Introducing The BarackBerry

January 23, 2009

Unlike McCain, who allegedly does not use a computer, President Obama is addicted to technology and especially to Blackberries.  And he allegedly was very reluctant to give up his Blackberry upon being sworn in as President.

Do do?

Give him a BarackBerry, of course!

Here’s what he most likely will receive: a Sectéra Edge by General Dynamics.

According to General Dynamic’s product details page, here are some of the features that makes it different and more secure than our typical Blackberries:

  • Secure phone, email, and web browsing via several different secure networks
  • Designed to withstand rigors of everyday use
  • Capable of connecting to GSM, CMDA, and WiFi networks
  • Accepts various security network cards / keys
  • Has classified serial and USB ports as well as unclassified ports
  • Has an additional “trusted” display
  • Sports a stylus (have you seen another Blackberry with a stylus?!  I think not!)

How much?  Ah, cheap at $3,500 (or so).

I want one.  NOT!

(Click for a larger photo)

Blackberry Curve 8310Remember a while ago when I suggested that the next big smartphone could be the Blackberry Curve 8310? Well, Jennifer over at TreoCentral recently did a review. Check it out. Money quote (from the Wrap Up section):

I see the Curve as a great Email machine that looks and feels great. The initial setup is simple (for me on a Windows PC anyway) as is the email setup. I really like the way the Home screen looks with the cute icons. All the little pics with the BB Dimension Icon theme are self explanitory and make sense. If I had several email accounts, I could see myself getting a BlackBerry device someday. It really excels in that department. For now though, from using the Curve for only a few days, I wouldn’t replace my Treo with it. I do like the Curve though.

(Update 11/07/07: See my blog post referring to someone else’s thoughts about the Blackberry Curve.  In a nutshell: that person liked it a lot, but seemed to prefer her Treo over the Curve.)

Blackberry’s about to come out with the first model that’s targeted toward personal users rather than business users — the Blackberry 8300 Curve.

Blackberry Curve screenshotLike previous high-end Blackberry models, it has the usual list of features:

  • Email and text messaging
  • Advanced phone features
  • Organizer
  • Browser
  • Expandable memory slot (using SD cards)

But it also has a few features that personal users — especially deaf ones — would appreciate:

  • Smallest and lightest Blackberry model thus far
  • Instant messaging (that comes with the Blackberry, instead of you having to look for and buy a separate IM program – nice)
  • Camera with zoom and flash (2mp – much better than the earlier Treo cameras — but it’s not a camcorder, alas)
  • Media player (videos, audio files)
  • Blackberry Maps (but Google Maps for the Blackberry is so much better, I’m sure)
  • Trackball (wow, that’s new)
  • Tethered modem (plug your laptop into your Blackberry Curve and use the Internet)
  • Choice of games, ringtones, skins, and other accessories
  • Built-in 64mb memory (nicely-sized, but if you need more like I always do, there’s always the expandable memory slot)

Want one? Want one? It’s not yet for sale, argh. Gotta wait a bit more. Probably within a month or two, tho. Price hasn’t been announced, and so far only Cingular / AT&T will be carrying the Blackberry Curve — at least for a while.

See CNet’s in-depth review for more information, impressions, and photos.

iptty.com screenI’ve heard several people ask how they can use their smartphone / pager to have a conversation with a TTY user. Thanks to a tip from commenter Jon, I came across iptty.com, a website that’s customized especially for the Palm Treo’s Blazer (web browser) application. Commenter Jon said that iptty.com also works with Windows Mobile smartphones’ web browsers, although probably not as well.  I wonder too if this also works with Blackberries and Sidekicks.

Using my trusty (but becoming ancient) Palm Treo 650’s web browser, I navigated to iptty.com, and was given two choices: to make a free relay call (via Hamilton Relay), or to make a free TTY call. The first choice would connect you to a Hamilton Relay agent, and while slow, this method works pretty well. Nice to have this option in case your instant messaging application isn’t connecting for whatever reason.

iptty.com tty pageThe second option (making a TTY call) is even nicer, because ever since Wyndtells went out of fashion, I hadn’t heard of any other way I could use my pager to communicate with a TTY user. I should note that this TTY option can also be done via your computer’s web browser as well.

This service is run by Lormar Logic, which also provides several other free deaf- and mobile-oriented services: using a TTY to communicate with AIM users, and using a TTY to send text messages or emails to a cell phone or pager. Lormar Logic also provides a paid service for using AIM messages to reach a TTY user — although it puzzles me why TTY-to-AIM is free while initiating AIM-to-TTY conversations cost money.

IM+ is one big minus

May 1, 2007

IM+ logo IM+ is one of those programs where I’m tempted to say, “Move on, nothing to see here.” Quite frankly, in a meet-up between Mundu Messenger (see my review of Mundu) and IM+, Mundu Messenger would beat IM+ to a bloody pulp — and then jump up and down on IM+ for good measure.

IM+ (version 2.8) is an IM program by Shape Services. It is available on a wide variety of smartphones, including the Palm Treos running Palm OS or Windows Mobile, Windows Mobile Pocket PCs, Blackberries, several Symbian smartphones, and several other smartphone types. (This review covers the version for the Treo running the Palm OS only.) It costs a one-time fee of $29.95 – a bit steep compared to Mundu Messenger which sells for $11, but still cheaper than other instant messaging applications out there.

There were some things I liked about IM+:

  • Can sign up for AIM, Gtalk, MSN, Yahoo, ICQ, and Jabber.
  • Can carry a conversation via the background pop-up window (that shows up when I get an IM while using another program on my Treo). Other IM programs usually only allow one (long) line to be sent, and then the pop-up window goes away. (The converse of this is: sometimes I want this pop-up to go away quickly after responding, but with IM+ I have to press an extra button to make this window go away.)
  • Alerts you of new IMs and buddies via sound, vibration, and/or pop-ups.
  • This program is available for a surprisingly wide variety of smartphones, including many Blackberries.

And there were quite a few things I didn’t like:

  • It crashed my Treo several times, causing my prefs to be erased at least once. (Prefs include all the registration codes, button assignments, and many other customizations.) Thank goodness for Reset Doctor which restores them, whew. After seeing this happen as well with Verichat and Mundu Messenger, I’m starting to suspect that it’s Chatter Email or some other wierd thing on my Treo 650 that conflicts with all instant messaging programs.
  • Appearance is not crisp or neat. Some lines run past the screen. Some IMs appear run-together. Colors do not blend well. And what’s with the scary alien-ish green color found all thru the program? I can’t change the color scheme.
  • In the window that pops up when in the background and also in IM conversations, words that I type or receive are cut in half at end of line / beginning of the next line. A total deal-breaker, in my opinion.
  • When returning to my IM conversation from another Treo application, my prior conversation history was gone – I’d be looking at a new, blank conversation. If I wanted to see what was said before, I had to click on “show history” (as long as that option is turned on in prefs) – and even so, I could only read it before returning to the (blank) IM window.
  • Can’t customize fonts or colors of what is being typen.
  • Hard to distinguish between my words and the words of who I was talking with, since our fonts and colors were identical.
  • Not many preferences or customizations
  • When the Treo is off, receiving an IM will in some circumstances turn it on. Not something I like because of the potential of inadverently hitting the wrong key or the screen while walking with the Treo in its case.
  • Alerts cannot be customized very much. Can turn on vibrate or sound, but cannot turn pop-ups (when program is running in the background) off. Cannot turn alerts off or on for specific actions, i.e., receiving a new IM, or a buddy signing in or out.
  • At the top of the screen is a tab for your contacts, and another tab or tabs for each of your conversation. I found trying to click on a tab difficult because I kept activating the top-level pull-down menus instead.

Thus far, for my Palm Treo 650, Mundu is my choice. I still have several more instant messaging programs to review, tho. (Thanks, Grant — I’ll try WebMessenger next.)

Google Maps Mobile screenshotA while ago, I extolled the wonders of Google Maps Mobile for your smartphone. I still think it’s one of the best applications ever developed for smartphones. But it has one huge flaw. It remembers the maps you’ve viewed, so that if you go back there, it loads more quickly – saving time. No, no, that’s not the flaw – stay with me a bit longer. Google Maps Mobile saves these maps in a cache on your smartphone. The “tile-cache.GLM” (as the cache is called on my Treo 650) can quickly grow to massive size. Since I regularly use Google Maps Mobile, the cache can quickly become the largest file on my Treo.

So, it’s important that you periodically wipe clean this cache. To do that, find the option to “Erase All.” On the Treo, first activate the top bar, then Options, then Erase All. You may then get a dialog box asking (in essence) if you’re sure. Yes, you’re sure – hit the “Erase” button. All your old maps and preferences onGoogle Maps Mobile will then be erased, and when you open Google Maps Mobile again, you’ll be looking at good ole San Francisco.

I hope that in a new version soon, Google Maps Mobile will introduce some options to limit the growth of this cache. Maybe a maximum size (after which the older maps are replaced by newer ones), or a reminder to flush one’s cache.

In the meanwhile, Map On!

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