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Posts Tagged ‘Gmail’

New from Google: Gadgets for Linux and Gmail Labs

Posted by Fred on June 9, 2008

Over the past couple of days, Google has rolled out a couple of interesting new products, a version of Google Gadgets for Linux and Gmail Labs, a testbed for new features for Gmail.

Google Gadgets for Linux is about what you’d expect, an implementation of Google’s gadget platform, previously available only to Windows and Mac users, for either the GTK+ or QT toolkits.  For those who care about such things, GGL is licensed under the Apache License, rather than the closed-source license for the other platforms.  To install, you’ll need to build from source, which is not a big deal, although it does require an Ubuntu user to jump through some hoops first.

The first step is to install some additional packages, if you don’t do much development work:

sudo apt-get install subversion build-essential zlib1g-dev libmozjs-dev libcurl4-openssl-dev libxml2-dev libdbus-1-dev libmozjs-dev libgstreamer-plugins-base0.10-dev libcurl3-openssl-dev libdbus-1-dev libxul-dev libcurl3 libcurl3-dbg libcurl3-gnutls libcurl4-openssl-dev libcurl-ocaml libmozjs0d libmozjs0d-dbg libmozjs-dev g++-4.2-multilib g++

Some of these packages may already be installed, many undoubtedly are not.  Now download the source from Google.  You can get a source package, but it may be outdated, so I used the svn repository.  From a terminal, do this:

svn checkout http://google-gadgets-for-linux.googlecode.com/svn/trunk/ google-gadgets-for-linux-read-only

Assuming you’re using the svn repository, prepare the build script:
cd google-gadgets-for-linux-read-only
sh autotools/bootstrap.sh

Now configure and build from the source code:
mkdir -p build/debug
cd build/debug
../../configure --enable-debug --disable-qt-host --disable-qt-system-framework --disable-qt-xml-http-request --disable-libggadget-qt --disable-qtwebkit-browser-element
make
sudo make install
sudo ldconfig

To start the sidebar, hit ALT-F2 and run ggl-gtk.  An icon will appear in the panel, which you can right-click to add gadgets.  To run at startup, click System>Preferences>Sessions and add ggl-gtk to the Startup Programs tab. If you want to use QT, build using just ../../configure –enable-debug and run ggl-qt instead.

Gmail Labs adds some experimental features to Gmail, many of which probably could be added via Greasemonkey scripts.  Unlike Greasemonkey, the Gmail labs features appear to be available in any browser.  To turn Gmail Labs on, go to Settings/Labs and enable features one at a time.  As of this writing, there are 13 available, ranging from Custom Date Formats, which “adds options to the general settings page allowing the date and time format to be changed independent of language. For example, you can use a 24-hour clock (14:57) or show dates with the day first (31/12/07)” to Signature Tweaks, which “places your signature before the quoted text in a reply, and removes the ‘–‘ line that appears before signatures.”  Most of these don’t do much for me, but there are two I enabled:

Quick Links “adds a box to the left column that gives you 1-click access to any bookmarkable URL in Gmail. You can use it for saving frequent searches, important individual messages, and more.”  Open any Gmail view, such as an individual message or a search, and click Add Quick Link.  The most useful application for Quick Links is with searches.  Add a link for is:unread to quickly view unread messages or has:attachment to find messages with attachments. Quick Links would also be a good way to find message from certain correspondents.

Superstars adds new icons to the default star for marking messages. You get additional stars in new colors, along with a check mark, exclamation point and question mark.  To use, you have to enable on the Settings/Labs page and then choose the stars you want available on the Settings/General page.

Presumably Gmail will keep adding Labs features, which will appear on the settings page.  if any feature messes up your inbox, just go to https://mail.google.com/mail/?labs=0 to disable Labs.

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FF3 beta 4 Gmail bug, with a fix

Posted by Fred on March 13, 2008

Have you upgraded to Firefox 3 Beta 4? Gmail giving you fits?  When I upgraded, I found that Gmail would no longer open messages, and would just hang on loading.  Disabling a Gmail-related extension didn’t help.  IE7 continued to work just fine.  There is a workaround, which solves the problem in two steps.

gmail_old_version.png

(1) Switch to the old version of the Gmail interface, which you can do with the link in the upper right corner of the page.

gmail_new_version.png(2) At this point, Gmail will open messages just fine, but to get to where you were with Beta 3, switch back to the new interface by clicking the link.

That’s it.  Gmail will work fine, and will continue to work fine after logging out and back in again.  Don’t ask me either why it didn’t work before or why this workaround fixes the problem, as I have no idea.

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Google finally fixes Gmail IMAP for Windows Mobile

Posted by Fred on January 30, 2008

When Gmail announced free IMAP access for all, users rejoiced.  But then we tried to use it, and Windows Mobile users said Boo! Now Gmail says they have fixed IMAP for Windows Mobile users, so we can rejoice again.  Google has updated the configuration instructions for WM6.  These instructions are incomplete, however, so here is an illustrated guide to setting up IMAP.

Read the rest of this entry »

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Google Addresses Windows Mobile IMAP (sort of)

Posted by Fred on January 24, 2008

Some time ago, Google rolled out IMAP access for Gmail users, to great fanfare. Unfortunately, on Windows Mobile, IMAP is useless, as many messages show up as headers only, with blank message bodies.  Google has known about this for months and months, but done nothing about it.  Now it seems they may actually be trying to work on it.  Many messages still show up with blank message bodies for me, but some HTML messages actually appear to work:

gmail_imap

Unblocking pictures doesn’t work, but that’s certainly not Google’s fault.  Perhaps HTML messages worked before and I just missed it.  Has anything changed or is it my imagination?

FlexMail is still your workaround if you want full Gmail IMAP on a Windows Mobile device.  That FM works and WM Messaging doesn’t proves it is Google’s problem, not Microsoft’s.

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Iphone + Gmail + IMAP = disaster about to happen

Posted by Fred on January 16, 2008

The law of unintended consequences in action:

For people using POP access in their iPhone, the new update for the device will automatically convert your email to IMAP without you knowing. Why does that matter? Well, if you are in the habit of deleting messages from your iPhone after you’ve read them, those messages will now be sent to your trash in Gmail too.It’s unfortunate that most users will be updated and probably never know what just hit them, but for those who are in the know, it’s actually a pretty good feature. You can think of IMAP as simply a different interface for your actual Gmail account — anything you do here will be done right in Gmail too. That means that actions like moving, deleting, and replying are instantly broadcast to any client using IMAP.

People will say that Apple or Google (or both) broke something, but this is how it is supposed to work, and reflects a difference between IMAP and POP.  There is really no Gmail mailbox and iPhone mailbox; they’re just interfaces to the same server.  That’s why the mailboxes are always in sync, and why under POP they’re not.  Just as you wouldn’t expect to be able to delete a message in Outlook and have it still be there when you log on from a different PC, you shouldn’t expect to be able to delete on the phone and not delete on the server.

This can be the same on a Windows Mobile device, too.  There are a couple of potential solutions, however.  First, you can set the deleted items folder on the mobile device to All Mail.  What IMAP actually does with a deleted message is mark it for deletion, and then on the next sync it moves it to the appropriate folder.  Normally this would be Trash, but you can set it to anything you want.  Setting it to All Mail archives the message.  Second, if your client allows it, choose to enable local deletion of messages.  I don’t have an iPhone, but in FlexMail for WM, you can enable “clear locally” for any folder, which will delete the local copy of the message but leave the one on the server.  To really delete, you would have to manually move the message to the trash.  FlexMail also allows automatic clearing of messages, so that anything older than 30 days is automatically cleared, again leaving the copy on the server intact.

One other thing Apple users might want to be aware of — when setting up Gmail in FlexMail, the default profile sync all Gmail folders, including the Spam folder.  It also defaults to downloading all messages.  So under the default setup, you’ll download every message in your Spam folder.  Hopefully the iPhone is set up differently.

The good news: messages deleted via IMAP aren’t gone forever. They sit in the Trash folder for 30 days before being purged, unless you’ve changed the default setting in Gmail.

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What Should Google Mobile Do Next? Fix the Broken Stuff.

Posted by Fred on December 20, 2007

Judi Sohn at Web Worker Daily wants to know What Should Google Mobile Do Next?

As Google expands their supported platforms and applications in the mobile space, what do you want them to tackle next? Sync for Windows Mobile calendar? Gmail contact syncing? Stand-alone Reader or Docs? More iPhone-friendly browser applications?

To paraphrase the comment I left over there – should Google introduce new mobile products? God no. They should fix the ones they already have, most of which are broken in some way (other than the ones for the JesusPhone):

  • Gmail introduced IMAP support, which in theory should allow you to keep the messaging application on your phone and the web application in sync.  Unfortunately, on Windows Mobile it’s horribly, horribly broken.  HTML messages just show up as message headers with empty message bodies. Google knows it’s broken, they’ve known for over a month, and they haven’t said anything other than “Windows Mobile is not supported.”
  • An alternative would be the Gmail java application, which does a lot of neat things like prefetching messages for speedy access.  Unfortunately, on AT&T the application is unusable, thanks to the crippled java implementation AT&T uses to promote its own service offerings.  This isn’t Google’s fault, but they could easily fix it by either (a) releasing a signed java application, which would get around the security restriction (what Nokia ended up doing to get Widsets to work on the e62) or (b) releasing a native Windows Mobile application (like they did with Maps).  At the very least, Google should acknowledge the issue and explain what the problem is.
  • The new beta of the Maps application has a cool feature called My Location, which uses cell tower location to provide a rough GPS-like functionality for non-GPS phones.  Great if it works, but many handsets just say “location temporarily unavailable.”  The Blackjack and the Q are two primary examples.  Each of these devices does report location to the OS, which some applications are able to use (i.e. PhoneAlarm).  Google apparently doesn’t like the data the phone provides.  Again, this is not entirely Google’s fault, but they could fix it, if they wanted to.
  • The last time I used it, the Google Reader mobile site crashed Pocket IE any time you tried to mark all items as read.  The Q9h comes with Opera Mobile, which seems to work OK.  Opera Mini also works OK, although it suffers from the same problem Gmail does and is unusable on AT&T phones.  Google Reader also doesn’t play nice with Opera Mini – keyboard shortcuts don’t work.

It bears repeating that these problems are not necessarily Google’s fault.  Other mail applications can deal with Gmail’s non-standard IMAP implementation, for example.  But the mobile world is what it is, and if Google is going to play in the mobile space, they should figure out a way to make their applications work properly.

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Workaround for Gmail IMAP/WM problem: use FlexMail

Posted by Fred on December 5, 2007

Update: the workaround is no longer necessary, as Google has fixed IMAP for WM users.

I recently complained that Gmail’s IMAP implementation is broken in Windows Mobile (original rant and renewed complaint).  This is true if you are using the default messaging application, and appears to be true in WM5 and WM6.  However, if you pay $30 to WebIS for FlexMail 2007, it works.  There was some suggestion in the WebIS forum post about the upcoming FM 4 beta that FM didn’t work either, but I tried the current version just to be sure.  Compare the default messaging application to FlexMail:

wm5_default.png vs.flexmail.png

It’s not a great solution – you shouldn’t have to pay $29.95 for basic messaging functionality – but it works.  It also means I now blame both MS and Google for the mess that is IMAP on WM5.

If you do use FM here’s a couple of tips.  You can’t enable SSL in the default Gmail template.  Use the template, but before you synchronize, edit the Gmail settings (from the Folders tab, click Menu >> Settings >> Accounts…).  Under Incoming Server, make sure the port is set to 993 and check Use Secure Connection.  Click the Settings… button and check the SSL boxes under Protocol.  I also checked the TLS box, but I’m not sure that’s necessary.

A bigger problem is that you can’t edit the check mail settings until you can access the Server Folders options, and you can’t do that until FM has synchronized once.  Unfortunately, FM will default to downloading all of your Gmail (in my case, that’s 4,000 messages, which is still a lot of data even downloading only the first 5K of the message body).  So what I did was start the synchronization and canceled once it was receiving messages.   Now go back into account setup, and under Incoming Mail, click the Server Folders button.  Scroll down to Inbox and select Menu >> Download Details…  Change it from all mail to only new messages, or set it to only download messages from the last x days (I picked 7).  There may be an easier way to do this, but this is what worked for me.

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Google is taking over the mobile world (kinda, if you’re not using WM)

Posted by Fred on December 5, 2007

Scoble says that Google is taking over the mobile world, and wants to know if you are getting sucked in too.  As I said in a previous post, I like Google’s mobile offerings and I use Google’s mobile offerings, but virtually all of them have serious problems under Windows Mobile on my Blackjack.  HTML messages under Gmail IMAP are blank.  Google Reader still crashes the default browser if you try to mark all messages as read.  The My Location feature in Google Maps doesn’t work.  Now I see that not only does it not work, it will never work on the Blackjack, Moto Q or Treo 700W, supposedly because these phones do not “support the APIs (application programming interfaces) Google requires to find cell towers.” Perhaps this is a problem with the hardware, but PhoneAlarm SP reports some sort of location information (Settings >> Profile Extras >> Options >> Location).  Right now, I’m at 10800-10018, but I have no idea what that means.

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Gmail labels – now in color

Posted by Fred on December 4, 2007

Gmail has made a couple of useful changes in the way labels work in the new version.  First, labels now come in colors.  Click the little square next to a label in the list and pick from a predefined color palette:

gmail_colored_label.png

You can also remove the color or edit the name of a label from the pop-up box, without having to go to the Edit Labels page.  As someone who uses Outlook’s automatic formatting extensively to color-code appointments and emails, my brain’s already trained to look for and process color-coding.  I’m on the fence on the whole label vs. folder debate, but the colored labels, seemingly a small thing, make a big difference.  This functionality was already available via Greasemonkey script, but I tend to avoid Greasemonkey (and it’s not available when, for example, checking my mail from my in-laws’ PC).   Google says you need at least IE7 or Firefox 2 to use the colored labels, but strangely enough, I get them in FF 3b1 but not FF 2.0.11.  It’s possible that Google added it to my Gmail in the hour I was commuting from one computer to the other, however.

The other label-related feature makes it easy to remove a label.  Just click on the x next to the label name in an individual conversation:

gmail_label_delete.png

You can still remove the label via the More Actions drop-down as well.  It would be nice if Google would add the remove label button to the message list view (i.e. the Inbox) also.  Again, this is a small feature that enhances usability.  When Google added additional selections to the More Actions drop-down, it became necessary to scroll down to get to the remove label link.  Now you can save two clicks, and every little bit helps.

Google promises additional conversation-organizing features soon, including “some folder-y-ish functionality,” whatever that means. Hopefully drag-and-drop, which is the one feature Yahoo has that I want in Gmail.

[Kind of via Google Operating System and Googling Google]

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Friday Rant: Why Won’t Google Make It’s Applications Work With Windows Mobile?

Posted by Fred on November 30, 2007

Let’s start with a confession.  I’ve bought into the Google ecosystem big-time.  I use Gmail as my primary personal e-mail account.  I use Google Apps for the email on the ochsenhirt.org domain.  I use Google Reader for RSS and Google Maps for directions.  I haven’t yet jumped on board the web apps bandwagon for word processing and spreadsheets, so the added features in Zoho haven’t been enough – on the few occasions I’ve done a spreadsheet or quick document online, it’s been on Google Docs.  Plus Google for search, of course.  With all that said, Google is really starting to bother me.  Specifically, the way that Google’s mobile offerings work with Windows Mobile.  Or rather, the way that they don’t work.  Granted, many of the problems are at least as much the fault of AT&T and/or Microsoft, but Google could make them work better.   So here in no particular order are some glitches in the Google Matrix:

gmail_imap.png1. Gmail via IMAP results in blank message bodies

When Google introduced IMAP for Gmail, it sounded great.  Finally, I could access Gmail on the Blackjack without using the java application.  You could always use POP, but that resulted in mailboxes that were horribly out of sync.  Plus, you lost the benefit of Gmail’s tagging system.  IMAP promised to be better.  And it is.  Via IMAP, I can grab messages on demand or automatically, using the same messaging application I use for Exchange Direct Push.  Not so fast there, fella.  Most, but not all, HTML messages show up with blank message bodies.  WM5 doesn’t do HTML mail, so I didn’t expect the HTML to come through intact, but I should still get the plain text.  Apparently, Gmail’s IMAP implementation isn’t reporting certain optional fieldsGoogle apparently didn’t bother to test IMAP on WM.  WM6 doesn’t seem to be any better, so unless a third-party app like Flexmail can fix it, or Google fixes it, IMAP on the Blackjack is fairly useless except as a glorified Gmail Notifier.  Some have reported success using AT&T’s Xpress Mail, but I have no interest in encouraging AT&T to push its own services.

gmail.png2. The Gmail java application doesn’t work in AT&T’s broken Java

This one is clearly not Google’s fault, but Google could fix it.  AT&T intentionally crippled the Java implementation on the Blackjack, the 8525 and the Tilt (and probably other recent phones like the Moto Q Global and Blackjack II, but I don’t know for sure).  If you try to run an unsigned Java midlet on the Blackjack, it will ask for permission every time it needs to send data to the internet.  This is not part of the J2ME specification, and is not part of the stock midlet manager AT&T uses.  They intentionally crippled it by removing the option to grant permission on a per-session basis.  What does this mean?  It means you have to click OK many, many times before you ever reach the Gmail inbox, and you have to continue to grant permission every time you open or send a message.  That makes the application completely unusable.  The same is true, incidentally, of the Google Maps java application, Opera Mini 4  and anything else that accesses the net.

AT&T did this, they say, for security purposes, but that’s a load of crap.  They did it to avoid cannibalizing the market for their own services.  If you can use the Gmail application, you don’t need Xpress Mail.  If you can use Opera Mini, you won’t be impressed that the Q9 Global includes Opera Mobile.  If you can use Google Maps, maybe you don’t pay $10 a month for AT&T’s GPS service.  There is, however, a workaround.  By installing another midlet manager, such as IBM’s J9 or Esmertec’s Jbed, you can install java midlets that offer per-session permissions.  That shouldn’t be necessary, however, and Google could fix the problem by either (a) offering a signed java application or (b) offering the Gmail application as a native WM application, the way they did with Google Maps.  All is not well in third party midlet manager land, however…

3. The Gmail java midlet crashes Jbed

Among the alternative midlet managers, I like Jbed better, because it renders Opera Mini better than does J9.  Unfortunately, if you try to run Gmail under Jbed, it crashes upon sign-in, and does it every time.  Therefore, my Blackjack now contains three midlet managers, the stock AT&T one that I never use, Jbed for Opera Mini and J9 for Gmail. If Google isn’t going to fix Gmail for all the AT&T customers, they could at least make it work under the workaround.

4. The Google Reader mobile site crashes Pocket IE

Google hasn’t introduced a Google Reader Mobile application, but there is a quite usable mobile site for Reader users.  You can view all items, or view individual subscriptions or individual tags (which most people, including me, use like categories).   So far, so good.  Unfortunately, if you try to use the Mark These Items As Read link, which should mark the nine items on-screen as read, all it does is close Pocket Internet Explorer.  That makes it unusable for me, as I don’t want to open each item individually when I’m reading it on the Blackjack.  Opera Mini works just fine, so this is some sort of PIE issue, but it’s still a pain.  Although there’s probably a work around for this, too, under Jbed Opera Mini won’t respond to keypad number shortcuts, so I can’t push # to mark all items as read.  So even the Reader workaround needs a workaround.

maps.png5. The new Google Maps Find My Location feature doesn’t work

The new version of Google Maps Mobile includes a neat feature that attempts to use cell tower triangulation to provide a rough location for devices without GPS.  Unfortunately, on my AT&T Blackjack, GMM just says my location is currently unavailable.  Lots of other people are reporting the same problem.  I have no idea whether this is a Windows Mobile problem, an AT&T problem or a Google problem, but it appears they didn’t do adequate testing with WM devices.

With the announcement of Android and the Open Handset Initiative, along with the customized Google apps on the iPhone, it’s doubtful Google is going to work too hard fixing these problems.  That’s unfortunate, as I have zero interest in the Apple product, and Android is a long way away.  There’s no good alternative, but Google deserves criticism for the way their products interact with WM.

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