Solutions At Hand

Handhelds, smartphones, mobile technology and the digital lifestyle.

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    Michael is a trainer and consultant specializing in making mobility technology work in people's everyday lives.
  • April 2023
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Archive for the ‘Website’ Category

RSS now available via Feedburner

Posted by Michael Brown on July 17, 2007

I’ve made the RSS feed available via Feedburner. It has a lot of nice features that make the RSS experience a little better for those viewing via different RSS readers.

The new feed is here:

Since I’m just getting started with Feedburner, I’ve turned on mostly the compatibility services. If there’s features you’d like to see turned on in the feed, feel free to let me know!


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Happy New Year, and New Website is mostly finished…

Posted by Michael Brown on January 2, 2007

Hi Folks!

Happy New Year to all, and best wishes for a happy, healthy and prosperous new year!

I’ve moved all the blog entries, and much of the content to the new WordPress site. is now pointing here as well, so that’s the best way to bookmark this site. I still have a bit more news to move over, and a few other things to finish up. I’ll be adding an “About Me” page shortly, so you have more of an idea of who I am. Feel free to visit, and let me know what you think…

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I jumped the gun…

Posted by Michael Brown on December 19, 2006

Ok, I admit I jumped the gun… I hadn’t quite worked out all the details on how I was going to do the new site, and I decided on using Blogger a bit prematurely. The more I got into it, the more I realized it was going to be more work than I wanted to get it to do everything I was hoping to do with it. So, I did my homework this time, and have settled on using as my new host. That way I can host both the blog, and the parts of the website that I’m going to retain.

So, if you’ve changed your settings to follow my blog to Blogger, I truly apologize for now asking you to change it again. You can find the new blog feed at . I’ll be pointing to the new site when it’s a little more completed. I’ll leave the blogger site up until the end of the month, so the word gets out to all my readers. Sorry for any inconvenience, and if it’s any consolation, I have to move my entire blog manually again to a new host. See you at the new site!

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A whole lotta changin going on!

Posted by Michael Brown on December 15, 2006

Coming up on the new year has me looking at how things have been going, how they’re running now, and how I’d like them to be running. Things aren’t quite the same as they were when I first started Solutions At Hand. I had started the company in January 2004 with some money from my severance, and the desire to keep it within my means (meaning no outside capital like loans or VC). Having my daughter at home with me meant no daycare fees, but it limited my availability to get out and “pound the pavement” drumming up business, which meant I couldn’t grow the business to the point where it could pay me, daycare, and be self-sustaining. So, in order to make sure my kids are properly provided for, I accepted a technical position with the government back in May. Having a “day job” has meant that I’m no longer available during the day when I used to service clients, which means I haven’t been taking on any new clients. My existing clients are very understanding, and are in good shape themselves. The problem is, I still have expenses to keep the company going, and having two young ones at home now means my discretionary time is limited. I still believe that there is a need for the services I provide, so I’ve had to start really looking at how I’m going to keep providing those services. So, I need to make the best use of my limited resources, especially time, in order to keep things going, so that means there’s gonna be a whole lotta changing goin on for the New Year.

First, the Solutions At Hand website is going to move and change. I’m going to be dropping stuff that I’m no longer doing, like sales. Since my blog gets more traffic than any other page on my existing site, I’ve decided to host the new site at That gives me the benefit of not having to maintain my own Zope infrastructure, like I’ve been currently doing (yes, I’ve had an external provider who serves up the “real” site for the last two years, but I’ve maintained an internal one for testing and backup purposes). I’ll move the blog and other content over, and post a link when it’s ready. I’ll also be redirecting to the new blog. I’ll also be combining the seperate news and blog RSS feeds into the one blog. You can find the blog at

Another tough decision is how I’ll be delivering services. Generally, I’ve been doing one-on-one service in the past; however, since my time is limited, I’ve come to the conclusion that classroom-style workshops and seminars are the only way to be able to service clients and keep the company going. Stay tuned for more info in the new year on that front. Thanks for your patronage, and I look forward to bringing forth the new Solutions At Hand website & blog real soon!

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Random Bits and Bytes…

Posted by Michael Brown on March 8, 2005

Hi Folks! Nothing too profound this week, and my apologies for not posting yesterday. I’m fighting a massive cold right now, and at some point today or tomorrow I’m going to have to brave the Great White North long enough to dig my driveway out of the 25+ cm of snow that Mother Nature was kind enough to deliver us yesterday. {wry grin} And I’m not even a skier! Oh well, I’ve got some friends that are pretty happy the hills will be great for snow-boarding and skiing.

A couple of small changes have been made to the website. The RSS feed now exports the entire article in the RSS description field, so the whole blog should be viewable now in aggregators and mobile readers. I’ve tested it with Jpluck on my Treo and it works beautifully. Please let me know if it’s not working on other platforms.

The other change I’ve made isn’t really visible. I’ve added “geo-tagging” to the meta-data on the headers for each web page. The way the Internet works is that search engines find content and index it by keywords. If you have keywords on your site that help the search engine physically locate you (i.e. Ottawa, Canada), then when someone in Ottawa types something into Google like “Palm training Ottawa”, then it stands a chance of locating me in Ottawa, as opposed to someone doing training in the US, or Italy, or somewhere else. Google, and many other search engines, are now testing “local searches”; basically, find what I’m searching for that is actually close to me. Say you’re searching for “pizza” – you don’t want to be ordering from Luigi’s in Italy, when you live in Ottawa… it’ll be kinda cold by the time it gets there! So, by adding geo-tags to my website, I’m telling search engines where I’m physically located, so when someone from Ottawa searches for Palm trainers, consultant ants, etc., it’ll be easier to find me. Similarly, if you are not in Canada, you won’t be getting me listed first on your rankings if you’re looking for someone local.

I see a lot of traffic to my website from many different countries around the world, and I’m flattered that so many people are coming by every Monday to read my blog. Feel free to send me your comments; there’s a contact link on every blog story. See you next week!

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New RSS feed and other Blog stuff.

Posted by Michael Brown on January 26, 2005

Just a quick note to say we’ve got a new RSS (Really Simple Syndication) feed going for my WebLog. It was actually pretty easy to make thanks to the Zope Application server we’re now based on. A few lines of DTML code, and we now have a compliant RSS 2.0 feed! I’m doing most of this stuff in DTML (read: manually doing things instead of finding products that will do it for me) so I can really learn it; I’m definitely liking how flexible the Zope Server is for content creation and maintenance.

In case you’re wondering how I’ll be creating these Blog entries, you can rest assured that I’m using my Palm Powered Handheld to do most of the work. I compose the actual blog in the Memo Pad application on my handheld. I’m using some 3rd party applications to create “templates” for each entry; basically, it formats the date entry and adds some HTML tags. I then write my entry when and wherever I wish using the handheld and entering information with the Graffiti text input. Later, I HotSync it to my desktop computer, where I copy and paste it into the Zope Blog form.

I’ll look at adding additional feeds to the site where it makes sense to do so. I’ll also look at using other tools on the website in the future, like calendaring, which would allow for the display of training dates for public courses and such.

2006-12-13 This post is obsoleted since moving to WordPress, but I’ve moved it for archival purposes.

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First Blog: Why write a WebLog (blog)?

Posted by Michael Brown on January 20, 2005

As a trainer and a consultant, why should I write a weblog, or blog as they’re more commonly known? Aren’t consultants normally paid to give opinions and recommendations – why put it out in a weblog on the internet? Well, I can think of quite a few good reasons why I should write weblogs on a regular basis.

Firstly, it’s one way for you to get to know me. I’m kind of old fashioned, and I like doing business with people I know and who’ve earned my trust. By publishing “blogs” on the Solutions At Hand website, it gives you the opportunity to get to know me, and I hope you’ll feel more comfortable in dealing with me. Some of what I do is help people make the transition from whatever systems (paper or electronic) that they’ve used to organize themselves, to integrating a handheld or smartphone into those systems. That involves getting to know you and how you work, so I think it’s only fair that you have the opportunity to get to know me a bit first!

Secondly, there’s a lot of information flying around on the internet on the subject of handhelds and smartphones, much of it contradictory. Some of it is news, some of it is opinions; like any other form of medium, there’s great stuff out there and there’s a lot of not-so-great stuff out there. I work in the field of handheld computing; it’s my business to know about the technology and how to best use it. Being a qualified electronics technician, I’m pretty familiar with what technology can and can’t do. I’ve worked with RF (radio frequency) gear, computer equipment, networking gear, and many other forms of common technology (I’ve even fixed VCR’s!). I’ve built every computer I’ve ever owned from Parts, and I’ve worked on every form of Windows since 3.11 through to XP. I’ve also worked with DOS, CP/M, Linux, Solaris and HP-UX Unix, Mac’s and embedded devices, on top of having owned and used 5 PDA’s in my daily life. I don’t know if that makes me an “expert”, but I’d say I’m pretty skilled in a variety of areas!

Thirdly, I like to educate my clients, not only to actual products, but to trends… where things are going. I’ve been a small business person before working at some large Hi-Tech companies (and now back to being a small business person!), so I like to inform people about stuff that could be of interest to them. I could put this stuff into a “newsletter” and send it to people directly, but the way I see it, there’s already too much stuff being shoved into peoples faces on a daily basis. A blog can be useful to those who want to know about these things; they can read it whenever they choose. I’ll be archiving them on the website, so you’ll always be able to return to read it again.

At some point in the near future we may end up reporting “news” that relates to handhelds and smartphones on this website. I’m clearly defining lines between my “blog” (basically, my opinions) and “news” (facts, or information reported by other sources). I do have a background in media as a former “techie” in Radio and Television broadcasting, and I feel strongly about how I report any news that will appear on this site. I will always try to present news without bias; I will reserve my blogs for my actual opinions regarding said news.

These blogs will be a permanent fixture on this website. Since moving to our new webhost, I’ve been migrating content to leverage the new backend server’s capabilities (Apache & Zope/DTML). In the future, I may be taking advantage of other features of a Zope server, like CMF (Content Management Framework) and products that sit on top of CMF, in order to make managing the site easier. I expect that I’ll be able to have the “permanent links” on the blog entries actually be permanent, but they might change (read: break) if I can’t make the blogs work with CMF. I will always ensure that a search feature or sitemap is available, so if things do get moved, you will be able to find them again.

Thanks for reading my blog! I’m thinking that I’ll be publishing a new one each Monday. Stay tuned for my next blog; it got started due to an e-mail I received from a client regarding Windows Mobile (aka Pocket PC) handhelds, because he “heard from someone” that Palm OS was “on the way out”. See ya next week!

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