November 15, 2010

John's Phone

My grandma is a techno-grandma. She knows how to use "the Google", how to check and compose email, do puzzles online and even owns a cellphone. The cellphone part got problematic when SaskTel rolled out their HSPA+ network a few months ago. My grandma got a letter from SaskTel asking kindly to upgrade her phone - if she did so before the new year she'd get a credit. The problem isn't the fact that she will inevitably have to upgrade her phone to one that is compatible with the HSPA+ network, it's the fact that all these new phones are not senior friendly at all.

My grandmother only needs a cell phone in emergencies, when travelling on the highway. She always has her address book with her, so the phone only needs to be able to accept a number and place a call. Incoming calls shouldn't be more difficult than opening the phone or hitting a button. Simple, right? Any of the $0 phones should do the trick. Not quite - while the $0 phones offered from carriers meet all the functionality requirements of a "grandma-phone" they are not senior accessible. My grandma's severe arthritis in her fingers limits her use of plastic buttons that her fingers can slip off. This means if she's trying to tap a key, she'll end up sliding off of it hitting a different number, which is then cumbersome to correct. This means that keys have to be large, which none of the $0 phones are. They're all tiny.

Interestingly enough she has no problems typing on a touch screen - but we agreed that a $600 cellphone on a Pay-As-You-Go is a bit steep.

Enter John's phone. I saw this phone show up on reddit the other day. The video portrayed the phone as a very good back up for someone roaming, as the phone runs on quad-band 3G (UMTS/HSPA) and is unlocked. It's design is perfectly minimal. It features the usual keypad and a LCD screen that displays the number that's incoming or outgoing. Perfect for grandma. The buttons are massive. The fantastic part is the integrated address book that is literally pen and paper. There are also minimal controls for mute, quiet, loud, lock and a volume slider.


A phone has been ordered for my grandmother, I'll update this article once I have the device in hands.

    October 27, 2010

    Squarespace

    Over the summer my mother decided she needed a website for her vocal pedagogy and teaching practises. She wanted something simple and something she could maintain herself.

    The candidates that we chose from were Blogspot, Wordpress.com and Squarespace. We decided on Squarespace for it's affordability, and fantastic theme customization. It was decided that the focus of the site was not to be a blog, so the other two services had trouble keeping up in features that allowed the level of customization that Squarespace does.

    Within a few hours I managed to setup pages, customize the style and setup a custom domain. What I did find a lack in, was support for one site in multiple languages - without setting up a separate site. So I had to come up with a layout that would support two languages without ruining the flow of information - I hope to have accomplished that on my mom's site.

    If anyone knows of a way to be able to create a site in two languages in Squarespace I'd be glad to listen to your solution.

    And for anyone still reading, here's the link to the site.

    August 17, 2010

    SaskTel's 3G+ Network and the State of Canada's GSM.

    Edit Feb 11, 2013: I've added a new article detailing, in short, the frequencies used by Canadian carriers for their LTE networks.

    Edit Nov 15, 2010 / Dec 19: I just realized I forgot to mention that phones that are Quad Band, may not necessarily be 3G data capable - voice should work without an issue. The modems in the phone may not support UMTS/HSPA, but only support 2G networks - this means that phones without UMTS/HSPA connectivity - but are Quad Band - will not support on SaskTel's data network, as there is no underlying 2G network for this phone to connect to. Please check the manufacturer's specifications to identify if the phone will work on a 3G data network. Again, quad band phones should have no issues connecting to voice services on SaskTel, but if the phone does not support HSPA/UMTS, only EDGE or GRPS data, then the phone will have no data capabilities on SaskTel's network. Thanks to a co-worker we tested this on SaskTel's network with an iPhone 1 (EDGE only) - the phone will not tie into the network at all. This means you need a 3G capable phone to place voice calls and transfer data on 3G only GSM networks (Telus, Bell, SaskTel).


    Introduction
    By now you've heard that Canada's big three now all use the same technology for their third generation wireless. You hear buzzwords like, HSPA, 3G+, UMTS, GSM, MVNO and various others. What do these terms mean? Why is this important for you? I'm going to attempt to explain this to the best of my knowledge, but please realize I am no specialist in the cellphone field. I merely have an interest and natural curiosity for it.

    Saskatchewan's Situation
    SaskTel launched its new network yesterday. What does this mean for our future in mobility? In short, more freedom, better phones and a wider carrier selection with better roaming options (more so for us GSM lovin' folks). The Big Three are now all running 3G+ (UMTS/HSPA) networks on the same frequency bands with new carriers emerging on newer, uncommon frequency bands (AWS-1), i.e. Wind Mobile and Mobilicity.

    Telus and Bell have their roaming agreements in place with SaskTel - I assume the same goes for their MVNOs, Virgin, Koodo, etc. Rogers is not part of the new roaming agreement and seems to have been shafted completely. They continue to run their own infrastructure and will probably not expand their coverage to compete with SaskTel's new network. Tony and I were discussing this morning that a wise step for Rogers would be to sell off their remaining towers in SK to SaskTel and enter a similar roaming agreement with SaskTel. We assume that Rogers is going to be bleeding customers to SaskTel and Telus (Bell does not sell phones in SK) due to coverage.

    The biggest let-down today is still the fact that GSM carriers are allowed to SIM Lock devices. There is no way for consumers to acquire the unlock from the carrier directly at no charge. It is possible to purchase unlocked phones and use them a network of choice (watch for frequencies!), but a phone purchased through a carrier can not be taken to a different carrier without SIM unlocking the device.

    The carrier frequencies (Big Three + SaskTel) in Canada are:
    • Rogers Wireless
      • GSM - 850/1900
      • UMTS/HSPA - 850/1900
    • Telus Mobility
      • GSM - N/A
      • UMTS/HSPA - 850/1900
    • Bell Mobility
      • GSM - N/A
      • UMTS/HSPA - 850/1900
    • SaskTel
      • GSM - N/A
      • UMTS/HSPA - 850/1900
    There a difference to be noted. See how Rogers has GSM bands and UMTS bands, and the other carriers don't? Rogers has had a GSM network since 2001. As there was no 3G tech in 2001 the best they installed were GPRS/EDGE towers. When 3G became available, Saskatchewan towers located in Saskatoon and Regina got the upgrade, the rest of the infrastructure is 2G to this day. This means, when your 3G phone leaves the city, it will degrade to GPRS/EDGE before it shows "No Service". This will not happen with SaskTel towers, as every tower is getting 3G without underlying 2G. So, either you phone as UMTS/HSPA coverage, or no service. It won't be a big deal once the SaskTel network is fully expanded to it's current CDMA footprint. What you do have to watch out for, when you purchase a phone, are the tech specs about its connectivity. Most phones will ship with quadband GSM connectivity (850, 900, 1800, 1900) and a certain UMTS/HSPA connectivity (The edit from above applies here!). You want to make sure, for Canada, that your phone is 850/1900 UMTS to work on all three major carriers. If you only want it to work with Wind Mobile, go with AWS-1 (1700). If you're going to Europe, your Canadian carrier will have a roaming agreement (if possible) with a carrier in Europe that runs on UMTS 850/1900. Otherwise, you can make sure that your phone supports UMTS 2100, like the iPhone or Google's Nexus.
      Here's a list of carriers and an incomplete list of frequencies (and if they're an MVNO, who they piggy back off).

      If you have any questions, let me know in the comments and I'll do my best to answer them.

      The massive Glossary
      • The Big Three
        • Describes Canada's largest mobile carriers. Rogers, Telus, Bell
      • GSM
        • Groupe Sp├ęcial Mobile is a worldwide consortium that defines the world's most predominant mobile telephony standard. Estimates assume 80% of the world's mobile traffic (voice, data) runs over the GSM stack.
      • GSM Stack
        • Over the years the standard has evolved into a stack of graceful degradation that allows full-fledged mobile carriers (I'll talk about this more later) to gracefully degrade service before showing "No Service" on devices.
        • Today, the lowest on the stack is GPRS (General Packet Radio Service) which allows voice and very, very basic data transfer from device to towers.
        • On top of GPRS is the EDGE (Enhanced Data Rates for GSM Evolution)
        • On top of EDGE is now, what's commonly referred to as 3G. A term I loath, as it defines absolutely nothing. This 3G spec allows "clearer" voice transfers and faster data packages.
        • So, graceful degradation: When I'm in Saskatoon, on Rogers, I have "3G". Should I leave the city, 3G is unavailable and my phone reverts to EDGE - an even weaker signal will show GPRS and finally "No Service". All the while I can still make phone calls, but my data speeds degrade to worse-than-dial-up. It's a three-stage "fail over" until you reach "No Service"
      • Full-fledged Carrier
        • What I mean by this is a carrier that has a full CDMA or GSM stack.
        • The new networks setup by Telus and Bell (subsequently SaskTel etc.) are not a full-fledged GSM stack. They are pure UMTS/HSPA (see below) implementations. Meaning, you either have 3G or "No Service". This compares to Rogers, a full-fledged GSM carrier, that will first degrade you to EDGE, then GPRS and finally "No Service"
      • CDMA
        • Code Division Multiple Access is a spec owned by Qualcomm that defines a different method over GSM to talk to each other. It is/was very predominant in North America.
      • CDMA Stack
        • Similar to GSM a full-fledged CDMA carrier will have a stack that degrades from 1X/EVDO (high speed stuff) to cdmaOne (low speed stuff) to "No Service"
      • HSPA
        •  High Speed Packet Access is an enhancement to UMTS (see below) that improves the speeds. Commonly referred to as 3G+
        • HSUPA, HSDPA describes the two specs in place for Upload and Download, respectively - part of HSPA spec.
      • UMTS
        • Universal Mobile Telecommunications Systems is a 3G technology based on the GSM stack. It is the basis for HSPA and LTE (4G, more later)
        • Europe commonly refers to its 3G as UMTS, while in North America we simply say 3G or HSPA.
      • 3G
        • In Canada there (were?) two competing 3G standards. UMTS/HSPA and CDMA2000 (aka. 1X/EVDO)
        • So, what SaskTel/Telus/Bell used to advertise as "3G" was their CDMA2000 network, Rogers was UMTS/HSPA - completely different specs, incompatible devices.
      • MVNO
        • Mobile Virtual Network Operator  describes a network operator that does not own any infrastructure and purely exists by piggy-backing off of other networks. Canadian examples include Koodo (Telus), Virgin (Bell) and Fido (Rogers).
      • SIM
        • Subscriber Identity Module is an integral part of GSM. It's the little chip card that defines your account. It tells the network who you are and what your phone number is.
        • This chip is magical. It allows you to take the chip out, put it into a different phone* and without having to tell your carrier, use that phone with the same number. Most phones even store the address book on the SIM so your numbers come with you from phone to phone.
        • * - This implies that phones you're using are SIM unlocked. At some point in time someone decided it would be a great idea to allow carriers to lock GSM phones. Meaning: If you purchase a phone from Rogers that phone will only accept SIM cards from Rogers. If an Orange, Vodafone or T-Mobile SIM is inserted the phone will not register with the network. This is now mostly outlawed in Europe and carriers have to provide the ability to unlock phones after a contract is due, or immediately unlock it when purchased at full-price. Bill C560 is proposing the same happen here in Canada.
      • 4G
        • Another umbrella term
        • The CDMA stack describes 4G as WiMax, currently implemented by Sprint in the US
        • The GSM stack describes 4G as LTE, being rolled out after 2011 in Canada.
        • The awesome difference? WiMax is boasting speeds comparable to GSM's 3G+. LTE has been tested (on an unsaturated network, obviously) at 100km/h with throughput of 60-100MBit/s.
      • GSM Frequencies / Bands
        • Frequencies are the Achilles of GSM. Every continent (heck, even country) is different. A lack of coordination, frequency availability has lead to confusion amongst consumers. If you've understood everything until now, here's where your head may start hurting.
        • GSM currently has 14 different bands defined.
        • The most common for GPRS/EDGE are GSM-900 (900MHz) and GSM-1800 (1800MHz)
          • In North America our common GRPS/EDGE frequencies are different, we run on GSM-850 (850MHz) and GSM-1900 (1900MHz)
        • So, the core four bands of GSM are the 900/1800 pair, and the 850/1900 pair. Does the term Quadband Phone ring a bell? A Quadband phone is a device that can understand communicate over all four major bands. So no matter if it's in Europe or North America - it will register with the network and work.
      • UMTS/HSPA Frequencies / Bands
        • This is going to hurt even more!
        • There are 14 defined frequency bands defined for the UMTS/HSPA spec - given, most of them are defined in the same range as the GSM frequencies, but the cellphone towers' equipment differs from GSM to UMTS.
        • The common UMTS/HSPA (3G) in Canada is 850MHz/1900MHz - the same that GSM runs on.
          • In Europe the common UMTS band is 1800MHz/2100Mhz (T-Mobile USA uses 2100MHz as well)
          • The new carriers (Videotron, Wind Mobile, Mobilicity) use a band commonly referred to as AWS or AWS-1 which, technically, is UMTS band 4 - 1700MHz.
            • This causes fantastic problems when you get a 3G device from Wind and try to use it on Rogers as you will not have any HSPA access on Rogers, unless that device supports multiple-band UMTS, meaning communication over different types of UMTS bands (similar to quadband GSM phones I mentioned earlier)
            • Example: iPhone. Its modem is quadband UMTS and quadband GSM.
            • Example: Nexus One. There are/were multiple versions of this phone. HTC/Google/T-Mobile made a conscious decision to cripple the modem on the Nexus One and instead release multiple versions of the phone. There were two versions of the phone, one that explicitly ran on quadband GSM and UMTS 2100 (T-Mobile USA and most of Europe) and one with quadband GSM and UMTS 850/1900 (AT&T USA, Canada, some of Europe)
            • Example: RIM (anything, really) - the have dual-modem "World Edition" phones that run natively CDMA but can also communicate over the GSM stack. When travelling to Europe the phone will convert the GSM "commands" to CDMA for the phone to process. RIM's GSM phones are not dual-modem and roam internationally by default.

      June 30, 2010

      San Francisco 2010

      Few weeks ago I returned from San Francisco, a vacation in the planning since Google I/O registration opened in January. I wrapped a few days of down time around I/O to get away from a lot of University stress that had been accumulating by that time.

      May 14, 2010

      Apple vs. Adobe

      I am embarrassed. Are you embarrassed? Why are Apple and Adobe acting like twelve year old children on a play ground running popularity campaigns?

      Both are claiming to be the more open, community-friendly company. Both are wrong, in my eyes. If you buy an Apple product you're know what you're getting into: difficult to modify hardware specs and a mobile OS that's so up-tight and locked down I'm surprised it lets you make phone calls. Every time you compile Flash you know you're giving the power to a closed-source, power-sucking browser plugin.

      Can't both of them just shut up? First it's Jobs' open letter bashing Flash, then it's Adobe's ridiculous advertising campaign telling everyone how they hate dictating how content is created.

      My 2 (biased) cents. Flash is slowly dying. With YouTube and vimeo announcing HTML5 betas, what's left for Flash. @FeXd suggests, that Flash still has a market share in browser games - maybe - but with JavaScript speeds increasing vastly in every major browser, what's to say there won't be an XNA-like framework for Java to make kick-ass games in JavaScript?

      In the end, both companies are pushing proprietary closed-source systems, the question is, which one suits the consumer's needs the most.

      April 26, 2010

      Video Game Generation + Parenting

      My parents, I will assume yours as well, never grew up with video games. In fact, it's shocking how terrible my mother's hand eye coordination is possibly due to lack of video games ;). It was difficult to play catch with her, she prefered a good game of drop - or I threw terribly bad. Give her a PS3 controller and Gran Turismo and instead of using the sticks to steer she will lean sideways. It's hilarious!

      I digress... It's because of my parents' lack of video games, that they have no idea that you can not only play online with other people, but in fact talk and communicate with other players - be it PSN, Xbox Live or Ventrillo. In my past when I was an avid gamer of Battlefield 1942 / BF 2 on PC she'd regularly question my intense talking "to myself" during matches or clan practise.

      I'm going to assume, that the whiny, angry, yelling kids on PSN, Xbox Live and Ventrillo are also children of non-gaming parents - this does not include games like Pong, I am only concerned about in-game voice chat.

      Now, enter my generation, a real video game generation, growing up with affordable, modular video game systems. Ignore the scary fact that I could have children one day, consider: I've grown up with online games and know certain etiquette for chat rooms. Is it because of this that I would discipline my children if they made a fuss in a chat room? I'd be able to explain to them how big of an idiot they're making of themselves being a selfish, annoying, little brat to complete strangers all for the simple fact... I grew up with it and I've done that.

      My generation is in a unique position to teach their kids not be idiots online, because we know what it's like to be idiots online without parental guidance.

      April 23, 2010

      Moving On

      October 2008 was a fantastic time. I had just started my "year off" - turned into 16 months ;) - from University, quit my Sales job at AirSource and was looking for a job in the industry to give me some real world experience. My lack of Python lead to an unsuccessful application at VendAsta. It was very kind of VA to refer to me zu. A week later I was through the interview process and was accepted as a full-time developer.

      I was psyched. A real job.

      Since I started zu I  was part of the PotashCorp team. Started with maintenance and was part of the reprogramming team. The redesign was a fun project with lots of ups, downs and learning. It was exciting and nerve wracking at the same time.

      January 2010 I went part-time to continue with my University. My original year off had turned into a fantastic 16 months of full-time employment.

      Last week I resigned and am done zu April 29th. It was a tough decision, but one I had to make for myself. I have a new opportunity doing contract work for SaskTel Labs.

      I learned a lot at zu. How to better manage my time, better communicate my ideas to people that don't have my thought process, design patterns I'd never heard of before, writing more efficient code and teamwork.

      Why am I leaving zu? The main reason is change. I've been doing some kind of LAMP work since I've been 16/17. Either playing around myself or working. I need an opportunity that will help me learn new things, and at SaskTel Labs I have that opportunity. It sounds like I'll be working on BlackBerry, Android and SproutCore related things. I'm psyched, again.

      I will dearly miss a lot of things at zu, especially the atmosphere. It's been an amazing (just under) two years, thanks for the opportunity and I'm sure our paths will keep crossing.

      March 23, 2010

      Companion Bot

      Here's the video I've been involved in over the past few weeks. There was a great deal of effort put in to the robot costume; even more effort was to get the darn thing on an off Albert!

      Please watch, rate and comment on the video to help our group win the Doritos® Viralocity competition.

      March 9, 2010

      Mac OS X and the 24hr time struggle

      I grew up on 24 hour time, so I always customize my Operating Systems to show me times in 24 hour time. I recently got confused when iCal tried to convince me that hours between midnight and 1am should be shown as 24:xx. So an event in my iCal ending at 00:15 would in fact show up as 24:15.

      If you have encountered this problem with iCal, there's a quick fix in settings for you:


      1. Open System Preferences
      2. Language & Text
      3. Under the 'Times' segment click 'Customize'
        • You'll be presented with a slide-down of short, medium, long times with text fields looking something like this:


      4. Click on the hour, await the drop down and pick 00-23. Apparently the default is set to 01-24
        • It'll look something like this:


      Voila! Proper 24hr time in a customized Canadian Region going from 00-23. Finally!

      March 8, 2010

      MobileMe is gone. Long live Google Sync.

      About a month ago I wrote a post on quitting MobileMe. My end of service came, with many emails from Apple reminding me that my access might be, will be, has been - renew now! - cut off, and I'm still using Google Sync. I can only recommend this service to anyone looking for a cheaper - read free - alternative to MobileMe. Only talking sync capabilities of contacts, calendars, mail - there is no iDisk or Find My iPhone equivalent on Google Sync, but there's always DropBox.

      I did find a few glitches with syncing long recurring events (University Schedule, work - with a never ending end date) that would not properly delete from iCal iPhone / Mac when I remove one occurrence from Google Calendar. These glitches were fixed when I un-synced my iPhone and let Google overwrite and re-sync the calendar events. I have not run into the problem again.

      March 4, 2010

      Thoughts on optimizing traffic flow at lights

      We've all been there. You're at a red light, the light changes to green, and, what feels like eons, pass before the car in front actually starts moving. This effect gets worse the further back in the queue you are. You can see the light is green, but why is nobody moving? You're gripping your steering wheel harder, circulation to your fingers is being cut off and you want to gnaw on your air freshener out of sheer frustration that you're not going to make this set of green lights, from a distance you blankly stare at the 6 cars that made it through the intersection*.

      What if the problem isn't people's attention span, but reaction time. Here's what I assume is the train of thought cascading from car to car:

      • The light changes from red to green
      • Car #1 in queue realizes "Awe, snap, it's green" and starts moving
      • Car #2 has already realized it's green, but is waiting for car #1 to move
      • Car #3 knows it's green and is worried why Car #2 hasn't started moving yet and is patiently waiting for Car #2's break lights to dim so he can move
      • Car #4 (probably me) is going through aforementioned effect of sheer insanity of slow moving traffic.
      I know I check the crossing lanes' lights for changes when I'm first in line at a light. Either by looking at the pedestrian hand or catching a glimpse of red / yellow hue from the actual light. This way I can ensure I'm rolling by the time I get the green. There are three problems with this, first is I'm taking my eyes off what's going on right in front of me. Second is I'm confident not many check the crossing lanes' lights. Three, the car behind me and behind it probably can't see that hue of the crossing lane's light and while I might be able to move that split second earlier anticipating the change of the light, the car behind me will essentially be the new Car #1 in the above scenario - shifting the effectiveness of my over-attentiveness by only one car.

      I would propose a slight change in the way our traffic lights work. Add a red/yellow phase before going to green. Everyone knows lights switch from green to yellow to red when bringing your lane(s) to a stop and switch from red to green to start traffic. This red/yellow phase would be inserted to get traffic moving. While sitting at an intersection the light would be red. It would then switch to having both red and yellow on, before switching completely to green.

      Benefits of this system (which is in place in many countries, especially those with mostly manual shift cars) is that everyone in all lanes, and many cars back in the queue, can see that the intersection is about to switch to green and can prepare to move. Cars can start inching forward during this phase and the entire intersection can get moving faster.

      One might argue that adding the extra red/yellow phase may slow the intersection down - but considering most intersections in Canada are red in all directions for a full second before switching one direction to green this red/yellow phase is inserted in the second the crossing lane has been switched to red. Others might say there's no need for the extra yellow phase, as manual transmissions are going the way of the dodo in North America. I can only rebuttal with reaction time. It still takes enough time to realize the light has changed to green, and ones foot to move from brake to accelerator.

      Perhaps, as always, I'm biased the EU has had four phase lights since I can remember and North American lights still catch me off guard. I always peak at the crossing lanes' lights to ensure I'm rolling by the time my light goes green.

      Anyone want to crunch some numbers to figure out how much time / gas could be saved in a life time cutting idle time at traffic lights?

      * - I exaggerate, of course, but it sure doesn't feel like many cars get through on green (turning arrows).

      Update: Apparently I'm not alone on this. Noel Schutt has a nice post on this, too.


      February 8, 2010

      Have you tried flavors.me yet?

      Flavors.me is a nice little aggregator of services - or a quick simple way to make a personal website that requires zero maintenance.

      My invite code for you is: heat.

      Use it wisely, while you're over there, check out my flavors.me page. :)

      February 5, 2010

      I just quit MobileMe (I think...)

      My MobileMe subscription is up in 14 days from today. So I asked myself if I really wanted to spend $109 Canadian to perfectly sync my Calendars, Contacts and Email to my iPhone, MacBook and Apple's (very pretty) me.com site.

      Enter Google Sync. I heard about Google Sync earlier in 2009 and ignored it as another Google Labs experiment that wouldn't get much attention. Boy, was I wrong.

      Today I made the time to backup my contacts, calendars from my Mac and import them all into Google Mail and Google Calendar.

      Following Google's simple instructions within an hour I was finished and running again. I now have Push Gmail, which I didn't have before, push contacts / calendar (previously done by MobileMe).

      I'm going to give this a trial run for the next 13 days and see if I like it enough to not renew my MobileMe subscription.

      Google Sync Setup Process

      I can't complain, it was simple and uneventful except for one hiccup during the calendar sync that was quickly remedied. I followed the steps on the Google Sync site for iPhone.

      1. First I removed MobileMe from my iPhone and signed out of MobileMe on my Mac (Do this in System Preferences) after already having backed up Contacts and Calendars on my Mac (I can't stress that enough: File > iCal Archive and File > Address Book Archive)
      2. I followed the setup instructions here to get Gmail and Google Calendars working (I left my contacts for now in fear of some extreme merging conflicts on Google Contacts)
        1. Here's the only hiccup with Google Calendar syncing. When it came to choosing which Calendars were meant to be synced with my iPhone the instructions say to "use Safari" and visit m.google.com/sync and check the Calendars you want to sync. This didn't work on desktop Safari - use iPhone to do this step
      3. Now that Gmail and Google Calendars were syncing on my iPhone, I followed these instructions to get Calendars syncing on desktop iCal.
      4. Finally, the most dreaded, Contacts. Fear crept up in me, my palms started sweating (then I remembered I backed up!) I setup my Apple Address Book to sync with Google Contacts following these Lifehacker instructions. Note: There's a change in 10.6 Address Book and it's layout of the preferences tab. To sync with Google just go File > Preferences. In that pane chose the "Account" tab and check "Synchronize with Google"
        1. There were only 26 merge conflicts that were quickly solved in Address Book.
        2. Once I'd finished my changes, I exported the "All Contacts" group as vCards, deleted my Google Contacts (all of them) and imported the vCards file with all my contacts again.
      We'll see how my 13 day experiment goes, finally I'll list some pro's and con's I've discovered sofar:

      Pros (of Google Sync)
      • Adds Push GMail
      • Everything's in one place now, Gmail, Google Contacts, Google Calendar, synced across my devices
      • No errors or flakiness during setup gives me a lot of confidence this might actually work
      Cons (of Google Sync over Mobile Me)
      • Loss of the "Find My iPhone" functionality may be worth $109 by itself, I use it frequently when I "lose" my phone in my condo - since I have no land line, I have no means of calling it.
      • I'm not 100% sure if the Address Book correctly syncs back to Google Contacts when I make changes on my desktop or iPhone - further investigation will (dis)prove this.

      February 1, 2010

      Google Analytics are you listening?

      In mid-2006 when I finally managed to snag a Google Analytics account I was working with an internet acquaintance on some upgrades to their site. One of these upgrades included stat tracking with GA. The acquaintance and I both had an account, so we thought: "Hey, why not, invite me to your stats!"

      Now, four-ish years later, I am no longer in contact with that acquaintance and am not affiliated with the project at all, and yet - I can still see their GA stats. All due to a simple flaw in the GA system: You can't remove shared GA accounts from one another.

      I now have two "Accounts" listed when I first visit the Dashboard. One "private" the other of the acquaintance.  I can still see their stats for all their accounts (apparently the entire account was shared with me, not only a single site).

      There's an ongoing discussion the Google Support forums, but no reaction from Google whatsoever.

      Check out the discussion here.

      January 28, 2010

      Updated: My thoughts on Apple's iPad

      As you know Apple's iPad was publicized yesterday. In the past months, especially yesterday, it received a lot of media attention - during launch it crashed twitter.

      I have a few likes and dislikes about this product. It's not the product I expected and sadly I'm quite underwhelmed by the device.

      My likes
      1. iBook Store - this is a perfect strategy for Apple. They changed the music industry with iTunes Music Store, they changed the mobile application market with the AppStore, and I have great confidence that the iBook Store is going to turn the e-book world upside-down. The device, with a beautiful 9.7" screen, is meant to read books, the iBook app seems to add a certain depth to the screen, that gives you the feeling of reading a real book - looking a lot different than an e-ink screen. Literally flipping a page, gives your eyes the short break they deserve after reading a page (or two, depending on your iBook configuration).
      2. News papers - What NYT showed off during the keynote, is what I expect the print industry to adopt to get them out of their crisis. Give me a newspaper - for a fee - daily, to a small-ish reading device. The content is dynamic (embedded videos), social (quickly share newspaper articles to twitter, facebook), crisp and always up to date (updates could/should be pushed directly to the device when the events progress). I'd gladly pay a dollar a day for a newspaper like that, I think NYT is on to something with this - despite it (still) being free. This device is going to be a game changer for the print media industry.
      3. Portable Gaming - Obviously this device isn't going to be able to compete with Ninentdo's DS or Sony's PSP Platforms, but in an abstract way I think Apple's defining a new niche market for portable gaming. It's not your phone, it's not your DS, it's not your gaming laptop / computer or your console. It's a beautiful portable gaming device, lie on your couch and play a game on a light, comfortable device without having to strain your wrists on your laptop, hold a tiny controller (including PSP) or screw around with a bloody stylus.
      4. Custom Silicone - This is a fantastic strategy for their mobile devices. By keeping this production and design in-house, they can lower the cost of production, keep margins high, and will have a lot faster turn around times from design to production on a chip than they would if they stuck with Samsung chips. First reports are saying the 1GHz Apple A4 System On A Chip is blazing fast and perfect for this kind of device.
      5. iPhone OS - Millions of people already know how to use this platform, and have all these applications associated with their Apple ID. All these apps work on iPad? Amazing if you ask me. I can do what I do with my iPhone on a 3" screen on a 9.7" screen on the couch and have a more ergonomic, fun way to do that.
      6. Unlimited Data - This. Is. Fantastic. $30 unlimited data without a contract? Beats the hell out of the $30/m - 6GB - 3 years I'm on right now. We'll see how this launches in Canada.
      7. GSM Unlocked - Take this thing anywhere, to any network - your choice.
      My dislikes
      1. iPhone OS - A device this size (and its potential), for my needs, requires multitasking. I want the ability to sit on my couch, chat with friends, read Wikipedia and work on my Assignment(s) at the same time. Why is there no multitasking? I can't see this product destroying the netbook sector anytime soon with missing multitasking. On a device this size Push Notifications can't make up for this lack. If ChromeOS can do multitasking, why can't this?
      2. 3G pricing - Come one. $130 for 3G? Enough said.
      3. iBook launch - Quickly compare the Apple Canada iPad and the Apple USA iPad page. What's missing on the Canadian one? iBook. The only thing that's inclining me to purchase this device is missing for non-US devices.
      4. Camera - Personally I think device is literally screaming for at least one camera, be it front or back. "Steeeeeveeee! Give me a camera!" - The opportunity for ridiculous augmented reality apps just went up in smoke with the lack of the camera. What about iChat?
      Updated
      Additional dislike
      1. Resolution: 1024x768 is a nice resolution, but what about 16:9? During the keynote Apple was showing off Star Trek - what looked like an iTunes purchase / rental. It had the top / bottom black bar - there seems to be a lot wasted real estate. I assume 1024x768 was chosen to keep the same aspect ratio for existing applications.

      We'll see what the second generation brings. Perhaps the actual launch will bring the iBook store to all launch countries?

      Time will tell, for now - no iPad for this kid.