Tag: Web-based email

Make sure you properly log off Web services when you are finished with a shared computer

Log out properly of GMail by clicking "Sign Out"

Log out properly of GMail by clicking “Sign Out”

A common situation that affects most home users is the existence of a desktop, laptop or tablet computer used by many people of the household. This computer may not just be used by members of the household but also by the household’s guests. I was infact talking about this with someone who had come in from overseas and was using a commonly-used iPad to work a few Web-based services like his GMail and Facebook accounts. Here, he and I were underscoring the need to properly log out of these services when done with them as well as clearing Web-browser history on these devices.

Log out properly of Facebook by clicking "Log Out" in Settings

Log out properly of Facebook by clicking “Log Out” in Settings

But as one operates their Web-based email, social-networking and other services using these computers, it can be easy to leave a session of these services going especially if you are called away for some reason. This could lead to other members of the household snooping around your account or doing something on that account in your name like playing a practical joke.

A wise practice with these computers is to make sure you log off your Web-based services as soon as you have finished with these services and before you leave the computer. To do this properly, you have to click or tap the “logout” or “sign out” button on the Web-based service’s user interface, which causes the service to log you out as far as it is concerned while cleaning up any cookies and other data held on your machine relating to that session.

Familiarise yourself with the option to remove your Web-browsing history on your browser

Familiarise yourself with the option to remove your Web-browsing history on your browser

Similarly, clearing your Web browser’s history especially when finished using these commonly-used computers is also a wise practice. This avoids other users “tracking back” in to previous sessions for Web-based services or having people snoop on what previous users been browsing the Web for. The latter situation could either cause some nasty gossip to float around or, at worst, put the user in danger.

Use of multiple logins

Some operating systems like Windows and Android 4.2+ tablet implementations allow for the creation of separate accounts on that system so that each user can have their own operating environment. This can be beneficial because you can avoid the situation where someone can “snoop” around your Web history or someone’s Web email or social-network session that hasn’t been logged off properly.

Here, you could use one login as a “common-user” login while creating separate logins for the computer’s regular users. The regular users then use their own logins when they use the computer so they don’t have to worry about this kind of issue. Similarly, the separate logins can be personalised with wallpapers, “favourite Website lists”, customised colour schemes and the like as well as supporting application-level links to various social-network and other sites.

Windows 8 and 8.1 also implement a login setup which can be ported and synced across multiple computers thus allowing you to carry your computing environment between, say, a desktop and a laptop or to operate your computing environment on both your personally-used machine and a commonly-used machine.

Here, it is still a good practice to log off these accounts or enforce a lockout on them when you have finished at the computer so you can keep them private and less at risk of being meddled with.

Once you get in to the habit of logging off Web-service or user accounts on commonly-used computers and clearing Web history lists on these computers, you can avoid placing yourselves in a vulnerable position with your Internet use.

Microsoft gives street-cred to the Hotmail service by relaunching as Outlook.com


Microsoft goes cold on Hotmail as it rolls out Outlook.com | The Australian

Outlook.com preview: Microsoft reinvents its online email offerings | Engadget

Microsoft previews Hotmail successor, Outlook.com |CNet



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Microsoft has launched a brand-new consumer webmail service called Outlook.com which is built from ground zero but to be an improved experience compared to the typical Hotmail or Live Webmail user experiences.

It is intended to answer Google’s Gmail.com by providing that same clean user experience rather than the cheesy look that Hotmail and Yahoo Mail were known for. This was where there were plenty of gaudy targeted ads including TV-commercial “video ads”. Instead, there will be less space devoted to ads and there wont be those TV commercials. Similarly the user interface will also have a “Metro” look similar to the Windows 8 touch-screen user interface.

New users would be assigned an email address with the Outlook.com domain rather than the Hotmail.com which is, in some areas, is treated with disgust. As well, they would get a virtually-unlimited Inbox and 7Gb SkyDrive storage,

Existing Hotmail and Live users can upgrade to the new user interface but would have to preserve their current email address, not just for continuity’s sake but so that other Microsoft Live ecosystem services that they are part of still work. This is because these haven’t been migrated to the new domain name. Of course, there will be a question raised about whether Microsoft will cease the Hotmail service or run it side-by-side with the option to use the new user experience or fully merge to an Outlook.com account.

One key drawcard with the new Outlook.com service is its Social Web integration where you can work Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter and Gmail contacts from this service. You also have “one-click” access to these services so you can post or share material to these social networks. There is work in progress with integrating Skype in to the service so you can start a Skype videocall from your Outlook.com session.

One improvement I see of this is an attempt to work over an “old-dog” Webmail service in a manner to make it fresh to today’s expectations and throw away the cheesy look of yesteryear.

Do you view or download that picture that you received in your Webmail

A common situation for Webmail users is that when the receive an email with one or more picture attachements in it, they are faced with an option to view or download the image. This is a situation that can perplex some novice computer users when they face these situations.

Viewing an image

When you select the “View” option for that image, you see the image using your Web browser. This can work well with some Web browsers but not with others and can be annoying if the browser that you are using either shows “actual size” only or while the photo is loading.

In some cases, some browsers such as Internet Explorer can provide a user interface for panning and zooming on digital pictures that can be frustrating and unintuitive to some users. It can be good enough if you are viewing small images or viewing an image “at a glance” with a properly-behaving browser.

Downloading an image

When you select the “Download” option, the image will be copied to your computer’s local storage and you are then presented the option to “open” the image or “save” it somewhere else.

If you “open” it, you use your operating system’s default image handler which, for most desktop environments, would be a dedicated image viewer or your image management program.  Some users may find this program’s interface more intuitive because it shows the image at best resolution on the screen yet allows them to use the image handler’s zoom and pan controls to view the detail.

You also have the option to “save” the image to somewhere of your choosing on your computer’s file system to “take it further”. This can be useful for saving it to a USB memory key so you can have it printed by your favourite digital photofinisher or to show on that digital picture frame or TV. Similarly, you could “save” it to your image library as something to “come back to” later; or to view using your DLNA-capable smart TV or video player.

What do you do?

Whether to view or download that image in your Webmail can depend on what you want to do with the image.

If you want to take the image further, it is best to “download” the image and use the “save” option. On the other hand, you can just “view” the image if you are comfortable with how your Web browser shows images or “download” if you find that the image viewer or image management program’s viewing interface does the job better for you.

The World Wide Web–now 20 years old


World Wide Web turns 20, finally shakes that acne problem | Engadget

The Web Is 20 Years Old Today | TechCrunch

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What happened in computing before the Web

Since the home computer came on the scene in the 1970s, there were previous efforts to present information on these computers in a navigable form. This was achieved through the use of dedicated computer programs that were written for this task. These programs became important when the modem, which facilitated computer-to-computer communications over the telephone, came on the scene through 1980.

The main examples of these were the bulletin-board systems and “videotex / viewdata” systems which used the computer as a terminal. They typically provided a forum functionality and an information display which allowed people to bring up pages of information. But they were often difficult to operate unless you were a diehard computer nerd.

Apple was one of many companies who tried to popularise the concept of hyperlinking information where one could click on an item of information and be led to another related item of information. They did this with a program called “HyperCard” which allowed the user to link between various “cards” of information, whether in the same deck or another deck.

There were even attempts to provide indexable information for computer systems, including networked computers by using indexing software like “Isys”. These programs crawled collections of word-processing documents, spreadsheets and the like and created an index which could be searchable and the results viewed in an elementary form.

The establishment of the Web

After 1991, various universities worked towards establishing two standards that were critical to the establishment of the Web. These were “HTTP” (HyperText Transport Protocol), an efficient file-transfer protocol which allowed text to be delivered as a stream suitable for hyperlinking; and “HTML” which was a way of marking up text files to permit formatting or hyperlinking of information.

These worked hand in glove with the Internet and there was a clear advantage that one could link to information using a standard “Uniform Resource Locator” or “URL”. This link could point to file on any computer in the world on the Internet. All it required was the use of a program called a “Web Browser” and the first of these was “Lynx” which worked with text-based terminals. With this one, users had to enter a number pointing to the desired link they wanted to follow.

But, as the Internet became popular, there was the rise of the graphical Web browser which was in the form of Netscape Navigator. This became more intense with Windows 95 having integrated Internet functionality and Microsoft releasing Internet Explorer for this platform.

The Web as an integral part of computing

This led the World Wide Web to become the Internet’s killer application in a similar vein to how pre-recorded video movies being available for hire through video stores became the video cassette recorder’s killer application in the 1980s. We now started to talk of home pages and of “surfing the Web” or “surfing the Net” as an activity.

The Web has also provided support for a universal interface for every sort of computer-driven activity, whether browsing and searching for information, managing one’s email or doing one’s banking and shopping online. It had then led to the boom-bust cycle that was known as the “dot-com” era where companies could set up behind a Web page with a “dot-com” name and make money out of the domain names or the goods and services they could sell online.

As the Web matured, the ability to provide snazzier presentation on the Web sites allowed media companies to work on snazzier home pages, which ended up becoming “portals” that featured news and other information. These became the jump points for people to start their Web-browsing sessions from and they ended up also offering task-specific features like Web-based mail and messaging.

It also led on to the growth of the “Social Web” which is driven by the end user. This is in the form of Web logs or “blogs” which are effectively micro-journals; or social networks like Facebook where one can interlink with other like-minded people.

Even the way the Web is viewed has changed from since it first started. Previously, it was viewed on a regular desktop or laptop computer. Now the last five years has seen the Web being viewed on mobile phones, especially smartphones like the Apple iPhone; tablet computers like the Apple iPad and now the television screen with the new generation of “smart TVs” and video peripherals like Blu-Ray players or games consoles.


The World Wide Web has become one of the major cornerstones for the connected lifestyle by popularising access to online information and commerce, and simply popularising the Internet iteself.

Happy 20th Birthday World Wide Web

Why are we using email client applications over Web-based email


What draws people to Windows Live Mail and other email applications | The Windows Blog

My comments

Previous use of desktop email clients until Web-based email matured

Ever since the start of the Internet, we mainly used desktop email clients which were often part of a larger electronic-mail infrastructure like CompuServe or AOL or a corporate messaging platform. Some of us who used terminal-based email like email applications running on corporate or university mainframes; or through viewdata services like MiniTel may have had the opportunity to send Internet-based email by adding a special Internet-mail qualifier to the address.

These desktop email clients had become more sophisticated by inheriting personal organisation or word-processing abilities. It also included HTML-based email as well as easy-to-manage attachments.

The Web-based email services started to appear in 1997 with the likes of Hotmail and allowed people who use Internet cafes to send and receive mail from any computer without configuring email clients. These email services were considered as an auxiliary or temporary email service for people with their own computers as well as primary email services for nomadic people.

Mature Web-based email services

Over the years, GMail, Hotmail and Yahoo Mail improved their Web-based email services that they became a similar standard to a desktop-client experience and some computer users had moved towards these services rather than setting up a POP3 inbox and a desktop email client. Similarly, most Internet service providers and companies are also running Web-based email front-ends for their email servers.

It has also been intensified because of Internet service providers locking down their SMTP outbound-mail services in order to make it harder to send spam and this has put various limitations on travellers and others who move between locations with their own laptop computers. It also became easier for multiple-computer users to see what was read on each terminal synchronously – if it was read on one PC, it was treated as read on the other PC. This was more so as the home network became more popular as people signed up to affordable always-on broadband Internet.

Return of client-based email

We are now seeing the return of client-based email due to varying factors.

One is that Web-based email services are increasingly becoming oversubscribed and their front-end servers are taking a longer time to respond to user-generated activity. It has led to the service providers scrambling to increase bandwidth and server power to service an increased user base.

Similarly, there is an increasing number of free desktop email clients that come with either the operating system or available for download, whether as part of a Web services platform or a sidekick application to one of the many Web browsers. These clients are becoming as good as either one of the current Web-based services or as good as a premium desktop email client of a generation or two ago. They include functionality like calendar / taskpad management and RSS feed-reading support which provides for a highly-valuable highly-affordable personal-information-management solution.

The same email clients are being integrated in to handlheld devices like smartphones which have Wi-Fi or wireless-broadband support. Similarly, the size and cost of laptop computers has reduced due to the arrival of netbooks and ultraportable notebooks that have integrated Wi-Fi and, perhaps, wireless broadband. These lead to the ability to check on your email anywhere you go rather than operating a large computer for this purpose.

In the same context, Web-based email services now offers SMTP/POP3 or IMAP support either as a free service or as an add-on for a small extra cost. ISPs are also setting up secure portable access mechanisms to their SMTP servers, such that users have to log in to these servers with their mailbox credentials before they can send mail through them. This has now made client-based email become increasing relevant for more users.

Why use a desktop email client

The desktop email client provides for use of standard email application protocols and allows the messages to be held locally on the computer’s hard disk.

The speed and performance of the desktop email client is consistent to that of the local computer device rather than combination of Internet bandwidth and a busy Web-based email server.

Similarly. the experience provided by these programs is consistent to that provided by the local computer device and you can even use keyboard shortcuts that are provided by the local computer device for expediting most tasks.

People who use portable computing devices like smartphones or laptops “on the road” can benefit from creating emails offline then sending them out when they choose to go online to update the mailbox. This is also of similar benefit for rural users who are stuck with dial-up Internet and who should be getting broadband Internet service.

Why use a browser-based email experience

A browser-based email experience would suit users who have to use shared computers such as Internet cafes, public libraries or friends’ houses. It can also be used as an adjunct to client-based email setups for quick creation of supplementary email accounts.

What needs to happen further

A major flaw that currently exists with most client-based personal email setups is that there isn’t support for synchronous multi-terminal access. That is if you read an email on one computer or other device, it is marked as read when you see your emails on other devices.

This could be achieved by allowing people who subscribe to personal email services like ISP-provided email to use IMAP4 or “hosted Exchange” mail protocols as alternatives to the POP3/SMTP protocols. These protocols are being supported by most email clients that are currently in service. These protocols allow for “header-only” view for skimming email lists on low-memory devices as well as synchronous multi-terminal access.

They, especially the IMAP4 protocol, could be provided for free by most personal / residential ISPs and there could be an “auto-negotiate” routine which prefers the best option available for the user as part of email client setup.


Now that client-based email use is returning to common use, ISPs and third-party email providers should consider operating a speedy AJAX-driven Web-based interface with “best-case” rendering as well as a client-based interface that works with secure implementations of the POP3 /SMTP, IMAP4 and “hosted-Exchange” protocols.