Tag Archives: Google 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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Google Privacy Considerations

 


 

 According to D.C. political rag The Hill, a major watchdog group “wants probes of Google’s ‘unusually close’ ties to Obama

The complaint was sparked in part by, The Hill states, the fact that “Google admitted last month that it collected and stored private user information, including passwords and entire e-mails, from Wi-Fi networks”

But, they were not punished in any way:  

“the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) closed an inquiry into the issue, citing promises from the company that it would improve its privacy practices,” the article, by Sara Jerome, states.

I hate to make the jump, but when you consider Google, Inc. and subsidiaries’ reach on the U.S. Internet market, it becomes clear that the Web’s very decentralization – that which makes it the wonderful (albeit sloppy and complicated and sometimes disgusting) thing that it is, is at issue for the politicians in D.C.

In other words, the issue is important enough to have reached the attention of the Executive Branch. And this administration is not at all ill-versed with the Web and its implications for politics (i.e., their own political fortunes). Obama’s original PAC built its base of campaign cash w/ online donations. This is known. And Obama/Biden swept to victory with a Web marketing strategy far exceeding that of McCain in scope and ambition, and, ultimately, delivery of the goods (cash-money).

So — there is no doubt the reasons are POLITICAL. Why else would an administration be interested in Google? To see how many daily hits Whitehouse.gov gets?

See also the article“In Support of Net Diversity – Not Net “Neutrality”.

From the pittance of info we end-users are allotted to peek at, the steps below are one way to see the nature of the personal data Google has on you and me. Google retains this data if you use just one of ANY Google products, including Gmail, YouTube, Blogger/Blogspot, or any Google App.

To get there through Gmail, do this:

  1. Sign-in to Gmail. At the upper-right of your inbox, click Settings
  2. On the Settings page you’ll see a variety of tabs. Select the Accounts tab and click the Google Account settings link.
  3. At the “Google accounts” page under the “Personal Settings” header, look for “Dashboard.” Click View data stored with this account. (This page should show, roughly, as URL <https://www.google.com/dashboard/&gt;.) 

The left-hand column shows all Google products you may have signed up for. The right-hand column displays links to the associated data.

Scroll down the list and you can see that ALL of your activity has been scrupulously archived and is available for you (and, of course, Google, Inc.).

For example, for me, under the Gmail subheader I see “Inbox 4000 conversations”, and in the right-hand column a “Manage chat history” hyperlink. This link appears to contain every “chat” catalogued as far back as the creation of your Gmail account.

Under the left-hand column again, looking at “YouTube”, you find the hyperlink “Viewing history”. Here Google has your entire YouTube history catalogued chronologically. (How far back in time is unclear.)

The Web History header encompasses your Google searches. It includes hyperlinked subheadings “Web”; “Images”; “Video”; “Maps”; and “Blogs”, among others; and a chronologically catalogued, veritable plethora of data on my Google Search Engine searches!

Also under the Web History header, “Maps” includes a history of locations you have searched for or viewed with Google Maps. Interestingly, under the “Blogs” subheading, I was surprised to find data pertaining to one of my WordPress-hosted blogs (which, to my knowledge, had no Google apps activated. I’m at a lost to explain how the data would end up here in Google’s archive on me. Perhaps via Feedburner? I don’t know (go figure).

Lastly, if you’ve ever registered a domain name and concurrently signed up w/ Google Apps to assist w/ web-site administration/analytics, this too is listed in the left-hand column under “Webmaster Tools” – and, if you had ever activated Google Analytics for that domain name – under “Analytics”.

This “Dashboard” as it’s called, includes, in the right-hand column, various “Privacy” links that briefly explain the stated policy for that particular Google product. But each product has its own set of rules. By no means is anything standardized. 

This is a brief, probably incomplete explication of what I’ve found regarding Google’s collection of personal information.

Be it for marketing purposes or for statistical feedback, the idea that one private corporation should have such extensive reach into private user data is cause for – at the very least – serious consideration. At worst it’s a serious dereliction of terms of use and an illegal breach of user privacy.

Unfortunately, our fledgling World-Wide Web’s nebulous regulations make legalities hard to pin down. Bodies governing television and radio broadcasting have, not surprisingly, been unable or unwilling to keep pace with the complicated realm of Internet law. As some have put it, we’re still in the early-days; “the Wild West” of the computer age. Not untrue, as the World-Wide Web as a communication and entertainment tool is barely fifteen years in the making.

 

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Getting a Host to mesh w/ Google Apps (or not)

JUNE 2009 UPDATE:

I’ve been dishing, complaining about my Google/GoDaddy-registered domain, http://www.wilhed.org, for a while now. The hardships of having allowed Google Apps insert itself into what should have begun – with my purchase of that domain – as a direct user to host relationship, but, by consequence having employed Google Apps to “manage” my site on behalf of GoDaddy – turned it into a complete mess. I was led to believe  it would simplify site hosting for one new at the task of domain management.

What really happened, and which has no doubt happened to many others with similarly sincere motivations, is rather than buy the domain, I “rented” it from Google, constructed its content within Google’s inflexible site management application “Google Site Manager”, and failed in my attempts to coordinate my site between the two different companies. (I say “were” because wilhed.org’s 12-month registration expired this June.)

Google as the middleman: not a novel concept. Below is an excerpt from an email exchange I had in March with Maryland-based digital photographer and Photoshop guru Timothy Lynch:

Well I said I’d follow up when I figure something out on this stuff but I realized what has been holding me up for so long: Having Google Apps in tandem with GoDaddy unduly complicates to where I can only login to my GoDaddy account and manage the settings from Google – from Google’s own Dashboard/UI. The usernames/passwords they supply for login to GoDaddy don’t work. And this is where the domain is actually registered; where I need to go for all the Admin. stuff.

I want to blame Google for being the interloper here (and it is not unheard of for the company to be labeled that and worse) but I frankly don’t know enough about hosting and the server-side of things to know if perhaps I’m just blind to some little detail…so I sent an email to both of these companies asking for a new password. Hopefully they’ll respond so I can get to work on this stuff that – had I been less stubborn (and a little richer) I would’ve solved long ago by using paid hosting with the WordPress download/PHP, MySQL get-up, as WordPress.org recommends.

What I was originally trying to do was simply change the nameservers and forward my domain URL from wilhed.org to wilhed.wordpress.com with “masking” so that “wilhed.org” shows up in the browser address bar and not “wilhed.wordpress.com”.

In other words, I’d be using WordPress for creating content but using wilhed.org as the address people type in to get to the site. This is important because you could apply it to your web site/pages for business purposes. You could conceivably get rid of your “deviantart” address by masking it but still use Deviant Art’s page setup and all of that. See what I mean? It could be very useful.

Anyhow, I hope we can work on this stuff at some point; it’s good stuff to learn and has immediate possibilities for growing a business, establishing a web presence for your work, and all of that.

David

I.

Many have noted Google’s insinuating themselves into practically every area of the Web. Everyone knows that Google is an immensely creative, smart, ceaselessly innovative organization. They have helped democratize the Web, or at the very least have established a check against other would be monopolizers (i.e., Microsoft). But there are emerging new ways to put power back in the hands of the user, where it belongs. For a primer, check out Richard Stallman, originator of the GNU license and unofficial spokesman against abuses of Web freedom in the name of “intellectual property”.

Anyone who has Googled “web host”; or who has looked for a painless route to creating a web site can see that it’s a big business. Ads abound for hosts offering such and such gigabytes of storage, bandwidth, and multiple email accounts for hosting your web site or blog. Truly all they are selling is space – space on a server. And here corporate power and the interests of the individual intersect – and where lies opportunities for staking a claim for Web freedom. With the shift to Web 2.0, which means greater user participation and interconnectivity beyond simple static HTML published web pages, people are gaining more control over their online experience with the advent of wiki, the blogosphere, and open-source software. It’s only natural that the user should want control over site hosting and storage as well. Web hosts don’t have to own the server – they can also “provide data center space and connectivity for servers they do not own [but are] located in the data center”, as wikipedia’s  entry on “web hosts” explains, referring to this as colocation.This sort of “middleman” niche is where Google and other companies make bank.

Point is, with the shift to Web 2.0 and what is now being called Web 3.0, users are conceptualizing the user’s position in the Internet world differently. And it’s all about more control and more freedom. (The Web x.0 concepts are explained nicely in a recent Digital Inspiration article by tech-blogger Amit Argawal.)

To return to “Getting a Host to Mesh with Google Apps (or Not)”, one not-so-major goal I had for wilhed.org was to use it as the URL for https://wilhed.wordpress.com – my WordPress-hosted blog. WordPress provides simple instructions on how to change your nameservers to “park” my blog at wilhed.org, but I couldn’t do it. Likely Ijust wasn’t savvy enough to get it done.

Anyhow, a related issue concerns the wide-scale use of these mega-size blog-hosts, called “shared-hosting”. The comparative ease of utilizing shared hosting – WordPress.com and Blogspot (i.e., Google Blogger), are perhaps the two most widely-used – simplifies greatly establishing yourself an online presence. But there are suspicions that, for example Google’s search engine favors Blogspot-hosted blogs over others. Not to mention the risks of favoritism within the shared-space. For instance, WordPress’s homepage lists “Hot VIP Posts”. VIP posts? I couldn’t find an explanation as to who qualifies as a “VIP”, how they came to be so labeled, and by whom. Shared-hosting presents manifold problems, which are way under-addressed. If WordPress deems some bloggers “VIP”s, what about blog content. Can bloggers be guaranteed complete freedom of speech, freedom of expression? I’ve seen some chatter to the effect that political-oriented blogs somehow fall out of sight within WordPress’s own search engine, and if this is the case, what of the major search engines?

Above all, who wants to be beholden to a for-profit, shared web-host who reserves the right to retract or erase your web site or your blog on a whim? It’s about control – of which you are giving up a lot when you go this route. It’s better with dedicated web hosts with your own server space, but even then, your content and your web presence – which is becoming increasingly important for personal and economic life.

II.

A good solution is to serve your own site.

A bit of history: after a lot of digging, I came upon the Apache Software Foundation and learned that the prefix for all of today’s web sites originated with the Apache open-source server, which early became the first viable alternative to a proprietary server technology developed by Netscape.We are lucky then, that the keys to the Internet are held by everyone. Apache HTTP server is developed and maintained open-source – that is, by an open group of developers and programmers, after its founding by Robert McCool as “HTTP daemon”. According to the Foundation web site, the majority of existing web sites are on the Apache server.

To return to my point: after a few short years of collective effort by software developers/volunteers from around the world, Apache web server is now packaged with a GUI that enables the user without specialized knowledge to implement it on a PC! This is what many people who are paying for dedicated servers or languishing on an unknown corporation’s shared servers may not know. The server-implementations are called XAMPP (for windows) and MAMP (for Mac/Unix+Apache +MySQL+PHP)and can be downloaded en masse, in one package for Windows/DOS executation or Mac/Unix disk mounting. MAMP is released by the German company Webedition but is free under the GNU License, and promises, “You can install Apache, PHP and MySQL without starting a script or having to change any configuration files!” As yet I haven’t been able to fully install MAMP on my MacBook, but I’m lazy and, like tons of other people, find it easier to use Blogspot and WordPress for blogging. But the capability is there and it will doubtless only become easier and more accessible because the demand is there.

Open Source is only getting bigger, too, as people are less willing to dole out bucks for software apps you can get for free on Sourceforge.net or CNET. You wouldn’t know it but Sourceforge is a positively HUGE repository of free software. It appears directed at the programmer/expert crowd, but if you know what you are looking for you can find it. The XAMPP server-package is based at Apachefriends.org (associated with the Apache Server Project), but, like the majority of open-source applications, counts most of its downloads from Sourceforge, where it’s available to download for every major OS in any variety of “zipped” formats.

If this seems intimidating – and navigating Sourceforge can definitely be – easier ways to run your own server and take control of the Internet are popping up. I just came across something called Opera Unite, which promises to turn your computer into a web server (I haven’t yet tried it but I did download the application), mainly for purposes of sharing content on the Internet directly from your hard drive without having to upload it anywhere. Then there are implementations like Jumpbox, which are conceptually a bit weird and hard to grasp, but which are various types of OS-independent applications that “run on their own” and advertise as a solution to the implementation problems, i.e., bugs, associated with open source software.

Finally, web-hosting companies will counter that if you’re expecting any kind of heavy site-traffic, you’ll need the bandwidth, disk space, and dedication of their services so avoid server overload and crashes. This may be true, but I’d respond that at the present rate of innovation and and change, we shouldn’t need to wait long for the hardware to catch up. And this is a good thing for keeping the democracy alive on the Web and for undercutting would-be monopolizers and middle-men trying to cash in on, or worse drown out and overwhelm, the little guy.

– d.g.w.  6/19/09

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