All posts by Amit Banerjee

Amit has been writing for Techie Buzz since early 2009 and keeps a close eye on web apps, Google and all things Tech. He also writes at his own tech blog, Ampercent. Follow him on Twitter @ amit_banerjee

Gmail Wants You to Verify Email Addresses Before Auto Forwarding

Gmail filters are great – you can use them for a variety of tasks. From moving selected conversations to specific labels to auto archiving replies – Gmail filters and the auto forwarding feature makes life easy, in case you get dozens of emails every hour.

Gmail has added a security layer in the auto forwarding email procedure. When you try to add a new email address where you want to forward emails from your existing Gmail account, Gmail requires you to first verify that email address.

To add a new email address for auto forwarding email, go to Settings> Forwarding and POP/IMAP.

Once you have added an email address, you are shown the following message:

Gmail sends a confirmatory link to that email address along with a verification code. You will have to click the confirmation link or enter the verification code to complete the auto forwarding set up procedure. Here is how the confirmatory email looks like:

However, if you are using Google Apps premier or Google Apps education edition, you   do not have to verify the forwarding email addresses. Regular Google apps users are an exception though. More information on Gmail forwarding can be found here.

Microsoft Will Soon Discontinue Security Support For Windows XP Service Pack 2

XP users, heads up ! Microsoft is soon going to discontinue support for security updates of Windows XP service pack 2. If you’re running one of these versions after support ends, you won’t get security updates for Windows after July 13, 2010.

The security updates for users who are using Windows Vista without any service packs has already been stopped on April 13, 2010. However, Microsoft will provide the necessary security updates to XP users using service pack 3 as usual.

If you are not sure which version or service pack of Windows you are using, click the start menu button, type winver in the search box, and then press “Enter”.

It’s very clear that Microsoft want the users to upgrade to a better and current version of Windows (read Windows 7). But this decision, will surely have an impact on a lot of organizations around the world, assuming that they regularly install the latest updates from Windows.

There are still thousands of homes, offices, schools and other corporate organizations who use Windows XP regularly and stopping the security updates will leave them with no option other than to upgrade to a newer version of Windows.

On this issue, this site has put together some interesting verdicts by security experts. Here is an excerpt:

Companies choosing to not adhere to vendor support lifecycles presents a risk to a network as vulnerabilities exist that can lead to virus outbreaks, breaches in security and potential loss of data

The longer Microsoft continues to support legacy products and applications, Microsoft and its customers will suffer as they will spend effort and energy supporting legacy code instead of ultimately developing new technologies and security measures.

Do you use Windows XP and install the latest Windows updates? Are you going to upgrade to a current version of Windows? Share your thoughts in the comments section.

Twitter Search Adds Expanding Shortened URL’s From Search Result Page

Shortened URL’s are unpredictable, you have no idea where a shortened link is going. Yes, there are browser extensions and tools like Unhid, which can reveal the actual location of shortened links, but it’s always better when such abilities are incorporated in the default application or website.

Twitter search has added a new “expand” feature which let anyone see the actual location of a shortened link right from the search result page. Every shortened link is accompanied by an “Expand” link, clicking which shows the original URL as shown in the following screenshots:

The expanded link can then be shortened back in it’s original form using the “Contract” button. Think of this as a toggle button for expanding and contracting links on Twitter search page.

Revealing the actual location of shortened links can be quite useful, when you want to judge the quality of the link by looking at the URL. If the URL is from a famous site and you trust the source, you would definitely like to pay a visit.

Otherwise, you can skip and move on with the next result or tweet. And considering the fact that Twitter search is full of spam and self promotion, expanding the shortened links was much desired.
Please note that this feature is implemented only in Twitter search and not if you perform a search at Twitter.com. Thank you Chris Pirillo for noting the feature.

Free Google Voice Invites For US Students

Google Voice is a really awesome service, which provides you with an alternative number which you can use to manage your physical phones, and also setup rules and filtering so that you are not disturbed with unwanted calls or messages. Unfortunately, Google voice is only available for US citizens and that too with an invitation.

The good news is that Google is giving away free Google Voice invites to U.S students. To request a free invite, all you need is a .edu email address – this is to ensure that you are a student.

To request a free invite, head over to this page and fill a simple application form as shown below:

The official Google blog quotes:

Google Voice is currently only available by invite, a lot of students are still listening to voicemail and sending text messages the old-fashioned way. As a recent college graduate, I can’t think of anything more painful! So starting today, we’ll be giving priority Google Voice invites to students.

If you are a U.S Student and do not have a Google Voice invitation yet, this is the right moment to request a free invite.

New Privacy Option For YouTube Videos: Upload Videos as “Unlisted”

Later yesterday, YouTube announced a new privacy option for uploading videos – Unlisted videos. Now you can upload videos in your YouTube account and mark them as “Unlisted”.

The unlisted videos are sort of private videos, which will never appear in the video search result pages. Only those people can view and comment on your unlisted video who know the Video URL, rest of the world does not knows about it.

The “unlisted videos” are also hidden from your channel page, which means your subscribers will not get any update whenever you upload a new video and mark it as “unlisted”.

Earlier, YouTube allowed a similar privacy feature – share the video with a maximum of 25 YouTube users. That feature is kept intact but with Unlisted videos, there is no limit on the number of people who can view a video. Another feature worth mentioning – the viewers do not need a YouTube account to view the private video of yours.

This appears strange, if privacy is a concern and YouTube wants to add the ability to upload private videos, why not add a restriction on the number of viewers?

However, the “unlisted” sharing mode will be useful for many users. Consider a scenario: you have a small video clip of your wedding anniversary and want to share the video with a distant friend. Just upload the video in your YouTube account, mark it as “unlisted” and share the URL with your friend. Remember to tell your friend not to share the URL with anyone else.

Are you going to use the “unlisted” mode for YouTube videos? Share your ideas in the comments section.

Now Gmail Lets you Drag and Drop Images From Desktop Into Email Message Body

A few days back, Gmail added the functionality to drag and drop attachments from desktop in an email message. It works quite simple – drag the file(s) you want to attach and drop it in the attachment pane of Gmail. The file is instantly uploaded and attached to your email message. This has proved to be a useful feature, you no longer have to hit the old browse button, navigate to the location of the file and then click “Upload”.

Now Gmail has added another cool feature – you can attach images in the email message body by a simple drag and drop from your desktop, or from any other folder in your computer.

Suppose you have a bunch of images which you want to attach to an email message. Instead of clicking the “image upload” button and uploading each file one by one, you can select all the image files and drag them in the message body as shown below:

All the images will be uploaded one by one and when the upload is complete, you can align or resize the images as per your requirements. So simple, yet so useful.

As of now, this new feature is only available for Google Chrome but Gmail will soon implement it on other browsers as well. [ via Gmail blog ]

Clavier Makes it Dead Simple to Define Custom Hotkeys in Windows

[Windows only]: Keyboard shortcuts are great, they can be used to launch programs and applications quickly. But unfortunately, keyboard shortcuts don’t come by default with Windows and you can’t really define your own keyboard shortcuts.

Clavier is a nifty little utility for Windows which makes it dead easy to define your own keyboard shortcuts. You can use the keyboard shortcuts to launch programs, open folders, files, images, videos or possibly everything in your hard drive. Here is what you see when you run the program for the first time:

To add a custom keyboard shortcut, click the blue “+” icon and define the path of the folder or program you want to open. Suppose you want to open Windows media player, whenever you hit the “M” key from the keyboard. Just navigate to the start menu entry of Windows media player as shown below:

Clavier also supports hot keys for special characters   and symbols so you can specify a keyboard shortcut for a particular symbol ( e.g alpha, beta, gamma). This is useful, when you are creating a word document and want to skip searching for the symbol options.

Want to open your favorite sites using custom hot keys ? Clavier has a built in URL launcher which can be used to open websites using just a keystroke. Apart from launching sites, the program can also be used to enter information in forms and text fields. This is quite handy for filling in comment forms, sign up pages and so on.

Techie Buzz Verdict

Overall, Clavier is a full featured app for defining your own keyboard shortcuts in Windows. You can create rules   as well specify whether the Caps lock, Num lock or Scroll lock keys have to be on or off for the activation to be successful. One suggestion though – add a panel in the program interface which will show all the defined keyboard shortcuts, it will be useful when we forget one or two.

Techi Buzz rating: 4/5 (Excellent).

MouseTrap Locks the Mouse Cursor in a Multi Monitor Setup

[Windows only]: If you use multiple computer monitors at your workplace, then you know how frustrating it is to keep the mouse cursor in control. Sometimes, it occurs that the cursor swaps in the external monitor. You can’t operate program windows or applications in the main monitor, have to move the cursor back to the main monitor and so on.

MouseTrap is a free utility for Windows which can lock the cursor in a specified monitor. Once the program is running and the host monitor is specified, you can’t really move the cursor out.

To use the utility, simply unzip the files and run the executable. When you want to lock the cursor, hit ALT + Z and the cursor is locked. To release the cursor, hit Alt + X. This is quite useful when you are viewing a movie or presenting something in a big screen and want the cursor to be confined in the external monitor only.

The program has no interface, not even a system tray icon so if you want to get rid of the cursor locks, use ALT + X. The program works in Windows XP, Windows Vista and Windows 7.

Techi Buzz Verdict

Mousetrap solves the purpose well, but unfortunately there are no settings which you can tweak. If you forget the keyboard shortcuts, you have to use Windows task manager to quit the application. I would like to see at least a system tray icon being included in the later releases.

Techi Buzz rating: 3/5 (Average).

Digg’s URL Shortener Will Not Work for Non-Digg Links

Earlier, we saw Digg launching new and improved buttons and widgets for blogs and websites. Now the Digg team has decided to shut down the Digg URL shortener on May 17th, 2010.

The Digg URL shortener doesn’t work if you want to shorten any URL other than a Digg story. However, if you had earlier shortened links using the Digg URL shortener, they will continue to work as expected.

Here is an official announcement:

As of May 17th, 2010, the Digg short URL feature will be available only for URLs that refer to stories submitted to Digg. Users will continue to be able to share their favorite Digg stories by generating a short URL via the “Share” button. However, it will not be possible to generate a short URL for a web URL that does not refer to a submitted story on Digg. The “shorturl.create” method in Digg API will be deprecated as of that date. Previously generated Digg short URLs will continue to operate beyond this date.

Users will be able to share Digg stories using the “Share” button but the URL shortener will not work for external URL’s. This move may be a part of the design makeover they are planning to implement, but why kill the old features which so many users use? First they removed the Digg bar and now the URL shortener, god knows what’s next.

Wikipedia Companion: Quickly Search Wikipedia Website from Google Chrome

Wikipedia is a trusted source of information – when you want a general reference or want to define something, without adding all the text in your document. I regularly use the online encyclopedia for my writing work, projects and when I want to refer to definitions or popular personalities. If you are a writer and regularly use Wikipedia pages for referencing, you are certainly going to love the Wikipedia companion extension for Google Chrome.

After the extension is installed, click the small “W” icon placed just right to the Chrome address bar:

This opens a small pop up window where you can type the keywords in a text box and search the Wikipedia website without leaving the current page.

The extension is useful, because I can search Wikipedia from the same browser tab and avoid distractions while I am writing something. The second advantage is that the extension lets you open the page in a new browser tab, in case you want to read the complete Wikipedia page. Here is how the pop window loads the content:

The extension supports multi lingual searches and you can browse a series of pages and links in the same pop up window. To make it clear, you can use the back and forward buttons in the pop up window and any web link can be opened in the same pop up. Neat !

Techi Buzz Verdict

The Wikipedia companion extension is simple to use and solves the problem of opening the Wikipedia website again and again in a new browser tab. If you search Wikipedia quite often, this extension is a must use.

Techi Buzz rating: 4/5 (Excellent).