Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Gmail Tips: Reducing Spam with Email Alias

Well, I always want an option of creating alias for reducing spam. For example, if my mail id is syed.mohasin.zaki@gmail.com then I also want an option to create an alias such as subscriptions.mohasin@gmail.com. The idea is, whenever I need to provide an email id for subscribing/registering in any website, I can always use my email alias. And when I see that I am getting lot of spams for a particular alias, then I can just go ahead and delete it. My original mail id is still unknown to spammers.

I could never find any support for email alias in gmail.

Sometime back, I read this post from Amit, where he explains how to generate email alias in gmail.

From his post, what i learnt is that, all our gmail ids have 2 domain names, one is "gmail.com" and other is "googlemail.com". For example, I would be having 2 mails address both pointing to my same gmail inbox - syed.mohasin.zaki@gmail.com and syed.mohasin.zaki@googlemail.com

So the idea is that we can use one gmail id (for example, syed.mohasin.zaki@googlemail.com) as an alias for our public domain and use the other one for close friends and family. Then I can filter mails from one of the mail domains and do whatever I want (archive it or delete it.. etc.)

But this concept is not useful when you want to have multiple aliases. Referring to Amit's earlier post, I found that we can have multiple aliases as well. All you need to do it that you add a '+' at the end of your gmail id followed by some meaningful tag. For example, if I want to subscribe to news alerts from The New York Times, then I would use an email alias such as this - syed.mohasin.zaki+newyorktimes@gmail.com.

Gmail basically ignores any that comes after the '+' symbol (including it). But the search inside gmail is capable of detecting this '+' and the tag that follows it. So you can filter mails coming to a particular alias and take action accrodingly.

Also read through the comments on Amit's post and you can see other suggestions on how to create email aliases for gmail. Most of the users were suggesting that gmail basically ignores the dot '.' in the user id. So basically, syed.mohasin.zaki@gmail.com is same as syedmohasinzaki@gmail.com or syedmohasin.zaki@gmail.com. So you can use this option also a way of creating aliases.

So go ahead and use email aliases and control the spam that comes to your inbox.

Note: Gmail in itself is good at detecting spam.

PS: syed.mohasin.zaki@gmail.com is not my real mail id :).

Thursday, February 21, 2008

Are you writing Java Apps for Android ? Maybe and Maybe not

Lot of people who are aware of Android think that they actually write mobile applications using Java. This is only partly correct.

What many people miss out is the fact Google Android uses ONLY Java Syntax. The java code that one develops for Android is converted in to standard Java bytecode. This again is converted in a different bytecode format (which Google claims that is an optimized, minimum memory footprint bytecode).

Basically, Android does not use a standard JVM (it uses a non-standard JVM called Dalvik) . The SDK also contains android.* packages apart from the usual java packages.

I found this post from Stefano Mazzocchi very interesting. He claims that the reason for Google using a non-standard JVM is not really for just optimization sake, but instead to get around any licensing issues with Sun for using J2ME. Wow! I never thought of that.

Its natural. If I were to run the Android project (instead of Andy Rubin), then I would start using J2ME as a preferred virtual machine for obvious reasons that we have a huge group of developers who can be readily moved/attracted to developing applications on Android. And then when it comes to licensing, I would think of someway to circumvent the problem and the one smart way is to make sure the final bytecode is not the same of the one generated by the standard java compiler. Thats exactly what Google engineers have done by developing Dalvik.

Other interesting links:

Changing blog's name

I am changing my blog's name from Xprezzions to Mohasin's Weblog.

"Xprezzions" is probably unique. But then again I thought I will change it to much more simpler.. and what could be more simpler than letting you know that its my blog :).

I would also be changing it for my mirror blog in wordpress.

The links to post and RSS feeds remain intact.

Update 1:

I have changed the blog name again to an unique name again. How about "Mind Internals" ? :). Sounds like OS Internals.

Saturday, February 16, 2008

HD DVD - Blu-Ray war finally coming to an end!!

Yes.. thats one of the important news in blogosphere. I followed this news in Reuters via Engadget.

Toshiba (with its HD DVD) and Sony (with its Blu-ray) have been fighting this war for the past 2 years or so, trying to win over production houses to establish their format supremacy.
I think, Sony has the brand name, might and game console (PS3 is also Blu-ray player) was able to slowly but surely is killing (consider it killed by now) HD DVD.Most the above new sources (including this story at nytimes.com) claims that it was Wal-Mart's decision to stock only high-definition DVDs and player which are Blu-ray based, is what gave the final blow to Toshiba.

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Wow!! Android Phone is a reality!!

Wow... I read this news at Phonemag.com about a Chinese company called E28 (haven't heard of it.. me neither) showcasing a real quad-band phone with wifi that runs on Android. Its available for sale.

Look at the video below to believe it :).

Android is going to give big mobile OS players like Symbian and Microsoft a run for their money. As I can see, smaller and unknown mobile phone manufacturers from around the world are going to benefit from open-source and freeware mobile phone operating system stacks. They will not have to worry about paying royalties/licensing fee for running a proprietary mobile operating system.

And last but not the least... WOW!!

Monday, February 11, 2008

Videos about Android!!

I was surprised to find very good videos in Youtube explaining about Android. Most of these official videos could be found under the username androiddevelopers.

Here is my favorite video from Sergey Brin and Steve Borowitz where they give a nice demo of Android features.

Saturday, February 9, 2008

Did you know that The Wall Street Journal was free from Google News!!

Wow!!.. never knew this.

But before.. Whenever I used open a WSJ article that was listed in Techmeme, it only used to give a abstract about the whole story. The WSJ page always says that I have to be a paid subscriber in order to access the whole story. For this reason, I never used to open a WSJ post from Techmeme.

Then I read this post by Danny Sullivan where he explores the options of accessing WSJ for free. Thats' where I came to know that clicking WSJ news listed in Google News actually fetches the entire article. As Danny points out, WSJ has a special provision/login/subscriber id for Google. Either Google should be paying WSJ for this or WSJ should be allowing Google to index its contents entirly in order to drive more traffic to its site.

Restoring web pages even after closing and opening Firefox!!

Gone are the days when you used to do a Ctrl+N and Shift+Ctrl+N to open a web page in a new window. I remember running out of space in the task bar and it was a frustrating thing about browsing.

Nowadays, Tabbed Browsing is a taken for granted feature. As far as I know, I had used it in the late 90's and early 2000 with NetCaptor (an IE Shell) and Opera. I always thought it was a cool feature that time. But I could not understand what took Microsoft so long to bring this into Internet Explorer (IE7 has this feature now). Also, Wikipedia agrees with this fact. In fact, one of the primary reasons why i had been using Opera was the tabbed browsing feature.

Then Opera came with another cool feature - Session Restoration (Please correct me if I am wrong about this.. because Opera is where I first saw this). Let me explain what "Session Restoration" means. Now that I have multiple tabs open, I don't have much time to read all the web pages. Nor do I want to bookmark them anywhere so that I could read them later. And I also have to shutdown my PC/Laptop. Now, this is where "Session Restoration" helps. If your browser supports "Session Restoration" then you can just go ahead and close it without worries. The next time you open your browser, it will open all the web pages that were open earlier in different tabs in the same order as before.

Cool isn't it!!.. But I had a problem with my Firefox.

Firefox would restore a session only when I kill Firefox forcibly from the task manager. But it wouldn't let me restore sessions whenever I close and open Firefox in a normal way. I remember.. whenever I wanted a session to be restored, I used to kill Firefox from the task manager. Funny and stupid isn't it. I used to curse Mozilla folks for not including such a nice feature.

But the fact is that Firefox does support session restoration ever since version 2. I got to know this when I was reading the features of Firefox 2. Man.. how dumb and lazy I am.. could have google'ed long time back to know if such a feature exist. At least, I could have read the feature list in Mozilla.org.

The point that I don't understand is that, why did Mozilla not enable this feature by default like Opera. One of the reasons as I could understand is that if Firefox has session restoration enabled by default, then the next time the user opens firefox, its going to load web pages that were already open. So Firefox will lose the up sell/opportunity to load Google's search page which is the default home page. And this means a lost opportunity to earn revenue out it.

Basically I am assuming here that Google pays Mozilla foundation for traffic which flows from the default home page (I am not sure if my assumption is correct.. but at least I read on the internet about the fact that Mozilla does earn revenue from the traffic that flows from the search box that is placed just next to the address bar).

Thats' fine. I thought I will have Session Restoration enabled in my Firefox browser. But it wasn't easy enabling it. The problem was that, I could not locate a setting/checkbox which would let me enable session restoration. I was searching for it for the past 15 mins and finally I came to a point where I thought I will give it up or start searching for it in the internet.

Then something told me that I should look at the default home page setting.. and Voila.. :) finally. Refer to the screenshot below. This is where you choose an option for restoring your previous session.

Guys at Mozilla.. this is one place where usability was not good.

Friday, February 8, 2008

Judgement Day ?

Oh.. don't worry.. I am neither John Conor nor am I Terminator Model TX-101 :)

I was referring to Michael Arrington's post where he says that today could be the day when the Yahoo board would be taking decision on the company's fate.

There are hundereds of post about the deal.. but very few post provide an interesting insight about the possible merger.. and this post is one of them.

I also found this post on PBS by Robert X. Cringely about this deal. The post is interesting because this is one of the few posts' which tells as to what led Yahoo! to its present sad state.

Tuesday, February 5, 2008

Opera Mobile 9.5 announced - But whats the big deal

Opera has announced the latest version of their Opera Mobile.

You can watch this guided tour of the Opera Mobile 9.5 user interface and features.

Now, most of you who have been using Opera browser on your phone should be confused between Opera Mini and Opera Mobile.

Opera Mini and Opera Mobile are different in many aspects. If you have been using Opera on your phone for a long time now, then you should be having Opera Mini.

Opera Mini is java based browser application, whereas Opera Mobile is written as a native application for a Symbian S60 or Windows Mobile operating system (Opera Mobile 9.5 also seems to be available for embedded linux).

An other difference is that Opera Mini uses an intermediate proxy server which converts the web pages to much lower sizes. Opera Mobile on the other hand directly downloads the web pages onto the mobile and then figures out a way to render it on the screen.

Last, but not the least.. Opera Mini is free, whereas, one needs to buy Opera Mobile.

Now, is it worth buying a browser for your phone. May be and May be not. I don't want to comment on it unless and until I try out the 30-day trial version of their previous version of Opera Mobile.

Monday, February 4, 2008

Google's Social Graph API - Making a social application really social!!

Google recently released a new web API called the Social Graph API.

Now, this I feel is really cool.. because it lets social networks "understand" eachother. Yes.. it lets social network only understand each other and NOT communicate with each other (thats what I have understood from their blog.. please correct me if i am wrong).

So, whats the big deal about social networks understanding eachother. Well, rather than me trying hard to explain to you.. i suggest you see this video below where this Google Engineer (Brad Fitzpatrick) explains very clear what this is all about.

If you don't have a good broadband connection, then please read this Google blog post on Social Graph API.

Would be great one day when social networks also talk to each other. But why would that happen.. if I were to develop a social network site, I would rather use the Social Graph API, the way it is today to invite more friends to my social network.

Social networking is the current vogue and it is no brainer that Google would want to ensure that social network related search is also taken care of.

Btw, I also found this post from Dare Obasanjo on his thoughts on Google Social Graph API. Who the hell is Dare Obasanjo.. :) ??!!

I just found out that he is product manager at Microsoft. Interesting to see a guy from Microsoft appreciating the useful of Google's social graph API.

What is more interesting is the fact that he is the son of former President of Nigeria, Olusegun Obasanjo :)

Sunday, February 3, 2008

Is Google getting scared about MSFT-YHOO deal ?

It sure looks that way :)

Here is Google's official statement about the proposed MSFT-YHOO deal. As you can see from the statement, Google is warning users of unethical and closed practices of Microsoft to creep into the internet world as well.

Could Microsoft now attempt to exert the same sort of inappropriate and illegal influence over the Internet that it did with the PC? While the Internet rewards competitive innovation, Microsoft has frequently sought to establish proprietary monopolies -- and then leverage its dominance into new, adjacent markets.
The statement also clearly tells you what Google is so scared about.. you guessed it - Email & IM.

In addition, Microsoft plus Yahoo! equals an overwhelming share of instant messaging and web email accounts. And between them, the two companies operate the two most heavily trafficked portals on the Internet. Could a combination of the two take advantage of a PC software monopoly to unfairly limit the ability of consumers to freely access competitors' email, IM, and web-based services? Policymakers around the world need to ask these questions -- and consumers deserve satisfying answers.
Now why would Microsoft keep quite when they see that Google is creating a negative PR for them. So here is Microsoft's official statement against Google. But its not entirely intended against Google. Also, the statement is a bit gentle.

Today, Google is the dominant search engine and advertising company on the Web. Google has amassed about 75 percent of paid search revenues worldwide and its share continues to grow. According to published reports, Google currently has more than 65 percent search query share in the U.S. and more than 85 percent in Europe. Microsoft and Yahoo! on the other hand have roughly 30 percent combined in the U.S. and approximately 10 percent combined in Europe.
Here is a post from Michael Arrington about Google's stand on the proposed deal.

Best Read on "The Making of iPhone"

One of my friends has shared an interesting article in his Google Reader. The shared post was that of a Slashdot user who was pointing to this article in Wired - The Untold Story: How the iPhone Blew up the wireless industry.

If was like reading a very short book on "The Making of iPhone". Very informative and very motivating.

The article talks about how iPhone was concieved by Jobs and how they struggled to make it into a reality.

Friday, February 1, 2008

Microsoft to take over Yahoo!!!

Wow!!.. This would be one hell of a merger. Microsoft gave a press release on its intent to buy Yahoo! for $44.6 billion ($31/share).

Think about the kind of services that Microsoft would be acquiring.. along with a huge customer base. Very good potential to upsell or promote Microsoft products and services.

As Long Zheng listed out.. there is a huge overlap of web services between Yahoo! and Microsoft. Would be interesting to see how Microsoft goes about consolidating these services if this acquisition becomes a relality.

Coming back to Microsoft's press release.. if you had read Steve Ballmer's letter to Yahoo Board of Directors, you can feel a threatening tone in it.. This is what the letter says:

Depending on the nature of your response, Microsoft reserves the right to pursue all necessary steps to ensure that Yahoo!’s shareholders are provided with the opportunity to realize the value inherent in our proposal.
And this how it translates to.. :)

Guys.. dont give a bullshit answer. If you don't want to be acquired, then we'll take it up with the shareholders.

You can get more insight about this news in this post in The New York Times.

My personal feeling is that.. Yahoo! is not doing very good. In fact, its dying slowly. It is better that it gets acquired by Microsoft.. better for the company and its shareholders.