Welcome to InterconnectNow - Interconnected Technologies' blog about technology and other items of interest to small businesses and individuals.

The topics here will usually deal with productivity-enhancing technologies of interest to small businesses and individuals, but are often of broader interest.  Productivity is the goal of all of this technology that we use. Enabling productivity through refining or adding technology-based capabilities is what we're obsessed with at Interconnected Technologies, and so this blog is dedicated to discussions of all things related to that.


Entries in Cloud computing (23)


Finally! Gmail allows conversation threading to be turned off

OK, ladies and gentlemen.  I said when it first came out, and I still maintain, that Gmail (and Google Apps) web-based email, while powerful and very advanced in some ways, began and remains with one of the worst user interfaces I've ever seen.  From the start it was confusing, disorganized and inefficient.

"Hey, Don, don't hold back; tell us how you really feel!"  you might say.

I have watched the evolution of the Gmail web interface over the past couple of years as it has moved ever-closer to what people are used to, toward a more efficient, intuitive interface.  Pushed aside is the original avant-garde concept of "don't delete anything; just remove the 'Inbox' label instead and keep it forever" (and in Google Apps, this filled up more one user's mailbox in the process, with no abilty to obtain additional space, even if one is willing to pay, still!).  The buttons and actions on the main email screen have gradually been altered to be more "normal".  How many people really want to add multiple labels to a given email?  Not many.  Read/Reply/Forward/File/Delete.  That's what people do with email.  Concocting elaborate tagging schemes for email creates the same tangled and inconsistent mess that so many people who created hundreds of folders in Outlook created for themselves. 

Now, some say this is a concession by Google.  I guess I agree:  it's a concession to years of user interface design evolution that made email clients better.  Something Google initially just decided to throw out.

Enter the latest:  the ability to turn off threaded email.  Now, I don't mind threaded email: for some select situations in which it makes sense, like discussion groups with long back-and-forth discussions on which I might not keep up on a regular basis.  But for regular email the Gmail interface for threaded conversations (the only view available) is cluttered and confusing; has led to people forwarding or replying to the wrong "place in the thread"; is less than stellar.  In the vernacular: it sucks. 

Google has finally decided to let us turn it off.  This feature (really an anti-feature, I suppose) will be rolled out over the next week or so.  See the Google Help posting, below. 

Now, before anyone describes me as an Anti-Conversationist, let me say that I actually like the way Outlook 2010 shows threaded conversations.  It's not the function, it's the interface.  Until Google morphs the interface for conversations into something clearer, less cluttered - you know, better - I'll stick with unthreaded, thank you very much!

Here's the Google help page:


Gmail groups all replies with their original message, creating a single conversation or thread. In other email systems, responses appear as separate messages in your inbox, forcing you to wade through all your mail to follow the conversation. In Gmail, replies to emails (and replies to those replies) are displayed in one place, in order, making it easier to understand the context of a message -- or to follow the conversation.

When you open one message in a conversation, all of your related messages will be stacked neatly on top of each other, like a deck of cards. We call this Conversation View. In Conversation View, each new message is stacked on top of the ones that arrived before it, so that the newest message is always the one you see first.

To see all the messages in a conversation, just click Expand all. Note that a conversation will break off into a new thread if the subject line of the conversation is changed, or if the conversation reaches over 100 messages.

If you'd like, you can change this setting so that replies aren't threaded into conversations, but appear as individual messages in your inbox. To do so, go to the Generaltab of your Gmail Settings, and select the radio button next to 'Conversation view off'.

We're in the process of giving users the option to turn Conversation View off. Everybody should have this option within a week or so.

Browser Wars - a security perspective

OK, here I go again, promoting Microsoft.  Gosh, I just be in their back pocket, or stupid, or something, eh?  Everyone knows that Firefox is better than IE, and Safari is the best browser around, and Chrome is going to kick Microsoft's butt, and Opera, well, it's just the best.

And everyone knows that Internet Explorer is buggy, and full of security holes, and, well, just stupid, as is anyone who uses it, right?

Not so fast!  What about facts?  I like facts.  Facts are stubborn things, as someone once said, and that's true.  They are often inconvenient, too, when they fly in the face of what people feel, or want, or believe.  Feeling and wanting and believing are great things - most of the world runs on those and they are valuable and important.

However, when assessing technology, facts are just so good to have.

Here are some:


The net of this.  Internet Explorer isn't all that bad.  In fact, it's better than the others in two key areas that are central to security in today's world.  Read, if you like facts.  It's only one page!

If you want to see the full reports, they're here:



How to back up, wipe and recover a Palm Pre, when you want to!


The Palm Pre is a magnificent device.

Sure, it's got things that any one reviewer could pick at, but all in all, and especially when one considers that it's a brand new piece of hardware (in June 09) and a brand new operating system (in June 09), it's a spectacular achievement!

Just as the PalmOS/Treo/Centro devices had their method (hotsync, with some Activesync later) for sync/backup, so does the Pre, but it's different. The Pre is designed to be a "cloud device." That is, just as PalmOS devices were designed to hotsync, the Pre is designed to sync with the cloud, not with any given computer. This is more like the traditional BlackBerry method. Very similar in fact, except that the Pre doesn't have an analog to the BlackBerry Desktop Manager, which was RIM's (not very good) tool to sync a BlackBerry with a given computer.

Now, NOT being tied down to any given computer is a great thing, and the Pre allows users to do this by syncing with Google (for free) or Exchange (for fee, usually), over the air, in real time.

HOWEVER, there is stuff on the Pre that isn't backed up anywhere, and so if you lose the Pre or it gets stolen or destroyed, you will lose some stuff if you don't take steps. The good news is that these steps are pretty easy to take. It should be pointed out that the iPhone, the Droid, and the BlackBerry all "suffer" from this situation - it's not unique to the Pre.

So, here's one man's approach, for the Pre. This is highly tailored for MY Pre, but the methods generalize to any Pre and probably, really any similar device.


Since my email, contact, calendar and task information live in Exchange, I don't have to worry about backing that up. The Pre is just a subset of that, and the vital stuff is preserved regardless of the status of the Pre.

For Memos/Notes, I use Evernote, and the worry about backup is similarly not present.

Were I using Google (Apps or Gmail), I'd have to worry about tasks, since they don't sync between the Pre (or anything) and Google, yet, but I'm not so I don't. If I were, I don't know how I'd handle that. Perhaps some Google user could fill that in. Maybe I'd use Remember the Milk, or one of those web-based todo apps. I think there's even a Pre app that interfaces with one of them. With Exchange, I don't have to worry about this.

The normal Palm Profile function appears to back up and restore purchased apps.

For the "irreplaceable" stuff, l I use my favorite backup tool, Second Copy (www.secondcopy.com<http://www.secondcopy.com>) to do two different types of backups:

1... Occasionally I back up the AmazonMP3, ClassicApps and DCIM folders from the Pre to a folder on my laptop. That captures purchased music, my Handyshopper database, and pictures I've taken, respectively. This is the rest of the irreplaceable information on the Pre about which I care.

2... Less occasionally (rarely, but certainly before wiping and starting over, such as when I received the replacement Pre, or last night when I just wanted to start fresh since I'd patched and then updated the Pre (don't try this at home; it's a big nono; not something a "regular" user would do; not something one can do without a lot of work!; and not a good idea ), resulting in some odd behavior, I have another backup profile in Second Copy that backs up everything but music (since the music is just sync'd from Windows Media Player in the first place, no need to back it up) to a folder on my laptop.

With the above, I feel pretty OK about things. I don't know how to preserve and restore text messages, but I don't really care.So, I have a pretty streamlined, efficient way of managing backup/recovery that I've only had to use by choice. Of course, if I lost my Pre or if it were stolen, that would be an instance of using it NOT by choice, and I'd hope I'd done a fairly recent backup of the type in #1, above, to preserve the irreplaceable stuff. The vital stuff (email, calendar, contacts, tasks) is kept in sync in real time over the air all the time.


OK, so it's time to start fresh for the new year. I've applied Palm maintenance twice now recently, both times forgetting to remove patches before doing so! The result is that I now have a whole TON of apps that will not run, only offering the choice to update, but they will not update, either, failing each time. A delicious Catch 22 out of which I've not been able to get! I did this to myself; no fault of Palm or WebOS.

These are the apps I use:

(the ones that say "not restored" next to them were not restored from my Palm Profile after the reset; these are HomeBrew apps, and Palm makes no claim to backing THOSE up!)

* Accuweather

* Amazon Deals

* AutoCorrectEdit (not restored)

* BADD Flashlight (not restored)

* Bestbuy

* BlocknRoll (not restored)

* Bubble Level

* Bubbles! (free)

* Checkers

* Classic

* CoinFlip

* DevMode Launcher (not restored)

* Evernote

* Express Horoscopes

* Express Stocks

* Facebook

* fileCoaster (not restored)

* findMyCar (not restored)

* FlightView

* FMLshake (not restored)

* Free Books

* gDial Pro

* Get Starbucks (not restored)

* Glad That's Not Me Trial (not restored)

* GoodFood

* iWorld Atlas (not restored)

* Keyring (not restored)

* Launchpoint

* Mobile by Citysearch

* Music Wish List

* My Notification (not restored)

* myIP (not restored)

* Net2Streams Beta (not restored)

* Nodoze (not restored)

* OpenTable

* Package Manager Service (not restored)

* Pandora

* PDF View

* PhotoDialer

* photoWALL

* PreChess (not restored)

* PreJeweled (not restored)

* PrePod (not restored)

* PreVino (not restored)

* Preware (not restored)

* RadioTime

* Scientific Calculator

* Screamit (not restored)

* Send My Location

* Shopping Manager (not restored)

* Slipslide (not restored)

* Solitaire (not restored)

* Stopwatch / Timer (not restored)

* Sudoku

* Tic Tac Toe for WebOS

* Tic Tac Toe Free

* Topple Ball Mini

* Topple Maze (not restored)

* Tweed

* Unit Wizard (not restored)


* White light (not restored)

* Word Clock

* Yule Log (not restored)

OK, I don't actually USE all of those, but I have them! The ones that don't get restored automatically will present me with an opportunity to decide whether I really want them.

Time to wipe the Pre - FULL RESET! I've never done this before; should be interesting.

Not before backing it up, of course, though! One quick full backup, as described, above.

Backup, Reset, and a fresh, new Pre! Enter the Palm Profile info and it starts restoring.

. . . a few minutes pass . . .

OK, well this is fun! Now, only two apps are failing in the way so many were before: Flightview and Sudoku. Deleted both of them. I'll put Flightview back on later (handy little app). I don't really play Sudoku.

Ah, and as expected, the program for which I use Classic (Handyshopper) is gone, as is its data. Need to restore Handyshopper and data (which, of course, were backed up). Copy the .prc file and the .pdb file to the Classic Install folder, and I'm done!

Now, I need to re-learn how to install Preware so I can mess things up again! :) It's not entirely clearly documented, even now, but it starts here: http://www.webos-internals.org/wiki/Application:Preware, which will eventually get you here:

I have all the prereqs already in place (not for the faint of heart!), and remembered to put the Pre in developer mode.

OK, Preware installed.

Now, to put back in my patches:

Palm really should implement these, so I don't need the patches:

* 4x4 icons v3

* Brightness in Device Menu

* Call Duration in Call Log

* Enable landscape email

* Improved filename format

* Repeat Reminder Notifies

* Reset to first page

* Timestamp - builtin


This one's fun, but I worry about wearing out the flash by using it. Still, fun to show off, especially since my daughter's Droid has this: Flashlight in Device Menu.


Patches all added.


OK, I'm not done yet. My pictures, wallpaper, documents (all backed up, yes) need to be put back. With the Pre in USB mode again, I just copy my pictures and documents back onto the Pre. Finally, every time I start over from scratch (3 times now: replacement #1, replacement #2 and last night because I wanted to) I have to reassign pictures to contacts (they get remembered and restored, but only in the smaller versions kept by Exchange, since Exchange keeps small thumbnails of contact pictures for its use), which takes maybe 10 minutes, and recreate LaunchPoint shortcuts to my most frequent callers (which takes all of 3 minutes).

That's it!

It's not as simple as Hotsync, or even the (pretty poorly made) BlackBerry desktop manager, and I'm sure Palm will provide something, or someone will, that automates all of this, but it's not really all that tough - even simpler if you don't have Classic or Presync apps and can skip those parts!


Off-site backup - it's not just a good idea, it's the law (now)!

Well, I must say this is an example of "do as I say, not as I do", and I'm going to pay a price for that.  Not a huge price, but a price nonetheless. 

Like the doctor who smokes, or the shoemaker with holes in his shoes (and yes, I know nobody under the age of 30 knows what a shoemaker is; just go with it), I was not following my own advice, fully.  My laptop, and those of my kids, do back up regularly to the Rackspace Cloudfile infrastructure using Jungle Disk.  That's good! 

However, the machine which serves as the hub of my house, the place my music and pictures (60gb of music and 23gb of pictures dating back to my first digital camera from Christmas, 2000), was still just backing up to an external hard drive.


The machine (a very cool Hush Technologies - www.hushtechnologies.net - silent computer) had a little problem:  its power supply failed one day. "No problem, says I!  I have a backup!"

(N.B. A power supply for a Hush Technologies machine costs 290 euros.  Yes, that's $424, and yes, one can buy a whole computer for that much.  Whole computers for that much are not completely silent, however, and whole computers for that much are not carved from a block of solid aluminum.  But I digress.)


Upon trying to copy the contents of the backup drive to another of my computers, I found that it, too, had failed.   

"Yikes!"  Says I!

Now, sure, I can take (and have taken) the hard drive out of my beloved Hush Technologies machine, hooked it up using one of my Highly Trained I/T Professional Devices to another of my machines, and can copy (and am copying as I type this) the pictures, music and other things from that disk onto one of my other computers.  This will take about an hour, and does demonstrate why local backup is still a good idea.  To restore these files from an online source would take DAYS


Due to space limitations, I'd put a few things on that backup drive (the one that no longer functions correctly).  Yes, this is something I tell my clients to never, never do.  My file recovery tools MAY be able to recover those things.  If not, they're gone.  ForeverForever is longer than DAYS

You see where this is going.

The next thing I'm going to do, once the files finish copying from the disembodied hard drive of my Hush machine, is set up online, encrypted, off-site backup of those files.  The 100gb or so of stuff will cost me $15/month.  I may decide to just back up the pictures remotely (since I could get the music back).  That would only cost me $3.45/month. 

Just like I do with my three other computers.  Just like I tell my clients to do.  I'm also going to set it to back up to one of my $60, 640gb external hard drives, since an hour is shorter than DAYS, should I ever need to restore them.

I will do as I say, not as I did.

And if, on reading this post, you have an uneasy feeling in the pit of your stomach, you should, too!


FINALLY! A suitable way to manage todos electronically!

Some who know me know that since adopting an electronic format for my todo list (thereby giving up my old, paper, Covey-based way of doing todos), my todo lists have become "where I put things I need to remember to do and then forget all about them since I never look there".  There are many reasons for this (procrastination, awkward user interfaces, etc.), but suffice it to say that my todo lists were next to useless. 

The technology base for my useless todo lists was Outlook 2000, 2002, 2003 and now 2007.  I also wanted desperately for my portable device (Palm PDAs, Treo, Centro, Blackberry, Palm Pre) to be a successful part of the equation.   I tried GTD tools, Franklin-Covey tools, and multiple configurations of Outlook, using Due Dates, Priorities, Categories, Starts Dates, and so on as ways to organize things.

You might notice that I mentioned the Pre - the Palm Pre - above.  That new mobile device, combined with a little discovery from Mark Forster, a time/life management guru whose work I've followed, may finally have delivered to me the holy grail - a working, efficient, effective electronic todo list!!  Yey!

I haven't quite finished this yet, since I haven't quite mastered the concepts of dismissal, and some of the other finer points of the system, but it's already helping me keep on top of todos better!

Here's how it works, so far.


  1. You read Mark Forster's information about his AutoFocus technique for managing todos.  His focus is on a paper-based system, but I adapted it to the tools I use:  Outlook, Exchange and the Palm Pre!   Autofocus is here:  http://www.markforster.net/autofocus-system/  Autofocus 2, an update, is here:  http://www.markforster.net/blog/2009/6/27/autofocus-2-time-management-system-af2.html.
  2. You set up a new view in the Outlook Todo/Task list (and/or the To-Do Bar), that shows these fields: Icon, Complete, Created, Task Subject (and, as a crutch, Due Date, although I think I'll be getting rid of that).  You set up the view to sort by creation date.
  3. You use the Palm Pre's task list, synchronized with Outlook through Microsoft Exchange (corporate, or hosted).  The reason the Pre works when no other mobile todo list I know about will work is that the Pre sorts todos by date created!   N.B. I hope desperately that when/if Palm adds the ability to sort on other fields (not there yet), they won't remove the ability to sort by creation date, or the Pre drops out of the equation, just like all my prior mobile devices. 


  1. Your todo list in Outlook, and on the Pre are sorted by creation date. 
  2. You add todos immediately as you think of them, so you don't forget anything.
  3. You review and act on your list like the Autofocus system suggests - starting with the newest and working your way back.
  4. The rest of the Autofocus system, and how I'll end up using it, will have to wait - too much to do!! (yes, I should remember to sharpen the saw . . . Thank you Dr. Covey!).

That's it!  There are some specific tools required to do this the way I do it:  Outlook <-> Exchange <-> Palm Pre.  You might be able to adapt to other/lesser tools, or just use paper, or Outlook or other electronic todo list that can sort by creation date and NOT use a mobile device. 

For now, I'm just happy to have an efficient, effective way to use electronic todo lists!

More soon.