It's difficult to envision a life without email. I'm not sure if that's a good or a bad thing. Suffice, digital messaging is just a fact of geek life that we all have to deal with on a daily basis. Whether your inbox gets flooded with messages like the Nile during rainy season, or it's barren as one of those outback wastelands that Bear Grylls likes to visit, you probably aren't using your email client of choice to its fullest potential.
That's ok. Neither was I before undertaking the research for this week's open-source and freeware roundup. But now that I have seen the light, as it were, I would never go back to the ol' vanilla installations of Outlook, Thunderbird, Gmail, or whatever one's particular email utility of choice happens to be. There are just too many interesting ways to tweak and alter the normal email experience to better enhance your ability to read, organize, and shuffle your messages.
That's kind of "the big point" of the roundup this week--making your email work better for you. Click the jump, and I'll show you five apps and utilities for taking your email processing to the next level!
Do your online and phone contacts constantly fail to grasp the sarcasm in your emails, IMs and texts? Are you worried that such misunderstood attempts at sarcasm may strain your relationships with others? The SarcMarc will help you remain at your sarcastic best without the fear of coming across as impertinent or disdainful to your (fatheaded) acquaintances.
The $1.99 SarcMark is a new punctuation for giving adequate notice of the sarcasm that precedes it. It currently supports Windows, Mac and select Blackberry devices. Michigan-based Sarcasm Inc. is a very sarcastic company and its maiden product, the SarcMarc, is enough testament. The company now wants a patent for its “brilliant” contribution to digital discourse.
The asking price may seem trivial but it is important to remember that all you get is an unrecognized punctuation mark; a purchase that may make you the butt of all jokes among your friends for days.
Note: Quotes were used in the last line of the second para to emphasize the underlying sarcasm not because of their superiority over the SarcMarc but due the unavailability of the latter at this point. Also, please condone the woefully poor attempt at sarcasm.
PS: Eagerly waiting to read a review of the SarcMarc.
Outlook users beware, According to Red Condor, an email filtering company, bogus Outlook alerts are making the rounds in an attempt to spread banking Trojans, which are used by hackers to access online accounts.
Red Condor said potential victims receive a personalized email message that appears to come from a tech support rep. Adding to the scam's effectiveness, the emails appear to come from the same domain as the target.
The security firm claims to have blocked over a million of these types of messages, which would indicate a botnet is at work and that the hackers are playing a numbers game.
It was with a bit of apprehension that I clicked on the link in my email box to check out the personal site that Posterous, an online archive of notes both yellow and multimedia, had automatically created for me. First off, they got the name all wrong. I won't tell you what it is, for fear that an unsavory party might sign me up for all sorts of interesting email lists, but just know that I hadn't exactly intended for random letters to be a part of my brand-new domain.
But that's Posterous. To its credit, this microblogger's dream might not get the name right the first time around, but the customized blogging platform it creates for you--based on a photo, note, MP3, or other file you email into the service--isn't set in stone. And I far prefer this method to the opposite: Signing up for multiple accounts just to be able to quickly host and share files with others.
That last scenario is really the best-case usage scenario for Posterous. For while you can "claim" a site that the service creates on your behalf by signing up for an official Posterous account (which grants you, among other features, the ability to redo the name of the site's xxx.posterous.com subdomain), Posterous is the perfect platform for quick-and-dirty multimedia hits.
Of course, that's not all Posterous offers--not by a mile! Click the jump to find out more!
Mozilla earlier this week released its Thunderbird 3 email client in stable form, which introduced a handful of new features, like tabbed email and a new search interface. It also contains code from an unlikely source - the French military.
It all started six years ago when the French military chose Mozilla's open-source software rather than roll with Microsoft's proprietary software. The reason? The open-source nature allowed the military to tinker with the code and build security extensions.
"We started with a military project, but quickly generalized it," said Lieutenant-Colonel Frederic Suel of the Ministry of Defense and one of those in charge of the project.
Some of the work the French military did on Thunderbird ended up being released to the public under the name "TrustedBird," of which Thunderbird 3 borrows some of the code.
"The primary changes (the military" have made allow them to know for sure when messages have been read, which is critical in a command-and-control organization," said David Ascher, chief executive of Mozilla Messaging.
If you've been avoiding Thunderbird 3 because you prefer not to roll with beta or RC code, we have good news. The latest version of Mozilla's open source email client has gone gold and is ready for download.
Mozilla touts its latest email client as faster, more flexible, and more secure than previous generations, and it's also more robust. Thunderbird 3 brings tabbed email to the table, as well as a new search interface with filtering and timeline tools.
Other features include the ability to archive old email, better management of multiple email accounts with Smart Folders, an integrated add-ons manager, and a new look and feel with lightweight skins available.
Quite frankly, we're surprised this one even warranted a study, but in case you didn't already know, firing off emails and swapping instant messages can be a serious time killer and cut into your productivity. But is the effect on your work even greater than you thought?
"Our findings suggest that even seemingly brief and inconsequential on-screen pop-up messages might be impacting upon our efficiency, particularly given their frequency over the working day," said Dr. Helen Hodgetts, co-author of the study at Cardiff University.
Rather than rely on a survey, Hodgetts, along with colleague Professor Dylan Jones, instructed volunteers to work on a simple task of moving different sized disks between three rods. Short on-screen interruptions were given, and even when they lasted only five seconds, the researchers found that it took people longer than normal to finish the next step of the task.
"The interruption breaks our cognitive focus on the task in hand, so we have to work out where we were up to and what we were planning to do next before we can resume the task at our original speed," explained Dr. Hodgetts.
We suppose that's one spin to put on the research. The other? Perhaps doing work and filling out TPS reports are the real time killers, cutting into our Peggle time and whatever other de-stressor we might have going on.
Being on Twitter is tough. If you post with a decent amount of frequency and do your best to jump into the crowd discussions when possible, then you'll often find yourself facing down a sea of "so and so has followed you!" messages in your Inbox. Deciding whether or not you want to follow said Twitter users back becomes a huge process in itself. You have to open the email, check out their Twitter handle, click on the link to their account, read the last few Tweets, make a decision, and repeat this process for every person that wants to be your online buddy. Unless, of course, you adopt the firehose approach to Twitter and just befriend everyone regardless of who they are--shame on you.
A web app called Topify attempts to ease this process by delivering you as much information as possible whenever someone new follows your Twitter stream. You'll be able to check out a quick bio of said follower, as well as their personal stats (followers / following / updates), how long they've been on twitter, a link to their Web site of choice, and a few their last updates as an example of what it is they write about. Better still, if you like what you see, you can just reply to said email to make them your Twitter pal -- no need to log into the actual Twitter service whatsoever.
Just last month, Mozilla announced it would keep its Thunderbird 3.0 email client in Alpha form because "calling something a beta is likely to trigger a bunch of extra press attention we're not yet in a position to deal with." Well, Mozilla's now ready and has pushed its email client into Release Candidate status.
The RC is a public preview and intended for developer testing and community feedback, Mozilla says. Mozilla added that it's looking specifically for feedback on the client's new search tools, tabbed email, message archiving, new mail account setup wizard, and improvements for developers.
There are quite a few changes Mozilla made to the new email client, all of which are outlined in the Release Notes here. Be sure to give it a glance before grabbing the download here.
The feds have dethroned another "spam king," who, like the ones before him, will spend a little bit of time behind bars. Alan Ralsky, 63, pleaded guilty to commit wire fraud, mail fraud, and to violating the federal CAN-SPAM Act.
What landed Ralsky in hot water was allegedly sending out unsolicited email to jack up the price of penny stock in Chinese companies to artificially high prices, and then selling it. Ralksy's Internet stock scheme netted him $2.7 million, as well as the attention of the feds and ultimately a 4-year prison sentence.
"With today's sentence of the self-proclaimed 'Godfather of Spam,' Alan Ralsky, and three others who played central roles in a complicated stock spam pump and dump scheme, the court has made it clear that advancing fraud through abuse of the Internet will lead to several years in prison," said U.S. Attorney Terrence Berg. "I commend the FBI, the Postal Inspection Service, and the IRS Criminal Investigative Division for their determined and careful investigation in this case which led to today's result."
Ralsky, who pleaded guilty back in June of this year, may have gotten off a little light, as he faced up to 7 years in prison.