Donnerstag, 31. Juli 2008

I don't want to be pushed be email!

Nokia stopped the development of Blackberry Connect for the new E-Series devices in favor for their own service. The new Nokia Email is in public beta now for selected N-Series and E-Series devices. It works great. Get an account, connect it to an existing email service you already have, install the client software and that's it. Every time, a mail gets pushed to my device, it makes a sound, which makes me looking up the Active Standby screen where it shows up.

No matter, what I am working on. I am just creating a new project plan ... ping ... I have a new mail. In a meeting ... bzzzt ... I have a new mail. In the car, while listening to a podcast ... ping ... the E51 builds up a connection to my car's radio, while my iPod continues to play the podcast (which I could not hear anymore, because my phone took over the radio) ... but I have new mail.

But wait. As beeing a GTD'ish self management geek, the first thing I do with every email client is disabling the new-email-notification. I recommend this to everyone. This helps me working on whatever, without beeing interrupted so often.

And now push email??? This is even worse than the desktop new-email-notification by a margin. With push email, incoming emails do not only interrupt me while working on my desk. They interrupt me everywhere, where I took my phone with me! Hurray!

I uninstalled it to get rid of the annoying pings, this is not the right thing for me. But this experience brought me to the thought:

Is push email the right thing for anyone?

Or is it just something, technologically possible, so everyone wants it? For those, who now the Hitchhiker's Guide through the galaxy (and probably most people reading blogs do): Is it like something from the Sirius Cybernetics Corporation? I forgot the original wording from the book (please comment, if you know). But if people finally make their products work, they are so happy about it, that they miss that the products are completely useless.

Is push email such a thing? Blackberry built up their company on offering mobile push service. They became one of the largest suppliers for smartphones, just because they made push email working. All other smartphone developers have to catch up with Blackberry, so does Nokia now.

But what for???

I really can't think of a situation, where push email would really make sense to me. In my job, communication is essential. If I would ever be in a situation, where I urgently wait for an email, I could always set my good old "pull" email to refresh within minutes. But in fact, I might have been in this situation not more than a handfull of times in the last few years.  If someone needs to contact me urgently, he or she would call me on the phone. And if I can not take this call, then the caller would leave a message on my voice maibox. Email is something, that could wait at least a few hours. Something I will work through in batch. If anyone could explain, why push email is usefull, please drop me a comment.

So no mobile email?

No, don't get me wrong. I am an excessive email user. Waiting some 15 minutes at the customers waiting room, waiting for boarding a plane or other situations like that are great for working through my newly received email. As I work for a very large company, I get many mails which are not so important for me. There are some, which I quickly read and then delete, and some are completely useless for me. Working through all these not-so-important emails has a big point for me: when I am back at my desk, I will only find those emails in my inbox, I really have to work on. This saves me a lot of time and helps me focus on the things which are really important.

So mobile email is great ... I just don't want to be pushed by it!

Donnerstag, 24. Juli 2008

Good bye Palm ... and get the Android

I have been a Palm user for many years, starting with a Vx in 2000. But I said good bye to Palm the second time. The first time, I tried to switch to Windows mobile. But this did not work for me, so I switched back to Palm on a Treo 680. Palm devices have always been good 1st generation PDA's and smartphones for me. What I mean with 1st generation is a gadget with contacts-, calendar- and ToDo-management, some photo viewing and Email of course. The Palm did all of this satisfying most of the time.

But is has aged. The last noticeable update has been 5 years or more ago. Palm OS has tricky memory management, requiring much deep diving into systems internals to keep everything running. And it has no multi tasking. Though I don't need heavy multitasking on a phone, sometimes it is nice to have it. And be it only to check my calendar while doing a phone call.

Though old does not always mean bad, Palm devices are now failing on many standard functionalities, which most standard phones offer. But what is worse, is that my Treo 680 often fail on just phone calls. Sometimes, I could not hear the caller, sometimes he could not hear me. I always had to reboot to fix this. And after reboot, the Treo lost it's clock settings. Other things, Palm devices lack:
  • The cameras are just a joke. The VGA camera of the Treo 680 or the slightly better, but still messy XGA camera of the Centro: Even the worst cameras of all the other phones have at least 2 mega pixels and take way better photos.
  • The old Bluetooth 1.x stack is crappy.
  • The Treo is fat and heavy. A modern phone should not be more than half as thick as the Treo. Just take a look at the Nokia E71, to see what is possible today. On on the other hand: if someone builds a phone that is that thick, he should make sure that it is at least as feature packed as the Nokia N95-8GB.
  • Mobile internet gets more and more important. But there is no useable browser for Palm OS. Though Opera mini is a good one in general, it sucks on Palm OS due to it's crappy Java stack.
Event Palm's newest devices can not fix this. OK, the Centro is slimmer. But it's keyboard and display is too small also and all the other reasons still apply. Even the new Treo 800w just tries to catch up to usual standards. And though it's 2 mega pixel camera will be the best, Palm ever offered it will be - again - behind other business smartphones like the Nokia E71 with it's 3.2 mp camera with LED flash. And even worse, the Treo 800w will be offered with Windows mobile, at least for now. There is no announcement to offer a similar device with Palm OS.

Sorry Palm. It has been a good time, but so many years without innovation brought you to the end of the field.

And what does Palm do now? They try to develop their own mobile Linux! What the hell drove them to this idea? Why on earth would anyone would want another mobile Linux? What is the point in a highly fragmented mobile Linux market? Though old, Palm OS gets much value out of its endless software catalog. But who would develop for a Palm only Linux, which would maybe catch up 5% market share?

The leading mobile systems are now Symbian, Blackberry the iPhone and Windows mobile. These Platforms are, what 99% of mobile developers are developing for. Maybe mobile Linux will gain market share, if there is one major distribution the developers can rely on. If anyone has the power to unite the mobile Linux world, then it is Google with it's Open Handset Alliance.

So here is my advice to Palm: Drop your own Linux distribution and go for the Android. Build great devices with latest features. And if you still have some development resources left, offer some additional software features. There is so much differentiation, that can be done without an own operating system. You failed on Palm OS 6. You failed on the Foleo. I really don't want to see you fail again, because this time it could be the last time.

Freitag, 16. Mai 2008

The S60 Calendar and categories

I switched from Palm OS and Agendus to Symbian a few weeks ago. As I rely heavily on my GTD like self management, catetorzing all my todo's and dates is a must. To my big surprise, the S60 calendar does not support categories! Already my Palm Vx from 1999 did! I did some research on this. Because of the modular architecture of Nokias Symbian phones, it was not clear who would be responsible for that. Is it a limitation of Symbian OS, of the S60 frontend or is it Nokia, who build my E51? Starting at the ground, I first took a look at the S60 programmer documentation. Using the search on, I found'Using the new Symbian OS v9 Calendar API'. There you will find the following: "The Calendar API replaces the Agenda API that was present in versions of Symbian OS prior to v9.1, and provides functionality according to the standard RFC 2445, which defines the iCalendar standard, a common format for openly exchanging calendar and scheduling information across the internet. "... " Categories One or more category types, defined in TCalCategoryType, can be associated with calendar entries. The predefined types include: ECalAppointment, ECalBusiness, ECalHoliday, ECalMeeting, ECalMiscellaneous, ECalPersonal, ECalPhoneCall, ECalSickDay, ECalSpecialOccasion, ECalTravel and ECalVacation. The type is specified when the category object is created. Categories are used similarly to attendee lists, with a CCalCategory object and AddCategoryL() and CategoryListL() methods. The CCalCategoryManager object can be used to add or delete user-defined categories and to filter calendar entries by category asynchronously." So it looks like that Symbian OS is not the problem.

I just have been in contact with Pockettorch, the makers of AquaCalendar and AquaSync. They confirmed me, that the Symbian OS calendar database already supports calendar categories. They now it, because their AquaCalendar already use these. Because the Nokia sync tool also does not support categories, they made their own AquaSync, which does it.

Nokia, this is a shame. This is absolute basic functionality, if you want to be taken serious in the smartphone market. Sure, on all smartphone platforms, you would better replace the built in calendar with a more functional 3rd party product, if you are a heavy calendar user. But for basic functionality, users should not have to go for 3rd party products. Looking on the S60 website, I found a page where users can vote for their most wanted apps. There is already a wish for Outlook categories sync with S60 calendar, but it has only 25 votes. So if you want categories in the calendar app, here is your chance to make your vote count.

I don't know if it is anything good for, but maybe it is worth trying...

UPDATE: As we now have, use the following link instead:

Donnerstag, 15. Mai 2008

This is a BLOG about all these toys I love to play, and sometimes work, with. These are gadgets like Smartphones and PDA's, GPS navigation, computers (mostly Mac's), video consoles and what else I found for digital home entertainment. Working in the enterprise software industry, in my freetime I figure out what the funny aspects of tech are. But as I heavily rely on some of these techniques for my work, eg. Smartphones for self management and GPS navigation for business trips, these aspects sometimes get mixed up. Also I do my own way of GTD or ZTD like self management, so I will sometimes drop an article about that.

Language disclaimer: This is my first BLOG in English, trying to reach a broader audience then with the predecessor 'Arnes Tüddelkram'. So please be kind if you will find some wierd English here, just drop me a note.