able to view the trends – probably all that matters when you get down to it. The other bonus is that it’s easy to use and it’s free.

If you want to feel good about yourself, you can try a service from the open source community called AWstats. It doesn’t have quite the same straight forward functionality as Stat Counter but it is accurate and free to use too.

What happens to your user name when you die?

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User names are starting to become an issue. One’s identity online was never really a problem beyond trying to get the top result in a Google search – not an easy feat if you’re name’s John Smith but as Dan or Daniel Sung, depending upon how I’m feeling, I’ve always enjoyed the luxury of being somewhere near the top.

The trouble is, that my name’s not so rare that I always get my choice of user name on all the big services out there. Most people’s aren’t but, again, that was never really a problem when it was just about e-mail addresses, but now that Google profiles becoming all the rage and services like Twitter actually affect my career, suddenly, my juvenile choices of [email protected] and [email protected] aren’t very useful any more.

I can’t get [email protected] It’s too late, unless I want to add a bunch of underscores and a three digit number, and because of that I can’t get the vanity URL I’m after. Regardless of whether [email protected] has actually clued up to the possbility of his http://www.google.com/profile/dansung address (and he hasn’t because the link’s dead) the fact is that I can’t have it because I don’t have the [email protected] user name in the first place. Instead, I have to be satisfied in my petty revenge that enough spambots should have picked up his credentials by now and sent a few thousand messages to clog up his account.

So, how do I go about getting my name back, aside paying the guy for it? What if it’s some kid who never uses the account? What if the owner of [email protected] is dead? Any chance then?Well, I seem to remember in the terms and conditions when I signed up to hotmail that if you don’t use your account for 60 days or so, then MSN terminates it, and, in fact, having asked around all the majors – Gmail, Yahoo Mail, Hotmail and Twitter, that does seem to be largely the case. Here’s how it runs.

Gmail

Google was very helpful on the matter, answering my question directly and then pointing me towards the supporting terms and conditions.

Google will terminate your account in accordance with the terms of service if you fail to login to your account for a period of nine months is the phrase I was looking for along with the fact that people can actively delete their accounts.

Now, the tricky part is that, although the user names will become freed up, it will only happen after an unspecified time period and I’ve no idea whether that’s a matter of days, months or years. Still, there is some hope for [email protected] to eventually arrive at its rightful owner.

Yahoo! Mail

Yahoo! was also most accommodating. The answer was very different though. It seems, with their service, that once your name has gone, it’s gone forever. As it stands, inactive accounts are not terminated and will lie idle indefinitely.

On the plus side, they did launch Ymail just last year, so I might be in for a shout at bagging that one while the service is fresh. Yep, all mine. Eat that one [email protected]

MSN

No reply back from MSN as yet but I’ll stick with that 60-day account termination I remember from back in the day. No word on whether they recycle the addresses but I’m infuriated to see that I’ve only got a choice between hotmail.co.uk and live.co.uk with all .coms presumably available to those in the States or behind proxy servers of some sort, or, in fact, those with some other way round which I have, as yet, to work out.

Twitter

Accounts that are inactive for more than 6 months may be removed without further notice

That’s what Twitter has to say about things, but notice the use of “may” rather than “will”. I would assume that Twitter does recycle user names, though, because they’re hot on name squatting. Go and have a look at the whole section dedicated to it if you don’t believe me.

The catch is that I happen to know of a chap desperately trying to get his user name in full knowledge that its current owner has done sod all with the account for well over the six month period. He has petitioned Twitter but they’ve done nought about it. All mouth and no trousers it seems.

The trouble is that the internet is still young; an adolescent really. It’s only now that this kind of thing is becoming an issue and, given the surprise of most of the press officers when I called, it’s something that we the users are realising a lot faster than the big web players.

So, there’s a few ways this can go. Either they get wise to this and realise that they need to start releasing user names or they get wiser and start charging some kind of premium for them. That was Facebooks toe in the water this morning. I wonder how well that would go down if Google tried the same?

So, what happens to your user name when you die? Well, that depends. For now, it’s very possible you can take it with you to the grave. Then, it seems my choices are either begging Google for some kind of alert service for when my name is released or a cash offer to the current owner. If you’re listening [email protected], how does fifty quid grab you?

Gmail introduces Undo Send to pull back e-mails

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I don’t use Gmail but I appreciate I’m one of the unenlightened here. I do have an account – two actually – but it just doesn’t interest me. I watched on a few weeks back when crisis day hit, the service went down and people were brought to their knees; people that is except for me.

Don’t get me wrong. I don’t think it’s rubbish or anything but I can’t say that new features like the one they’ve released today exactly haul me in either. This morning brings the dawn of the “Undo Send” feature on Gmail. Undo Send. Yes, superb…

GMail gets offline access

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Picture the scenario – you’re at home, and your internet connection’s gone down. You want to ring the providers, but all the info is in your GMail, and you can’t get to it, because you’ve got no internet connection! What do you do? You stop panicking, because you’re turned on offline access for GMail.

It’s a new feature for the popular webmail client that’ll allow users to keep a local cache of their messages so that if your internet connection drops for some reason, then you’ll still have complete access. It’ll also work in situations with no connection at all – on a plane, for example, or a bus.

To activate offline access, go to the Labs section of your GMail. It should be in the list there. If it’s not yet (it’s not for me) then give it a few hours and it should show up. Once activated, click the “Offline 0.1” link in the upper righthand corner to set everything up.

(via Official GMail Blog)

Related posts: GMail adds themes | GMail adds voice and video chat

GDrive rumours solidify – code spotted in Google Apps

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The rumours around Google’s GDrive, which we reported on the other day, look to be gaining steam. First, there was a mysterious menu option appearing in Picasa for Mac, and now code’s been added to Google Apps that references a ‘webdrive’. There’s even a little icon for it.

I’ll reiterate my comment from the other post – this isn’t likely to be ‘unlimited’ storage. People have too much crap for Google to allow that, and most of that crap is dubiously-acquired intellectual property like movies, games and music. Google’s had problems with that with YouTube, so I find it unlikely that they won’t put restrictions on the service.

More likely, we’ll see a limited storage, limited file upload service that doesn’t do very much more than what you can already do with Google Docs and Google Mail. When will we see it? My money’s on ‘fairly soon’.

(via Google Operating System)

Related posts: Rumours of Google planning an incredible unlimited cloud storage service | Google adds tube map to Google Maps

Rumours of Google planning an incredible unlimited cloud storage service

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Whispers around the intertubes would have you believe that Google has something very special planned for this year – unlimited cloud storage. It would mean that if you’ve got a fast enough broadband connection, then you’d no longer need more than a tiny hard drive – everything else could be stored online.

For the record, I don’t think Google’s quite there yet. Even their email product is officially limited, when its competitors’ products aren’t. There’s every chance that we’ll see some sort of limited storage product released by the Goog in 2009 but, well, the ‘unlimited’ label – I just don’t think it can happen yet.

(via ShinyShiny)

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GMail adds themes

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There’s a Firefox extension called Better GMail which Gina Trapani from Lifehacker has put together. It’s a compilation of Greasemonkey scripts that enhance various aspects of the service, from its looks to its functionality.

Google has a history of taking the best bits of the extension and adding them officially to GMail, and now they’ve added the popular ‘themes’ functionality. The themes look damn good – there’s giraffes, ninjas, the themes can change over time, or with the weather, and there’s even an old-skool ASCII theme.

The themes will be rolling out across GMail over the next few days. They’re not enabled on my account yet, sadly. Have they shown up on yours? Which is your favourite? Let us know in the comments.

Official GMail Blog)

Related posts: GMail adds voice and video chat | GMail adds yet more functionality – this time it’s SMS