G Suite’s New Calendar Interface

If you were looking for enhanced functionality out of Google Calendar, you’re about to get it…

My good friend Doug Golding used to have a site called Just Another Mobile Monday. He got out of the mobile enthusiast world and sold the site and unfortunately, the site didn’t survive much past the sale even though it had a decent run afterwards.

However, it was during that time that I wrote a review on the Nexus One and got deep, DEEP into Google Services. In fact, I was all in with iTechGear.org by that time and I had started using what is now called G Suite for all of my PIM services – mail, calendar, contacts and to-do’s.

As of 2017-10-17, there’s a new look and a new set of features for Google Calendar on the web. Google has taken a lot of what they’ve learned over the past seven years related to their mobile apps and have brought that knowledge forward to the desktop, web version of Calendar. This new design is responsive. It adapts itself to your screen size, presenting you with the proper controls for your size screen. Google has also added additional enterprise level features designed to help teams prep for meetings.

Google Calendar

In the new version of Calendar you can:

• See conference room details when booking a room. G Suite admins can enter detailed information about room locations so users know its location, size, seating capacity, A/V equipment status, Accessibility features, etc. Users can simply hover their pointing device cursor over the location and get all the information about the location and its resources.
• Add rich formatting and hyperlinks to calendar invitations. You can link out to documents (word processing and spreadsheets) and presentation files, and then open them directly in a new Event Detail view. Meeting agendas are now more comprehensive and interactive, and attendees can be more productive and prepared prior to the actual meeting.
• Manage multiple calendars in a single view. It’s now easier to see who is busy with what at specific times during the day so that scheduling meetings when attendees are free is now easier and more efficient.
• View contact information of meeting attendees in a calendar invitation. Again, hovering your mouse cursor over an attendee’s name will get you the details you need.
• More easily view and restore deleted items in a single place if you accidentally delete a meeting invitation.
• Day, Week and Month views are now more accessible, featuring better compatibility with screen readers

The new changes will be rolling out during the month of November 2017. By the time this is posted, we should be very close to when Rapid Release domains will begin seeing the new UI implemented (2017-11-14). Scheduled Release domains will begin transitioning to the new UI at the end of the month (2017-11-28); and the transition depending on domain size will take about eight (8) weeks. Admins will have the opportunity to opt-in or opt-out. Admins may also manually opt-in via the Google Admin console.

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Scheduled for Termination – AOL Instant Messenger

The iconic instant messaging client will send its last IM on 2017-12-15…

You know, I saw this one and it kind hit home pretty hard. I’ve been a computing professional, working with PC’s since the early 1980’s. Now that I’ve told you that I’m older than dirt, let’s get to the heart of what AIM shutting down really means. It is in fact, a true end of an era.

Farewell AIM

Back I the mid to late 1990’s when the internet got its public start (many may disagree, but it was, in fact the release of Windows 95 that really got things going…), the face of the internet was services like CompServe, MSN, and America on Line (AOL). Most people didn’t get on the “internet” per se back then. They fired up what was nearly 95% likely, a dial up service, that showed them highly curated content, in a 100% designed and controlled interface. These dial up services showed you the content you were looking for – sports, entertainment, computing, etc. – all from within a controlled, curated environment that showed them exactly what the service wanted them to see.

Messenger services were easy to create at that point. Most of the time, you, your family and friends were all using the same service. It made sense, too. Tell me when my friends, who are also using the same service, are online so that I can have an instant message conversation with them. It made communicating with friends and family, all that much easier.

And the war…! Oh my goodness…!! Ok. Show of hands… Who here remembers the IM client war? Interoperability was a huge deal back in the day when all of these things were popular. When one would figure out how the get access to another’s network, so that you could use one and only one IM client, the ACCESSED network would change the way it worked blocking those on clients other than theirs; and then figure out how the other one worked so they could do the same thing. This went on and on, back and forth, for YEARS.

Meanwhile, consolidation apps like Trillian brought them all together; but always had an outage on this IM network or another because they got blocked due to the back and forth crap in the IM war.

But it looks like all of that is now history. MSN Messenger kinda morphed into Lync and Skype for Business. AOL Instant Messenger is done in December 2017, and somehow, “https://www.icq.com”>ICQ still seems to be alive and kicking.

But as I said, AIM is out. According to Oath VP of Communications, Michael Albers,

“AIM tapped into new digital technologies and ignited a cultural shift, but the way in which we communicate with each other has profoundly changed. We are more excited than ever to continue building the next generation of iconic brands and life-changing products for users around the world.”

So, it’s the end of an era. AIM is done. The final IM on its network will be sent and received on 2017-12-15.

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Google Drive is Out of Support in December 2017

If you don’t have Google Backup and Sync, you better get crackin’…

Google drive

In July of 2017, Google announced that it was introducing a new file synchronization product called Google Backup and Sync. The desktop and smartphone/ tablet app is meant to replace Google Drive, as Backup and Sync does nearly everything that Drive does.

However, Google has stated that its going to stop supporting Google Drive in December of 2017 and will stop working entirely on 2018-03-18. This delay in the overall transition plan between Drive and Backup and Sync is designed to make the transition to the newer service a bit easier on folks who are really invested into Drive. The changes to the service allow users to sync files and folders on your Desktop as well as making all of your photos part of Google Photos as well.

The differences in the service is revealed when you enable its broader file synchronization abilities. Until then, it does the same thing as Google Drive. If you area G Suite user, you can also take advantage of File Streaming. This lets organizations store files solely in the cloud, allowing laptop users to stream them to their local hard drives when working on them, otherwise keeping local storage free and unused.

If you’re interested in getting a jump on the required update to Google Drive, you can transition over to Backup and Sync now. All you have to do is install the software.

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Data Hogs Beware!

Verizon is gunning for users of its legacy Unlimited Plan…

If there’s one thing that I know, and I know well, it’s that mobile carriers get their undies in a bunch when it comes to customers using what they consider to be “too much” bandwidth. In fact, Verizon has been, it seems, on a mission to get users of its legacy unlimited data plan to move to a current plan.

Back in 2011, Verizon killed their unlimited data plans, requiring everyone on those plans to move to a different, shared data plan. However, some users weren’t affected, and were able to remain on a legacy, unlimited data plan. Verizon has been on a mission ever since to remove remaining users from those legacy plans so they can finally be retired in favor of more lucrative data plans that limit customer bandwidth.

Recently, Verizon sent a notice to users on those plans who were using at least 200Gb a month that they would be required to choose a different data plan by 2016-02-16, or risk having their service terminated. Terminated clients will have 50 days to get with the program and get a new service plan. Clients failing to do this will be hit with contract termination fees and will have their lines of service/ accounts closed.

Back in August of 2016, Verizon targeted users consuming 500GB or more of data a month and gave them the same message – find a newer data plan or be terminated. Verizon no longer offers unlimited data on any device. They have a 100GB plan that costs $450 per month, before line and access fees. The legacy, unlimited data plan costs $100 per month.

Verizon has made a number of different changes to its service plans over recent months. At the beginning of 2017, Verizon raised its line upgrade fee from $20 to $30 per line. Every line that is upgraded to a new device will be charged this fee going forward. Verizon has also stopped offering two year subsidized phone contracts as of 2015.

Verizon has historically been an expensive mobile carrier. Individuals who use Verizon do so under one of just a few key conditions, in my experience:

  1. It’s the only carrier in town
    Verizon is often the only carrier in many rural areas. Their mobile network was built out first and in some cases, AT&T, T-Mobile and Sprint either haven’t gotten there or don’t intend to.
  2. It’s the only carrier in town with a decent signal
    In some (rural) areas, there’s carrier choice, but service from other mobile carriers is SO bad, that it’s not worth using them. Folks in this category may also travel for business and need to have a reliable signal that can be reached in the devil’s basement.

I used to be a Verizon customer. However, shortly after AT&T started offering the iPhone – and before I switched – I moved from Verizon to AT&T simply because I was able to cut my monthly spend nearly in half. Back in the day, the family and I were spending nearly $500 a month on cellular service for just three lines. Switching to AT&T drastically dropped our monthly spend.

However, their legacy unlimited data plan, popular with many iPhone and smartphone users offered access to Verizon’s fast 4G and LTE network at a reasonable cost. Now, according to Verizon, those folks are costing the company too much money and clogging up the pipe.

If you’re still a Verizon Unlimited Data user, if not now, you’re going to be targeted by the organization in the very near future. Verizon wants you off that data plan and on something else that provides them with better revenues. Let’s be clear about this – regardless of how Verizon tries to spin this to you, this is about their bottom line, not the service quality on their network.

According to VzW spokesperson Kelly Crummey, speaking with Ars Technica,

“Because our network is a shared resource and we need to ensure all customers have a great mobile experience with Verizon, we are notifying a small group of customers on unlimited plans who use more than 200GB a month that they must move to a [different] Verizon [data] Plan by February 16, 2017.”

Are you a Verizon customer? Do you still have their legacy Unlimited Data Plan? Have you received any kind of notice from Verizon that you’ll have to pick a new data plan or risk losing your line/ lines of service? If so, which data plan(s) look attractive to you? Would you consider a change or move to a different carrier like AT&T or T-Mobile who are both offering unlimited data plans again (albeit, with a few prerequisites)..?

If you fall into one of these categories, I’d love to hear from you and get your opinion on what is happening with Verizon and more importantly, how you’re treated by the company when you call them and have a customer service issue to resolve. Do they hound you to switch data plans? Have they in the past tried to force you out of your existing plan and on to another? Are they offering any kind of incentive to make the move early (I haven’ t seen any evidence of any kind of incentive…). I’d also love to know which data plan you end up choosing, if you decide to stay, and how that new data plan effects your bill.

Why don’t you meet me in the Discussion area below and give me your details? If enough people respond, I’ll do a follow up article on your experiences and put you in the lime light!

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Yahoo Hacked – 1.0B Accounts Exposed

Dude… The Fat Lady is SO singing over at Yahoo…

yahoo exposed

  1. There are a few things that come to mind here:
  2. If I were Marissa Mayer, I would crawl under a rock and hide. Like… forever.
  3. If I were Verizon, I would run, not walk, so fast and so far away from the purchase of Yahoo, and I would NEVER look back (or second guess that decision)
  4. If I were a Yahoo user, I would set fire to my account and use the mail account that my ISP gave me. At this point a comcast.net mail account can’t be seen as a bad thing…

To be honest, this is beyond pathetic.

I’ve heard it mentioned that the security breach in question is the result of a separate, earlier attack that occurred in 2013, at least six to twelve months before the attack in 2014 that exposed 500 million accounts to hackers. I’ve heard that security analysts at Yahoo brought their concerns to the management team and the analysis was effectively ignored.

In a statement, Yahoo said they weren’t able to identify the intrusion associated with the breach. Hackers may have stolen names, email addresses, telephone numbers, MD5 hashed passwords, dates of birth, and in some cases, both encrypted and unencrypted security questions and answers.

The company has further admitted that hackers may have accessed all of this information due to a theft of source code, enabling them to manufacture a way in without requiring a password. Apparently, they were able to forge a cookie that allowed them to retrieve credentials that were stored locally. While Yahoo has invalidated the security questions and their answers as well as the forged cookies, the damage has already been done.

The thing that really irks me the most here, is that this was a bigger breach than the one that was reported in 2014; AND it occurred BEFORE the breach that got so much publicity. This hack is twice as big and in my opinion twice as damning. Verizon was already “evaluating” its purchase of Yahoo. If I were them, I’d evaluate myself right out of the deal. The assets aren’t worth the risk.

Yahoo has been severely criticized by six different US senators for taking two years to publicize the September 2014 breach that lost them 500,000 accounts. This latest breach occurred a full year or so before that, and its being revealed AFTER the 2014 breach.

At this point, Yahoo knows basically NOTHING. They have no idea who may have perpetrated the attack, which nation may have sponsored the hackers or the full extent of the information that has been compromised. As a result, Yahoo’s stock took a 2.5% hit in afterhours trading on 2016-12-14. At this point, I can see the value of the stock dropping more as Verizon “evaluates” their purchase plans.

As I said, Yahoo is over. Marissa Mayer is done as a CEO, despite the amount of promise she showed during the early part of her tenue with the company. Verizon should do themselves a favor and target other web content and properties . I think their money would be better spent on assets that weren’t compromised.

If I were a Yahoo user, I’d shut my account down, get a secure password manager, and change passwords and security question answers on all my financial accounts… and that’s just for starters. Yahoo has been around since the early 1990’s. A lot of users have a great deal invested in them, and all of that metadata may be compromised at this point. Better safe than sorry for ALL involved (including investors, Yahoo management and Verizon, as well as users)…

Are you a Yahoo user? Are you still using your Yahoo account? Are you concerned about this breach? What, if anything, have you done to protect yourself and your account information? Why don’t you meet me in the Discussion area below and give me your thoughts on the breach and on Yahoo itself as well as what you’re doing to make yourself safe.

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Am I a Relic from the Distant (Music) Past? – Streaming vs. On Device Music

…And by distant past I mean, like Steve Jobs time frame… or just 15 years ago.

I’m an Amazon Prime Member. For this service, I, like everyone else who subscribes to this service, get unlimited, free, 2-day shipping on all of my Amazon, physical goods, purchases and all of the digital video my internet services (both at home and mobile) will allow me to stream.

prime-music-header

A little while ago, I got an email promo for Amazon Music Unlimited. It’s an on-demand, ad-free, music streaming service offered by Amazon (obviously) that streams music from their vast, digital music catalog. It comes with personalized recommendations, curated playlists and curated stations. It also has Prime Member exclusive pricing of $7.99 USD per month (non-Prime members can get the service for $9.99 per month). You can also get an Alexa only version for only $3.99 a month. That last deal should be especially interesting to folks who mainly listen to music only through their Amazon Echo.

Amazon is really stretching the offerings here. They’ve given users a number of different ways to get access to their vast catalog and are offering unlimited streaming without any ads. The extra $4 bucks a month for access to ALL of their music seems to be a huge no-brainer, especially if you have an Amazon Echo in the house. You can listen to anything and everything as many times as you wish, and Alexa will serve it up – again, ad free – all at the asking. I’m not certain exactly how vast their catalog is, but it has to be pretty big, right?

With this new offering, it appears as though Amazon is doing the best it can to make the best of Prime’s position. Their audience is big, and they have a lot of other services that they’d like to sell…

apple-music-header

Conversely, my daughter – and a whole bunch of other folks – subscribe to Apple Music. Apple Music works on every iDevice in sight, and once you subscribe on one, the service is available on every iDevice that uses your AppleID. At $10 per month for their service, it’s a similar offering to Prime’s in that you get access to everything, without any ads. I think the best thing here, is that their trial period is three months long.

The cool thing with Apple Music is that it provides purchase links to everything you hear, interfaces with Apple Pay (at least on your device) so buying something that you hear and really like is super easy… much easier I think than any other service offering available today.

UPDATE: Potential new pricing information has come to light from Neowin while I have been writing and researching this article. It is currently rumored that Apple is seriously considering a price drop on Apple Music in order to be more competitive with Amazon’s Prime Music. The new rumored price points are said to be:

  • Regular rate: $7.99 per month, down from $9.99
  • Family package: $12.99 per month, down from $14.99
  • Student rate: $4.99, remains unchanged

The decision looks like a tough one for Apple, it’s expected that if it does slash the price of its Apple Music, it will have to directly pay the difference to the record labels. Digital Music News claims that Amazon is already forking over money to the music labels to offer its own low prices on Amazon Music.

google-music-header

Google Music is much like Prime Music in that it offers a way for you to easily upload and stream all of the music you already own – up to 50,000 songs – as well as stream new music from their service. You get to stream all of YOUR music for free. With Google Play, you get a 30 day trial and after that, the service costs $10 bucks a month.

The cool thing about Google Music is that you get to stream your own music regardless of whether or not you subscribe. The software and service work on iOS, Android, and on macOS or Windows, via a web browser. You can download anything you hear, your music or the services, and listen to it either online or offline. The service has up to 35 million different tracks, too.

Unfortunately, Google Music doesn’t offer any kind of student or family plan. With Google Music, it’s one size fits all. So, you get everything for free for 30 days, and then its $10 bucks a month.

You know… I’ve been chewing on this article for about two months. I’ve talked to a lot of people about the whole streaming craze. Me…? I get it; but I don’t get it. Traditional radio is on the outs. Kids… millennials… don’t listen to it. I’m not certain why, but they’re not. Maybe it’s the mix… the music that’s being played. Maybe the kids don’t like being dependent on the DJ or the station and all of its advertising influenced playlists. Maybe they like having more control over the content that actually plays and streams; and when you subscribe you get ad free music – so no commercials or DJ’s stopping to promote this that or the other thing – and you get both curated playlists AND the ability to skip as many songs as you don’t like (depending on the service).

Here’re the issues that I have with all of this:

  1. You Gotta Pay for the Service
    Traditional radio is free. And while I get that while most smartphones can play FM broadcasts, they DON’T include an FM radio app. Most kids carry their smartphone. They don’t carry a portable radio these days, and without the ability to actually PLAY live, traditional radio, it’s clearly OUT of the picture.

    When I talked to my daughter, who is clearly a millennial, about all of this, she said the biggest reason why she subscribes to a streaming service is music discovery. She wants access to new music. The issue I have with this is that you have to pay to play; and at the end of the day, you don’t own any of it. However, you can play songs as often as you want or like. So if you want to find new music, and you want to play it where ever you are, whenever you want, its gonna cost you on the average, $10 bucks a month to find what you want and play it.

  2. You Gotta Pay for the Bandwidth
    I think this is perhaps the singular most problematic point in the whole streaming music model; and it’s the point that bothers me the most. Not only do you have to pay for the service, you have to pay for the service that gets you the bandwidth that allows you to play the music in the first place.

    This can cost you anywhere between an ADDITIONAL $10 to $50 a month per line on your account, which – at the end of the day – more than doubles the cost of your music subscription, especially if you go over your monthly bandwidth allotment.

    This over and above any and everything else is where the whole streaming model falls apart for me. I love music. I especially love listening to music while I drive to and from work. If I were to stream everything and if I had to stick to a specific bandwidth limit, I’d likely either run out of bandwidth or go over my limit and be subject to overage charges.

    This is the one thing that everyone forgets about when it comes to the streaming model: it uses cellular bandwidth, and bandwidth costs additional money.

  3. When you Leave, you Lose the Music
    You have to remember, you don’t own any of the music that you download. You can’t burn any of it to a CD. You can’t play any of it after your subscription expires or is cancelled. You only have access to any of the streaming catalog as long as you’re paying for your monthly subscription. Stop, and you no longer have the music in you.

Again, maybe I’m just an old fuddy duddy. Maybe I just don’t get it. Maybe I’m too old for music discovery and new artists. I don’t think I am, but there has to be another, perhaps better, easier, less expensive way to discover and play new music… Isn’t there? ISN’T THERE?!?

If there is a solution that I’d likely embrace, I don’t know what it is. Perhaps it’s in development now, or perhaps it’s still on the drawing board somewhere. In the meantime, I’ll rely on friends and family to turn me on to new music and new artists… and I’ll keep on playing the music I already own and I already enjoy.

What do you do for music discovery and for playing your favorites? Do you stream? Do you use traditional radio? Do you own a large music library and do you play locally or use a service to stream it like Google Play or iTunes Match? Why don’t you meet me in the discussion area below, and give me your thoughts on the whole issue?

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Layoffs Coming to Twitter?

The micro blogging service that could is rumored to be laying off 300 people…

twitter-lay-off

Twitter is one of the bastions of social media on the internet. When people say, “all the social things” or “social networking,” you normally think of two things – 1. Facebook (obviously); and 2. Twitter. To be very honest, I don’t think that social networking would be as big as it is if not for Twitter. Its quick little 140 character messages have truly made the entire social networking platform what it is today… at least I think so.

Over the past year, the company has gone through a number of interesting changes. Its founder, Jack Dorsey has returned to the company as CEO. He was ousted from the company in 2008; but has returned after a successful stint at Square as founder and CEO to retake the helm of the fledgling service he started. Dorsey was expected to turn things around for the company quickly; but unfortunately, things haven’t rebounded as Twitter would have liked.

When things like this happen, its not unusual for the rank and file to expect organizational changes. According to a report from Bloomberg, Twitter is expected to cut approximately 8% of their current workforce, or about 300 people. The company had a similar RIF (reduction in force) in late 2015 when Dorsey returned. This latest layoff would bring the RIF total to 16% since Dorsey’s return.

My guess is that the recently cooling rumors of a buyout are fueling this latest development, as there aren’t currently any active, interested suitors – which included Salesforce, Disney and Alphabet (Google’s parent company) – for the company. Twitter’s shares were down a total of 4.9% on Tuesday morning, 2016-10-25.

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Apple to Acquire Tidal?

Apple may acquire the streaming service to obtain exclusive content…

tidalstreamingmusic

I’ve seen a number of reports on the internet about Apple being interested or in talks to acquire the music streaming service, Tidal. For those that remember, Tidal was setup by Jay-Z, as in Beyoncé and Jay-Z, so yeah… Them.

The talks are reported to be exploratory and may not result in a deal; but Apple appears to be serious. It also doesn’t hurt that Tidal is in a huge money crunch, and Jay-Z may get his butt out of the financial fire if this turns out to be true and the acquisition goes through.

However, according to sources reported by the Wall Street Journal, a Tidal spokesman said that Tidal executives had not held talks with Apple, and the terms of any deal are unknown.

This would not be the first music company that Apple has purchased. They purchased Beats from Dr. Dre in 2014. However, Tidal is the first artist owned streaming service, and as I said, it has exclusive content from Beyoncé, Jay-Z and Prince. Music from these artists was removed from Apple Music (and Spotify, for that matter) about a year ago in July of 2015. Tidal currently has 4.2 million paying subscribers.

Apple is looking to expand its presence in the music industry. Since it acquired Beats in 2014, its launched its own streaming service in Apple Music and will be making important modifications to it with the release of iOS 10 later in the Fall of 2016.

Tidal has streaming agreements with Bea, J, and The Artist, as well as artists like Kanye and Madonna. Apple seriously wants a chunk of the streaming pie, and has been pushing to acquire rights to exclusive and original content for Apple Music and its 15M+ paying subscribers.

I’m not certain why streaming is the big deal that it is. There’s only one carrier that I know of right now that is offering a current, non-grandfathered unlimited data plan, and that’s AT&T, provided you have them for mobile service AND are also a DirecTV customer. If you are, AT&T’s unlimited everything, everything plan is truly the way to go. It makes everything way cheap.

However, unless you have that plan – and most people don’t – mobile bandwidth can be expensive, especially if you eat through yours streaming music and video content all day long. While Wi-Fi will help you here, Wi-Fi is not ubiquitous, and as such, you’re likely to burn through your bandwidth very quickly and get hit with overage charges unless, of course, you buy a big streaming package for your phone, and then… things can get expensive.

I don’t know why streaming is the thing. It might be because paid streaming subscriptions make finding new music economically affordable. However, after you find it and you download it, you’re leasing it. Once the subscription is gone, you can’t listen to it any more. You can’t burn downloaded subscription content to a CD, kids…

Are you a music streaming service subscriber? Do you have issues with your monthly allotment of mobile data every month? Join me in the Discussion area and let me know what you think of this deal and what it might mean to music streaming subscribers.

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