As More People Use Google Services, Is Google Able To Handle The Load?

I support Google and the services they offer, including their mail service known as Gmail. But yesterday the system suffered another outage which according to their official web site was caused by an under estimate of usage. Which made me start to think. Is Google going to be able to handle the load in the future? If and when the company comes out with their Google OS and more people use their services, will Google finally show their Achilles heel and will there be more down time?

According to their blog site Google reps state the following:

Gmail’s web interface had a widespread outage earlier today, lasting about 100 minutes. We know how many people rely on Gmail for personal and professional communications, and we take it very seriously when there’s a problem with the service. Thus, right up front, I’d like to apologize to all of you — today’s outage was a Big Deal, and we’re treating it as such. We’ve already thoroughly investigated what happened, and we’re currently compiling a list of things we intend to fix or improve as a result of the investigation.

Here’s what happened: This morning (Pacific Time) we took a small fraction of Gmail’s servers offline to perform routine upgrades. This isn’t in itself a problem — we do this all the time, and Gmail’s web interface runs in many locations and just sends traffic to other locations when one is offline.

However, as we now know, we had slightly underestimated the load which some recent changes (ironically, some designed to improve service availability) placed on the request routers — servers which direct web queries to the appropriate Gmail server for response. At about 12:30 pm Pacific a few of the request routers became overloaded and in effect told the rest of the system “stop sending us traffic, we’re too slow!”. This transferred the load onto the remaining request routers, causing a few more of them to also become overloaded, and within minutes nearly all of the request routers were overloaded. As a result, people couldn’t access Gmail via the web interface because their requests couldn’t be routed to a Gmail server. IMAP/POP access and mail processing continued to work normally because these requests don’t use the same routers.

The Gmail engineering team was alerted to the failures within seconds (we take monitoring very seriously). After establishing that the core problem was insufficient available capacity, the team brought a LOT of additional request routers online (flexible capacity is one of the advantages of Google’s architecture), distributed the traffic across the request routers, and the Gmail web interface came back online.

Though the blog entry goes on to state that Google is going to make sure that this doesn’t happen again, it does make wonder. If we continue to flock to Google services, will this one day bite us all in the butt?

What do you think?

Comments welcome.


Constructing Email Subject Lines

With the amount of spam that finds its way into our inboxes, it is no surprise that the subject line is now the most important part of a message. Not only does the recipient use the subject line to decide whether you message is spam, they may also use it to file the message and later retrieve.

Spammers typically use subject lines that are vague and meaningless. Therefore, to ensure that your message is not lumped in with the spammers, you should create subject lines that are short, specific and personalized to the recipient. This is particularly true if you are sending messages to new business clients or other professionals who are not yet familiar with your name and email address (family members can likely spot your name out of the sea of spam).

The general rule of thumb is to keep a subject line under 60 characters with the most important details at the beginning of the subject line. Anything longer and you risk having part of the subject line cut off. As for specific subject lines, you obviously want to alert the recipient to the details of the message (it also presents an opportunity to capture there attention). Finally, when it comes to personalizing the subject line, adding the recipient’s first name to the subject line actually goes along way. For example, instead of just putting ‘Here are the sales figures you wanted” in the subject line, personalize by putting “Sally, here are the sales figures you wanted.”

One additional tip for writing email subject lines, there are also specific words that you should not in a subject line; although they are innocent, they are known to trigger spam filters. So if possible, avoid using words such as help and reminder in the subject line because they may land you in with the rest of the spammers.



Sometimes receiving mail can be great, but there are times when it’s a pain. Of course, how you feel about the mail is usually connected with what the mail is about. The practice of physically mailing things is costly and takes time, and in this digital age, the usefulness of traditional mail is dwindling. We’re all still going to use it, but online communication has replaced the need for exchanging a lot of the mail that goes through the system. Zumbox is a company that’s taking the familiarity of the postal system and putting a twist on it.

Some may say that e-mail is the postal mail alternative, but that’s not exactly true. With that said, the approach that Zumbox takes gives every street address a virtual mailbox. Companies and individuals send you mail online using your actual address, only instead of getting it in your physical mailbox, you receive it in your virtual mailbox. This process is immediate, environmentally friendly, and opens up a lot of possibilities. You’re able to check your mail from anywhere, and the mail that you do receive can be enhanced since the information isn’t stuck on a piece of paper. This is a neat idea, but getting people to adopt it will take some time.

Yahoo And Their Open Strategy Plans

The once darling of the Internet search crowd is in the process of trying to reinvent itself with a new open strategy plan. Most of Yahoo’s pruducts such as mail, toolbar and media will receive a facelift as well as other added features. Yahoo appears to be trying to pull itself up by its boot straps now that they have a new CEO and now that Microsoft doesn’t seem interested in buying the search company. According to an article over at TechCrunch, it states that:

Yahoo Mail

Yahoo Mail has 275 million montly global users worldwide according to ComScore. It pulls together email, instant messaging, and SMS. The new, smarter inbox will help users prioritize the email messages that matter the most to them. It will also help users perform tasks without pulling them out of Yahoo Mail (such as viewing photos and invitations from non-Yahoo services). The two key buzzwords Yahoo is using are “social” and “open” to describe their overall strategy with Mail.

Six applications for Yahoo Mail are launching today. Four are from third-party developers (Flixster, Xoopit, Flickr, and WordPress) and two are from Yahoo (Yahoo Greetings and Family Journal). We’re going to get a demo of three of these applications.

During the coming weeks we should learn more about what Yahoo will be offering. This hopefully will get the company back on track. Time will tell.

Comments welcome.


Scan Questionable Email Attachments

During your radio show you mentioned a site that would check attachments for viruses. I was in the car and couldn’t write the site down. Could you please tell me the name of the site and instructions for use? — Lorrence

Just about everyone that provides assistance to computer users barks out the same command, over and over again: DON’T OPEN FILE ATTACHMENTS!

While as a general piece of advice it is very sound, as a practical matter, it really doesn’t address some real world situations.

Legitimate attachments can come to us every day, so what can the average user do if they think that an attachment is something that they want to open?

In general, if someone you are corresponding with says that they are going to send you an attachment or a business colleague sends you a spreadsheet or document with clear indications of a current discussion that you’ve been having, chances are that the attachment is legit.

The problem with giving blanket guidance is that there are always exceptions, which all can’t be covered in the space or time allotted.

In the case of attachments, all it takes is one rogue file that you open that you shouldn’t have and the damage is done. Most malicious code will appear in your Inbox with a "spoofed" address, which means it did not actually get sent from the address in the "From" section.

If they can get you to let your guard down for even one second by making it look like it came from someone you know, they might trick you into opening the attachment.

Today’s malicious code is quite capable of overpowering, sidestepping or even disabling your anti-virus program if the bad guys can get you to open certain types of attached files.

For those situations where you believe an attachment is legit, but you are not absolutely sure, you can get a free "second opinion" before opening the file.

A website called offers to scan any file by over 35 different virus scanning engines from all the major anti-virus companies and a whole host of smaller companies that have created specialty anti-virus detection systems.

You can have a file checked in two ways: Go to and upload any file you want checked (which means you will have to save the attachment to your local hard drive first) or forward any message that has an attachment (cannot exceed 10 Mb in size) to [email protected] and replace the subject line with the word "SCAN."

If you upload the file, you will get an onscreen report from all of the various anti-virus scanning engines or if you forward an email with an attachment, you will get a detailed report emailed back a short time later.

The detailed report will show if any of the anti-virus engines detected anything and if they do, there is a link at the bottom that will give you more information about what the malicious code does.

CAUTION: If the contents of any files to be scanned contain very sensitive personal or company information, you may not want to use this service as any file uploaded or emailed has the potential of being accessible by those that work with and around this project.

Ken Colburn
President of Data Doctors Computer Services, Host of the award-winning Computer Corner radio show, and Author of Computer Q&A in the East Valley Tribune newspapers.

Order A Missed Call To Avoid Confrontation

There is a new service available called Slydial, that can bypass a cell number and go directly to the cell answering service. The service actually has some comical situations in which a person may wish to use Slydial, which is free and advertised supported.

All a person has to do is to follow these simple directions:

  1. Dial 267-SLYDIAL (267-759-3425) from any landline or mobile phone.
  2. At the voice prompt, enter the U.S. mobile phone number of the person you want to slydial.
  3. You will be directly connected to their voicemail. Leave them a voicemail, sit back and relax.

On their site Slydial uses some examples of when a person might want to place a sneak call:

Buy yourself some time.

You go to a week long convention for work in Las Vegas and blow $5,000 the first night at the roulette table. You need to call your wife and tell her why she should hold off on making the monthly mortgage payment. Her voicemail will be much more understanding than she will.

Appease your family.

Your Aunt June sent you a sweater for your birthday. You need to call her to thank her but you don’t want to listen to her go on and on about her recent hip replacement. Instead just leave her an appreciative voicemail that she can share with her bridge club.

Just tell your side of the story.

You just partied hard last night and going to work is just not on your radar today. You dread having to call your boss and answering any awkward questions he may have. Instead just leave him a simple voicemail letting him know that you won’t be coming into work today.

These are just some of the examples when Slydial may come in handy. I am sure we can all think of other useful situations in which Slydial my be a blessing. :-)

Comments welcome.


Netflix Offers Downloading Movies Directly To Your TV

Netflix is now offering a small device [about the size of a paperback book] that connects from your broadband connection to your TV. The box retails for $99.99 and is from and compliments your current Netflix subscription. There is of course one major improvement in the system. No need to wait for the mail to arrive with your latest movie.

On the Roku,com website they list the following details:

  • An active Netflix membership with unlimited rentals

    If you’re already a Netflix member getting unlimited DVDs, you’re all set. If not, sign up now for an unlimited plan (starting as low as $8.99 a month).

  • A high-speed Internet connection – DSL or Cable

    Typical high-speed connections easily meet the player’s 1.5 Mbps minimum recommended speed. (If you’re unsure of your connection speed, you should ask your Internet service provider.)

  • Wireless or wired Internet access at your TV

    Your Internet connection needs to reach your TV for the player to work. If you’ve ever surfed the Web or retrieved e-mail from the room where your TV is, you should be fine.

  • A television – young or old

    Obviously you need a TV. The standard cables included with the player will connect it to virtually any television.

I can see that this is going to change the way we view subsciption movies and should improve the services that Netflix offers.

What do you think? Will you buy a Netflix box? I wonder what Comcast will think about this? :-)

Comments welcome.


[tags]netflix, movies, tv, broadband, download, mail, service, television, comcast, roku  [/tags]

Catalog Choice

It’s always a shock to me when I actually receive mail that I’m expecting and need because most of the time my mailbox is filled with junk mail. It’s become so bad that I’m actually glad to see bills because at least they’re real pieces of mail. I especially despise mail that appears to be important and relevant at first, but once you open the envelope, the stench of junk mail is so strong that you can’t throw it away soon enough. Another one of the worst junk mail offenders are companies that send out massive catalogs that are as big as epic novels. If you actually want to look through them, then that’s understandable, but if you’re just going to trash them, why not put a stop to the madness and help the environment in the process? Catalog Choice will help to put you back in control of the catalogs that you receive in your mailbox.

If you want to really open up your eyes to how bad the situation is, just take a look at the Environmental Facts page. After looking at those figures, you’re bound to think of some catalogs that you’re currently receiving that you’d like to eliminate from your life. Doing this by yourself can be a challenge, but Catalog Choice assists you because once you become a member, you select the catalogs that you want to opt-out of, and they’ll notify the catalog providers for you. Don’t expect to find every catalog listed on the site, but their database is growing, so see what you can get rid of today.

Keep Your Windows Mail Inbox Clutter Free (Vista)

E-mail has become one of the main forms of communication for many people. Some even opt to use email instead of the telephone. Like your regular postal mail box, which can get stuffed full of flyers, magazines, bills and so on, your e-mail inbox can also get filled up rather quickly, making your inbox very disorganized.

One of the ways in which you can keep you inbox more organized and clean looking is to delete your messages after you read them. Sounds great but this is not very practical as most of us like to save emails for future reference.

If you are using Windows Mail, included with Windows Vista, as your email client, there are a few things you can do to avoid a disorganized cluttered mailbox. One option is to create folders based on people (for different senders) and based on subjects. Depending of course on your e-mail requirements, you may create a folder for family, friends, co-workers, mailing lists, and so on. It’s very simple to create a new folder within Windows Mail. Right click Local Folders and click New Folder. Type in a name for the folder and click OK.

Once you have your folders set up, you can either manually move email messages that are received into the appropriate folders or configure Windows Mail to automatically do it for you. You can set up rules to have email filtered into the appropriate folder. For example, if you want to filter email from a specific person into a specific folder:

  1. Open Windows Mail.
  2. Click the Tools menu option, point to Message Rules, and select Mail.
  3. Select one or more conditions for the rule. For example, if you select Where the from line contains people, the mail message must be from the sender you specify in the rule before any processing occurs.
  4. After you have specified the conditions, you must edit the value for each condition by selecting the hyperlink under Rule Description. For example, if you selected Where the to line contains people, you must then specify the particular senders email address.
  5. Select the action or actions for the rule. Windows Mail will take these actions if a mail message meets all the conditions. For example, you can select Move it to the specified folder.
  6. Edit the values for the actions by selecting the hyperlink under Rule Description. For example, if you select the rule Move it to the specified folder, you then have to edit the value of the rule and tell Windows Mail which particular folder the message should be placed in.
  7. Type a descriptive name for the rule.
  8. Click OK.
  9. Click OK to close the Message Rule dialog box.

So there you have it. Your messages from the specific sender will now be placed into a separate folder. The nice thing about this is that it also makes messages easier to locate. You’ll know exactly where to look if you are looking for message from a specific person.

[tags]diana huggins, vista, windows, inbox, mail, clutter, message rule[/tags]

I send and receive a ton of e-mail, and this constant access to communication has made my life much more productive. Sadly, e-mail has become so much a part of my life that the very concept of sending out a handwritten letter is becoming more and more foreign to me. What… you want me to write… with my hand? Eh, that’s not going to turn out so hot. I definitely accept the fact that my job and hobby involving this computer has done a lot to impede my handwriting from becoming something that’s actually readable, however, a relatively new service called has developed a way for you and I to send an actual letter to a person without ever leaving the computer.
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Pegasus Mail Vulnerabilities

Secunia Research has discovered two vulnerabilities in Pegasus Mail, which can be exploited by malicious people to compromise a user’s system.

1) A boundary error exists when using the reply from a POP3 server to construct trace messages that are displayed to the user if an error occurs when downloading emails. This can be exploited to cause a stack-based buffer overflow via an overly long POP3 reply.

Successful exploitation allows arbitrary code execution but requires that the user is e.g. tricked into connecting to a malicious POP3 server.
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For many of us, sending out greeting cards is more of a chore than anything else. Sending one out occasionally isn’t that big of a deal, but when you need to send out cards to everyone you know because of a specific event, then it’s very easy to get impatient with the process. Writing the cards out by hand does give them that personal touch, but when time is of the essence, it may not always be convenient or reasonable. allows you to take care of all your card creation and mailing needs from the comfort of your desk.
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