A Review of Google Mail (aka gmail)

Thanks to a friend I was recently invited to take part in the closed beta of Google Mail (aka gmail). As soon as I logged in the first thing I noticed was that Google’s email had a simplistic interface, which I like. I had been hearing lots of things around the Internet about how Gmail didn’t have traditional folders and how it had keyboard shortcuts, etc. This all turned out to be true. The UI of Gmail is drastically different than anything I’ve ever used for email before. It’s foreign to me and I’m not sure I really like it. At any rate, here are a few screenshots and some explanation as to what is going on.


Gmail introduces the notion of “Conversations”, which are groupings of messages that were replies to each other. There are rules in the RFC that allow for such relationships to be built, but are completely dependent on whether the MUA replying uses the correct headers (In-Reply-To if I recall correctly). I can only assume Google uses these headers to relate messages into conversations. In this screenshot you can see numbers next to names – those are the numbers of messages in that conversation. Many who have used the famous MUA mutt will think this is simple threading, but it’s not. Google takes it a step further and lays out your conversation in reverse chronological order with all of your messages inline too. This is there response to removing the traditional Sent folder – simply put your replies right under the messages you replied to. Gmail ConversationI’m not completely used to the notion of conversations. It’s a highbred of threading and message boards that I’m not sure I really like yet. I can see it becomeing difficult to navigate, but with a Google indexed INBOX searching should quickly take care of that.

The other thing Gmail introduces is the notion of Labels. Labels are very much like folders, but messages aren’t moved into these psuedo folders. That’s one of the strange things about Gmail – everything stays right in your INBOX unless you move it to your Trash or Spam folders. As you can see in the first screenshot I have a few things labeled “JCS Solutions”, etc. that are sitting right in my INBOX.

Labels are cool, but when combined with Filters they are extremely cool. These are simple procmail type rules that allow you to add labels to email that match certain criteria (ie. subject has [PEAR-DEV] in it). This allows you to automagically apply the Label “mom” to email coming from your mother. You then have a list of Labels in the lower left hand side of the screen that show you how many new messages for each Label you have in your INBOX. You can then click that and view it as if it was a folder. The combination of Labels and Filters are VERY much like the auto-updating playlists found in iTunes, which I find to be extremely cool.

The two other cool features in Gmail involve crazy ass amounts of JavaScript. The first are keyboard shortcuts, which follow closely mutt’s keyboard shortcuts. This makes browsing a much quicker process. The second is type-ahead searching of people’s name in your INBOX. It works just like Outlook where if you type in a part of an email address it pops up a list of email addresses that match the text you have typed in so far.

Gmail is still beta though. I expect them to polish the interface quite a bit before they make it publicly available for consumption by all. For starters you can’t define a signature, which I found odd. Also, it appears that if you receive a message and then create a filter based on it Gmail does not apply the filter to the message once received. In other words labels and filters are applied as the message is received. My other worry is how I could backup or archive my own email. My only hope is that this either becomes a paid service or publicly available to download your email as an mbox file.

And, yes, I have 1000MB (1GB) of space available.

Wishes do come true

Every so often something happens that almost makes me believe that a God exists. Today that thing is the fact that you idiots out there finally woke up and voted John Stevens off of the show. Now, if we could only get Jennifer Hudson back we’d be all set for the “All Diva Showdown”, which is how things should have been. Of course, this should not be a shock to any of you. It is a well documented fact that I think John Stevens sucks. Now if I could only get  Diana DeGarmo voted off we’d be all set. 

UPDATE: It looks like I’m not the only one who has wondered why John Stevens has made it this far. Here is a whole thread about how bad he is. Of course, you can Google for more people who share my opinion. Also, I’m going to use this update to remind you that, while I think John Stevens is a good person, I do not think one could say he is a good singer. Please note the difference as this is a talent contest, note a good person contest. See the comments in this post for people who disagree and agree with me.

Why I'm an ITMS Whore

For those of you who don’t know ITMS stands for iTunes Music Store. It’s the online music store that Apple’s visionary Steve Jobs launched about a year or so ago. It features single tracks for 99 cents and full albums for $9.99. Lately, I have become increasingly reliant on ITMS for all of my music needs. In fact, I’ve gone so far as to accept ITMS Gift Certificates as payment for services rendered. Combine this with the Pepsi caps giveaway and I’ve gotten a lot of mostly free music over the last few weeks.

My purchases range from Guns N’ Roses Greatest Hits to Billy Joel and Michelle Branch. I’ve also been trying to buy legal copies of the music Lauren insists on downloading illegally. I’d rather she just use my ITMS account, but there doesn’t appear to be any reasoning with her.

The reason I like ITMS so much is the obvious: it’s on demand. If I have a tune stuck in my head and I forget how it goes I click on the ITMS tab and download it. I also like the fact that I don’t have to go anywhere, which facilitates my already abundant laziness. If you combine this with the fact that Lauren can play my tunes across the network through her iTunes and, with my amazing 40GB iPod, I can listen to my tunes at the gym and through the radio in my car you can easily see why I use ITMS all the time. So let’s recap:

  1. ITMS is on demand – purchase whatever you like, whenever you like a’ la carte.
  2. You don’t have to go to the record store anymore.
  3. With an iPod you can take your tunes anywhere.
  4. It’s cheap and legal.

Yup, life is good with ITMS. In fact, I would say I’m enjoying music much more now that it is around. I listen to more music and find myself actively seeking out music much more than I did before ITMS invaded my life.

I hate you for voting for John Stevens

I can’t even describe how much I hate all of you assholes who keep voting for John Stevens on American Idol. It’s clear that he completely sucks. The best comment he’s been able to garner from the judges is that he’s a nice kid. The top three singers were in the bottom three the other night. THIS IS NOT A FUCKING POPULARITY CONTEST PEOPLE! Vote for the person with the best voice.

It looks like I’m not the only one who feels this way. I do think, though, that the “Three Divas” could have been splitting votes. What I liked best about the results show was that John Stevens clearly looked shocked that he was in the top three. He KNOWS he sucks! So, back to the topic, YOU SUCK FOR VOTING FOR HIM!

Check here if you are gay

In what is quite possibly the dumbest law ever, the Michigan house passed legislation that would  allow health care workers “to refuse service to anyone on moral, ethical or religious grounds.” In a surprise twist the house is made up of a Republican majority and the bill was sponsored by The Michigan Catholic Conference. The bill would, however, prohibit emergency treatment from being refused.

Nevermind the fact that this bill is clearly unconstitutional. Nevermind the fact that the house wasted my tax money to put through a law that will never hold up in court and, most likely, will be vetoed by Michigan Governor, who is a Democrat.

The problem with how the bill is worded is that it would clearly allow health workers to refuse treatment to gays because of religious beliefs. I’d like to think that most of the doctors out there simply care about helping a human in need, but I sadly doubt that is the case. I’m troubled by this because I can see the other side’s point, which is that forcing medical workers who have certain religious beliefs to work on gay patients could be a violation of their religious freedoms, which are guaranteed by The Constitution.

It all comes back to the simple fact that you can’t please everyone all the time.

A Portrait of the Fallen

A Portrait of the FallenI was browsing around the Internet, as I often do, and came across this chilling picture. It’s a portrait of the fallen soldiers who gave their lives in the second Gulf War.

I think everyone here knows my stance on the war in Iraq, which is why I thought it was apt that I post this photo. You can view a larger version by clicking on the image to your left (warning: it’s a large download).

My only hope is that President Bush has seen this photo and feels a slight pang of guilt. Even if he saw this picture I doubt that he would feel any remorse about his hactions. Afterall, some of us think he is a sociapath.

I’ve been reading up on the “Coalition of the Willing”. Did you know that most of the countries in the “Coalition” were paid and that most did not even provide troop support? Did you know that fully 9% of people in the UK supported the war in Iraq. The UK, however, was split evenly at 45% when asked who was a greater threat to the world: George W. Bush or Saddam Hussein. Personally, I think GWB is because he’s got the nukes to back up his crazy ass plans. So the next time you are thinking we were right and just to invade Iraq I want you to think about the following things:

  1. We have found absolutely no evidence of WMD, which was, in the beginning, the reason for us going to war.
  2. The Iraqi citizens hate us just as much as they hated Saddam.
  3. Real people are dying every day in Iraq tearing apart both Iraqi and US families.
  4. We have found absolutely no evidence of WMD, which was, in the beginning, the reason for us going to war.
  5. Picture the above portrait – there are real costs to this war other than dollar signs.

In other news the Pentagon is pissed off about the recent release of photos of dead soldiers arriving back stateside. Personally, I think the photos are something that everyone should take a look at. It puts things in perspective. Much thanks to The Memory Hole for filling out the FOIA forms and fighting to get these photos to the public.

Oh the Irony – The Right Questions Kerry's War Record

It seems that every good mud sling has some return fire on the same path. The left has been questioning Bush’s Vietnam “service” record for quite a few months. It’s not quite clear when or where he served, but what is known is that he spent some weekends in both Texas and Mississippi training in the National Guard.

Recently the right has been questioning the validity of Kerry’s Vietnam record. The irony is so thick I could cut it with a knife. Here are just a few points that I’d like to point out about the right’s argument about Kerry’s record.

  1. Kerry actually went to Vietnam and was shot at by the enemy. This is well documented.
  2. Kerry was injured by shrapnel and a mine explosion in Vietnam. This, again, is well documented.
  3. Kerry did not lie cheat or steal the Purple Hearts. They were given to him in accordance with the rules. To meet the criteria to get a Purple Heart you must have required medical attention. True it’s rather lenient (ie. stitches), but Kerry wasn’t padding his war record to boost a future run for President.

This is just a smoke screen to tarnish Kerry’s admittedly better service record. I’m constantly amazed at how the right can twist the simple facts. The fact is Kerry has a better service record than Bush does.

Dr. Laura Please Clarify

On her radio show recently, Dr Laura Schlesinger said that, as an observant  Orthodox Jew, homosexuality is an abomination according to Leviticus 18:22, and cannot be condoned under any circumstance. The following response is an open letter to Dr. Laura, penned by a US resident, which was posted on the Internet. It’s funny, as well as informative:

Dear Dr. Laura:

Thank you for doing so much to educate people regarding God’s Law. I have learned a great deal from your show, and try to share that knowledge with as many people as I can. When someone tries to defend the homosexual lifestyle, for example, I simply remind them that Leviticus 18:22 clearly states it to be an abomination. …. End of debate.

I do need some advice from you, however, regarding some other elements of God’s Law and how to follow them.

  1. When I burn a bull on the altar as a sacrifice, I know it creates a pleasing odour for the Lord – Lev.1:9. The problem is my neighbours. They claim the odour is not pleasing to them. Should I smite them?
  2. I would like to sell my daughter into slavery, as sanctioned in Exodus 21:7. In this day and age, what do you think would be a fair price for her?
  3. I know that I am allowed no contact with a woman while she is in her period of menstrual uncleanliness – Lev.15: 19-24. The problem is how do I tell? I have tried asking, but most women take offence.
  4. Lev. 25:44 states that I may indeed possess slaves, both male and female, provided they are purchased from neighboring nations. A friend of mine claims that this applies to Mexicans, but not Canadians. Can you clarify? Why can’t I own Canadians?
  5.  I have a neighbor who insists on working on the Sabbath. Exodus 35:2. The passage clearly states he should be put to death. Am I morally Obligated to kill him myself?
  6. A friend of mine feels that even though eating shellfish is an abomination – Lev. 11:10, it is a lesser abomination than homosexuality. I don’t agree. Can you settle this? Are there ‘degrees’ of abomination?
  7. Lev. 21:20 states that I may not approach the altar of God if I have a defect in my sight. I have to admit that I wear reading glasses. Does my vision have to be 20/20, or is there some wiggle room here? 
  8. Most of my male friends get their hair trimmed, including the hair around their temples, even though this is expressly forbidden by Lev.19:27. How should they die? 
  9. I know from Lev. 11:6-8 that touching the skin of a dead pig makes me unclean, but may I still play football if I wear gloves? 
  10. My uncle has a farm. He violates Lev. 19:19 by planting two different crops in the same field, as does his wife by wearing garments made of two different kinds of thread (cotton/polyester blend). He also tends to curse and blaspheme a lot. Is it really necessary that we go to all the trouble of getting the whole town together to stone them? – Lev.24:10-16. Couldn’t we just burn them to death at a private family affair like we do with people who sleep with their in-laws? (Lev. 20:14)

I know you have studied these things extensively and thus enjoy Considerable expertise in such matters, so I am confident you can help.

Thank you again for reminding us that God’s word is eternal and unchanging.

Your adoring fan,

James M. Kauffman, Ed.D.
Professor Emeritus
Dept. of Curriculum, Instruction, and Special Education
University of Virginia
405 Emmet Street South
PO Box 400273
Charlottesville, VA 22904-4273
(434) 924-0763 [FAX (434) 924-0747]

The Damn Gays Are Getting MARRIED!!!

I’ve been trying to sit out the whole gay marriage thing that has been somewhat consuming the news recently. I tried really hard, until I read this take on gay marriage (note: the site has adult/insensitive content on portions of the site – so don’t go clicking around if that stuff bothers you – the link itself is safe). The guy who wrote the opinion is a rather crude guy who can see that gays having access to the same rights as married couples isn’t so tragic.

All these issues because same sex marriages are currently illegal. Okay. So let me think for a minute, that if they were legal, how would they effect my life. Would I have to pay more taxes? No. Would married gay people get a special check out line at the supermarket to get through line faster than me? No. Do they get their own special lane to avoid traffic jams? No. Do they get cheaper car insurance? No. Free car? No. Free socks? No.

That about sums it up. I think that the gay community would be better off not using the term “marriage”, which carries religious conotations for some (despite the definition not mentioning religion anywhere). If they used a term like “osmosis” everyone would laugh and say “those crazy gays are up to it again!” – hell they’d probably have gay couples on the wedding shows.

I was talking a while ago with a relative of mine who didn’t agree with gay marriages. This person’s main problem was with gay adoption, which is currently legal oddly enough. I think their opinion was that if they were raised in a gay household they would be gay themselves. I posed the idea that given the equal rights clauses in every state constitution I know of includes the term “gay” and “lesbian” it’s difficult to create a two tier system on this issue. I said the way I see it was that you had to choose between equal rights for all, no matter what, or remove such clauses. Their response was shocking: maybe equal rights aren’t such a good thing. I’m sure I’ll talk to them later after reading this and they’ll tell me I’m naive and young, maybe even an idealist, but I like to think I’m hopeful, maybe even progressive.

I’ll end with what I’ve always said about gays and lesbians. As long as they respect my sexuality I’ll respect theirs.

TiVo Makes Me Angry

So I’ve spent more time that I’d like to admit setting up my TiVo. I’ll try to outline why I am so angry, while not using the f-bomb, but it will be difficult. Everything started when I upgraded my Freevo software. The entire fucking (whoops) thing broke. I was pissed, but not nearly as angry as Lauren was (death threats abound if we couldn’t record GH or American Idol). So we finally said fuck (whoops) it and bought a TiVo with a wireless USB 802.11b adapter.

The first thing I learn is that, despite it saying it is broadband enabled, you can’t *initially* set the TiVo up through anything but a phone line. After the initial setup it upgrades the firmware and you can then reset and use broadband if needed. OK, no problem, I’ll plug it into my Vonage line and we’ll be all set. But, oooohhhh no, fucking (whoops, again) Vonage doesn’t support modem traffic. I later find out that the real problem was two fold:

  1. It just happens that the router I have (a Cisco ATA86 I think) doesn’t support modem traffic at all.
  2. Vonage supports modems that negotiate at slower speeds, but that would mean an external serial (fucking (whoops) serial!).

Alrighty then, I’ll pack this whole fucking (whoops, last time, I promise) mess up and take it over to my brother’s dorm room and install from there. I get there and all is going well. We go out for some lunch and come back to a freshly installed TiVo. Great, I think, I will now take it home and plug in the WiFi and we be off running! Wrong. Evidently, the firmware doesn’t upgrade during the initial setup process, instead waiting for the 2AM cron to run. I, of course, figure this out after I’ve left.

So this morning I finally get the firmware upgraded and reset with a working WiFi connection at a friend’s house. I’m extremely fucking (ok, I lied, fuck it) happy to report that everything is now working at home and the TiVo is quickly being filled with programming schedules, Season Passes, etc. I’ll give it a proper review after my blood pressure has returned to normal.