Tag Archives: Outlook.com

(Hopefully) Helpful Hint: Share and Share Alike

Smartphones and online calendars have certainly made it easier to get a handle on your daily schedule, and if you’ve gotten used to the concept of calendar events and alerts from your office or job, think of how handy these could be for keeping track of your family’s whereabouts. You can do this by setting up a shared online calendar to use for appointments, and all your family members can subscribe to it on their own smartphones and computers. When someone enters a a new event on that shared calendar, everybody else subscribed to the calendar then sees it — hopefully clearing up confusion about who’s doing what on any given day.

Sure, you can find plenty of third-party solutions like Cozi or the HUB Planner that have limited free versions and more expansive paid plans, but if your family’s needs are not complex – say, you just need to keep track of softball practice, book club, dentist appointments and so on – you might be able to get by with software you already have: The calendar component to your free email service.

For example, Microsoft has ways to share calendars using Outlook and Outlook.com. Yahoo Calendars can also be shared with family members.


Now, for iCloud. If you are an Apple-oriented group of people, you can share an iCloud calendar with others, but you don’t have to stop with just the datebook. If you have kids with their own iDevices wanting to buy stuff on iTunes, you can even set up Apple’s Family Sharing feature that lets parents approve their children’s iTunes and App Store purchases remotely, share photos and location — and yes,  there’s a family calendar.

Don’t worry, Android folks, if you’re tapped into the Google Play store and spurn iTunes, there’s also a family management tool to set up and you can always use the Android Device Manager to GPS your child’s location. If you’re a Gmail family as well, check out sharing with Google Calendar.


It may take a little work to get used to having a family calendar and entering events on it, but once it’s in place, perhaps those days of forgetting to pick up Junior from soccer practice (whoops!) will be a distant memory.


(Hopefully) Helpful Hint: Variations on a Theme

We spend a lot of time in our inboxes, don’t we? If you want to add a few personal touches to the browser window to brighten things up a bit, you can. (Well, most of the time, unless you are a hardcore iCloud Mail user.)

In general, you do not have to settle for the default settings for background and text size with your preferred webmail service of choice. True, iCloud webmail is a little boring, but Microsoft’s Outlook.com, Yahoo Mail and Google’s Gmail all let you add a little bit of personal choice to your inbox. Hit up your settings and  pick a new theme or color to admire while you wade through the daily onslaught of mail and spam effluvia.


Want to go farther with customization? Perhaps, far, far away? Gmail users who ride the Chrome browser and love Star Wars have some options here. With its new Choose Your Side campaign built around the upcoming Star Wars: The Force Awakens film release, Google has tricked out a number of its apps with little Star Wars touches and Easter Eggs.

swmapFor example, plot a driving route in Google Maps and see your position dot get turned into the Millennium Falcon! Have your YouTube progress bars converter to shimmery lightsaber animation! Fill your Google Calendar with Star Wars-related dates! Yes,  Google has added Star Wars goodies to Android Wear, Chrome, Chromecast, Gmail, Inbox by Gmail, Google Calendar, Google Maps, Google Now, Google Search, Google Translate, Waze, and YouTube.

To use it, you need to sign up with a Gmail address at google.com/starwars and choose your allegiance: Light side or Dark side. The Star Wars skinning works across Android phones and tablets, iPhones, iPads, Chromebooks, and desktop standard versions of programs for Mac OS X and Windows; note that the Forcification of the Chrome browser, Gmail, and YouTube can only be experienced on the desktop.

If you get bored with it all — or hate the movie — and want to ditch the whole thing, go back to google.com/starwars. Drag your avatar back to the center of the screen and click Back to Default to have your Google apps return to their regular state. Google will automatically turn off the Choose Your Side skins and return to its regular appearance by February 1, 2016.

Oh, and one last Easter Egg, if you haven’t done it already: Open Chrome or the Google search app, type in “A long time ago in a galaxy, far, far away” and hit the Enter key. You know you want to.


Episode 47 News: SHIELDs Up!

It’s been a busy middle week of May on the pop culture front, with plenty of geeky TV news (Almost Human and Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. coming to the broadcast airwaves this fall), our favorite Watson speaking out on racism in Hollywood, a new Dan Brown history cryptothriller and a big health announcement from geek-girl icon Angelina Jolie. Amid it all, there was even some tech news.

The next version of Windows is no longer Blue, but now Windows 8.1. This is an update to the current Windows 8 system that has had a few detractors since it’s release last fall. As reported by Engadget and other blogs around the Web, the upgrade will be free and available from the Windows 8 home screen when it’s done and ready for downloading. (Windows 8 itself has been dubbed Microsoft’s “New Coke” in some circles for its thudding reception, but hey, maybe it’s a marketing thing…)

BlackBerry is also updating a recent system. Version 10.1 of the new BlackBerry OS for Z10 users is rolling out. The folks at BBHQ also announced that its BBM — BlackBerry Messenger Service — was expanding to other smartphone platforms. Perhaps the expanded service will lure more users, as Gartner Research and their data reports that BlackBerry only snagged 3 percent of worldwide mobile phone sales in 1Q 2013; nearly 75% of phones sold were running Android, while Apple had around 18 percent.

Nokia unveiled the Lumia 925, a reduced-fat version of its Lumia 920 Windows Phone The Lumia 928 model, available here in the States on Verizon’s network, adds a Xenon flash to the hardware mix. (One handset that did not sell well last month: the HTC First, the original Facebook Home phone, which may be may be discontinued soon by AT&T.)

Apple could be changing up the way it deals with hardware repairs and its AppleCare extended warranty plans this fall. Of course, it’s all rumor until Apple announces something, but it sounds like the company will have quite a bit to announce around harvest time.

Google is holding its annual I/O conference this week and had many announcements. In addition to talking about its upcoming plans for Android, its new streaming music service and other products, Google-placed environmental sensors will be recording anonymous data from the attendees to analyze crowd flow and other conference happenings. (As for conference happenings, it’s unlikely the ill-fated Nexus Q will get a mention.)

Despite preparing for its big fancy conference, Google also found time to unify online storage options for its Google Drive, Gmail and Google+ photo services. The company also had a few moments to stick an Easter Egg into its Google Images service. And in a bit of corporate cooperation, Microsoft has made its Outlook.com Webmail service interoperable with the Gmail chat program and Google Chat.

Amazon has released a new version of its Cloud Player app for Windows users. Although PC users could already listen to their music stored in Amazon’s cloud through the Web browser, the new app can now store music offline. A Mac version is said to be in the works.

For those who like to cook and also love Android tablets, Archos has released the ChefPad, a 9.7-inch Jelly-Bean-based tablet. The $210 8GB tablet comes with a splash-resistant case and stand in case the home-made sauce really starts flying. Android fans who prefer gaming to cooking may want to check out the Nvidia SHIELD instead, a new $350 portable Android-based gaming system on the way next month.

And finally, three astronauts who’ve been up on the International Space Station for the past five months have returned to Earth in a Russian Soyuz capsule. Among the three was Canadian astronaut Chris Hadfield, known for his videos on life in space and his recent cover of David Bowie’s classic track, “Space Oddity.” Welcome home, gentlemen! Just in time to grab a showing of Star Trek Into Darkness on its opening weekend and stock up on some sartorial upgrades!


Episode 47: We Had Joy. We Had Fun.

J.D. helps us get the most out of our Webmail and Pedro gives us his view on the state of the pop music scene. In the news, Microsoft prepares to unveil Windows 8.1; Samsung and Android continues it’s smartphone dominance; the latest reports from Google’s I/O conference; Archos releases a tablet specifically designed for the kitchen; Nvidia begins taking preorders for their Shield mobile gaming system; and the HTC First Facebook Phone appears to be on the road to oblivion.

(Hopefully) Helpful Hint: Get More Out of Webmail

Want to make Webmail feel more like desktop mail when you’re checking your personal account at work or on a different computer? Sure, you can format messages in rich text and make folders in most services now, but here are a few other tips for managing your mail more efficiently through your Web browser.

1. Use keyboard shortcuts.

  • Gmail. Google’s mail program comes with one level of shortcuts that work automatically and another level that you have to turn on within the Gmail settings. The automatic ones are things like navigational controls for jumping around between messages with the arrow keys, that sort of thing. To turn on the second level of shortcuts, go into your Gmail settings by clicking on the gear-shaped menu icon, selecting Settings and tuning on the option for keyboard shortcuts. Once you save the changes, you get a couple dozen more shortcuts for composing mail, moving through conversations, archiving mail and so forth. Press the keyboard’s ? key to see a list of all the shortcuts.
  • Yahoo. Yahoo has all kinds of shortcuts for using Yahoo Mail, including those for composing messages, working with message lists and navigating.  Press the keyboard’s ? key to see a list of all the shortcuts.
  • Outlook.com. In Microsoft’s Webmail service, which used to be Hotmail, you can use the built-in shortcuts, or if you’re coming from Gmail or Yahoo, you can use those instead. When you’re in Outlook.com,  Press the keyboard’s ? key to see the shortcuts and get to the settings.


2. Drag and drop those attachments.

Most Webmail programs now let you do it this way instead of clicking the attach button and navigating through your hard drive to find the file you want to send. Gmail has more information here and Yahoo’s mail-attachment tips are here. Outlook.com still uses the Insert button, but you can choose to stick them on as “Files as attachments,” Pictures inline” or “Share from SkyDrive.”

3. Use integrated online storage for big attachments.

Speaking of the “Share with SkyDrive” option — got a 30-megabyte file that’s too big to attach to a normal message? The big three Webmail service all have integration with other cloud services. Microsoft’s SkyDrive can do the heavy lifting for mail attachments with Outlook.com and other mail programs. If you have Gmail, you can insert that big attachment that lives on your Google Drive to your Gmail message. Yahoo Mail recently linked up with Dropbox for similar big attachment handing.

Some things about doing mail on the Web will always be different than managing your messages with a dedicated desktop program, but Webmail does give you a lot of freedom and perks of its own. And just think how far it’s come since the original HoTMaiL’s official launch back on July 4, 1996, with its free two megabytes of storage.

Episode 45: Summer Movie Spectacular

Okay, maybe it isn’t exactly a “Spectacular” but J.D. does update the summer’s geek movie calender while El Kaiser hashes out the differences between an Image Macro and a Meme. In the news rumors abound that Apple is getting set to unveil new versions of their OSes; Windows Phone gains traction; Google debuts their virtual personal assistant software; and McDonald’s gets set to offer breakfast all day.

Episode 36 News: Space Rocks!

Interplanetary boulders and red-plant dust have been flying this month. The Mars Curiosity rover drilled into the target rock and collected its very first sample. SpaceRef.com has a detailed look at the drilling, the sample collection and what may come next.  Last week also saw the fly-by asteroid that came very close to Earth and the meteor that did hit, breaking up and pelting Russia last Friday. Reports of that meteor were all over the Web shortly after it hit, thanks to YouTube, Twitter and the apparent Russian love of dashboard cameras. Local people in the area are now said to be selling pieces of the space rock on eBay.


The meteor new has generated new interest in space and material science in the news, and a blog over on the British news site, the Telegraph, has an interesting essay about how heavy metals like gold and platinum may have come from meteorites hitting the Earth. And don’t forget: NASA is also hosting a live Google+ hangout with the crew on the International Space Station on February 22.

In non-space news, Canonical has officially unveiled a version of its Ubuntu Linux system for tablets. A developer preview arrived this week and will run on the Nexus 7 and 10 tablets (at least). Along with tablets, Ubuntu has also getting into smartphones lately.

The rumors are growing louder that Facebook will start embedding autoplay advertisements in user newsfeeds this spring – possibly in April. Some news sources have pointed out that Facebook costs money to operate and most things as useful as it is charge users and advertising is the life-blood that keeps the consumer Internet free.

Facebook itself was the target of hackers recently and these same hackers also managed to infect the computers of some Apple employees. Security breaches were just busting out all over. Burger King’s Twitter feed was hacked this week and was posting such announcements like the sale of the chain to archrival McDonald’s. The Twitter feed for Jeep was also compromised this week.

The New York Times and other news organizations have stories about a new 60-page report on Chinese hackers by the computer security company Mandiant. The report traces more than a hundred attacks on government departments, companies and journalists to a building about 40 minutes outside downtown Shanghai. The building is reportedly the headquarters of People’s Liberation Army Unit 61398. The Times contacted officials at the Chinese embassy in Washington, who again insisted that their government does not engage in computer hacking.

The Samsung Galaxy S4 will get announced March 14, and Google’s alleged Nexus 5 smartphone may be launching this spring as well, if the rumors are true. Both the Galaxy S4 and the new Google phone are thought to have a 13-megapixel camera.  (As for Google, some Web gossips are even postulating a Triple 5 theory.) And while Samsung and Google duke it out, Samsung continues its competition with Apple and may even be doing its own smartwatch. With news of Google possibly opening its own retail stores, can Samsung stores be that far behind? Also biting the Big G: Microsoft said its Outlook.com mail service has gained 60 million users in 6 months, some of them, Gmail users.

And finally, the theory has been around for a while, but according to research published by Hungarian physicist Albert-László Barabási in in The Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society, no two Web pages are separated by more than 19 clicks. Estimates put the total number of Web pages out there at more than 14 billion. So according to the theory all of these pages, through some link, text, image or other element, is less than 19 clicks from every other Web page out there. We are the world, yo.

Episode 11 News: Let’s Be Careful Out There

If Web browsers could compete in their own Olympics this summer, Google Chrome would take the gold. For July 2012, the traffic-measurement company StatCounter, puts Chrome’s global market share at 33.8 percent. Microsoft’s Internet Explorer takes the silver with a 32 percent share and Firefox lands the bronze with 23.7 percent. Not making it to the podium: Apple’s Safari with a 7.1 percent worldwide market share and Opera, with about a 1.72 percent share of the global browser market.

Luckily for Apple, Safari is not its only piece of software and the company has been keeping busy prepping its coming iOS 6 system for iPads, iPhones and iPod Touches. Google’s map cartography has already been tossed overboard for the new system, and now YouTube is getting dropped from the default apps on the Home screen. One hopes that Apple is also investigating a battery issue with its new OS X 10.8 Mountain Lion system, as a number of online complaints have popped up from folks reporting that their laptop battery charges haven’t been lasting as long since they Cougarized their Macs.

Microsoft has been keeping itself occupied as well, revamping its Windows Phone developer portal into Windows Phone Dev Center and overhauling Hotmail into its new Outlook.com Web mail site. (At least one review rather likes the new Outlook.com interface, but remember, we can’t call it “Metro” anymore.)

On the mobile front, AT&T is launching its Mobile Share wireless plans for people with a lot of devices and who don’t want to ride herd on multiple data plans; AT&T explains the new stuff here. (The company says you can also keep your current plan and won’t shove you onto one of the new ones.)

Like satellite radio but never have time to listen to it when you want to? SiriusXM Radio has just announced its new service, SiriusXM Radio On Demand, which lets subscribers using its iOS app (or online media player) pick out and listen to their favorite episodes from 200 different shows to listen to whenever they want. And Android version is in the works.

In legal news, U.S. Representative Dennis Kucinich of Ohio has introduced a federal law that, if passed, would put warning labels on cell phones and create a national research program to study cell phone radiation levels. The bill, formally known as H.R. 6358, is casually referred to as “The Cell Phone Right to Know Act.”

Finally, it you missed the writer Mat Honan’s sad tale of cloud power gone wrong, give it a read. It involves security flaws at Apple and Amazon, hijacked accounts, lost data and a lesson for all of us who keep part of our lives online. As a result of Mr. Honan’s misfortune, Apple and Amazon have made some changes to their policies and, there’s been a renewed interest in Google’s two-step account authentication process and helpful articles offering tips for better personal security.