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Filed in:The Web

Gmail - First Impressions

February 21st, 2005  · stk

Some time ago, there was a big bru-ha-ha about "Gmail" (Google's new email service) because they were planning on scanning user's emails, in order to present content-specific advertising. The ACLU & other such groups protested vehemently, "such activities are an affront and an intrusion on one's privacy." The fervor, eventually, died down.

Google's 'Gmail' hit the radar screen, again, when I recently received an invitation to open a 'beta' account. I signed up and then later learned that people were envious of the fact that I'd obtained an account. It seems that Google has created quite a buzz with this invitation-only approach, capitalizing on the human desire 'to have what we cannot'.

Note: If you would like an invitation, just respond in the comments section with your email address (which will never be shown on this site) and I will send you one, when I get a batch of them.

EDIT: 24-Feb ... received 50 today.

What's all the hype about? Well, for starters, Gmail is different. Instead of getting a few megabytes of storage space, you get a whopping 1000 megabytes. That's right, 1 gigabyte [GB] of space. Wow! That certainly IS different. It heralds a new era of email service: "Never delete a message again."

Beyond this concept, what is new? On the surface, not much. Don't get me wrong, Gmail offers some wonderful new features and shows a LOT of promise. One must keep in mind, however, that it is a NEW service, a beta release, and isn't QUITE ready for prime time.

The Good Stuff

  • 1000 megabytes of storage space - lots of room unlike most

  • It's a free service - we like free

  • Free forwarding & POP3 - use Outlook Express unlike most

  • Google search technology - find those messages unlike most

  • Introducing "conversations" - a new approach

  • Introducing "archiving" - also a new approach

  • Introducing "folders" - excellent new approach

  • Advertising - unobtrusive

  • HTML composing - Added in April

The Bad Stuff

  • No HTML composing - not YET anyway

  • No vacation response - not YET anyway

  • No sorting by date/author - limiting

  • Advertising - it scans your email

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Updated: 1-Jun-2005
Web View Count: 4662 viewsLast Web Update: 1-Jun-2005
Filed in:Web Dev

Computing Tips

February 11th, 2005  · stk

My (ever growing) repository for useful computing tips, organized by category. I hope that you find many of them useful.


  1. Expand ALT text (MSIE Only) - You probably already know that when a picture fails to load (the file name is wrong, or missing, etc.), the alternate <alt> text is displayed. A lot of times, it's cut off.

    What you may not know is that there's a browser setting that fixes this behavior.

    Tools -> Internet Options -> Advanced Tab -> Accessibility -> (check the "Always expand ALT text for images")

    Another default setting that was dropped through the cracks.

xhtml (Strict)

  1. Opening Links in a New Window: Using frames, it's as simple as specifying the target window for a link. Today, with CSS & XHTML, it not that simple. The "target" attribute is obsolete in XHTML strict and nothing has been offered up as a replacement. So how do you open a link in a new window?

    This is one of those areas where the idealism of standards and the needs of the real World collide. There is no panacea, only tradeoffs.

    The method I've been using, involves the javaScript "" function, but provides a backdoor for visitors who have javaScript turned off or have a pop-up blocker in place. The code:

    <a href = "pg-noJava.html" onclick = " ('pg.html'); return false">

    <a href = "pg.html" onclick =; return false">

    This approach is valid-XHTML, and many browsers will execute it. However, they may neglect to pass along the referrer (the tradeoff). This method results in a new window for many older browsers too, provided that javaScripting is turned on.

    If you include a javaScript "window.close()" function, inside the new window, to return the viewer to the main site, you might need two pages (one with the close() and one without), unless you use a PHP script to decide whether to show the close() or not.

    The "return false" keeps the originating page from loading the linked page, IF the javaScript is sucessfully executed. And if the javaScript cannot be executed (for whatever reason), the visitor is linked to a non-java page, degrading to a regular link, loading into the same window.

    EVERYONE gets to see the page.

Site Admin

  1. .htaccess file

    We got our domain in Dec04. For the first month, we just moved files from our old domain. The 2nd month, we made some changes. After the 2nd month, we noticed that anyone can anonymously browse our directories. Ack! :( This is NOT what we want.

    The place to change this is the ".htaccess" file, which controls directory behavior and works in a cascading style. (Control them individually, by placing a .htaccess file in that directory -OR- control them in a cascading, directory-tree-fashion, via one file, sitting higher up in the tree.)

    The second method is what we are currently employing. Our single .htaccess file is in the top-level directory and looks like:

    # Turn on XbitHack for Server-side includes
    XBitHack full

    # Look in htm/html files for php commands
    AddHandler application/x-httpd-php .htm .html

    # Turn OFF external access to directory indexes
    Options -Indexes

    We don't use SSI now, preferring PHP include statements, which makes parsing PHP important (the second bit). Turn off external directory browsing by turning Indexes off (-Indexes). A browse now results in a 403 message, which we can customize.

    Type in your address line, to see what having Indexes on (+Indexes) looks like. Then try to see the Indexes off (-Indexes) behavior.

    For more information on what you can do with the .htaccess file, read these:

    Have a look at the effect of turning Indexes off. First, type into your address box. THIS is what it would look like if you have Indexes ON. Then, type into your browser address box. Instead of an index listing, you will get a 403 "Forbidden" message.

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Updated: 24-Nov-2007
Web View Count: 4446 viewsLast Web Update: 24-Nov-2007