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Double Stamp is an easy-to-understand guide to useful computer and internet technology. It's written to be readable by everyday computer users.

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Gmail Contact Manager Making Big Improvements

Gmail's contact manager has traditionally been terrible. Since the release of Android, Google's mobile phone system, they have made some significant improvements. Today, they officially rid themselves of the Double Stamp seal of suckiness. I'm proud to say I can now use gmail contacts without getting mad.

It's not perfect yet, but way better. Read here for the new features.

New Gmail Features: Remote Logout and Account Activity

Email has become an essential form of communication, and there is no doubt that keeping our email accounts secure is of high importance. Web-based email accounts like Gmail, Yahoo, and Hotmail, are excellent tools because they allow you to check your email from anywhere at any time. This also creates a security issue, because anyone who somehow gets your password will be able to log into your account from another computer. For you Gmail users, however, this just became MUCH less of a problem.

Gmail just released a new feature that allows you to see how many computers are logged into your account, when they logged in, and what the IP addresses of those computers are. At the bottom of your email inbox, there is now a line that looks like this:

Gmail Account Activity Feature

Why is this helpful? Well, if someone is logging into your account from somewhere else, you will see that more than one computer is logged in, and you will know that something is wrong. This morning I opened my gmail to find that someone from another computer had accessed my account. I looked up the IP address and noticed that it was coming from the online contact management website called Plaxo. It's possible that Plaxo is accessing my account to import my contacts, but I was completely unaware of the situation. I am now investigating why this is happening, and have sent Plaxo a request for an explanation.

Another extremely useful feature is that you can now "remotely logout" of your gmail account. Have you ever left your gmail account open on another computer? Now, you can click into the "details" link on the account activity line, and then click "Sign Out All Other Sessions." This will log you out from the other computers so that no one can mess with your account. Superb!

Use BCC When Sending to Email Lists

When sending emails to lists, it is important that you use what is called "Blind Carbon Copying (BCC)." Instead of using the box in your email program that says "To," use the one that says "BCC." Why? This hides the recipients email addresses from eachother.

Using Blind Carbon Copying is important for the following reasons:

  1. Using BCC respects the privacy of your contacts. Today I received an email that was sent to hundreds of people, and the sender did not use BCC. Now, every individual who received it has my email address, even though I do not know most of the people on the list. This has occured 4 times in the last 3 days, which is why I am writing this article.
  2. Email lists (especially chain emails) that do not use BCC are contributing to spam. Imagine you send 1 email to 1 friend. That friend forwards your email to 10 different people, and those 10 forward to another 10. None of them use BCC, and now 100 people have your email address. The minute a spammer gets ahold of this, you're on their list, even though you only sent an email to one person! You definitely don't want that. BCC prevents this kind of disease-like spreading of your email to people you don't want to have it.
  3. BCC prevents unintentionally "Replying to All." Have you ever accidentally hit the "Reply to All" and sent your reply out to all recipients, even though you only wanted to reply to the sender? This can be embarrassing, and sometimes even damaging. If the author of the email uses BCC, this is not an issue.
  4. BCC prevents disclosure of who you are sending to. Not only does BCC protect your recipients, it also protects you. In many cases, you don't want everyone to know who you sent the email to.
  5. There are other reasons to use BCC, and if you can think of them, post them in the comments.
When is using the TO: box OK?

You obviously should use the TO: box if you are sending to one person.

At times, it is completely appropriate to use the TO: box when sending to multiple addresses.
  1. If you intend for a discussion to occur, then each participant must know who else is part of the dialog. However, this should be done only if you are sure that each recipient does not have a problem with their email being shared with the others on the list.
  2. Use TO: if you must explicitly show to whom the email was sent. This is often the case in organizations and businesses.

Choose Good Passwords

I recently came across an article discussing the importance of creating and maintaining good passwords to keep your website accounts secure. Password security is very important, and protecting your accounts will save you a catastrophe. Don't ever use your real name or site username for your password!

Read this article about password security.

Collaborate with Google Docs

Do you ever have the need to collaborate with multiple people on a document, spreadsheet or presentation? Maybe you are a student who is writing a group paper, a captain of a team that needs to keep roster information up-to-date, or a business that needs to keep documents in sync with input from every employee. If you haven't heard of Google Docs, you need to read this.

Google docs is an online office suite with tools for creating documents, spreadsheets, and presentations. All the tools run right inside your browser, so you don't need to actually download and install anything to use it. With Google Docs, multiple people can edit a document with no need to email revisions or keep track of what has changed. It stores the files on the web so that all users can see the latest revision, and no one gets out of sync.

The benefits of this kind of service are huge. No matter where you are, you can get on the web and edit your documents. Forget to make a change at work? No prob, just log on from home and make the changes. Maybe your computer crashed and you didn't make any backups of your files. Under a traditional office setup, this would be a catastrophe. With Google Docs, no problem.

Here's some ways in which I use Docs:

  • A friend of mine and I are researching a certain market for a possible business startup. We keep track of existing products that are similar to ours.
  • A friend of mine and I play pinball all the time. Just for fun we started recording our scores. We now use an online Google spreadsheet to keep all kinds of stats on our games.
  • When I do web design, I keep track of the hours spent and what I did. I can easily share this information with a client so that they can keep tabs on what is going on. It makes them feel comfortable, and prevents me from having to respond to status requests.
  • I am creating an online presentation of some research that I am performing as a PhD student. I can easily embed my presentation on my academic website, and my advisor can join in on the editing.
The features of Google Docs are not as rich as Open Office or MS Office, but that doesn't mean it is not useful. In fact, the fact that your information is always available more than makes up for the deep features that you may never use anyway. If your internet connection is really slow, Google docs may not be your best option.

Give it a try and explore the features. As usual, you have nothing to lose!

Google Street View

Google Maps has an amazingly fun/useful feature that allows you to actually see pictures of the streets and address you are interested in. They hired people to drive specials cars all around the cities of the United States, each of which has a special camera that takes pictures at numerous angles. Here's an example: a tiny little canyon in Salt Lake City called "City Creek." Try clicking the arrow buttons to move around and zoom.

View Larger Map

Unfortunately, not all cities in the United States are included. Google is adding new data at a rapid pace, however, and it should only be a matter of time before your favorite places are scanned.

To use street view, just go to and type in an address or place. Then click the button on the top right corner of the map that says "Street View." If street view is available for your location of interest, you should see a little yellow man and the streets will be colored blue. Place the yellow man on any location to see pictures of the address.


Are you a parent that is concerned about your kids accessing certain content on the Internet? Maybe you would like to have more control over your family's connection to the web? If you're interested in setting up an excellent filtering/monitoring system, this is for you.

OpenDNS is a free Internet service that allows you to do the following:

  • Automatically filter pornographic sites from your internet connection.
  • Manually block certain sites that you specify.
  • Monitor your web traffic statistics. See what sites are being accessed most and what time of day.
  • Prevent "phishing" sites that try to steal your information.
  • See a complete list of features here.
OpenDNS is great because it doesn't require that you run any software on your own computer. This prevents you having to keep a program running in the background, which frees up your resources and prevents you from screwing something up. Here's how to get started:
  1. Sign up for a free account here.
  2. Choose which method you want to use here. You can either use OpenDNS with your router so that all computers in your house are monitored, or you can just do it to one computer.
  3. Follow the instructions provided for the method you choose.
  4. Read up on all the great features.
You're all set. OpenDNS is really a great service and one that can be extremely helpful in a variety of situations. If you're a parent, keep in mind that you still need address the issue of web content directly with your kids. It's not OpenDNS's job to make sure your kids learn what they need to stay out of trouble on their own. That said, it can be a great way to keep tabs on things. Yes, that's right, Double Stamp is now providing parenting advice for free.

The rest of this article is optional for those of you who want to know how OpenDNS works.

OpenDNS works by taking advantage of the way a URL is retrieved from the web. When you type in a website like "" your computer first connects to what is called a "DNS Server." Basically, it's a big phone directory. You tell it the name of the website you want to go to, and it returns an IP address behind the scenes. Your computer then connects to the IP address to get to the website of interest.

Now, if you tell your computer to use OpenDNS as the directory, you give them control to filter what your computer is requesting. For example, if someone attempts to visit a pornographic site, OpenDNS recognizes it as such, and does not return the IP address. It's kind of like having a phone book that won't give out the phone numbers to certain people.

Gmail 101: Labels and Archiving

No! Gmail does not need "folders!"

Recently, and on more than one occasion, people have complained to me that Gmail does not have a "folders" feature for organizing email. They said that their inbox was really cluttered in Gmail because they couldn't move their emails into folders. I am here to tell you that it DOES in fact have this capability. In fact, it can do more than regular folder organization can.

First of all, a "label" is the same thing as a "folder," only a single email can be given multiple labels for convenience. For example, let's say that you get an email with the subject "Job Fair at the University." You could apply the labels "Job" and "School" to this email.

Secondly, if you would like to move an email out of your inbox without deleting it, simply click the button that says "Archive." This will take it out of your inbox, but you will still be able to find it under the labels that you have applied. Archived email can also be found under the "All mail" link.

If you're interested in automatically applying labels and archiving, check out this help file on Gmail filters.

Managing Email Lists the Right Way

Do you belong to a group that sends mass emails to each other? Do you rely on the "Reply to All" function so that everyone in the group can converse? If so, I think you'll find this post useful.

A "List Server" or "Group" is a smarter way to have conversations with groups via email. Instead of sending an email to every person on the list, you simply send it to the group's email address. The software that runs the group takes the email that you just sent it, and passes it on to everyone who is "subscribed" to the group. Then, when someone replies, it is sent back to the group software, and it again passes the reply on to everyone.

Here's why you should use a list server or group service:

  • When a user decides they don't want to be on a list anymore, or if they need to change their email address, they can modify their subscription on their own. This saves the maintainer of the list a big hassle.
  • Each recipient's email can be kept private. Don't you hate it when your email is on a big list?
  • Sending email to ONE address delivers the information to everyone in the group.
  • Email is archived automatically so that it can be viewed later, even if individual users delete their emails.
  • You can set different permissions for the list. It can be set up for the general public, or kept completely private.
The good news is that you don't need to be a computer nerd to set up a list like this. Google and Yahoo both provide group services.

I set up a group for my family about a year ago and it has been a great success. People send out emails to the family with ease, and the service keeps an archive of all emails. Even if all the members of the group delete their emails, there is still an online archive of all posts to the list.

Try it out. Once you do, you'll never want to use a mass carbon-copy list again.