Gmail Labs Adds Multiple Inboxes

Gmail Labs adds a new Multiple Inboxes feature today that allows you to keep an eye on multiple buckets at once while you’re viewing your inbox.

Just head to the Labs tab in your Gmail account to enable the new feature. Once enabled, you’ll get a new Multiple inboxes tab in your Gmail settings. From there, you can choose up to five different panes to display to the right of your Gmail inbox, above your inbox, or below it. For label and filter junkies, the Multiple Inboxes feature is a must. When setting up your multiple inboxes, you can use any of Gmail’s supported search operators to create any sort of search you want. For example, good choices for your multiple inboxes might include searches like:


Let’s hear which labels or search operators you’re keeping an eye on in the comments.

Losing Weight the Flexitarian Way (No Wheatgrass Required)

I’ve dropped about 10 pounds so far, and a little more falls off every day. The fix hasn’t been running, lifting, or anything trendy—I’m just eating less meat, and enjoying what I eat more.

What I’m doing isn’t exactly new or original. You could call it flexitarianism, or a more regimented form of semi-vegetarianism. You could accuse me of jumping all over the latest thing foodie guru Mark Bittman said or wrote, and, given how often he shows up in my food-focused posts, you’d have good reason to bust out the fanboy flag.

However I came to it, I’m avoiding meat for all but one meal of the day. This plan has worked where a lot of other plans and diets haven’t.

First, a quick step back. I carried, in December, about 205 pounds on my 6-foot-1-inch frame. By all accounts, I’ve got a lucky metabolism, but I also love food—all of it, everywhere, in any amount—and dark, regional beers. And I’ve spent most of my career sitting down to write or edit words. So an excess of physique-softening, energy-reducing weight gradually accumulated on me, and it was defeating to think about. I’d read most of Michael Pollan’s popular eat-better-or-else books, and my family history is full of diabetes and obesity. Still, fast food drive-thru visits were written off with excuses about a tight schedule, vegetables were given the same respect as salt packets, and my sedendary life left me feeling pretty unfit.

Most diets seem to be based around broad concepts (Don’t eat carbohydrates!), ridiculously strict regiments (any crash diet focused on one type of food), or lists of “good” and “bad” foods so varied and long that scanning a restaurant menu feels like a course in advanced database queries (next stop: South Beach).

The diet suggested, or at least discussed at length, in Mark Bittman’s new book, Food Matters: A Guide to Conscious Eating, is simple, and centered around a rule a four-year-old can understand: Don’t eat meat before dinner. It might sound like sacrilege to those who truly relish a good meal, or foolishly restrictive to anyone raised on bacon with their breakfast, meat in their sandwiches, and a dinner plate with starch, vegetable, and entree. But for this Lifehacker editor, it’s an easily-defined, sensible challenge, and one that’s paying off the more I rise to it. It doesn’t punish you for dreaming of applewood-smoked pork ribs, it shouldn’t turn you into a waiter’s worst nightmare, and it makes it harder for you to overeat.

Bittman’s diet suggestions stem from a wider-focused concern about the earth’s ecology, the food production demands of our modern diet, and other pressing topics of the day. If vegan, organic, or locally-sourced foods are what you’re into, a daytime vegetarian diet can certainly accommodate. But the weight loss that’s worked for me and the New York Times food writer is more due to how scaling back on meat—dense with calories, a great hider of fat, and easily eaten too quickly—tricks you into consuming less. It almost goes without saying that avoiding the processed, mass-produced meats in burgers, re-heated chain restaurant meals, and packaged entrees is better for you in any situation. But avoiding \any kind of meat forces you, or at least me, to get creative with your daytime diet, and makes the evening meal something you really want to enjoy, not just scarf down.

Here’s how I’ve made a flexitarian/daytime-vegetarian/Bittmanist diet work for me as a day-to-day reality:

  • Broaden your food base: Hide these from your friends with the “Meat is murder—tasty, delicious murder” T-shirts, if you must, but there are tons of great cookbooks, websites, and idea wells to grab meat-less meals or snacks from. The Meat Lite recipe series from the foodie blog Serious Eats, and a cookbook from the authors of that series, Almost Meatless, are just what they sound like—scaled-back quantities of meat that use it for good flavor. Sites like VegKitchen, 101 Cookbooks, and others have creative takes on meals that work great at breakfast, mid-day, or dinner. My personal source for endless inspiration? Asian cookbooks—any cuisine, any recipe. You can swap in tofu, if you dig it, or beans, fresh vegetables, or pretty much anything for most dishes, and you’ll find a few that work great with any ingredients.
  • Don’t get held hostage at restaurants: If you’re sitting down for breakfast or lunch and the vegetarian offerings are unappealing, consider getting a salad and an appetizer, two appetizers, two salads, or asking the waiter for a plate with a few of the menu’s appealing sides. Last resort? Ask the waiter (gasp!) if the chef recommends any vegetarian substitutions. In a lot of cases, you’ll pay less than if you grabbed a full-fledged meal, and if you end up eating less, well …
  • Re-think your hunger: As Bittman notes in Food Matters, most of us can’t (or, at least, don’t) have sex every single time we think about it—we’ll wait for you to finish up whatever wisecrack you got going with there. But hunger, real or routine, is something many of us satisfy with an unnatural level of urgency. You can fight off some of those pangs with a slow, steady stream of healthier stuff, like popcorn, almonds, or snacks that don’t come in thin foil, but it’s easier to engage in something, anything time-consuming when your body feels hungry and you can’t remind it that dinner’s only an hour away. There’s a reason critics always swipe at artists by referring to the work of their “young and hungry” days—being a little hungry is far from a bad thing.
  • It’s a guideline, not a religion: Your buddy’s in town, and wants to meet at Texas Jack’s House of Steak for lunch. Go for it, try to eat just a reasonable amount—about the size of a deck of cards, and switch to vegetarian fare for dinner. But your spouse planned a great chicken dish! Okay, eat a healthy amount of that too, tell her you’re stuffed from lunch, and eat as many veggies as you can. This plan isn’t about quick results, or proudly waving a trendy diet flag in everyone’s face. Eat as realistically vegetarian as you can in the day, eat small amounts of (really good!) meat at night, and you’ll eventually adapt to eating smaller portions. You could eat nothing but Snickers bars all day and technically be eating vegetarian, but that’s not the point—use your meatless day to inspire your diet, not constrain it.

Photo by moriza.

This is, of course, just one man’s plan for losing weight, and anyone picking it up has to do a bit of research into what kind of meat-less meals are nutritious and relatively painless to cook and eat. It should be accompanied with real exercise; I’m just putting it off that part until spring because, well, it’s 12 degrees here on days like today. And results will vary, based on a lot of factors. But feeling good about what you’re putting in your body, and having a simple rule to manage it all, has worked out great so far.

Anybody in the crowd made a switch to lower-meat diets? Got any suggestions for staving off hunger and replacing those big hunks o’ flesh? Gather ’round the kitchen and offer some tips in the comments.

FICO Credit Score Calculations Change Today

In the current economic downturn, the last thing you want to see is your credit score go to hell. Today, a new system for determining your credit score has rolled out, and here are the highlights.

Photo by TheTruthAbout….

The new FICO system—called FICO 08 (apparently it was meant to debut last year)—has tweaked many factors, hoping to distinguish between consumers who’ve made an isolated mistake and those with habitual credit troubles. Our friends over at Consumerist have covered the highlights:

  • Debts less than $100 that go to collections will matter less.
  • They will look at the total picture more. A single repossession, for instance, won’t matter as much if everything else looks good.

Head over to Consumerist for a closer look at four other ways the scoring has changed, then let’s hear how you feel about those changes in the comments.

Foxmarks Bookmark Syncing Available for Internet Explorer, Safari

Windows/Mac: Foxmarks, our favorite way to keep Firefox bookmarks synced across computers, is now offered for Internet Explorer and Safari, giving anyone with multiple computers or browsers a pain-free way to keep it all together.

Foxmarks offers basically the same type of background bookmark-syncing awesomeness for IE and Safari as it does for Firefox, with a few key exceptions:

If you’re still down to try out Foxmarks in its newest forms, head to the Foxmarks downloads page and grab your appropriate installer. I lack a Mac system, so I’ll be stepping through an Internet Explorer setup below.

Double-click the installer, accept all the standard “Do you want …” and “Allow …” prompts, and you’ll be asked to either create a Foxmarks account or sign in with the one you’ve got. After verification, you’ll end up at this simple screen, familiar to Foxmarks veterans:

The default action, if you simply hit “Synchronize,” is for Foxmarks to merge any favorites you’ve got on your system with anything backed up in your Foxmarks cloud. That’s fine for newcomers, but I generally like to get rid of all of the pre-loaded MSN, Windows Live, and similar bookmarks, so let’s hit “Change sync settings” and switch it up:

After that, Foxmarks gets going. Instead of installing an icon in Internet Explorer’s bottom status bar, Foxmarks plants itself in your system tray. You’ll see it pop up a notification when it’s done grabbing or placing bookmarks to/from the servers. Right-clicking this icon gives you access to your Foxmarks settings, can open up your web-based bookmarks browser, and close down the Foxmarks process. It seems to run whether or not you’ve got IE up and running, which is somewhat memory insensitive, but also convenient for those who open and close their browser regularly.

The Foxmarks options are similar to what Firefox users have been used to: a quick-sync button, choices on how and when Foxmarks synchronizes, and, best of all, the same kind of computer-by-computer selective bookmark syncing, or “profiles.”

And here’s the advanced options, where you can change your encryption demands, force a server- or computer-wiping sync, and turn off that Foxmarks tray icon. Turning off the icon still lets you at the Foxmarks options from IE’s “Tools” menu:

Here’s a video tour of Foxmarks features, composed by Walt Mossberg of the Wall Street Journal/All Things Digital. It’s somewhat introductory-level, but covers a lot of ground (and here’s his full, positive review of Foxmarks’ functionality.

Safari users, be sure to tell us how Foxmarks is working for you. Does tri-browser Foxmarks open up a new realm of synchronized browsing? Waiting for just one more platform (noting that mobile access is, of course, already covered)? Give us your reviews in the comments.

Google Apps Users Get Offline Calendar Access

Google Apps users may be noticing an “Offline (beta)” link in the upper-right corner of their Google Calendars. That’s right—Google’s rolling out offline browser access to appointments, and, for once, Apps users get first dibs.

If you see the offline link in red, hit it and, if you’ve enabled any other kind of Google offline access with Google Gears, like Offline Gmail, you’ll get a familiar experience. You’re prompted to enable offline access, to install Gears if you haven’t already, and then a little green wheel starts to spin in the corner.

If you’ve already got Gears installed on your browser (supported on Chrome, Internet Explorer 6 & 7, Firefox 2 & 3, and Safari 3), your calendar will hook up its first event synchronization. Lifehacker received offline access this morning, and since our shared staff calendar isn’t stuffed with events, the first sync took less than a minute. Google doesn’t make it clear in its Offline Calendar FAQ if there are any limitations to the number of events synced, backwards or forwards, but it’d be hard to imagine not getting everything. If they can afford the bandwidth to give you about 10,000 of your emails, attachments and all, it’s hard not to believe the simple text of ical data isn’t a gimmie for their servers.

Once you’re synced up, you get really basic options on your Settings page to manage which calendars you want synced to your account. Enabling offline access seems to only grab the default calendar on its first try:

The big drawback—and it’s a surprising one, given the leaked screens from July 2008—is that offline Calendar is read-only. That means no editing or adding to events when you’re away from the net. There also doesn’t appear to be a “flaky connection mode,” a la Offline Gmail, that tries to connect only when you do something new—you’re either online or off with GCal, at least in this Google Apps offering.

What’s your take on Google’s version of offline calendars? Google Apps users, are you finding everything on your calendar synced up, or are there limitations? Tell us our findings and feelings in the comments.

bitRipper is a Dead Simple Solution for DVD Ripping

Windows only: If all you want is computer-playable video off your DVDs, bitRipper is the most simple, click-one-button-and-you’re-rolling solution we’ve seen. You can change your rip’s audio and video parameters, but you don’t have to.

Note: Many apologies for the duplicate post, but hopefully we provided you with a bit more detail this time ’round.

The screenshot above might be the only thing you ever see from bitRipper, if you’re not the type to fiddle with video codecs, aspect ratios, normalizing, and bitrates. After installing bitRipper and starting it, you can change the output file name if you want, but loading a disc and hitting “Start” starts the ripping process and puts an .avi file in your My Documents->My DVD Backups folder. Even our own one-click DVD Rip requires a tiny bit more configuration on the front end, though it’s equally capable and simple in a general sense.

If you were the type to fiddle, well, here’s what you can get to with the Settings button:

And here’s the list of video and audio codecs you can rip any DVD track to (UPDATE: Turns out the list is dependent on what codecs you have installed, usually put there by other ripping programs. This is the basic list on a relatively untouched Windows 7 system):

There’s little else to say, except that it seems to work—I’m currently backing up a DVD from the default settings, and it claims it will finish at 8:30 a.m. (EST) or so, having started at 7:50 a.m. Speed demons can debate whether that’s my drive or a standard run time, but everyone else can appreciate bitRipper’s no-nonsense utility. It’s free to download for Windows systems only.