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From Unity to GNOME to LXDE: A Journey of (Personal) Discovery

Much is being written these days about Unity – but more specifically, Canonical’s decision to shift from GNOME to Unity as the default desktop environment.

When I make use of a recent-generation laptop/desktop, I use Unity. Soon after reviewing Jorge Castro’s video on multitasking in Unity, I became (and remain) a fan of Unity. About the only serious omission of the Unity environment is the absence of the panel applets that I’ve grown attached to from time spent in the GNOME environment. (I believe improvements are already afoot in this area, but I have not explored the same …)

Perhaps the only negative feedback I’d offer about Unity is that I needed Jorge’s video to get me up to speed – and I find that somewhat ironic (from a usability perspective) for a leading-edge UI …

The fact that Unity has won me over is interesting in another regard. My first exposure to Unity was on an Asus 1000 netbook via Ubuntu’s netbook remix. In hindsight though, anything negative I’d share from this time had more to do with the Asus netbook and its built-in mouse than Unity, per se.

Although I am a proponent of Unity on recent-generation laptops/desktops, I’ve found it unusable on older hardware – and this applies to the 2D as well as the 3D version. In fact, I came to using the no-effect version of the GNOME environment on the old Dell equipment I still make use of.

Though this was a passable experience most of the time, there were far too many instances of excessive paging which rendered the system unusable.

It is fortunate that my end-user experience on legacy hardware was so unacceptable.

Why?

As a direct consequence, I recently discovered Lubuntu – at precisely the time Lubuntu was receiving official recognition from Canonical as a bona fide Ubuntu flavor.

I’ve thus been using Lubuntu 11.10 since its release last Thursday (October 13, 2011). Even though the honeymoon remains in effect, the shift to Lubuntu is proving to be increasingly worthwhile – I have a responsive interface to my legacy hardware, with the option to selectively leverage Ubuntu.

One final thought … Lubuntu provides Sylpheed as its built-in mail user agent (MUA). I’ve found Sylpheed to be extremely viable on my legacy hardware. In fact, I’ve even found the latest version of Thunderbird performs reasonably well on this same platform under Lubuntu. Despite these options, I’ve remained a user of Google’s browser-based version of GMail. Why? I seem to have lost the value proposition for fat MUAs for the moment ….

Feel free to comment on this post and add your own $0.02.

Chrome Today the Stainless Way

Even though I recently whined about the wait for Google Chrome on Mac and Linux platforms, I haven’t spent any effort empowering some other browser with Chrome-like features/functionalities – even though this is possible. And although CrossOver Chromium caught my attention, I wasn’t sufficiently motivated to evaluate it either.

Somewhat surprising then is the fact that I have gravitated rapidly towards a quick-and-dirty evaluation of “Stainless – a multiprocess browser for OS X inspired by Google Chrome.” Inspired is definitely the operative word here as:

… the Mac version of Chrome will use a WebCore-rendered bitmap to pass between the browser and rendering processes. The strategy we use in Hypercube (and now Stainless) is far less ambitious, but a whole lot easier to do and, thus, available today for your downloading pleasure (for Leopard only, sorry).

And what a pleasure it is!
Honestly, based on the recent LifeHacker post, I expected a whole lot less than what Stainless actually delivers today – in version 0.1!

Based on about 30-minutes experience, Stainless:
  • Performs well – It loads Web pages quickly. And as “ps -alx | grep -i stainless” indicates, Stainless really is a multiprocess browser for OS X. For me, this alone makes Stainless worth the effort.
  • Supports AJAX – I’m writing this blog post using Google Docs via Stainless. Stainless worked fine on my initial tests with other Google productivity apps – I tested Google Spreadsheets and GMail. I therefore have some level of comfort in proclaiming it as supporting AJAX. Nice!
I’m sure I’ll have more to say soon … In the meantime, though, even at this early stage Stainless is definitely worth a serious look.

Introducing Jott for BlackBerry

I just learned about Jott for BlackBerry:

We have a lot of happy Blackberry customers at Jott, and Jott for BlackBerry is the ultimate BlackBerry download. It is a simple, but very powerful tool that will let you reply to emails on your BlackBerry just using your voice – either speaking directly into your BlackBerry, or while wearing a Bluetooth headset. It is seamlessly integrated into the email application you already use, and is a huge leap forward for BlackBerry lovers in three ways: first, it is 3-5 times faster than ‘thumbing’ text; two, you won’t be known for sending just terse replies because you don’t want to thumb type out a normal email message; and three, you will be safer because you won’t have to take your eyes off the road.*
(*Jott does NOT encourage messaging while driving).

Jott for Blackberry makes an already awesome device even better.

The following is the body of a reply I just created:

Thanks for sharing this interesting service with me. It's definitely something that I'm interested in investigating and it's my intention to follow up very very soon. Thanks very much. Bye for now.

Sent with my voice via Jott for Blackberry ~ http://jott.com/bb

To listen: http://www.jott.com/show.aspx?id=e4eb3151-9007-448c-bd73-7de70ecc4766

In this example, the transcription quality was excellent. Note that the recipient is advised that the response was Jott’ed, and has the option of listening to the original audio recording. Nice!

Although I’m only at the testing stage, I expect to make extensive use of Jott for BlackBerry!

Note to Jott and Google: Please enable Jott for BlackBerry in the GMail for BlackBerry application.

Firefox 3 Beta 4: Noticeable Improvements

I’ve just upgraded to Firefox 3 Beta 4.
The spreadsheets component of Google Docs appears to work now. And although this suggests improvements in AJAX support, a known issue with GMail contacts remains:

GMail (new version) conversation labels appear on their own row in the message list, and names don’t show in the contacts manager (bug 415252)

This GMail bug remains a showstopper for me.
Of course, it’s important to remember that

Firefox 3 Beta 4 is a developer preview release of Mozilla’s next generation Firefox browser and is being made available for testing purposes only.

Firefox 3 Beta 3: Initial Experiences

I just downloaded Firefox 3 Beta 3 for Mac OS X Leopard.

My initial impressions are as follows:
  • It looks great! 
  • It’s fast! In some cases, blazingly fast! Page renderings, downloads, etc. 
  • Its AJAX support is very weak! This is a showstopper for me, as I use a number of AJAX-based applications. Although the word processing aspect of Google Docs appears to work, the spreadsheet capability isn’t quite there yet. And surprisingly, when I opened my GMail contacts, none of them appeared! 
  • Its add-on support is weak. This isn’t too surprising, I suppose, and is perhaps somewhat unfair to mention at this point. However, none of my add-ons work with this release, so I thought it was worth noting.
Net-net?
Looks highly promising, but don’t uninstall Firefox 2 (or your current production browser) just yet.

sync blackberry contacts with gmail: Problem Solved!

Update (February 10, 2009): See Sync Google Calendar and Gmail Contacts with Your BlackBerry for a recent How To guide to the Google Sync for the BlackBerry solution.

In just over fourteen months, one of my posts has received almost 19% of the views for my entire blog.

There is no other post that even comes close.
And to make matters more interesting, the post was written in response to my blog’s search stats. People consistently entered strings along the lines “sync blackberry contacts with gmail” and arrived here.
Frankly, all of this attention made me uneasy.
Why?
Because I really didn’t have much to offer on the topic.
But please don’t think that I didn’t give this information (not data!) some thought.
Honestly, dear reader, I confess I even pondered how I might arrive at a solution that might monetize this 19% for personal gain. Let’s face it, 19% of more than 60K hits translates potentially to more than 11K customers. Ka-ching! I am in disgrace.
Luckily I didn’t waste my time.
Waste, you gasp. Yes, waste.
You see, the fine folks at Google have delivered a solution.
It’s all in the GMail contact manager. This new addition to the GMail client for the BlackBerry solves the problem.
How?
If you have a contact for which you’ve entered phone numbers, these numbers appear when you click on the contact name to view their details. But that’s just the beginning. The phone numbers appear as clickable links. When you click on one of them, you automagically invoke the BlackBerry’s phone capability. (You may have forgotten that your BlackBerry actually allows you to call people as well.) Note that the first time you do this, you’ll need to approve some new settings.
Of course, you can email contacts as well.
Problem solved.
Please read my other posts!
If truth be told, this should be regarded as a great beginning.
Here’s why:
  • Read-only access – You can’t enter contact information from the GMail client on the BlackBerry. In time, we’ll want this. Like tomorrow!
  • Online-access only – You need your contacts when you’re off line? Like when you’re on an airplane? Until this client includes Google Gears functionality or equivalent, you’re out of luck here. I think I can live with that. For now. Because ultimately I would appreciate the ability to compose email when I’m off line. I do that frequently with the BlackBerry’s built-in mail client.
  • Contacts in too many places – Fragmenting contacts between your Google ‘verse and enterprise messaging platform (e.g., Microsoft Exchange, IBM Lotus Notes, etc.) has some disadvantages. However, as I’ve learned directly on the heels of personal experience, there are times when it’s wise to have some separation between our personal and corporate selves …

This gives me a lot of what I was looking for.

How about you?