Mailbag: August 1, 2010

This week in the mailbag:

Home Swap in Europe
How Can I Tell If I Have the New Hotmail?
What's the Best Way to Copy or Move Mail from One Account to Another?
Phone Functionality in Windows Phone
Hotmail EAS?
Photo Sync in Windows Live Photo Gallery 2011

Have a question? I can't guarantee an answer, but I'll try. Drop me a note! (And let me know if you'd prefer not to have your name published.)

Home Swap in Europe

Sorry this edition of the mailbag is late. For the past five years, we've been doing a home swap in Europe each summer, usually for three weeks, and our trip this year started Sunday. I've been trying to get caught up ever since. Anyway, I've gotten a number of questions about the home swap this year, including...

Home swap? You mean someone else is living in your house right now?

Yes. A family from Europe comes to our home, and we go to theirs. We swap cars as well, and when you think about the cost of any vacation, lodging and transportation are among the biggest expenses, and two that go up the longer a trip is. (The other big expenses are air travel, which is constant, regardless of the trip length, and food. By swapping homes, we can turn a one-week hotel-type stay into a three week "live like a local" experience where we shop locally for food and really get to know a place. It makes a long trip do-able, whereas if we were going to stay in hotels it would simply be prohibitively expensive (and less desirable as a cultural experience).

Of course, I can't simply disappear for three weeks. So I work from here as well, not on a normal schedule but some each day. Some days I work a full schedule, and sometimes we're just out and about.

How do you go about doing a home swap?

There are many services that facilitate home swaps, but we've always used Intervac, and it's worked out well for us.

Where are you this year?

We're in a small town in Germany called Weingarten (Baden). It's southwest of Frankfurt am Main, and northwest of Strasbourg, France.

Would be you be willing to meet/have a beer/whatever?

I'm not against this kind of thing, though I haven't done it all too often in the past. On this particular trip, we're not really close to a major city, whereas on the previous house swaps we were. So it's not as simple getting into a place with the family and taking the time to do something like that as it would have been on previous trips. I guess the issue here is that we're on vacation, and when I'm not working, we're sight-seeing or whatever, so I'm not sure if I can make the time on this paricular trip. And not to completely explain it away, but I also spent the previous month holed up in my office trying to finish "Windows Phone Secrets" on schedule. I did it, but I didn't really see much of my family during that time. So I'm trying to make up for that now.

I hope that makes sense.

How Can I Tell If I Have the New Hotmail?

Angst over the new Hotmail continues. Vincent R. asks:

I was wondering, how can i tell if i have the new Hotmail update or not? Does it look any different, or is it all 'under the hood'?

It looks a bit different, but you can tell by checking whether you have certain new UI bits, like the "Quick views" in the leftmost column or the filters across the top of the inbox, like View: All, Unread, From contacts, Social updates, From groups, and Everything else.

You can see screenshots of the new Hotmail, and read more about this update, in my article The New Hotmail.

Update: Since writing this, I've seen reports that the new Hotmail rollout is complete, or nearly so.

What's the Best Way to Copy or Move Mail from One Account to Another?

Vincet has another question:

What is the best/easiest way to move old emails from Hotmail into Gmail? Most of the articles I've came across are either a year or so out of date, or not very clear.

The easiest way I've found to move messages between servers is to load the two accounts side-by-side in a client-side mail app, like Outlook or Windows Live Mail, that lets you configure multiple accounts. Then you can just drag and drop messages from one account to the other. Note that when you do this, it's very slow because you're copying/moving across the Internet, so it's best to work with small chunks of messages, not entire mailboxes, especially if you're dealing with years of data. But it does work.

Long-time readers know I'm no fan of client-side email applications, but this is one case where using one can come in very handy indeed.


Phone Functionality in Windows Phone

Andre P. has some questions about the phone functionality in Windows Phone:

Does Windows Phone 7 support visual voicemail?

No, there's no visual voice mail, but there's also no reason why AT&T (or whoever) couldn't create an app for that.

Does it have customizable ringtone support per contact/group?

It supports per-contact ringtones. There are no contact "groups" in Windows Phone.

What about customizable sound for texts messages, per person/group?

You can't configure different messagaing (SMS, MMS) sounds for different contacts.

Does voice dialing work via bluetooth?

Yes, voice dialing/voice command does work over Bluetooth.

Note: I'm writing a Windows Phone book, if you're not aware, and have of course been writing a lot about Windows Phone here on the site. For more information, please refer to the Phones, Mobility & Hardware activity center here on the SuperSite for Windows, and to my book blog, Windows Phone Secrets.

Hotmail EAS?

With Microsoft allegedly finalizing the rollout of the new Hotmail, I'm getting more and more questions about when the company will enable Exchange ActiveSync access to the account so people can access their email, contacts, and calendars from the iPhone, iPad, Android phones, and other mobile devices. The word from Microsoft is:

It's not public yet.

I'm told it should happen by the end of August. I'm starting to get the feeling that Microsoft doesn't understand the urgency on this one.

Photo Sync in Windows Live Photo Gallery 2011

Jim H. asks:

I heard that Windows Live Photo Gallery 2011 had a Photo Sync ability with Windows Live Skydrive. Is this correct? I can?t seem to find it, I can load individual photos but no photo sync.

The previous (current) version of Windows Live Photo Gallery had a nearly-hidden feature that would let you sync photos from PC-to-PC using a low-level technology called Windows Live Sync. In Windows Live Photo Gallery 2011, this feature is gone, and there's no way from within the application to sync photos to the cloud. However... The new Windows Live Sync (2011, part of Windows Live Essentials 2011, like Photo Gallery 2011) is more advanced, and more usable, and one of the things you can do with it is sync up to 2 GB of content between your PCs and Windows Live SkyDrive. It's probably not exactly what you're looking for, but it does work well ... assuming you only sync up to 2 GB of photos. If all you need is PC to PC sync, the new Live Sync is essentially unlimited, however.

More next week...