Sometimes, shopping for school supplies can be so frustrating. Last Saturday, after hours of searching and visiting several stores, I got everything on my list except for a notebook page-sized map of the USA and world for my older daughter. So I ordered it this morning via Amazon, with a shipping time of 4-14 days.

Almost immediately (and as usual), a confirmation email from Amazon appeared in my Gmail inbox. With one important difference.

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(Click on the image to see a larger size. Cuz I know squinting still won’t help you.)

The inbox view of Amazon’s confirmation email had a button labeled “View Order” with an arrow. I didn’t even have to open the email itself; all I needed to do was to click on the button itself and I’d be taken directly to Amazon’s website with the order details.

Opening the email itself made the button disappear, unless I returned to the inbox view.

Apparently, Google must have recently enabled this feature for Amazon, or perhaps Google is beta-testing this with a small pool of users. Has anybody else seen this feature, and is this only for Amazon or also for other selected retailers?

Stumbled upon a direct link that pulls up Gmail Tasks onto its own page.  Worked on Google Chrome Beta 2.0, so I wonder if it works on other browsers as well.

Here’s the link:

http://mail.google.com/tasks/ig

If you’re using Google Apps for your domain, here’s another link:

http://mail.google.com/tasks/a/YOURDOMAIN.COM/ig

(Substitute “YOURDOMAIN.COM” with the correct Google Apps domain)

GMail adds Video Chat!

November 12, 2008

In an attempt to further cement my enduring love for Gmail (Google Mail), video chat has been added!

As a deaf person and a Google lover, this is the perfect confluence of all things Google-goodness.  I can’t emphasize how thrilled I am with this new development.

(No, that’s not me in the picture above.  That’s a Google employee demo’ing the video.  Grin.)

The Official Google Blog has more details.  In a nutshell:

Just click on the new “Video & more” menu in a Gmail chat window and select “Start video chat” or “Start voice chat.” You can switch to a full screen view or pop out the chat window and change the size and positioning as you wish.

Gmail voice and video chat will be rolled out globally over the next day or so for Macs and PCs. The first time you use this feature, you’ll be prompted to download and install a small plugin. To get started, visit http://www.gmail.com/videochat or click on the “Options” menu in a Gmail chat window and choose “Add voice/video chat.” Find out more on our Gmail Blog.

Of course, you’ll need a webcam (and a good friend) to use this functionality.

My, today is a wonderful day, isn’t it?  :-)

(I just realized I’ve been blogging about Google several times in a row.  I think I need medication to stop my Google OCD-ness …)

… about the first phone to come out using Google’s Android platform:

(Click image for a larger version)

I’ve already blogged some preliminary thoughts about the Tmobile G1, the first Android phone.  I want it so bad that it aches!  However, I don’t like the phone unit itself that Tmobile used for its first Android phone.  I’m waiting to see if Sprint or Verizon comes out soon with their own phones running on the Android platform.  I’m curious if those phones would have built-in keyboards that you don’t have to slide out to use.  See what happens (hopefully soon) …

While looking up an address on Google Maps, I noticed that Google now displays a list of businesses at that address in the left column.

(Click on picture for a larger version)

Very, very, VERY useful feature.  I can’t tell you how many YEARS I’ve wished Google Maps would add this feature.  Yahoo Maps had a similar feature for quite a while, but it was difficult to use.

Also, I’m not sure if it’s something that’s now available to everyone, is being rolled out gradually to groups of people, or if Google’s testing this out to a select group of people.

The first “Google Phone” has been announced!  It’ll be released on October 22nd.

Google designed a new smartphone interface system called Android, and it will be available to just about any telephone network who want to use it on smartphones / phones.  This would be similar to Palm’s operating system, Apple’s iPhone, or Windows Mobile — except that, of course, it’s from Google.

The real test is whether the Android operating system would be better than what is being offered on the iPhone.   The iPhone has captivated the market, and Android phones would have a way to go to catch up.  However, Android’s appeal would be its (future) availability on a variety of phones by different telephone companies (rather than just from AT&T / Apple), its variety of applications that can be easily approved and then downloaded onto any Android phone (rather than put up with Apple’s strigent and lengthy approval process for new applications), and its low price (Google isn’t charging much if at all for this new system, and as a result, Android smartphones will be comparatively low-priced).

The first Android smartphone is the G1, from T-Mobile.

If you’re thinking this looks like the Sidekick, you’re right.  It does!  There are some key differences:

  • Touch-screen!
  • WiFi built-in
  • A much wider variety of applications that can be downloaded onto the smartphone
  • GPS
  • Listening to music
  • Watching videos (YouTube and similar)
  • 3G network

And some similarities:

  • Screen that swivels or slides open to reveal keyboard
  • Camera (a good 3.1 mp resolution, but no video)
  • Push email (Gmail account required)

It’ll have the usual Google features – maps, gTalk (dunno about AIM but the user should be able to download an application for that), YouTube, web browsing, Gmail, etc etc.

How much?  $179.

Yes, $179!

I’m thinking of getting one.  Hmmmmm.  Only problem?  It’s T-Mobile.  I think I’ll wait a bit longer.

To commemorate (I assume!) the various Gay Pride celebrations across the world, Google has an Easter Egg: when you go to Google.com and search for “gay”, a rainbow sidebar appears to the right of the results. This Easter Egg might disappear soon, so do check it out sooner.

Nice touch, Google!

(Click image for a larger view)

Google Rainbow Easter Egg

Thanks, David, for the tip!

On a related note, I think it’s irritating that the Google ads to the right of the rainbow sidebar are for adult- and sexual-oriented dating websites.  Oh, wait!  I had Google’s SafeSearch set to “Do not filter my search results.”  After I changed it to “Use strict filtering,” most of the sexual-oriented ads went away.

A quick blog post to let folks know that Google Maps Mobile has been updated to version 2.0.2.0. To install it, go to http://www.google.com/gmm via your Palm Treo or Centro’s web browser and download / install it over the air.

Google Maps Mobile My LocationThe biggest change is that for Palm Centro smartphones, it supports “My Location,” a close approximation of where you are. While it’s not exact, it’s good when searching for nearby stores. However, as my poor hapless partner reports, it’s confusing to see My Location when following driving directions — he constantly thinks it’s exactly where he is, and consequently gets lost. Turn it off when following directions, honey!

There are a few more smaller changes, notably combining “Location” and “Search” into one option. When using the keypad to scroll the screen, the scrolling is done smoothly instead of jerkly – a nice touch and easier for tracking the moving screen. When a location is found, a small green arrow “drops” onto it — nice animation. And when opening a location, you can then see links for “Directions to here,” “Directions from here,” and “Search nearby.”

Just don’t forget to periodically reset Google Maps, or else your map cache will grow too large.

Very nice touches, Google! One of my favorite Palm programs has gotten even better.

Zoho logoMy favorite on-line wordprocessor — Zoho Writer — has now made it possible to work on documents even when disconnected from the Internet. Makes it mightly useful when flying, or taking the (non-WiFi-equipped) bus or train, or otherwise when you’re (horrors!) not hooked up to the Internet.

A couple months ago, I wrote that Zoho Writer had incorporated Google Gears, a handy browser add-on that makes it possible for users to still use certain webpage features even when not connected to the Internet. But at that time, that incorporation was actually pretty basic — users could only view documents off-line and could not actually create or edit documents.

With the new update, announced earlier this week, Zoho Writer can now be used to view, create, and edit documents whether on-line or off-line. Just be sure to turn this feature on and allow it to download your Zoho Writer files before you actually go off-line!

Like I mentioned the last time, I find it so ironic that Zoho has been using Google Gears to its fullest capabilities, while Google has not yet used Google Gears to bring off-line capabilities to its own on-line word processing suite (Google Docs). But in Zoho’s recent blog post announcing that Zoho Writer is now fully available off-line, Zoho graciously commended Google for its product and its support.

A word of advice to Zoho, though: can you please, pretty please caption or subtitle (in English) your videos? I’d love to watch them, especially the YouTube interview of two Zoho engineers talking about Google Gears. You see, I’m deaf (and so are many of my readers), and even though I’m a faithful Zoho user, I can’t understand your videos – sigh!

Gmail Thoughts

November 28, 2007

Gmail LogoEver since Chatter Email on the Treo now works well with Google’s Gmail, I’ve been using Gmail heavily over the past week. Even though I struggled at first with it, I must admit I have fallen completely in love with Gmail.

Gmail is quite different from most email programs and email websites. We’re so used to the Outlook / Yahoo / Hotmail format, with folders on the left and all emails listed separately in your inbox. Rather, Gmail uses “Tags” instead of folders, and groups together all emails in the same thread rather than listing them separately in the inbox. And if you want to file away an email, you “Archive” it (even after you’ve already tagged it).

At first, I didn’t like having to tag an email and THEN archiving it (a 2- to 3-click process) if I wanted to file away an email on Gmail. And it felt a bit cumbersome to constantly hunt for the right button with my mouse.

And then I discovered “Better Gmail.”

Better Gmail is a Firefox-only extension that adds a good number (I think 25!) of Gmail-specific extensions and features — most of which were developed by other people and then collected under one application. I didn’t like keyboard shortcuts before (I prefer the mouse!), but now with Better Gmail, I love how a few keyboard clicks takes care of just about everything on Gmail. And I really like Better Gmail’s “Filter Assistant” that’s at the top of each email and which makes it easy for you to create filters. Now whenever I get an email to my mom, it’s automatically tagged as “Family” — and every time I send an email to her, my email is automatically tagged as “Family” and then archived. (Yes, I admit it, I’m a mommy’s boy.) Better Gmail also comes with several “skins” — or new looks for Gmail. And Better Gmail adds numerous other features to Gmail — I ain’t gonna list them all here.

But yes, Better Gmail only works with the increasingly popular Firefox browser. I use Firefox on my PCs at home, but at work I grit my teeth and use either Internet Explorer or Netscape — neither of which works with Better Gmail.

The best thing yet about Gmail (and Better Gmail)? It’s free. Even its IMAP functionality is free. Yahoo Mail charges you a yearly fee if you want to use its now-primitive POP functionality — and Yahoo Mail doesn’t even offer IMAP.

Gmail — it’s gonna be the start of a beautiful friendship …

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