David Shier's blog

Saving money on hotels with Windows Mobile

This month, we were asked to talk about what is the most creative thing we've done with our Windows Mobile device. At first, I was thinking about a few custom applications I have written for my "day job". But then, I thought it would be more interesting to discuss something that anyone can do using nothing but the built-in applications.

So here's a little story about how I saved money on a hotel room with the help of my Windows Mobile phone - and not with William Shatner.


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My Everyday Application

When asked what is the one third-party Windows Mobile application I use everyday, I really had to think about the choice. I have a number of "must have" applications I use all the time and don't think I could live without.

Certainly DeveloperOne's Agenda Fusion is high on my list, but I suppose I could get along with the built-in Contacts and Calendar if I had to.

Also, I have gotten hooked on Spb Brain Evolution and run through it's "training" program each day I have the opportunity. On the other hand, while stimulating, it's certainly not my "must have" application.

But the one program that I use everyday that I couldn't live without is: Ilium Software's eWallet.

Ilium's eWallet


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It’s all about “Main Memory”

For me, saving space on my Windows Mobile device means pushing as much as I can to the memory card. Cards are extremely cheap these days and there’s no reason not to have one in your Pocket PC or Smartphone.

Main memory, on the other hand, is limited, and when it’s full, the performance of the device degrades.

The first tip I can offer is to choose to install all applications to the storage card with the exception of any programs that launch via hardware keys.


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The Truth About Major WM OS Upgrades

Windows Mobile 6.0 has been announced, and now the fun discussions begin. You can read about the new OS in various places - including an article I wrote that will appear in the next issue of Smartphone and Pocket PC Magazine, but that's not what I'm blogging about today.

There are new features we all would like to see: HTML email is the one I'd like most. And if you have a current model Smartphone, you might be anxious to be able to read Word, Excel and PowerPoint file attachments on your device as this screen shot shows:

Excel file on a WM 6.0 Smartphone

But before you get too excited, you might want to read on for a bit of a reality check...


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Will the Music Industry Change Its DRM Tune?

Yesterday, Steve Jobs joined most of the public in calling for an end to DRM (Digital Rights Management) for music files. Aside from a fair bit of self serving statements in his "Thoughts on Music" (see below), I think it's great that Jobs has brought the subject to the mass media's attention. Will Microsoft weigh in on this debate?

If you live in a cave, don't use your Windows Mobile device as a music player, or are one of the three people under 30 that doesn't own an iPod, then you might not be aware of this issue. In a nutshell, in order to "prevent" piracy, the music industry requires downloadable music files to be encoded with a key that limits how and where you can copy the file. In practice, this DRM encoding doesn't prevent any piracy and only makes it harder for honest people to use the media content that they paid for.

DRM doesn't just apply to music either. It's used for video and even electronic copies of books (known as eBooks.) The problems faced with DRM encoded music apply to other types of media as well.

Before I get into the solutions Jobs is suggesting, let's look at some of the problems.


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Is MicroSD Too Large For You?

MicroSD Card
While MicroSD cards, like the one above are now appearing with 2GB or more, that's nothing compared to what we may see in the future:

Researchers at Caltech and UCLA have managed to create a 16K byte memory circuit that is the size of a white blood cell!

At that density, it works out to over 100 gigabits per square centimeter - almost 10 times as dense as currently available memory devices (such as the Kingston MicroSD card above.)

One of the studen


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Windows Mobile Blogging (Part 2)

Over a year ago, I reported here about an experiment in which I wrote a blog entry on a Windows Mobile device.


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The Apple iPhone: The Hits, Misses and Omissions

First, to be clear, I’m blogging on a Windows Mobile site, and I’m a Windows Mobile MVP, so you can certainly assume I have a bias. However, this bias perhaps only adds balance to the general hype surrounding the iPhone announcement. Certainly there’s no greater hype than Steve Jobs’ keynote speech itself where he said: “Every once in a while a revolutionary product comes along that changes everythingâ€. That’s quite a claim, and in case you don’t want to read this whole posting, I will tell you now that, unlike the iPod before it, I seriously doubt that this cool looking phone will ever live up to such a statement.

Apple iPhone

In any case, please read on and judge for yourself.


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A Video Projector for your Smartphone?

Tonight was a "Press only" preview event before the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in Las Vegas. There were a number of products that I think will be of interest to Smartphone and Pocket PC Magazine readers, and I will write more about them here. But one stands out as being being the most innovative. It's a tiny color video projector that can fit in a Pocket PC or Smartphone. While it's not available yet, the company did demo it for us and it was nothing short of amazing.

The device uses three lazers - one for each of the primary colors - to project the image.


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Looking for a nice gift for your "high tech" honey?

Are you looking for a gift for that really special "someone"?

How about a limited edition Windows Mobile Smartphone?

The specs are nice: quad band GSM, GPRS/EDGE data, Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, Mini-SD slot (with a 2GB card included), 4M pixel camera.

The styling is great! The case is titanium! Oh yeah, there's a couple of diamonds too!

The best part: Your "significant other" will have the pleasure of knowing that anyone they meet will have never seen another phone like it.


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Does Anybody Know What Time It Is?

User Cheesmo1 posted a question on the message board of the Los Angeles Windows Mobile Users Group about a problem he encountered when using appointments while traveling. You can read the question and my reply here: LA Pocket PC Message Board

To paraphrase the issue raised: Cheesmo1 had an upcoming appointment in another city, it might have been a lunch meeting in New York. So he would have entered this appointment at 12:00PM on the day he was going to be in New York. Unfortunately, when he traveled from Los Angeles to New York and changed the Pocket PC's time zone to Eastern Time, he discovered that his lunch appointment now appeared in Outlook at 3:00PM! Plus, all his other appointment times changed as well. He was naturally confused by this odd behavior and wanted to know how he is expected to enter appointments for use in different locations.

Time Zone Setup Screen

Ah the infamous Outlook time zone bug! I know that a few people actually call this behavior a feature, but in my (not so humble) opinion, it's just a poorly thought out design that was clearly never intended for mobile computing.

This issue has been discussed since the first Windows CE based Handheld PCs. The problem itself traces back even earlier - as it is an inherent "feature" of Outlook - including the first version for the desktop.

There are a number of ways to deal with how Outlook deals with time zones and we'll discuss them here, but first, let's look and why Outlook behaves the way it does…


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Quick Text Transfers

If you're like me, you sometimes want to cut and paste text from your PC to your Windows Mobile device or vice versa. For example, I found a nice RSS feed, but the URL (the text you type into the "web site name" box was incredibly long. The chances of my copying it from my PC screen to the RSS reader on my Pocket PC without errors was close to nil.


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Losing My Memory

I have one of the really cool i-mate JasJar's (aka HTC Universal) Pocket PC Phones. It's a great device but one thing it's lacking is storage space. Sure I have a 2GB SD card in it, but some programs (like Voice Command, and Agenda Fusion) really want to be in main memory.

Despite this, being very judicious about what I stored in main memory seemed to work well. At least for a while. Then available storage memory got down to less than a megabyte! Where did it all go, and more importantly, how could I get it back?

Well, I managed with just a couple of deletes to go from 0.72MB free to 13.48. Here's how…


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Another "crash" for Gizmondo

This week there was another twist in the bizarre story of the ill-fated Windows CE 5.0 powered Gizmondo gaming device.

You might have heard the news about a million dollar Ferrari Enzo crashing in Malibu California with someone claiming to be the passenger stating that the driver left the scene on foot! Well it turns out that this "passenger" was the owner of the car and the former Executive Director of Gizmondo.

While the whole story is yet to be told, here's what we do know about both the crash of the Ferrari and the crash of Gizmondo…


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Where is My Windows Mobile Buddy?

One of the first successful handheld computers was the 200LX from Hewlett-Packard. This was a DOS-based clamshell "palmtop" computer. Like our Windows Mobile devices, it was a great tool all by itself. However, there were a number of "annoyances" that users had to contend with. But a clever programmer named Jeff Mattox developed a utility called "Buddy" that implemented a number of keyboard macros. Now where is Buddy for Windows Mobile?

The way that Buddy worked on the HP 200LX was that it looked at the display for "clues" as to what program was running, then it modified the function of certain keys on the keyboard or changed the way data was displayed. For example, there was a program on the 200LX somewhat like File Explorer, but lacking the ability to "auto launch" programs. Buddy allowed you to open documents, files, etc. by highlighting them and pressing the Enter key. This saved keystrokes.

Buddy also improved the display for certain programs - much the way Agenda Fusion and Pocket Informant make the Pocket Outlook programs work better for us now.


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RSS Feeds for Windows Mobile

If you are not familiar with internet "news readers", here's a chance to make some great discoveries.

A news reader displays information from the Internet in a special format called RSS. Exactly what RSS stands for is open for debate. Some call it Real Simple Syndication or Rich Site Summary, or something similar, but whatever you call it, RSS delivers content in a format that is ideal for the Pocket PC or Smartphone.


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Customer "Service" at T-mobile

Well this was an interesting week for me. On Wednesday I missed a call and my Pocket PC indicated that I had a voicemail waiting. So I went to retrieve the message and I was surprised to hear "The wireless subscriber you are trying to reach is unavailable at this time." I thought that was strange, so I tried again. After a couple of attempts, I dialed 611 for support.

Oh what fun! First I get an interactive voice response system that asks me why I'm calling. While I truly dislike these impersonal systems, I have to admit that this one is quite impressive.


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Secure web sites with WM5.0

This week I received my first Windows Mobile 5.0 Pocket PC in the form of the HTC Universal. While admittedly, this is the largest and heaviest Pocket PC Phone (outside of the ruggedized industral units from companies like Symbol), it has more "WOW" factor than any other I've seen.

It looks like a mini version of a convertible Tablet PC, with a landscape keyboard and a "flip-around" VGA resolution screen that can be used in landscape mode with the keyboard, or vertically like a conventional Pocket PC. It also has not one, but two cameras!


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Patently Unjust?

While not (yet) a Windows Mobile issue, the ongoing saga of RIM's patent infringement battle with NTP may soon affect all mobile devices. RIM is the maker of the "Blackberry" wireless email devices and NTP is a "patent holding company".

Patent holding companies don't actually produce any products, but instead make money by buying patent rights and then getting real companies to pay them money to license various technology. The problem is that our patent system is severely broken. Patents are no longer issued only for actual inventions, but even for ways of doing business.


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Blogging on the run

Since this is a Windows Mobile blog, and since I'm the Wireless Editor here, I thought it would be appropriate for me to post a message directly from my Pocket PC. I'm using an HTC Blueangel device (that's the one with the slide down keyboard ala Blackberry style.)

This will be a short post since it's taken me about five minutes to get this far. It is worth noting that I've been saying for a while that I think all the hype about the Blackberry is just that - hype. This painful experience of pecking out a few sentences is one of the main reasons why.


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