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    Michael is a trainer and consultant specializing in making mobility technology work in people's everyday lives.
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Archive for the ‘Technology’ Category

E-mail Round-up part 2 – VersaMail vs SnapperMail

Posted by Michael Brown on July 20, 2007

Here’s part 2 of the series. You might want to read part 1 to familiarize yourself with VersaMail, as I won’t be repeating it here.

SnapperMail summary of versions.
SnapperMail has 4 versions: Lite, Standard, Premier and Enterprise. The image above highlights the key differences between the versions (and the bundled helper applications). SnapperMail has a 30 day trial version available which has most of the features of the Enterprise version available. It has pop-up messages when you access features that are not found in the standard version; it’s their way of letting you know it’s going to cost you to do that function. So, the more pop-up messages you hit, the more it’s going to cost you if you decide Snapper fits your needs. Two things to be aware of with the “Lite” version: it doesn’t support “Rich text” (HTML mail), and it doesn’t support folders. The Standard version seems to be the closer to VersaMail’s feature set than the Lite version.

Now, notice that I said “most” Enterprise features; I found Snapper to have one of the most irritating trials of any software package I have ever used. The whole point to a trial program is that you get to try it – all of it; otherwise, why bother? When you run Snapper for the first time, it creates a default POP account, and a default IMAP account with one subfolder; that’s a nice touch for creating a default set-up for the new user. You can edit what’s provided to set it up for your service provider, but you cannot create new accounts or additional subfolders. So it really doesn’t give you the chance to really try the program using your “normal” set-up. I would’ve liked to try it with multiple sub-folders, and moved mail between them using my existing structure and workflow, but I couldn’t. Had I not been writing this review, I would’ve deleted Snapper off my Treo just because of it’s limited trial. Think about it this way; if you have something that works and comes with your device (VersaMail), and you’re trying something else (like Snapper) to see if it’s worth paying for to get some added functionality or usability, but you couldn’t really use it the way you were using the free one, would you buy it? Here are screen shots of some of the “nag dialogs” I ran into during my trial.

nag-accounts.jpg nag-folders.jpg
nag-junk.jpg nag-storage.jpg

Obviously, many people did buy SnapperMail, including Jeff Hawkins (the creator of the original “Palm Pilot” and the Handspring Treo). Jeff said in an interview that he uses VersaMail for work e-mail, and Snapper for personal mail. Snapper has a very active Mailing list on Yahoo groups, and the staff (especially Michael M. Rye) are very active participants on it, and do provide good support for their users. If the Snapperfish folks dropped the damn limitations on the trial, they’d likely sell more copies, as people would find more features they can’t live without. But enough of my rant on limited trials…

Snapper has a really attractive user interface; simple, clean and easy to use. There are two modes of operation, finger mode and stylus mode. Stylus mode gives you the most “stuff” on one screen by using columns for different attributes, and 1 line (row) per email. Sorting emails is done in the stylus view by tapping on the column headers; tapping toggles between ascending and descending order. The sort order set in stylus mode is used in finger mode as well. Finger mode makes each email occupy two line, making it a bigger target for “finger-tapper’s”. The same functionality is available in the drop down list in either mode, or you can use one-button hot keys like ChatterEmail or the Blackberry e-mail client.

Finger Mode Stylus Mode
snapper-fingermode.jpg snapper-stylus-mode.jpg

POP mail retrieval is increadibly slow compared to VersaMail. I grab it on-demand, and not at scheduled intervals due to my particular set-up and preferences. IMAP mail is quite speedy in comparison, and ran on-par with VersaMail’s IMAP access.

I opened SnapperMail one morning, to find a database error. Tried launching it again, same problem. Ok… So I exited to launcher, then soft reset the Treo, and opened SnapperMail again to find… I had lost all mail. I had to then retrieve it all from the server. This is a good reason to leave POP mail on the server (or use an IMAP server). Now, in all fairness, I can’t say that Snapper is the only software to have ever done this to me… VersaMail 3.1 has done it to me twice since I stopped using Snapper, and VersaMail loses everything including your account setup information when it bombs. But, considering I was storing the E-mail on the SD card, I would expect that something like that shouldn’t happen with Snapper, which only stores the indexes in RAM, and not the actual mail like VersaMail. It should recover more gracefully than it did.

Snapper’s about screen The message view
snapper-about.jpg snapper-message-view.jpg

Overall, I found Snapper to be nice to use, but it wasn’t enough to convince me to want to buy it. It doesn’t have push e-mail (not that I want or need push), so that wouldn’t compel me to buy it. It has one button functions, but is that worth $60 to me? Same with Junk mail controls (which I couldn’t test due to trial limitations); it’s nice to have, but is it worth the cost? If Snapper had come bundled with the Treo, I would happily use it and not feel the need to look for another e-mail client. But, it didn’t, and I don’t feel that it offers any “must-have” features over VersaMail that justify me buying the Enterprise edition I would need for IMAP. It might be different if I only used POP accounts; then I could buy one of the less expensive versions, which would make Snapper more attractive. Since Snapper is priced is US dollars, I always have to consider that the price is going to be more expensive when converted to Canadian currency. Other than the limited trial, I can’t really complain about Snapper; it works well, it’s powerful and easy to use, and it does the job.

Now, for anyone who will say I haven’t covered some of the special features of Snapper or Chatter like filters and Junk controls, it’s because I don’t use filters on mobile devices – not even in VersaMail. I do all my filtering with server-side rules; e-mail that doesn’t belong on my Treo will never get sent over-the-air. Stuff that shouldn’t be on my Treo gets filtered into folders, and I can pull it manually when I want it by syncing the IMAP folder, or by reviewing it on my desktop mail client.

Overall, I found Snapper to be an excellent mail client for the Treo, but I didn’t find it to be miles ahead of the VersaMail client that ships with the Treo. Users of newer Treo’s like the 680, 700p and 755p already benefit from a more stable version of VersaMail than what shipped with the 650. 650 users can get an update to VersaMail 3.5 and Exchange ActiveSync for $11 CDN. Given that ChatterEmail has been bought by Palm, and it’s author is presumably working on adding some of Chatter’s features to future versions of VersaMail, the Snapperfish folks may be facing a tough battle going forward if they maintain their present pricepoints.

Posted in E-mail, Palm, Reviews, Technology, Treo | Leave a Comment »

Watch Treo Videos and Pictures on your TV

Posted by Michael Brown on July 20, 2007

As I wrote about in the post “Treo, collector of memories”, the Treo is a great device for capturing “stuff that happens”, like funny pictures, video clips, and sound files. The only difficult thing about sharing those memorable moments with a group is the small size of the Treo screen. Sure, it’s great for showing stuff to one or two other people, but if you have a few people (like a family get-together), it doesn’t work out so well. A laptop screen is a bit better, but not by much. It’s in this kind of situation where being able to show it on a TV would be the best. And that’s what we do in our house.

As I’ve mentioned before, we use a Home Theatre PC in our Family Room, running Freevo. It has options to View pictures, and Watch Movies. Now, there are an infinite number of ways to have your pictures and videos appear via Freevo: you could copy them onto your Freevo HTPC’s hard disk, it could mount a Windows shared drive or NFS share, it could mount a Network Attached Storage (NAS) device, and so on… which is beyond the scope of today’s post. The important thing is they get placed somewhere where the Freevo HTPC can find them in a directory or directories. You can do that by HotSyncing your Treo and copying the pictures and Videos from your user folder to the Freevo share, or by copying them from the /DCIM folder on your SD card to the Freevo Share.

Pictures are the easy part. Freevo works “out-of-the-box” with the JPEG pictures that a Treo takes. Just see for information on how to configure the Image plugin to find your picture directories, and to set the options for viewing the Pictures (stuff like transitions, slideshow options, etc) details how to set-up the Movie plugin. I had to modify things a tiny little bit to get Freevo to play the Treo videos.

First, you set the Video items to the directory (or directories) you’re storing the videos in. You can have multiple directories, which will show up as many different menu options. Subdirectories can be browsed within the Movie browser, so don’t worry about having to list everythin in VIDEO_ITEMS.

VIDEO_ITEMS = [ ('Movies', '/files/movies'),
('Family Movies', '/mnt/FamilyMovies') ]

Next, you will need to add the suffix or extension ‘3g2’ to the list of playable extensions, as shown below. 3g2 is the extension that the Treo Camera application uses when it stores Treo videos on the SD card.

VIDEO_MPLAYER_SUFFIX = [ 'avi', 'mpg', 'mpeg', 'wmv', 'bin', 'rm',
'divx', 'ogm', 'vob', 'asf', 'm2v', 'm2p',
'mp4', 'viv', 'nuv', 'mov', 'iso',
'nsv', 'mkv', '3g2' ]

Once that’s done, you just need to start (or restart) Freevo, choose to view a picture or video, and you and your loved ones can share some memories together.

Posted in Freevo, HTPC, Palm, Technology, Treo | Tagged: , , , , | Leave a Comment »

The Foleo – What Palm got right, and where they went wrong…

Posted by Michael Brown on July 12, 2007

I sent this to Palm Addicts back on June 9th, and now it’s time to flesh it out a bit more with some updates.

Recently, Palm announced the Foleo, a “Treo Companion” which works in conjunction with your Treo Smartphone (and in the future, other brands). Jeff Hawkins feels this will revolutionize the way we will use and interact with smartphones. That might have been the case a year ago, but most people who have seen the announcement have been underwhelmed with the product announcement. Some think it’s a great idea, but most see it as a still-born product that will only sell a few thousand units, nothing near the amount needed to make it a viable product.

What they got right…

Instant on – people need mobile devices to be available quickly. PDA and Smartphone users are accustomed to “instant on” and being able to use the device right away, so this was a definite “must-have” in a mobile companion.

Flash storage – mobile devices need to have a reliable and low power method for storage, and flash storage is the most reliable means to do it. No mention has been made as to what is the size of the flash device, nor about how much is user accessible for mail and document storage. Update: There’s a Compact Flash card slot installed internally behind the battery, so it’s possible the device could have the storage upgraded in the future. It will ship with 128MB of non-volitile memory, shared between the OS and user data.

Clean and simple user interface – this has been Palm’s claim to fame since the original “Palm Pilot”. Simple, fast, and easy to use. The Zen of Palm.

Linux OS – this is what Palm OS6 (aka Cobalt) should have been. Hardware guys don’t like writing a multitude of device drivers for a multitude of platforms. If OS 6 had been based on Linux instead of being home-grown, it would be a very different mobile landscape right now. Enough said.

SD Card slot – Instant compatibility with all their handhelds and smartphones. Use the Foleo to download content from the Inter or Intranets via Wi-Fi to the card, and plunk it back into your Treo. They should ship the Foleo with a mini-SD card adapter, for all those Treo 755p users.

USB port – hopefully this lets you access thumb drives AND peripherals. Not much has been said as to whether this is a device port (sync to PC or use as card reader) or host (peripheral) port, or what speed it runs at (USB 1.1 or 2.0). That will have to be seen at the product launch. Update: It is a USB host port, with host drivers that should let you use an external keyboard, mouse or USB flash drives. No mention of other peripherals at this point.

Bluetooth and Wi-Fi – The lack of Wi-Fi has long been a thorn in the side of Treo users. It’s basically a Palm OS kernel issue, one that could have been avoided by using Linux. Both wireless technologies are essential these days in a mobile device. Update: Wi-Fi is 802.11b

Where they went wrong…

No touch screen/tablet option – here’s where Palm really blew it! They’ve basically had over a decade’s worth of experience building “mini-tablets”, and they build…. a light-duty laptop. Web browsing can really lend itself towards a tablet design. Imagine a portrait device with a touch screen and forward, back and scroll controls. Just tap to click links. Can’t you imagine yourself sitting at a coffee shop, sipping a java and reading the news that way? They could’ve implemented a detachable keyboard, or a “twist and swivel” one that folds back onto itself, in order to make their “Treo Companion” product complete.

No web cam, built-in mic or speakers for Video Conferencing – video phones are the future. If Palm isn’t going to put a person facing camera into it’s phones, then it SHOULD’VE gone into a companion product. Most new laptops have built-in webcams, and it’s not like Palm doesn’t buy the exact same chip cam by the thousands for the Treos. If they had the camera, they should’ve also had a VOIP softphone, and Bluetooth support for Headsets for private calls. Look at the Nokia N800 as an example of portable platform done right.

No developers tools announced – Linux has an amazing developer community, and so does Palm OS. Palm should have built hype about the Foleo platform by releasing developers kits and related materials, like Apple or Microsoft does with their product announcements. Nokia has built up a open-source project ( around it’s Internet Tablets, which are doing quite well in their niche market. Instead, Palm’s leaving everything to the official product launch… Ho hummmmm, snore…. Wake me when (if?) it hits the shelves… Update: Developer tools are supposed to be released at product launch, according to an e-mail from the Palm Developer’s Network.

Price & Lots of Competition…
Now, here’s where Palm got trumped, big time! They announce the Foleo for $499 after a $100 introductory rebate. The same week, Asus and VIA announce their mini-laptop platforms. The Via Nanobook will go for $600 USD, and the Asus Eee PC for $199-299 USD (depending on storage and screen size). The Asus announcement really trumps them. Linux powered, similar specs WITH a webcam mic & speakers, Ethernet, Wi-Fi, and a standard 56K modem (apparently no Bluetooth).

That doesn’t include all the UMPC (Ultra Mobile PC) and MIMD (Mobile Internet Multimedia Device) product announcements this week, of which there were quite a few. So, Palm’s going to have an uphill battle on what they thought was a “revolutionary” product. They could turn it around, if they change the price point (which is the biggest acceptance factor), get good developers tools in place, and allow for third-party applications. So, in a few months we’ll see whether the Foleo makes the news, or the obituaries.

The Updates…
Since the initial announcement, the Palm Developers network recieved an e-mail indicating that a Software Development Kit (SDK) will be available about the time of the product launch. Rumors are circulating that the Foleo will launch on August 22, which should beat the Asus eeePC to market (it’s expected in the September timeframe).

Things haven’t been quiet on the third-party side of things either; there have been several announcements of products supporting the Foleo platform. Avvenu Access ‘n Share, Bluefire Mobile Security VPN, MotionApps mDayscape, and Astraware’s Sudoku and Solitaire have been announced as being available for purchase as of the Foleo’s release date. This bodes well for the Foleo being an extensible platform, which is one of the major successes of the Palm platform.

If Palm can continue to gather 3rd party support, and if they market the product to the appropriate vertical markets, the Foleo may succeed in the business field as a mobility enhancing add-on to Palm Powered smartphones.

2007–7-23: Foleo Fanatics has a blog entry describing some of it’s features.

Posted in Foleo, Palm, PalmAddicts, Technology, Treo | Leave a Comment »

Asterisk 1.4 Command Line Interface reference (CLI)

Posted by Michael Brown on May 28, 2007

I’m in the process of re-building my Asterisk VOIP PBX to support the new features of 1.4, and to add videoconferencing capabilities so my kids can video chat with their grandparents (both being under 4 years of age, they don’t do conventional phones too well). Having used products from Newbridge, Alcatel, and Cisco in the past, I am familiar with their management capabilities, which usually entail a command line interface, or CLI, as well as any GUI-based utilities. Usually, these are accessed from a serial management port, or via telnet on a management IP network. Since Asterisk runs on any compatible Linux platform, it has several different means for management, including SSH. Given that I SSH into my server using TuSSH on my Treo on a regular basis, it makes sense to have a quick reference of the CLI commands in a Treo/Palm memo. Asterisk has a nice help command on the CLI, but it doesn’t work too well on TuSSH, since there is no easy way to scroll on the Palm client.

So, I used Asterisk’s method of running CLI commands in shell scripts in order to get this stuff into a text file, which I’ve uploaded to this blog here: Asterisk 1.4 CLI commands.

As your Asterisk user or root, type:

asterisk -rx "help" > AsteriskCLI.txt

The same trick could be used to save copies of dialplans, extentions, users, etc., which you could commit to SVN or CVS version control systems, use “diff” to audit differences between versions, etc. The command line interface can be a powerful tool. I’ve included the help listing below in this Blog entry for your reference.

Asterisk 1.4 CLI commands

! Execute a shell command

abort halt Cancel a running halt

ael debug contexts Enable AEL contexts debug (does nothing)
ael debug macros Enable AEL macros debug (does nothing)
ael debug read Enable AEL read debug (does nothing)
ael debug tokens Enable AEL tokens debug (does nothing)
ael nodebug Disable AEL debug messages
ael reload Reload AEL configuration

agent logoff Sets an agent offline
agent show Show status of agents
agent show online Show all online agents

agi debug Enable AGI debugging
agi debug off Disable AGI debugging
agi dumphtml Dumps a list of agi commands in html format
agi show List AGI commands or specific help

cdr status Display the CDR status

console active Sets/displays active console
console answer Answer an incoming console call
console autoanswer Sets/displays autoanswer
console boost Sets/displays mic boost in dB
console dial Dial an extension on the console
console flash Flash a call on the console
console hangup Hangup a call on the console
console mute Disable mic input
console send text Send text to the remote device
console transfer Transfer a call to a different extension
console unmute Enable mic input

core clear profile Clear profiling info
core set debug channel Enable/disable debugging on a channel
core set debug Set level of debug chattiness
core set debug off Turns off debug chattiness
core set global Set global dialplan variable
core set verbose Set level of verboseness
core show applications Shows registered dialplan applications
core show application Describe a specific dialplan application
core show audio codecs Displays a list of audio codecs
core show channels Display information on channels
core show channel Display information on a specific channel
core show channeltypes List available channel types
core show channeltype Give more details on that channel type
core show codecs Displays a list of codecs
core show codec Shows a specific codec
core show config mappings Display config mappings (file names to config engines)
core show file formats Displays file formats
core show file version List versions of files used to build Asterisk
core show functions Shows registered dialplan functions
core show function Describe a specific dialplan function
core show globals Show global dialplan variables
core show hints Show dialplan hints
core show image codecs Displays a list of image codecs
core show image formats Displays image formats
core show license Show the license(s) for this copy of Asterisk
core show profile Display profiling info
core show switches Show alternative switches
core show threads Show running threads
core show translation Display translation matrix
core show uptime Show uptime information
core show version Display version info
core show video codecs Displays a list of video codecs
core show warranty Show the warranty (if any) for this copy of Asterisk

database del Removes database key/value
database deltree Removes database keytree/values
database get Gets database value
database put Adds/updates database value
database show Shows database contents
database showkey Shows database contents

dialplan add extension Add new extension into context
dialplan add ignorepat Add new ignore pattern
dialplan add include Include context in other context
dialplan reload Reload extensions and *only* extensions
dialplan remove extension Remove a specified extension
dialplan remove ignorepat Remove ignore pattern from context
dialplan remove include Remove a specified include from context
dialplan save Save dialplan
dialplan show Show dialplan

dnsmgr reload Reloads the DNS manager configuration
dnsmgr status Display the DNS manager status

dundi debug Enable DUNDi debugging
dundi flush Flush DUNDi cache
dundi lookup Lookup a number in DUNDi
dundi no debug Disable DUNDi debugging
dundi no store history Disable DUNDi historic records
dundi precache Precache a number in DUNDi
dundi query Query a DUNDi EID
dundi show entityid Display Global Entity ID
dundi show mappings Show DUNDi mappings
dundi show peers Show defined DUNDi peers
dundi show peer Show info on a specific DUNDi peer
dundi show precache Show DUNDi precache
dundi show requests Show DUNDi requests
dundi show trans Show active DUNDi transactions
dundi store history Enable DUNDi historic records

feature show Lists configured features
feature show channels List status of feature channels

file convert Convert audio file

group show channels Display active channels with group(s)

gtalk reload Enable Jabber debugging
gtalk show channels Show GoogleTalk Channels

help Display help list, or specific help on a command

http show status Display HTTP server status

Iax2 provision Provision an IAX device
iax2 prune realtime Prune a cached realtime lookup
iax2 reload Reload IAX configuration
iax2 set debug Enable IAX debugging
iax2 set debug jb Enable IAX jitterbuffer debugging
iax2 set debug jb off Disable IAX jitterbuffer debugging
iax2 set debug off Disable IAX debugging
iax2 set debug trunk Enable IAX trunk debugging
iax2 set debug trunk off Disable IAX trunk debugging
iax2 show cache Display IAX cached dialplan
iax2 show channels List active IAX channels
iax2 show firmware List available IAX firmwares
iax2 show netstats List active IAX channel netstats
iax2 show peers List defined IAX peers
iax2 show peer Show details on specific IAX peer
iax2 show provisioning Display iax provisioning
iax2 show registry Display IAX registration status
iax2 show stats Display IAX statistics
iax2 show threads Display IAX helper thread info
iax2 show users List defined IAX users
iax2 test losspct Set IAX2 incoming frame loss percentage

indication add Add the given indication to the country
indication remove Remove the given indication from the country
indication show Display a list of all countries/indications

jabber debug Enable Jabber debugging
jabber debug off Disable Jabber debug
jabber reload Reload Jabber configuration
jabber show connected Show state of clients and components
jabber test Shows roster, but is generally used for mog’s debugging.

keys init Initialize RSA key passcodes
keys show Displays RSA key information

local show channels List status of local channels
logger mute Toggle logging output to a console
logger reload Reopens the log files
logger rotate Rotates and reopens the log files
logger show channels List configured log channels
manager show command Show a manager interface command
manager show commands List manager interface commands
manager show connected List connected manager interface users
manager show eventq List manager interface queued events
manager show users List configured manager users
manager show user Display information on a specific manager user

meetme Execute a command on a conference or conferee

mgcp audit endpoint Audit specified MGCP endpoint
mgcp reload Reload MGCP configuration
mgcp set debug Enable MGCP debugging
mgcp set debug off Disable MGCP debugging
mgcp show endpoints List defined MGCP endpoints

mixmonitor Execute a MixMonitor command.

module load Load a module by name
module reload Reload configuration
module show List modules and info
module show like List modules and info
module unload Unload a module by name

moh reload Music On Hold
moh show classes List MOH classes
moh show files List MOH file-based classes

no debug channel (null)

odbc show List ODBC DSN(s)

originate Originate a call

pri debug span Enables PRI debugging on a span
pri intense debug span Enables REALLY INTENSE PRI debugging
pri no debug span Disables PRI debugging on a span
pri set debug file Sends PRI debug output to the specified file
pri show debug Displays current PRI debug settings
pri show spans Displays PRI Information
pri show span Displays PRI Information
pri unset debug file Ends PRI debug output to file

queue add member Add a channel to a specified queue
queue remove member Removes a channel from a specified queue
queue show Show status of a specified queue

realtime load Used to print out RealTime variables.
realtime update Used to update RealTime variables.

restart gracefully Restart Asterisk gracefully
restart now Restart Asterisk immediately
restart when convenient Restart Asterisk at empty call volume

rtcp debug ip Enable RTCP debugging on IP
rtcp debug Enable RTCP debugging
rtcp debug off Disable RTCP debugging
rtcp stats Enable RTCP stats
rtcp stats off Disable RTCP stats

rtp debug ip Enable RTP debugging on IP
rtp debug Enable RTP debugging
rtp debug off Disable RTP debugging

say load set/show the say mode

show parkedcalls Lists parked calls
show queues (null)

sip history Enable SIP history
sip history off Disable SIP history
sip notify Send a notify packet to a SIP peer
sip prune realtime Prune cached Realtime object(s)
sip prune realtime peer Prune cached Realtime peer(s)
sip prune realtime user Prune cached Realtime user(s)
sip reload Reload SIP configuration
sip set debug Enable SIP debugging
sip set debug ip Enable SIP debugging on IP
sip set debug off Disable SIP debugging
sip set debug peer Enable SIP debugging on Peername
sip show channels List active SIP channels
sip show channel Show detailed SIP channel info
sip show domains List our local SIP domains.
sip show history Show SIP dialog history
sip show inuse List all inuse/limits
sip show objects List all SIP object allocations
sip show peers List defined SIP peers
sip show peer Show details on specific SIP peer
sip show registry List SIP registration status
sip show settings Show SIP global settings
sip show subscriptions List active SIP subscriptions
sip show users List defined SIP users
sip show user Show details on specific SIP user

skinny reset Reset Skinny device(s)
skinny set debug Enable Skinny debugging
skinny set debug off Disable Skinny debugging
skinny show devices List defined Skinny devices
skinny show lines List defined Skinny lines per device

sla show stations Show SLA Stations
sla show trunks Show SLA Trunks

soft hangup Request a hangup on a given channel

stop gracefully Gracefully shut down Asterisk
stop now Shut down Asterisk immediately
stop when convenient Shut down Asterisk at empty call volume

stun debug Enable STUN debugging
stun debug off Disable STUN debugging

udptl debug Enable UDPTL debugging
udptl debug ip Enable UDPTL debugging on IP
udptl debug off Disable UDPTL debugging

voicemail show users List defined voicemail boxes
voicemail show zones List zone message formats

zap destroy channel Destroy a channel
zap restart Fully restart zaptel channels
zap show cadences List cadences
zap show channels Show active zapata channels
zap show channel Show information on a channel
zap show status Show all Zaptel cards status

Posted in Asterisk, Technology, VOIP | 3 Comments »

Windows Vista – making you choose between your Palm and your PC

Posted by Michael Brown on April 25, 2007

Since the launch of Windows Vista, there has been a lot of buzz on forums, mailing lists and websites; some people like it, some don’t. What you really need to know is that upgrading to Vista may mean making a tough choice; which do you value more, your Palm or your PC? If you upgrade to Vista, you’ll have to forego syncing your Palm as you used to.

Palm’s Vista Support Page is the place to visit regularly if you are thinking of Vista. Here is a quick summary of the state of the Palm nation when it comes to Vista:

  • Quick Install does not work.
  • The nice folks at BT Solved have come up with their own version of a Quick Install utility(freeware), which is Vista Compatible.

    Palm Vista Simple Installer
    Palm Simple Vista Installer Set-up MSI file

  • You’ll need to download updates to Palm Desktop, especially if you Sync to Outlook using Palm’s Conduits.
  • Personally, I think Palm’s Outlook Conduits are crap; do yourself a favour, and look at Chapura’s Pocket Mirror. I use Pocket Mirror Pro myself.

  • Documents to Go version 9 and earlier DO NOT work on Windows Vista. Period. Even Docs To Go 10 has issues, since it relies on Palm Desktop (which presently has issues). Check the DataViz website for updates on their compatibility.
  • Personally, I don’t think Vista is worth the frustration of upgrading. I’m still running Windows 2000 myself, because I didn’t see Windows XP as a worthwhile upgrade either. And don’t get me started on that whole “Windows Activation” garbage; plenty has been written on that before. Just see what Google has to show on the subject. So, if you value your Palm or Treo, don’t go the Vista route (at least for another year, until all the issues have been worked out). If you really have to upgrade your computer, maybe consider a Mac + The Missing Sync, or Linux (Ubuntu is a popular choice), which usually has Palm Sync capabilities provided by pilot-link.

    Posted in Palm, Technology, Treo, Windows | Leave a Comment »

    E-mail Round-up part 1 – VersaMail vs ChatterEmail

    Posted by Michael Brown on March 8, 2007

    The introduction to this series can be found here.

    The incumbent – VersaMail 3.1

    VersaMail is the Email client that ships will all the present Treo and Palm Handheld models. It’s descended from a product called MultiMail, a text-based email program Palm bought a few years ago. Palm has been steadily enhancing it, like adding some support for HTML mail, adding Exchange ActiveSync support, and other features. For those carriers offering Palm’s Blackberry Connect, it is also built on top of VersaMail to offer push e-mail, contacts and calendar events. It presently supports POP3 and IMAP, and it supports SSL and authenticated sending (ESMTP). It also supports configuring non-standard ports for sending and receiving mail (which some providers now use to combat zombie PC’s sending spam).

    VersaMail is the incumbent just because it ships with the Treos and Palms, not necessarily because it’s the best out there. Versamail has annoyed the heck out of me over the years with different bugs and other issues. The conduits have sync issues, where it will mix up the headers and the bodies (meaning the subject reads as one message, but the actual contents of the mail are from another). I’ve written a bit about VersaMail before (5 weeks with the Treo 650), and I’ve used it since I got my Tungsten T (VersaMail 2.5), to my Treo 600 (VersaMail 2.7, and I *paid* for the upgrade!), through to 3.1 on the 650. It gets confused about it’s message indexes on a regular basis, resulting in this nice error message:
    VersaMail Error
    It will then dump you back into the last program you were using. If you’re lucky, you can just go back into VersaMail and it’ll work fine. If you’re not lucky, you have to use other tricks like going into VersaMail and quickly switching mailboxes by hitting the hardbutton twice in succession (assuming you have two accounts set-up). In the worst case I’ve ever had (which has only happened once), I’ve had to delete all the VersaMail databases, and then re-create the accounts and re-download the mail again. Because I use server-based IMAP for my mail, and I leave a copy of mail on Yahoo!, I didn’t lose any mail during that whole mess-up.

    The contender – ChatterEmail

    ChatterEmail was built from the ground up to be a Treo E-mail Client. It has a 30-day trial period, which I used for the entire period in order to really get a feel for it. The version I used was 3.0.4rc1, which means it’s a “release candidate” or late beta product. One nice thing about Chatter’s trial period is that you can still access your stored e-mail when the 30 days are up; you just can’t send and receive anymore. The latest version of ChatterEmail (as of this posting date) is 3.0.6.

    Like VersaMail, it supports IMAP, POP3, SSL and ESMTP (note: I did not test the SSL implementations on either product, as I get mail from my server from inside my firewall, and Yahoo doesn’t do SSL). Chatter, being designed for the Treo, has a lot of one-button keyboard shortcuts that make using it really easy. For example, while reading an e-mail, you have the following shortcuts available to you:

    J for Junk e-mail (if you have a Junk mail folder defined).
    R to Reply to the message
    F to Forward the message
    M to Move the message to another folder
    A to reply All
    D to delete
    T to delete on the Treo only
    E to toggle rEad or unrEad
    G to toggle flaG
    B to view an HTML message in the Browser
    L to Load more of the message

    This beats the menu + key or on-screen buttons approach used by VersaMail, as it eliminates one keystroke or stylus tap for each mail you deal with. That can be a big time-saver for e-mail power users. As you can see below, the button bars in Chatter are a little cleaner, being icons; VersaMail only implements text buttons. VersaMail has problems with some forms of message encoding. The message below originated via a mailing list that adds a “signature block” automatically to each message sent via the list, and usually the messages on this list get sent via the mailing list software as an attachment. The same message is displayed below. Note how Chatter picks it up as an attachment (message.txt), whereas VersaMail doesn’t show anything but the signature block; this might lead the recipient to believe there was no message actually sent.

    Chatter’s Message View VersaMail’s Message View
    Chatter’s Message View VersaMail Message View

    Does this mean that Chatter handles e-mail better than VersaMail? Not exactly! Chatter seems to have issues with truncating messages (cutting them off prematurely). Chatter has a preference, like VersaMail, to set a limit on how much of an e-mail is retrieved when it syncs with the server. If a message is only partially fetched, both programs give you the option to “get more” of the message, which should download the entire message. With VersaMail, when I select that option, I usually get the entire message (although VersaMail too has problems with truncating large messages). With Chatter, when you select a message to get more, it would indicated it retrieves the entire message, but it is very obvious it did not (VersaMail has the same problem on really large messages). These truncations happened more frequently on Chatter than on VersaMail, on mailing list “digests” of more than 50KB in size. Usually, VersaMail only has problems with messages of 64KB or larger. Other than the size issues, Chatter does generally handle e-mail messages of varying types of formatting better than VersaMail. If you don’t do large digests, Chatter is definitely the better of the two for message viewing.

    Both programs support the viewing of HTML e-mail, but neither supports the viewing of in-line images. Chatter, however, addresses this shortcoming by allowing you to view the e-mail in the web browser, like the built-in Blazer. When you select the browser button in Chatter, it will jump to Blazer and show the e-mail with the pictures (Internet connection required). When you exit the browser, you’re returned to Chatter. Since VersaMail doesn’t show the graphics at all, I have to wait until I get back to my desktop to read what the specials are at FutureShop or

    Chatter’s HTML Message View VersaMail’s HTML Message View
    Chatter HTML Message View VersaMail HTML message view

    In the mailbox view, many of those same shortcuts apply when a message is highlighed or selected. The only ones I felt were missing that would make it even more usable are T and B, to go to the Top or the Bottom of the mailbox view, like the Blackberry does in it’s email client. Given that T is already taken in that view, it’s understandable. Holding the option button down while rocking the 5-way up or down will advance through the message view by pages, rather than individual messages, so that does help somewhat. But, if you routinely keep a lot of mail in your mailbox, it would be nice to have one-button jumping to the top or bottom. Given that VersaMail has none of these one-button features, Chatter is a huge step up in terms of usability.

    Chatter’s Mailbox View VersaMail’s Mailbox View
    Chatter’s Mailbox View VersaMail Mailbox View

    Another possible shortcoming in Chatter is that you can only sort the mailbox view by date received, either ascending or descending. There are no options to sort by sender or subject, which can be useful for dealing with large amounts of email. I personally like sorting my Yahoo account by subject, since that will group similar messages together, as neither program supports threading. Since Chatter’s target market is for people using push e-mail, where you typically deal with it as it arrives, this may not be much of an issue for those people; those who get mail periodically, and who get a lot of it, may find it painful to process. VersaMail does allow for sorting by sender, subject, and date received, so I have to give it points for catering to peoples different styles of processing email.
    VersaMail’s display options

    VersaMail stores it’s messages in your handheld’s memory, whereas Chatter can be configured to store it’s mail on the SD card. This can save you a lot of memory if you’re on a Treo 650 and want to keep a lot of mail with you. Chatter keeps a message index in memory, but not the actual messages, so it doesn’t eat up a lot of space if you have a lot of mail. The flip side is that VersaMail is in ROM (Read Only Memory, or what’s built-in from the factory), whereas Chatter has to be stored in memory in order to work (I’m not going to get into the whole topic of ROM hacking here). So, in practice and depending on how much mail you deal with, the Chatter program may take up as much memory as what VersaMail uses for it’s message database. If you want to carry 6 months of mail with you, Chatter’s the way to go; otherwise, you can’t weigh the memory aspect as heavily as other usability factors. Chatter does offer mailbox encryption on the SD card, but it’s not strong enough to withstand someone who’s determined, so it shouldn’t be relied on to protect state secrets and such.

    Chatter has a nice feature for IMAP accounts called filtered mailboxes, which for some could be a workaround for the “sort by subject or sender” issue above. Basically, it’s subfolders on an IMAP account that have configurable filters, message handling and alert options. You can configure how often filtered mailboxes are synced (if done automatically), and whether or not you are notified of new mail in that box. There is also an option for SMS triggered syncs; that mailbox will sync when you receive an SMS containing a text message you configure. That’s a handy feature for automated message systems , server-side filters, or voicemail/faxmail to email systems.

    As far as overall IMAP feature support, Chatter handles subfolders in subfolders; Versamail only handles first-level folders (no subfolders), and does not have custom options per folder (just per-account settings, unlike Chatter’s filtered mailboxes). Chatter also supports message flags (see the picture above where the background of an envelope is red or flagged), whereas VersaMail does not. Both products will synchronize read/unread status back to the server. Chatter supports configurable options for where Sent messages are placed, and will sync the changes back to the server; that means that messages sent from the Treo will be stored in your sent folder on the server. The version of VersaMail I have does not. I’ve had to configure it to BCC a mail to mkbrown+Sent for it to be kept on the server (I use something called “address extensions” to deliver mail to certain folders automatically). Chatter also has “junk mail support”, and if configured, it will sync the Junk to the Junk folder on the server; VersaMail, nope!

    Another nice thing about Chatter is it’s status area (see the mailbox view above where it shows off-line). It tells you if there’s no signal, what’s happening (Auth, Login, number of messages, etc), and it will highlight other accounts that have messages (see the red mkbrown in the picture above). Versamail uses progress bars (a blocking operation, meaning you can’t do anything while it’s working) and the standard antenna bars for radio status and signal. Chatter supports background operation, which is it’s secret for letting you get on with using your device while it’s fetching mail in the background. It works pretty well, but will sometimes reposition the screen if you’re reading a mail at the same time it’s updating the status area. Annoying, but not a big deal when you consider you can do something productive while it’s grabbing mail in the background.

    Chatter also has a summary view, which incorporates e-mail from all the configured e-mail accounts you choose into one page. I personally didn’t find it very useful, as I prefer to deal with one account at a time. You, on the other hand, may think it’s just amazing and makes you want to buy Chatter right now. It’s an optional view, so if you don’t want it, you don’t have to use it. VersaMail doesn’t have anything like it. You can see it below.

    Chatter’s Summary page

    So, what do I miss most about ChatterEmail now that my trial period is over and I went back to VersaMail? HTML message viewing, one button operations, IMAP subfolders, and message flags. Those were the features I liked most about Chatter, for use in my particular situation. I don’t use push e-mail, so it wasn’t a deciding factor for me. Being able to file messages wherever in my folder hierarchy was top-notch in my books, as was being able to flag them, neither of which are features that VersaMail supports. What do I feel was missing from Chatter, that would have made it more usable for me? Sort by Sender or Subject in the mailbox view. That way, I can process e-mails, and delete entire threads if they’re read or irrelevant to me.

    As for product support, VersaMail is supported by Palm Inc., which means you get someone reading scripts and pasting form letters in a call center, who may or may not be able to help you resolve your problem, like many call centers these days. (Wake Up manufacturers! Customer SERVICE and SUPPORT means that the tech support people should know more about their products than the people who are calling for help, not the other way around!) If you have a Treo, and the version of VersaMail you have is buggy, then you are at the mercy of your cellular service provider as to whether or not you will see a firmware upgrade or software update for your device which MAY fix any problems you’re having. Otherwise, Palm sells an upgrade version of VersaMail (3.5, which ships on the Treo 700p and 680), which MAY fix any issues you’re having with older versions of VersaMail. But, in the case of 3.5, you’ll have to pay to find out; there’s no trial for it. I’m running 3.1F myself on my Bell Mobility Treo 650, and I had to hack my ROM a while back using the Telus ROM update to upgrade my VersaMail from 3.1b to 3.1F, because Bell Mobility avoids ROM upgrades like the plague. They want to sell phones like appliances, so it’s not their problem if something goes wrong; and besides, it takes them months – if not a year – to qualify a phone on their network before it becomes available, so the product may no longer be in production by the time they’ll consider qualifying a ROM upgrade. Bell’s network is stable and the coverage is good, so the price you pay for that is to not expect to get a ROM upgrade (ever!).

    Chatter’s support has been excellent up to the end of February of this year. Marc Blanc, the author of Chatter, runs a support forum on his website, and he also frequents a lot of palm mailing lists providing support to his users. Marc is very passionate about his product, and solicits feedback and feature requests from his users, which he then rolls into new releases of ChatterEmail. Upgrades to Chatter have historically been free of charge, and rapid, because Marc believes in a “release early, release often” approach to software development. Now, let me clarify something; I’ve been talking about “historically” and “up to February” because, in a forum post here , Marc reveals that he will no longer be actively developing ChatterEmail, as he has accepted a position with Palm Inc. Marc has said that Chatter will still be available for purchase, and that support would continue to be provided, albeit not as it has been in the past, as he is transitioning Chatter to a different support structure and distancing himself from it, which is likely a requirement of his accepting the position with Palm.

    Congrats to Marc on his new position, and kudos to Palm Inc. for picking up a talented and vibrant developer from the Palm community. I can only hope Marc’s talents are being applied to address VersaMail’s difficiencies (as well as related PalmOS flaws). Given that Marc is not longer actively developing Chatter, would I still recommend it? Yes! Marc has built up a supportive community around his product that rivals that of another extraordinary developer and product, C.E. Stuart Dewar and Pimlico Software’s DateBk6 (which I’ve used since DateBk3). Marc has committed to his users in e-mail posts that future PalmOS devices will be supported, and I’m confident that the product will continue for the foreseeable future.

    ChatterEmail can be found at

    Now, it may seem like I’m bashing VersaMail; well, it does have it’s flaws, but it’s still a very usable e-mail client. Many people don’t even load a third-party piece of software onto their Treo’s or Palm Handhelds, so they don’t have the first clue as to what other options they may have. The point to this E-mail Round-up series is to show what’s out there, and what each program’s strengths and weaknesses are. Next in the series will be VersaMail vs SnapperMail2; expect to see that around the end of April, as I’ll be giving Snapper the same 30 day shakedown cruise as I did for Chatter. Feel free to ask questions using the comments section below; I’d be happy to give my two cents worth (Canadian). I’ll be doing a post in the near future about Syncing options for PalmOS products, so stay tuned!

    Update: You can find part 2 in the series, VersaMail vs SnapperEmail, here.

    Posted in E-mail, Palm, Reviews, Technology, Treo | 1 Comment »

    E-mail Round-up

    Posted by Michael Brown on January 26, 2007

    E-mail is a mainstay in today’s mobile devices, and the Treo is no exception. The Treo product line ships with the VersaMail Client (now just called Email on the newest Treo’s like the 680 and 700p), but how good is it, and how does it stack up to the competition? That’s what I’ll be covering in the next three or so posts in this series, but from the point of view of an individual or small business. There are other products out there that replicate the Blackberry experience, like Goodlink and Palm’s Blackberry Connect, but those products are usually deployed by large organizations, so individual users don’t have a choice in the matter.

    I’ll be doing these reviews in a series of comparisons, because everyone’s needs for email are different. These reviews aren’t about finding the “best” email client; there is no such thing. By comparing the various email clients to each other in real world applications, it can help you find the best application for your needs and situation. In order to test these applications, I’ll be using my own IMAP mail server, as well as a Yahoo! POP account I use for a multitude of mailing lists, both individual messages and digest modes. I’ll be comparing the third-party e-mail clients against VersaMail, which is what installed standard on the Treo.

    For some background information, E-mail is client-server relationship. E-mail gets sent from a client on your PC or Treo to your provider’s server, then passed through a few other servers on it’s way to it’s destination, the recipient’s server. The recipient would then use a client software package to get that e-mail. There’s two major ways of getting e-mail. The first is called POP3 or Post Office Protocol version 3. POP3 is generally what most providers supply with Internet Service accounts, and it’s the protocol used to access webmail based accounts like Yahoo or Gmail. It works much like a physical “snail mail” mailbox: mail sits there until you retrieve it, where it is then moved into your inbox on the e-mail client. It is possible to configure your email client to leave the original in your mailbox on the server, and merely fetch a copy into your mail program’s inbox, but that is not typically the default. The Yahoo account I’m testing with will be keeping the original, and the various clients I’m using are configured to get a copy. POP3 accounts are generally not intended for the long term storage of e-mail (although Gmail is an exception).

    IMAP is a different beast. It’s a system that is designed to store e-mail permanently on the server, and therefore it has tools to make it beneficial to do that. IMAP supports folders, and folders within folders, so you can make a filing system that works for you. Your email program works with a local copy of your email “filing system”, and any changes you make are propagated back to the server.

    Many IMAP server installations have server-side tools to filter e-mail based on a multitude of criteria, and this filtering is done as the mail arrives at the server. This can be a huge time and money saver; let’s say you frequently receive mail of a routine or non-urgent nature. That type of mail can be filtered into a different folder than your Inbox (like “Read later”) that you read when your at your desktop PC. That makes getting your inbox mail faster, as you won’t have to wade through all your mail, and you won’t pay for retrieving email you don’t need to read immediately (for those that pay per kB transferred).

    Typically, email is “pulled” from the server to the client, as the client “polls” the server. Think of it along these lines: The client says “Hey, got any mail for me?” every 15 minutes. The server will respond either “nope”, or “yup”, in which case the client says “Ok, gimme”. Push e-mail like the Blackberry basically shoves email out to the mobile device the moment it arrives at the server, eliminating the delay of polling for mail every ‘x’ minutes (no more “is it here yet?”). It’s like having the mailman running your mail to you every time a letter shows up at the post office. With the Blackberry or Goodlink, this involves having a dedicated server which talks to both the mobile device and the mail server, and acts as a go-between. This integration typically requires a significant investment in both money and IT infrastructure, which is usually reserved for larger organizations.

    For individuals looking for push email on a smaller scale, some e-mail clients are supporting an IMAP server feature called “IDLE”. It’s like keeping a phone call (connection) open so you can talk to someone right away, when you need to. Most of the time the connection is idle (meaning you’re not paying for data transfer because your not actually sending or receiving mail), but your email willl come through right away when it arrives because the connection to the server is still open. The IDLE feature is particularly handy if your existing IMAP server supports it: you just buy an e-mail client that supports IDLE, and you have instant push email on your existing infrastructure, with minimal costs and fuss.

    So, here are the tasks I’ll be performing with each of the clients:

    • Reading and replying to email sent to me personally that is in my Inbox (IMAP).
    • Reading and replying to mail sent to me via mailing lists (Yahoo POP3)
    • Reading and deleting auto-generated logcheck emails that reside in an IMAP ‘system’ folder
    • Read and delete or save individual mailinglist e-mails that reside in a ‘lists’ folder on the IMAP server

    I find that mailing lists are a great way to test email clients. The sheer volume of people from around the world, using a multitude of email programs (with varying levels of compliance to the specifications of technically correct emails) ensures that the program I’m testing has a wide range of samples to go through. The emails will be a range of plain text, text digest, HTML, and multi-part mixed. Text digests nice torture tests for portable email clients. The mailing list software is supposed to reduce HTML or rich text messages to plain text, but sometimes things happen where a mashup of plain text and HTML codes get sent through, and some e-mail clients just choke up trying to handle the mashup.

    So, stay tuned for the next post in this series, where I’ll be talking about my baseline for comparison, VersaMail, and how it stacks up to ChatterEmail.

    2007-03-15 Update: You can find part 1 in the series, VersaMail vs ChatterEmail, here.
    2007-08-24 Update: You can find part 2 in the series, VersaMail vs SnapperEmail, here.

    Posted in E-mail, Palm, Reviews, Technology, Treo | 2 Comments »

    Using a Linux server as a Bluetooth Network access point.

    Posted by Michael Brown on January 22, 2007

    One astute blog reader noticed I use my Linux server for Internet access, and wrote to ask me how I did it. I’d set it up a couple of years ago to work with my Tungsten T, and I only had a minor hiccup when I tried to switch to the Treo (I can’t remember if I had the same problem with the Tungsten T, but I think so); more on that later.

    The definitive guide to HotSyncing over Bluetooth can be found at, in the Bluetooth HotSync How-to. Internet access is included in it under “surfing the web”. It’s a bit dated, as pilot-link and Bluez are usually included in most major distributions these days; just use your package management system to install it, instead of from source. You have to make sure ip forwarding is turned on for your kernel. On Debian/Ubuntu/Knoppix distributions, you do that by editing the /etc/network file and adding ip_forward=yes (then save). It will take effect as of your next reboot. For the impatient who want to try it without rebooting, use the following as root (or with sudo) from the commandline echo 1 > /proc/sys/net/ipv4/ip_forward

    The hiccup I had with the Treo involved pairing it to the Bluetooth dongle on the server. In the network preferences for the BTLan connection I made, I had to pair it using “Connect to PC”, and then after it was paired, I had to change the setting to “Connect to LAN”. It wouldn’t pair if it was set to LAN the first time around; it may be because the Dongle isn’t advertising network access as an available service. I haven’t bothered to look into it further, as it works fine once paired as a PC.

    Bluetooth Connection to PC
    BT Connection to LAN

    As a SOHO network access point for a single user, it works pretty well. According to the speed reports at, the Treo’s Blazer web browser averages between 125-150 kbps. I can pick up my e-mail just fine, and local access to my fileserver over ssh (secure shell) runs great as well. More data intensive stuff like file transfers or VNC (kind of like remote desktop) are about the same speed, which is slower than Wi-Fi or a wired network, but still very usable. The trade off is speed for convenience and no cellular data fees; with Bluetooth dongles available in the $25 range, it does make for inexpensive wireless access at home.

    Posted in Bluetooth, Linux, Palm, Technology, Treo | Leave a Comment »

    Task Oriented, not Tool Oriented, and the Where, When, and How…

    Posted by Michael Brown on August 4, 2006

    Today, looking around while waiting for the O-Train, I really see how effective Media, fads, and other factors have become in today’s society. People have to get certain things because “they’re cool”; not necessarily useful, but “cool”. One girl in particular made that point: laptop backpack, Motorola Razr cellphone, and an MP3 player. She was busy looking up something (or SMSing) on the Razr, while also juggling her MP3 player in her other hand. So, there she is standing at the O-Train platform juggling a bunch of gadgets; watching her, you’d figure she needed more hands! She got the Razr presumably because it’s slim and cool looking, and I’m sure she got the model MP3 player she had because it was small and slim too. What I’m sure she didn’t think about when she got them was the “how” and “where” and “when” would she be using them, hence her juggling act at the train platform.

    Sitting on the bus or train really shows you how people pass the time. Some read novels or news, others listen to music. Some people try to get work done, either on paperwork or a handheld computer like a Blackberry, Palm or Treo. Many people will also try to make phone calls at transfer points, and I’ve seen kids calling or SMSing while on the bus. All of those tasks require a set of tools that fit the environment, which can be a rapidly changing one. Case in point; a laptop really isn’t usable on a crowded bus or train, although you might be able to use a Tablet PC. So, some real thought has to be given to how and where you’ll be doing what you want to do, so that you’ll actually be able to do it when you have the time.

    So, the real trick to being mobile is to look at what you want to be able to DO while you’re on the go, and THEN find the tools to make it happen. Ideally, you want to choose tools that serve multiple tasks, since this will help you reduce the number of gadgets you have to carry and handle, as well as the number of accessories like power adapters you have to cart with you. If you’re a heavy cell phone user and you like listening to music or audio books, why not get a cell phone that does both? The same goes for e-mail and text messaging. What about other things? Here’s where a device like the Treo really outshines a Blackberry or a Razr. Another possibility is a Palm handheld paired with a Bluetooth-enabled phone. So, what else could you be doing?

    Here’s what I do on the bus or the O-train. I use my Treo for all of these tasks, using either built-in features, or with 3-rd party add-ons of software and/or hardware.

    • Read, compose and reply to e-mail
    • Work on PowerPoint presentations or Word documents
    • Listen to music, podcasts, and audio books
    • Watch digitally-recorded TV shows
    • Write these blogs or content for my website
    • Write journal entries
    • Review and action voice-recorded notes
    • Look at pictures or video clips of my kids (digital “brag book”)
    • Send SMS messages (usually to my wife), and make phone calls at transfer points (I personally think it’s impolite to be making phone calls on the bus)
    • Do my weekly planning and reviews with the PIM applications

    Just one device for all those tasks, and just a few accessories that fit in a folding bag the size of a hardcover book (my mobile office, the subject for a future blog). The real beauty is that I can be doing any of those things, yet put the Treo into my beltcase at a moment’s notice and hop on or off the bus or train. No juggling involved. With the Treo, I can be listening to music while I am writing in another application, so it’s still only one device for multiple tasks. Sure, the Treo isn’t as well advertised as the Razr or the iPod, and it isn’t as “cool looking”, but you sure can DO a lot with it. And that’s really the point; I can stay productive or entertained with a minimum of stuff and hassle. Function can be more important than form, when you know what is most important to you. So, make sure you don’t fall victim to the latest fad; do you homework and make sure you know what you want to accomplish before you buy, rather than try to find uses for something you bought “because it was cool”.

    Posted in Productivity, Technology, Treo | Leave a Comment »