as i’ve said before - i’ve had a lot of beer from fine craft brewers across the country and new glarus is always at the top of my list…if you live in wisconsin and don’t drink their brews on a regular basis, then shame on you…
When foreigners (people from outside Wisconsin) ask me for a WI beer recommendation, I only recommend New Glarus. My only complaint about them is that they won’t make Apple Ale year-round. I could drink that for breakfast, lunch, dinner, and before bed.
I decided to post something instead of watching my Tumblarity fall like so many… heavy… stones. Or something.
Space is in the news again with the 40th anniversary of the Apollo 11 moon landing, and I’m a sucker for anything involving the space program. In that spirit—and wracked with food poisoning(?)—I rented When We Left Earth from Amazon video on demand. If you’ve seen Apollo 13 or The Right Stuff, then you will be in familiar territory.
When We Left Earth is a more comprehensive and complete (if less dramatic) education on the history of the American space program. For some reason the Amazon edition is missing episode two which covered the Gemini program, and that was a bit of let-down for me because that’s the program in which I’m least knowledgeable. The solid (and in many cases, awe-inspiring) archival footage is intercut with good, candid interviews with the surviving major players. As an aside (and not included in this series), if you haven’t seen Buzz Aldrin punch-out an utter moron, you shouldn’t miss it.
At $9.95 for the VOD version, it’s still a pretty good deal for 5 hours about the space program. The quality is quite excellent for VOD.
How long have you used email? I’ve been using “real” email since about 1995. By “real” email, I mean non-AOL mail. Messaging systems before that were usually only available at the university level. Have you stopped to think about how much email has changed since then? What was the first email program you used? Eudora? Outlook? Maybe it was webmail. The landscape for email messaging has changed greatly over the years, and we’re on the edge of seeing some extraordinary new technologies, Google Wave being just one of them.
I want to tell you about how I manage email. I don’t claim to be perfect about responding to emails, for there are many friends who know this a lie. What I want to explain is how I have email set-up for me, and the several organizations that I belong to, and how it all works in a simple way. Simple may be a the wrong word. I realize there are readers who eyes will glaze over while reading this, and to them I say: this is the knowledge I obtained while you went to college.
Gmail. Embrace it. If you’ve never used Gmail, it’s a great time to try it. As of this moment, you would get 2757mb of space for storing email. That’s a robust amount in itself, but it increases daily and for the longer you use it. At this moment, I’m using 9% of my 7340mb allowance. That’s on my personal Gmail account, which has several personal domains pointing at it. I have two other Google apps accounts that are associated with businesses I’m helping to manage. One is the “free” Google apps account, and the other is Google apps Premium, which costs $50/year per user (not email address!) The Premium account currently has 25gb of storage available, and I’m running at around 10% of capacity there. My point, is that storage is _not_ and issue on Gmail.
Compatibility. I think there’s a misconception that Gmail is a webmail service. It is true, in that you can access your mail via a browser—including very mature smartphone browser support. I use the webmail about 95% of the time, and I’ve even purchased a special program for the Mac, called Mailplane, which adds several features that improve Gmail (drag-and-drop attachments, anyone?) The other 5% of the time, I’m using the iPhone Mail application, which to many users would feel like a more traditional email client program. IMAP is the name of that powerful technology that unlocks this interoperability between webmail and a standard mail client (like Outlook.) Indeed, I have many users who were resistant to using webmail. Instead, I configured Outlook and I think most of them are unaware they are really “using” Gmail, because to them it looks like “regular” email. It IS regular mail, that’s the point.
Several years ago, we needed to replace an aging mail server. We bought a full-featured mail server application, virus scanner and server to support a user-base of less than 50 people. All told, the installation price was very low. At first. As that email server aged, and the server became sluggish from multiple issues, we realized that the initial “cheap” investment of say, a low-four-digit expense was resulting in many tens or hundreds of man-hours to support each year. In the end, rather than buying new hardware and software and all that, I moved everyone to the Premium Google Apps service (for Enterprise.) The transition was nearly seamless, but for some overly eager spam checking at Postini (Google’s anti-spam, anti-virus, email-archiving partner.)
Powerful Google features and bleeding-edge technologies from Google’s Labs await you if you choose to use the web client. Which is interesting to note, because one common complaint I hear from users is “There aren’t any folders!” It’s true, the only folders Gmail provides to you are: Inbox, Starred, Chats, Sent Mail, Drafts, All Mail, Spam and Trash. But that does not matter in the slightest, IF you know a few basic tricks! (I know, this is what you came here to read in the first place!)
If you need a folder, use a label, and a star. Labels really are folders, for all practical purposes. In fact, to a program like Outlook, every label you create in Gmail IS a folder in Outlook. There’s one powerful thing to know: an email can have multiple labels! So, I have a “Boss” label, and any email that comes from any of her addresses will be labelled “Boss” automatically. She and I are working on two large projects right now, so maybe it would help to label that email with the project name too, just in case I want to look things up by project later. Lastly, I’ve already done everything I want with the email, so I don’t need it in my Inbox anymore. What should I do with it? Take the hint from Google, and Archive it. Archive just removes it from you inbox. (Power users: the Inbox is treated by Google as a kind of meta-label!) Unless it’s truly junk you will never need or want to see again, in which case the Trash is still an option.
Google provides a nice, color-adjustable list of your labels on your Gmail sidebar, much like you would expect to see in other email clients. Clicking on the label name will display the last 30 emails you sent OR received that have the label. Handy!
Another common complaint of the Gmail web client is the difficulty…. ok, impossibility of sorting your messages. But hold on a minute! If we can acknowledge that Google is the king of search, maybe there’s a way to put that power to work. The answer is at the top of the Gmail web client screen: the search box. It behaves exactly as you would expect a Google search box to work. Really well. Powerfully too, if you know what to do.
Let’s say you want to find everything sent TO you from a specific person. In the search box, type:
and Gmail will display every message that has that address in the From: field. Do you only want to see the messages from barone that have attachments?
What about messages you’ve labeled?
The possibilities are vast, with a few notable exceptions for extreme power users.
Spam. The title says it all. According to Google, in the last 30 days, I’ve received 300,000 pieces of spam in just my Google Apps Premier account. That’s a lot of spam, and I suppose I should look through it. Honestly though, I don’t bother. The searches I showed you above also search through the spam and trash folders. They don’t display the messages it finds, but it does alert you if they DO find matching messages in the spam or trash, and you can choose to see those messages or not. It has worked so well for me, that I recently shut the SPAM notifier off. What capacity do I have to deal with 300,000 messages in the first place? That’s about 10,000 spams a day. There’s no way I’m going to look through that every day. And I don’t have to. If a person sends me a message that I don’t respond to, they will contact me if it’s important enough. That really never happens anyway, because gmail only gets smarter the more you use it. You don’t even have to empty the spam or the trash, Google does that for you. It only keeps the messages in the spam and trash for the last thirty days.
I could go on for hours about the ways in which Gmail have simplified my life (and the reverse intended consequence of making my life more complicated because I was free to work on more every day.) The labs features are very nifty too, providing all kinds of ways to make your life easier. It is not hyperbole to say that one could organize 95% of their working life within Gmail’s system.
If you are unsatisfied with your current mail system, I hope and encourage you to try Gmail. It’s your own fault if you’re disappointed. ;)