Gmail Slow or Down for Some, IMAP Still Working

downgmail-logo-1 Trouble grabbing your mail this morning? Google says Gmail's web interface is unavailable to an uncannily familiar "small subset of users." They officially recommend accessing Gmail through an IMAP mail client, among other ways to.

Google's Apps Status Dashboard states that an update will be issued by 8:29 Pacific time with more details, and reminds us that Gmail can still be accessed by IMAP clients, as it was the last time this happened. Best option is to enable IMAP to access Gmail during outage - Google's step-by-step instructions.
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Login to Facebook with your vanity URL

Here's a bit of ground breaking news for you (or pretty lame news). Facebook, known for their popular social networking website and recently flurry of product and service enhancements, has made possibly the biggest change yet. With over 50 million vanity names reserved since the social networking website started allowing users to pick their own unique URL, they have now announced that the names can be used to sign in as well.
You'll still be able to login using your email, mobile phone number or through a Facebook Connect website as always, this just adds another (more convenient?) way to sign in. I guess it's good that Facebook is keeping themselves balanced. After all, it'd be awful if all they did was release new features and functionality. That would almost be too much.

Picasa 3.5 Organizes Your Photos with Facial Recognition

Google's free desktop photo organizer added face recognition and sync with Picasa Web Albums.

The new Picasa 3.5 contains a facial recognition feature similar to the one already present on Picasa Web Albums, but letting it run over your likely vast collection of assorted photos stashed on your hard drive is a lot more convenient. Picasa creates a new sidebar menu list of "People," and asks you to name the folks it finds in its main "Scanning" menu. If you're signed into Web Albums with a Google account stuffed with contacts, that's pretty easy, actually—just start typing a name, then select the contact that pops up as you type.

You'll probably have to leave Picasa running a long time to get through everything—after 20 minutes, it's about 9 percent through with 13.8GB of photos on my laptop. As you might guess, some of the facial matching is hit and miss, but you get to approve any of the picks Picasa isn't absolutely sure of, and if someone's in your photo library who you don't want to take the time to tag, you can send them to the "Ignored People" pile. All this is in service of a better search function, so you can more easily find photos of yourself and your spouse, your spouse and her friend, or any combination of people, dates, or other search parameters.

Here's Google's video demonstration of how name tagging works in Picasa 3.5:

As noted in the video, the other additions to Picasa 3.5 are a tool to use integrated Google Maps pickers to geo-tag photos, and an option to import photos from a camera card onto Picasa Web Albums directly. Neat features, but kind of underwhelming paired with something like facial recognition, no?

Read up on Picasa's name tag features, grab it at the link, and tell us how well facial recognition is working, or not, with your own photos in the comments.

Picasa 3.5, now with name tags and more [Official Google Blog]

Thunderbird 3 Beta 4 Available for Download

thunder Mozilla has released a new preview version of their desktop email application in the form of Thunderbird 3 Beta 4, adding a new email search, smart folders, and more.

If you're a Thunderbird user, you're probably familiar with what the open-source mail manager can already do, so here's an edited shortlist of notable new features and improvements:

New Search with Advanced Filtering Tools: Search results now include advanced filtering tools. You have the option to filter your results by sender, tag, attachments, people, folder, and mailing list. You can also filter your email using the timeline tool.

Smart Folders: The folder pane offers a Smart Folders mode which combines special mailboxes, like Inbox, from multiple accounts. Smart Folders is now on by default.

Improved Gmail Integration: Better recognition and integration of Gmail's special folders such as Sent and Trash including non-English versions of Gmail. Thunderbird also uses All Mail as the Archives folder.

Improved Gmail integration is definitely a welcome improvement

Check out the release notes for more details as well as the known issues for a list of reported bugs. Thunderbird is a free download for Windows, Mac OS X, or Linux.

Thunderbird 3 Beta 4 [Mozilla via gHacks]

Google Sidewiki Is a Universal Commenting System for the Web

Google Sidewiki is a new browser plug-in that adds a universal commenting system to the web, allowing users to comment and read other people's comments on any page on the internet. It's not a new idea, but, well, it's Google.

Sidewiki installs alongside the Google Toolbar, so it works with both Internet Explorer and Firefox. Google also says that they're "working on making it available in Google Chrome and elsewhere too." (Hopefully they'll make it an extension for Chrome, too, rather than forcing it down user's throats.)

After you install Google Toolbar with Sidewiki and restart your browser, you'll end up on a landing page that illustrates how the tool works and encourages you to write your first entry. (Incidentally, when you comment on a page using Sidewiki, that comment will show up in your Google Profile page as well—like this.) Comments on the internet aren't exactly known for their quality (Google-owned YouTube is notorious for having some of the worst, most inane comments on the internet), but Google's aiming to address that with Sidewiki: