Something is Broken in Gmail

I’ve been stomping up and down for years because I receive an inordinate amount of email intended for other people in my Gmail account. I get medical information, banking info, notices to parents from schools, emails to teams from coaches, photos of families I don’t know, and the list goes on and on.

People always complain about this on the Gmail support forums but they are shouted down by the fan boys who defend Google’s loose use of allowing people to put “dots” in their Gmail addresses. Gmail ignores any dot it finds in an email address before the “At” sign. OK fair enough. But I maintain something with Gmail is broken and broken badly. How can so many people believe that they have an email address so similar to mine? Google says that once you have a Gmail address no one can sign up with any variation of that email address which includes a “dot”.

Here is how I know they are missing something. A few months ago I was setting up my new Roku device and attempted to activate it with my Gmail address. I was informed by the Roku server that my address was already in use. Curious, I clicked on the “Forgot Password” link. Within a few seconds an email appeared in my Gmail inbox allowing me to reset the password for the Roku account that was using “my” Gmail address. I changed the passwords and “voila!” I was in to a Roku account that belonged to someone else. There it was in all its glory… the person’s name, address, activated devices, purchase history, and the scary part…. their credit card information! Now, I could have been a real slime ball and run up all types of charges with content purchases on the Roku site, but since I’m not, I deleted their information and replaced it with my own.

Fast forward to recent days, out of nowhere, I began receiving email receipts for someone's Uber rides. I decided to try the password reset trick again. Surely it was a fluke the last time. Nope, within a couple of minutes there I was staring at the ride history, account information, and the last four of an Amex card (along with the expiration date) belonging to someone in Los Angeles. He must be generous because his gratuity preference was set to 20% of the fare. I was able to change all of the information I needed. Again, I didn’t take advantage of the situation by taking Uber rides all over town. Although it certainly appears I could have.

So again I ask, is this really what Google wants? Perfect strangers accessing each other’s accounts because somehow users are so confused about their Gmail addresses? Let there be no doubt there is some type of confusion going on here because in both of these cases I would have expected to see my email address with a dot somewhere in it. What I saw was my email address. No dots. Not some similar version of my email address. There in the email address field on both sites was my exact email address that someone purposefully entered believing it was their own.

I’ve been a Gmail user almost as long as it has been around. I’d hate to abandon it now. The truth of the matter is that I get so much email intended for other people in my inbox that I grow weary of logging on and may do so out of sheer fatigue. It takes so much of my precious time to clean out my inbox and set up filters (of which I have hundreds).

I hope someone at Google who cares about the user experience and security reads this and works to close the back door to its users personal information. I’m not holding my breath. I’ve been complaining about this to them for years… But keep hope alive right? Until then, try to use multi-step authentication and turn on password reset notification where you can and hope for the best. Do what you can to protect your information until Google gets around to doing the same.


Net Neutrality and the ComFlix Deal

Some folks are in a bit of an uproar regarding the deal between Comcast and Netflix. They believe it is the beginning of the end for internet neutrality. Netflix has agreed to pay Comcast but it's not so Netflix can receive priority over other data. The story is that Netflix pumps out a lot of data and that data with its rich HD content tends to overload equipment at Cogent Communications. The company that connects the Netflix network to Comcast and other internet service providers. Apparently, for some time, the connections between Netflix and Cogent have been running at capacity. The solution to this issue would be to simply upgrade the interconnects between Cogent and Comcast. The problem was who would pay for the upgrade? Netflix really didn't have the leverage to make Cogent or Comcast pay since most of its traffic is one directional toward the Comcast network, so it decided to pay Comcast to connect directly to its network. Thus eliminating the middle man, Cogent. Netflix states that this won't increase customer pricing. Whether it was Cogent or Comcast, Netflix would have had to pay someone to handle the large amount of traffic it sends.


Windows 8 Feature: Storage Spaces


So the news isn’t all bad with Windows 8. Peeking under the hood I came across a feature that may come as a delight to the disk space challenged among us. Storage Spaces is a feature in Windows 8 that allows multiple disks to be pooled and configured as one large storage space. The configuration also allows for setting the type of “resiliency” (data protection) you would like within the disks in the pool. You can select resiliency levels of none, two-way mirror, three-way mirror, or parity.  Basically, plug in two or three of those one terabyte USB drives you have laying around and launch Storage Spaces from the Control Panel. The wizard guides you through configuration of the storage space size, what type of resiliency to provide, and assigns a drive letter. After that you have a large volume that serves as storage and protection for your data. If one drive fails in the storage space it can easily be replaced with a new drive without any data loss (provided you selected a type of resiliency). One caveat is that you cannot use your system drive (usually your C: drive) as part of the drive pool. Storage Spaces is a great solution for those of us who have collected USB hard drives over the years and often wonder how we can continue to get use out of them or for those who still aren’t quite ready to spring the dollars for a Drobo system. If you would like to read more about Storage Spaces Paul Thurrott over at the Supersite for Windows has a complete review.


Windows 8 Consumer Preview


I still have my eye on Windows 8 and what Microsoft is attempting to do with its latest operating system. The consumer preview was released a few weeks ago and I’m a bit disappointed. I had hoped that with this release Microsoft would have given us reason to put our minds at ease regarding some of the keyboard mouse navigation concerns. It’s obvious that Microsoft had touch navigation in mind when they built this interface because navigation stills feels clumsy with a mouse and keyboard. The word in the blogosphere is that Microsoft went back to the drawing board after the developer preview and rebuilt the keyboard/mouse navigation from scratch. Too be honest I’m not really seeing it. I still find myself “stuck” in certain areas with no idea how to back out to previous screens or return to key menu areas. Sometimes the system simply won’t respond to any of my mouse movements. To make matters worse many of the applications that come with this release aren’t ready for prime time, adding to the already confusing issue of navigation. Microsoft has put together a video attempting to sell us on navigating Windows 8 with a keyboard and mouse. It’s actually called “Rediscover your mouse and keyboard”. Despite how smooth it all looks in the video the true test will still lie with millions of users who are stuck or trapped in the Windows eco-system because of work or legacy apps. If they become frustrated with this release and decide to ditch the operating system because traversing it is only suitable on touch screen devices then Microsoft will have an even bigger problem to solve.


Test Driving Windows 8

I’ve been playing around with the developer release of Windows 8 for a couple of weeks now. I have to say that my first impression was not that great. I’m slowly warming up to it although it hasn’t totally won me over.

 To test drive Windows 8 I installed it on a VirtualBox virtual machine. The installation process is very quick and easy. No big changes from Windows 7. The installation only took a few minutes.

One of the first differences that I encountered was the ability to choose to log on to the system using a local account or a Windows Live account. If the Windows Live option is utilized, user preferences are sync’d across all Windows 8 computers accessed by the account.

Another difference is the main screen that loads after logging on. It’s a huge wallpaper image that needs to be swiped up to access the main Start screen. Swipe up and the Start screen is revealed which has a series of tiles that take you to what Microsoft is calling “Metro Style” apps. The preview version has a number of apps preinstalled to show off the new Metro style applications. Developers writing Metro Style apps can code them in C, C++, C#, Visual Basic, HTML5/JavaScript and/or using XAML. There are apps for weather, stock quotes, social media, and games. Supposedly these apps were built by Microsoft interns to demonstrate how easy these applications are to build. By the way, have you ever met a technology intern? I find them pretty sharp. Never the less, Microsoft states developing for Windows 8 will be a breeze.

 To access what we all have come to know and love as the classic Windows desktop you need to click on the associated tile. Here lies another little surprise… the ribbon interface. That’s right. Love it or hate it Microsoft has replaces the classic tool bar with the Ribbon interface.

The other big change is the Start menu. Microsoft has done away with the classic nested fly-out menu. To get to what’s left of the Start menu in Windows 8 you place your cursor on the lower left part of the screen, you then receive a pop up menu with options to go to: Settings, Devices, Share, Search, and Start.

I’ve found Windows 8 to be snappy and it seems very light weight and easy on resources – that all while running in a virtual machine environment with just the minimal resources dedicated to it. I’ve been able to install standard Windows applications without any issues. This developer preview release is a bit buggy but it’s a pretty solid first out of the gate effort from Microsoft. The jury is still out for me as far the keyboard mouse experience. I’m still learning the tricks of navigating the system with peripherals. I imagine that on a dedicated touch system the usability experience is much better. I credit Microsoft for their effort with Windows 8, despite my concern for its usability in the enterprise. It’s been my experience that any small change in the computing environment tends to throw enterprise users for a huge loop, taking them out of their comfort zone. I don’t foresee IT folks, especially those who support end users, looking to implement Windows 8 any time soon and especially without enterprise tools to control the user interface.