A Painful Kick In the Pants ...

Having registered my iPaq 211 back in 2008, I am on HP's mailing list for critical updates and alerts. While there haven't been too many over the last three years (only two if memory serves), a new one sent this past Tuesday can certainly be a bit of a pain for people who are still running the stock operating system and using CFIO cards … namely service technicians, warehouse staff, insurance adjusters, and the occasional executive.

When the iPaq 210-series PDAs were released, there was a bit of a problem with the Compact Flash drivers that came with Windows Mobile 6. Updates since have resolved the driver issue, but there can still be problems for some who installed a CFIO card before installing the updated drivers. So what's the fix? It's not pretty.

Wipe your PDA and start over.

Yes … according to HP, these are the steps a person must perform to resolve this problem:

HP iPaq 21x Series PDA CFIO Fix


If someone was holding out on replacing their ageing Hewlett Packard PDAs because they didn't want to re-install a bunch of software, tweak settings, and get things back to normal … now is the time to jump ship to a newer device.

All things said, this will not affect a large number of people. I used my PDA daily for over two years and never once ran into trouble with Compact Flash cards, though I will admit that I rarely ever touched the form factor. The one thing I took away from this critical alert, aside from the fact that HP is still supporting these End-Of-Life devices, is that mobile operating systems have come a long way in just a few short years.  If someone loses their iOS or Android device, they can get a new one and have it completely restored in less time than it takes to drink a cup of coffee. Windows Mobile 6? Not so easy (without expensive 3rd party software).

The last time I took a fresh Windows Mobile installation and configured it just the way I liked, it took the better part of five hours.  I can't imagine too many IT people looking forward to doing this for devices that are undoubtedly bruised and beaten with years of wear.

Wonder how many people will actually follow these steps rather than tough it out until upgrade time ….

Wait ... What?

I make a habit of registering every piece of hardware I buy. Not only for the spam that often accompanies the transmission of a valid email address over the Internet, but also for important pieces of information such as driver updates and promotions.  Since registering my (retired) HP iPaq 211 PDA, I've received a grand total of 5 updated driver notifications, but none of them had a subject line like this:

HP's Routine Alert Emails

Maybe it's just me, but I really don't like the sound of a "Routine Alert". It makes the product seem unreliable.  Aside from the initial freezing problems I had with the unit, which were fixed by a comprehensive set of software updates, the PDA worked remarkably well right up until February when the screen became much less precise. HP's iPaq line is really quite good.

Hopefully someone in marketing sees this and opens a can of Whoop-Ass on the person who thought up the subject line of this email.  Something along the lines of "Driver Update for Your iPaq PDA" would have gone over much better.

A Week With An iPod

My 3rd Gen iPod Touch in HandIt's been over a week since Gary landed in Japan and delivered a nice 3rd Generation iPod Touch and, after a little difficulty with the initial setup, I must admit that Apple's little "music" device is really, really nice.  When stacked up side-by-side with the relatively new HP iPaq 211 and Samsung Omnia, the iPod trumps them both for portability, lack of weight, and storage.

One of the first things that I noticed (after getting Windows to recognize the device), was just how simple it was to navigate through the applications.  One of the first ones I played with was Maps and, I must admit, I felt a little giddy being able to pinch and swipe my way through the streets of Nagoya.

But Don't You Hate Apple?

Lots of people that know me have been a bit surprised to see that my shirt pocket is no longer sporting the ever-present HP PDA, but many were laughing at my foolishness the second I pulled out the more slender iPod Touch.

"I thought you hated Apple!" they'd say.

"I don't hate Apple, really. I just don't like how the CEO goes about getting things done," I'd reply.  "That said, I can't argue with his track record."

There are countless examples on this very blog where I've gone off on a rant about anything and everything Apple related, be it the AppleTV, the iPhone, or the mindless hordes of fanbois who do little to add value to the brand's image.  However, after spending a week with an iPod Touch and using OS X in a VMWare virtual machine (shh!), I have something to confess:

I was wrong.

Yes. That's right. I've admitted it.  After years and years of expecting computers to require endless amounts of attention for something as simple as a "First-Time Setup", years of expecting to pay at least $50 for the ability to work in a second or third language, years of working with cluttered user interfaces, I have had enough.

Working in a virtual machine on an under-powered notebook is not fun, but even OS X flies relatively well with the limited resources it has available.  After using PDAs using PalmOS and Windows Mobile and dropping lots of cash just for the privilege of being able to display (and sometimes write) in Japanese, the iPod has shown me just how easy it should be to work with other languages.

What About All The Apps?

Of the 20+ applications that I've written for Windows Mobile, none of them have ever caught on.  Windows Mobile is a very niche platform used by people who'd probably rather be using an iPhone.  The most popular application I've ever written for WinMo managed to score just 87 downloads over two years before I pulled the plug on support.  Clearly, I've been holding my breath like an idiot for no reason.  If I really want to make applications that people will use, I need to look at Apple's solutions.

Which brings me to one of my biggest gripes about switching from Windows Mobile to iPhoneOS: the development tools.

In order for me to program decently attractive Windows Mobile applications, I needed to buy Visual Studio for an unholy amount of cash.  Cash I could have otherwise used to buy a MacBook Pro, and two iPod Touches … it was that expensive.  In order for me to write software for the iPhone, I downloaded some software for free from Apple's development website, which included the iPhoneOS SDK that I needed in order to get started making programs.

Talk about a d'Oh moment …

So Now You'll Ditch Windows?

I highly doubt I'll ever ditch Windows, or even developing software for Windows.  Windows has been a part of my life for so long that I'd feel weird without it.  Besides, most people who ask me to write software for them are looking for Windows tools … it would be stupid of me to abandon the platform.  I will, however, begin working more with the Apple platform.  If that means buying a MacBook at some point in the future, then so be it.  However, I have no plans on ever being a fanboi like so many of the trolls that we see patrolling the Internet.  Windows has its place in the world, just like OS X, Ubuntu, and almost every other platform out there.

Now that I've got all that out in the open, it's time to start playing with the iPhone SDK.  I have some plans for a relatively slick Sudoku game in mind and, after that, I'll hope to begin writing software for people on Guru.com.  The goal is to become proficient enough writing quality iPhoneOS-based apps that I can pretty much write my own paycheck through freelancing.

Have I waited too long to get into Apple's game?  Did you have a similar rush of empowerment the first time you used an iPhone or iPod Touch?  Have an idea for an app, but not sure how to get it written?  I'd love to hear your thoughts.

Comparing the Devices (Click for Full-Size Image):

Side By Side: iPaq 211, Samsung Omnia, iPod TouchSide By Side (Edge): iPaq 211, Samsung Omnia, iPod Touch

Migrating from Outlook to Google

GMail BoxMicrosoft Outlook has played an important role in my life for the better part of a decade.  Aside from the added benefit of easily synchronizing with the various Palm and HP PDAs I've owned throughout the years, it has offered the ability to easily synchronize with the Exchange servers found at various employers.  However, after many years of faithful service, I've decided to move to something else: Google.

Don't get me wrong here; I really enjoy using Outlook.  I've been an avid fan of Outlook since 2002, and have been using the 2003 version since a few weeks after the release of the Office 2003 suite.  That said, some recent happenings have forced my hand.

Earlier last week I had tried to renew some of my services with GoDaddy, a company that I've had #GoDaddy? I can't add or update my PayPal information? Why the **** am I still wasting my time with you?" href="http://twitter.com/matigo/status/7707497327" target="_self">many #GoDaddy. You lose." href="http://twitter.com/matigo/status/7707553026" target="_self">horrible customer and user experiences with.  Unfortunately, I was unable to renew using the balance in my PayPal account, despite the company's acceptance of PayPal in the shopping cart.  According to someone in customer support, they require services such as websites be renewed via credit card; something that has not been necessary until recently, apparently.  What this means is that the various domains that I've had registered with the company as well as my email services will not be renewable via my preferred method.  Considering the number of headaches and problems I've had with the company for simple things like registering domains, managing hosting packages, #GoDaddyFail" href="http://twitter.com/matigo/statuses/5115002802" target="_self">backing up databases, title="Twitter.com | Hmm … GoDaddy should tell us what language their Support crew are native in … so tired of wrong answers to my support problems -_-" href="http://twitter.com/matigo/status/3176885510" target="_self">contacting customer support, and navigating their administration panel, it's time to call a spade a spade and move on.

Considering Options

As of January 1st, I had decided that any and all work that I need to do for my employer will be done on the computers they give me, rather than my own.  What this means, though, is that I'll need a way to access my email from either system without any headaches.  The first thing I had thought of was going back to using IMAP, but I cannot access the ports required by most IMAP servers from behind my employer's firewall.  While I could go back to using RoundCube on my webhost, I decided that it would probably be better to use a service that is a bit more reliable: Google's.

That said, I didn't want to give up my email address.  I wanted to continue using the various @j2fi.net email addresses that have served me well since their inception.  Luckily, Google has no problem handling this.

Switching to Google in 6-ish Easy Steps

Making the switch to Google is insanely simple.  To be completely honest, I'm surprised that more people aren't doing this with their own domains, yet.  Here's how to do it:

  1. sign up for Google Apps, and enter your domain name

  2. once you log in as admin, re-create your email accounts

  3. point the MX records for your email server to Google's (explained below)

  4. download and install the Google Email Uploader, linking it to your email address

  5. download and install the Google Outlook Connector, linking it to your email address

  6. synchronize your Outlook data with Google

I needed about 6 hours to upload all of my email, contacts, and calendar events … that's over a decade of mail and schedules, with about 200 contacts thrown in for good measure.

Pointing Your MX Records to Google

In order for Google to receive your mail, you'll need to have any email sent to your domain forwarded to Google.  The steps I've listed below are for CPanel, but many hosting interfaces may work in a similar fashion.

First, get the MX values from Google's super-helpful pages.  From there, log into your CPanel and click on the MX Entry icon.

CPanel | MX Entry

Next, enter the MX values that Google provided. Be sure to delete any existing values you might already have.

CPanel | Entering MX Values

After you're done, you should see something like this:

CPanel | Using Google's MX Values

As you can see, I'm not using every address that Google is providing. This is mainly because I don't believe we need to use each and every address, but I could be wrong.

Once all of this was done, I was set and ready to go.  But there was one small thing missing: Synchronization with Windows Mobile.

Sync Google with WinMo

My HP iPaq has played an important role in both my professional and personal life for a long time.  As such, I cannot have it crippled by moving my  email, calendar, and contacts to a service that doesn't support it.  Luckily, though, this isn't the case.  Google provides many mobile synchronization options for all of the major mobile platforms.  After following the simple instructions I was all set and ready to go.

Any nuisances?  Not really.  It took about a day to get used to using "labels" rather than folders to store email, and even less time to get accustomed to how Google Calendar works.  All in all, I'm quite happy with the setup.  The next goal will be to get my hands on a Nexus One, or something equivalent, to complete the assimilation process.