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#928: Notifications for Gmail, Control your Mobile Data, Mobile Banking

 
     
 

Greetings Friends,

I hope everyone had a happy and safe Memorial Day weekend! I spent the long weekend breaking in the camping gear with my family as we officially kicked off our summer camping season. It was a little bit chilly, but we still made the best of it! It is nice to spend a weekend relaxing and just enjoying time together. We even managed to survive an entire weekend without cell phones or internet! With all the technology around us, and working with it on a daily basis, I admit it’s a great feeling to disconnect and recharge for a few days. 

This past week I encountered a few machines which were suffering from data corruption. Data corruption can be a very tedious and frustrating process to sort through, in some cases it can actually mean loss of files. Data corruption can not always be avoided, but there are some simple steps you can take when using your machine to try and reduce the likely hood of data corruption. One is to try to avoid force powering down your machine; whenever possible always follow proper shut down and sleep procedures. Avoid force quitting programs as well as just unplugging external drives unless it’s absolutely necessary; force quitting your programs and unplugging drives without properly un-mounting them can lead to data corruption. If you have a program that is crashing on a regular basis, this can be a sign that potentially data corruption had occurred. If you are noticing crashes within your programs, try repairing permission on your disk through disk utility. Installing a solid state hard drive can running regular Time Machine backups is another simple step and precaution one can take to try and minimize any potential corruption to your data. Solid state drives are much more stable than traditional drives. Lastly, keeping your Time Machine backups current could be a real life saver in the event your data does get corrupted. Time Machine allows users to restore from specific back ups. This was a lifesaver for me once with a Windows partition on my machine that ended up with a virus. Thanks to Time Machine I was able to restore data prior to the virus infecting my machine! 

Thank you for reading!
Emily Dolloff
emily@smalldog.com

 
   
     
  OS X Notifications for Gmail  
   
 

It’s a little weird to think about how long the “modern” incarnation of the internet has been around. I remember back in 2004 I was just a sophomore in high school. My friend excitedly told me that he had a handful of invitations to something called “Gmail.” It’s hard to imagine nowadays, but good webmail wasn’t a common thing back then. I remember how excited I was that it came with one whole gigabyte of storage! And it was always increasing! How could Google do that?!

Well that was over 10 years ago now. Gmail has changed a lot since then, but it’s still a very good webmail client. I still use the original account I created back in 2004. When I got my Macbook Air, though, I figured, might as well set up Mail and use that for email. Don’t get me wrong, Mail is a very capable program, and I love the way it integrates with OS X Yosemite. I was essentially “raised” on webmail clients though, which have always had a different feel from standalone desktop mail clients, so Mail feels arcane to me in many ways.

I decided to stop using Mail and switch back to using Gmail in Safari. Obviously that works really well, but there are certain things Mail could do that Gmail in Safari didn’t. I could get over all of them except for one: notifications. When new mail comes in, I want to know about it. OS X has a great notifications system and it seems a shame to not take advantage of it. The Mail app is obviously tied into OS X so it can push out notifications for new mail, but here’s something you may not know: Webkit, the layout and HTML rendering engine used by Safari, Google Chrome and many other browsers supports something called “webkitNotifications.” These are really cool. Basically, they are a way for pages within the browser to request permission of the operating system to push operating system notifications. These notifications are no different from the ones sent by Mail, or Messages, or any other OS X application.

Can you see where I’m going with this? Yes, you can enable these notifications for Gmail within Safari on OS X Mountain Lion and up. It requires a bit of tinkering to make it work in Safari, but it’s pretty easy to do. Google Chrome will pretty much do it by default, and I think Safari doesn’t do it out of the box because Google wants to push you into using their browser.

Here’s how to get notifications running.

  1. First, you need to enable the Develop Menu. You can do this by going to Safari > Preferences > Advanced and checking the “Show Develop menu in menu bar.”
  2. Next, visit mail.google.com and log into your account.
  3. With your Gmail account open, click the Develop Menu item and select “Show Web Inspector.”
  4. The Inspector console will now show on the bottom of the screen. If it’s not in console mode, just click the Console button on the top of the Inspector window.
  5. At the bottom of the console, there should be a little “>” symbol. This is where you can enter JavaScript and other commands to execute on the page. You want to paste the following JavaScript code into that box and press enter: window.webkitNotifications.requestPermission(function(){alert(window.webkitNotifications.checkPermission());})
  6. An alert box will pop up showing “0” which means that mail.google.com now has permission to send notifications to the operating system. Voila!

As long as you have Safari open (even in the background) with a Gmail tab or window running, you will receive notifications about new mail! As a bonus, just like all OS X notifications, you can change the style, behavior, etc. by opening System Preferences > Notifications and tweaking the settings for Safari.

This simple modification makes Gmail so much more usable within OS X. Now I can be on top of my new mail as soon as it comes in.

 
   
     
  Summertime Fun with your Mac  
   
 

It’s that time of year again…summertime! In many cases this means traveling to various places and seeing various people. As excitement builds, most people often forget they may use their mobile hotspot to stay connected to the internet when needed. You must check with your cellular carrier to verify you have hotspot set up on your account and then you’re ready to enjoy the usage of your MacBook or iPad while on vacation.

That being the case, most mobile hotspots have only an allotted amount of data you can use. You really want to make sure you get the most efficient use out of your device when it is connected to your hotspot. Through trial and error I found there are quite a few apps that help you restrict data usage on your OS X devices while traveling. I personally reccomend TripMode however, at this time it’s not in the App Store. Nonetheless, you can download this app directly from their website. This app is a pretty amazing app to help restrict data usage while using a mobile hotspot, yet still giving you the freedom to enjoy all the spots you love visiting, and helping you control your data usage and avoid a large bill from your wireless provider.

TripMode allows you to quickly and easily block specific apps the second you connect to a hotspot. When you connect to a hotspot, TripMode automatically starts restricting access to the internet from any apps you have open. You can customize which ones get access and which don’t. You can also monitor how much data they use, which is handy if you have a data cap on your hotspot. The best part about this app is that there’s a free seven-day trial available on the developer’s site that I’ve included above. If you love this app as I do then the small investment of buying the app for ($7.99) will save you a lot of money in the future. Who doesn’t love saving money?

 
   
     
  Mobile Banking  
   
 

I use my gizmos for all sorts of stuff, but anything to do with money and technology in the same sentence has always made me a little uncomfortable. It’s been a long journey that took me several years, but it’s finally at the point where I can do most of my financial heavy lifting from my iPhone or my Mac without hesitation. There are a few developmental steps that I had to progress through before I was ready for this though.

The first was trusting the system. I had a very common distrust of doing finances on my computer, like all it would take is just a foolish click or typing in the wrong number and horrible things would happen, or I would get hacked. My belief at the time was that if I didn’t do my banking on my machine then I wouldn’t be capable of being a victim. When I talked with my bank about my fears they let me know that there are protections against some mishaps and greatly eased my fears. They did make it very clear that I should protect my account numbers and login information with the same level of caution I would guard my Social Security number with. Most banks require a really good password (really tricky to even make one that meets their requirements the first few times- this many uppercase, that many lowercase, oh so many characters, some symbols, some numbers, and maybe even more, like punctuation). Having long and complicated passwords is a pain, but it’s important and necessary. Another thing that many banks have embraced is two-step verification, where you need a password, as well as a secondary verification method. Most implementations of this send your phone a text message, or opt to have a robot call you and give you the secret code that’s always changing. This greatly enhances security; my thoughts are that it’s a pain to me when I know my password and have my phone, if someone malicious is trying to guess my password and succeeds, they’ll also need my phone for that second part of the two-step verification.

I almost always have my iPhone with me and one of the most useful money management apps I’ve used thus far is Mint. What I found attractive about this app is that I can put in multiple accounts and credit cards and see how much money has come in, what’s gone out and where it’s gone. Mint has all sorts of neat and useful features, like pretty graphs. There’s a lot of tweaking you can do, like any purchases I make at gas stations are generally automatically set to fuel, but I can re-categorize the purchase to snacks or whatever might be more appropriate. I can even make a note about a specific purchase. Mint was the first finance app I was really comfortable having on my phone because they made a point that it’s just for viewing my purchases, and I can’t actually move money around.

Many credit cards offer alerts for purchases. I have it set that when charges of a certain nature happen on a credit card I get an email or text message. If I have my phone with me, I generally get notified before I walk out the door of wherever I made the purchase. There are a couple of other apps that are companions to a physical debit card I carry. One is the Simple app. I get push notifications directly from this app. Google Wallet does this as well. It’s really impressive how fast these notifications come through.

My bank and credit cards all have their own apps as well. I remember getting hit with like a three dollar “mobile banking fee” for moving some money around in my bank’s app, I’m sure it was in black in white somewhere in that large block of text that I just tapped “I agree” to so that I could start using the app. On the plus side, I have no recollection of ever being billed for just checking my transactions or balance from any app or using a service like Mint.

I enjoy online banking for it’s convenience and the mobile apps are a potentially useful extension that has definitely made my life easier.

 
   
     
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