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why can't i associate a Gmail address with my google account?
Because a Gmail address /is/ a google account.
i.e. you can have a google account without Gmail, but you can't have Gmail without a google account.
So i'd guess they'd ideally want you to ditch your standalone google account and just use the one tied to your Gmail <paranioa> so they can cross reference everything </paranioa>.
? ? ?
i signed up for a google account using my hotmail address because at that time i didn't have, nor particularly want to have, a gmail account. i did however want a blog so i signed up for that using a google account tied to my hotmail address. now i'd like to switch to just using my gmail address and it won't let me do that ;(
like two accounts on this site.
it will only let you add *additional* email accounts/addresses and not the primary one.
you can sign up for a google account with, say, a hotmail email address and have access to google account stuff but not actually have a gmail account. then, after, if you set up a gmail account separately to your existing google account then you can't really merge that with your prior google account, because a gmail account automatically sets you up with a google account.
my first signup with google was via gmail so my google stuff is all together. rss reader stuff, saved maps, docs and so on.
but i have a couple of other throwaway gmail accounts. which automatically give you the keys to a tied together account so i could have other rss reader accounts, saved maps, docs, blogger etc. but i just use 'em as throwaway gmail accounts and leave 'em at that.
i guess if you wanted you could set up one google account for maps, one for blogger, one for docs, one for reader etc, but that would be a bitch in terms of convenience
...but there is something on your google accounts page that lets you edit settings for 'Multiple sign-in'. doesn't totally explain itself though. and on the 'learn more' page, it starts talking about workarounds using different browsers etc. so not sure that it's the answer.
signed up for a delicious account, owned by yahoo but not something you could turn into a yahoo login
a while later, signed up for a ymail account, which i believe /can/ become a login for delicious, and other stuff like yahoo groups. my flickr (also owned by yahoo) account is the same username as my ymail but i don't think the two are linked.