Removing the GMail "On Behalf Of" Sender Header

Like many of you, I have several email accounts and while using GMail as my primary email client would be nice, one of the things that has kept me from doing so is the annoying "On Behalf Of" that the GMail SMTP servers add to outgoing email. Some of the accounts are work related and the "On Behalf Of" comes across to me as unprofessional.

GMail On Behalf Of

That "On Behalf Of" part is caused by the Sender: header that GMail's SMTP servers add:

Sender: [email protected]
Date: Sun, 13 Dec 2009 10:33:18 -0500
Subject: Re: Project Details
From: [email protected]
To: [email protected]

Having your personal GMail address show up looks totally unprofessional and prevents you from being able to keep your personal email, uh, well, personal. Unfortunately, Google has already said it's part of their SMTP server specs, so they won't change it.

For a long time, your only option was to use a desktop email client like Outlook or Thunderbird to send email using your own domain's SMTP server. However, this meant accessing your GMail account using IMAP/POP and basically defeated the purpose of the web client (unless you didn't mind switching between the web and desktop client).

When Google offered GMail for Domains (now called Google Apps for Domains), I eagerly set up a free account using one of my domains and tested to see if email sent still included the Sender header. Sadly it did and I abandoned the idea of using GMail as my primary email client.

A few days ago I accidentally discovered that now both the standard GMail and Google Apps for Domains have the ability to specify your own SMTP server when you add an external email address to your GMail account. (Here's the announcement from a few months ago on Google's Blog.) This means you can receive email from [email protected] and also reply to emails from within GMail as [email protected] and the receiver won't know that you're using GMail!

Here's how to get this set up:

Login to GMail and click Settings at the top right. Then click the Accounts and Import tab:

GMail Settings - Accounts and Import

Now make sure the "Reply from the same address the message was sent to" is selected and click "Send mail from another address" to add your external email account.

GMail - Send mail from another address

Fill in the name you want to show up when you send email from this account. This will probably be your name, but it might also be something like "Company Support" or "Sales". Now enter your full external email address in the second box and then click Next Step.

GMail - Add another address - Step 1

On the next screen, select the second option box, "Send through SMTP servers" and fill in the SMTP Server, Username, and Password fields. When you click Add Account, Google will try connecting to the SMTP server using the credentials you supplied. If it successfully connects, you'll be brought back to the Accounts and Import tab with your new account added. Otherwise, Google will display the error it had when trying to verify the SMTP connection details.

GMail - Add another address - Step 2

Now you should see the new account listed on the Accounts and Import tab, along with a note at the bottom showing that email will be sent using the SMTP server you specified:

GMail - New account listed on Accounts and Import tab

Now, you can send and receive email using this external account and the receiver won't see that annoying "On Behalf Of" message! Your GMail address won't even be visible in the email headers if they choose to view the email source (they'll see that the email was routed through a Google server, but Google is well known enough that they probably won't care).

HOWTO: Remove Google Software Update on Mac OS X

A few days ago I wrote about how evil Google secretly installed software update on my computer. Well, even worse than that, when I choose to continue with the update it gives me this message:

Updates Unsuccessful

So every other day for the past two weeks I have been prompted to update the Google Talk plugin, and every single time I choose OK this same error message pops up. I had planned to leave the software update installed, but since it's not working and it's really starting to bug me, I'm removing it.

According to some discussion on Google Groups, the Google Software Update can only be removed by uninstalling any plugins associated with it (Google Earth, Google Talk, etc). Well that's not fair. I never installed any plugins to begin with! Time to do it the hacky way.

Hidden away on a page labeled "What is Google Software Update?", Google provides the single command you need to run to uninstall Google Software Update from your entire system:

sudo /Library/Google/GoogleSoftwareUpdate/GoogleSoftwareUpdate.bundle/Contents/Resources/ --uninstall

NOTE: Make sure the --uninstall portion of the command actually has two dash characters. It's possible your browser replaced the two dashes with a single dash character.

If you have something like the Google Gears plugin installed in your browser, you should either uninstall the Gears plugin or use it with caution. The Google Software Update is meant to help keep your Gears plugin (and other plugins) updated with any new security patches. Of course, if the Software Update isn't working, then it's really nothing more than an annoying nag screen.

UPDATE 2016-01-27: this comment has several links that may contain more up-to-date information.

UPDATE 2016-02-25: It appears this is the most recent command that seems to work:

sudo ~/Library/Google/GoogleSoftwareUpdate/GoogleSoftwareUpdate.bundle/Contents/Resources/ksinstall --nuke

Removing the Update Engine from your Home Directory

Several commenters mentioned the update engine was installed in their home directory. If the update engine was installed on a per-user basis (as opposed to system-wide), then use this command instead:

~/Library/Google/GoogleSoftwareUpdate/GoogleSoftwareUpdate.bundle/Contents/Resources/ --uninstall

NOTE: Make sure the --uninstall portion of the command actually has two dash characters. It's possible your browser replaced the two dashes with a single dash character.

Update: A commenter mentioned that if the file is not found, you can try running the following command instead:

/Library/Google/GoogleSoftwareUpdate/GoogleSoftwareUpdate.bundle/Contents/Resources/ --uninstall

Preventing Google Earth from Reinstalling the Update Engine

A commenter provided this solution for preventing Google Earth from reinstalling the update engine:

Google Earth reinstalls the software updater when it’s launched. To prevent this I created an empty file at ~/Library/Google/GoogleSoftwareUpdate, then transferred ownership to root and made it read-only for normal users:

touch ~/Library/Google/GoogleSoftwareUpdate
sudo chown root ~/Library/Google/GoogleSoftwareUpdate
sudo chmod 644 ~/Library/Google/GoogleSoftwareUpdate

Update: As one commenter mentioned, Google now has a page relevant to this discussion.

Update: It appears that at least some of Google's software now gives you the option for disabling the installation of the automatic update engine during the setup process. See this blog post for an explanation.

It appears that now you can plug this into your terminal to disable Google Software Updater from checking for updates:

defaults write checkInterval 0

Google Update Uninstaller Tool

Viktor Petersson from Wireload notified me of a tool they put together to make uninstalling the Google Update engine really simple. If you don't feel comfortable with the command line, download the Google Update Uninstaller.

Evil Google Secretly Installs Software Update

I was shocked to see this Google Software Update window on my Mac this morning asking me to install an update to the Google Talk Plugin:

Google Software Update

First of all, I had never seen this update window in my life and I never approved the installation of any such Software Update Engine! Secondly, what Google Talk Plugin is it talking about? As far as I can remember, I never installed a GTalk plugin. I use Adium for chatting on GTalk and I never had to install a plugin to use Google Talk! Maybe the update engine is trying to update the GTalk plugin that came with Adium?

There are some other people who are also quite annoyed by this secret update engine installation. Apparently the update engine is fully open-source, but there is no uninstall program. To uninstall it, you must unregister applications that are using it and wait a day for it to automatically uninstall itself. How ugly.

Google's Growing Visual Clutter

Google's latest "feature" is nothing short of annoying. I fell in love with Google Search for the clean, textual layout of the search results. The colored text I can deal with, but not visual buttons next to every single result! To make matters worse, Google doesn't provide a way to disable this feature either, so your only two options are logging out of your Google account or installing a Greasemonkey extension.

Oh, and my rant doesn't end there. Another feature that was recently added, Google Suggest, has been more trouble than it has help. I can't even count how many times I've went to Google something only to have a big list of suggestions instantly erase the original search query from my head. There are hacky ways to disable that too, but come on Google! There should be options to disable this stuff!

Googlebot Relentlessly Using Bandwidth

When one of my hosting clients complained about continuously running out of bandwidth on his low-traffic site, I took a peek at the access logs and discovered that Googlebot was indexing every single possible day on a simple calendar addon for the phpBB2 forum software installed on the site. (Googlebot is the program that crawls the web indexing everything so you can search for it using Google.)

A quick peek at the access logs showed thousands of Googlebot requests for a forum calendar:

[sourcecode language="bash"] - - [01/Sep/2008:17:09:12 -0400] "GET /forums/calendar.php?m=7&d=21&y=1621&sid=79b643b30eer7140adcd2ba76732688a HTTP/1.1" 200 44000 "-" "Mozilla/5.0 (compatible; Googlebot/2.1; +" - - [01/Sep/2008:17:09:33 -0400] "GET /forums/calendar.php?m=4&d=2&y=2188&sid=e4da1ee0a488096e3897a8f15c31cea2 HTTP/1.1" 200 43997 "-" "Mozilla/5.0 (compatible; Googlebot/2.1; +" - - [01/Sep/2008:17:09:44 -0400] "GET /forums/calendar.php?m=12&d=4&y=1624&sid=cc5d5084d158457ce3c7a9d38263f553 HTTP/1.1" 200 44076 "-" "Mozilla/5.0 (compatible; Googlebot/2.1; +" - - [01/Sep/2008:17:10:05 -0400] "GET /forums/calendar.php?m=10&d=15&y=1621&sid=a4e8af0d20715g965b3e616ae6f95004 HTTP/1.1" 200 43751 "-" "Mozilla/5.0 (compatible; Googlebot/2.1; +" - - [01/Sep/2008:17:10:15 -0400] "GET /forums/calendar.php?m=9&d=13&y=2187&sid=80c79b2491ddf3d8d46076d48a6282d1 HTTP/1.1" 200 43896 "-" "Mozilla/5.0 (compatible; Googlebot/2.1; +" - - [01/Sep/2008:17:10:26 -0400] "GET /forums/calendar.php?m=5&d=30&y=1618&sid=f0619ba6517an57bcd6a7e9ca6289a32 HTTP/1.1" 200 43820 "-" "Mozilla/5.0 (compatible; Googlebot/2.1; +" - - [01/Sep/2008:17:10:38 -0400] "GET /forums/calendar.php?m=11&y=2189&d=30&sid=97c0a58bbd2b3914dbf255ea0a2b1a4c HTTP/1.1" 200 44107 "-" "Mozilla/5.0 (compatible; Googlebot/2.1; +"

A quick Google search turned up many others who've had the same problem:

Just found exactly the same on one of my client’s sites. They were complaining that despite being a small site, they’d apparently used all of their bandwidth within 4 days.

They had one of these PHP calendars on their site, where you click the day and it tells you what’s on. Googlebot had tried to index EVERY SINGLE POSSIBLE DAY. And, in the first four days of September, had used up all this site’s bandwidth, clocking up an impressive 19,000 hits and 800MB of bandwidth.

You can use robots.txt to tell all decent robots to push off. I’ve just done that. Let’s see if it works!

So I added a file to the root web directory for the site and named it robots.txt. Inside, I put the following:

User-agent: *
Disallow: /forums/calendar.php

Sure enough, the next time the Googlebot came through it ignored /forums/calendar.php and didn't use up ridiculous amounts of bandwidth indexing something that need not be indexed.

I can't blame the Googlebot though. It was just doing its job. The fault goes to the creators of the calendar addon. What they should have done was add a rel="nofollow" to all the links in the calendar. You can add a nofollow tag to individual links to prevent Googlebot from crawling them. Google started using the nofollow tag as a method of preventing comment spam back in 2005.

Google Reported Attack Site

Google Reported Attack Site

I'm sure some of you must have seen this warning when you tried to visit my site. Fear not, I have fixed the problem. There was an old file on my domain that had a link to a site that was defined as "malicious" by Google, so they basically added my entire domain to the watch list. I removed the file and, after asking Google to check my site again using Google's Webmaster Tools, they removed my domain from the list.

So, how did I find the few pages (among thousands of files on my site) that contained a link to the malicious site Google was blocking me for? I logged into my site via SSH and ran a command like the following:

for i in `find . -name "*.ht*"` ; do echo $i; cat $i | grep 195.2.252; done

This basically searched every single .htm or .html file inside my public_html directory and returned anything that contained the IP address I was looking for. Whenever there was a match, the filename that preceded the output was the offending file. I'm sure there's a more elegant way of doing this, but hell, I just wanted to fix the problem!

Although this was annoying to deal with, it made me feel good that Google is actually keeping track of these things and, with the help of Firefox, is warning people of such sites. Site owners must be vigilant in fixing such problems or they risk losing loads of traffic from Google (and from visitors with Firefox). – the unofficial google shell uses AJAX and CSS to mimic a command line interface in your browser. You can type commands to search Google Web, Images, Feeds, Blogs, News, and Wikipedia.


Probably the coolest part is that you can open a result in a new browser tab by simply typing the number next to the result! You can also type "open" from the command line to open that URL in a new tab.

You can also switch to a particular search mode by simply typing the mode. For example, to search only Wikipedia just type 'wiki' to switch into that mode. The prompt will change to '/wiki' and subsequent searches will be for Wikipedia. Awesome!

You can type an address in 'web' mode and it will display the Google Map with a link to visit the address on Google Maps.

Here is the output of the 'help' command:

goosh help

Google calculator functions don't work and searching for "define: bagatelle" returns nothing. I use those two functions quite often, so I won't be switching to goosh anytime soon. However, it has reminded me how nice it is to do web-based things from the command line. There is a utility called surfraw that, when combined with screen and elinks, can give you a powerful command line search interface.

FeedBurner Login is Down

I just tried logging into my FeedBurner account and instead of a login form I got this:

[ServletException in:/body/narrow_login.jsp] /body/narrow_login.jsp(24,25) Unable to load tag handler class "org.apache.struts.taglib.html.CheckboxTag" for tag "html:checkbox"'

Google Maps Street View: Boston added

A few days ago Google added Boston to their list of Street View cities. Google Street View basically lets you get on the ground and walk around as if you were there, only the pictures aren't live. How does this work? A car drives around with a camera mounted on top taking pictures of the street and the area around it. Those pictures, and the location data, are uploaded to Google and turned into the Street View maps you find find on Google Maps.

Here is where I work in Central Square, Cambridge (on the 8th floor of the tall building):

From the looks of the empty streets, they must have been driving around on a Sunday morning. When you click on the Street View button at the top of a Google map, all the blue area's are covered by street view. It's really cool to explore entire neighborhoods without even going there. This is an invaluable tool if you're moving to a new apartment and you want to easily check out the neighborhood before you sign the lease!!

Google Calendar in Thunderbird

I came across a really cool solution for viewing your Google Calendar from within Mozilla Thunderbird. I've been using Thunderbird for a few years now, for both personal email and work email. I thoroughly enjoy it over any other solution, however I've recently decided to put the time and effort into setting up and learning Mutt, a very old and popular text based email client that is endlessly configurable.

Never the less, the Provider plugin which makes it possible to view your Google Calendar from within Thunderbird also works with Sunbird, Mozilla's open-source calendar application. I remember trying Sunbird a few years ago when it was in alpha stages and it was really rough around the edges. It has since improved dramatically so I'll probably end up using it one way or another, even after I switch email clients.

Now if only Mr. Oldervoll would fix a couple of the bugs in GCalSync, I'd be able to sync my Google Calendar with my Blackberry worry-free and have an all-in-one solution!

Google Error

Yesterday, a lot of Comcast users experienced a DNS outage, or at least that's what they are calling it. Most were unable to access Google, and those that could access Google were unable to submit searches. There has even been speculation that Google was hacked. As of last night and this morning, however, Google seems fine; or does it?

When I got to the office today, I typed and saw this:

About a minute later it was working again. What's up Google? Feeling the strain of a billion searches a day?

GMail Review

I was lucky enough to obtain a GMail account to beta test, and damn, I love it!

Ever since I started using Google, Ive always loved how clean and simple it was. The idea of Google Text ADs is awesome too. I never mind browsing a site that has Google text ADs. They dont slow down the speed of the page when its loading, and they dont distract your attention away from the content of the page.

Oh, back to GMail; its awesome! As soon as GMail goes public, I highly recommend you get an account! Thats my mini-review of GMail. =)