Saturday, March 25, 2006

gmail switcharoo redux

Here is an update on my last post with a few notes regarding the switch:
  1. If you want to become a Gmail Masta, my young padawan, then you must become one with tools like Gmail Macros. Check out this article at Lifehacker to learn how to label and archive emails with mere keystrokes!
  2. Once you decide to take the plunge and start working with all personal email in Gmail, you'll want access to your archived mail as well as new messages. Happily, a lot of clever people wanted exactly the same thing, and created a solution that everyone can use. Mark Lyon's Gmail Loader will intelligently import your old email into Gmail, taking care to preserve the "From:" field and submitting email in a way that allows Gmail to group it into its funky conversations goodness. Available as a Windows program and Python scripts.
  3. The first time you want to send a message to someone, you'll want your address book of contacts from your last email client. Check out this Gmail article to learn how to import contacts into Gmail.
I sucked in several hundred archived emails into Gmail and I've been using Gmail Macro keyboard shortcuts to label and archive 'em like mad. I'm still amazed just how right Google got this email interface.

Thursday, March 23, 2006

the gmail switcharoo

I've enjoyed using Gmail from the first day I started, but tonight I hit a turning point: I've decided to switch to Gmail for all of my personal email.

Up to this point I've lead a dual-email-system life: Thunderbird and fetchmail on my home server for Shaw email, and Gmail for a newsletters, Google Alerts, etc. News from family, kids soccer and hockey email, etc. would hit my Shaw account, and stuff like the Gentoo Weekly News would hit my Gmail account.

No longer. I've increasingly found working in Gmail to be a breeze (especially with tools like the Gmail Macros greasmonkey script for Firefox) and working with email in Thunderbird to be a pain. Don't get me wrong - Thunderbird is a great client. There are two things, though, that it can't help me with:

  1. Threaded conversations: related emails are shown in a timeline in Thunderbird in default. Using the topic view would only group them; nothing beats the integrated roll-up conversation view in Gmail.
  2. Labels for email management: the family Shaw email account contains email for Kim and I (and once in a while, the kids). Guess who usually wades through it all? Since I don't want to file a message into a folder that Kim or the kids should read, I end up leaving it in the inbox. There are hundreds there right now, just waiting (in vain). The Gmail Macros let me label and archive messages with just a few keystrokes.
So how will I shift messages from the family Shaw account to my Gmail account? Easy - just flip on auto-forward for all messages. The "send from" feature in Gmail is also smart enough to send replys to messages using the "From:" address they were addressed to, so this switch will be invisible to folks sending email to our Shaw account.

One last note: although I expect it unlikely that Google will disappear anytime soon, there is always a chance that my archived email might be lost. I've configured fetchmail on my server to continue downloading email from Shaw on a daily basis as a backup. That way, if for some reason my archived email evaporates at Google, I'll still have a copy (although not as kewl an interface to it).

Sunday, March 12, 2006

dark measure of technology

Whilst flipping through Compusmart, London Drugs and Future Shop flyers this weekend, I was struck by just how commoditized some technology has become. Linksys 802.11b/g routers, for example, can be had for $60 CAD (after rebate) brand-spankin' new - or search eBay and get 'em for even less. The same technology from a company like Cisco, 10 years ago, would have cost thousands of dollars. And 25 or so years ago, during the height of the Cold War, well... having the same technology in your hands might have put you on a CIA or KGB hit list.

Now there's an idea for a darker kind of technology index: the likelihood that intelligence agencies 20-something years ago would have killed you for it. Measures such as processor clock speed, Mbps, etc, all have far less emotional impact. Imagine having your current home or work computer with you in Grade 9; you would have been the ultimate uber-geek, with enough computing power to render the most complex photo-realistic scenes! And enough computing power to crack the most current encryption used by both sides at the time.