Entries Tagged as 'Communications'

Droid Does

I purchased a used Motorola Droid this weekend — I couldn’t resist, the price was reasonable and it included an extra charger, the multi-media dock, and a 16GB µSD card.

I’ve played with Android both on other people’s phone, and a hacked version loaded on my HTC Touch Pro 2 (but there were a number of things that didn’t work, and because the phone is both CDMA and GSM I expected that there would always be a number of issues with Android on it until there were a reasonable number of CDMA “Worldphones” running Android).

By far my preference in handsets are those made by HTC — I just think they do a much better job designing the handset, and understand the features that consumers really want on a smart phone… but the Droid is sort of the standard; and it met my absolute criteria for an Android based phone, it had a slide out keyboard.

I just have zero interest in all the new whizzy phone that don’t have keyboards — I send too many emails not to be able to see a reasonable amount of the screen and type at the same time (and don’t even think about things like remote desktop with a virtual keyboard).

Using Android is interesting… many aspects of it are well engineered and simple to use — but just as you think the ergonomics have driven the design of the interface, the geeky techno thorns in Android rear their ugly head.

By far the iPhone has made the slickest interface — but without a keyboard all you really have is an expensive iPod that can make phone calls.  Windows Mobile (at least with the extensions HTC loads on their smart phones) has made using the features very friendly, but every time you want to stray from what 90% of the people with Windows Mobile handsets want to do — or do something “advanced” that doesn’t involve an Exchange Server or Outlook… it stumbles and makes you have to be both technical and clever.

Given the tender young age of Android it’s certainly very respectable how far Google has come; but in trying to make the handset easy to use, Google has required the use of Google services with the phone — no you don’t have to, but you’ll fight every feature of the phone if you don’t setup Google Mail, Google Voice, etc.

There are those who still seem to think that Google does everything they do for the good of the general public — rubbish!  Google makes money off advertising, and to do that effectively they need to target advertising by demographics, and they do that by tracking trends by mining data.

Everything Google does Google does to support their revenue stream.

That isn’t necessarily bad; it’s just something that users of Google’s services need to understand… and you do need to pay close attention to Google’s privacy policies.

I’m not saying you’d be any “safer” with an iPhone (Apple is certainly trying to do the same thing — and I always find it humorous that it seems every “cloud” service Apple introduces is tied into iTunes (a very poorly thought out name for that type of service — obviously it was initially intended to only provide music).

Bottom line; I’d say your best value in a smart phone today is an Android based handset, and I’d recommend you consider trying it out with a used handset that has the features you’re interested in.

Yeah — I could add a line about reduce, reuse, recycle — but in actuality this has more to do with figuring out how you’ll use a smart phone before you commit to spending a great deal of money or locking yourself into a long term contract.  And remember, phones will only get better over time — and we’re very close to really having 4G service (at least Sprint, Verizon, MetroPCS, and Cricket seem committed to roll it out — AT&T doesn’t seem to be in a hurry to do anything except rape iPhone customers).

Originally posted 2010-09-20 02:00:16.

Windows Live Mail Bugs

Make sure you’re sitting down, I wouldn’t want you to fall over — but there are bugs in Live Mail.

I actually did the Beta for Live Mail quite some time ago, and reported several bugs during the course of that — from my experience you’re wasting your time reporting bugs to Microsoft, each and every bug I found made it into the first release, and almost all of them are still there.

Here are two bugs that really need to be fixed.  Both are annoyances (they won’t result in the loss of data for sure); but both of them speak to the attention to quality and detail that simply isn’t part of the Microsoft culture.

The first bug which really needs to be fixed has to do with viewing a folder in an account.  Many times when you perform and operation (like deleting a folder for instance) Live Mail will repaint the folder view; however, it repositions the view port at the first item (but leaves focus where it should be)… the problem is if you have more folders that fit vertically on the screen, you’re looking at an entirely different time zone than the one that has focus.  A simple fix — save the view port position before the operation; restore the view port position after it if and before the repaint.  I guess the programmer that did this code was sleeping during Windows Programming 101.

The second bug which also really needs to be fixed has to do with dragging an email into the file system.  Windows Live Mail will create a file system safe name for the container file from the subject; however, if the subject ends in “…” (and probably many other character sequences) the file doesn’t get a “.eml” file extension, but rather a “._eml” file extension.  I guess the programmer that did this code figured it was right to make the file name file system safe after appending the extension when he should have made the base name file system safe and then appended the extension of “.eml”.

Like I said, these are simple issues — with very simple fixes… but they are fixes that shouldn’t be been necessary since this code should have never gotten out of Beta with these problems (they were reported).  In fact, I could argue that these problems should have never made it into a code build — they should have failed unit tests.

But these problems made it into release code; and these problems have existed for quite some time in release code — all I can say is that the commitment to quality I see in Microsoft software is similar to that that I see in Open Source code… so hopefully Microsoft will begin giving away more and more of it’s software at no charge so that the cost basis and the quality are on par.

Originally posted 2010-01-23 01:00:12.

One of the upsides of the internet…

One of the things that the internet allows almost everyone is the ability to express their opinion in a venue that others can “hear”.

Just do an internet search on almost anything you can think of… you’ll find reviews, comments, rants, and sometimes raves!

While you rarely know anything about the individual who wrote the posting, from a well thought out post you can gather some important questions to get the answers to before making a decision, so as a tool for an informed consumer the internet can be invaluable not only in locating the “best” prices, but also in finding the “best” products and “best” vendors!

It only takes a little effort to learn a great deal about any good or service you’re considering — it’s totally up to you whether you make an informed decision or just wing it.

Originally posted 2008-12-30 12:00:06.

AT&T = Pathetic Customer Service

My AT&T U-Verse bill notice came in over the weekend; so this week I launched the web site to take a look at the details.

When I signed up for the service I was “promised” $20 off per-month for signing up for electronic statement delivery and automatic payments.

Well, the first month it didn’t happen; and AT&T’s excuse was that my bill was processed _before_ I had signed up for the electronic statement delivery and automatic payments.

The second month it didn’t happen; and AT&T’s excuse was that something must have went wrong — that I needed to unsubscribe and then resubscribe; of course their policies clearly stated that if I discontinued either of the requirements I would become ineligible for the statement credit.  I escalated the issue to a supervisor who impressed me as being more incompetent than the front-line people; then I escalated it to the executive complaints office — who assured me it would be resolved.

The third month it didn’t happen; and AT&T really had no excuse.  Again I escalated it to a supervisor, and got the promise that it would be researched and resolved.

This month (the fourth month), I lost it — I was pissed off the minute I called AT&T — and I pointed out to them that they were wasting my time month after month after month — and I was tired of it.  The front-line person was totally incompetent and the supervisor was just as incompetent… and rude.

One thing’s for sure — NO ONE beats AT&T for the most pathetic customer service on Earth.

If you subscribe to AT&T services based on promises of rebates, cash back, credits, special pricing, etc — make sure you keep copies of everything; and be prepared to file a small claims action, because it probably will come to that.

It always comes down to who has pissed you off the least (lately) and who is offering the best deals — but in the end you have to decide between the cable company and the phone company and just live with pathetic customer service.

Originally posted 2010-07-10 02:00:01.

Free Hosted Email

If you have your own domain and you really don’t need web hosting you might want to consider hosted email servers from Microsoft or Google.

Both of them provide free hosted email services; limited to 500 accounts (which can actually be increased — but for free hosted email that’s probably fine).

I generally recommend that you consider just getting a hosting package that gives you a free domains, web space, and email — often on the order of $1.99 per month.

Microsoft Live Hosted Email (Free):  http://domains.live.com/

Goolge GMail Hosted Email (Free):  http://www.google.com/a/

Originally posted 2008-08-12 23:12:04.

Over One Billion Served

Well, not exactly… but I’m amazed at how the readership of my BLOG continues to grow.

I’ve added a widget that lets me view information on how many hits I get, the frequency, and geographic dispersion.

I would say my BLOG has global appeal, but I haven’t registered a hit from Antarctica (yet)… so that wouldn’t be true.

The vast majority of hits are from the United States, second on the list is Canada (which makes North America the heavy weight for sure); but an amazing number of people read my BLOG from Europe, Australia.  There’s a good number from Asia as well; and I need to talk to my marketing people about South America and Africa.

On a weekly basis (daily it’s all over the map):

  • I see about two hundred feed subscribers downloading posts (some daily, but most seem to do it less frequently).
  • The number of hits in the four weeks I’ve monitored has been between around four hundred and eleven hundred (yeah, pretty wide variation over a month time; but the numbers looked to be generally increasing — to tell more I’d really have to do some statistical analysis).
  • I get about six contact messages (for the month, one of those was from a company wanting to help promote my web site, in rather poor English; one of those contained almost as many explicative as mis-spellings; three of them have been from a vendor; and the rest have been complimentary).

When I decided to do this BLOG it was really a replacement for my mailings to a group of people I knew that focused mainly on technology, I’ve been aware for sometime that the readership has greatly increased (initially it seemed due to the search engine indexing); but I’m continually amazed at the number of people who read my BLOG and keep coming back.

All I can say is THANKS — and that I have no intention of commercializing my BLOG in any way, it will continue to express my views and you need not worry about advertising!

Originally posted 2009-02-06 01:00:10.

Kit Kat – Android 4.4 / 4.4.2

My Nexus 4 and my two Nexus 7s updated to Kit Kat about a month ago and other than Google+ becoming far more pervasive I can’t say I’ve really seen any improvements that matter much to me (yes, I’m aware that “under the hood” there are some substantial changes)…

Some things I have noticed (that I’m not happy with) are:

  • Bluetooth shuts off and cannot be turned back on until you reboot the device.
  • Bluetooth will disconnect and reconnect (by itself) from devices that worked perfectly under Jelly Bean.
  • Devices reboot periodically by themselves (without asking for confirmation — probably more often than you realize since you’re not using them continuously).
  • Devices freeze; sometimes they respond after a couple minutes — sometimes you have to power cycle them (I haven’t had a case where I had to force a reboot yet).

I’m hopeful I won’t see this on my Nexus 5 (when I start using it after the first of the year), but from what I’ve read in the forums I’m not the only one seeing stability issues with Kit Kat, and it appears to be on all devices that have received updates — including the Nexus 5.

I’m afraid this is another case of people who work on Android not really using (or testing) the product well before it hits the street — and while I don’t feel that Google employees working on Android should be forced to trade out their iPhones, I do feel that a substantial number of the engineers working on Android should have to use the latest release (maybe replace their desk phones with cellular handsets that run the latest Android version to help debug the hardware and software).

Bottom line — you might want to hold off on your move from Jelly Bean to Kit Kat until Google releases a few more updates.


 

Android: Kit Kat

Originally posted 2013-12-30 08:00:58.

Libre Office on Ubuntu

If you want Libre Office on Ubuntu and you just can’t wait until 28-April-2011 to upgrade to Ubuntu 11.04 (which should contain Libre Office), then here’s the quick way to make it happen…

 

First, remove Open Office

sudo apt-get remove openoffice*.*

Then setup the PPA

sudo add-apt-repository ppa:libreoffice/ppa
sudo apt-get update

Then do one of the following (based on your desktop manager)

sudo apt-get install libreoffice-gnome

sudo apt-get install libreoffice-kde

sudo apt-get install libreoffice

My recommendation is that you just wait and update your Ubuntu to 11.04 on Thursday — then remove Open Office and install Libre Office… but you are the master of your own computer.

Originally posted 2011-04-26 02:00:51.

Screen Protectors

First, let me start by saying that any screen protector is better than no screen protector at all on a touch screen; but let me assure you that all screen protectors are not created the same.

Most screen protector vendors will tell you that their screen protector is made from “military grade” PET — and that’s not an expensive plastic, so we’d expect all screen protectors to be made of a layer of PET; but generally better screen protectors have additional layers of materials deposited on them.

The finish of the screen protector greatly affects it’s performance.  Generally you’ll want a matte finish — there are some applications where you may want a glossy finish, but for the most part you will not.  The matte finish will help reduce glare, as well as make those annoying fingerprints less obvious.

The “feel” of the various materials will vary greatly.  I personally like “soft” finishes where I can actually feel the material give slightly.  The extremely hard finishes I find unpleasant; though that would be exactly what you wanted if you were using a stylus.

The method of application will also vary.  Most of the inexpensive screen protectors ship with two thin plastic layers on each side, and one side will have adhesive (that’s generally the one with the “red” label).  Better screen protectors generally use a “wet” application where you use a small amount of fluid provided (which is essentially water and a mild, clear soap).  By far the wet methods are much easier to install and much easier to align perfectly.  Regardless of which application method the screen protector requires it’s important to make sure you clean your touch display so that it is absolutely spotless — which is one reason why you may want to apply the screen protector immediately after opening up the box and removing the protective film on the device.

Finally, check to see if your screen protector comes with a guarantee.  That may change the long term price of what you’re paying for the screen protector (though remember, for warranty claims you’ll likely need to return the screen protector — so there is shipping involved).

What screen protector do I think is the best — Zagg.  Their invisibleSHIELDs have lifetime warranties, a great feel, extremely durable, and easy to install.

But, Zagg screen protectors are expensive… and you just may not want to spend that for a screen protector; so you have to weigh everything I’ve said against your wallet.

But remember — any screen protector is better than no screen protector… so if you can’t justify the price of a Zagg, check your favorite places and find a good price on something that will protect your investment in your phone or tablet.

Originally posted 2011-11-13 02:00:08.

SyncMate 3

I’ve written about Eltima’s SyncMate before, but they released a new version about a month ago, and I’ve spent some time using it and decide that it’s well wrote revisiting.

SyncMate 3 is very similar to SyncMate2; it’s an excellent utility for keeping your Mac synchronized… particularly if you have an Android phone, Windows phone, Nokia phone, depend on Google for services, etc.

Like with the previous version of SyncMate you may find that the free version has all the features you really need; but the low price of the Expert Edition might make you just go ahead and buy it for one of the useful features included with it.

The only major disappointment I had with SyncMate 3 is that it didn’t migrate my sync accounts and setting from SyncMate 2.  That’s not really an issue for most people, but I had a large number of sync devices setup in SyncMate 2 and I had customized the icons and settings quite a bit for each of the test devices.

Beyond that… SyncMate 3 worked, and worked well.

I really couldn’t test the direct Android sync since I use Google to sync my Droid; and I highly recommend you do not try and sync both directly and via Google – you’re not going to be happy with the outcome (and I guess there isn’t any real way for SyncMate to detect you’ve entered the same device twice).

One of the things I use SyncMate for is to synchronize multiple Google accounts; actually I had one main account, and prefer to have the contacts from it pushed to the other account (which are used mostly for Google Voice).

The list of features is long, and you’re much better off to view them on Eltima’s web site than have me try and list them here.

While the software is very easy to use, you’ll find that it supports a number of sophisticated features — and really what you do with it is limited to your imagination more than the software.

This is a company and product that I believe is well worth taking a look at.

SyncMate 3

Originally posted 2011-02-19 02:00:59.