Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Debunking Nostradamus Books for Sport

I randomly decided I wanted to learn more about Nostradamus and his alleged predictions for the end of the world.  Why not?  Between increasing tensions in the Middle East, the crazy worldwide financial crisis, and hurricanes increasing in strength and destruction each year, I figured it would at least be interesting.

So I popped open a web search for “Nostradamus predictions”, and the 2nd hit looked intriguing:

From NostradamusOnline.com:

In May 2005, the Italian National Library in Rome made an amazing discovery. Buried in their archives was an unknown manuscript written by the famed prophet Michel de Nostradame, or Nostradamus (1503-1566). This manuscript was handed down to his son and later donated to Pope Urban VIII. It did not surface again until now, almost four hundred years later.

Next, I wanted to see if the book was available on Amazon.  It is, and it got some fairly horrible reviews – several even alleging plagiarism of other authors!

A bit more searching on Amazon.com turned up this gem:

In 1994 members of the Italian National Library in Rome found buried in their archives an unknown and unpublished manuscript consisting of 80 mysterious paintings by the famed prophet Michel de Nostradamus (1503-1566). This manuscript, handed down to the prophet's son and later donated by him to Pope Urban VIII, confirms the hidden chronology of Nostradamus's quatrains discovered by the well-known Nostradamus scholar Ottavio Cesare Ramotti.
In both the paintings and accompanying quatrains within, Nostradamus correctly predicts such key events as the Nazi Blitzkrieg, the assassination attempt on Pope John Paul II, the burning of the oil wells of Kuwait by Iraq, and Boris Yeltsin's rise to power. Knowing the power that his prophecies contained, and wary of this power falling into the wrong hands, Nostradamus scrambled both the meaning and the order of his quatrains so that humanity would not be able to use them until it had become sophisticated enough to decode them. That time is now. Using a software program he created, Ramotti has finally cracked the code and produced a book that is required reading for those who want to know what the next millennium has in store.

Notice a strange similarity between the descriptions?

So which is it?  Did the Italian National Library discover this manuscript in 1994 or 2005?  Is Boris Yeltsin the great Russian trouble-maker, or is it perhaps Putin?  It’s pretty easy to read whatever you want into the quatrains depending on the current times.  For example, several books interpreted that “Mabus” (supposedly Mr. Bush) would meet an untimely end in 2007, and we know that didn’t happen. 

It’s too bad this whole Nostradamus thing reeks of Vegas-like levels fakery and deception.  It’s even worse that the whole rigmarole is recycled every couple of decades.  Worse yet, apparently some of us fall for it.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

What's on my BlackJack II - GPSed

I've been tinkering around with the .NET Compact Framework's GPS APIs a bit lately. I worked up a quick little app for my Blackjack that tracks my position via the built-in GPS and uploads it to my home server.  Then, I can view my tracks in Live Maps (or any other mapping app I plug in).  All was going well..

Then I discovered GPSed.com, and I immediately stopped coding. These guys have already done it, and it's free!

In a nutshell, GPSed is an app you install that allows you to track your location (and altitude!) via your phone's built-in GPS (or an attached Bluetooth GPS), record "tracks", and share them online.  The more you dig, the better it gets...  You can stream your tracks live to the web, control whether tracks are public or private, upload photos taken during your tracks and automatically geo-tag them, share your tracks live through your Twitter account... etc.  You can export your tracks in a number of formats too for uploading to other services or viewing in 3D in Google Earth.

So far, GPSed has worked like a dream on my Blackjack II.  Note, you'll have to install the MoDaCo GPS enabler hack to get it to work on the Blackjack or Blackjack II.  Clients are also available for the Blackberry and iPhone (and other phones).  Enjoy!

Friday, September 5, 2008

Great review of Blackjack II with WM6.1

Read Keith Elder's thorough review of the Blackjack II with WM6.1 here.  I wish I'd had time to write all this! 

Thursday, September 4, 2008

Better battery life on Blackjack II with WM6.1?

Is it just me, or are you also getting much better battery life on your Blackjack II after upgrading to WM6.1?  I haven't run any scientific tests, but I've definitely noticed an improvement.  Granted, after the hard reset, I haven't installed all of my apps back yet.  A couple of these had tasks that run in the background (SOTI Pocket Controller Pro and SplashMoney), but beyond that, I'm running all the same apps. 

For example, in the past, I could start with a full charge before leaving for the office.  With Tiny Twitter updating every 4 minutes and "as items arrive" Exchange e-mail synchronization, I would be down to 2 bars by about lunchtime.  Today, I'm still at 4 bars of battery (estimating about 80% life remaining) and it's past 9pm!

I'm curious to know if this is just my observation or if you're seeing better battery life too?  Or worse?

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

How to Use Voice Command on BlackJack II with WM6.1

When I upgraded my Blackjack II to WM6.1 last night, I was pleasantly surprised to see that Voice Command is now installed by default.  This handy little app from Microsoft lets you interact with your phone by... voice... commands...  duh. 

It's easy to find and set up - just click to the start menu, select All Programs (another new feature of WM6.1), and then launch Voice Command.  You're presented with several options that let you configure VC to your heart's content.

Unfortunately, 1 critical configuration point is missing - the VC "hotkey".  To use VC, you have to press a button to put it into listening mode before you can talk to it.  Imagine how annoying it would be if the phone was always listening to you and rushing to answer "what time is it?" when you ask a friend, or dialing some other planet while you're watching E.T.?

Unfortunately, while the help text explains why you have to press the hotkey and what you can do with VC, it doesn't say which key to press.

I found it today!  On the AT&T version of the Blackjack II (is there another version?), you just hold down the little AT&T "globe" key in the bottom-lefthand corner of the keypad.  After 1 second, you'll hear a little ding, and then you can proceed with commanding your phone to do your bidding.

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

Blackjack II WM6.1 upgrade is now available!

att_i617_update

The long-awaited Windows Mobile 6.1 upgrade for the Samsung Blackjack II is now available to download!  Point yourself to Samsung's website for all the gritty details.  As with previous updates, a mis-step could brick your device, so be sure to back up everything before you proceed.  Being a maverick, I'm just going ahead without backing up anything.  Leap before you look, I always say!

Tip - The Windows Vista instructions tell you to download the Samsung Modem drivers, which appear at first look to only be available for Windows 98/XP.  I installed this package with no problem on my Vista laptop, however.

On to the installation...

"Wait for connecting the device to the PC..."

So far so good...

"The device is ready to be downloaded"

Sweet!  They're downloading a new device to... my device?

"Phase 2 Downloading 001%"

Um... this might take a while!

Looking at my BJII screen, steps that "pass" are listed in Red while steps that are still in progress are shown in green.  I wonder if traffic signals in Korea follow this scheme too?

Woohoo!  Phase 2 complete!  Wait... there's a Phase 3.  Drat.  Still waiting...

"All procedure to update the ROM image are done!"

All my base are belong to Samsung!  Phone is rebooting now... and wow, it's taking a LONG time to reboot.  I hope this is a one-time event.

So far, so good.  My phone is amazingly empty after the purge/re-flash, so I'll spend a few more hours tonight reloading all my apps.  If you run into trouble installing the new image, you can call Samsung at 1-888-987-4357.  Kudos for a great (if not long) upgrade experience and a phone number for bailing out the unlucky!

Monday, September 1, 2008

What's on my Blackjack: PhatNotes

Pros:

  • very fast load time
  • follows the Keep It Simple Stupid model
  • automatic update detection
  • provides quick and easy categorization of notes
  • customizable display and note sorting/organization
  • Spellchecker!
  • password protect sensitive notes

Cons:

  • can only assign 1 category per note
  • doesn't integrate with Pocket Outlook categories (i.e. it's a separate list)
  • can't insert existing tasks and appointments - can only create new ones to attach to notes

Wish List:

  • Customization on a per-database level. For example, my "home" database would have a different default category than my "work" database. 

Introduction

PhatWare PhatNotes 5.3 is a fantastic little note taking application for Windows Mobile devices.  I've been using it for a few months on my Blackjack II and am so impressed with it, I felt compelled to give it a thorough review.  In a nutshell, Phatnotes does 99% of what I want a note taking app to do and nothing else.  It's rare to find an app that blends simplicity and functionality so well! This is what Windows Notepad should have been all along!

Getting Started - Your First Note

When you fire up PhatNotes for the first time, it'll be ready for note taking before you are!  There's no fancy splash screen here - just a lightning fast load time and you're ready to go.  PhatNotes first presents you with a list of sample notes and categories.  Click the left soft key (LSK) to start a new note.  Type a few words, then click the LSK again to finish your note and save it to memory.  That's all it takes - your first note is done!

Advanced Note Taking

One of my favorite features in PhatNotes is the spell checker.  After you type a note, run the spell checker to fix up your typos.  Because of this, I'm less careful (and therefore faster) when I type notes. A quick spellcheck at the end catches most of my mistakes, and if it doesn't recognize a new word, I just add it to the dictionary for next time.

For more control over your note, click the Right Soft Key while editing for the note options menu. From here, you can specify the note's subject/title, assign and/or create new categories, specify a color, priority, and date for the note. Colors are great for quick visual categorization.  For example, when something is urgent, I assign it the color red so it catches my eye while I'm scrolling through my notes list.

If basic text doesn't do it for you, you can also edit font and paragraph layout options such as indentation widths, line spacing, paragraph spacing, etc. For some reason, I only see 1 available font to choose from in the fonts menu, but you can choose font size as well as the standard bold / italic / underline / strikethrough renderings. Although Windows Mobile Standard Edition doesn't have built-in selection or copy/paste, PhatNotes gives you these options to ease editing and font formatting.

For even more fun, you can insert voice attachments, files, reminders, contacts, appointments, or tasks to notes.  You can also link notes to other notes, though I haven't quite found a great use for that feature yet (have you?). I was a little disappointed I couldn't insert existing appointments or tasks to notes; you can only create new ones. Once you've saved a note, you can send it via IR or e-mail from the main notes list. You can also receive notes from others via IR.

Note Organization

After you've used PhatNotes as long as I have, you may have accumulated a long list of notes.  fortunately, PhatNotes allows you to filter the notes you see by Date, Text, Color, or Priority. I found it a bit odd I couldn't filter by category, but I haven't found this to be limiting. You can also sort and organize by category as well as other attributes (sorting seems to be the same as organizing, only you can specify the sort order too).

Another option for organizing your notes is to use separate note databases for different classes of notes. For example, you could use one database for work notes, and another for personal notes. You can even group databases! For an organizational nut like me, the possibilities are endless!

For the extremely prolific note writers out there, you can even search for notes using regular expressions! 

Customize Your Experience

PhatNotes' options menu allows some simple customization of the user interface.  For example, you can show gridlines in notes if you like lines, turn colors on/off, manage the date format, and choose a default category, color, and priority for all new notes.

How I Use Phatnotes

Here are some ways I'm using PhatNotes every day on my Blackjack II to keep myself more organized:

  • jotting down interesting web links to follow
  • as a shopping list
  • recording my mileage, fill-ups, etc.
  • keeping track of the ever-growing honey-do list (a great stress test for Phatnotes!)
  • tracking ideas for new blog posts
  • keeping thoughts on Windows Mobile apps I'm reviewing as I use them
  • remembering all the stuff my kids want for their birthdays

The list goes on and on...

Conclusions

I'm constantly finding new ways to use PhatNotes.  In fact, I use it so much, it usually just stays active in my BlackJack II's memory!  I've tried several other competing notes applications for Windows Mobile, and this is the first one I've felt deserved a full review on JoeFuture.com. If note taking is your thing and the built-in Notes applet just isn't cutting it, you certainly owe it to yourself to give PhatNotes a try.