How to set up Gmail to send and receive emails using your domain name (without paying anything)

Also known as “How to set up your free Gmail account to send and receive emails using your domain name without spending ANY money (except what you already spent to buy your domain name)

The answer you will usually get is “this is not possible with a free Gmail account: you need to use Google app“. The issue is that Google app is not free anymore and that you need to pay $5/user/month: that’s a bit expensive if all you want is to be able to send/receive emails using me@mydomain.com instead of me@gmail.com

Option #1: Using email forwarding & using the “reply-to” field

Note: clearly not the best approach, but I thought I would document it anyway.

So the first thing I tried to do is to purchase no-ip (that’s my domain name registrar) email forwarding service so that all emails sent to “me@mydomain.com” get forwarded to “me@gmail.com”. This is very straightforward to setup in the no-ip admin console, in the manage mail section:

forward

By the way, when you activate the email forwarding option, no-ip automatically adds the “mx.noip.com” MX record to your host.

Next thing to do is going to “Gmail > Settings > Accounts and Import” and edit the “send mail as” section to add a reply-to address:

edit email address

So if you use “me@mydomain.com” as your reply-to address, people receiving your mail will see this:

reply-to

Said differently: the email says that it comes from me@gmail.com, but replies will go to me@mydomain.com

So let’s recap the drawbacks of this first option:

  • First, you need to setup email forwarding which may come at a cost (for no-ip, this is an additional $10/year/domain).
  • Second, emails sent by you will NOT hide the fact that they were sent from “me@gmail.com”.

Option #2: buying a full mail service from your registrar

No-ip email service is yet an additional $10/year/domain for 1 mailbox and 5 GB of storage. Here are the setup instructions once you’ve purchased the service.

If instead of using their webmail you want to use the Gmail user interface (which by the way is the whole purpose of this article), then follow the instructions in the next chapter, which will need to be adapted to use no-ip instead of Zoho.

Option #3: using an intermediate email provider that gives you a free domain

OK, here is the interesting part: with this option you don’t need to spend any penny: all you need is a domain name and a free Gmail account.

The whole idea is to find another email provider that will allow you to send/receive emails using me@domain.com for free, and to then link this email provider with your free Gmail account.

Step #1: registration

While looking for email providers that directly allows you to send/receive emails using your domain for free, I found Zoho email service. For 0$ you get 10 users, 5GB/users and most importantly they can host 1 domain:

zoho free

Click on “get started” and enter your domain:

add domain

Then, you’ll need to prove that you really own the domain: this is a standard procedure so I’m not going to explain how to use the various options. The one that I’ve used is the one where they give you an HTML file that you need to upload in the webserver that sits behind http://www.mydomain.com

Once your Zoho mail account is setup, you then need to update your domain MX records and enter the “Zoho values”. If you use no-ip, go to the “update host” screen and in the “mail options” section, enter these values:

mail options

Wait for the values to be propagated (you can use a MX lookup tool like mxtoolbox to check that) and voilà: you can now use Zoho email service to send/receive emails using me@mydomain.com

But wait… didn’t we say that we wanted to do this from Gmail and not from Zoho ???

Step #2: adding Gmail to the mix

First thing to do: configuring Zoho so that it forwards all emails sent to “me@mydomain.com” to “me@gmail.com”

In the Zoho mail control panel, go to “email forwarding and POP/imap” and add a forward rule:

zoho email forwarding

Then go to Gmail, go to “Settings > Accounts and Import” and click on “Add another email you own”:

add another email

Then enter Zoho’s SMTP server information:

  • SMTP server: smtp.zoho.com
  • Username: your Zoho email login, which should be something like “me@mydomain.com” (this depends on how your Zoho account was setup)
  • Password: your Zoho email password

send mail through

And voilà: you can now use Gmail to send/receive emails using me@mydomain.com:

  • When someone send an email to me@mydomain.com, Zoho receives it and forwards it to “me@gmail.com” (thanks to the forwarding rule you setup in Zoho).
  • When you send an email from Gmail, Gmail asks Zoho to sends it, and Zoho of course sends it as “me@mydomain.com” (because you configured Gmail so that it uses Zoho SMTP service).

Laurent KUBASKI

Connecting to the GAE development server running on another machine

Google App Engine comes with a nice development server located in APP_ENGINE_HOME/bin/dev_appserver.sh

The syntax to run it is:  dev_appserver.sh PATH_OF_YOUR_GAE_EXPLODED_WAR

When you do that, your application is accessible from http://localhost:8080, however connecting to it from another machine using http://YOUR_IP:8080 will probably not work.

If this is your case, then it’s probably because it only listens on your loopback address (127.0.0.1)

[laurent@localhost ~]$ netstat -an | grep 8080
tcp 0 0 ::ffff:127.0.0.1:8080 :::* LISTE

To fix that, launch your dev appserver with “-a 0.0.0.0″ and you should be good to go: dev_appserver.sh -a 0.0.0.0 PATH_OF_YOUR_GAE_EXPLODED_WAR

[laurent@localhost ~]$ netstat -an | grep 8080
tcp        0      0 :::8080                     :::*                        LISTEN

… and if it still doesn’t work, check your firewall settings: maybe the access to post 8080 is blocked.

Laurent KUBASKI

Classes in Javascript

Instance properties, instance methods, class properties, class methods: yes, you can have all of these in Javascript, but you need to remember when to use ‘var’, when to use ‘this’ and when to use ‘that’.

Since I don’t seem to be able to easily remember all this stuff I wrote a small code sample that uses all of them. To run it, open the Javascript console in Chrome (CTRL-SHIFT-J on Windows) and run this baby:


function MyConstructor() {
  var that = this;
  this.publicInstanceProperty = "publicInstanceProperty";
  var privateInstanceProperty = "privateInstanceProperty";
  var privateInstanceMethod = function() {
    console.assert(that.publicInstanceProperty === "publicInstanceProperty");
    console.assert(privateInstanceProperty === "privateInstanceProperty");
  }
  privateInstanceMethod();
  // A privileged method is able to access the private variables and methods
  // it is itself accessible to the public methods and the outside.
  this.privilegedInstanceMethod = function() {
    console.assert(that.publicInstanceProperty === "publicInstanceProperty");
    console.assert(privateInstanceProperty === "privateInstanceProperty");
  }
};
MyConstructor.prototype.publicInstanceMethod = function() {
  console.assert(this.publicInstanceProperty === "publicInstanceProperty");
  console.assert(this.privateInstanceProperty === undefined);
  // this.privateInstanceMethod(); // TypeError: Object #<MyConstructor> has no method 'privateInstanceMethod'
};
MyConstructor.classProperty = "classProperty";
MyConstructor.classMethod = function() { };

//////////
// main //
//////////
var ctx = new MyConstructor();
console.assert(ctx.publicInstanceProperty === "publicInstanceProperty");
console.assert(ctx.privateInstanceProperty === undefined);
ctx.publicInstanceMethod();
// ctx.privateInstanceMethod(); // TypeError: Object #<MyConstructor> has no method 'privateInstanceMethod'
ctx.privilegedInstanceMethod();
console.assert(MyConstructor.classProperty === "classProperty");
MyConstructor.classMethod();

Douglas Crockford was the first to write about creating private instance properties/methods in Javascript. Each time you see the “var that = this” trick, that’s him !

However, I find this stackoverflow post to be easier to understand.

Navigating in a Word 2010 document using hyperlinks and bookmarks

OK, I’ve clicked on an hyperlink in a Word 2010 document and I’m now in a totally different page: “how the hell do I jump back to the page I was before clicking on the link ?“.

As surprising as it seem, there is no “back” button anywhere.

Took me at least 15 minutes to find the answer, which is: hold ALT+left arrow key.

Happy now ? :-)

Laurent KUBASKI

 

How Tomcat and Jetty generate the sessionId

Ever wondered how Tomcat and Jetty generate a unique sessionId ? (I’m talking about the one returned by HttpSession.getId()).

Here is how is works:

Tomcat 7.0.35

For Tomcat, the whole logic is in SessionIdGenerator.generateSessionId()


public class SessionIdGenerator {

/**
 * Generate and return a new session identifier.
 */
public String generateSessionId() {
byte random[] = new byte[16];
// Render the result as a String of hexadecimal digits
StringBuilder buffer = new StringBuilder();
int resultLenBytes = 0;

while (resultLenBytes < sessionIdLength) {
getRandomBytes(random);
for (int j = 0; j < random.length && resultLenBytes < sessionIdLength; j++) {
byte b1 = (byte) ((random[j] & 0xf0) >> 4);
byte b2 = (byte) (random[j] & 0x0f);

if (b1 < 10) buffer.append((char) ('0' + b1));
else buffer.append((char) ('A' + (b1 - 10)));

if (b2 < 10) buffer.append((char) ('0' + b2));
else buffer.append((char) ('A' + (b2 - 10)));

resultLenBytes++;
 }
 }

if (jvmRoute != null && jvmRoute.length() > 0) {
 buffer.append('.').append(jvmRoute);
 }

return buffer.toString();
 }

/**
 *
 */
 private void getRandomBytes(byte bytes[]) {
SecureRandom random = randoms.poll();
 if (random == null) {
 random = createSecureRandom();
 }
 random.nextBytes(bytes);
 randoms.add(random);
 }

 /**
 * Create a new random number generator instance we should use for
 * generating session identifiers.
 */
 private SecureRandom createSecureRandom() {

SecureRandom result = null;

long t1 = System.currentTimeMillis();
 if (secureRandomClass != null) {
 try {
 // Construct and seed a new random number generator
 Class<?> clazz = Class.forName(secureRandomClass);
 result = (SecureRandom) clazz.newInstance();
 } catch (Exception e) {
 log.error(sm.getString("sessionIdGenerator.random",
 secureRandomClass), e);
 }
 }

if (result == null) {
 // No secureRandomClass or creation failed. Use SecureRandom.
 try {
 if (secureRandomProvider != null &&
 secureRandomProvider.length() > 0) {
 result = SecureRandom.getInstance(secureRandomAlgorithm,
 secureRandomProvider);
 } else if (secureRandomAlgorithm != null &&
 secureRandomAlgorithm.length() > 0) {
 result = SecureRandom.getInstance(secureRandomAlgorithm);
 }
 } catch (NoSuchAlgorithmException e) {
 log.error(sm.getString("sessionIdGenerator.randomAlgorithm",
 secureRandomAlgorithm), e);
 } catch (NoSuchProviderException e) {
 log.error(sm.getString("sessionIdGenerator.randomProvider",
 secureRandomProvider), e);
 }
 }

if (result == null) {
 // Invalid provider / algorithm
 try {
 result = SecureRandom.getInstance("SHA1PRNG");
 } catch (NoSuchAlgorithmException e) {
 log.error(sm.getString("sessionIdGenerator.randomAlgorithm",
 secureRandomAlgorithm), e);
 }
 }

if (result == null) {
 // Nothing works - use platform default
 result = new SecureRandom();
 }

// Force seeding to take place
 result.nextInt();

long t2 = System.currentTimeMillis();
 if ((t2 - t1) > 100)
 log.info(sm.getString("sessionIdGenerator.createRandom",
 result.getAlgorithm(), Long.valueOf(t2 - t1)));
 return result;
 }

}

Jetty 8.1.9

For Jetty, the logic is in  AbstractSessionIdManager.newSessionId()

public abstract class AbstractSessionIdManager extends AbstractLifeCycle implements SessionIdManager {
/**
 * Set up a random number generator for the sessionids.
 * <p/>
 * By preference, use a SecureRandom but allow to be injected.
 */
 public void initRandom() {
 if (_random == null) {
 try {
 _random = new SecureRandom();
 } catch (Exception e) {
 LOG.warn("Could not generate SecureRandom for session-id randomness", e);
 _random = new Random();
 _weakRandom = true;
 }
 } else
 _random.setSeed(_random.nextLong() ^ System.currentTimeMillis() ^ hashCode() ^ Runtime.getRuntime().freeMemory());
 }

/**
 * Create a new session id if necessary.
 *
 * @see org.eclipse.jetty.server.SessionIdManager#newSessionId(javax.servlet.http.HttpServletRequest, long)
 */
 public String newSessionId(HttpServletRequest request, long created) {
 synchronized (this) {
 if (request != null) {
 // A requested session ID can only be used if it is in use already.
 String requested_id = request.getRequestedSessionId();
 if (requested_id != null) {
 String cluster_id = getClusterId(requested_id);
 if (idInUse(cluster_id))
 return cluster_id;
 }

// Else reuse any new session ID already defined for this request.
 String new_id = (String) request.getAttribute(__NEW_SESSION_ID);
 if (new_id != null && idInUse(new_id))
 return new_id;
 }

// pick a new unique ID!
 String id = null;
 while (id == null || id.length() == 0 || idInUse(id)) {
 long r0 = _weakRandom
 ? (hashCode() ^ Runtime.getRuntime().freeMemory() ^ _random.nextInt() ^ (((long) request.hashCode()) << 32))
 : _random.nextLong();
 if (r0 < 0)
 r0 = -r0;
 long r1 = _weakRandom
 ? (hashCode() ^ Runtime.getRuntime().freeMemory() ^ _random.nextInt() ^ (((long) request.hashCode()) << 32))
 : _random.nextLong();
 if (r1 < 0)
 r1 = -r1;
 id = Long.toString(r0, 36) + Long.toString(r1, 36);

//add in the id of the node to ensure unique id across cluster
 //NOTE this is different to the node suffix which denotes which node the request was received on
 if (_workerName != null)
 id = _workerName + id;
 }

request.setAttribute(__NEW_SESSION_ID, id);
 return id;
 }
 }

}

Laurent KUBASKI

Ordering wordpress menu items

Note: when I talk about wordpress here, I’m talking about the http://www.wordpress.com online service.

There are many available themes available for your wordpress blog, and they all come with at least one menu. The one I’m using is called “Enterprise” and comes with two menus. By default, the top menu contains my blog “pages” and the bottom menu contains my blog “categories”:

blog_menu

A common requirement is: how do I change the ordering of the menu entries ? (ie: what if I want the “uncategorized” category to be the last one ?)

Some people suggested adding a number if front of each category (like “1. Android” and “2. Linux”), hoping that wordpress would display the entries in the ascending order, but this doesn’t work. The truth is that this is not possible if you use the default theme menus: you need to create your own.

To do this, go to the “Appearance > Menu” section of your dashboard:

dashboard_menu

You will then see a “Theme locations” section with two dropdown lists. This is where you can specify your top and bottom menus (that is: if your theme allows two menus of course). By default, nothing is selected, which means that the theme built-in menus are used. As I said above, if you want to control exactly how your menus are organized, you need to create your own menus instead of using the built-in ones:

theme_locations_default

To create a new menu, click on the “+” button:

create_menu

Then, select the pages and/or categories that should be part of your menu and click on the “Add to menu” button:

pages_categories

Once the entries are added to your menu, use drag and drop to move them around until they are in the correct order.

drag_category

Finally, don’t forget to click on the “Save Menu” button !

Then, go back to the “Theme Locations” section and set your newly created menu as the primary one:

theme_locations_custom

There you go:

blog_menu_custom

Rotating photos from mobile devices uploaded to Google App Engine

I’m currently working on a Google App Engine application that allows users to upload photos from their mobile device and then view these photos in a slideshow.

So far, so good, until I realized that some of the uploaded images where sometimes rotated.

What the… ?

This is where I learnt about the concept of EXIF metadata. Long story short: each photo on your mobile device is stored as a jpeg file which contains the photo itself, but also a bunch of extra metadata, like the photo orientation.

This photo orientation depends on your mobile device orientation when the photo is taken. Using the iphone as an example, you basically have 4 possible positions:

  • If the iphone “home” button points downwards when the photo is taken, the photo is rotated 90° counter clockwise (“turned to the left” if you prefer)
  • If the iphone “home” button points upwards when the photo is taken, the photo is rotated 90° clockwise (“turned to the right” if you prefer)
  • If the iphone “home” button points to the left when the photo is taken,  the photo is rotated 180°.
  • If the iphone “home” button points to the right when the photo is taken,  the photo is not rotated (I guess this is how the iphone is supposed to be held when taking pictures).

What I ended up doing is:

  1. User uploads a photo
  2. GAE application determines what the photo orientation is and rotates it accordingly
  3. GAE application stores the rotated photo in the datastore

How to determine the photo orientation

As previously explained, you need to access the photo EXIF metadata and get the value of the “orientation” property.

Luckily, there is a great open-source project that can help us extract this value: it’s called metadata-extractor.

Here is how I used this library:


private int getEXIFOrientation(byte[] bytes) {
int orientation = -1; // default = unknown
 ByteArrayInputStream bis = null;
 try {
 bis = new ByteArrayInputStream(bytes);
 Metadata metadata = ImageMetadataReader.readMetadata(new BufferedInputStream(bis), false);
 ExifIFD0Directory exifDir = metadata.getDirectory(ExifIFD0Directory.class);
 if (exifDir != null) {
 orientation = exifDir.getInt(274); // 274 is the EXIF orientation standard code
 }
 } catch (Exception e) {
 log.warning("Couldn't extract EXIF orientation from image");
 } finally {
 if (bis != null) try {
 bis.close();
 } catch (IOException e) {
 // nothing
 }
 }
 return orientation;
}

How do I know that 274 is the internal code for the orientation EXIF tag ? Because of this link.

The orientation property can have 8 different values, but only 4 of them (in bold) are used:

  • 1: image is Normal-> that’s the orientation value you get when the iphone home button is on the right
  • 2: image is flipped horizontally
  • 3: image is rotated 180° -> that’s the orientation value you get when the iphone home button is on the left
  • 4: image is flipped vertically
  • 5: image is rotated 90° CCW and flipped vertically
  • 6: image is rotated 90° CCW -> that’s the orientation value you get when the iphone home button is upwards
  • 7: image is rotated 90° CW and flipped vertically
  • 8: image is rotated 90° CW -> that’s the orientation value you get when the iphone home button is downwards

How to rotate the image

That’s the easy part: we just use the GAE Image service, more precisely: ImagesServiceFactory.makeRotate().

  • orientation = 1 -> don’t rotate
  • orientation = 3 -> rotate 180° clockwise
  • orientation = 6 -> rotate 90° clockwise
  • orientation = 8 -> rotate -90° clockwise (or 90° counter clockwise if you prefer).

So we end up with:


private byte[] rotateImage(byte[] bytes) {
byte[] result = bytes;
int orientation = getEXIFOrientation(bytes);
int degrees = -1;
if (orientation == 3) degrees = 180;
else if (orientation == 6) degrees = 90;
else if (orientation == 8) degrees = -90;
if (degrees != -1) {
Image img = ImagesServiceFactory.makeImage(bytes);
Transform rotation = ImagesServiceFactory.makeRotate(degrees);
// GAE changes output format from JPEG to PNG while rotating the image if the expected output format is not given:
OutputSettings settings = new OutputSettings(ImagesService.OutputEncoding.JPEG);
settings.setQuality(1);
img = ImagesServiceFactory.getImagesService().applyTransform(rotation, img, settings);
result = img.getImageData();
}
return result;
}

Laurent KUBASKI

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