Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Sunday, November 22, 2009

trials and tribulations of Comcast

It's been months since our Comcast Internet service worked. It had worked flawlessly for years but last April the modem started going offline periodically. Finally gave up on it over the summer after at least 6 hours on the phone with their technical support, one in person visit from a tech, and switching out all our hardware. Regrouped in October because the alternate DSL service was so pitiful. One tech came in and found that the insulation housing for the cable going from street to house was stripped over a meter long section. We both agreed this must be it. Of course, 15 minutes after the tech left the modem went offline again. Two weeks later I scheduled another tech who immediately went to the pole across the street, replaced some hardware and voila, after at least half a year we have reliable service again. Moral: persistence pays. Amazement: Comcast technical support on the phone is always certain that it's you who is doing something wrong. They never think it could be a physical hardware issue. Have to add that everyone at Comcast was always nice about it and I picked up various credits along the way.

Sunday, November 1, 2009

Dual monitors with Lenovo X61s and USB-to-DVI Adapter


It is now possible to connect two monitors to an X61s laptop thanks to a nice little Lenovo gadget, the USB-to-DVI adapter. I just received mine. See Lenovo's Inside the Box blog (LINK) for a full explanation of new docking options. Strangely, I can no longer find the item on Lenovo's site for purchase. There is a page (LINK) but no way to purchase. Are they out of them? Already discontinued them?

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Primer on smartphones for sole proprietors or small workplaces

Several people have asked me in recent days to recommend a first-time smartphone. Common threads that you've asked for are:
  1. a work phone for sole proprietors or people who work in a small workplace 
  2. a phone that doesn't rely upon enterprise tools like a BlackBerry Enterprise Server or Microsoft Exchange Server and therefore the ability to provision all features on your own
  3. a focus on the core business functionality of a smartphone, to keep in sync with your desktop or laptop's mail, contacts, calendar, and not games and other consumer functions.
(Photo from Time magazine article, from L to R: iPhone, Motorola/Google Droid, and BlackBerry LINK.)

In this quick and decidedly not exhaustive review--that will be subject to corrections--I'll briefly summarize the four main types of smartphone prevalent in the United States with respect to their ability to deliver core business functionality. But to jump to the conclusion: I'd go for an iPhone on ATT, a Google Android device, specifically the Motorola Droid (or later ones with 2.0 software) if you're on Verizon, OR a BlackBerry, particularly on Verizon, if you need the best voice quality possible and lean towards the "phone" part of smartphone rather than the "smart".

HP is utterly bizarre too

Following up on my last post about how bizarre Dell is, I went to the HP website for the first time in a while.

Who are the children running that company?

Its website is such a complete mess I found it impossible to figure out which computer I could possibly want. It appears that there are five models but in fact, clicking on any one of those choices unveils an undifferentiated variety. Amazing. And the pictures are so small you have no idea which computer to explore further.


And then I got an e-mail from Amazon this morning offering me a choice of HP laptops. But the e-mail just makes me want to run away screaming. There are 10 laptops listed. I can't tell them apart. It's like a used car flyer in a newspaper. These people think they have any hope of competing longterm with Apple? Amazing.

Monday, October 26, 2009

Dell is utterly bizarre

Dell has a gorgeous new laptop . . . almost out. Pictures are on various blogs. The thing is thinner than a MacBook Air and has an intriguing and showy way of folding open. So, you'd think there'd be mention of the product on Dell's website? You'd think, but no!

Who are the people running these companies?

Another example: everyone knows the new BlackBerry Storm2 is launching. Vodaphone has it on their website. It will obviously launch with Verizon in the United States. The Verizon CEO wanders around Manhattan showing off the phone to random people. So, you'd think there'd be mention of the product on Verizon's website? You'd think, but no! Pictures are in obscure place on its website but are impossible to find.

Who are the children running these companies?? Do they really think they are capable of going up against an adult company like Apple? It boggles the mind . . .

Thursday, October 22, 2009

annoying lack of attention to detail at "other than Apple"

It is really annoying when companies I like can't live up to the attention to detail that is exemplified by Apple. Case in point: BlackBerry's comparison tables. Look at the difference in the way that the dimensions are displayed. OK. This is utterly insignificant and more than merely bordering on obsessive-compulsive. Guilty. But I just can't imagine Apple allowing these little errors to occur on their site.



Size and Weight
Length
112mm (4.4”)
4.29"/109mm
Width
62mm (2.4”)
2.36"/60mm
Depth
14.2mm (0.6”)
0.56"/14.10mm
Weight
130g (including battery)
4.27oz/122g

UPDATE: HEY. They fixed it. :)

Monday, October 19, 2009

more on the "e-mail dying" meme

There appears to be a bit more content of late in the "e-mail is dying" meme.* Probably this is driven by the Google Wage phenomena which purports to be e-mail as if had been invented today rather than last century. A shift from e-mail being yesterday to other communication tools--Facebook, Twitter and Wave, foremost--is said to be catalyzed by the always on capability of the Internet and handheld devices. The argument goes that the asynchronous nature of e-mail is now outdated, an artifact of a time when the desktop reigned as the hub of our electronic world. Today the desktop is more of a periphery, with the handheld becoming the personal communication device that we live with 24/7. My own BlackBerry barely leaves my body. It charges each night on my nightstand (in the new BlackBerry "bedside" mode). These always on and attached-to-the-body devices allow instant response. As declared in a WSJ article titled Why Email No Longer Rules, "Why wait for a response to an email when you get a quicker answer over instant messaging?"

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

GMail application for BlackBerry vs. GMail IMAP on BlackBerry

My previous post was about how to set up GMail on your BlackBerry so that it uses the IMAP protocol. This post summarizes the difference between (1) the GMail application for BlackBerry that you can download to your BlackBerry via m.google.com/go on your BB Browser and (2) using the native BlackBerry mail program with IMAP.

Google GMail application

+ full sync with GMail, including archive, delete, read, unread
+ full search of GMail
+ threaded e-mail just like in the Web application
+ ability to star e-mails

- limited when BlackBerry is offline
- can be slow to get e-mail
- text only, not HTML e-mail
- flashing indicator light is limited to whether you have ANY new mail and once you open the application, light will go off regardless of whether there is read e-mail

BlackBerry native e-mail application with GMail IMAP

+ HTML e-mail
+ gets e-mail more quickly and consistently (I can't tell if it's as fast as true "push")
+ some aspects of two-way sync work (see below for exceptions)
+ can hold more e-mails when BlackBerry is offline

- some aspects of two-way sync do not work
- marking as "read" on the Web won't mark as "read" on the BlackBerry, which is really annoying; it does work from the BlackBerry down to the Web
- no threaded messages
- Yahoo IMAP mail is supposed to have true, unadulterated two-way sync with the BlackBerry, but you'll have to test that for yourself (LINK to Yahoo for information).

A decent post on the subject at BBGeeks: LINK

I've returned to using just the GMail application. The lack of true two-way sync on read messages is really a killer for me.

Update: according to Berry Review LINK via BBGeeks LINK true two-way sync with GMail will be coming soon. Who knows if this is for real.

How to set up GMail IMAP on a BlackBerry

DISCLAIMER: See post that follows this one. GMail IMAP on BlackBerry has real limitations and only Yahoo really seems to work.


This post explains how to set up GMail IMAP on a BlackBerry. The instructions on the Google site will never help you get it set up correctly. If you don't want to preamble and background, skip down to the "Instructions" section.


Although a BlackBerry may be the best mobile device for e-mail, this assessment should probably be made only if you're running it off of a BES, BlackBerry Enterprise Server. With BES you'll get full two way sync with you desktop e-mail. Without BES, your stuck with BIS, BlackBerry Internet Service, the consumer version of BlackBerry e-mail. Although it uses the same application on the device, the interaction with mail servers is not as seamless as with BES. The touted advantage of a BlackBerry is that mail is "pushed" to you. Your device doesn't have to "reach" out to the mail server and pull the mail down. The result is that mail reaches you more quickly and without as much work on the part of the mobile device. If you delete an item on your desktop machine, it will still show up on your BlackBerry. In recent years, other mobile systems have launched push e-mail as well. Google recently announced two-way sync with push e-mail service between GMail and the iPhone and Windows Mobile devices. But it left off any special push e-mail with GMail for BlackBerry. With BES, you can get push e-mail for most any e-mail service, but it's not a two way sync.


If you want two way sync between GMail and BlackBerry and you're only running BES, you are left with two choices. First, you can use a special GMail application that you can download to from your BlackBerry browser using the address m.google.com/go. It works extremely well but doesn't allow you to change the frequency with which it gets your e-mail. Best I can figure is it's more than every five minutes but less than every minute. You can manually force it to grab your mail. It's a really good application. The only other drawback is that it does not render HTML e-mail. You'll probably want to have it set up on your device regardless because it allows you to see threaded conversations and search and find every one of the many GMail messages you undoubtedly have stored in your GMail archive.


The second choice is to set up GMail IMAP. IMAP is a mail protocol that allows two-way sync between a mail server and a device, whether a desktop or a mobile device. This way, if you delete an item on your desktop, it will also be deleted on the server and therefore also on your mobile device. However, it doesn't actually work as well as you'd think.


INSTRUCTIONS


Google's instructions (LINK) are incomplete. They say the following:
To integrate Gmail with the BlackBerry's email client, just follow these steps:
-- On your BlackBerry device, navigate to your home screen
-- Select the icon that lets you set up email (this can be called BlackBerry Set-up, E-mail settings, or Personal Email Set-up)
-- Follow the setup instructions provided on your device
Unfortunately, that won't work! The key is to put in your e-mail address and NOT put in your password. Here are instructions that work:




1. When you get to the BlackBerry Set-up screen, either on your BlackBerry or via the BIS setup screen on your computer (LINK).
2. Put in your e-mail address but NOT your password.
3. Click "Next" and you'll come to an "Additional Information Required" screen.
4. Select "I will provide the settings to add this email account."
5. You'll find a choice to indicate if this is your Work or Personal e-mail account. Select either.
6. At the next screen, select "I will provide the settings to add this email account."
7. Finally, you'll get to a screen titled "Set Up An Existing Email Account". Here you can put in your username and password. For Email server use "imap.gmail.com".


Unfortunately . . . see post that follows this one. GMail IMAP on BlackBerry has real limitations and only Yahoo really seems to work.

Sunday, October 4, 2009

BoyGenius, Beejive have launched a great Twitter app for BlackBerry @tweet_genius

The BoyGenius Report ("BGR") and Beejive have launched a new version of the BGR Twitter application for BlackBerry, Tweet Genius. For the next two weeks it's only available for those who paid for the Beta version, which I did. For that reason, I can tell you it's the best third party application (best application period?) that I've used on a BlackBerry. Makes the Twitter experience easily as good, if not better than on a desktop computer. Quite a remarkable achievement. How can it make Twitter even better than on a PC and Mac? The interface is simply easier to read and navigate than anything produced by Twitter, Seesmic, Twirl, Tweetdeck, Hootsuite--any of those. And using it on a mobile means you can grab read Twitter in those spare moments waiting at a bus, on the train, waiting for an appointment instead of wasting time at your desk.

My only complaint is that I wish it allowed the marketing of favorites for later review, particularly valuable when someone tweets a link to an article you think want to read but don't have time to at that moment.

BlackBerry Internet Service 2.8, sadly without GMail sync

BlackBerry has just launched the latest version of "BIS", their BlackBerry Internet Service for those using BlackBerrys without a corporate BES or BlackBerry Enterprise Server.

BIS is the service that delivers e-mail through the phone carriers to your device. BIS 2.8 is their latest upgrade to this service. To take advantage of the new features you do have to be running a Version 5.0 variant of the BlackBerry software on your device--and this is not currently available at most carriers and for most devices. The biggest feature BIS 2.8 adds is 2-way sync for Google Contacts. But sadly, there is no indication that 2-way GMail sync is part of this upgrade. If you're just on a BIS account, you can get your GMail onto your BlackBerry in two ways. First, you can get it pushed to your device to show up in your BlackBerry's native mail program. But this is not a two-way sync. For example, if you mark a mail item as read on your BlackBerry, it will still show-up as unread on your desktop computer. This doesn't change with BIS 2.8. The second way to get GMail on your BlackBerry is through the GMail application. While this works well and produces full 2-way sync, it side-steps your native BlackBerry mail application and mail does not show up instantly but only whenever you manually force a connection or when the program chooses to check for new mail. Again, no change with BIS 2.8.

It would be very nice if the functionality of the new Google Apps Connector for BlackBerry Enterprise Server (LINK) made its way over to the consumer, BIS side. Hoped this would happen with 2.8 but it appears not. BoyGenius on 2.8 LINK and the BlackBerry manual for 2.8 PDF LINK.

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Microsoft Mesh vs Microsoft LiveSync

I've been a longtime fan of Groove, the peer-to-peer file sharing software invented by Ray Ozzie, also the creator of Lotus Notes and now Microsoft's Chief Software Architect.

Microsoft bought Groove and Ray came along with it--or rather, it bought Ray and Groove came along with him. He's been moving Microsoft in the director of cloud computing. It's about time and the next year should see lots of public results of those efforts.

I was also a fan of the little utility FolderShare which allowed peer-to-peer file sync between computers, including Macs and Windows. Microsoft bought that company too and it became Microsoft LiveSync.

The challenge with LiveSync and with the standard, small workgroup implementation of Groove is that peers have to have their computers on at the same in order to sync.

Microsoft has a new product in Beta called Mesh and it provides sync to the cloud and then back down to devices--Macs, Windows and Windows Mobile. Because of the cloud, peers don't need to be on at the same time. There's a light little app that installs on your desktop and provides a helpful little info window, including messaging updates. And Mesh will allow you to fully access your computer remotely from another computer, provided your computer has been left on and connected. Mesh looks like a winner.

I'm not sure where this leaves Groove. The extra security of Groove file sharing may no longer be enough of a value proposition. It will be interesting to see where this lands with Office 2010. Groove will be renamed "Sharepoint Workspace". News is supposed to be forthcoming soon, according to the Sharepoint Workspace Team Blog as of September 2, 2009.

(Two criticisms. First, Microsoft please, if you're in Beta with a product, the #1 news item on a Google or Bing search should not be an article from mid-2008! What is with your PR folks? Second, please, I can't stand the ads you guys run within products like MS Messenger and even within the Mesh Beta. Can't you drop those for the Beta? And I sure hope there's a for-fee option to get rid of those ads in the final Mesh. Messes badly with your nice and pretty interface.)

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Managing the privacy settings on Facebook

Facebook has grown to be a ubiquitous network, crossing the boundaries between work and personal. For me, this has only occurred recently. I've tried to keep Facebook as a friends network, people with whom I have close ties or with whom I could imagine having close ties. There's a lot of crossover between work and personal in my life, but also many cases with a clear distinction.

Recently, I've started to get more and more friend requests from people I don't know very well, people I hardly know at all, or people who are firmly in the domain of work. How to manage this? It turns out the Facebook now has pretty good privacy management tools. Key is to group your contacts by "list". Here's how:

1. Select "Friends" from the drop-down menu at the top of your Facebook screen.

2. Select "Create a New List" and name it something like "Work". This will become the list of names to which content restrictions are applied.

3. You'll see a drop down box to the right of each of your friends' names. Click this and you should see the option to select the new list you made, tagging friends as members of that list for whom you want to apply common restrictions.

4. Go up to your menu at the top of your Facebook screen, and towards the right select "Settings/Privacy Settings".

5. Select "Profile".

6. There are ten options, each with their own drop-down list. For the options that you do not want this new "Work" list to have access, select "Customize" and at the bottom of the dialog box, where it says "Except these People" type in the name of your list.

7. Make sure you click "Save" at the bottom when you've finished all your customization.

Voila! You have now restricted access to those on your work list to particular places in your Facebook. Good options might be "Videos" and "Photos Tagged of You". You might also want to restrict their access to your "Wall Posts".

Monday, July 27, 2009

Please use "thousands" formatting when doing Excel models

Drives me crazy when entrepreneurs create financial models with "/1000" in order to create a format to show a worksheet in thousands.

Don't do that! Makes editing the modeling really risky because it's hard to trace where this formula has been applied.

Just use a custom number format to show the numbers in thousands as necessary. Here's one that works:

_($* #,##0,_);_($* (#,##0,);_($* "-"_);_(@_)

Ok?

Saturday, June 13, 2009

elegant little counter-tech device for pencils


A friend (from Microsoft no less) gave me this elegant little counter-tech device.




Thursday, May 28, 2009

Salient facts about the Lenovo X series notebooks

I get asked about my Lenovo X61s all the time because it's an attractive little computer with a full-size keyboard.

Here's a quick summary for those of you interested in these machines.

1. If you can handle a laptop without a trackpad but only that red pointing device, you can go with the X200 or X200s for a new machine or an X61 or X61s for a used machine (check out the Lenovo refurb site). (I can't use a trackpad because it instantly gives me carpal tunnel.) Difference is that with the switch to the X200 series, they went from a more vertically oriented 12.1 inch screen to a more horizontally oriented aspect ratio--with Lenovo's regret but unfortunately that's the direction other laptop makers are moving and therefore screen manufacturers. You need to get a removable base unit for these units to house the CD-ROM drive. Without the base, these units are a little over 3 lbs. The "s" versions are almost indistinguishable. They run processors which are slightly slower but have more efficient power consumption. They are very slightly shorter in height, very slightly lighter. Also, they have a more rigid screen enclosure. Only the X200 unit has a built in camera (for Skype etc) if that is important to you.

2. If you can't handle a laptop without a trackpad you can get the X301 (or the predecessor X300) which goes up against the MacBook Air. Unfortunately you can only get this machine with a solid state hard drive which raises the price--and you really only want the 128gB, not the 64gB drive, which raises the price further. It weighs about the same as the X200/X61 but has a CD-ROM built-in and a larger 13.3 inch screen.

Downside of Apple design: dongles galore!


I use a Lenovo but have tremendous respect and love for Apple design. However, the number of dongles they've come out with to connect a notebook to an external monitor or projector is insane!

Friday, May 22, 2009

Lotus Evora



An example of why the Brits do the best car reviews.

Sunday, May 3, 2009

E-mail Fail?

This post is inspired by a recent post by top internet technology venture capitalist Fred Wilson, titled "Email Fail" (LINK).

Basically, as I understand it, he's been struggling for years with an e-mail client that will handle masses of e-mail. Programs such as Outlook, Entourage and the like can't deal with the size of his e-mail archive. Thunderbird choaked. GMail is the answer but he can't get used to the way in which GMail threads all e-mail, without a choice to view e-mail in the more standard way.

I've said this before, but GMail works for me because:

- The threaded conversation interface is a true innovation--get used to it! Having all your e-mail in a conversation, with both the incoming AND outgoing e-mail all pulled together is so much more effective. To me, this is the "killer" feature that prevents me from trying anything else. This design is what truly distinguishes GMail from everything else.

- It can handle a seemingly unlimited amount of e-mail, seemlessly, without choking.

- The search capability is great.

- There are wonderful add-ons like GTD Inbox (LINK)

- It has you tag e-mails instead of putting them in folders allowing any e-mail to exist in multiple places

- Google for Domains provides great, small workgroup e-mail management services

- Being able to have all your e-mail searchable via the BlackBerry GMail client is wonderful (and so what if it's not "push" in the same way that the regular BlackBerry client works--a slight wall against crackberry addiction is ok with me)

- Google's junk mail filter seems to work better than any others

I also occasionally use Thunderbird via IMAP for:

- offline GMail (although I have found the offline GMail function to be perfectly useable)

- as a backup, just on the off chance Google loses all my data
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Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Salesforce Mobile Lite: great value for non-profits (free!)

If you are part of a non-profit, you should know that you can get ten seats of the "Professional" level of the Salesforce CRM application for free. Just yesterday they launched "Mobile Lite", a free version of their application for Blackberry and iPhone that gives you mobile access to all your data stored in Salesforce--contacts, organizations, tasks etc. Although you can only edit tasks from your mobile (versus being able to edit everything in the for-fee version) it's a wonderful application on both platforms and a great boon to non-profits. (It's also a great boon to anyone who's paying for Professional level Salesforce and above, because this Mobile Lite application is free for them too.)

Sunday, March 15, 2009

Waterfield case for Kindle

I never realized until yesterday why Waterfield Designs--the San Francisco briefcase and bag company that sews everything right in San Fran, where the "labor and rents are high"--was called "Waterfield". It's named for Gary Waterfield, the founder. If you have a Kindle (or really any other electronic device) you should take a look at their offerings. Here's their slipcase for Kindle 2 in brown. Just a simple thing, really, but beautifully made.
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Kindle and brewing coffee

I've had my Kindle now for about 10 days. For someone who likes multi-tasking, who likes capturing those tiny moments--like waiting for the coffee to brew, 10 minutes on the subway, 5 minutes waiting for a meeting to start--the Kindle is an amazing device. Instead of flipping through e-mail on a BlackBerry, reading a free newspaper, or staring into space, you can be picking up where you left off with Thomas Friedman, Thomas Hardy or whoever is top on your list.

For those who don't like using up little slices of time, ignore this note! But for those who do, the Kindle allows great thoughts, great language to insert themselves into your life in a way that I think significantly improves the flow of your thoughts and the firing of brain synapses that make life pleasurable.
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Thursday, March 12, 2009

Voicemail transcription compared: Jott vs. Google Voice

Original text:

Brian Sheppard, the computer scientist who created Maven, described Scrabble, in the journal Artificial Intelligence, as "a game of imperfect information with a large branching factor," which means that no one can precisely control or anticipate the changing shape of the word tree.

Jott transcription of voicemail to text:

Brian Shepherd, the computer scientist who created Maven, described Scrabble in the journal, Artificial Intelligence, as a game of imperfect information with a large branching factor, which means that no one can precisely control or anticipate the changing shape of the word tree.

Google Voice transcription of voicemail to text (most significant errors in bold):

brian shepherd the computer scientist to created made and describe scrabble in the journal artificial intelligence at eighteen looking perfect information with the lord ranching factor which means that no one can precisely control or anticipate the changing shape and upward free

Monday, February 16, 2009

Further proof that Lenovo is the anti-Apple

Lenovo just announced a new service that will create integration between BlackBerry's and Lenovo laptops called Lenovo Constant Connect (LINK). The first feature of this service is interconnection of e-mail between the two devices. Via Bluetooth, a user's BlackBerry will automatically update a Lenovo laptop's e-mail, even when the device is off, allowing synchronization of e-mail without use of WiFi or cellular service on the laptop.

But what's most interesting to me is the step that Lenovo takes with this product launch towards strengthening its position as the "anti-Apple" by making use of what has got to be the most amateur-looking corporate launch video ever.



The extreme geekiness of that video, the complete lack of attention to any style cues, is remarkable and in a bizarre way admirable and attractive. So post bubble! So depression sensitive. Scratch: nice clothes, nice background, nice furniture, nice camera angle. And don't even show the product in operation!

good, detailed explanation of BlackBerry Enterprise Server


CrackBerry.com has a good, detailed overview of how a BlackBerry Enterprise Server works and what its features are. LINK

Friday, January 30, 2009

GMail nails it. Everyone else is wrong.

I love Microsoft's Vista (hey, it's worked great for me). I like Word. I especially love Excel. OneNote is a little beauty. And even PowerPoint isn't so bad, despite the story that Steve Jobs hated it so much he just had to create Keynote or he was going to refuse to do his Apple keynotes ever again.

But Outlook is simply awful, at least for e-mail.

Searches are excruciating. The thing crashes frequently or hangs up. And there are a limited number of ways that I've found to customize the program--and many of them cost a bunch of money and make the thing even more crash-prone.

As says in a recent Slate piece:
If you're still tied to a desktop app—whether Outlook, the Mac's Mail program, or anything else that sees your local hard drive, rather than a Web server, as its brain—then you're doing it wrong. (LINK)
You are. You're doing it wrong. And I would also sweep into that coffin other online mail systems too, like Windows Live or Yahoo Mail, and even Thunderbird for all you open source aficionados. Two reasons, and now Google has added a third, the final nail.

1. GMail uses tagging, not folders. You don't place a piece of e-mail into a folder to categorize it. You tag it. Which effectively means that any e-mail can be in an infinite number of folders. How can you live with that old way of organizing e-mail, the way that Outlook, Yahoo, every other program that I know uses? And in part because of this tagging, searches for mail have the beauty, speed and simplicity of a Google web search.

2. GMail threads your mail, always, all the time. What's great about that? You see all your mail, both the incoming mail and your responses, as part of a beautifully presented, threaded conversation. And that's what e-mail should be. It's not "messages". It's a conversation, asynchronous to be sure, but still a conversation. Once you've embraced that new reality, any other mail program feels like using a typewriter.

3. The final nail: offline. Google has just announced this week its offline feature, in which you can take your GMail offline from the Web and use it anywhere without an Internet connection, within a browser, just as you would if you were using a program like Outlook or Thunderbird.

The only use I have now for Outlook or Thunderbird--and I use Thunderbird for these purposes--is to backup Google's GMail servers. I am one of perhaps 17 people in the world who actually pay Google $50 a year for the privilege of having an ad-free GMail and with that they have a special up-time guarantee. But still, it makes me nervous that there is no GMail backup and so from time-to-time I'll download a copy of my GMail to Thunderbird so it sits on my computer. But with this final nail in the coffin, I'll probably remember to do that less and less.

PS: I do still use Outlook as a conduit out to my BlackBerry for contacts and calendar, but that's because I have a BlackBerry Enterprise Server that makes such over-the-air sync easy. The only thing that Outlook-BES really provides that can't be found elsewhere is contacts sync from Salesforce through Outlook and out to my BlackBerry. If Google/Salesforce filled that hole with a relatively low-cost option, I'd never have to use Outlook again.
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Sunday, January 11, 2009

Sync e-mail etc. on your BlackBerry to Outlook

Two friends have asked me how to sync their mail on BlackBerry without a BlackbEnterprise Server or hosted BES account. And they've said they're committed to Microsoft Outlook. So besides telling them to dispense with Outlook (which many would say) here's what I recommend:

1. Run all your mail through GMail--if you aren't using GMail, forward all your mail to a GMail account. You can continue to use Outlook or the equivalent and get your mail from GMail through an IMAP (rather than POP3) protocol. IMAP can be enabled just like POP3 when you set up a new mail account in Outlook (or the equivalent). With IMAP, everything on Outlook will be in sync with GMail, because that's what IMAP does (versus POP3). Within GMail you can specify a return address for each of the e-mail accounts that you have, so if you have work and personal e-mail addresses, and set yourself up to get those e-mails through GMail, you can also reply from the e-mail address that the e-mail came in on even though it's running through GMail. With Outlook, not so easy--you will probably want to stick with one e-mail account in the reply field when you set up your GMail account in Outlook, but it doesn't need to be the GMail account.

2. Don't use the BlackBerry mail program but download and install the GMail for BlackBerry mail program (LINK). Sure it doesn't push mail to your BlackBerry as efficiently as you're used to on your BlackBerry, but in my opinion that's a small sacrifice for always having your mail in sync.

3. Calendaring is a little trickier but it works. You can download a program for Windows machines that will sync your Outlook calendar to your Google Calendar (Google Calendar Sync: LINK). And then you can download the Google Sync program for your BlackBerry (a different program!) that will keep your BlackBerry calendar in sync with your Google Calendar--and then by extension, with the Outlook-Google Calendar tool via the Google Calendar Sync tool. Comprendez-vous?

4. Contacts used to not sync at all between BlackBerry and GMail . . . but now they do! See this: LINK. Challenge then is how to get them into Outlook because there isn't an equivalent Google Contacts Sync to complete the loop like there is with calendars. Without a BlackBerry Enterprise Server, you'll be stuck here using the cable and doing a manual sync with the BlackBerry desktop tool.

Make sense? Well maybe it WON'T if you look at this complicated diagram. Double click for the full effect.



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Friday, January 2, 2009

New Year's Resolution: Backup

I just took delivery of the sweetest little hard drive. I'll use it to fulfill my New Year's resolution of having a complete backup of my hard drive so that if my laptop's hard drive crashes or is otherwise vaporized, I'll have a complete backup, ready to go on a new machine.

The drive is one of the nicest, highest quality drives I've seen, encased in that ThinkPad black rubber material, with a keypad to provide secure access. No power cord required; USB cable slots nicely into the side of the case when not in use. Slightly larger footprint than a deck of cards and less thick.

The drive is this one from Lenovo, profiled on the Lenovo design blog here: LINK.