No eReader for Blackberry?!?

As you might know from a recent post, I bought a blackberry a short while ago. Aside from a few minor issues getting it working with the exchange server at work, it has been a great device.

Except one company doesn’t agree. Motricity, the people who run eReader, says that they have no plans to support Blackberry with a version of eReader. That means that the books I have bought from them over the years won’t work on my Blackberry. That really sucks, but I suspect it will suck more for motricity than for Blackberry. I know I’m not going back to a palm that can’t deal with networking or a windows mobile machine that takes forever to do anything and crashes all the time, giving up reliable email in the process, just to be able to read their books. Let alone buy more of them.

Here’s to hoping they change their mind. In the mean time, I guess it’s back to paper.

On Contact Management

I’m writing this on the train back from Chicago, where I attended Print ’05 for the past week. Print is a large graphics trade show, and I spent several days doing competitive research. It’s somehow a lot of fun, kind of boring, and very tiring all at the same time.

Anyway, I also ended up learning a lot more about contact management, Outlook, my iPAQ and Activesync, Plaxo and LinkedIn than I expected or wanted to. All of these things are wonderful inventions and each provides a lot of value. However, when you connect them together across two computers and a PocketPC, life gets interesting. Here’s the story:

As always at a trade show, the main benefit is meeting new people and the resultant networking. I believe networking is one of the most powerful things a person can do in life, and trade shows are the ultimate opportunity. Aside from that, having quick and ready access to a great contacts database is a key tool for getting the most out of a show. So I’m busy meeting folks, collecting cards, and in the evening working to get them entered and a thank-you email sent out. I fire up my laptop and enter a bunch of contacts, or I add few to my iPAQ while riding a shuttle or waiting for colleagues at happy hour. I then started to run into problems.

First, trying to sync my iPAQ to my laptop results in a lot of confusion on the part of the iPAQ, which wants to sync to my desktop back at work, and keeps going out on the net to find it. I had been desperately trying to get my iPAQ to do this via a wireless connection, and never could get it to create the proper VPN link on it’s own, but somehow got something set that has it trying very hard to do the same thing when connected to my laptop.

Second, trying to sync my iPAQ to my laptop proved to be a problem because I normally sync with my desktop at work. Activestink wants to duplicate all my contacts, which is not a good thing.

Third, I finally get the contacts entered into my laptop and then try to email the contacts – they won’t show up in the address book! I look in the contacts list, but when I try to enter then in the To: line of an email, it doesn’t work…

Finally I decide to skip the emails and get the contacts uploaded to LinkedIn so I can invite folks to connect. I go through the upload process, but the contacts won’t upload. LinkedIn tells me there are no new contacts.


After a bit of searching, I finally find that the problem is that each contacts folder has a checkbox in it’s properties that specifies that that contacts folder should be a visible outlook address book. This is the magic button, so to speak, and as soon as I check it I have contacts visible and ready to email to. I also find that LinkedIn now finds them just fine.

As for the syncing, I went ahead and allowed the duplicates to be created. I realized that Plaxo has an awesome feature that removes & resolves duplicates and near duplicates – a feature that frankly ought to be built-in to any contact manager. After the sync, which dutifully duplicated everything, I ran Plaxo which then fixed everything. Plaxo rocks.

In the end I got everything entered, and all the email sent, and the LinkedIn invitations will go out soon enough. But I beseech Microsoft to consider the 3-computer syncing problem. It seems that anything designed to synchronize data sources seems to choke with 3 computers – the extra path just gets things confused. I’ve got to believe the industry can figure this out, and it really needs to. The days of working on just one computer are over, and we need our stuff to sync between whatever computers & PDAs we have.

Windows Mobile transition update

It’s been quite a while now since I switched to Windows Mobile, and an iPAQ 4700. I’ve had a few issues to overcome, and I think I now have it in a pretty stable state.

The folks who say that the grass ain’t any greener on the other side are mostly right. You gain things, you lose things. Overall, it’s about the trade-offs you’re willing to make. Here are some I’ve identified:

  • There aren’t a lot of 3rd party apps, and even less that are solidly reliable. Webis Mail is flaky, slow, and prone to crashing. Egress too is somewhat flaky, but better. Neither are really dependable, but are clearly the best of what’s out there for this platform. On Palm there’s a lot more to choose from, although most of it lower in quality as far as features go.
  • eReader is much slower to load the dictionary, and if you exit with out clicking the exit button (say, stop the program from the memory screen) it loses your place in the book. This is really, really irritating.
  • The built in messaging is pretty nice, solid and fast. It lacks a few features, but overall I find it very usable.
  • The built in web browser is pretty good, and is reasonably fast. I don’t find it mauls many pages into an unusable state.
  • Things sync with Outlook very well, as you’d expect. None of the goofy first name, last name to last name, first name conversion silliness I’ve run into on Palm.
  • Skype. I haven’t used it much yet, but that it will run is just too cool.
  • PPC can sync with only two computers, at least, it can form partnerships with only two. I have a home desktop, a work desktop, and a laptop. One too many.
  • The iPAQ 4700 screen is a dream. Large, high resolution, and easy on the eyes.

Travel log: Day 1 going to Gnomedex

MKE to MSP: My flight was at 9:10 in the morning, a pretty reasonable time until you realize that the Transportation Suppression Authority is going to want their pound of flesh and perhaps an hour or more to consume it.

Anyway, there I am in front of the airport giving wife and daughter a kiss goodbye when I realize my phone is sitting at home. My wife, joy of my life, goes back home to get it after a brief should I/shouldn’t I discussion.

Finally I’m up where I need to be – at the gate. I’ve thwarted all attempts to suppress my efforts at transportation. I’ve gotten myself fed and watered and ready for a short wait at the gate to enjoy General Mitchell’s complementary (there was no mention of fees on the sign) Wi-Fi service.

It only takes a few tries and I believe my iPAQ is connected. I pull up my browser and get my regular home page (cached) instead of the intro page for the Wi-Fi service. This doesn’t bode well. Sure enough, the free Wi-Fi is good for everything but accessing the Internet.

The gate attendant starts announcing the rows that are permitted to board, and slowly we all file onto the plane. In a misguided attempt to give me a ”good” seat, they’ve put me in a low row number. Someone needs to explain to the airlines that noise from being behind the engines is no longer much of an issue, but being stuck with only picked over overhead space is.

Speaking of which, as I got on the plane I saw a sign titled ”Need more space?” with two pictures. The first shows a carry on bag placed in an overhead bin sideways, which wastes space, the second shows the more efficient front to back placement. When I’m finally in my seat I look up at the bin across the isle – there’s a bag sitting there sideways.

We take off and I settle in to do some serious writing and pull out my folding keyboard. It doesn’t work. At least I’m getting pretty good with Fitaly.

I end up in a conversation with the guy next to me, who runs a company called TPS International that does manufacturing systems. Dean’s a good guy, and we talk about printing, palm computing and manufacturing. I love those conversations because there is so much to learn.

Later at MSP I find the internet isn’t free – it’s $7 for “a session.” If I get desperate I’ll use my cell phone. I sit and have a beer, and finally get my keyboard working – while I like Fitaly, I like a keyboard better.

I get on the flight to SEA, and once again I’m stuck in a middle seat. At least I’m not tall like the guy next to me. That poor guy is really shoe-horned into his space. He’s an environmental science student, and we chat for a long time about all kinds of things. It’s one of those conversations where all of a sudden the plane’s on the ground and you realize you never got the person’s name.

I take a taxi to the hotel. The taxi driver is efficient, although he starts writing in a log book as we’re going through a complicated interchange, which was pretty exciting.

The Warwick hotel is an older hotel, but is nice. My company’s ?preferred? supplier was booked, as were a few others so this was it. One thing that amazes me is that they charge for Wi-Fi. I do not understand how anyone can still get away with this. But here in Seattle, where you’d think free Wi-Fi would be a must, everybody charges for it. What is lost is made up for in location – they’re closer than most hotels to the conference.

Anyway, in the evening I met up with Matt Kelly of Strategy Software and we talk about the new stuff they have coming out. They’re one of they companies that “gets it”, and the new enhancements sound good. We also discussed CI, the challenge of selling it as a function, and promoting it as an internal consultancy. Matt’s a pretty sharp guy and it was a productive discussion.

Then it’s off to bed.

My kingdom for a reliable PDA

Why is it so hard to make a PDA that is reliable?

I still like my new PPC, and I still love the screen. I finally dumped WebIS Mail because it just could not run reliably. Whenever it was running I got weird hangs, and other strange behavior as well as corrupted mail files. I think I’ve got a few other apps that are problem children.

I suspect this is the same problem I had on the Palm – a few bad apps spoil the whole barrel. When those apps are apps you need, then you have a real problem. I’m using the stock messaging app now, and it’s working ok. I’ve gone to Fastmail and have everything routed through there into a single IMAP account, which solves the moving-mail-between-accounts problem. By the way, Fastmail is pretty awesome and lives up to its name. It has the first web mail interface I actually use, and it even does things like reminding me to store new To: addresses in my address book.

Still, the question remains. Why is it so hard to make these things reliable? Linux, which is free software is reliable. Even Windows is now pretty reliable. Palm used to be reliable. These handheld devices are smaller and simpler than a PC, so you’d think it would be easier to get them ironed out.

Gone To The Other Side – Switching From Palm To Windows Mobile

As you know I’ve been itching for a new PDA, and had been tempted and then spurned by the Lifedrive. I am now an iPAQ 4700 owner. Yup, I’ve gone to the “dark side” and moved to Windows Mobile 2003, aka “Pocket PC”.

I’m kind of surprised myself. Like my turn around on Linux, my switch from Palm to PPC happened with a bit of subtlety. I like Palm, and it is in many ways an extremely impressive system. The problem is that these days I’m using my PDA more and more as a laptop replacement. When I travel I really don’t want to take the laptop. I no longer need it to offload pictures from the digicam now that memory’s so cheap, but I do need something to do email and the odd blog post with. The Palm does this fairly well, but it’s a stretch on my T3, and given the growing commonality of Wi-Fi I really wanted to have that built in. I realized that while I’d used my PDA for mostly meetings and phone numbers in the past, my usage had changed.

So while I was checking out the Lifedrive, I checked out the iPAQ and fell in love. Mostly with the screen – it’s awesome, and in most cases better than paper for me. I’d thought that the screen on the T3 was good, but this is twice the dpi. Not only is a bit more info on the screen to be seen (the screen is larger than the T3) but it’s so much sharper. eReader is as good as the book itself.

Another pleasant surprise was Egress – a “blogreader” or RSS reader that connects to Bloglines. Since Bloglines is how I read the blogs that are work related at work, it’s nice to have things kept in sync, although I haven’t tested this yet. On the Palm Quicknews is probably the most competent blogreader, but it’s designed to really be a stand alone reader.

All is not perfect, and the reports that PPC isn’t as crisp as Palm are mostly correct. I’ve had to reset, at least I got impatient and did reset, while I was getting my email (all 80mb worth) downloaded and sorted out. That’s ok, soft resets where becoming a daily occurrence with the T3 anytime I switched between bluetooth and Wi-Fi. WebIS Mail is doing nicely for that so far. The internal messaging is pretty competent, but I’ve got several accounts but prefer to keep everything in one IMAP account because that keeps it portable. The built-in messaging doesn’t allow one to move a message from one account to another. 

Physically the unit is larger than the T3, although it still fits the required shirt pocket with no trouble. It is not heavy enough to cause any notice, although I think it’s heavier than the T3. I put my 1Gb Microdrive in it which adds to the weight.

I haven’t gone through a work week with it yet, not even a day, so it’s possible I might turn back yet. But I doubt it. So far I’m finding a lot of things to like about the iPAQ.