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December 5, 2017

Syncing Outlook & Google Calendars

Filed under: Columns — Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , — Ron @ 5:08 am

I wrote about one of Google’s great apps called, “Google Calendar Sync” in 2012.  Then in 2013 they did away with it.  It was an easy to use add-on for Google that made it easy to sync between your Outlook (usually work related) and Google calendars.  That way you could have your business appointments in Outlook sent down to your private Google calendar to have everything available in one place.  Then you would not have your doctor’s appointment in your work calendar, etc.  You could also sync in the other direction or both at the same time.  Great app!  Check here “rd.dblclx.com/2AhTpJ8” (caps count in all of these shortened URLs) for a list of the many Discontinued Google Products.

In 2015 I wrote about a good replacement, “Calendar Sync +” which did the same thing but was sometimes quite difficult to coordinate.  I used it until about a year ago.  It is still available and you can read about it at “rd.dblclx.com/1MlSy85” from my old article.

At that time a friend referred me to “GO Contact Sync Mod” at “rd.dblclx.com/GOSyncMod” which I liked better.  As a matter of fact, I still use that application.  From the title you would think it would only sync your Contacts but not so.  However, it also syncs your calendars.

Once installed it will sit quietly in your taskbar’s notification area unless you have not set it to “Run Program at Startup.”  That setting only starts the program but not the actual process of syncing.  There are several items needed to successfully set up GCSM.  First, set up your Gmail address which you have to also enter the password.  Next, set “Sync Profile” to my computer.  The next checkboxes are whatever you choose and are self-explanatory. I check both “Sync” and “Prompt Deletion” settings so that all deleted items are matched up.  That way I get a warning in case something is being incorrectly deleted (has not happened yet).  Now decide if I want to also “Sync Contacts” which will pull all of your Google Contacts into Outlook for you, or visa-versa.  I personally do not use that at work, but I do at home.

GO Contact Sync Mod screen

Yes, last week I said I no longer use Outlook which is true.  However, there is also a version of GCSM for Thunderbird which also works well.

The final step is to decide how you want it to sync.  In other words, sync both ways between Outlook and Google or only in one direction so that one of them has everything.  You can also decide which app wins if GCSM cannot figure it out (rarely after the first couple of runs).

There are more setup details on the Go Contact Sync Mod site at “rd.dblclx.com/GoSyncSetUp” if you care to check.

There are other alternatives on the web but for now this is the one that works best for me.  Of course, in another couple of years I may be writing about a better option as I have done this time.

November 28, 2017

Thunderbird

Filed under: Columns — Tags: , , , , , , , , , — Ron @ 5:26 am

Nope, I am not referring to a car, a new superhero movie or a cheap wine.  I am however talking about one of the better applications out there.  It is cross platform meaning it is available for Linux, Windows and Mac computer operating systems. However, at this time it is not available for iPhones or Android devices but we never know what the future holds.

OK, what is it for?  It is an exceptional email program. Thunderbird (rd.dblclx.com/1ejd3ax) was created by the people behind Mozilla’s Firefox browser.  Both of which are under constant development now.  Thunderbird developers took a break for a while but they are now back at it.

Visit Thunderbird

The current version, v.52.x has most of what Outlook has but one large difference, it is free.  One caveat to mention here.  If you are using Outlook for business with and Exchange Server do not consider using Thunderbird.  At this point it will not work.  But for users that have not bought Outlook or Office (in any of its many versions) I think Thunderbird will satisfy your email needs.

In my initial testing I found that it easily performed most of Outlook’s functions.  It has many plugins which are also free to add and you do not need the Windows Store to them.  The plugins give you added abilities you may not have, "out of the box."  Plugins have various uses, from different dictionaries, change colors of backgrounds, add different scrollbars and one of my favorites, "Provider for Google Calendar."  That addon/extension allows syncing between Google calendars and the calendar now built into Thunderbird.  So, you are always up-to-date on your appointments.  In older versions of Thunderbird is was much harder to make that happen.   

Thunderbird has options that I prefer over other email applications.  One of them is a view setting. It is called, "Unread Folders – Compact view."  This gives you a one-line view of each email account (if you have multiple accounts as I do) but only the accounts that have email you have not read.  To get it all you need to do is click the dropdown menu above your mail folders and choose it, easy.  

Even though it uses more memory than Outlook it has run well for me.  Thunderbird has also not slowed down my systems or locked up/frozen from time-to-time.  This has occurred in Outlook for me…sometimes often.  It also has an excellent spam filter that can learn as you go.  It allowed me to install all of my email addresses including free Outlook.com, Hotmail (Hotmail has been replaced by Outlook.com), Gmail, personal domains and a friend tells me that iCloud addresses will also work. Consequently, I believe that most any email should work – other than some work accounts due to security. 

I now enjoy Thunderbird on all of my personal systems.  The only issue I have had is that I cannot us it on my work PC.  The antivirus on that PC marks it as some sort of problem file and wipes out my passwords in Thunderbird.  Not a biggie if you only have one account.  To overcome the issue, you need to enter the account’s password when Thunderbird starts. However, when you have many email accounts it becomes unwieldy. 

All around a great application!  You should give Mozilla’s other application, the Firefox browser a shot too as it is also a cut above (rd.dblclx.com/2iHBvaX).

Firefox Browser

November 21, 2017

October 31, 2017

Temporary Gmail Access

Rick emailed an interesting question about Gmail this week. His company uses Google’s product, “G Suite Business” for their email. With G Suite all email and cloud storage is handled by Google in the cloud. This can allow big savings in money, time and equipment for the company. I have used it before in the corporate environment and although different it works quite well.

Rick’s question was that he was going to be out of town for vacation. He wanted to turn over control of his email to a coworker. However, (smartly so) he did not want to give them his password. NEVER give passwords to anyone.

I found that Google has a Gmail delegation feature. A Gmail delegate is someone you give access to your email account without supplying your password. Once a delegate has access to your email they have limits as to what they may and may not do on your account. They can read, send, delete and reply to emails that were sent to your account. If Rick were a delegate of mine his address would show as the sender in any email he sent on my behalf. The sender would show “sent by rickwhatever@gmail.com.” Delegates also have the ability to add, edit and remove people from your Gmail contacts.

There are also several things that are not allowed. One of the main ones is that the delegate cannot change your password. So if your delegate turned out to be an evil individual they could not block you out of your account. They also cannot chat with anyone as you while in your account. Last, they could not change your Gmail account settings.

A person may be a delegate for any number of accounts. However, a personal Gmail account can only have up to 10 delegates (corporate G Suite accounts are limited to 25).

It is fairly easy to add a delegate to Gmail; though, it must be done online as you cannot add one from your phone’s Gmail app. Log into Gmail and click the Settings button that looks like a gear in the upper right corner. Next, select the “Accounts and Import,” scroll to the bottom and click “Add another account” under the “Grant access to your account” section. Enter the email address of your delegate (it must be a “gmail.com” address) then, “Next Step.” You will now be instructed to send them an email, by clicking a link to grant them access to your account.

Grant access

Grant access to another account

The person you add will get an email from you asking them to confirm that they will take access for a while. If they do not respond within a week the request will be withdrawn and they will not be your delegate. Also note when your delegate accepts your access they may not have access to your account for up to 24 hours.

Notification email to delegate

Notification email to delegate

If you are a delegate it is easy to access that account. Sign into your own Gmail account, click your account photo (upper right corner), then from the dropdown menu select the delegated account. A new window or tab will open with their email displayed. Have at it.

When you are ready to remove their access go to the same “Grant access to your account” area and click “delete” by your delegate’s information.

September 12, 2017

Chrome Extensions, Part 2

Filed under: Columns — Tags: , , , , , , , , — Ron @ 5:48 am

Last week I started a look at some of my favorite Chrome browser extensions.  We started with "Behind the Overlay."  To learn how to install them check out last week’s column.

Today we will start with one for your security.  We all keep reading about protecting your privacy while online and I agree that is important.  When you are in a coffee shop, fast food joint, airport, basically anywhere that offers free Wi-Fi you could be giving away information.  If you are at one of those places and visit your bank’s site to check your balance, etc. you could be giving away your username and password.  A VPN protects your data while on that Wi-Fi connection.  For more info search Google for, "What is VPN?"  However, many of the VPN applications cost money and some of the free ones are questionable.  One of the many solutions is to install "Hotspot Shield."  It is free with an upgradable premium version and it easily adds the extension to your browser. 

Hotspot Shield

Like all the other VPN apps it basically provides a "pipeline" to reroute everything from your computer to a secure server where no one else can see what goes on.  It can also show you in a different location.  That way you could watch a TV show in England that you may not get in the U.S.  They also provide an application for your computer if you wish.  I am using it now in a coffee shop and it shows my computer as being in the Netherlands.  I am actually in the Shenandoah Valley of Virginia.  You can use it without signing up for anything; however, you will get ads and requests to rate it, etc. 

Next one of the few that is still in my favorite extension list is, "IE Tab."  I wrote a separate article about this in February of this year, so go check that out for lots of details.  But here is a quick review.  "IE Tab" allows you to view those pesky websites that will only allow you to use the Microsoft Internet Explorer or EDGE browsers to view their sites.  This is fairly old-school developing but it is still around.  Use "IE Tab" and you can enter the sites you want to view correctly in Chrome.  It works well.

IE Tab

The final ones for today are "Invisible Hand" and "Honey."  (Yes, I said I would list these extensions alphabetically last week but these are similar and I like IH most so it is first.)  They are both shopping extensions that work well to save you money online.  Invisible Hand works by popping up when you are looking at buying something on a site.  It will be searching the web in the background for the same item at a better price.  When/if it finds it, you can click the suggested link and go to the other site.  Be careful as I have noticed that it does not always include shipping or free shipping in its calculations. 

Invisible Hand

"Honey" works a differently.  When you are on the checkout screen on the site you are purchasing your product from Honey goes to work.   It quickly scans the web looking for discount coupons that may help you out.  It has worked sometimes for me and occasionally it does not; however, it is worth installing it to save some money. 

August 22, 2017

Be Fed Your Favorites

Filed under: Columns — Tags: , , , , , , , , , — Ron @ 5:34 am

Do you get up every morning and go to your phone or tablet to read the latest news and information?  If so, do you have those favorite one, two or 20+ sites you visit to get the latest news?  There is an easier way to do this without visiting each site individually which you should try.  I have mentioned RSS feeds in Double Clicks once or twice before in 2013; however, things are always changing.  RSS stands for “Really Simple Syndication.”  There is a site that has been around for a while and it has improved RSS feeds with age.  As a matter of fact you do not have to know much about RSS any longer to benefit from them.

Check out Feedly

That site is Feedly (feedly.com).  I have been using it for years and it is very convenient for keeping up with the news in which I am interested.  First when you visit the site you need to create a Feedly account with an email address or associate either your:  Google, Facebook, Twitter, Microsoft, Evernote or an Enterprise (your company must sign up) information to login.  I have been using my Google account association for years with no adverse effects.

Once you are logged in we know you read the Daily News Record so in the, “What source do you want to follow?” box, type in, “http://dnronline.com,” then wait for a few seconds and look below where you typed.  You will see (currently) two links.  Notice under the dark titles you will see, “13 followers / 1503 articles per week.”  Since this link is more active you should probably choose that one.  I would not worry about the number of followers stated as it is not very accurate.  Once it is added to your collection you will have each article posted on the DNR site sent to your Feedly page and can read a portion of the articles there or click the link to go to the DNR site.

Sample Feedly Page

Try a large news site (http://foxnews.com or http://cnn.com) and you will see many different feeds arranged by titles/topics.  Click the “Follow” button to the right site of the ones you are interested in and read the new posts anytime you wish.

If you click on the RSS feed links on a site you will see gibberish, below.

Click to see the detail of an RSS page-unreadable to most

Once you click to read an article it will gray out that post to mark it read.  You may also click the small checkmark to the right of the article to mark it read.  The next time you load Feedly previously viewed posts will be gone to make room for all the new articles.  You can click a link to save them to read later and they will remain.

You may see a RSS link on any website and if it interests you click that link, copy the URL after it loads and add that to Feedly.  As that page updates you will get the new info.  Some people like to read Google News.  If you are one of them you can add their news posts to Feedly also.  For example, go to the news section in Google for “Technology,” scroll to the bottom of the page and click the RSS link.  Now copy that URL in your browser’s address bar and add it as a new feed to Feedly.  You will now start getting immediate updates to that news feed.

There are many other options for Feedly so test them out when you can.  None of them will permanently destroy anything so click at will without fear.

July 11, 2017

Google Makes Some Changes

Filed under: Columns — Tags: , , , , , , , , , , — Ron @ 5:10 am

If you have followed my articles through the past 15 or so years, you’d realize that I have a love/hate relationship with Google. OK, it’s mostly love, but sometimes they really antagonize me.

Today, I have two Google changes for you: one insignificant and the other very significant.

First up is the one that will most likely have no effect on you. "Google Talk" was a social/ chat application that Google started back in 2005.

Now, I do not know how you feel, but I have more than enough communications ability with Facebook alone and do not feel the need for another. But many people differ, so I guess another app like this could have worked.

In reality, most people never used Talk. So, as of June 6, it was shut down.

Never fear, because Google is moving everyone that may have used Talk over to another Google platform, "Google Hangouts." Hangouts is another messaging app similar to Talk, but offers more, including video chat capabilities. I may talk more about it in the future – maybe before they shut it down, too.

Ron's Hangout...never used

Next is the great new change for Gmail. If you are or have been using the very good Gmail product for email, I hope you know the following; if not, you may be surprised.

In the information regarding Gmail when you sign up, it tells you that Google will be " scanning" your email for advertisement purposes.

Have you ever noticed the ads on the side of the screen in Gmail, sometimes showing you things you have been talking or thinking about?

That is because Google is taking a look at your emails and seeing what you are interested in.

It’s called targeted advertising. It works well for them to sell advertising to companies, knowing that they will be seen by people that are likely buyers. Now they say they do not scan any personal information in your emails, but personally, that is hard for me to believe.

Now for the big news: Google announced that they will no longer be scanning your emails at some point "later this year."

That’s good news, and I believe them. No, really, I do. With their paid email app, "G Suite," they have never scanned emails. This is because it was company information and, if scanned, it could be said they would have access to private company dealings. Google could have, whether guilty or not, found itself in big trouble if that was thought to be the case. They are going to match them up with the free accounts you and I have. No more "targeted advertising."

That last line was a falsehood. You will still be targeted if you use Google. If you are logged into your Google account and use Google.com to search, you are watched. Google knows every site you visit, what you buy, what your interests are, etc. That’s especially true in the Google Chrome browser. They record cookies on your computer, so they always keep track of you, just not your user information.

So, you will continue to see ads that interest you. There are ways around it, and one is to use a different search engine that does not track you. DuckDuckGo.com comes to mind first in that category. Even though it uses Google, you will not be traced. The user interface is not as likable as Google, but no one will be watching you.

Go visit DuckDuckGo search engine

June 27, 2017

Voice Assistants

Some of the big technology devices to hit in recent years are Voice Assistants. The idea first came about on TV with Star Trek in the ‘60s. This was when you could communicate by voice instructions with the computers. In the real world, “Siri” started on the iPhone 4S at its release in October 2011. And then, “Ok, Google” began in July 2012, and was first supported on the Galaxy Nexus smartphone. So yes, as always Apple created it first (like phones) and then others improve on it. Most will agree that OK, Google surpasses the Siri app at this point in time. Then there came Cortana from Microsoft, which was announced in January 2015 for Windows 10 desktops and mobile devices.

With those assistants you can look up weather, call people in your address book, get a phone number, get your map to plan a drive, etc. Be careful on that mapping part as I keep seeing articles about people getting lost using them. However, for us, Waze and Google Maps have always been spot on.

Google vs Amazon

Starting last year Amazon and Google started rolling out their devices, with Alexa, (the Echo and Dot seem to be the most popular) and Home respectively. There are other devices available but they are bought in insignificant numbers by comparison.

image

Now the Voice Assistants are standalone devices and are selling like, well actually better than, hot cakes. According to the 2017 report from VoiceLabs, “Amazon Echo and Google Home…will sell more than 24 million units combined through the end of 2017.”

Amazon Alexa vs Google Home

They are devices that connect to your Wi-Fi and you speak to them. You can verbally ask questions, set alarms, get news, check the weather, get directions, find phone numbers, perform conversions, do math, find how long it takes to get somewhere (using local traffic conditions) and many more things.

I have been testing a Google Home and it is very, very accurate in both translating your voice and giving accurate responses. In the morning I asked it to tell me about my day. It proceeded to first give me the weather predictions for the day followed by my calendar’s agenda. Then it started telling me the news from various news stations. You can set the news channels you prefer if you wish.

To use the Google device you must have Wi-Fi, either an Android or iPhone device, the application Google Home installed and you are ready to go. The setup process took about five minutes including Google Home updating itself. It was quite easy.

It will also integrate with some other devices; although, at this time the Alexa mixes with many more. That means it can possibly run your TV, cut off your lights, communicate between you and some of your appliances, etc. The only other system I have that it works with is Google Chromecast hooked to my TV. So I can play items there automatically and control them by voice.

Amazon’s devices work pretty much the same; however, as usual, people debate over which is better online all the time. For me, since I am a Google/Android fan I would go for the GH, but either is good. Are these devices a need? No, but I am going to predict that we are going to see a lot more of them in the future.

If you get one do not forget to play with it. Ask it to tell you a joke, ask it how tall you are, ask it if the other device is any good, etc. It made me laugh when I asked it what the fox says…give it a shot if you get the chance.

June 20, 2017

Email Negatives, Part 2

Filed under: Columns — Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , — Ron @ 5:25 am

Last week I wrote regarding some of the good of email, see “Email Positives, Part 1” if you missed it. This week I will voice some of my concerns regarding this great feature of the computer age. Email has been around forever. Well not quite, as Ray Tomlinson is attributed with devising email in 1972 or 1971 depending on where you find that fact. Forms of it existed as far back as 1965 but not by the masses.

Email, Angel or Devil

First up, email forces employees to often multitask. Now, at this point in time multitasking is considered by the “authorities” to be costing employers a lot of time and money. One researcher said that he found about 82 percent of all interrupted work is resumed on the same day. But here’s the bad news — it takes an average of 23 minutes and 15 seconds to get back to the task. My thought has always been that task switching was nuts from the beginning. Yay me, I got one right! I can even prove it if you take one of my classes on technology. So, jumping in and out of email costs corporations money today. There is also a personal stress factor with multitasking that we will not go into today.

Read this one of many articles on Multitasking - Lifehack

Check this article on Lifehack about the good/bad of Multitasking

Another issue for business is that email can be easily abused by many as workers jump in and out of worthless emails whether personal (yes, at work) or company produced. Some companies have found that without specific boundaries their employees may send many emails to family and friends instead of doing their jobs. Think about all of those emails you are “Courtesy Copied” (you know, the CC on your email app) on daily which are no concern of yours. You still need to review them to make sure you are not responsible for something mentioned.

Next, many people change email addresses – often. This means that if you sent email to them yesterday it may never be read. If they do not respond it does not necessarily mean they are avoiding you.

As of March, 2017, statistics indicate that 57 percent of all worldwide email is spam. Another time waster. And BIG money waster. In January, 2017, it was estimated that worldwide a little over $2 billion dollars was spent in time wasted in corporations from spam.

Catching up on Email after Vacation?!Another email time killer…email catch-up. For instance, in my first days of business with email I would go on vacation for a week. When I returned to work I would spend most of a day going through them to see what I needed to act on, save for the future, ignore, or delete. That took a lot of my time. Even though I was paid at work I felt horrible having to waste time going through this process.

Now, I, like most other employees nowadays, check it once daily or at least every other day while vacationing to keep the load down when I return. So now email is messing up your, and my off time.

Next, one of the major issues with email. Viruses, scams, phishing, frauds, deceit, etc. See the amount of money mentioned above? That does not include the individuals who continue to fall for scams from email all the time or the money they throw away.

OK, I am now done ranting about email, even though I do not consider it all bad. Do you consider it a good thing or bad for you and/or your business?

May 16, 2017

Stalking Your Friends in a Good Way

Filed under: Columns — Tags: , , , , , , , , , — Ron @ 5:06 am

Google has been letting their developers develop and I am glad.  They have come out with some great apps since 1998 when Google was founded.  Stop and think about that for a minute.  A company less than 20 years old and most everyone knows of it.  Did you realize that in 2002, the American Dialect Society chose it as the most useful word of the year?  In 2006 the Oxford English Dictionary as well as the Merriam-Webster Collegiate Dictionary added it as a verb.  "Have you googled that?" is an actual, correctly structured question.  I think that is pretty significant.  But enough of my fan-boy infatuation – back to the story. 

They recently took an excellent app that most of us have used and added a feature that made it even better.  That app is Google Maps which is available in every platform.  It has apps for all of the smart phones made; Android, iPhone, Windows Phone even Blackberries have the app.  Along with the apps any platform that can access the internet can use maps.google.com and get the features too. 

The feature that has been added is called "Share Location" and has the "New" icon next to it, since it has just recently became available to the public.  Clicking on this feature will give you information; however, to set it up you must have a mobile device.  Go to this link (rd.dblclx.com/2q6A0pi) to see how to set it up on your device.  Before you start you need to check several things.  You both need a Gmail account, also they must be in your Google Contacts and of course, you must both have Google Maps installed on your device. 

Menu ItemsHow long to shareClick the Menu button in the map application then "Share Location" and click "Add People."  Now, select how long you want to share your location with them.  You get to choose from one hour, other increments and finally, "Until you turn this off."  That last one is for my family.  Once you have selected everyone you wish click, Share.

They will get a message that you want to share your location with them.  If they accept they can then choose to share their location with you if they wish.

After everyone has accepted once they log into Google Maps on their device or computer, click the menu button, Location Sharing and see a map with those that are sharing their location with you.   You can click on their name to get an update and a more localized map location on them.

Shared People with Ron

You may think that is a little creepy.  I told my friends about how my wife and I share our locations with each other and that is what they said.  But we like it.  That way she can check and see how close I am to home when coming in from work.  No calls need to be made to find out when I will be there.

Think too if you have a teenager, or the other end of the spectrum, an older grandparent.  If you want to keep up with their whereabouts this is an easy unobtrusive way to do so.  

If you are going to visit someone who may live far away you can share your location with them during your trip by using the "Share trip progress" feature. 

Creepy or not I think it is a great new feature from Google.

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