Moving to Google Apps

After a period of intense hatred of Apple for their decision to reject Google's Google Voice application from the iTunes App Store, as well as yanking two other related applications from the store, I decided it was time to switch off the iPhone and move to a more open smartphone. (For more details on this debacle, see links at the bottom of the post) The obvious choice: the Android smartphone.

Luckily, my decision to move off the iPhone coincided with the release of the myTouch 3G Android phone from T-Mobile. I had played around with this phone a bit earlier, and I liked the feel for it. After signing away my soul to T-Mobile (and eating the Early Termination fee from AT&T), I signed into my gmail account on the android phone, and all the expected information got pushed into my phone just like that. It's the same seamless experience one gets with MobileMe, but, yknow, free.

What irked me about the android platform is while the built-in gmail application is quite serviceable, the auxiliary mail application BLOWS. It needs to die, with fire. And of course, all my mail goes to my non-gmail address, rendering all the push goodness of gmail moot. The solution: Move to Google Apps!

Google provides the most-used services from the Googlesphere to us folk with custom domain names: Gmail, Calendar, Docs, Google Chat, and iGoogle. All of this is pushed to Android phones, can be synced with Outlook, and a bunch of other nifty features. In other words, exactly what I want! (Sign up for the free version @

Having signed up and activated the account, I needed to port my existing email, contacts, and calendars over. Contacts were straightforward: export from Gmail and import into my Google Apps. A similar solution exists for Calendars. However, email was a tricky one.

Since all my email was on my old server in an IMAP store, I wanted to move the entire folder structure over without losing read messages, reception time, and all the other problems that tend to arise when moving about large amounts of email. Enter larch, a deceptively simple, yet "awesome" Ruby script that does exactly what the github source page says it does:

Larch syncs messages from one IMAP server to another. Awesomely.

Can't argue with that.

The easiest way to install larch is to find someone with a mac or a linux machine with ruby (Macs with Leopard or Linuxes that have 'rubygems' installed are good to go) and then enter (in the console):

sudo gem install larch

Having installed this awesome script, direct your computer thusly:

larch --all --from=imap://[your-server-address] --to=imaps://

Enter the correct usernames, passwords, then wait. A lot. You can run this as many times as you'd like, and it will intelligently copy only newer messages.

Congratulations! You now have all your email on Google Apps. Have fun, and enjoy webmail that doesn't suck!

----- Those links

The Genius in the Cloud

So Apple released a bunch of new stuff today (read most of it at, but of most interest to me is iTunes 8, and more specifically, the Genius mode. The Genius is supposed to investigate the information in your library (playlists, track played counts, ratings, etc), upload it to the 'Genius in the iTunes Store' and receive some sort of information back. This information is used to match up songs you have that are supposed to go well together. For example, my laptop has a (somewhat) small library consisting of some speedy rock, some techno, some classic rock, some metal, a bit of Apocalyptica (a band that plays metal cellos), and various other songs. When I play one of the heavier songs and ask the Genius for recommendations, I get more metal, and some of the heavier versions of my speedy rock (and the heaviest songs from Apocalyptica). It's actually pretty impressive.

This idea is also used by radio services like and Pandora to match like songs together. has always been pretty good at recommending music I like, and while I haven't used Pandora enough to give it a fair shake, the people who use it swear by the accuracy of it. Upon watching the keynote speech, however, I realized just how powerful this iTunes Genius could be. With at least 63 million users/libraries, Apple has tapped into the largest collection of music ever amassed. Jobs made multiple references to the Genius getting smarter as time goes on, and as more and more people add their collective music information to the database, it will get better at recommending music.

It depends on how Apple has implemented their Genius algorithms, but this is probably one of the larger Artificial Intelligences with gobs and gobs of data to pick through. If AI's are getting this good, it's going to be an interesting future. Google's algorithms consistently find the pick of the Internet litter, and if iTunes Genius is going to do the same with music, it stands to reason that other forms of information could be as easily integrated, categorized, and processed to find the most relevant information for any one situation. This high level of semantic awareness is quite the stuff of Science Fiction.

Since the iTunes Genius is primarily built to sell songs on the store (which it does with aplomb), one doubts it will have the stereotypical self-awareness moment and strike against humanity. in 20 years from now though... it's definitely going to be interesting