The Podiyan

Monday, November 30, 2009

Mozilla Thunderbird 3.0 - Conclusion

In the end, Thunderbird is a decent mail reader, but I question the need for it, because webmail systems like Yahoo Mail and Gmail have gotten so feature rich—they do pretty much everything Thunderbird does. And for businesses, Thunderbird offers nowhere near the calendaring, scheduling, and reminder features of Outlook, and it doesn't support the universally used Exchange server, which you can access right in Snow Leopard's mail client or in its own Web interface.

If you need a free installed mail client that handles multiple accounts, I actually prefer Windows Live Mail, which is slicker, even more intuitive, and much more versatile at handling attached photos. And Mac users are quite well served by that platform's Mail app. One group, however, that will just love Thunderbird are Linux users—after all, they have no better option for an installed mail app.

Mozilla Foundation

Price as Tested: $0.00 Direct
Type: Business, Personal, Professional
Free: Yes
OS Compatibility: Windows Vista, Windows XP, Linux, Mac OS, Windows 7


Mozilla Thunderbird 3.0 - Add-Ons

Similar to Firefox, actually identically to Firefox, Thunderbird supports add-ons that extend the functionality of the software. In fact, many Firefox extensions work here, too, such as AdBlocker. The extension developer just marks his work as compatible with Thunderbird, and bing, you can use it. One clever add-in is Thunderbrowse, which lets you open a Web page link right in Thunderbird, rather than having to open a browser. Of course, if you're using webmail, that's not an issue.

One area of weakness for Thunderbird is its lack of built-in calendaring. Even free webmail clients like Yahoo Mail, Hotmail, and Gmail include calendars linked to the inbox. Mozilla has calendaring projects Lightning and Sunbird, which look promising but are not yet officially released (they're at version 0.9). Lighting is a plug in and Sunbird a standalone client, so the former makes more sense for Thunderbird users. Another complaint is that the Web-based Help isn't well organized and is all about version 2 at this point—even when you click from version 3.


Mozilla Thunderbird 3.0 - Composing Mail

One neat new feature is Thunderbird's Attachment Reminder, which looks at the message you're composing, and if it detects the word "attachment" but no actual attachment, prompts you to add one. But you lose Yahoo Mail and Hotmail's ability to store large attached files and photos on Web storage rather than filling up your recipient's inbox with many megabytes. And you get basic text formatting and a smiley dropdown, but there's no stationery like that in Windows Live Mail or Yahoo Mail.
Like pretty much every modern mail client, recipient e-mail addresses will autofill if you start typing one of your contact's names, and your drafts are automatically saved. A spell-check button assures you of your orthography, and it even works on the fly as it does in Outlook (you know, the squiggly red underlines).


Mozilla Thunderbird 3.0 - Reading Mail

Search now has two interfaces. If you right-click the folder you want to search in, you'll see a dialog that lets you choose things like whether you want to search on the subject line or e-mail contents, and in which folder. This displays hits at the bottom of the same dialog. If you just use the built-in search box at the top, however, you'll see results in a full tab window, with a new set of filters along the left. These let you choose people, folders, and like Google's advanced search options, show of bar graph of message volume over time. It's nice to be able to click on a bar to get messages from that time period.

In fact, search is one area where Thunderbird soundly beats Outlook, which takes too long and doesn't give you as much filtering assistance. Webmail services like Yahoo and Google, however, offer pretty quick, configurable search; and Windows Live Mail actually offers quick, sortable mail search from a box at the top, too. Another helpful Thunderbird feature is Filter Rules, which you can run at mail retrieval to sort messages from certain users or with specified subject text to folders of your choice.

Message summary view lets you select multiple e-mails; you'll see the first few lines of all selected messages in the preview pane below. But Outlook does this one better, with an Autopreview view that shows the first few lines of every message in the inbox.

The new archive feature is somewhere between deleting and keeping a message in your inbox. Just click the Archive button and the message will disappear from your Inbox, but still be accessible if you really need it. But it doesn't offer Auto Archiving like Outlook's.

The Activity Manger window shows you all Thunderbird's interactions with your mail servers and plug-ins. It doesn't really manage, but it gives you a view that could help track down problems.

Tagging is another nice perk, with choices like To Do, Important, and so on, but you can't give them a deadline as you can in Outlook. A one-click way to add to your address book is also a welcome feature—all e-mail addresses in any message's header will have stars next to them, and clicking on the star instantly adds them to your address book.

Thunderbird has good tools for protecting you from annoying e-mails: a junk mail filter that learns based on what you mark as spam, the ability to tie in with your antivirus software to quarantine malware, and phishing warnings. Like Outlook and most other mail readers, it also doesn't download images unless you give the okay.


Mozilla Thunderbird 3.0 - Installing and Configuring Thunderbird

As with Firefox, there are Windows, Mac, and Linux versions of Thunderbird available, and you get a choice of 43 languages from Afrikaans to Ukrainian. I tested on Windows 7, Mac OS X Snow Leopard, and Ubuntu Linux. The installer is a slight 8.4MB on the PC (18.6MB for Mac, and 10.3MB for Linux). Once you've run the standard installation, you're left with a blank application surmounted by a dialog asking you simply for your name, e-mail address, and password. Mozilla stores configuration data for common mail services, so in many cases that's all you'll need to enter those to get up and running. Version 2 asked you about POP, IMAP, and SMTP, regardless of whether the account was with something like Gmail or a lesser-known host.

When I entered the username and password for a Hotmail account in Thunderbird 3, the next dialog had all the server fields automatically filled in, and I could just hit Create Account to add the account to the mail app. After this, a dialog asked whether I wanted Thunderbird to be my default reader for newsgroups as well as e-mail and feeds. I could also indicate whether mail would be accessible to Windows Search. But for some reason, I couldn't actually receive mail in the account.

Trying to set up a account failed too, but when I tried creating an entry for AOL, the software did better. And it warned me that the AOL servers don't use encryption, which it considered a no-no. The dark red dialog even included a checkbox saying "I understand the risks" that I had to check before the account would be allowed. A final account using a friend's server seemed to set up correctly, but then wouldn't receive or send e-mail either. An AOL account worked swimmingly with auto-setup, however.

Once I got an account working in the software, a super-simple display appeared: a standard window with menu choices atop, just four toolbar buttons under that, and the standard left-side panel showing accounts' mailboxes and folders. Like Windows Live Mail, Thunderbird lets you access multiple e-mail accounts from this left sidebar. It defaults to "Smart Folders," which let you combine inboxes while still showing the separate account entries below the combined inbox. You have a choice of three views—Classic, Wide, and Vertical—but the choices aren't as fluid as in Outlook, which also offers Autopreview and, in Office 2010, a sophisticated conversation view.

In the main window area, the interface is truly hand-holding. Only two choices show up under the E-mail section at the top: Read messages, and Write a new message. Sections below this with similarly few options let you view account settings or add a new account, and Advanced options let you search messages and manage message filters.

The big news in Thunderbird 3's interface is tabs. Because Thunderbird is actually built on top of the same code base as Firefox, its tabs look and act pretty much identically to the browser's, although I wish they had the X's to close them as Firefox does.

If you double-click an e-mail's entry, it opens in a new tab. You can also right-click any left-panel folder or account and choose Open in New Tab. Yahoo Mail has had tabs since 2007, and I think it makes sense in a browser-based interface, but I prefer a standalone client to pop out a new window when you double-click a message entry. Conversely (or perversely), when you start a new outgoing e-mail message, it opens in a new window—here I'd prefer a new tab, the way Yahoo Mail does it. And one final kvetch: You can't drag tabs out to a new window as you can in Firefox.


Mozilla Thunderbird 3.0

Its Web-browsing vulpine sibling may get all the attention, but Mozilla's other product, the Thunderbird open-source e-mail client, has its own devout following, and has now taken flight with a new version. Thunderbird 2 was strictly for power users, but version 3 changes all that. It's as simple as pie, having cut down on the number of toolbar options and simplified mail account setup. It also adds tabs and archiving. Based on the same code platform as Firefox, Thunderbird also boasts a wealth of add-ins to customize and extend its capabilities. Unfortunately, it still leaves business users out in the cold, as it lacks Exchange support—something that even Apple's new OS, Snow Leopard, offers.


Monday, November 16, 2009

Daily Gift Idea: Apple Magic Mouse

Product: Apple Magic Mouse
Price: $69.99

You're a PC, she's a Mac—what can you say, opposites attract. So you guys don't agree on things like Windows Media or anti-virus software, but in the end, love will prevail over even the most intense operating system incompatibilities. Consider this mouse a little, white, multi-touch flag. It's a slick and stunning, if pricey ($69.99), little peripheral—in other words, it's apple to its core. Show that special someone that you love them and want them in your iLife.

If you've used an iPhone or an iPod touch, or even a Macbook Pro's trackpad, you're familiar with Multi-Touch technology, which uses gestures such as finger flicks and swipes to navigate and resize Web pages, flip through album covers in iTunes, or move through images in iPhoto. Now Apple brings Multi-Touch to your desktop with the first-ever gesture-based mouse, the Magic Mouse ($69 direct; ships with all new iMacs). While this wireless Bluetooth mouse works very well, its compact, minimalist design takes some getting used to. Plus, the Multi-Touch features only work with Macs. For those reasons alone, the Magic Mouse is assured a limited appeal. Even so, Apple scores big points for innovation and sleek design.


Panda Cloud Antivirus Free Edition 1.0

Every time new or newly mutated piece malware bursts forth, security vendors have to boil it down into a signature that lets their antivirus products recognize and remove the threat. Given the accelerating pace of malware creation, we could be headed for a singularity—virus signature databases so big they implode into a black hole! Panda Cloud Antivirus Free Edition 1.0 (free for personal use) aims to head off disaster by pushing its malware detection activity into the cloud, eliminating the need for local signatures. Panda likes to call it "the first antivirus without an update button." It's a powerful defender against malware attacks—and it's free.

Panda Software

Price as Tested: $0.00 Direct
Type: Personal
Free: Yes
OS Compatibility: Windows Vista, Windows XP, Windows 7
Notes: FAQs, forums moderated by Panda personnel


Sunday, November 8, 2009

BlackBerry Bold 9700 (T-Mobile)

The BlackBerry Bold 9700 is like a classically-tailored suit: elegant, predictable, practical, and easy to slip into, but not visibly innovative. It advances the state of the art without making unsettling changes. In some ways, this is good; the Bold is fast, clean, and a great messaging and media phone. But BlackBerry's slow Web browser, lack of consumer-level Exchange support, and aging interface are starting to look weak next to the competition.

Research In Motion Ltd

Price as Tested: $199.99 Direct
Service Provider: T-Mobile
Operating System: BlackBerry OS
Screen Size: 2.4 inches
Screen Details: 480-by-360, 65k-color TFT LCD screen
Camera: Yes
Megapixels: 3.2 MP
802.11x: Yes
Bluetooth: Yes
Web Browser: Yes
Network: GSM, UMTS
Bands: 850, 900, 1800, 1900, 2100, 1700
High-Speed Data: GPRS, EDGE, UMTS, HSDPA
Processor Speed: 624 MHz


Analysis: Google's Dashboard Tackles Transparency

One product stood out this week amongst the standard flurry of Google product releases. It wasn't a Gmail Labs experiment or a new parameter for search. It was a fairly unassuming new product called Dashboard, which aggregates users' personal information from more than 20 Google services into a single, password-protected page.

Google unveiled the new service with a blog post titled, "Transparency, choice, and control – now complete with a Dashboard." The choice and control parts of the equation are pretty clear – users can update their account information directly from the new Dashboard, which is far handier than being forced to visit each page individually.

However, the fact that Google opted to lead its Dashboard blog post with the word "transparency" speaks to a fundamental concern about the company's current position in the world. Some time ago, the company adopted the admirable motto "Don't Be Evil," a slogan pundits have often suggested is a dig at Microsoft.

As Google quickly discovered, however, the adherence to such an abstract notion is at times inversely proportional to the size of a company. As a company grows, opportunities for evil become more numerous, and the ability to police them decreases. Things get even trickier when a company's stated objective is to gather and catalog all the world's information.

Over the past few years, concerns about the "anti-evil" corporation have grown at nearly the same rate as the company itself, from its cooperation with the Chinese government to the cameras it perches atop its Street View vans. The sheer breadth of Google's knowledge base is staggering, something that becomes far more apparent on a personal level when one investigates their own Dashboard.

But if Google has always been so devoted to transparency, why are we only seeing this feature rolled out now?

The answer is that, ultimately, even the most noble corporation is only as transparent as they have to be. The good news, however, is that in this post-Web 2.0 world, the bare minimum is ever increasing. As personal information becomes more publicly available, the same goes for corporate information. The informational megaphone that is Twitter and the blogosphere makes protests all the more powerful.

Remember Amazonfail, the Twitter protest against a seemingly homophobic move on the part of the online retailer? What about the online kerfuffle surrounding Facebook's new Terms of Service? When information moves at the speed of the Web, corporations must operate at a similar pace. This means more than just creating a corporate Twitter account, it means offering information in anticipation of complaints, which is where the concept of transparency comes into play. Companies that make information publicly available have less to hide, and it therefore becomes more difficult to bandy about words like "evil." Sunlight, as the saying goes, is the best disinfectant.

While the advent of Dashboard can be seen as a response to past criticism and an attempt to avoid future accusations, the availability of information like our Web history does have the effect of bringing to light even more questions — such as what exactly does Google plan to do with our information? It's a reminder that, as we hand more and more of our own personal information over to a company like Google, we need to keep asking questions.

Fortunately, the Internet is history's most powerful suggestion box, and if corporations want to operate in that world, they have to listen.


Thursday, November 5, 2009

Army officer opens fire at Fort Hood, killing 12

FORT HOOD, Texas – An Army officer opened fire Thursday with two handguns at the Fort Hood military base in an attack that left 12 people dead and 31 wounded. Authorities killed the gunman and apprehended two other soldiers in what appears to be the worst mass shooting at a U.S. military base.

There was no immediate word on a motive. The shooting began around 1:30 p.m., said Lt. Gen. Bob Cone at Fort Hood. He said all the casualties took place at the base's Soldier Readiness Center, where soldiers who are about to be deployed or who are returning undergo medical screening.

"It's a terrible tragedy. It's stunning," Cone said.

A law enforcement official identified the shooting suspect as Army Maj. Malik Nadal Hasan. The official said Hasan, believed to be in his late 30s, was killed after opening fire at the base. The official spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to discuss the case publicly.

A defense official, also speaking on condition of anonymity, said Hasan was a mental health professional — an Army psychologist or psychiatrist. Officials say it was not clear what Hasan's religion was, but investigators are trying to determine if Hasan was his birth name or if he may have changed his name and converted to Islam at some point.

A graduation ceremony for soldiers who finished college courses while deployed was going on nearby at the time of the shooting, said Sgt. Rebekah Lampam, a Fort Hood spokeswoman.

Greg Schanepp, U.S. Rep. John Carter's regional director in Texas, was representing Carter at the graduation, said John Stone, a spokesman for Carter, whose district includes the Army post.

Schanepp was at the ceremony when a soldier who had been shot in the back came running toward him and alerted him of the shooting, Stone said. The soldier told Schanepp not to go in the direction of the shooter, he said.

The base was locked down after the shootings. The wounded were dispersed among hospitals in central Texas, Cone said. Nine were taken to Scott & White Memorial Hospital in Temple. A hospital spokeswoman says all had been shot and are adults. A Fort Hood spokesman said he could not immediately confirm any identities of the injured.

Lisa Pfund of Random Lake, Wis., says her daughter, 19-year-old Amber Bahr, was shot in the stomach but was in stable condition. "We know nothing, just that she was shot in the belly," Pfund told The Associated Press. She couldn't provide more details and only spoke with emergency personnel.

"I ask that all of you keep these families and these individuals in your prayers today," Texas Gov. Rick Perry said.

The shootings on the Texas military base stirred memories of other recent mass shootings in the United States, including 13 dead at a New York immigrant center in March, 10 killed during a gunman's rampage across Alabama in March and 32 killed in the deadliest mass shooting in modern U.S. history at Virginia Tech in 2007.

Around the country, some bases stepped up security precautions, but no others were locked down.

"The bottom line for us is that we are increasing security at our gates because the threat hasn't yet been defined, and we're reminding our Marines to be vigilant in their areas of responsibility," said Capt. Rob Dolan, public affairs officer for the Marine Corps Air Station in Yuma, Ariz.

In Washington, President Barack Obama called the shooting "a horrific outburst of violence." He said it's a tragedy to lose a soldier overseas and even more horrifying when they come under fire at an Army base on American soil.

"We will make sure that we get answers to every single question about this horrible incident," the commander in chief said. "We are going to stay on this."

Covering 339 square miles, Fort Hood is the largest active duty armored post in the United States. Home to about 52,000 troops as of earlier this year, the sprawling base is located halfway between Austin and Waco.

About a mile from Fort Hood's east gate, Cynthia Thomas, director of Under the Hood Cafe, a coffee house and outreach center, was calling soldiers and friends on the post to make sure they're OK.

"It's chaotic," Thomas said, as a SWAT team just drove by. "The phones are jammed. Everybody is calling family members and friends. Soldiers are running around with M-16s."

Fort Hood officially opened on Sept. 18, 1942, and was named in honor of Gen. John Bell Hood. It has been continuously used for armored training and is charged with maintaining readiness for combat missions.

We're using it to dry!!

Sunday, November 1, 2009

Change you can Believe in !!!

Next Right to be Announced!!!

The Oasis of the Seas - the largest passenger vessel ever built-Part III

The Oasis of the Seas, the world's largest cruise ship which is owned and operated by Royal Caribbean International, is shown during sea trials in this handout photo taken near Turku September 28, 2009. Royal Caribbean took delivery of the ship October 28 and it is scheduled to leave Finland enroute to its home port of Ft Lauderdale, Florida on October 30. Picture taken September 28, 2009.

The Oasis of the Seas - the largest passenger vessel ever built-Part II

The Oasis of the Seas, the world's largest cruise ship which is owned and operated by Royal Caribbean International, is shown during sea trials in this handout photo taken near Turku September 28, 2009. Royal Caribbean took delivery of the ship October 28 and it is scheduled to leave Finland enroute to its home port of Ft Lauderdale, Florida on October 30. Picture taken September 28, 2009.

The Oasis of the Seas - the largest passenger vessel ever built

This Oct. 30, 2009 photo released by Royal Caribbean shows Royal Caribbean's Oasis of the Seas departing a ship yard in Finland. The Oasis of the Seas, the largest passenger vessel ever built, is set to be handed over to Royal Caribbean International on Wednesday, Oct. 28, 2009.

Win 7: The Last Major Windows Release?

Believe it or not, I have been to the launch of every version of Microsoft Windows. Some have been spectacular, like the Windows 95 launch in Seattle that featured Jay Leno, and the launch of the first Windows in New York City, which offered something of gala-like atmosphere. The New York launch of Windows XP, on the other hand, occurred just after the September 11th attacks, and was, not surprisingly, comparatively subdued.

I wasn't sure what to expect when I flew to New York City two weeks ago to attend the Windows 7 launch. The event, it turns out, fell somewhere in the middle. It wasn't as flashy as the Leno event, but it was a lot more upbeat than the Windows XP launch. My colleagues at PCMag covered the event extensively, but I wanted to weigh on something that the media missed in the shuffle.
As you're likely aware, two major surprise factors have impacted the PC industry in the past two years. The first was introduction of the netbook in the fall of 2007. This new space has been a boon for the industry in terms of sales figures, but the devices' pricing has had a devastating effect on PC vendors. While netbooks aren't designed to meet all of the needs of a standard laptop, they're great for a number of users, and as such, have sold extremely well.

As a result, however, netbooks are changing consumer expectations about what a standard laptop should cost. The industry has responded by dropping the price of notebooks down by as much as 40 percent over the last 18 months. That means that vendors have to increase PC sales by 25-35 percent just to maintain their revenue levels from two years ago. Margins have also been reduced, and bottom lines and overall profitability have suffered as a result.

The second major factor that has impacted the industry is the recession. In October 2008, consumer began buying less, and the purchase of a new PC became a luxury. The worldwide demand for PCs shrunk by as much as 13 percent. Business users and consumers hunkered down and tried to squeeze as much as they could out of their current systems. Twenty-five million fewer PCs were sold in 2008 than in 2007.

With these factors in place, Windows 7 couldn't have arrived at a better time. Windows launches have always been important to both Microsoft and PC vendors, but this latest version of the OS offers the potential to increase the wavering demand for new systems and revitalize the declining PC market. As one executive from a major PC manufacturer put it, this time "Windows really matters."

At present, most market researchers foresee a 12 percent growth in the PC market, thanks to Windows 7. And while consumers will no doubt be the first to adopt the new operating system, Gartner Research predicts that 15 percent of enterprise users will be running Windows 7 next year. Considering that enterprise demand for PCs has declined 17 percent since Oct of 2008, this jump seems to indicate that business are loosening their purse strings.

So, Windows 7 does, in fact, matter. But for how long? At the moment, we live in a client/server world, so the operating system will likely matter on the enterprise level for some time. On the consumer level, the availability of thousands of Windows apps for PCs may well help this dominant OS live on as well. But as always, the world of technology is changing, and as such, it's possible that this may be the last major version of Windows to come out.

There are two things occurring in the space that will eventually force Microsoft to transform Windows. If you follow Apple at all, you're aware that it rarely completely reboots its operating system. Instead, the company largely relies on version upgrades. So, while Leopard was a big release, Snow Leopard, the latest version of OS X was more of a features upgrade. But really, even Leopard was considered something of an extension of its predecessor, Tiger. Apple found that this method is ultimately less disruptive to Mac owners. To some degree, Microsoft also issues smaller OS updates in the form of service packs. But it wouldn't surprise me to see the company head even more in that direction, focusing on more "gentle" releases, adding extra features instead of constantly pushing major upgrades.

Google's Chrome browser and OS may also shape future iterations of Windows. We have been playing with the browser version Chrome for some time now and are beginning to understand how it will evolve into a full-blown operating system, delivering direct calls to the CPU and system BIOS, controlling PCs in much the same manner that traditional OSes do today.

The Chrome OS will be tied to other Google apps in a manner similar to approach that Apple takes with OS X and its iLife suite. When you buy a Mac, it comes loaded with OS X and a number of Apple products, including iTunes, iPhoto, and iMovie. Web-based operating systems will approach personal computing in a similar manner, controlling the user interface and system commands, while still tying everything to the cloud. The company's online apps will be integrated into this environment.

Microsoft understands this approach, and is already moving in that direction. The company has started offering free versions of its software. Given Google's push toward a cloud-based OS, I'm convinced that Microsoft will eventually do something similar with Windows.

With these factors in play, Win 7 may end up being the last major Windows release. Next time out, the OS may be much more focused on the cloud. Like Google's Chrome, such a release would likely be free. Over the next few yeasr, Microsoft will have to figure out how to make money from cloud-based services, rather than from selling the operating system outright. In order to do this, the company will have to reinvent itself—something that will have to happen if Microsoft is going to survive and thrive in the future.