29 Apr 2011
Further from my recent post on Google Mail Filters, another rule that I had setup in Outlook was to move emails that originated from outside my organisation into a separate folder "Inbox - External". This way marketing information, or newsletters for example wouldn’t clutter my inbox. There isn’t a predefined scenario in the Outlook Rules Wizard to handle this, but you can achieve the desired result by setting the “with specific words in the sender’s address” to “@” and adding an exception “except with @myorganisationdomain.com in the sender’s address” as shown below. Effectively the rule states that all emails except those originating from my organisation should get moved to the defined folder.
You will see in the screenshot that I also have exceptions for specific individuals and domains. What I found was that after setting this rule up, I was missing important emails as they were being moved out of my Inbox. For example, emails from the client of the project I was working on, my car pool buddy (in case he was leaving early that day), and of course my wife. Effectively you can set these up as exceptions to the rule by adding them to “except if from” or “except with @clientdomain.com in the sender’s address”.
Now that we have moved to Google Mail, I wanted to replicate the rule in the Google Filters.
- Under Settings -> Filters select Create a new filter
- On the Choose search criteria screen, set:
- From: –@myorganisationdomain.com (note the minus before the @)
- To: me
- Doesn’t have: from: wife OR from: car.pool.buddy (obviously replace with the names you want to exclude)
- Use the Test Search button to test the criteria you have entered. The filter looks something like this:
- Click Next Step >>
- In the Choose action screen, tick “Skip the Inbox” and tick “Apply the label: Inbox – External”
- Click Update Filter
31 Mar 2011
Yesterday I learned of a neat lab that’s available with Google Talk called ‘Google Guru’. It’s essentially a question and answer service that lets you do several types of queries using the Google Talk chat service. To setup the service, you first need to be signed into Google Talk, then add the contact firstname.lastname@example.org. Now you can initiate a chat session with the guru and ask questions such as the weather in your location:
Ask simple calculations:
I must say though that it is very hit and miss with the results:
I ran a similar searches in one of the best question and answer services around, Wolfram Alpha which had no problems handling such requests:
Next I thought I’d throw it some curly questions and see how they compare. Firstly in Google Guru:
Then in Wolfram Alpha:
So the Google Guru might be useful for some basic queries and if you are a fan of Google Talk as your IM client, you may find it handy, but it certainly struggles with many of the requests I gave it and the results no where as good as those by other such services.
For more information on the service, go to http://guru.googlelabs.com/
27 Mar 2011
As part of my organisations move from Exchange Server to Google Mail I needed to update my phone settings to sync to the Google server. To do this, from the home screen I select the right arrow at the top of the screen:
Then selected Settings:
Finally, select email & accounts –> Outlook.
My existing settings have the username as my network login id, and the server set to exchange.mycompanydomain. To switch over to using the Google Mail server, I changed the username to my email address (e.g. david_cook@mycompanydomain) and changed the server to m.google.com. After saving I received an alert Action Required on the email & accounts screen. Selecting the Outlook account I was prompted to “Update your password for m.google.com and press Save” after re-entering my password the account showed Synchronising and my emails are now syncing via Google Mail.
25 Mar 2011
Today my organisation started the move from Microsoft Exchange Server to Google Mail and as part of the move I have been nominated what they are referring to as a Google Champion. This is effectively an early adopter from each department which essentially means to help iron out any issues during the transition and to help flesh out FAQs and training material that might be useful for the rest of the organisation.
Having used Microsoft Outlook as my primary email client for well over 10 years I thought it might be useful to share my experiences with moving to Gmail. As part of the early adoption phase, I wanted to try and exclusively use the web client and make the most of the features they have made available rather than continuing to use Outlook and using the available sync tools.
Something many of us use in Outlook is folders, but Gmail doesn’t use folders, instead it uses labels. Therefore when my Exchange mailbox was converted, the folders actually get converted as filters with the emails within those folders also tagged with the relevant label. As you can see on the image on the right, the folder structure is a hierarchy, however the labels in Google Mail are simply a text label, therefore the representation of the tree structure gets converted to my folder structure include all folders will be converted as Level1/Level2/Level3 or given my folder structure Inbox/Reference Material/Personal.
I wanted to clean up the structure by simply renaming them back to a single level structure. This can be done under Settings –> Labels as shown below:
I simply renamed the Inbox/Reference Material to Reference Material.
When renaming the label, all emails also get their labels updated. You can also rename labels from the main page as follows:
After I started doing this, I discovered one of the greatest strengths of using the web client as opposed to a desktop client is the use of Labs. Under Settings –> Labs is a treasure trove of add ins for Gmail which provide a heap of extra functionality, and the gem I used in this instance was called Nested Labels. Enabling this add in as the name suggests gives us a hierarchy for labels which means I can keep the folder structure I had in Outlook.
Enabling the add in:
Renaming labels now allows for providing a hierarchy:
View of labels in the desired hierarchy:
24 Dec 2010
For any technologist out there, 2010 has to be declared the year of the gadget. Let me run you through the new technology which has shaped my year.
To kick off the year, I purchased an iPod Touch. I was forever losing my smart phone to the missus to play games on, so I thought the purchase of an iPod Touch would be a great investment mostly for the great number of simple and addictive games on the app store, plus it would allow me to get my phone back. A few months later my wife was given an iPhone from her work and we were simply able to transfer all the games across for her. Throughout the year, the iPod Touch has continued to prove a worthwhile investment not only for my wife and I, but we have also found a large array of kids learning and puzzle games. My 2 year old can now operate it better than I.
For mothers day, I purchased a Roomba for my wife. Many said buying your wife a vacuum cleaner is a terrible idea but it has been one of the best household buys for many years. The advantages we have found is we can simply isolate one section of the house and set the Roomba off while we play with the kids in another area of the house or simply go outside with the kids. This means the house gets cleaned while we can spend more time with the kids or doing other chores.
I have forever been struggling with home backup strategies and the growing volume of digital media led me to get a home server. Specifically I went with the HP Media Smart Server.
Previous to this I had a collection of external hard drives including a Western Digital World Edition NAS drive. The problem with this solution was I had to manually juggle media across multiple drives. Further I had to manually manage backups of each of our home machines which unfortunately was growing. At this point in time, I currently have a home office desktop, 2 media centre pc’s, a netbook and a laptop. The automated backup features of the home server and the quick recovery options paid for itself when my desktop hard drive crashed and I needed to restore not only the operating system but all applications and data. Further, the ability to add 4 internal drives and more external drives and span them all as a single volume meant not more juggling media across drives.
This year my role at work involved attending many more meetings than previously. I struggled to keep up with the material that was being discussed and the action items raised. I therefore purchased a smart pen – the Livescribe Echo. This thing has saved my bacon on several occasions as instead of feverishly trying to take notes during meetings, I can let it record the meeting and I can simply take some points. Later I can upload to my laptop and review what was discussed. The only downside I have found is some attendees don’t like being recorded – so I have to remember to check first.
I’ve always enjoyed reading and part of working in Information Technology is the need to continually keep up with new practices. The difficulty in this is that many of the reference books are huge. Take for example one of the books I was wanting to read this year: Steve McConnell’s Code Complete.
This book is over 1000 pages long, so try carrying that and anything else (such as a laptop) in your backpack to and from the train each day and you’ll soon be a chiropractors best friend. So with the explosion of eBook readers this year (and the parity of the AU and US dollar) I figured it would be a good time to get one. After doing some research I settled on the Kindle DX from Amazon. This proved to have the best resolution and the amazon marketplace was second to none. Also the large screen size and support for PDF suited the technical reference guides I am reading.
I was getting very annoyed with the cheap (and crappy) mouse we were supplied with our work desktops so figured I’d spend a few bucks on something better seeing as I sit using it for 8+ hours a day. A colleague had a Microsoft Arc Mouse and gave it to me for a day to take for a spin. It was extremely light and very responsive so it didn’t take long to win me over. Another colleague also wanted a new mouse so we gave him a spin and he too was won over. All up when I went to the local computer part supplier I came home with 7 new Microsoft Arc mice.
Probably the most anticipated technology for the year for me was the Windows 7 Phone. I had been surviving (just) with my iMate JasJam which I worked out was nearly 4 years old which in phone technology terms is prehistoric. The release of the Windows 7 Phone was late in November and I like any good technologist I queued up on release day to upgrade. With the release came several models and I went with the HTC Mozart and it hasn’t disappointed.
For Christmas my wife and I decided to get a joint present rather than lots of little things we didn’t really need. For several years we have been using a simple fixed focus point and shoot digital camera but we haven’t been overly happy with the quality of the shots and therefore we haven’t been taking many shots with it lately. As such we decided to go with a new digital SLR and after some research we went with a Nikon D3100. This is an entry level digital SLR which is ideal for us, it has all the auto settings for when we want to do point and shoot, but also has all the manual settings for if we decide to get more serious about photography.
Finally there is one more gadget which is currently sitting under the Christmas tree which I can’t wait to get my hands on, an XBOX 360 + Kinect. While this is supposedly for the kids, I’m sure I’ll get a bit of mileage out of it as well.
So it has been a very good year for gadgets and technology. Here’s hoping we have another cracking year next year.