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Synced-Data Applications: The Bastard Child of Convergence

At the Search Engine Strategies Conference in August 2006, in an informal conversation, Google CEO Eric Schmidt stated:

What’s interesting [now] is that there is an emergent new model, and you all are here because you are part of that new model. I don’t think people have really understood how big this opportunity really is. It starts with the premise that the data services and architecture should be on servers. We call it cloud computing – they should be in a “cloud” somewhere. And that if you have the right kind of browser or the right kind of access, it doesn’t matter whether you have a PC or a Mac or a mobile phone or a BlackBerry or what have you – or new devices still to be developed – you can get access to the cloud. There are a number of companies that have benefited from that. Obviously, Google, Yahoo!, eBay, Amazon come to mind. The computation and the data and so forth are in the servers.

My interpretation of cloud computing is summarized in the following figure.


Yesterday, I introduced the concept of Synced-Data Applications (SDAs). SDAs are summarized in the following figure.


SDAs owe their existence to the convergence of the cloud and the desktop/handheld.

Introducing Jott for BlackBerry

I just learned about Jott for BlackBerry:

We have a lot of happy Blackberry customers at Jott, and Jott for BlackBerry is the ultimate BlackBerry download. It is a simple, but very powerful tool that will let you reply to emails on your BlackBerry just using your voice – either speaking directly into your BlackBerry, or while wearing a Bluetooth headset. It is seamlessly integrated into the email application you already use, and is a huge leap forward for BlackBerry lovers in three ways: first, it is 3-5 times faster than ‘thumbing’ text; two, you won’t be known for sending just terse replies because you don’t want to thumb type out a normal email message; and three, you will be safer because you won’t have to take your eyes off the road.*
(*Jott does NOT encourage messaging while driving).

Jott for Blackberry makes an already awesome device even better.

The following is the body of a reply I just created:

Thanks for sharing this interesting service with me. It's definitely something that I'm interested in investigating and it's my intention to follow up very very soon. Thanks very much. Bye for now.

Sent with my voice via Jott for Blackberry ~ http://jott.com/bb

To listen: http://www.jott.com/show.aspx?id=e4eb3151-9007-448c-bd73-7de70ecc4766

In this example, the transcription quality was excellent. Note that the recipient is advised that the response was Jott’ed, and has the option of listening to the original audio recording. Nice!

Although I’m only at the testing stage, I expect to make extensive use of Jott for BlackBerry!

Note to Jott and Google: Please enable Jott for BlackBerry in the GMail for BlackBerry application.

sync blackberry contacts with gmail: Problem Solved!

Update (February 10, 2009): See Sync Google Calendar and Gmail Contacts with Your BlackBerry for a recent How To guide to the Google Sync for the BlackBerry solution.

In just over fourteen months, one of my posts has received almost 19% of the views for my entire blog.

There is no other post that even comes close.
And to make matters more interesting, the post was written in response to my blog’s search stats. People consistently entered strings along the lines “sync blackberry contacts with gmail” and arrived here.
Frankly, all of this attention made me uneasy.
Why?
Because I really didn’t have much to offer on the topic.
But please don’t think that I didn’t give this information (not data!) some thought.
Honestly, dear reader, I confess I even pondered how I might arrive at a solution that might monetize this 19% for personal gain. Let’s face it, 19% of more than 60K hits translates potentially to more than 11K customers. Ka-ching! I am in disgrace.
Luckily I didn’t waste my time.
Waste, you gasp. Yes, waste.
You see, the fine folks at Google have delivered a solution.
It’s all in the GMail contact manager. This new addition to the GMail client for the BlackBerry solves the problem.
How?
If you have a contact for which you’ve entered phone numbers, these numbers appear when you click on the contact name to view their details. But that’s just the beginning. The phone numbers appear as clickable links. When you click on one of them, you automagically invoke the BlackBerry’s phone capability. (You may have forgotten that your BlackBerry actually allows you to call people as well.) Note that the first time you do this, you’ll need to approve some new settings.
Of course, you can email contacts as well.
Problem solved.
Please read my other posts!
If truth be told, this should be regarded as a great beginning.
Here’s why:
  • Read-only access – You can’t enter contact information from the GMail client on the BlackBerry. In time, we’ll want this. Like tomorrow!
  • Online-access only – You need your contacts when you’re off line? Like when you’re on an airplane? Until this client includes Google Gears functionality or equivalent, you’re out of luck here. I think I can live with that. For now. Because ultimately I would appreciate the ability to compose email when I’m off line. I do that frequently with the BlackBerry’s built-in mail client.
  • Contacts in too many places – Fragmenting contacts between your Google ‘verse and enterprise messaging platform (e.g., Microsoft Exchange, IBM Lotus Notes, etc.) has some disadvantages. However, as I’ve learned directly on the heels of personal experience, there are times when it’s wise to have some separation between our personal and corporate selves …

This gives me a lot of what I was looking for.

How about you?

GMail on Your BlackBerry: Latest Client Offers Significant Featur

A few days ago I upgraded to version 1.5.1.1090 of the GMail client for my BlackBerry 8130. (This is a native, stand-alone, J2ME client application. In other words, it does not require a Web browser.) Previously, and for the past few months, I’ve been using version 1.1.x of this same client. 

The download and installation went very smoothly. One surprise, however, was the need for a reboot of the BlackBerry to complete the installation of the client. I don’t recall that need with previous releases. I can only suppose that this requirement is necessary to enable the deeper integration of the GMail client with the BlackBerry platform.
And that’s a good segue … What’s new? Well: 
  • Contact manager – This is the most significant feature/functionality enhancement. On opening the contact manager, a display of those with whom you interact with the most is presented. There’s also a search functionality that allows you to rapidly retrieve any of your contacts in the familiar way. And of course, should you wish, you can list all of your contacts. Once you’ve selected a contact from the “Most Contacted” list or via search, your contact’s details are presented. Just below the contact details is a link that allows you to display recent conversations with the identified contact. Very powerful. Very Google. Very nice! All of this means that you can initiate a new conversation or pick up on an existing one from the contact manager.  
  • Notification – The notification capability is also a significant enhancement in my estimation. What this means is that an icon resembling a bottle cap appears over top of the GMail client icon to indicate the arrival of new mail. This capability is integrated with your BlackBerry profile so you can associate in and out-of-holster behaviors to signal the arrival of new mail. The only thing missing now is the summary icon that is displayed by other applications in the upper-right corner of the BlackBerry’s screen. This capability is enabled via a new setting; select “More”, then “Settings” before placing a check mark against the notification option. There are a few more settings that are new to me – one allows for larger fonts, while the other allows for the “Sent from my mobile device” tag line. 
  • Finish Later – In the event that you are unable to finish composing a message, this version allows you to finish composition later. Note however, that only one draft can be saved. This is a welcome addition that I found myself pining for in previous releases.
As far as I can tell, that summarizes the features that I found new in this release. Based on a few days’ worth of experience, the implementation appears solid and performs well, making the upgrade highly worthwhile.
You can grab the GMail client for your mobile device by pointing the device’s Web browser at gmail.com/app. See Google Mobile GMail  for the details.
If you’re using Google Apps for Your Domain (GAFYD), point your mobile device’s Web browser at http://m.google.com/a. See the Google Apps page for more.
If you want to see what I’ve written previously about the GMail client for the BlackBerry click here.

 

Injury Time: Remembrance of Things Just Passed …

What happened?

I strained my lower back. Badly. It was the result of two careless acts: 
  1. Lifting a heavy prop awkwardly at our annual Mardi Gras event. I felt a twinge of pain, and suspect that this predisposed my back towards injury.
  2. Attempting to leave a leg-press machine before completely releasing the 220 lbs of weight that I, back included, was still supporting. 
The pivotal incident (involving the leg-press machine) happened last Wednesday at the University’s athletic complex. Of course, I finished my hamstring curls and rowed for 20 minutes before calling it a day. Doh! 
And yes, I knew then that I was in deep trouble. 
Contrary to my spouse’s advice, I hauled my sorry self off to the University the next day, because I had things that must be done. Doh! With a notable, curvaceous list (upwards to the left), and walking speed 10-20% my normal, I can honestly state that I got a deeper appreciation of what it means to be differently abled. People rushing past me, icy walkways, plus doors stiff to open, were all-of-a-sudden on my radar. 
I barely made it through that Thursday.
I started my formal convalescence (aka. sensible acknowledgement of my predicament) on Friday morning. 

What did I do?
I convalesced. At this point, I had no choice! I took muscle relaxant and installed myself upon a heating pad. Save for attending to primal bodily functions, and attempting to do a few exercises I learned in physio that last time I strained my lower back, I remained in a sub-horizontal state through the entire weekend. I had to pass on a friend’s birthday party and a ski day 😦  
But, I:

I fretted. About work – not being there, work piling up, etc. And about my exercise routine – that picked me up, and then knocked me down! I communed with my family – when they weren’t making up for my shortfalls – and with our pets (three cats and an obnoxiously vocal husky).


What did I learn?
How good people are to me. From walking the dog to driving Miss Daisy (our teenage princess to/from dance/work/friends/etc.) to countless other things I normally do, my family filled the gaps and still had some energy left over for me in my supine state. When I did hobble into the office, I received all kinds of moral and physical support from my co-workers.
In addition to valuing my health, which I’ve been consistently better at for about the past seven months, I need to be careful – especially during acts of weekend heroism (aka. attempts at being handy) and/or exercise (technique and form do matter – ouch!).
I need to allocate more time for reading. All kinds of reading. Because I really don’t watch TV, except for NFL football, there’s nothing I can do there. Reducing the amount of time I spend handling email is about the only place I believe I can claw back from. In the 4-Hour Work Week, Timothy Ferriss presents some provocative suggestions on this front; I’d better re-read that! 
The BlackBerry is a wonderfully powerful platform that suits me when I am highly mobile, but also when I’m highly immobile – like flat on my back, literally! It’s also the only device my back can actually handle me moving around with at the moment – my laptop in an over-the-shoulder case is a non-starter for me in my current condition.

Why did I share this?
So that I have something to refer back to (sorry), when I’m getting careless!  

BlackBerry Rules the Back Office – For Now …

I’ve had a BlackBerry 8830 for a few months now. And I must admit, I’m getting over my iPhone envy. (iPhone’s still aren’t officially available in Canada!) The 8830 has the tactile keypad I’ve grown to love, a (two-dimensional) trackball in place of a (one-dimensional) thumbwheel, GPS-based mapping, etc. This means that built-in WiFi is about the only capability for which I find myself wanting.

But enough about the client-side device (CSD).
So much of the value delivered to the CSD is because of what’s in the back office – behind the scenes, as it were.
In writing a book review on BlackBerry Enterprise Server (BES) installation and administration, I was reminded of this aspect on the ongoing BlackBerry vs. iPhone battle.
What’s in the BlackBerry back office?
Allow me to itemize:
  • Integration – The BES integrates the CSD with the enterprise messaging platform (e.g., Microsoft Exchange, IBM Lotus Notes, etc.) and the rest of RIM’s BlackBerry universe. In addition to email and calendaring, this has the potential to include instant messaging (e.g., MSN, IBM Lotus Sametime, etc.) and more.
  • Security – Because the BES provides a single locus of control (the BlackBerry domain), it can and has been leveraged extensively to deliver an industry leading environment for end-to-end security. Encryption, authentication, plus six levels for administrative roles, are all present.
  • Policies  – To quote from my review:

The BES ships with over 200 policies that can be applied variously to users, groups and devices … The ability to administer users, groups and devices with respect to policies (including software), from a single point of control (i.e., the BES server), speaks volumes to the appeal and value that this offering can deliver to corporate enterprise environments. 

  • Provisioning – The BES facilitates provisioning of users, groups, devices as well as associated software. Software can even be bundled and targeted to specific CSDs.
The back office supporting the iPhone has a long, long way to go to catch up with all of this – if that’s even a plan that Apple has.
In fact, a far greater threat to the back-office portion of RIM’s BlackBerry universe is the ecosystem developing around Google Android.