Category Archives: Mobility

When you’re deep in the woods, communing with nature and awakened to the glory of the forest, is it really so desirable to have a Treo?

Who needs a laptop?

On a recent trip to Iqaluit (Nunavut), I basically used my Android based #Xoom tablet and a Logitech BlueTooth keyboard for 4 days straight. Only time I broke out the MacBook Pro was for a mindmapping session with a client, and that was because I hadn’t tested the excellent MindJet app with a VGA projector yet, so I didn’t want to take a risk. Used Docs2Go for word processing and spreadsheets, native email/Skype clients, MindJet (for brainstorming), camera/video capture apps, MoboPlayer (for movies, since the TV available didn’t have connection), and many of the Adobe apps for design, creative and annotation.

Sitting down with my MBP, Ubuntu and Windows laptops now at home, I realize that I haven’t used them in nearly two months. LOT of security updates to keep me busy today.

I’ve heard of people trying to “live on a tablet” for a few days as a test of their technical mojo and to explore the current state of mobile software, but it seems that I’ve been doing this without even trying. Very impressive. I wonder where we’ll be this time next year?

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Playing with iOS5, Lion and iCloud

Upgraded both my iPhone and my iPad2 to iOS5 yesterday, and my MacBook Pro to Lion. Aside from the infuriating reverse-direction scrolling in Lion (push up to go down and vice-versa — I’m too hardwired), I have to admit that I like the whole experience. I’m assuming that I’ll have to await more iOS apps’ use of the notification system –the only thing appearing there so far with mine is Apple Mail– but it’s a far cry better than the pop-up alerts from before. (Tap tap tap tap –what was that? Oh, dammit — tap tap tap….)

Not fond of the app switching yet in iOS5, although it’s still better than iOS4: use all the fingers of your hand to swipe the app “off” one side or the other. It reminds me of a poor man’s webOS card system, the biggest differences being that you don’t actually flip between all the cards in a nice visual manner, and there’s no stacking of related/conjoined cards in a deck (e.g., the PDF viewer that you called up from the email app). Better than Android Gingerbread’s standard icon-based view, but nowhere near as nice as Honeycomb’s thumbnail views. Plus, I can’t seem to do much in the background yet, like how in Android I can download torrents, suck down podcast files, run installs, and put almost any app in the background and it still carries on, pushing out a notification when its job is done.

Still wrapping my head around the tacky faux-leather-with-stitching interface of some of the apps. Really, Apple? You don’t think that’s a wee bit tacky? Like, 6 years ago, tacky?

I haven’t played with the magazine/press shelf or the iBooks yet, since I already use platform-agnostic Zinio and Amazon for that. I don’t want to be tied into only one hardware platform.

iCloud has a streamlined web interface of mail that’s nice and clean, very Apple-like and an improvement over the last time I used Apple dotMac Mail some 3 years ago. The calendar and contacts web apps look very much like the iPad versions, and I must admit that I don’t have Pages, Keynote or Numbers on my iPad yet, so the documents online sync is rather useless for me at the moment. (Again, I like the platform-agnostic Google Apps that allows other programs, such as Docs to Go, to synchronize with it.)

One inevitable conclusion: you really have to want to invest in this ecosystem if you want to make the most of it. Unless you’re running a Mac full time on the desktop (me, I use Linux 80% of the time), have purchased and used mostly iWork (which isn’t available outside a Mac), and only use iOS devices (me, I use Android phones and tablets most of the time, with an occasional foray into my iPhone, iPad2 or HP webOS TouchPad), you’re not going to get the full benefit of this holy Apple Trinity of iOS5, Lion and iCloud.

More thoughts later as I dive in.

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Syncing Bookmarks (& Calendars)

Once upon a time, like many dutiful Mac users, I subscribed to Apple’s .Mac service. It gave me an webmail-enabled email address, a place to host a webpage with the option of Apple-designed templates, a feeling of belonging to the Mac community, a free virus checker, the occasional freebie app or game, a way to synchronise iCal calendars and Safari bookmarks among multiple computers, and a tediously slow, buggy and so-small-it’s-useless backup solution.

Although I’m sure this is still a great service for many people, I no longer need it. I have Gmail for my mail, a webserver completely under my control (with PHP, Perl, MySQL and tonnes of other goodies), my own templates and webpages (Apple’s were pretty limiting, IMHO), no Mac viruses that I’ve ever seen or even heard of, and a much better back-up solution involving both server syncs and physical backup to CDs.

Now, the sharp-eyed will notice a few holes still remaining. Freebie apps and games aren’t really an issue for me, as I have all the software I need, chiefly from the Open Source community. The “sense of belonging” is also no longer a big deal, as I’ve gotten over my Mac fetish (although I still use my Macs for most of my work). The SpyMac community is great, if you’re into that sort of thing. They also provide 1 Gb of webmail (with POP3 access for regular email clients), homepage hosting, blogs, forum tools, an “iDisk” (WebDAV storage), a gallery, an online calendar/todo system, and more. Great stuff, even if it’s a little slow and graphics-intensive sometimes. (By the way, there’s nothing saying these tools are designed only for Macs: they work just as well on Windows or Linux.)

It’s the bookmark and calendar synchronisation that’s often the killer for people with multiple machines.

The calendar issue is easily solved. Many clients allow sharing calendar info through FTP or WebDAV on a server somewhere (such as on SpyMac, if you don’t have access to another server). Mozilla Calendar –and its up-and-coming standalone application, Sunbird– is perfect for this sort of thing. The extension will install in Mozilla, Firefox or Thunderbird, and you can tell it to “publish”, i.e., synchronise, with the server by setting your URL, login and password in its preferences. You can do this over multiple machines and operating systems, and never be out of sync with your calendar.

The bookmarks problem is another issue entirely, however. There have been a number of kludges. For example, you can use del.icio.us and Foxylicious to share bookmarks, but the whole tag-as-folder thing is rather messy. SiteBar with the Firefox extension is not bad, but it requires a web-based sidebar, and it’s not easy to easily re-arrange or manage your marks. And there are a few other similar projects, but none of them are as easy as simply setting your native bookmarks to share among multiple computers, locations and OSes. I hear tell that roaming bookmarks, as it’s sometimes called, is something slated for Mozilla & Co. again (it has been included in past versions, albeit incomplete and buggy), but now there’s finally an easy-to-use Firefox extension that “just works”.

Bookmarks Synchronizer, by Torisugari, will sync with an XML file it creates on a server. Go into your preferences, fill in your server info, set your options (such as automatically syncing upon starting and exiting your browser), and you’re good to go.

Now, if only I’d get off my behind and implement a way of sharing contacts among my Thunderbird clients, I’ll be all set. Hmm… and then there’s the Palm Pilot synchronisation thing with Mozilla I’ve yet to try. And then there’s groupware to set up. And the wiki for….

Argh. Too many toys, not enough time. Well, at least that’s my bookmarks taken care of.

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New PalmOS built atop Linux

Well, if this isn’t every Linux geek’s mobile fantasy: NewsForge | PalmSource announces Linux support

We look forward to contributing code to the Linux platform under its existing licenses. We believe that PalmSource’s expertise in building great mobile solutions can help make Linux even more compelling than it is now. The Palm OS layer written for use on Linux will be designed to be portable to any suitable mobile Linux distribution, and we’ll expose Linux APIs under the Palm OS layer. We look forward to partnering and cooperating with Linux companies and developers to contribute to the on-going development and adoption of mobile Linux.

It sounds like they will be building the new PalmOS to work as a layer atop Linux, the same way that the Mac OS X “Aqua” layer is built atop BSD-flavoured UNIX. With Wi-Fi built into the device, you’ll be able to wardrive with a Linux server in your pocket. Slot in Apache, Perl/Python/PHP, MySQL, wikis, Emacs, FTP… ah, the geek in me is just drooling….

More info at The Reg.

(No, I don’t have a Zaurus or a Yopy, but I really wish I did….)

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