Tag Archives: google

Alternative to Google Apps for Business – Zoho

I am working on a little project with a friend over at BrightVape.com so I went to sign up for a Google Apps for Business account in order to get both of us some business email addresses. For those of you who don’t know, this service allows businesses to use the Google Apps suite of products with their custom domain name instead of @gmail.com.

To my surprise Google has stopped offering their free 10 user accounts back in December and I began looking for hosted alternatives as I did not want to configure a mail-server on my VPS hosting.

After doing some research I ended up signing up with Zoho. In addition to email, Zoho offers a large number of business products ranging from bug tracking to recruiting. However, their free email service is significantly more limiting than the Google suite as it is limited to 3 user accounts and does not provide any funcionality that is included with their other tools. In comparison Google had offered Mail, Calendar, Talk, etc.  Since I was looking for email accounts I was all set and moved forward with signing up.

I found the signup process a lot more confusing that it should have been. First you need to verify that you own the domain through modifying CNAME records or uploading a file – pretty standard. But then I was first asked to create an account name and was informed this was going to be used as my email address, but there was oddly a min of 6 characters and it said my name had already been taken. I was perplexed for a moment and then figured out I was not actually creating my email address here, I was actually creating a Zoho username.

Once that was set I had my account set up and was able to simply add my 3 users and be done. When logging in to retrieve your email, you have to enter that Zoho account username that was created as part of the signup process, but after I have learned this it has been pretty smooth.

The email UI for Zoho is a pretty decent looking and quick for webmail but it is surely no GMail. That being said, I’m pretty disappointed that Google has shut down their service, but I can’t complain too much since I use a ton of free Google products every day.

Google Voice – Create Separate Voicemails for Contacts and Strangers

One of the other features availiable with Google Voice is the ability to create different voicemail messages for different groups of contacts and completely different messages for strangers who call. This was very useful recently when I was interviewing I had set my default voicemail to be a formal message so that it sounds professional for when I am contacted by an employer, and yet when my friends or family call they still hear my normal, short “Hey it Ben leave a message.”

You will first want to set up Google Voice as your primary voicemail which I have previously discussed.

Assuming all of your contacts are already in Google Contacts, which is very simple to do with an Android phone or a Blackberry using Google Sync, they just have to be placed into groups. By going to the Google Contacts page either through Gmail or GV, you need to assign all of the contacts to specific groups (eg. friends, family, etc.). You will be able to specify one voicemail message for each group, so divide them up accordingly.

Now we just need to modify some GV settings.  Go to voice.google.com and go to Settings > Voice Settings on the top right. On the ‘Voicemail & Text’ tab you want to record some greetings (at least one for the public and one for your grouped contacts, but you can choose to record as many as you want).  On this drop down list, set the default voicemail greeting, that is what non-contacts (strangers) will hear when they call you.

On the ‘Groups’ tab you can ‘Edit’ each group and choose which voicemail message those group members will hear.

Swype Finally Sending Out Invitations

Months ago I applied for the Swype beta program but I was too late and they had already closed down the registration so I put my name down to be notified when it would be available again and today I finally got that message.

Swype is pleased to invite you to login and try our Swype Beta for Android.

You signed up to be emailed when this happened, and probably gave up on us. Well, we are (finally) pleased to activate your Swype Beta for Android account. Thanks for being patient over the last 6 months as we’ve been focused on improving the product and preparing for our launch with multiple phone manufacturers and carriers.

Swype had fallen off my radar and I had written it off, never expecting to get to use it on my Droid. I am very excited to give this a shot and I will post my thoughts shortly as I have been using the standard software keyboard these past few months.

Use Google Voice as your primary Voicemail

Google Voice has some great features available including the ability to use a single phone number by ringing multiple phones, call screening, recording, and more, but if you don’t want to switch to a GV number or port over your existing phone number, you can still reap the benefits that GV offers in the area of voicemail.

These benefits include the ability to access your voicemail from the internet, have your voicemails transcribed into text and emailed and/or sms’ed to you, and keep a record of your messages.

This is actually a very simple process.

All you need to do is login to Google Voice and access the Settings in the upper right hand corner. If you have not already added a phone, you can do so here.

Once this is done you will see a link next to your phone saying “activate Google voicemail on this phone.” Click that link and it will tell you to call a specific number from the phone beginning with a “*”.

Just repeat this process for every phone that you would like to use the GV voicemail for. The process to deactivate this is just as simple. You will see a button in the same location with a number to dial to disable this service.

Sync your Google Chrome profile with Dropbox

While Google Chrome now has a built in synchronization feature which includes bookmarks, preferences, and themes, this does not do a full profile sync.

If you are looking to sync your entire Chrome profile which includes the above settings in addition to; extensions, history, cookies, and cache, you can use Dropbox to keep multiple computers in sync with a single profile.

If you don’t already have a Dropbox account, you can sign up here and get 2Gb of storage for free (capable of getting up to 8Gb for free).

Once Dropbox is installed and configured with your account you can go about the process below to set up syncing your Chrome profile.

Part I: Move Chrome profile into Dropbox

  1. This section is only completed for the initial setup and is to be done on the computer with the “master” profile that you want to retain.
  2. Create a folder in your Dropbox folder named “Roaming Profiles” with a subfolder “Google Chrome”. The future path for your Chrome profile should look similar to this (if you installed Dropbox to the default location):
    ” C:\Users\Ben\Documents\My Dropbox\Roaming Profiles\Google Chrome”
  3. Close any instances of Google Chrome.
  4. Open Windows Explorer and make sure “show hidden files” is enabled.
  5. In Windows 7 – navigate to “C:\Users\Ben\AppData\Local\Google\Chrome\User Data”
  6. Copy the “Default” folder into the new Dropbox folder we created in step 1.
  7. Rename the original “Default” folder to “Default_old” (this will be deleted at then end when we confirm everything works)

Part II: Create a link between the Dropbox and Chrome profiles

  1. If there is a folder named “Default” in “C:\Users\Ben\AppData\Local\Google\Chrome\User Data”, delete it.
  2. Now we need to create a symlink between the Dropbox folder and the location that Chrome will look for its profile.
    Open the command prompt as administrator by right clicking on the cmd application and pressing “run as administrator”
  3. You will enter: mklink /D “(Dropbox location)” “Chrome default location)”
    On my computer it looked like:

    C:\Windows\system32>mklink /D “C:\Users\Ben\AppData\Local\Google\Chrome\User Data\Default” “C:\Users\Ben\Documents\My Dropbox\Roaming Profiles\Google Chrome\Default”

    If it worked you should see a message that looks like this:

    symbolic link created for C:\Users\Ben\AppData\Local\Google\Chrome\User Data\Default <<===>> C:\Users\Ben\Documents\My Dropbox\Roaming Profiles\Google Chrome\Default

    C:\Windows\system32>mklink /D “C:\Users\Ben\AppData\Local\Google\Chrome\User Data\Default” “C:\Users\Ben\Documents\My Dropbox\Roaming Profiles\Google Chrome\Default”symbolic link created for C:\Users\Ben\AppData\Local\Google\Chrome\User Data\Default <<===>> C:\Users\Ben\Documents\My Dropbox\Roaming Profiles\Google Chrome\Default

  4. Launch Chrome and confirm it opens with your previous settings. If you open up the Dropbox path and then open an instance of Chrome, you will see that some files are in use and have not been synced. Once you close the browser they will sync in a matter of seconds (green checkbox means it has been synced).
  5. Delete the folder we renamed to “Default_old” in Part 1, step 7 (if it exists).
  6. Install Dropbox on any other computers that you want to set up Chrome profile syncing and repeat the steps in Part II.

Edit: It looks like the development builds of Chrome now have code to support extensions syncing, thereby eliminating one of the good reasons to use method to keep your instances of Chrome in sync. I imagine you can expect to see this feature fully implemented shortly. Read more.