Monday, November 24, 2008

BlackBerry Storm gets the nod

BlackBerry Storm gets--surprisingly--a pretty positive nod from MacWorld (LINK).

I finally got a chance to play with one the other day when I noticed one on the table of the person next to me at the coffee shop. I was both pleased by how easy it was to type on the thing--seems better than an iPhone to me--and shocked at the lag time for various functions, most noticably the switch from portrait to landscape mode. Felt very much like Beta software to me. This was before the recent 4.7 upgrade was available which apparently fixes some or all of these lag time issues.

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Gorgeous Honda Super Cub

Gorgeous Honda Super Cub at night on the streets of San Francisco. Among the very top designs of all time (perhaps along with the BlackBerry 7200 series!).
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Old Design vs. New(er) Design (BlackBerry)

My BlackBerry 8830 (the one on the right, below) started crashing a few days ago, so while I'm waiting for its replacement from Verizon I've been using my old BlackBerry 7250. It's been a pleasure to remember the good elements of this design that were lost when RIM made choices in favor of other priorities.

This device came out over four years ago, perhaps even more than five years ago. I found a review from April 2004 but couldn't easily find when the 7200 series was first announced.

First, it's amazing that the new release of the GMail for BlackBerry application works perfectly on the old machine. Certainly it's slower, but it's still perfectly functional. Isn't it wonderful that a device from almost five years ago can run one of the newest of applications?

Second, design of the old machine has a classic simplicity that I miss. It's simple black and silver. Its round shape fits well into my hand in a way that the newer BlackBerrys don't. (Admittedly my hands--and those of my wife who still uses her 7200 series--are relatively large and so smaller hands would find it less attractive.) It's lacking the SEND and END buttons that RIM added to BlackBerrys with models that followed (added so that they could appeal to a broader audience who were switching over from traditional mobile phones). Finally, its keyboard is designed for typing. Look at how much more closely spaced the keys are on the newer models. The 7200 series is a great example of elegant, purpose driven design in which form follows function to the benefit of both form and function. The 7200 series reminds me of Bang and Olufsen stereos or some of the classic designs from Braun.

I wish RIM would launch a special edition of the 7200 series, with the case and keyboard of the 7200 and the speed and screen of the 8830--or better yet, the new Bold. That would be a special device. Of course they never will. I wish I had time, skills and money on my hands to do a real mashup of the two. That would one worthwhile mod.

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Friday, November 21, 2008

BlackBerry Storm and GPS

I've written before (LINK) about Verizon's egregious locking out of Google Maps and other applications from the GPS chip on the BlackBerry 8830.

With the new BlackBerry Storm on Verizon, fears have been that they'd do the same. It appears that they haven't quite done this, but who knows? Until I hear definitive proof that Google Maps works on this device, I'd be suspicious. Here's what PC Magazine has to say in their review of the storm (LINK).
"Two GPS applications are on board, Verizon's $9.99 per month VZNavigator, (which gives you spoken, turn-by-turn driving directions) and the free BlackBerry Maps (which doesn't). The camera app is also GPS-enabled, so you can geotag your photos. I found the GPS to be unusually good at swiftly locking onto satellite signals. When it can't get a signal at all, the system resorts to a rough estimate based on cell-tower locations. The GPS is "unlocked," meaning that third-party programs on the phone can use it to find locations. But apps have to be written specifically for the Storm—the generic version of Google Maps for BlackBerry, for instance, couldn't get a GPS fix."

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Nice little clock app for BlackBerry

If any of you have older BlackBerrys (most of us at this point) and are envious of the new clock application you've seen in the newest BlackBerrys (shown at left on the new Pearl flip) you can buy from Vorino Software a very nice clock app that provides similar functionality (LINK).

Monday, November 17, 2008

More on Jawbone

I've written before about how wonderful the original Jawbone bluetooth headset is (LINK) . . . and about the challenges of their latest model.

The old Jawbone worked perfectly for me (available from Amazon here: LINK). The metal ear-loops could be molded so the device stuck to my face (although the device was a pain to put on my ear).

The new Jawbone (Amazon LINK) at least for me, was almost unusable. The ear-loops can't be bent and simply didn't work for me. The device would fall right off my ear. However . . . if you want to spend the money, a custom molded earpiece is BRILLIANT. Avery Sound (LINK) send you two little globs of goo which you mix together an then press into your ear. Wait 15 minutes. It firms up (doesn't harden!). You pull it out of your ear, ship it back to them, they clean-it up, drill the sound hold and the hole to attach it to your earpiece, and ship it back. Voila. The Jawbone again becomes the best bluetooth earpiece, with greatly increased sound quality and sound volume because of the custom earpiece. Looks fine in the ear, but out of the ear looks pretty odd as the picture below shows.

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Sunday, November 16, 2008

Basecamp, Mobile and Mobile Project Management

Here's a good rant from the NYTimes that asks more questions than it answers, titled "When the Browser Doesn't Cut it: Basecamp's Lack of Mobility." LINK

Any other suggested solutions to the lack of a mobile feature in 37Signals Basecamp? My current favorite toy, RTMilk (LINK) isn't anything as collaborative as Basecamp but it does have a fabulous BlackBerry (and iPhone) sync feature.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

E-Mail on the BlackBerry

Several people have asked me recently how e-mail on the BlackBerry works.

Here's a quick overview:


That stands for Blackberry Internet Service. It's the standard service that's available when you buy a BlackBerry and sign up for a data plan. When you get your phone, you go onto a carrier-specific website created by BlackBerry and link your e-mail account (GMail, Yahoo, whatever) to your BlackBerry. The BIS will grab e-mails from your e-mail account and "push" them to your BlackBerry. This service does not provide any sync feature. If you delete a message on your BlackBerry it will still show up on your GMail account, Yahoo account or whatever service you use. Also, BIS provides no sync for Calendar, Contacts or Tasks. Those need to be synced manually via cable or bluetooth between your computer and your BlackBerry.


BlackBerry Enterprise Server is software that is installed on top of a Microsoft Exchange Server (or Lotus Notes or other). It provides full sync service between the Mail, Calendar, Contacts and Tasks on your own computer, through the Exchange Server and to and from the BlackBerry. Clients that work with an Exchange Server--and therefore provide sync with the BlackBerry between your computer's data and your BlackBerry--include Outlook for Windows machines and Entourage for Macintosh. If you do have a BES, you can still make use of BIS for personal accounts. For example, you might sync your corporate Mail, Calendar etc. through BES but also grab your personal Yahoo mail through BIS.


Google has created two interesting alternatives to BIS and BES. They aren't as complete as BES but if you're a sole proprietor and don't want to go through the dramatic expense and hassle of an Exchange Server with BES, they're a pretty good solution. Go to the site that Google has established for BlackBerry applications (LINK) and follow the instructions to download to your BlackBerry the GMail program and the Sync program. With the GMail program on your BlackBerry you can have full bidirectional sync of ALL your GMail. The previous version wasn't all that usable because there was no off-line functionality, but now that they've added caching and an off-line capability for recent e-mails, I find that at least with my Verizon BlackBerry I'm able to dispense with the built-in BlackBerry e-mail application (except for SMS). Of course, you have to be making use of GMail. Further, the GMail application also provides access to your GMail contacts, in a limited way and without editing capability. Note that it doesn't make use of the built-in BlackBerry Address Book application but does it through the GMail BlackBerry application. Additionally, the Sync program does a beautiful job of synchronizing your Google Calendar.

Note that if you are a sole proprietor or a small team (or even a large team), it's likely to make sense to go with an outsourced Microsoft Exchange with BES option. You can check this out at Apptix, Intermedia or other hosting providers.


Unfortunately, there's no Google sync for tasks. BUT there is a great program called Remember The Milk (LINK) which does a bang up job of syncing your BlackBerry tasks with the RTM task management website (if you sign-up for the $25/year premium option). Further, if you use FireFox and GMail you can integrate your tasks with GMail.

All together now

If you want to get really crazy, you can use RTM and the Google Sync applications on your BlackBerry along with BES and produce full sync, via your BlackBerry, back to your Outlook or Entourage client. Best way I know of using Google Calendar and providing a seamless sync back to an Outlook calendar so that your corporate team can see your calendar via Exchange Server.


If you're wondering about IMAP and POP3 on the BlackBerry, none of the solutions discussed above make use of either of those protocols. Essentially, IMAP is a protocol used by programs like Outlook, Entourage and many others to access e-mail stored on a server and sync it between the client computer and the server. POP3 is a different protocol that downloads mail from the server to the client machine but doesn't provide the sync capability of IMAP.


Google has updated their Sync program so that contacts are synced on a limited basis: LINK.

Monday, November 3, 2008

GPS, BlackBerry Storm, Verizon

The egregious locking out of GPS that Verizon does with their BlackBerrys is well known--they only allow use of their own proprietary (and crummy) VZ Navigator program with GPS, for $10 per month, and even then don't allow the user to access the GPS chip from other applications (like Google Maps).

With the new BlackBerry Storm now on the horizon, Verizon has updated their Storm webpages (LINK) and there is no indication that things will be any different. Conspicuously absent is any mention of GPS except in the context of VZ Navigator . . .

(I've posted on this GPS issue before: LINK)