google logoAre you a heavy user of Google products? If you are, more than likely you are going to love Dashboard.

As Google is slowly taking over our lives with its numerous free offerings, it would be nice to see just how many of its services you are using, and also get quick access to all of them.  The new Dashboard feature was announced this morning, and it does exactly that.  With this new tool it lets you quickly see at a glance which services you are using, statistics on their uses and easy access to the controls of each so you can quickly change settings without having to hunt for the right page.

One nice thing about Google is they make extremely straight forward videos to explain their new tools, and so we leave you with the newest one which explains everything you need to know in a matter of minutes.


Categories: Google, Privacy   
 

google voice logoGoogle Voice has finally answered the dreams of its users and added the ability to use your existing phone number.

Ever since Google bought Grand Central, and changed the name of the service to Google Voice, users have expressed the desire to use their existing phone numbers as opposed to signing up for new ones.  This would cut out the headache of passing out a new phone number, and you could get the benefits of the service without having to print new business cards and so on.

Well, Google has finally added this ability to the service, and while it doesn’t deliver all of the features of the regular service yet, there are plans to add them in the future.  You can save your voice mails, star them, have them transcribed to text and so on, and even if you change phone companies, your voice mails will be saved in the Voice system for you.  You can also do things such as screening calls, listening to them before deciding to answer and more.

In short, for a free service (thus far), it is still amazing.  There is a short video below describing how the new system works.


Categories: Google   
 

google-docsAt long last, you can export your documents en masse from Google Docs.

While you’ve been able to download one file at a time from Google Docs forever, Google Operating System is reporting that you can now download the files in batches in a .ZIP compressed file.

This is a major step forward for the application as people have often worried about their important documents being lost on the service due to the nature of it being a cloud computing solution.  Now that you can download them in large batches, there should be no reason to fear this any longer and not look at Docs as a viable alternative to commercial solutions such as Microsoft Office.

Categories: Google   
 

google barcode

Confused when you went to Google today?  Don’t worry, every one was.

Google has a long history of playing with the logo on their search page to honor various little known anniversaries and holidays, and the one for today is no different.  57 years ago today, the ubiquitous barcode was invented.  If you head over to OnlineBarcodeReader.com you’ll be able to decrypt the image, and all it says is “Google”, nothing insidious!

If you want to make you own barcode for just about anything, head over to Barcodes Inc. and you can make your very own in just a matter of seconds.

stbarcode

Categories: Google   
 

rocky mountain bankThe saga of Google and Wilson, Wyo.-based Rocky Mountain Bank just keeps getting odder and odder.

According to CNET, it has now been confirmed that the unintended recipient of the email containing sensitive information on 1,300 customers of Rocky Mountain Bank was never even opened:

“Rocky Mountain Bank, working with Google (through court order), confirmed on Thursday of last week that the e-mail containing client information was never opened and has now been permanently destroyed by Google’s system,” Tina Martinez, general counsel for Rocky Mountain Capital, wrote in an e-mail response to questions.

“As a result, no customer data of any sort has been viewed or used by any inappropriate user during this data lapse,” Martinez wrote. “Rocky Mountain Bank acted to protect its customer’s confidential information. That objective was accomplished. The matter is now closed and the TRO (temporary restraining order) entered on September 23, 2009 is now vacated.”

This was something I had actually suspected, and as a commenter by the name of totorototoro accurately pointed out in the comments on the CNET article:

Maybe it went to his SPAM filter. Or maybe he’s just smart. I mean, “Rocky Mountain Bank”? How tacky is that? I’m not about to open any email from a “Rocky Mountain Bank”, especially with an attachment.

So now we learn that a completely innocent person lost access to their Gmail account over absolutely nothing. And that is where this story really starts to irk me as CNET posted an update to this story:

Update 4:35 p.m. PDT:The bank did not take any action against the worker who sent the e-mail, the bank’s lawyer said.

Okay, excuse me, but … WHAT?!?  You’re telling me that this bank took massive legal action against this completely innocent person, had them locked out of their email account, and yet the employee who actually messed up has had no action taken against them?  Are you kidding me?  This employee potentially compromised the personal data of 1,300 customers, they are the reason this whole saga started, and yet nothing happens to them.  I am not suggesting they should be fired, everyone makes mistakes, but nothing?

You know, I can tell you with absolute certainty, I will never bank at Rocky Mountain Bank, course, they mis-fire many more emails and it won’t matter, they’ll find a way to mess with you anyway.

Categories: Google, Opinion   
 

gmail logoIt seems that Google and Wilson, Wyo.-based Rocky Mountain Bank have reached an agreement over the email the bank sent to the wrong email address and resulted in that account being closed.

The other day we reported on a story about Judge Orders Google To Deactivate User’s Gmail Account, about how a bank had sent an email to an unintended recipient. When the owner of that account didn’t reply to their emails requesting that the document containing the confidential information of 1300 accounts be destroyed, they went to Google to request the person’s identification. Google told them they would need a court order for that, so the bank did go to court, and the judge not only ordered the information turned over, but also ordered Google to shut down the Gmail account in question.

Well the good news is that Google did indeed comply with the order, but they have now talked things over with the bank and an agreement has been reached.

Google spokesman Andrew Pederson spoke with CNET and said the following:

After notifying the account owner, we complied with the court’s order. However, after working with Rocky Mountain Bank and the court, we resolved the issue around the bank’s error, and both sides have agreed to vacate the TRO and dismiss the case.

While we regret that the user has been locked out of their account through no fault of their own, we’re not legally able to reactivate the account until the court approves our motion to dismiss the case and vacate the TRO.  We’re hopeful that the court will act quickly, and as soon as the motion is approved, we’ll reactivate the account.

While it is great to see Google fought this, it doesn’t change the fact the original ruling was made.  How long is it before we see another case such as this pop up with a similar resolution?  This is still a troubling ruling by the original judge in the case, and one I doubt we have heard the last of.

Categories: Google, News, Opinion   
 

gmail logoIt seems that even if you are completely innocent, you can lose your email account if a bank wants you to.

I really try to avoid blogging on the same subject on two blogs, but this case is so frightening, it has to be brought to the attention of many people as possible.  You can see my more journalistic effort on this news over at Tech.BLORGE.com, but over here, where I’m the boss, I’m going to be a bit more blunt on my feelings about it.

The short version of the story is that Wilson, Wyo.-based Rocky Mountain Bank emailed out a list of 1,300 customers of its bank on Aug. 12th.  This list included their names, addresses, social security numbers and loan information, in other words, highly sensitive information.  After sending out the email, someone at the bank realized it had been sent to the wrong Gmail account.  They emailed the account that had sent it to and instructed whomever received it to destroy it without opening it.

When the bank did not hear back from the person, they contacted Google demanding that the identity of the account holder be turned over to them.  Google said that due to their privacy rules, a court order was needed to do such.  The bank then went to court and demanded not only an order for the information, but also for Google to deactivate the account.  U.S. District Court Judge James Ware in the northern district of California issued the order this past Wednesday.  The bank asked for it to be done under seal, but U.S. District Court Judge Ronald Whyte denied that request.

There is no indication if Google has obeyed the order yet, but that doesn’t change the fact that this order should have never been issued.  The order for the person’s information is perfectly reasonable, but to ask for the account to be deactivated, and for the judge to agree to this, is just beyond the pale of good sense.  A person, who’s only crime is that he received an unintended email, has been stripped of his email account, something that could be life altering for a large number of individuals.

Online Media Daily spoke with John Morris, general counsel at the Center for Democracy & Technology, about the subject.  Here’s what he said:

It’s outrageous that the bank asked for this, and it’s outrageous that the court granted it.  What right does the bank have and go suspend the email account of a completely innocent person? At the end of the day, the bank obviously screwed up. But it should not be bringing a lawsuit against two completely innocent parties and disrupting one of the innocent party’s email contact to the world.

Other lawyers are bringing up possible First Amendment ramifications of the case, saying that this significantly impacts the individuals rights to communicate online.  I think they may be overstating the First Amendment aspects of the case, but then again, I’m not a Constitutional lawyer.  It could easily be argued that no one has a “right” to communicating online at all, but I could be wrong in that aspect also.

What does trouble me is that there is no mention of proof that this person either read the emails from the bank, or might not even be logging into their account.  If it’s the latter, then this person has had their identity revealed and been drug through court for absolutely nothing.  Heck, there is even a chance the emails went to their spam folder.

No matter how you look at this case it is troubling, and I am sure this isn’t the last we’ve heard of it.  I would especially like to hear how Judge Ware felt justified in deactivating the account.

This is a scary, scary time for all email users after this case.

Categories: Google, Opinion   
 

google toolbarEver wished you could leave a comment about a website that had no commenting system? Well, thanks to Google’s latest product, now you can.

Google announced a new addition to its popular Google Toolbar today, Google Sidewiki.  Any browser that can run the Google Toolbar will now be able to have a pop out window on the side that you can open up and see what other people are saying about it.  You can also add your own thoughts, or if no one has started a Sidewiki for it yet, you can.

While Google is promoting this as a way for Web surfers to help one another and to get more information, this also seems like it could be ripe for abuse.  Imagine a business getting a ton of slanderous Sidewiki comments.  True or not, it could ruin its reputation and they have no control over it.

It also could be seen as a bad thing by blog owners because people might start using it more than the comment system built into the site.

While it’s an interesting idea, the possible abuses are rather frightening.  It will be interesting to see how this shakes out.  Here is a video explaining a bit more about what it does.

People who already have the Google Toolbar installed can expect to see the buttons show up shortly, but if you can’t wait, you can go download a new copy here to get the service immediately.

Categories: Google   
 

gmail logoAt long last, Gmail has gotten push technology for iPhone, Windows Mobile, and S60 devices!

Before you go off scratching your head if you haven’t heard of push.  Imagine that currently on your iPhone it uses “pull” technology which has to send a message to your Gmail account to check for messages.  This can be a slow process, and depending on how long of a time interval you have your email set for, this can take quite a while, and is honestly pretty archaic.

Now, with “push” technology, the Gmail account know to send the email on to your device as soon as it receives it, so as soon as you open your inbox on your device, the email is sitting there waiting for, sometimes within seconds of when your inbox got it.  This is a far more efficient way to deal with your email on your device and can be a huge time saver.

All of this is being done via Google Sync, a product Google introduced earlier this year that allows you to synchronize your contacts and calendar between your phone and account.  If you already have that product installed, all you have to do is change some settings and your email will sync also now.  You can learn how to do all of this by visiting the link.

gmail push cartoon

Categories: Google, Mobile Phones   
 

google voice logoThe insanity that is the rejection of the Google Voice application by Apple for inclusion in the iPhone app store just gets odder with each passing day.

For those of you haven’t been following this drawn out battle, earlier this summer Google submitted an application for its Google Voice service to Apple.  This application was to be reviewed for inclusion in the iPhone and iPod Touch application store, but was ultimately rejected for unknown reasons.  What followed was a blame game of epic proportions with AT&T also being dragged in as the exclusive carrier of the iPhone in the United States.  The fight got to such a level that the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) decided to step in and start asking questions of all the parties involved as to what exactly happened.

As the war of words continued, things have now escalated even more as Google has decided to broadcast its reply to the FCC that does not paint Apple in a very favorable light.  You can read the full reply at the FCC site (PDF link), but it boils down to Google is saying this is 100 percent on Apple’s head for just being stuck in the mud’s over the fact they felt the new app would duplicate core portions of the iPhone’s functionality.

The issue here is that many consumers are crying out for the iPhone to be open and that it should run any software that is put out for it without question.  Some are even using the analogy that what if Microsoft told you what you can and can not run on your Windows based computer?  You’ve paid for the item, it belongs to you, you should have complete control over what you use it to do.  Well, I have another analogy for you … how much luck are you having running a Nintendo Wii game on your Microsoft Xbox 360?  I mean, you’ve paid for it, you own it, you should be able to run anything you want on it, right?

When you purchase an item such as a video game console or a cell phone, you are making a conscience choice that some higher power has a say over what software you are going to be allowed to run on it.  For Google, or consumers for that matter, to say that the government should force a company to allow certain things on to its equipment is ridiculous.  You are making a decision, a hopefully informed one, before you make that purchase.  No one forced you to buy an iPhone, you chose to buy it.  No one forced you to choose it over the other options out there, you decided to go with a phone manufactured by Apple, powered by Apple and ultimately serviced by Apple.

The government should have no say in such a situation.

Categories: Apple, Google, Mobile Phones, Opinion   
 
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