Monday, March 31, 2008

IE/Firefox Tip: Scroll Wheel clicking

Huh... who knew?  Clicking the scroll wheel opens a link a new tab in both IE7 and Firefox.  How convenient!

Via:  Carl's Geek Notes

HOA vs. Rain Barrels

Stories like this one make me loathe to ever move back to a large neighborhood.  Clearly, someone has their priorities completely backwards here.  This poor guy was just trying to save up some rain water and his HOA gets all in a huff because he has 6 rain barrels too many (the HOA is only "allowing" residents to have 2).  Apparently, the Wakefield Plantation association cares more about "visual impression" than saving water during one of the worst droughts in the state's history.  I wonder what they'll think when their golf courses are closed this summer because there's no water left to green the greens?

Read:  Homeowners Association Wants Additional Rain Barrels to Roll Away (WRAL.com)

MetaEfficient - The Optimal Green Guide for the Eco Geek

I just stumbled this blog tonight and have added it to my NewsGator feedlist.  The site claims to be "the optimal green guide" focusing on all sorts of eco topics from transportation to wind & solar power to tonight's post on the most efficient sink aerators of 2008.  With my local lakes at 60% capacity and the water utility raising rates, I'll be sure to give that article a close read.  

Read:  MetaEfficient

Mobility Today is 8 years old today!

Congratulations and happy "birthday" to Mobility Today, a great mobile phone/lifestyle blog that is 8 years old today!  If you've been following sites like Smartphone Thoughts or the mobile categories on popular gadget blogs, you should definitely check out what Mobility Today has to offer too.

Kevin Daly working on a Windows Mobile Twitter client (and my wishlist)

I'm a huge fan of Kevin Daly's Windows Mobile blogging app, Diarist.  I've been using various incarnations of if for the past few years on my PocketPCs and most recently on my Blackjack (review coming soon).  Recently, Kevin tweeted that he was testing his WM Twitter client!  This is great news for anyone with a WM phone and a data plan.  I'm expecting some pretty great software here, as Kevin has a real eye for implementing the right features in the right order and writes solid code.  He's been very receptive to feedback on Diarist in the past, which is also a sign of a great developer, in my opinion.  I'll be keeping in contact with him to (hopefully) get an early drop to try out. 

As you know, I've been using TinyTwitter recently and in general, it's very very good.  I'm by no means a Twitter "power user", but I have already come up with a wishlist of features I'd like to see added to it.  Hopefully Kevin will implement these in his client too:

  • Update profile pictures when users change their pictures. 
  • Allow multiple Twitter profiles with quick switching.  For folks like me with a few Twitter personas, I think this would be a killer feature.  As it stands, I simply have to change credentials every time I want to tweet or follow as someone else.
  • A Today screen plug-in with say the last 3 tweets from your friends
  • A way to search for and follow new Twitter users from the mobile client instead of having to use the web interface
  • Super fast load time - this is, of course, stream of conscious stuff, and any time spent waiting for a progress bar to fill out while the client loads is just frustrating.
  • The ability to follow links in tweets from your friends.  TinyTwitter doesn't seem to have this capability.

I was actually thinking of working on my own client until I saw Kevin's news.  Now that I know he's on the job, I'll hold off because I know he'll do a much better job than I could :)\

To stay in touch with what Kevin's working on, go read his blog.

40% of college kids plan to buy an Apple?

 

Here's an interesting thought... are we on the leading edge of a massive Apple market share advance as today's college kids graduate and start earning a living?

AppleInsider reports on a Morgan Stanley survey that found 40% of college kids today plan to buy a Mac as their next computer.  That could have a huge impact on Apple's tiny market share today.  Even among college kids today, Apple only has a 15% market share. 

The Samsung Q1 Ultra - Droolworthy

q1ultra

2nd Generation UMPCs are here, and the Samsung Q1 Ultra appears to be a serious contender in the space.  Pocket PC Magazine has an in depth article with all the juicy details, so I won't spoil them all here... but think 60GB, core 2 duo, 4.5 hour battery life, and under 2 pounds.  Unfortunately, it's still priced in the range that makes an $800 laptop a slightly better choice.  Read the full article here...

Friday, March 28, 2008

Windows Mobile apps I'll be reviewing over the next week...

I've installed several new (to me) Windows Mobile apps and will be reviewing them over the next week.  Here's a quick list of what I'll be checking out.  Let me know if you have any specific questions about them and I'll do my best to cover those aspects in my reviews:

I'll be spending the next several days "living" on these applications to make sure I can give them a thorough review.  Looking forward to it!

Thursday, March 27, 2008

What's (back) on my Blackjack: FindMe

After my original post about FindMe, I was contacted by Steve from Electric Pocket.  He was very gracious and helpful and showed me how to turn on the debug tracing for FindMe so we can track down the crashes.  He also gave me a heads up on some new features coming soon in the final version, and if they work out, I will definitely be keeping FindMe on my device.

So for now, FindMe is back on my Blackjack and happily recording trace logs for Steve. 

I was also contacted by EP's PR firm who has been very helpful in getting me review copies of several other popular Windows Mobile apps, so watch for more reviews coming very soon!

Monday, March 24, 2008

What's on my Blackjack: Newsgator Go!

Continuing my mobile apps series, the next app on my phone that gets a LOT of use is Newsgator Go!   It's a mobile RSS reader and so far, the best I've found on balance, though it does have its quirks.

Since you're probably already familiar with RSS readers if you're reading this, I'll jump right to the big advantages of Go! over other readers.  First, it's free.  Newsgator used to charge for this, but for some reason they decided to be nice and just give it away.  Great for us!  Second, it syncs up with their popular desktop reader FeedDeamon.  So, in theory, if you read something on the desktop reader, your phone will stay in sync and you won't see the same articles listed as "new" on your phone.  In theory.

Other cool features include the "clean up" menu option (which lets you delete posts older than 60 days and read posts from your device to free up valuable memory) and the "top posts" feature that shows you what's currently "hot" in the blogosphere.

Top Posts feature in Newsgator Go!

Here's where the quirks come in.  After using this app for a couple of months, I'm still not clear on how/when the phone and desktop readers get in sync.  Both have a "reset sync" feature that lets you force the two to be in sync, but even then it's not clear to me who wins.  Ideally, they would just always be in sync and would never require thought or human intervention. 

As for a wishlist, I don't have a lot to ask.  Just fixing up the synchronization would be huge.

Before this, my favorite mobile newsreader of all time was NewsBreak by Ilium Software.  I haven't tried their recent versions and I mainly used it on a Pocket PC in the past.  But the big thing missing from it for me was synchronization with a desktop reader.  Had they just added that simple feature, NewsBreak would still be my #1 choice.  Given that Go! is free and does a LOT of what NewsBreak does + more, it'd sure be nice of Illium started giving away NewsBreak.

Newsgator Go! is also available for Blackberry and in Java format for the rest of you.

What's (not) on my Blackjack: FindMe

I first heard about FindMe on one of the popular Windows Mobile blog sites (sorry, forget which one).  It's a free applet from Electric Pocket that runs on your phone and lets you tag your location to specific cell tower IDs.  Then, it will ping a central server and/or Facebook to let the world know where you are.  It promised to be a great option for people like me whose phone doesn't have built-in GPS. 

Unfortunately, stability was not one of the main features of this app, so I was forced to remove it from my phone.  Besides just crashing all the time, I found that my battery life was significantly lower whenever I had the app running.  Another thing that really annoyed me about the Facebook integration was that the locations didn't flow like a sentence when pushed to your status field.  For example, rather than using your tag called "work" and saying "Joe is at work", it would just say: "Joe: Work".  Note it always capitalizes the first letter of your tags so you can't even "fake" a sentence by calling your tag "is at work" - it'd come out as "Joe: Is at work". 

Here's my wishlist for a future version:

  1. Let me customize the message for when I'm "at an unknown location"
  2. When I leave a "known" location, display "has left XYZ" (where XYZ was the location) for some period of time.  For example, if I leave work and I'm driving home, my wife might want to know that I've left work, but it's not realistic for me to program in tags for all the celltowers between home and work.
  3. Provide an API to allow me to get a list of my locations over time
  4. Provide a widget to show my location mashed up on the map of my choice on my website
  5. Notify me when one of my friends is near me, especially if I'm not in a normal location like "work"
  6. Allow me to let my friends get notified whenever I arrive or leave certain locations
  7. Build in a few "standard" locations like "home", "work", "school"
  8. Twitter integration

So, if Electric Pocket reads this and issues an updated version with some bugfixes, drop me a line and I'll check it out again.

Sunday, March 23, 2008

What's on my Blackjack: TinyTwitter

I still haven't caught on to the Twitter craze quite yet, but until now I blamed it on not having an SMS plan for my phone (sorry, $10/month to send unlimited 160 char messages just seemed stupid).  Well now there's TinyTwitter, a small applet for Windows Mobile phones.  For you unfortunate souls who don't yet have a WM phonte, a Java client is also available. 

As Twitter is a pretty simple application, TinyTwitter offers nearly all the essential features you'll find on the website all in a tiny footprint.  You can tweet, follow other twitterers, and direct message your twitterbuddies (is that really a word?)

So get your tweet on and stay in touch with the future my twitter profile.

Edmunds.com Tests Fuel Economy Myths

40 

With gas as high as $3.50 per gallon for regular recently, it should be more obvious than ever that saving fuel just makes good sense.  When I fill up my Civic Hybrid each month (once/month, 10 gallons, $35 max), I think back to those days of paying through the nose to speed around in my Ford Explorer or Honda Pilot.  I'm making up for the sins of my past with 48-52 mpg tanks month after month and just shake my head at the thought of how much gas I used to waste.

By changing your driving habits and by using and maintaining your car correctly, you can improve fuel economy up to 38 percent...

I've been blogging about "green driving" tips for almost 2 years now, but I've never taken the time to really experiment with various techniques.  Luckily, Edmunds.com has the time and has put several efficiency techniques to the test.  The results are astonishing - even to me!  Using non-hybrid cars, they got up to 38% better mileage through smart driving. 

Even big rig drivers are doing it.  What are you waiting for?

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

REDFLY - Extend the Power of Your Device

 rf

It's an interesting device, but I'm wondering how necessary this is?  Personally, I'd much rather have an Eee PC if I'm going to be carrying around another device this size. 

Read:  Expert: Jack Cook - REDFLY - Extend the Power of Your Device

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Create your own SeaDragon compilations

If you haven't seen the Microsoft Seadragon demos, you're really missing out.  You can now create your own SeaDragon/DeepZoom compilations too!  Check out the DeepZoom composer applet and have fun!  Don't forget to read the user guide.

Thursday, March 6, 2008

Demo of Silverlight running on Windows Mobile

Amit Chopra demos Silverlight on Windows Mobile in this video from Channel10.  Some interesting notes from the demo:  the runtime will take less than 1MB, the first CTP (community tech preview) will come ~1 month after MIX'08.  He also shows a version of Donkey.NET (that Bill Gates wrote) running on an HTC Touch.

Wednesday, March 5, 2008

(Silver)light it up!!

Unless you've been living under a rock today (not that there's anything wrong with that), you heard that Microsoft has released Silverlight 2.0 Beta 1.  The big deal with this release is support for managed languages.  So you can now write your cool applets in C# instead of digging back through that Javascript book. Sweet!  This also makes it much easier to pull data from web services to be consumed by Silverlight applications.

But the real excitement is around the announcement that Nokia phones will soon support Silverlight applications!  Not only did the desktop browser world just get a little brighter, now the whole mobile world is Silver"lit"!  Support for Windows Mobile devices was announced a while back, but today's release doesn't include the mobile runtime.

To jump-start your design experience, be sure to check out the Expression Blend 2.5 Preview release also announced today.

If you haven't started learning Silverlight, you're already a dinosaur IMHO.  Get on it!  Here are your starting points:

I'd love a week with no other responsibility other than to digest Silverlight right now...