Tech will be exciting in 2010


I’m looking forward to an exciting year.  In addition to moving my career in new direction, there’s a lot of cool tech that I hope to get my hands on and that I’m working with right now.

  • Atlassian Confluence  is a combination of web site, content distribution system, wiki, and content management system.  I’m currently developing an intranet site using it, may be expanding that into an extranet and, maybe too, into a public web site.  Although not open source, it’s not too expensive, and has developed an ecosystem of developers and fans who help provide tools and support. For more info, click here.
  • iPhone 4 rumors are swirling.  My wish list is a replaceable battery, better battery life, an integrated task list via Exchange Active Sync, and (though it will never happen) the ability to manage music without having to use iTunes.  In the past week, I’ve seen release dates in March, April, and June.   Whatever.  I don’t think I’m eligible for an upgrade until late summer.  And then, maybe there will be a Nexus Two.
  • The Apple Tablet is probably the most hotly rumored bit of hardware right now. I don’t think I want one, but it would be so cool to have one.  It’s yet another step closer to Star Trek.  My real decision in this area this year will be whether to repair or replace my existing laptop computer and, if replacing it, to stay with Windows, go with Linux, or get a Mac.

2010 is going to be a better year, personally, professionally, and technologically.

Smartphone wars: Android, Apple, and Microsoft

In an article in the Washington Post, MG Siegler explains what’s really going on in the battle for smartphone OS dominance.


…Google knows that the Droid isn’t an iPhone killer. Instead, it’s likely the best device they have so far to kill their real competitors: Symbian and especially Windows Mobile. Repeat after me: Android is trying to kill Windows Mobile, not the iPhone.


It’s a good read. Eric Schmidt has been targeting Microsoft for a long, long time.

AT&T Upgrading the 3G network

Hooray!  AT&T has announced upgrades to its 3G network to HSPA 7.2 in Charlotte, Chicago, Dallas, Houston, Los Angeles and Miami.  According to their press release, HSPA 7.2 can support 7.2 Mbps. Of course, this in itself doesn’t help my 3G (no "S")  iPhone.  The important part of the announcement comes several paragraphs down:

As HSPA 7.2 is rolled out in each U.S. market, it will be supported by substantial additional wireless backhaul, the critical connections that carry traffic from cell sites to AT&T’s IP backbone network.

If I read this correctly, it means that the network will be able to support more devices pulling more data. That’s a real benefit.

To the degree that one can feel warm and fuzzy about TPC, I have to say "Good job, guys!"

AT&T and the iPhone


The New York Times reports Customers Angered as iPhones Overload AT&T.  Really?  Actually, it’s not all that bad here in Chicago, but when a 3G cell gets saturated, data speeds drop to nothing. My big gripe is that voice mail often loses touch with the phone.  I get no indication of a failed call or voice mail until I reboot my phone and it suddenly discovers 4 messages.

Back to the article:


AT&T’s right to be the exclusive carrier for iPhone in the United States has been a golden ticket for the wireless company. The average iPhone owner pays AT&T $2,000 during his two-year contract — roughly twice the amount of the average mobile phone customer.

And the bad news

The company has also delayed bandwidth-heavy features like multimedia messaging, or text messages containing pictures, audio or video. It is also postponing “tethering,” which allows the iPhone to share its Internet connection with a computer, a standard feature on many rival smartphones.

At the same time, ATT is now promoting netbooks, as well as 3G "modems" for notebooks. What effect are they going to have on the network and will they cause ATT to further delay tethering?  And why do I get either 0 or 5 bars at my desk?

In Sync — email, contacts, and calendar

I’ve finally untethered my iPhone from iTunes, at least for keeping my calendar and contacts up to date.  I’m using Thunderbird to manage email, contacts, and calendar, and using Google as a back end to keep it all synchronized between the iPhone, my Linux desktop, my Windows Vista notebook, and Google Apps on the web.

This will work with any Google mail account, whether it’s or a google apps account like and will work with any phone that can synchronize directly with Microsoft Exchange.

  1. Contacts
    1. Import contacts into Thunderbird from Outlook.  The steps are here.
    2. Install the gContactSync addon for Thunderbird.
  2. Calendar.
    1. Install Lightning as an addon to Thunderbird. 
    2. Synchronize your Outlook calendar with Google using the free tool from Google.
    3. Install the Provider for Google Calendar as an addon for Thunderbird.
    4. Create a new calendar in Thunderbird following these directions.
  3. On the phone, create an Exchange account that points to your Google account and enable Calendar and Contacts.

Be sure to back up all of your address books, calendars, and phones first, just in case.

Turn by turn directions on the iPhone

Navigant and TomTom have both issued iPhone apps that provide turn-by-turn directions like their dedicated GPS devices. In today’s Wall Street Journal, TomTom says that the app won’t cannibalize their GPS device market, and I tend to agree. I’m not going to ditch my GPS for an iPhone app.

I have a Magellan on the dashboard of my car, and I think I’ll stick with a dedicated GPS device. The dedicated devices have brighter, larger screens.  They also work where there’s no 3G service.  As I’m driving through an unfamiliar city or out in the middle of nowhere at relatively high speeds, I don’t want to get lost because ATT’s 3G network has disappeared. 


The WSJ article also points out that the phone and navigation app can’t run at the same time, so if I call ahead for directions, I lose the real-time map of where I am.


I think I’ll wait until I can see what’s available for the Apple tablet.



Two Good Ideas

columbiaHighSchoolThe other day, I woke at 4AM from the looking for the classroom dream.  You know the one — You’re in a long corridor, looking in each door, trying to figure out what class you’re supposed to be in.  In this one, I remember running towards the building, sort of a cross between the central tower at my high school and a Gothic collegiate building.  As I went through the arched doors, there were corridors radiating off in front of me, with an empty information desk.  I didn’t have any notebooks, nothing to write with, and no clear idea of which class I needed to go to.  I just knew I needed to be somewhere and I was late. At least, in this particular dream, I was wearing pants.


When I woke up, I wondered why I had the dream at that time, then remembered that as I was running down the hallways, I was patting my pockets looking for my iPhone.  Didn’t have that in high school or college!  So, here’s the first good idea.  As they say, “There’s an app for that.”  An iPhone app that integrates into a schools course management system that knows where you are, what classes are there, and which you’re supposed to be in. In addition, it syncs your notes and assignments.  It’s also tied into the iPhone calendar.  It shouldn’t be too hard to create such an app, tied into Blackboard, Moodle, or one of the other LMS platforms.


The second idea is the first line for a story.  “Four AM is the time of the dark muse.”

Cleaning up iTunes

It should have been easy. I cleaned up some longstanding music organization issues on my notebook and started iTunes to let it catch up. It wound up creating duplicate entries for several hundred songs — marked as unavailable, but duplicates nonetheless. It turns out there's no easy way to tell iTunes to remove deleted files from the library. This guy has it figured out.

iPhone apps I actually use

It would be cool if there were an app that told you what apps you use. Of the 4 screens of apps on my phone, the ones that get used the most are the built-ins (iTunes, iPod, calendar, mail, safari, maps), and those relating to news and weather (AP Mobile, NYTimes, WeatherBug) and, of course, Facebook. Now I’m pondering whether I should reorder the apps so the most frequently used are on one screen. (There’s another app that would be useful, one to reorder apps by name or by frequency of use or by recency of use.)