Offline GMail!

Image representing Gmail as depicted in CrunchBase
Image via CrunchBase

One of the most eagerly anticipated features for GMail is offline access, and today Google finally announced that it was available! (as a Labs feature)

Once this is finalized as a release quality feature for everyone to use, Google will have really closed the gap with Outlook.  Combined with Google Apps functionality for enterprises, Google Calendar and Google Docs, I can’t think of a compelling reason to keep buying new versions of Office every couple of years.

As expected, the GMail offline access feature uses Gears – same as the offline access in Google Docs etc.

As well as straight offline mode, it also has “flaky connection mode”, which acts like offline mode in that you’re always dealing with a locally cached version of your mail, but also synchs continually in the background like online mode.  I imagine this will speed some mail functions in the same way that Outlook’s Cached Exchange Mode does because more of the processing happens locally.

Apparently they’re slowly rolling the offline feature out, so I haven’t been able to test it yet but I’m really looking forward to it.

Once the option shows up in your Labs, you enable offline access by following these steps:

  1. Click Settings and click the Labs tab.
  2. Select Enable next to Offline Gmail.
  3. Click Save Changes.
  4. After your browser reloads, you’ll see a new “Offline0.1” link in the upper righthand corner of your account, next to your username. Click this link to start the offline set up process and download Gears if you don’t already have it.
Here’s the announcement video:

EDIT: There appear to be some known issues – you can’t send an offline message with attachments and you can’t access the contact manager offline.  Forgivable in a beta, but these things will need to be fixed.

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My hopes for President Obama's first four years

Obama hope poster

Obama hope poster

One of Barack Obama‘s campaign themes was Hope.  Now that he’s been elected and sworn into office (twice), the question is whether he will be able to live up to everyone’s hopes for his presidency.

Someone (I really can’t remember who) suggested that since we have such high hopes, it would be interesting to write them all down and then revisit them in a year (or four) to see whether President Obama was able to live up to them.  The fact of the matter is that even the most well meaning president will have a lot of obstacles in his way – from the popularity of his choices with the voting public to the other branches of government – such is democracy.

Anyway, here are the things that I hope President Obama will be able to accomplish in the next four years:

  • Close Guantanamo Bay detention center.  Between the fact that the inmates there have not been convicted of anything (or even charged), have all their rights denied and that they are tortured, Guantanamo Bay detention center should be closed as soon as possible.  Incredibly, this seems to already be on its way – on his second day, the President signed an order to close it.
  • End the recession.  Everyone agrees that something should be done to repair the economy as soon as possible, but nobody knows what should be done.  It is the President’s unenviable task of being responsible for solving this problem, and I think four years is long enough to do it.
  • Leave Iraq.  The occupation is expensive at a time when the country can least afford the cost, and does not benefit either the Iraqi or American people.  Obviously the withdrawal needs to be carefully managed in order to avoid making the situation worse, but that is the direction I think they need to be going.
  • Repair the damage to the constitution.  Between the Patriot Act, warrantless wiretaps, torture and illegal war, a lot of damage has been done to the civil liberties of Americans (not to mention foreign nationals who have been kidnapped and killed).  While it may be impractical or unwise to prosecute everyone responsible for these negative changes, the laws and practices of the country need to be returned to their right and just state.
  • Environment policy.  For the last years corporate profits have taken priority over environmental concerns, from expanding oill drilling to taking animals off of the endangered list.  President Obama has already started changing things for the better.
  • Network Neutrality.  I lived through the bad old days of CompuServe.  The free Internet is so obviously immeasuably better that only greedy ISPs could want to return to walled gardens and charges by the minute for every service and the ISP controlling everything.  This is a minor point compared to the other items on the list, but it’s personally important to me.  President Obama has already made positive progress on this issue by appointing an advocate of Network Neutrality as FCC chairman.

What have I missed?

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Oh no, there goes Tokyo

Here’s a cool t-shirt by etherbrian of a line from Godzilla by Blue Oyster Cult:

GOJIRA! tee by etherbrian. Available from

In case you don’t know the song, here’s a music video:

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Social Software Development

This post is about the social aspect of software development, not the development of social software – I realize the title is ambiguous.

A few days ago, I came across a project someone had done to automatically append a Google Analytics campaign identifier to URLs shortened using Cligs so that you can tell what clicks came from that shortened URL.  It seemed like a really useful idea, but from my point of view the execution was less than ideal – it used a php file I had to host and a bookmarklet.

The only URLs I shorten are blog posts, and I already use the WP to Twitter WordPress plugin to do that.  So I suggested it to the developer of the plugin on his website.  The next day he’d added the feature to his plugin.

I was shocked – I’m still used to the old, monolithic model of development where you get a new version every year or two, it’ll have whatever features the company decides, you have no say in the matter and you definitely have no contact with the developers.

I guess the accessibility of home computers has increased the number of smaller companies and individual developers, and the Internet has connected everyone together better to make this possible.  It’s a brave new world.

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Storytlr logo

Storytlr logo

I recently found a website called Storytlr.  It’s a lifestreaming service similar to, Sweetcron and to a lesser extent FriendFeed – it aggregates your blog posts, Flickr pictures, tweets etc. into one stream.

Like, Storytlr lets you set up a DNS CNAME to point to your lifestream from your domain, so mine is here.

What makes Storytlr different is that it has the concept of “stories” – for example you could group a blog post, some tweets and some flickr pictures together as a story to describe a vacation you had.  It’s an interesting twist, but I’m not sure I’d use it – I’m probably more likely to just write a blog post about my vacation, link the pictures and leave the tweets out.

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GeoPress plugin for WordPress

This is a test of the GeoPress plugin for WordPress:


It’s a pretty cool plugin that lets you insert maps into your posts, as well as associating a post with a particular location.

The location information is also included in your feeds using GeoRSS.

Maps can be Google, Microsoft, OpenStreetMap, 3D Globe, or any major mapping provider by using the Mapstraction mapping library and it also adds KML for viewing in Google Earth.

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Image via Wikipedia

Here’s a trailer for an amazing looking movie called Franklyn – an awesome indie neo-noir sci-fi film.

Preest is a masked vigilante detective, searching for his nemesis on the streets of Meanwhile City, a monolithic fantasy metropolis ruthlessly governed by faith and religious fervor. Esser is a broken man, searching for his wayward son amongst the rough streets of London’s homeless. Milo is a heartbroken thirty-something desperately trying to find a way back to the purity of first love. Emilia is a beautiful art student; her suicidal art projects are becoming increasingly more complex and deadly.

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