Sunday, August 26, 2018

Pie Pill

I'm still enjoying my Essential PH-1. It's really nice to be back on Android.

Essential pushed Android 9.0 Pie on the day of release. I was traveling so I deferred the upgrade for a couple of days.

Now I've been running Pie almost a week. I haven't had any problems.

One new feature I wasn't sure about was Pie's gesture navigation.

Turns out I like it and find it useful.

The "Home" button is replaced with a "Pill." The "Back" button only appears when it is useful. The "Recent apps" button is GONE.

I haven't tacked all the functions but I have found a couple that are very useful.

To get the recent applications, just swipe the "Pill" about halfway up the screen. The recent apps show up in an almost full screen presentation. Swipe left or right to pick one. Tap to go there. Swipe up to close the app. Shades of webOS!

I used to use the double tap on the "Recent apps" button to directly go to the most recent app. This would let you swap between 2 apps easily. In Pie, just swipe the "Pill" to the right. There's the most recent app. Keep on swiping to the right and you can go back further!

There's lots more function there.

Sunday, August 19, 2018

How I Do E-mail

I was helping a friend setup their e-mail recently and thought it would be worthwhile to share how I do e-mail.

I use Google's Gmail to manage all my e-mail. But it's not quite that simple.

I use Google's Gmail web client and Google's Gmail smartphone app (Android and iOS).

I've changed the domain names in a feeble attempt at privacy.

My primary e-mail account is which is a Google G Suite. So that is the identity that I use to log into Gmail. And I recently added Google 2-Step Verification. arrives in the Gmail app. I have labels/folders that I sort correspondence into.

This is what I use for throwaway e-mails, e.g. when I sign up for a newsletter or something. is more complicated. has a free offering that I use. With the free offering you can't forward the e-mail to another address. So I have configured the Gmail app to pull my e-mail with a POP3 interface.

To do this, I went to Settings / Accounts and find "Check mail from other accounts:"  I specified the credentials for I made sure to check "Leave a copy of retrieved message on the server". This took a little playing around to get this correct. The Gmail app will retrieve new e-mail from this server every 60 minutes. That's good enough to me.

When e-mail arrives to I have a filter that assigns a label of "Throwaway". Then to separate this e-mail I went to Settings / Accounts / Multiple Inboxes and setup a pane for the label of "Throwaway". This results in a separation of e-mail and e-mail.

I use the SMTP servers to send so the headers look right. You specify this in Settings / Accounts / Send mail as:. This also takes a little playing around to get this correct.

This is my work e-mail. I just have it forwarded to Like I use's SMTP servers to send so the headers look right.

I use this when I'm suspicious of how someone might use my e-mail address. This e-mail domain is set so that any name you put in front of comes to But I use the same technique as to segregate the incoming e-mails into a separate area in my inbox.

The way I use this is to use a name that identifies to whom I gave that e-mail. For example I created an identity at Computerworld as Let's just say that Computerworld must make a lot of money from selling their mailing list.


With all these e-mail identities I get to choose which one to use when I compose a new e-mail. In the Compose dialog there is a drop-down box next to the "From" field where I can choose.

Under Settings / General I specify:

  • Ask before displaying external images
  • Send cancellation period: 30 seconds
  • Keyboard shortcuts on
  • Button labels: Text
  • I'll add contacts myself

The Android and iOS apps honor all these settings so your experience is consistent across all platforms.

I'm sure I haven't covered everything. Leave me a comment if you have a question.

Sunday, August 12, 2018

Google Voice Call Screening

I've been living with my Google Voice/Obihai system (see 12345678, 9),  for a couple of years and it continues to work great and for free!

Obihai sunset the OBi100 a while back and I upgraded to an OBi200. It took at least 2 minutes to make the transition.

Then in early 2018 Obihai was acquired by Polycom. Remember the old Polycom "Star" speaker phone?

There was one feature of Google Voice that wasn't supported by Obihai.

Google Voice has a call screening feature that will let you challenge a caller to identify themselves then ring your phone and announce the caller. At that point you can accept the call or send it to voice mail. While the caller is leaving a message, you can listen and pick up if you want to.

The Obihai system would challenge a caller to identify themselves but then immediately ring your phone without announcing the caller.

In practice that challenge caused most telemarketers to just hang up.

Then Google made a seemingly unrelated change to Google Voice. The result of that change is that now the screening works!

Sunday, August 05, 2018

Reducing Spam Calls

If you're not interested in reducing spam calls to your mobile number, just go back to Facebook. If you're using an iPhone, just go back to Facebook.

Now that we've got the crowd thinned out, go to the Google Play Store and download the latest Phone app.

Open the Phone app and tap the hamburger menu in the top right corner.

Tap on "Caller ID and spam".

Then slide "Filter spam calls" to the right.

Lifehacker has an article here.