The Stochastic Game

Ramblings of General Geekery

Posts with tag 'gmail'

    Adding sync to Minimalist-Gmail

    So the cat’s out of the bag, now. I needed an excuse to learn some more Javascript, along with looking at how Google Chrome extensions look like, so I decided to add a sync feature to the excellent Minimalist for Gmail extension. It’s all in my own GitHub fork of Ansel’s repository. It will be integrated into the shipping branch soon, but I’ll probably keep experimenting for a while.

    Consolidate instant messaging accounts into your Gmail

    Everybody knows that Gmail is great for consolidating multiple email accounts into one place that’s easy to search, organize, backup, and get out of. What less people know is that it’s also a great place to consolidate your instant messenger accounts, too!

    Watch out, this article is pretty long and gets quite nerdy at the end.

    Some background information (and a few rants)

    We’re going to talk about merging accounts from different instant messaging services (Gtalk, MSN, ICQ, etc.) so let’s get this out of the door first: yes, I could use programs like Pidgin or Trillian to log into all those networks simultaneously, but I’d still have to search in at least two places when it comes to past communications, and that’s without considering problems like chat history being only stored locally on one computer, which means I then have to sync that with my other computers using Dropbox or Mesh. Also, it’s really way to simple for my tastes. There’s a better, more complicated and geek-fulfilling way.

    Google made the very good decision of using Jabber, a.k.a. XMPP, an open protocol, to implement their own instant messaging system Gtalk. As usual with Google, though, they didn’t quite follow the standard entirely but it’s compatible enough for what I need… mostly. The other good thing with Google is that they integrated the whole thing into Gmail so that chats are searchable along with emails, which is what I’m after, here. Some people may be uncomfortable with the privacy implications, but those people probably don’t use Google services anyway (why would you trust them with your emails or videos or pictures but not chats?). In fact, people worried about privacy probably don’t use many web services in general, unless they’re one of those weirdoes who actually read the whole terms of services and really compare them (I don’t even know if such weirdoes exist). Besides, when you start worrying about privacy, you generally end up setting up your own email server, which then makes you worry about other things like backup, whitelisting/greylisting, encryption, etc… Anyway.

    So what then? Well, the XMPP protocol has things called “transports” who basically translate to and from other IM networks like MSN, Yahoo and others. That’s the way we’ll consolidate all our IM networks into Gmail!

    There are a few tutorials out there that explain how to set that up, so I’ll quickly walk through the first steps and then get to what I did differently, which is the good part.


    Some more contacts love

    There’s been a lot of improvement in communications in the past few years, from better services to brand new ones, but I still feel like contact management is lagging behind. I mean, isn’t it important to be able to find how to contact somebody in the first place?

    Here are a few things I think could be better.


    Migrating to Google Apps

    Migrating from a regular public Google account (GMail, etc.) to a Google Apps account seems to be a hot topic among geeks. Lots of people did it and posted their experience on their blog, which is often helpful for the next ones to try it. Since I recently migrated my account too, I thought I’d share this here. The important difference is that most people only post how they migrate their email. I tried to post about a lot more than that, including how to migrate contacts and groups and filters and quick links and documents and all that. I also wrote a complete “pros & cons” section up front so you can check whether Google Apps is for you.

    Pros and Cons


    • You can administer your domain using Google's control panel. All the users in your group (probably your family, or some kind of circle of friends) have a common ground to communicate on (chat integrated in mail, calendars, documents sharing, etc.). Scott Hanselman has a few pros & cons on that subject in his article about migrating his whole family to Google Apps, and the follow-up article . Note that these articles are outdated in a few places (some things have been fixed, some methods of backup/transfer don't work anymore, some pros/cons are not valid anymore).
    • Your integrated GMail chat will now make you appear online as "" instead of "". This is way better if you want maximum portability of your identity, but want to keep the practicality of GMail's integrated chat.
    • If you ever need to, you can upgrade some accounts to paid "Premier" accounts to get more space, reliability and support.


    • Not all Google services are available in Google Apps. For example, Google Reader or Picasa or Google Maps are not included in Google Apps, and you would end up having to login using your public GMail account. This means that whatever links you see at the top ("Mail", "Calendar", "Documents", etc.) will take you to the wrong application (the public one instead of your Google Apps one). Also, your beloved iGoogle homepage will only work in the "public Google" space, so you won't be able to make it work with your Google Apps things. Instead, in Google Apps, you'll have the lame and ugly "Partner Homepage".
    • As mentioned in the previous point, Google still hasn't fixed the whole Google Accounts debacle. Namely, your regular public account will still be needed to log into non-Apps places like Google Reader, Picasa, Google Maps, etc. You can't use your Google Apps account for this, which results in a slightly schizophrenic user experience. The cookies seem to use different tokens, though, so you can transparently be logged in to Google Apps and public Google services using the same browser.
    • Your chat history won't be migrated, nor will be your chat buddies (for this you’ll have to re-invite people to chat with you at your new “” address).

    The Procedure

    If you've decided that Google Apps is still for you, then this is how you can migrate your regular Google account (GMail, GCal, etc.) to Google Apps.


    Labels and quick links work together

    I just realized that the 2 GMail Labs experiments “Go to label” and “Quick links” work together, which makes quick links all the more useful. So say you have 2 labels named “Newsletters” and “Notifications”, and one quick link named “ALT.NET” (which finds all the posts from the ALT.NET mailing list). If you summon the “go to label” popup and start typing “n”, it will show all three: Now, you ask, when should you use a label, and when should you use a quick link?