Archive for the ‘Google Apps’ Category

Google Search Data vs Real CDC Data: Guess who wins?

Google has been using search data to model flu outbreaks for a number of years. Generally, they look at the number of searches for words related to “flu” (graphs) and look for sharp increases in the number of searches (slopes, derivatives). You can watch a short and elegant video showing the results here. They’ve been tracking this data against the CDC data (graph comparison) and although the CDC data lags behind one to two weeks, it looks like the Google data can accurately predict when a flu outbreak starts (only, in real time). The data follows a nice periodic graph which you should be able to model with a Fourier Series.

Want the data? Google will give you the data (go here).

Perhaps, intrigued by this, you’d like to see if search trends make any other predictions – perhaps you could’ve predicted the recession in January 2008 (instead of 12 months later) by looking at searches for bankruptcy, unemployment, jobs, etc. You could assign a project to your students and have them use Google Trends.

Unfortunately, I’m about to take a sabbatical, so I can’t do this with a class next semester, but I’m thinking that it would be a good project for Honors Calculus in the fall! I think I will have each student come up with a set of terms to track that are related to a topic they are interested in, and then track the data a few times a week every week. When they notice sharp differences in the curve (looking at the slopes), we could look for indications that changes in the world are causing changes in the their topic. Perhaps we will see that they, too, can predict what is about to happen based on sudden changes in search data. Fun! (I almost wish I wasn’t going on sabbatical … almost…)

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Dear Santa: Bring me Stealth Gmail

Dear Santa,

I know it’s early in the year to be thinking about Christmas, but all the stores have out their Christmas decorations, so I figured, why not get the jump on my request.

Can you get the elves at Google to work on a feature for me? I want to be able to go to Gmail and compose a new message (and see my archives) without seeing my inbox. My inbox is too distracting. I lack email-self-control. If I could avoid looking at my inbox throughout the day, I could get more done. The problem is that I have to be able to compose messages or search for older messages at any time. While you’re at it, keep my chat features off while I’m in “stealth” mode too.

If you have no pull with the elves at Google, can you bring me a complete Wii gaming system instead?



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Got Gmail? Set up a Security Question

Everyone is always sending me stories of that poor soul that got locked out of their Gmail account (and every other Google app) because of a security problem. The unfortunate victim spends days (or even weeks, gasp) trying to get back in. Some criticize Google for not having a 1-800 number for help in these circumstances. Of course, you get what you pay for, and the majority of us pay nothing for our Google Apps use. I’ve read that there IS now a phone number to call for help if you are a paying Google App customer (is that enough reason to just pay the $20 a year for extra storage space?).

Anyways, there does now seem to be a solution to the Gmail-lockout-problem. If you ever get locked out of gmail, you will wish you had taken the 60 seconds to do this…

In Gmail, go to Settings, then click on the Accounts tab. Towards the bottom, click on Google Account Settings.

In the new window, click Change Security Question. Make a security question and give Google a secondary email address.

This is the information that Gmail will ask for on the web if you ever get locked out of your Google accounts. Without this information, it is very difficult for Google to confirm that you are really you, and if they can’t confirm that you are really you via a webpage, then you’re going to be in Gmail-lockout hell.

P.S. No, I am not speaking from experience, I just don’t want to have the experience and I don’t want you to have it either!

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Forgot that Attachment? Gmail’s will help.

Google Labs is now testing a service that searches the text of your email for references to attachments, and then warns you if you’re about to send an email without an attachment. Here’s my one-minute video to show you how to set it up.

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Sneaking Equations into Gmail

Here’s one I’ve been meaning to post for a while. Last month I figured out how to sneak equations into the text of email messages in gmail. It’s not ideal – ideal would be an equation editor built in to Gmail, but it does work and I’ve verified that the equations show up as intended on the receiving end of the emails in various programs (Outlook, Yahoo, Hotmail, etc.).

Here’s the principle: You know how companies are able to send you email that has lots of pictures and clickable text – just like a webpage? This is HTML-based email, and you can create it too using Google Page Creator as your editor.

If you already have a gmail account, you can use Google Page Creator to do the same things that these companies do when they build active HTML pages for email.

Create your equations with an equation editor (like MathType) and then use a screen-capture program (like Snagit or Jing) to create small image files of the equations you want in your email. Remember where you save the images, because you will have to find them again!

In Google Page Creator, create what you’d like to have in the email. One way to do it is to write the text in Page Creator and insert the images between the text lines.

A more efficient way to do it would be to write the text and equations in your equation editor, and insert the whole thing as an image in Page Creator.

When your document looks as you desire, copy the material in Google Page Creator, then paste the material (Ctrl-V) into a new email in Gmail. It should appear in the email exactly as it appeared on the page in Google Page Creator.

The reason this works (I think) is that both editors are WYSIWYG (what you see is what you get) editors built by Google and they are both writing the same back-end HTML code for everything you create.

Google Page Creator hosts the image files on the google servers, even if you never publish the web page. However, you can’t delete the images out of Google Page Creator, or they will disappear from the emails. I just have an unpublished page in Page Creator called “Sneaking Equations into Gmail” and I just keep adding new material to at the top.

Like I said at the beginning, it’s not ideal. Google should either build an equation editor that is compatible with all of its applications or integrate an existing equation editor into its applications. Google searching is optimized by mathematicians … you’d think that they’d be all over this!

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Google’s April Fool Involving a Cute Math Equation

I saw this “new” feature of gmail last night, but it wouldn’t open up until this morning. Gmail Custom Time (allowing you to send emails from the past).
How does it work?
“Gmail utilizes an e-flux capacitor to resolve issues of causality.”
And here’s the math:

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Building and loving your iGoogle Page

This is my current iGoogle page.

Now that I’ve gone back and searched the blog, I can hardly believe I’ve never written a post about iGoogle. Wow. Perhaps that’s because in my blogging infancy, before I was writing this blog, I did post about iGoogle on Busyness Girl; you can go read Proselytizing for Google to see what my iGoogle page used to look like.

Here’s a tutorial on building an iGoogle page and falling in love with it! This is from the backlogged tutorials I forgot to cross-post here when I created them for the Higher Ed & Tech Frontier class.

Benefits of an iGoogle page:

1) No matter where you are (provided you have Internet) you can easily find all your “stuff” by logging in to your Google account.

2) You can add a Bookmark Widget to your iGoogle page to give you easy access to all your bookmarks from any computer.

3) Then you can add this blog to your iGoogle page! (click on the +Google icon)

4) You can quickly see if you have new gmail (other mail programs too).

5) You can pick up your RSS feed by adding Google Reader to your iGoogle page.

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How to use Google Reader

Here’s a little tutorial on using Google Reader, in case you’re starting to think it might be nice to set up an RSS reader to pick up your blogs for you.

This is a video I made for a class I’m helping with called “Higher Education and the Technology Frontier.”

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Gmail Problem? Blank page?

If anyone has trouble logging in to Gmail (i.e. getting a blank page), I have found two simple solutions:

    1. Use Firefox instead of Internet Explorer (my standard solution when internet applications that usually work don’t work).


  • Insert an “s” after the http in the address that you are trying. (this works in IE)


Don’t know what the problem is, but I’m willing to place the blame on the suspect IE browser.

UPDATE: And since the problem has not rectified itself… here’s a more permanent solution… In Internet Explorer, go to the Tools menu and Delete Browsing History … delete all your histories.

While you’re messing with Internet Explorer, you might as well make sure you have the Service Release 2 update for IE7 (I assume you’ve updated by this point) and update your Google Toolbar to Google Toolbar Version 5.0 Beta.

I’m going to post later this week about how I am using Google Notebooks to keep up with my online students, but you won’t be able to effectively use it unless you update to Google Toolbar 5.

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Why I use Gmail

Maybe you’ve heard of Gmail, maybe you haven’t. Of course I have an edu email address at my college, but I only use it for “official college business” … communication with administrators and students.

For all other communications, including Listserves, newsletters, and personal communication, I use my Gmail account (which is also free). Why?

Reason #1: The most convincing reason can be seen in the image below. When someone asks a question or posts a topic on a Listserve, I see every response to the original message “stacked” in conversation-style. Rather than getting every email disjointedly separated from the others, new responses to the same topic always come collected with ALL other responses in this thread (including my own sent messages). This is done automatically for every conversation you have via email. I probably can’t convince you just how powerful this feature is, but now that I have it on my Gmail account, my school account drives me nuts.

Reason #2: GMail gives you over 5 GB of storage space. Just to give you an idea of how much space that is, I have a 1 GB thumb drive which holds all of my book files with room to spare.

Reason #3: 20MB attachments. Need to send a camtasia video to someone? Or send it to yourself to pick up at another location? You can’t do large file attachments like this in most email programs.

Reason #4: You can search Gmail with the same speed that you can search the Internet with Google. This eliminates the need for a complicated filing system for your emails. When I want to find an email from John, I just type “John” into my Gmail search and I instantly have ALL communication to and from John that exists anywhere in my Gmail including any emails that have John in the subject line or the text of the email. If I want to find an item from some emailed newsletter that was about audacity, I type “audacity” in the Gmail search and Gmail instantly finds all emails with audacity in the subject line, to line, from line, or text of the email.

Reason #5: Gmail actually effectively filters spam. Enough said.

Reason #6: You can have Gmail pick up all your other email and send responses from the other email address. I haven’t done this with my college email (yet) because we get so much spam at the college.

Reason #7: Did I mention Gmail is free?

UPDATE: After complaining to a friend about our school email this afternoon, I decided to take the plunge and have all my edu email sent to my gmail account because… you can set up the account so that when it receives email sent from an outside address, it replies from that address too. So even though I am using gmail, it will look like the replies and composed emails are sent from my edu address. Now I can only check one email and … bonus… it’s impossible to check our school email easily from a smart phone, but easy to check gmail.

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