Oct 31, 2015

How to Get SMS Alerts for Gmail via Twitter

How do you get SMS notifications on your mobile phone for important emails in your Gmail? Google doesn’t support text notifications for their email service but Twitter does. If we can figure out a way to connect our Twitter and Gmail accounts, the Gmail notifications can arrive as text on our mobile via Twitter. Let me explain:

Twitter allows you to follow any @user via a simple SMS. They provide short codes for all countries (see list) and if you text FOLLOW to this shortcode following by the  username, any tweets from that user will arrive in your phone as text notifications. For instance, if you are in the US, you can tweet FOLLOW labnol to 40404 to get my tweets as text messages. Similarly, users in India can text FOLLOW labnol to 9248948837 to get the tweets via SMS.

The short code service of Twitter can act as a Gmail SMS notifier. You create a new Twitter account, set the privacy to private and this account will send a tweet when you get a new email in Gmail. Follow this account via SMS from you main Twitter account and the SMS notifications will start pouring in.

gmail messages in twitter timeline

Use Twitter as a Gmail Notifier with Google Scripts

Here’s a step by step guide on how you can use Twitter to get SMS notification for important email in your Gmail account. It will take a minute to setup and, internally, there’s a Google Apps Script that’s doing all the magic. It monitors your Gmail mailbox in the background and as soon as a new message arrives in your account, the script sends out a tweet.

  1. Log out of your existing Twitter account and then go to twitter.com/signup to create a new Twitter account for your Gmail account.
  2. Confirm your email address, then open the Twitter settings page and check the option “Protect My Tweets.” This will make your Gmail notifications private and neither search engines nor other Twitter users will be able to see tweets generated through Gmail.
  3. Click here to copy the Google Sheet and choose Authorize under the Gmail to Twitter menu (near Help). Remember to authorize with your new Twitter account.
  4. Once authorized, choose Start from the Gmail to Twitter menu and enter your Gmail search query. For instance you can say is:important is:unread in:inbox newer_than:1d to only receive notification for new, unread and important emails in your Gmail. Click OK.

That’s it. The Gmail notifier is running and it will tweet when a matching email is found. It runs every 10-15 minutes and will only work on incoming email, not the old message. The messages will also be logged in the Google Sheet so you know what’s happening behind the scene.

Get SMS Alerts for Emails at Gmail

Open a new browser session in Incognito mode, log in to your old Twitter account and send a follow request to your new Gmail account on Twitter. Approve the new follower request and you should now see tweets for new Gmail messages, as they arrive, in your main Twitter timeline.

Should you wish to receive SMS alerts on your mobile phone for new Gmail messages, just open the Twitter profile page of your Gmail bot and turn on Mobile Notifications. This will obviously work only if you have connected (and verified) your mobile phone with your main Twitter account.

Also see: How to Write a Twitter Bot

The story, How to Get SMS Alerts for Gmail via Twitter, was originally published at Digital Inspiration by Amit Agarwal on 31/10/2015 under GMail, Sms, Twitter, Internet.

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How to Get Things Done with Trello

My work involves prioritizing, organizing and managing tasks, information and ideas. I have tried hundreds of todo lists and project management tools to get the job done but finally settled on using Trello. It is now my swiss knife where I do everything from collaborating with my wife on shopping lists to building products for my company to teaching students to writing a book.

Trello provides a very flexible way to do this all and it has a whole ecosystem of apps and extensions to make your life simpler. If you are new to Trello, here’s a getting started guide that will help you understand the basics of Trello and how you can use the service to manage work and get things done.

What is Trello and why I need it?

Trello is like a todo list on steroids. At the core of it is a card which is the fundamental unit of information and it can be moved around lists. Here is a simple Trello card. It has a title with something I plan to do in the near future.

Trello Card

Here is a more complex Trello card – it has a title, description (optional), file attachments (you can even pull files from Dropbox or Google Drive), comments from other people and a variety of things including checklists and tags. Each card as a unique email address and you can add comments to the card by simply sending a message to that address.

Trello Card

Product Management with Trello

You can make a card as simple or as complex as you want. The cards are then organized into flexible lists. The lists show a preview of various cards and you can click on them to view details. The list stores all related cards.

In this example, each card in the list corresponds to a feature I was building for a product.

The lists are then grouped into boards. The board is effectively a project. If you take a look at my product board below, you’ll see that it contains various lists – Backlog, In Implementation, QA, Questions and Finished.

Product Development with Trello

I see this as an assembly line to make products. I create a Trello Card for each feature or idea and add to the Backlog list. The team would discuss and add further details to each card. Then the developers would drag individual cards to the In Implementation list and once the task is complete, it is shifted to the QA list. The testers would then move it to Finished once it has passed all the necessary checks.

Each of my projects would have a board like this and you can do a lot of cool things with that. For instance, I use the Pomello extension to pick up a task from Trello and start working on it. It will calculate the time taken and prompt me to take a break every, say, 25 minutes.

The cards work great in team settings and help the whole team to understand who is working on what and they can also keep a track of the status of tasks. Of course, there are more powerful project management tools out there, but none as simple and as extensible as Trello.

Getting Things Done with Trello

I’m a fan of the Getting Things Done method and here’s how I manage my time with Trello using GTD approach. You can download my Trello template for the GTD board here.

Trello - Getting Things Done

Whenever an email arrives, or there’s a task I need to complete or when an idea pops up in my mind, I create a new card in the “Inbox” list of my Trello board. Once a day, I “triage” them (decide the priority) to move into one of the 4 buckets.

  • If it is something I’m waiting for someone else to do, I will move it to the “Waiting” list.
  • If it is something that is not mandatory or urgent, say I want to read the new GRR Martin’s novel or call my uncle, I move it to the “Someday/Maybe” list.
  • If there is a set time for a task, like tax filing or submitting a paper to an event, I move that card to “To Calendar” and assign a due data to the card. You can easily link Google Calendar to your Trello list using the iCal feed.
  • If a card doesn’t fall in any of the above buckets and I really have to do it, I move it to the “Need to do” list.

Every morning, I take the most important cards from the “Need to do” list and move it to the “Today” list. These are the things I plan to get done today. If the “Need to do” list is clear, then I move a couple of pending cards from the “Someday/Maybe” list at the end of the day and handle those cards. Any unfinished task at the end of the day must be moved back to the respective lists.

If you can dump your mind into the “Inbox” list, you can have much better clarity in what you do.

Trello for Book Writing

Here is a partial view of my Trello board of my book on Indian history – “From Tryst to Tendulkar”. I use the board to organize my chapters, ideas, references and everything else.

Book Writing with Trello

Trello for Teaching a Class

I teach classes for entrepreneurs, product managers, business school aspirants and civil participants on various methods to study. Here is a screenshot of my Trello board for a class for business school aspirants.

Class Teaching with Trello

Trello for Shopping

My wife and I share a Trello card with all the things to buy. Either one of us puts stuff there and when one of us goes shopping, the card becomes our shopping list. As I pick up stuff in the supermarket, I also check the item in the Trello card. When my wife needs that stuff again, she simply unchecks the checked item. Thus, we don’t need to keep adding existing stuff to the card.

Balaji Viswanathan is a product manager by profession, he writes a blog, created Be Limitless (a popular Chrome add-on), wrote a book on Indian history and is considered a rockstar on Quora. His favorite GTD tool is Trello.

The story, How to Get Things Done with Trello, was originally published at Digital Inspiration by Amit Agarwal on 31/10/2015 under Productivity, Internet.

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Oct 28, 2015

How to Create RSS Feeds for Google Search Results

Google Alerts, you probably know this, offer an easy way for you to create RSS feeds from the Google search results of any query. This is a good option if you are looking to monitor when new web pages are indexed by Google that match your search query.

Google Search RSS Feed

If you have never created feeds with Google Alerts earlier, here’s a quick primer. Type your search keyword, expand options, choose “Automatic” for sources, choose “All Results” for “How Many” and set “RSS Feed” as the Delivery Method. Google will create an RSS feed of web search results that you can subscribe in Feedly or another RSS Reader.

Please see the Google Alerts tutorial to write more advanced search queries.

Better RSS Feeds for Google Search

A big limitation with feeds created using the “Google Alerts” approach is that you’ve limited control over the feed and it won’t include search results from all over the web. In fact, the first time you create a feed, it is likely to be empty and results would be added as Google discovers and indexes new content for that search query.

There’s an alternate method for creating RSS feeds for Google Search results and, though the initial setup takes few extra steps, you’ve enough options to fine tune the search query and have more meaniningful search results in the feed. You can even have RSS feeds for Google Images.

  1. Go to Google Custom Search and create a new search engine. If you would like to search the entire web, just like Google search, put *.com as the site to search, edit your CSE and under Sites to Search section, select the option that says “Search the entire web but emphasize included sites.”
  2. Make a note of the Google CSE id which will be something like xxxx:yyy – click the Search Engine ID button under Details to know your CSE ID.
  3. Go to Google Developers Console, sign-in with your Google Account and create a new Project. Give your project any name – like Google Search RSS Feed – and click the Create Project button.
  4. Next go to the API & Auth link in the sidebar and click on APIs. Here search for “Custom Search API” and enable the API.
  5. Under the same API & Auth group, click Credentials – Add Creditials – Browser Key and click the Create button. You’ll get the API key now.

Google Search API Credentials
Now we have all the ingredients required to create our RSS feed for Google Search. The basic feed URL will be something like this:


Replace xxx:yy with the Search Engine ID, abc with the API key and query with the actual search query. If your query has multiple words, separate them with a + symbol (like Digital+Inspiration). There are tons of other search parameters to the Feed URL. For instance:

  • googlehost=google.de (to return results from Google Germany)
  • searchType=image (search images only, the default is web pages)
  • safe=high (filter adult content from search results)
  • dateRestrict = d10 (return results published in the last 10 days)

To give you an example, the following feed URL will fetch family safe pages from Google India, published in the last 2 weeks for a query “Make In India”


Advanced users can create simple web apps that use the Custom Search API to monitor search results by email or they can scrape Google search in a spreadsheet. The only limitation is that the Search API has a daily quota (100 requests per day) so you should not share the feed or the API key with other users. However, if you enable billing inside the Google API Console, the free limit will be upgraded to 200 search queries per day.

The story, How to Create RSS Feeds for Google Search Results, was originally published at Digital Inspiration by Amit Agarwal on 28/10/2015 under Google, RSS, Internet.

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Make your WordPress Website More Secure with Single Sign On

Your WordPress website has a public login page, often found at http://ift.tt/1FGSnly, and it is possible for someone to gain access to your site by guessing your password through repeated trial and error method. To harden your WordPress security, it is therefore recommended that you password-protect the WordPress admin folder and also use 2-factor authentication.

WordPress Login Screen

Secure WordPress with Single Sign On

WordPress Single Sign On offers an even more secure option for protecting your website from brute force attacks as you ‘outsource’ the authentication part to WordPress.com. Once enabled, the login screen on your WordPress website is disabled and you are required to sign in to your WordPress.com account in order to access the admin dashboard of your own self-hosted WordPress blog.

There are several advantages here:

  1. Since WordPress.com accounts support 2-factor authentication, the the same level of security is now enabled for your blog as well without requiring another plugin.
  2. All login requests on your site, including the malicious login attempts, are now automatically redirected to WordPress.com and thus it reduces the load on your server and database.
  3. If you manage multiple sites, you can log into them all with a single WordPress.com account and no longer have to remember multiple usernames and passwords.

How to Implement WordPress Single Sign On with Jetpack

Here is a step-by-step guide that explains how you can enable Single Sign On for your WordPress website:

Step 1: Create an account on WordPress.com using this link. Skip this step if you already have an account. You may be required to create a dummy blog on wordpress.com as part of the registration process.

Step 2: Once your account is created, click here to enable two-factor authentication. Specify your phone number, WordPress will send a verification code via SMS and you need to type the same code to verify your number.

Step 3: Go to your WordPress blog, install the Jetpack plugin, activate the plugin and then click the green button that says “Connect to WordPress.com” to link your blog to  your WordPress account.

Step 4: Once the connection is established, go to Jetpack settings and activate the “Single Sign On” module.

Step 5: Go to your WordPress installation folder via FTP or SSH, switch to the current theme folder (wp-content/themes/theme-name) and edit the functions.php file. Here copy-paste the following line of code after the first line:

 add_filter( 'jetpack_sso_bypass_login_forward_wpcom', '__return_true' );

Step 6: Go to Users – Your Profile and, at the bottom of the page, click the button that says “Log in with WordPress.com” – this will essentially link your WordPress.com account to the username that you’ve used to log into the site.

WordPress Profile Link

This will completely disable the login form of your WordPress site and instead forwards the user to the login screen on WordPress.com. Once you login through WordPress, you are immediately redirected to the admin dashboard of your self-hosted WordPress blog.

Also see: How to Improve WordPress Security

The story, Make your WordPress Website More Secure with Single Sign On, was originally published at Digital Inspiration by Amit Agarwal on 28/10/2015 under WordPress, Internet.

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Oct 23, 2015

Workaround For /sbin/vboxconfig Not Working With VirtualBox 5.0.8 [Quick Tip]

In Ubuntu, the official Oracle VirtualBox packages (downloaded from the VirtualBox website/repository) often fail to recompile the host Kernel modules after a VirtualBox or Linux Kernel update, so the user must do this manually.

Until VirtualBox 5.0.8, the command to do this was "sudo /etc/init.d/vboxdrv setup" but with the latest version, this command has been replaced and now the application error dialog mentions running "sudo /sbin/vboxconfig" instead.

However, this command does not currently work, or at least that was the case for me (running Ubuntu 15.10) as well as quite a few other users. The workaround is pretty simple though - run the following command instead:
sudo /sbin/rcvboxdrv setup
The command above should recompile the VirtualBox host Kernel modules and get the application to work again.

I'm not sure why dkms fails to rebuild the host Virtualbox (official packages only) kernel module automatically for many users - if you find a fix for this, let us know in the comments!

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Nemo With Unity Patches (And Without Cinnamon Dependencies) Available For Ubuntu 15.10 Wily Werewolf, Updated To Version 2.8.0

Nemo 2.8.0 with Unity patches (and without Cinnamon dependencies) is available in the WebUpd8 Nemo PPA. With this update, the PPA now also supports the latest Ubuntu 15.10 (Wily Werewolf).

Nemo 2.8.0 Unity

The latest Nemo 2.8.0 includes mostly minor enhancements, various bug fixes as well as a new extension:
  • new extension: Nemo Audio Tab (adds an audio tab to the Properties dialog);
  • combine the search bar and query editor (it's now similar to Nautilus);
  • show comments as tooltips for actions in the action configuration dialog;
  • the Nemo script and action paths are no longer hardcoded;
  • connect-to-server: remember the last connection type;
  • fixed segfault occuring when opening a saved search tree view in the list view;
  • fixed a bug where if the user first tries the SMB method, enters a domain, and then tries another method (e.g, ssh), the code would incorrectly prepend the domain to the username;
  • List View: fixed column sorting when default sort type is "Detailed type";
  • List View: fixed default sort order bug;
  • fixed a couple of drag-and-drop issues when there are no bookmarks, or when the xdg-bookmark area is empty.

Here's the new combined search bar and query editor:

Nemo 2.8.0 Unity

For comparison, this is how it looked before Nemo 2.8.0:

Nemo 2.8.0 Unity

For those not familiar with Nemo, this is the default Cinnamon (Linux Mint Cinnamon Edition) file manager, forked from Nautilus, and it has various extra features compared to recent Nautilus versions, such as an extra pane feature, unified and configurable toolbar, treeview sidebar option, built-in "Open as root" and "Open in termina" context menu options, a plugins manager and much more.

The packages in the WebUpd8 Nemo PPA are patched to remove Cinnamon dependencies, re-enable Nemo to handle the desktop, allow Nemo to use GNOME Control Center / Unity Control Center to change the desktop background and add Unity integration similar to Nautilus (quicklists, Unity Launcher progress bar support, etc.).

Install Nemo with Unity patches in Ubuntu

For how to install Nemo with Unity patches in Ubuntu (15.10, 15.04 and 14.04) and optionally set it as your default file manager, see our initial article:
Install Nemo With Unity Patches (And Without Cinnamon Dependencies) In Ubuntu

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Oct 22, 2015

Ubuntu 15.10 (Wily Werewolf) Ready For Download

Ubuntu 15.10 (Wily Werewolf) is available for download. Like the previous version, the changes in 15.10 are mostly bug fixes, various quality improvements and updated applications.

Ubuntu 15.10 Wily Werewolf

The major changes in this release are the update to GTK 3.16 (as well as most GNOME applications to version 3.16), along with dropping the Unity overlay scrollbars for GTK3 applications in favor of GNOME's overlay scrollbars.

Unity 7 is in maintenance mode and for this release, it has received only minor enhancements and bug fixes, most of which will most probably be backported to Ubuntu 14.04 LTS.

Unity / desktop changes in Ubuntu 15.10 (Wily Werewolf)

The most important visual change in Ubuntu 15.10 is probably the replacement of Unity's overlay scrollbars for GTK3 applications with GNOME's overlay scrollbars.

According to Will Cooke, Ubuntu Desktop Manager, the main purpose of this change is "to minimize the maintenance effort", since both GNOME and Unity overlay scrollbars have the same purpose: to maximize the screen real estate.

The new GNOME overlay scrollbars are only displayed when they are needed: there's no scrollbar by default but a small scrollbar is displayed when the pointer is moved and a larger scrollbar is displayed when the user wants to interact with it:

Ubuntu 15.10 Wily Werewolf

In Ubuntu 15.10, GTK2 applications continue to use the old Unity overlay scrollbars and so does Unity Dash.

It's also worth mentioning that since the Unity overlay scrollbars caused some parts of various GTK3 applications (mostly apps using client-side decorations) to become black or transparent, this bug should no longer occur in Ubuntu 15.10.

With Ubuntu 15.10, there are also a couple of menu changes. Firstly, there's a new dconf setting to control the delay to show the menu when pressing the Alt key. And secondly, JAyatana, a package that integrates Java Swing applications with Ubuntu's global menu and HUD, is no longer enabled by default. This change was also applied to Ubuntu 15.04 recently.

You can still enable JAyatana globally or on a per-app basis - see THIS article for details.

Other Unity changes include:
  • dragging an app from Dash to the Desktop to create a shortcut should now work properly;
  • added option to enable and disable Unity low graphics mode on the fly in CCSM or via gsettings;
  • fixed issues with "Always on Top" windows and Dash / HUD;
  • improved Dash keyboard navigation (you can now use page up/down keyboard navigation in Dash - when using these keys the view scrolls the length of the visible view; category headers that are not expandable are now skipped);
  • It's no longer possible to shutdown the computer when the screen is locked (this fixed a security issue which allowed the user to interact with programs that were still running for about 3 seconds, according to THIS bug report) ;
  • various other bug fixes and small enhancements - a complete Unity changelog can be found HERE.

Applications / packages

Ubuntu 15.10 Wily Werewolf

Ubuntu 15.10 (Wily Werewolf) has transitioned to GCC 5 and it ships with GTK 3.16 and mostly GNOME 3.16 applications, such as Image Viewer (3.16.3), Totem (3.16.4), Disks (3.16.2), GNOME System Monitor (3.16.0), Evince (3.16.1) and Terminal (3.16.2).

With this release, Image Viewer (Eye of GNOME) was redesigned and it now uses header bars however, under Unity it was patched to use a traditional titlebar and menu. There are also new controls to quickly zoom in and out and the properties sidebar has been refined:

Ubuntu 15.10 Wily Werewolf

Not all GNOME apps available by default in Ubuntu were updated to version 3.16 though. Nautilus is still at version 3.14.2 and Gedit is even older, Wily shipping with version 3.10.4.

Ubuntu 15.10 also ships with the following applications: Firefox 41.0.2, Thunderbird 38.3.0, Shotwell 0.22.0, LibreOffice 5.0.2, Transmission 2.84, Deja Dup 34, Rhythmbox 3.2.1, Empathy 3.12.10 and Brasero 3.12.1.

Under the hood, Ubuntu 15.10 ships with Mesa 11.0.2, Xorg server 1.17.2, the Ubuntu Linux Kernel 4.2.0-16.19, based on the upstream 4.2.3 Linux Kernel, PulseAudio 6.0 and systemd 225. I should also mention that with this release, Ubuntu ships with BlueZ 5 (5.35).

Since the Linux Kernel version used in the previous Ubuntu release (3.19 in Ubuntu 15.04), there are quite a few changes, including a new AMDGPU kernel driver for supporting recent and near-term Radeon GPUs, Intel Broxton support, F2FS (Flash-Friendly File System) encryption support, support for Ext4 encryption, experimental support for managing clustered raid arrays, live patching the kernel code (aimed at applying security fixes without rebooting), dm-crypt CPU scalability improvements and more.

Download Ubuntu 15.10 (Wily Werewolf)

Download Ubuntu 15.10 | official release notes (includes upgrade instructions)

Important: all non-LTS Ubuntu versions are supported for only 9 months!

Unfortunately for this release I didn't have time to cover the other Ubuntu desktop flavors. You'll find the official release notes and download links below:

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