Category Archives: Technology

New Hardware & Finding Solutions

My free time this week has been sadly, offline. The place I am now living has no broadband…at least not yet. The laptop I am borrowing, has to go back, and my computer won’t be in for another week. What is a techno-junkie to do?

Interestingly, the new job has given me a Cingular 8125. Which as I have found is an HTC Pocket PC Phone, running (unfortunately) Windows Mobile 5.0.

When will those Asian Linux based phones make their way over here?

I must admit this “phone” is more a pda with phone capabilities…though it is neat. It syncs up with Exchange server, can connect over available Wifi connections, or the Edge/GPRS phone networks, or bluetooth. This is handy to get and send emails on the fly. It has a slide out keyboard which one might think is neat, but it’s no where near as fast as one might think. Actually, the handwriting recognition is pretty good, and now that I found that input method I use it more and more, and actually see it as a reason to improve my cursive skills.

The one thing I don’t like is that your Contact list in Outlook (on the Exchange server) is you phonebook. Which means many people you would have as email contacts, that you would never call are there to sort through when you want to find someone. The other thing I really don’t like, is this is very much a 2 handed phone. Meaning, if you want to make calls, unless you go with the voice dial, you need to carefully dial buttons on the screen…and make sure you don’t press the phone to your face otherwise you could do any number of things.

That being said, it is a learning curve to use this as a phone successfully, and whether I will really be happy with not having that tactile feel of real buttons to dial with or not, remains to be seen.

One neat thing I have read about and has taken me a couple days to get working, is infact using this phone as a modem. At the moment I am connected to the phone via usb cable, and have dialed onto the GPRS network to access the internet. It works, and although the signal isn’t the best here, it claims I am getting 230kbs (at least on modem connection speed).

One major fault I have with this phone, in that I am not surprised with it being Windows, is that the first day I had it….It CRASHED! Not only that, it crashed once a day for the first 3 days. I think its just a matter of learning how to use Windows. In Linux, one becomes used to running tons of programs at once….and wuth this just clicking on all the applications to see what they do, leaves them running on the phone.

Now I recall from when I used Windows, that applications would often tell you to close other applications while running…I assume they have carried this trait over to the phones and more than 3-4 apps running bogs down the phone and it crashes. WTF? I have a phone that sometimes can’t be used as a phone? When this crashes, you have to pull the battery to restart it. And apparently I haven’t found the setting to save settings, because I notice a lot of things go back to their defaults after “rebooting”…Its nice to know that the reboot feature, Windows users are so familiar with, has made it way to other hardware.

I hope Windows never makes its way into my car.

Update: Transfer speeds are actually modem speeds. I am getting a max of 5KB/s

A Linux Soul in a Windows World

EvolutionAs I start work with a new company, I exposed to all sorts of strange and wonderful things. First off, they provided me with an email account. Apparently they run MS Exchange Server, and there is something I have never seen before called OWA or Outlook Web Access.

So I point my happy Firefox browser to the website and log in. Its webmail with calendar and whatnot. No folders along the side, or easy access to drag and drop…but its web mail so what should I expect? Except, I am told by a friend that OWA looks different if you use Internet Explorer.

“Oh really?”, I ask. So I flip the bit on User Agent Switcher in Firefox to report that I am IE6 on Windows XP (and no longer Firefox 1.5 on Linux). Lo and behold, it does look different. Granted not everything works, but I can see a folder tree in the sidebar, and the display is obviously different.

At this point, it really is not functional, so I go back to telling it, I am Firefox. My next step was to see how it works with actual IE6, which I have installed to run using Wine. I only use IE6 to just see what the unwashed masses might see on my websites.

From IE6 under Wine, I can log in, but I can’t get to the companies internal website, nor to the place to read my mail…so that is useless. I find humor in the fact that I can read my email using Firefox, but not using IE6…not sure why it refuses to work, but its not that important for me to delve into it.

It took me a bit of time to figure out what was going on in OWA, and where certain settings were, etc. The first thing I looked for, was how to change my password…and apparently that feature, isn’t available in their set up. The IT guy said I can only do in internally, and I have to change it using Ctrl-Alt-Delete. I will take him at his word since that key combination just runs shutdown -r now for me in linux.

After playing with OWA, I found it to be unacceptable for day-to-day communcations. Its cute and easy if I need quick access to email from the road, but it is certainly something that will not work for me long term.

My main email app is Thunderbird, or Gmail on the web, I had heard there was a way to get Thunderbird talking to Exchange Server, but it was more complicated than I cared, and it did not access all of the features. I saw this as the perfect opportunity to try out Evolution, which I had tried years back as an email client, but didn’t like it because it tried too hard to be like Outlook, and Outlook did not allow me to use my email the way most efficient to me. (I come from the PMMail/2 days, and Thunderbird most resembles the interface of PMMail)

It took me about 2 minutes to configure Evolution, just needed the OWA Url and my username and password. I was connected to Exchange, had access to the calendars, shared folders, task lists, etc. It worked, and as far as I can tell, does everything you can do in Outlook. The one thing not configured is the Global Address List. The only reason for this is the IT guy has no idea what I am talking about, and has yet to provide me the location of the Active Directory Server, since it is not at the same address as the Exchange Server.

After using Evolution for a few days, it has enabled me to efficiently integrate Exchange Mail into my work flow.