Category Archives: web apps

Change Gmail name

Do you have “suchandsuchandsuch” as the name that shows up in quotes next to your Gmail address?  Are you using your first and last name but worry about this showing up online wherever you send an email? Change it!

There are two obvious ways:

A.

1)  Log in to Gmail/Google mail.

2)  At the upper right of your browser, click your email address to reveal a drop-down list.

3)  Click Account  Settings. The Google accounts screen opens, with subheadings Profile, Personal Settings, and *My  Products down below.

4)  Under the Profile subheading, click Edit your personal info. The Edit personal information screen appears.

5)  Using the “First name” and “Last name” fields, change the name associated with the Gmail account (the purpose of the “nickname” field is unclear. You don’t have to use your full name; however, the “Last name: ” field requires at least one alpha character. It doesn’t have to be your full name, and better that it not be, for security purposes.)


*NOTE: Under the My Products subheading you will see icons for the various Google apps – Analytics, Book Search, Docs, etc. If you need global access to these apps, here is one page for that.


B.

The other way is simply to repeat steps 1) – 3) but navigate to the Edit Personal information screen via Personal Settings instead – that’s the section just to the right of the Profile subheading on the Google Accounts page). You will see the list “Security, Dashboard, and Email addresses, Multiple sign-in, and Connected accounts.”

1)  Under Personal Settings < Email addresses  click “Edit.” The very same Edit personal information screen appears.

2)  Edit the information in the name fields to change the name associated with your Gmail account.

– dgw

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Hotspot Shield

Below is an excerpt from a reply to a posting at http://discussions.apple.com/ regarding HotSpot Shield uninstall problems. Hotspot Shield is a widely used freeware application for Windows and Mac that has been around for several years. It purports to create, with the click of a mouse, a “Virtual Private Network” (VPN) between your computer and Hotspot Shield’s own purportedly secure HTTPS. However, sometimes what sounds to good to be true…(Read what this guy posts below/) I used to use Hotspot Shield successfully with my Macbook, but this time have not been able to connect to their VPN (you’d do this by clicking on the Hotspot Shield desktop menu icon icon, in Mac OS found in the upper right of your desktop menu near Spotlight.

Posted by: [xxxxxx]
From: germany
Registered: Aug 12, 2008
Re: hotspot shield — uninstall problem
Posted: Aug 22, 2008 2:55 AM

“…HSS must have installed something in the system area, outside user’s home directory or browser profile; it is independent of the browser one is using. To see that this is the case I created a test user account and bang! the banner was there immediately.

HSS appearantly inspects the http stream coming into one’s box and inserts a javascript just after the tag in the page — have a look at the html code. To my mind, this is not only annoying but quite worrying. If they can do that, they can potentially do anything since one has stupidly given HSS one’s password.

Also, in my case I thought I had uninstalled HSS. It was only a month later when I went to a cafe when the banner started reappearing. It does not appear in all cafes, only a couple of them. Again this is worrying since it means it may be the case the software is actually working, it’s just that the user is not aware of it.

For these reasons I have absolutely not trust in that software. I’ll reinstall my whole system asap. Nobody seems to know how HSS works; their webpage and OS X uninstall instructions are useless: they say what one knows anyways (drag the app to trash box), but that does not help. One can’t email them; their forum is a closed one. And if you think of it, there is no reason to install for security reasons anyways. If I go to a bank or email, one should use a SSL connection anyways, in which case I don’t need a vpn.”

MB 13 Mac OS X (10.5.4)


This is some revealing information! Point is, be weary of lavish claims like those on Hotspot Shield’s web site :

  • Secure your web session, data, …personal information online…
  • Protect yourself from identity theft online.
  • Hide your IP address for your privacy online.
  • Access all content privately without censorship; bypass firewalls.
  • Protect yourself from snoopers at Wi-Fi hotspots, hotels, airports, corporate offices.

And ask yourself – if this small, easy-t0-use freeware app does the bad-ass stuff it says it does, why are they giving it away for free?

– d.g.w.

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WordPress; Dreamweaver

UPDATE 20 Sept. 2009:

 

About the Adobe Dev. Con. tutorials I mention below under “WordPress vs. Dreamweaver” – I wrote to the author behind “Creating your first website” (Parts 1-6), “CSS page layout basics”, “Understanding Cascading Style Sheets”, and other wonderfully clear and concise articles at Adobe Developer Connection (a fantastic resource stuffed with tutorials, video-tutorials, manuals -references of all kinds for anything Adobe.

Read these three pieces alone and in an hour you will know the fundamentals of the Web; what makes a web site tick.

Here’s our email exchange:

Re: thank you for “Understanding Cascading Style Sheets”! (Adobe Developer Connection)Saturday, September 19, 2009 2:16 PM
From: “Jon Michael Varese”
To: “david wilhelm”
David,

So thrilled to hear that these are working out for you. Thanks for the high praise — I really do appreciate it!

Yes, what you are learning is how to EMPOWER yourself with CSS so that you don’t have to accept or do what everyone else thinks you should do. I did that on my own website for example. I love the WordPress blog, but when I had to make a homepage for myself, plus other linked pages, I needed to know how to tweak the HTML and the CSS so that things would look the way I wanted them to.

Anyway, keep up the great work.

Jon


***On Sep 19, 2009, at 1:08 PM, david wilhelm wrote:

Mr. Varese,

I’ve been reading your Dreamweaver CS4 tutorials on how to set up a web site and on CSS and I want to commend you on your writing!

I never understood what was truly meant by Cascading Style Sheets and ‘the Cascade” and now I know – in one brief reading.

I have a technical writing/editing certification and can admire good, clear tech. writing when i see it.

Just wanted to thank you for that, and I’m on my way to learning Dreamweaver, which has been a long time goal of mine. I blog but am sick of using the blog hosts (i use WordPress) and abiding by someone else’s CSS template – where any HTML you write gets kicked out or rearranged to invalid. Now i understand WHY this is happening and can commence to, well, at least attempting to create my own CSS!

Thanks for your efforts,

Yours Truly,

David Wilhelm
Seattle, WA

John M. Varese is a senior technical writer at Adobe and a Swarthmore College-trained historian of Classical and Victorian Era literature (check out his blog Meat and Potatoes). So he possesses that rare combination of grammar/humanities aptitude combined with the techie/under-the-hood side.

I have a Technical Writing and Editing CRT from the U. of Washington Dept. of Human-Centered Design and Engineering (formerly the Dept. of Technical Communication at the School of Engineering) and I remember on the first day of my first course the Prof., Jan Spyridakis told us that, fundamentally what makes a great technical writer is the dual-ability to draw upon right language/grammar intuitiveness with the mathematical/engineering knowledge. My other favorite course, “Intro to Computer Software User Assistance, taught by former IBM and now Google Tech. Writer Christopher Holstrom (Ph.D. Thesis “Storytelling as Community and Collaboration: Designing an Interactive Multi-Author Environment for Hypertext Fiction” (University of Washington 2002), drove home that same point. This may go without saying – Tech. writing is…technical? and it’s writing…writing that’s technical. Makes sense.

But the importance of quality exposition now that we all need computer literacy on top of traditional literacy (thank you Ms. Stolarik for teaching me proper cursive penmanship in third grade!) can’t be understated. Good exposition on fundamentals like web design is a boon to all who are saddled with the increasing complexity of the age of computers and the Web.

To digress for a moment: for years we’ve hear the constant refrain of how school kids need proficiency in math and science; how the U.S. lags another nations. Bill Gates tells us he won’t be able to hire our kids unless the know “math and science” “math and science” and more “math and science”.

I have a problem with “the economy” and capitalists dictating what teachers should be teaching, as if the point were only to churn out good employees who can sit in cubicles and practice this “math and science” for the benefit of Capitalist bosses. The top-down dictat for “math and science! Math and science!!” comes at the expense of the Humanities. Harper’s Magazine ran a humorous yet very serious piece on that whole debate, “Dehumanized: When Math and Science Rule the School” (by Mark Slouka). Anybody concerned with education policy and its effects on the culture should check this out (and if you pick up a Harper’s don’t forget to check out “Harper’s Index” – always illuminating and almost always disturbing on top of it).

This year Haymarket Books re-published an English translation of Jean-Jacques Lecercle’s A Marxist Philosophy of Language. Lecercle quotes former British Education Secretary Charles Clarke’s declaration that “public funds should no longer be devoted to ‘ornamental subjects’ like mediaeval history or classical literature. He was roundly denounced, but these views reflect a palpable trend.

Perhaps I digress. But I’m always happy to find the rare piece of writing that actually teaches instead of muddying up complex subjects in information technology. More of Mr. Varese’s style of writing is sorely needed out there in our exponentially multiplying I.T. realm.

The point is to realize that our age of computers and the Internet and mobile communications; of the blogosphere; and the mangling of language by text-messaging and Twittering – none of this precludes the importance of knowing how to read and write; knowing the humanities, and being skilled in good old-fashioned “proper grammar.” Sounds didactic and archaic or whatever, but these are growing issues and, again, the rapidity with which computer and telecommunications technologies are jutting into daily life make the debate a necessary one.

Okay, now that I’ve got that out of the way…

 


 

 

The WordPress.com Blog Host…

Getting exasperated with WordPress’s site-hosting (WordPress.com – not .org). I realize it isn’t designed for folks who want to manipulate appearance and site layout stuff – you do that in dedicated graphic design software. It is limited to a web “press” for words, for blogging. And hence the name. And it does a great job, is easy to use, has a great base of support. 

But it’s the little details here and there…

Note:  

Just to be clear, we’re talking here about the WordPress blog host and it’s browser UI – WordPress.com – not WordPress.org. Though both are oriented toward blogs, WordPress.org’s web site building software is well-respected and very common – the New York Times online uses WordPress, for instance. But it’s a different animal in that WordPress.org is a community of resources centered around the WordPress open-source software and offers much greater flexibility; it requires compiling of folders and data and an outside web host or remote server is needed, i.e., it’s not run from a UI in your browser on WordPress’s own servers.

K. First, there’s the annoying ads and widget things that are stuck onto your blog without your permission and without regard to harmony with your blog’s color scheme or font typeface and size. Like “Jump to Comments”. It’s stuck just under the title of your post and it’s there to stay! Unless folks know something I don’t. See it up there? Anyone who cares about good design can understand the problem here.

Then there’s “See Related Posts”, which is stuck at the end of every blog post and is particularly egregious because it links to some random person’s blog with which you have nothing to do. Eww. Did I ask for that? No.

I remember when this appeared on my blog one day. Luckily it proved removable, but figuring out how to do so required some digging. I immediately looked it up in the WordPress.com forum and it seems about everyone else was trying to figure out the same thing. Ended up you had to go to Appearance < Extras < …. and unclick a seemingly unrelated option to get rid of “See Related Posts”. 

A more serious bug is WordPress’s infamous HTML problems. Right now, as I type this post, the “dashboard” has two tabs under “Add New Post” by which I can write a new blog posting – “Visual” and “HTML”. That’s what’s got me pieved.

See, if you want to write in “HTML”, WordPress will, to no end, bounce out your HTML because your template overrides it (or what WordPress terms “theme”). The theme for your WordPress blog is written in CSS by someone else (unless you designed it yourself, which is unlikely) and deployed in the UI in your browser under the PHP (Hypertext Preprocessor) scripting protocol. HTML/XHTML does not mesh. Even if you are a code guru, which I most emphatically am not, you can’t even add a horizontal rule without it being bounced out or rearranged.

So then just change the CSS in your template? Well, CSS is really hard to learn, as I’ve discovered. Regardless, WordPress allows you to look at your template, or “theme”, but this is pointless because you cannot edit it without a paid upgrade. That bites, and I’m not the first person to have said this.

A salient question then, is why include the HTML tab at all? It doesn’t work. You’re code gets bounced out, and I’ve yet to read any official disclaimer in the broad, vast WordPress Codex/Support apparatus that warns the user about it (though in the WordPress forums it’s a common complaint).

 

…vs. Adobe Dreamweaver Web Design Software

I just got a 30-day trial of Dreamweaver CS4 and have been checking out the tutorials. It’s fantastic, although the software costs about $400. But cross-compatibility with other Adobe software is always a plus (Photoshop, InDesign), and with Adobe you often buy “suites”, like the “Master Collection Suite” or “Technical Communication Suite”.

I’ve always been impressed with Adobe’s “Knowledge Base”: lots of tutorials written by competent people, including how-to videos. 

They start you off from the beginning, explaining the concepts behind from-scratch web design – Cascading-Style Sheets, HTML, table – the fundamentals of web construction. This is key. Contrast this with WordPress! Part of the difficulty I think arises from the necessity of building 

I have no qualms with WordPress as a web-publishing tool. It’s for writing and very good at this as a platform for getting your writing on the web (even if you’ll probably never get anywhere near the top of any major search engine unless you host outside of WordPress.com). If you limit it to straightforward blogging: the ease of getting an entirely new blog up in a matter of minutes, keeping it up, all of the automated tasks, the ease of publishing your post. If you are into writing and want it up on the web with no frills, then WordPress.com is great.

– d.g.w (last updated 20 Sept. 2009)

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Just ONE User/Password for Everything?

UPDATE:

I set up direct logins in Clipperz for five web sites, but after creating my own four-word “one-time passphrase”, I could not login to Clipperz. I can still login in with my non-one time passphrase – a simple password like you’d use to login to your email – but login failed after I copied and pasted my four-word passphrase. I may have made a mistake in pasting it, as the Help section states that “it can be used only once. If the same passphrase is used again at a later stage in a login attempt it will be rejected and the login process will fail.”       My advice is be very careful in entering your passphrase because if you enter it wrong, you can’t use it again, and you have to generate another one. Problem is, even after doing this, login still failed. So I returned to my simple low-entropy six-digit “password”. So cryptography has been diminished greatly here, but Clipperz still very secure and very convenient and worth using. If anyone reading this has successfully used the one-time passphrase method please let me know! Leave a comment below.

 


 

I learned about Clipperz through Digital Inspiration blog and it uses an ajax web environment (whatever that is) to run an applet in your browser. You log-in to your Clipperz account with a username and password, like any other web site. For better encryption and faster login to Clipperz, use a one-time, four-word “passphrase”: you don’t have to enter it every time you get online. Either way, both methods scramble your login fields before they’re uploaded to Clipperz.com servers. Clipperz features a browser-based UI has you create “cards” with, for example, your Gmail username and password info (also automatically scrambled before any transfer of data takes place), or for any oft-visited web pages that require logins that you don’t want to always enter every time you’re online.

Clipperz.com login

Clipperz.com login

Now, to generate an uncrackable passphrase, you can use a random word generator. Supposedly Mac OS has random number capability through the shell or some obscure way, but the easiest thing to do is to roll a dice and use a “word list”, like the one at Diceware Passphrase Home Page. Scroll down to the section “Using Diceware” and it tells you how to (physically) roll a dice four times (or four dice once) to get 16 numbers, which will give you four four-digit numbers. Look up the corresponding words in the word list and you have your four-word passphrase to use in Clipperz (there are alternate word lists, too – check out the “Links” section at the bottom of the Diceware page). Diceware’s word list is at http://world.std.com/%7Ereinhold/diceware.wordlist.asc This passphrase then stands between you or any would-be hacker or snooper,f and your master list of “direct logins”, which are listed on your Clipperz UI in your browser. You can create direct logins – which require just one-click – for any number of sites, from email to banking to commercial sites with sensitive personal info, like Amazon or eBay.

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