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The Web (Google) Fear

by @ 1:53 pm
Filed under: google — Tags:

Gmail is having intermittent outages today but when i saw the below page my heart sank thinking they had suspended my account. The message is so personal:

We're sorry but your Gmail account is temporarily unavailable.

Seems innocent enough until you start thinking, what if it is my account only? Have I been banned, am I being penalized for some unknown behaviour, or just my technical issue number was up? What then, who'll help me?

Pretty scary when most of life is lived online where it can be yanked away from one in a moment with no recourse.

Fortunately, judging by the tweets, I wasn't a lone target today. I still belong 🙂

gmail-outage

Outlook is Private - Really!

by @ 12:12 pm
Filed under: email,google,microsoft — Tags: ,

Logging into my Hotmail/Outlook account this morning I was greeted with this message touting the benefits of Outlook. They saved the best for last, claiming that "Outlook is private". Talk about false advertising.

outlook is private?

 

It was barely a week ago when news leaked that Microsoft had snooped on an employee's Hotmail account while investigating a hacking incident. And before that there were news of Hotmail snooping on inboxes on behalf of the NSA.

If you are going to make a false statement, at least wait for a period of time for the negative news to fade. Taking veiled pot-shots at Google for showing related advertising on Gmail is easy enough. But I'd much rather have a computer algorithm display related ads while reading emails, than have a forensic team at Microsoft read and analyze my emails or send them to some government agency to be collected and mined unconstitutionally. And then to have the gall to make the phony privacy-abiding statement in the face of their blatant disregard for privacy?

What Gmail Needs, Action Icons

by @ 3:56 pm
Filed under: email,google — Tags:

I have been a Gmail user since its debut and have never looked back since I migrated from Hotmail so many years ago. But I still use Hotmail (now known as Outlook) and Yahoo Mail on occasion for trivial emailing and one of the great features that they offer is one-click actions for delete or move. As the mouse pointer rolls over the individual messages, action icons appear to the left of the titles allowing one to delete or move the messages. This is immensely helpful and it's something Gmail doesn't have.

Action icons in Yahoo Mail

Action icons in Yahoo Mail

In Gmail one either has to right-click each message for a menu to pop up and then choose an action like delete or archive, or click the checkbox to the left of the message and then select an action on the top menu. Both of these methods are not as convenient as having single-click action icons appear as one rolls over a message.

I think it's time for Google to introduce action icons in Gmail, at least as a Labs feature.

Gmail Storage Jumps to 10G

by @ 10:37 am
Filed under: email,google — Tags:

Today I noticed my Gmail storage had jumped form 7.5G to 10G. Maybe it's Google's way of compensating for the new ugly design. I suspect in most cases users didn't even notice the change and for even more users like me, who try to keep their account clean, this is really not much of an event.

Still, one never knows when the extra storage may come in handy, so it's welcome news.

Gmail Forces New Look

by @ 11:28 am
Filed under: email,google — Tags:

The good times are over and the ugly Gmail era has dawned. Google finally made good on the threat of making the new look permanent. Over the weekend my Gmail style switched to the new ugliness and there was no longer an option available to revert to the old look as before.

I can whine and complain about the new style but in the end it's Google's service and I'm using it for free. If I don't like it, I can leave, but not going to do that for now, I still like Gmail better than Yahoo and Hotmail. This attitude is not unprecedented at Google. When they took away the FTP feature of Blogger which was my blogging platform then, I complained too. In that case I decided to migrate my blog to Wordpress on my own site and have been happy with that decision.

What also ticks me off is that there are no themes to make Gmail look like its past version. That would have been so easy for Google but alas, there are no retro or classic themes. It's like Google wanted to wipe away even the tiniest connection to Gmail's past. For now the best choice for me is the compact mode with the high-contrast theme. That's neither compact nor high-contrast, but eventually I'll get used to it. Meanwhile I'm sure Google is already working on an uglier next version of Gmail.

New Ugly Gmail Look

by @ 9:23 am
Filed under: email,google — Tags: ,

Yesterday I was greeted by an icon in Gmail to try their new look. I clicked, played with the new look for a while and ran right back to the old look. Alas, Google seems determined to push the new Gmail look on users, whether they like it or not, so the classic look may not last much longer.

I had two immediate negative reactions to the new design. The style is plain ugly and it also stinks of social networking. There are no clear cut delineations between the email area, the navigation, the ads, and the buttons. Elements seem to have been randomly placed on the page with very little contrast to differentiate the various areas.

Google will probably deny this but the new design is like Google+ crammed into Gmail. Everything has profile pictures in it and email threads look like wall posting timelines now. You can try the compact mode to squeeze everything together but that doesn’t help much. The elements never quite collapse like the classic version.

When will companies learn? You can't force people to like a product. This is the case of Gmail trying to push Google+ on the users and it doesn't work. The Gmail help forums are already rife with critical messages from disgruntled users. If Gmail wants to give its users new look and feel options, that's fine, but not allowing users to have the classic look is just heavy-handed.

Users can revolt and threaten to leave Gmail and hope Google pulls a BoA in the end. But if Google decides to push forward with the new look, it may be time to ditch Gmail for other services. This may be a golden opportunity for Facebook to beef up its pitiful email platform and steal users away.

Pasting images into Gmail

by @ 12:16 pm
Filed under: email,google — Tags: , ,

A great idea that was way overdue. I always liked the simplicity of copy/pasting images into outlook. Now Gmail lets users do the same. Granted that for now it's only supported in Chrome, but that's my default browser anyways.

No more the old cumbersome copying, saving, naming, inserting, selecting, and finally deleting images.

Pasting images into messages just got easier - Official Gmail Blog.

Hosted Apps Downside - Gmail

by @ 10:28 am
Filed under: google,web — Tags: ,

Yesterday without any indication my Gmail account went into a lockout mode displaying this message when I try to login:
Gmail account maintenance

Sorry... account maintenance underway

We’re currently performing maintenance on your account. You won’t be able to log in while maintenance is underway, but your account data and messages are safe. Unfortunately, we can’t predict exactly how long this will take.

If this maintenance lasts more than 24 hours, please contact us at gmail-maintenance@google.com.

As a developer, I put nary a confidence level in the veracity of this message and I'm fairly sure there is no maintenance underway. Something has gone wrong with the program logic or someone has flagged my account or a bunch of accounts to investigate something and now my crippled account is just sitting there until someone gets to it.

So for now I have no access to new or existing emails and judging by the Gmail forum it could be offline for days with no access to tech support. Which makes me wonder, this is the same platform as Google Apps and if a business decided to host their online apps on Google, would they be able to afford this kind of downtime and no support?

Larger businesses may receive some form of technical support, but what about the smaller ones? Something to consider as an overall migration strategy. Meanwhile I wait and see when my Gmail account is resurrected. Doesn't look promising though.

Update: After nearly a 26-hour outage, Gmail is back up for me as well as a group of other users who were affected by the maintenance lockout. There was no explanation on what caused the outage. Google is notorious for ignoring individual emails from people with issues, but they do appear to skim the forums and apparently in this case the number of people posting complaints got their attention.

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