Tuesday, July 29, 2008

GTD for GMail

There's a little outfit called Productive Firefox, a one-man shop that produces a very cool add-on for GMail that I can't live without. It's called GTD Inbox. Before you run away saying you've heard enough about Getting Things Done and you're just not competent enough to handle that level of obsessiveness, stay put a minute and listen. Even if you don't swear to the god that is David Allen (LINK), GTD is a wonderful add-on to FireFox and GMail. It creates an intuitive interface to categorize your e-mail and has all sorts of little nifty productivity features, like Hipster Print which takes the most recent 100 items in your inbox (or any set of search results) and prints a summary of these e-mails on one page. Also, the developer is diligent with his updates to the product, which is wonderful to see for a little shop.

Verizon and BlackBerry + GMail

I recently switched from AT&T to Verizon. The speed increase, at least in my area of rural Massachusetts, is dramatic. I don't think that 3G on AT&T exists in our area and so if I was able to get the BlackBerry Bold (or if I picked up an iPhone 3G) I don't think I'd see any difference over the anemic experience I had with AT&T. But with Verizon the speed changes the functionality of a BlackBerry. GMail on the BlackBerry actually becomes usable. This is an application that fetches at least the subjects of your GMail and keeps your mail all in sync (deletions on the mobile delete on GMail). On At&T GMail was usable only as a backup, if I needed to search for an e-mail and didn't have my computer handy. On Verizon, I'm actually able to use it as my primary e-mail application, ignoring the standard BlackBerry e-mail. Along with the ability of this application to also search my GMail contacts, which are now in sync with SalesForce AND the BlackBerry-Google calendar sync I'm pretty much set.

(Of course the thing that sucks about Verizon is that they disable GPS on BlackBerrys, but that's another story. Win some, lose some.)

Saturday, July 26, 2008

Verizon disables GPS on BlackBerry

Just switched to Verizon, which is great for voice quality but wow, had no idea that GPS was disabled on this phone. According to Verizon, their navigator program uses cell phone triangulation Here's my chat with one of their reps:

Chat InformationPlease wait for a site operator to respond.
Chat InformationYou are now chatting with 'Ennis'
Ennis: Hello. Thank you for visiting our chat service. How may I help you today?
JS: why does GPS on my new blackberry 8830 ONLY work with Verizon's navigation system?
JS: are there any plans to open this access to other services (like Loopt and Google maps)
Ennis: I would be more than happy to assist you with that information.
JS: ok . . .
Ennis: Verizon disables the gps navigation system and uses VZ Navigator. The only difference is vz navigator uses cell towers instead of satellites.
JS: so VZ Navigator is different from other navigation systems that also cost $10 per month and use GPS? And therefore is only accurate to 1000-2000 ft??? why would I pay $10 per month for that?
JS: and on Verizon's website it says "Can I see the GPS coordinates while viewing a location's detailed info? Yes"
JS: so doesn't that mean it uses GPS?
Ennis: It has gps listed but no Verizon phone has the gps application only vz navigator.
JS: but VZ Navigator doesn't use gps?
JS: and so therefore, it can only be accurate to 1000-2000 ft
Ennis: Gps is traceable VZ Navigator only lists downloadable directions
JS: ok. this isn't making any sense. I'm wondering if there is any value to paying $10 per montyh
JS: if VZ Nav doesn't use gps--which you stated--it is of minimal value
Ennis: VZ navigator does not use gps.
JS: ok. then I won't sign up. thanks!
JS: (don't understand how a system can navigate without gps!!)
JS: since cell phone triangulation isn't very accurate!
Ennis: Is there anything else I can help you with today?
JS: all set . . . sadly! love my switch from ATT to Verizon for voice quality but didn't realize that the 8830 on Verizon doesn't really use gps, has no navigation program that will actually navigate!
Ennis: I do apologize for this inconvenience.

But perhaps there is some slim hope: for $4 per month (vs $10 for VZ Navigator), you can sign up for Loopt on some Verizon phones, but not BlackBerry . . . perhaps someday. Loopt is a location aware service that shows you and your friends on a map. It makes use of GPS.

PS: Of course, VZ Navigator DOES use GPS and "Ennis" doesn't know what he's talking about.

GPS vs. cell tower triangulation

Great explanation here: LINK.

Steve Jobs' health

I found this a rather remarkable little article about Steve Jobs' health. There's been speculation about whether he might have cancer again ever since he appeared at his latest keynote looking gaunt. Joe Nocera from NYTimes summarizes that state of knowledge on the subject in an article, and then concludes by saying that he got a call from Jobs himself:
On Thursday afternoon, several hours after I’d gotten my final “Steve’s health is a private matter” — and much to my amazement — Mr. Jobs called me. “This is Steve Jobs,” he began. “You think I’m an arrogant [expletive] who thinks he’s above the law, and I think you’re a slime bucket who gets most of his facts wrong.” After that rather arresting opening, he went on to say that he would give me some details about his recent health problems, but only if I would agree to keep them off the record. I tried to argue him out of it, but he said he wouldn’t talk if I insisted on an on-the-record conversation. So I agreed.
Read the article: LINK

Monday, July 21, 2008

Three Across Matra Murena


Jalopnik (LINK) pointed me to one of my strange childhood car fantasies, the Matra Simca Bagheera. It was cool because it was a two door sports sedan with three across seating! Funny the things boys will obsess about.

Jalopnik noted (LINK) that the successor to the Bagheera, the Murena for sale on eBay (LINK) . . . ok, enough, back to work.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Good overview of MobileMe

From Pogue, NYTimes: LINK

More on BlackBerry Bold and Thunder release dates

BoyGenius is developing a reputation for reliable inside information. Post on release dates for BlackBerry Bold and Thunder: LINK.

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

First review of BlackBerry Bold, production build

CrackBerry did an earlier review of a pre-production version of the BB Bold ("bb fangirls and boys iPhone") that they bought on EBay. But this BoyGenius review is the first review of what appears to be a production build of the Bold: LINK.

Friday, July 11, 2008

MobileMe and Google Contacts Sync

NOTE: This link continues to get some of the highest traffic on my blog. This post was written in 2008 and the information contained below may therefore be dated.

No one seems to have figured out a good sync for Google Contacts until now. I haven't yet tested it thoroughly but Apple's MobileMe does seem to successfully sync Google Contacts, even my "Google Apps" contacts.

(See my post about another good Google Contacts sync, with Salesforce LINK.)

I am using a PC not a Mac. Downloading iTunes 7.7 puts a new item in Control Panel called MobileMe Preferences. That utility gives you the option to sync your MobileMe contacts with one of: Google Contacts, Outlook, Yahoo, or Windows Contacts. Trying it out of course requires you to pay the $100 a year subscription for Me.com (formerly Mac.com). Also, because Google captures every one of the addresses you e-mail to as a contact, you'll have a lot of "No Name" contacts in your MobileMe contacts. Looks to me like it would take me years to sort through my list of those . . .

AND once, you've done this, who cares? Well, you would care if you use Google and have an iPhone, but otherwise, for a PC user, does it really matter that you can sync Google Contacts over to .Me? They are both in the cloud rather than otherwise accessible.

And no calendar sync for Google Calendar! Only option is Outlook!

UPDATE for Mac users

As far as I can tell, on the Mac there is NO Google Contacts Sync! Does this mean that if you (1) temporarily set up .Me on a Windows machine, (2) set Google Contacts to Sync with .Me contacts, (3) set it to happen automatically, that you'll be all set or does that Windows machine have to be on for the sync to be activated even though all the sync is happening in the cloud (.Me <> Google)?? Is the ONLY way to get your Mac Addressbook to sync with Google contacts to have a Windows machine producing this protocol?

UPDATE 2

Apparently there IS an option for Macs, located within the OS X 10.5.3 Address Book application. See here LINK and LINK

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

Best bluetooth headset (take 2)

I've blogged before about what the greatness that is Jawbone1 (LINK and LINK).

Here's a review from CrackBerry of Jawbone2 that states what I expected: it's king again (LINK).

Update: now there is Jawbone Prime that is supposed to be great too. My Jawbone2, however, has been giving me problems and I can't figure out why--sometimes people can hear me really well, other times not. I'm unsure if something is wrong with the device and producing intermittent sound quality for my voice. Thinking about going back to wired . . .

Friday, July 4, 2008

Wonderful explanation of a new startup: Gnip

Can you explain your technology with such a simple analogy?

Explanation: Redeye VC (LINK) via Feld (LINK)

Gnip: LINK

Thursday, July 3, 2008

Turning an iPhone 1.0 into an iPod Touch

After you buy your iPhone 3Q (via the Apple Core LINK):

AT&T has confirmed that owners will be able to deactivate first generation iPhones to be used as Wi-Fi iPods.

“If the [original] device is not re-activated as a wireless phone after you’ve upgraded to iPhone 3G, it will still work as an iTunes player and can access Wi-Fi,” the spokesperson said.


BlackBerry Enterprise Server for the Rest of Us

I've posted before about the new .Me sync-to-the-cloud offering from Apple. It will give you push e-mail, contacts and calendaring to and from your iPhone, Mac and PC.

BlackBerry has just announced their BlackBerry Unite! product for the United States and other countries. They began a test marketing of this product in Spain in 2007 and in Canada earlier this year. Now at the BlackBerry Unite! website (LINK) you can download what is effectively BlackBerry's answer to .Me.

But what a difference. Apple's .Me is from 2008. BlackBerry's Unite! is from perhaps the year 2000.

Unite! must live on your own PC, that you've got keep constantly on. It is essentially a stripped down version of BlackBerry Enterprise Server (BES) without the need for Microsoft Exchange. Intended for families and small business, it doesn't appear to provide any of the ease of use that such customers require. I downloaded it and tried to get it to work but failed. The product uses MS Explorer as a front-end but despite excessive tinkering with my security settings on Explorer, try as I might I couldn't get the thing to load.

Apple's .Me, I'm sure, will be simple to configure. Launching in about a week (early July), it doesn't require you to install it on your own PC (how radical!) because it lives in the cloud (LINK). It's essentially BlackBerry Enterprise Server for the rest of us. And will continue to erode RIM's hold on businesses as well as individuals.

Related:
IntoMobile LINK

Tuesday, July 1, 2008

The disruption that is iPhone

I continue to wonder how RIM is going to be able to position BlackBerry against Apple's iPhone.

In a previous post I suggested that RIM doesn't understand how to connect to individual customers. Its orientation is still towards corporate IT, even though it's met with a lot of success selling to individuals with the Pearl. What they don't understand is the extent to which the lines between personal and corporate merge when you have a personal device, something that much more so than a computer is an extension of oneself. Even if it is a corporate device, it's a lot more personal and therefore there's going to be a lot more pressure from individual users for corporate to adopt the device that suits them personally. Hence, Apple is at an advantage because it understands how to connect directly to its customers. RIM struggles with this--witness their very weak efforts to date to capture the pent up excitement with the Bold. Their response have been to wall themselves off from their customers, with the result that fan sites have become the best source of information. But all this analysis doesn't really get to the heart of how Apple is disrupting RIM (and other mobile phone manufacturers, though open source has not yet played its hand).

I have been re-reading Clay Christensen's 2003 classic The Innovators Solution (LINK). In that book he uses RIM and Palm to illustrate how to think through the innovators dilemna with respect to new products and features.. He asks what "job" it is that RIM and Palm are solving for their customers. His answer is that BlackBerrys are there to do the job of make-me-productive-in-small-snippets-of-time whereas Palms are there to help you keep you organized. He also suggests that RIM is there to do the job of keeping the user from getting bored--if the meeting starts to drone on, if you're in an airport, you can do something with your BlackBerry to keep yourself occupied (remember, this was written before other devices, such as Palms and Windows Mobile added as much functionality as BlackBerrys in this regard). He says that some of the competitors to the BlackBerry are actually the WSJ and CNN, in that this is what business people may turn to when they don't have anything else to do. Further, he suggests that it would be better for RIM to improve upon the jobs that it's already solving rather than try to also solve the keep-me-organized job with features borrowed from Palm such as effective calendaring.

Of course RIM did address the keep-me-organized job--extremely well, in my opinion. The BlackBerry solution is easily as good as Palm and has been so since about when Christensen's book came out. In fact, for BlackBerry to incorporate Palm-like features was relatively easy and also essential, since the job of making the user productive with e-mail and voice goes hand-in-hand with the job of keeping oneself organized. Christensen suggests that if RIM and Palm had stuck to their core competencies, people could have been satisfied with two devices for a very long time. History has shown this not to be the case. RIM has been ascendant and Palm is just about dead.

What is more interesting in Christensen's analysis, for the question of BlackBerry versus iPhone, is his observation that in addition to being a productivity tool, the BlackBerry has always been a boredom elimination tool. Here's where RIM was blind and where the iPhone excels. There is nothing that produces the "childlike wonder" of an iPhone, with its gorgeous screen, magical interface, incredible web browser, and integrated iTunes. Just like any good disruptor, Apple was able to attack RIM (and all other handheld devices, at least in the context of the United States market) by offering to do a job for mobile phone customers that RIM didn't even realize they were accomplishing: entertainment. BlackBerry is now struggling to catch up, with entertainment features tacked onto its soon-to-be-launched Bold. But Apple is already stepping outside the circle of entertainment. With the soon to be launched Apple ME "connect-to-the-cloud" product (which I've dubbed BlackBerry Enterprise Server for the rest of us), Apple will be eating away at the next level of market in which RIM seems only vaguely aware that they're in: small business customers who would love to seamlessly sync between their handheld device and their work and home computers (whether Windows or Mac) but have no inclination to deal with the hassle and expense of a BlackBerry Enterprise Server (BES--which has to itself sit on top of a Microsoft Exchange Server!). There is nothing on the market today that does more than vaguely approach the functionality that Apple will launch with ME--except BES+Exchange at an order of magnitude+ greater price point and complexity. And even before that launches, Apple is already gunning for BlackBerry's core customer base, the larger corporation. They'll soon offer corporations the answer to the question of "how do I manage these freakin' iPhones that everyone from the Boss on down insists I incorporate into the IT environment". --Apple will offer a product that does they same job as RIM's BES does, integrating with an Exchange server and giving corporate IT the ability to lock down individual iPhones. But additional Apple will offer an easy programming environment in which corporations can create and distribute their own, proprietary, corporation-specific applications.

Will RIM soon be just hanging by its thumbs, differentiated only by its physical keyboard? Next post: where I wish RIM was headed.

Related References:
BGR: LINK
Engadget: LINK
Engadget: LINK
Engadget: LINK
Ars Technica: LINK

From that last link: "If there is any good news for RIM, [RBC Capital Markets Analyst Mike] Abramsky also notes 'a significant expansion of the smartphone market' this year, meaning more potential customers for RIM. At least until Apple steals them."

July 16

Barrons: LINK