Amazing what we can do these days eh?

Automation is pretty crazy. As I type this, I’m unsure what is actually going to happen when I hit Publish. You see, up until a week ago, I had a pretty jury rigged system where I posted something to a Joomla based CMS that was rather clunky, and then I twittered about it, and that twitter post went to my facebook status. Along the way a component for Joomla would download entries from my other blogs and Pocket PC Thoughts and dump them into the database. This seemed to work out pretty well, but I thought perhaps a more up-to-date system would be nice. Especially with all the changes coming up in the next few months, why not have a better site?
So I’m typing this in the backend of WordPress (Being on a Linux laptop I’m unable to use Windows Live Writer or Word right now), and I have a bunch of gizmos turned on to do various things. First of all, I’m tagging this with a Twitter tag, which I THINK is supposed to trigger some plugin I have to push this out to Twitter and a bunch of other websites (e.g. statuses on Facebook, Myspace, etc..). I’m not sure if it will work. At the same time, the same plugin should push this out as a note on Facebook, but who knows if it will (If you’re reading this there, then I guess it worked).

Now Twitter poses a bit of a problem for me because when this publishes out, I don’t want it sucked back in. Why would it do that? Well, my status updates need to be archived for glory on JonWestfall.Com, and if my status update advertises my blog item and then the status update actually upstages the blog item, it just creates a self-referential storm of junk on the homepage. So I hopefully found a solution using Yahoo! Pipes that should block from my twitter feed any items with [JonWestfall.Com] in them from EVER appearing back on the homepage. Ugh.

If this sounds confusing, that’s because it really is. All I want is everything I write to A) appear on JonWestfall.Com in some form and B) my friends to know I’ve posted something (in whatever medium they’re using or accessing). I guess those two are mutually exclusive to some extent. So what will happen when I press “Publish”? Who knows, but hopefully something good.

Tame Your Phone This New Year

http://pocketmax.net/phoneAlarm.html

Back in the day (e.g., 5 years ago), I realized that my shiny new Pocket PC Phone needed taming. It would beep at strange times, it would vibrate loud enough to be heard, and generally could be a nuissance during such things as “attending a lecture” or “taking an exam” or “sitting in a meeting”. Hopefully this post will help you tame such a device in time to save your dignity and prevent embarassment in 2009!

The first product I used to tame a device was from a company named PocketConcepts called MeetingMute. MeetingMute had a feature I found to be totally great – it could mute my phone during appointments depending on the category I assigned to the appointment. So for important stuff, like classes or meetings, the “Mute Phone” category was created. For less important meetings (e.g., a casual lunch date with friends) the phone could remain noisy. Today I use PhoneAlarm Pro by PocketMax (Screenshot above) to accomplish this same goal and more. PhoneAlarm features a today screen plugin, mute based on category, multiple profiles, skinnable interface, and more. For between €14.50 and €18.50 (for Pro), the price is well worth the ability to set your phone and forget it – confident it won’t be embarassing you in public. Now that I’ve shared my tip for taming your phone, feel free to share your own or talk about other products you find valuable for keeping your phone “discreet”!

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Vaja’s ivolution Case Snuggles Samsung Omnia

http://www.vajacases.com/home/home_…i&c=7&it=10&s=1

A few weeks ago, I posted news that Vaja cases, the South American based company known for their rather elegant cases, had released an ivolution case for the Samsung Omnia. Shortly after posting the news, Vaja was kind enough to offer to send me the ivolution case so I could take a look at it myself and decide how it well it accompanied the Omnia. I’ve never owned a Vaja case before, so with the case came much anticipation about the quality and design, and today I’m pleased to share my experiences using the case!

The first thing you surely notice about a Vaja case is the packaging. The packaging that the case came with was nicer than some of the boxes my Pocket PCs have come in (looking straight at you AT&T…). The small box slides open letting you easily take the case out, and keep the box for future use. A small thing, but I’m always grateful when i don’t have to destroy packaging just to get something out.

I would have taken more photos of the case I received, however in this case I’ll point you to Vaja’s site as the case I have is literally the exact same case used for the PR shots (The color is spot on to the shots, no strange lighting distorting the true teal seen above). Getting my Omnia into the case was a real snap – I simply placed it into the back at an angle, and shifted it up until the two grips held it firmly in. The gripping pieces are nicely finished and don’t damage the device with even the smallest marking or scratching. The case then folds up and the grip seen in the lower right of the picture above secures it shut.

The case adds very little bulk to the device, always something nice. It can’t be attached to any sort of clip for a belt (that was SO 2003…), and without any sort of nub it looks plain and elegant. The biggest reason I have never been a ‘case’ guy is simply because I can’t stand a bulky case on the device when the device spends the majority of the time in my pants pocket. This case doesn’t bulk up, and still allows the device to slide in and out of my pocket without trouble.

Visually the case is very nice, however functionally I do have two small issues. First, the grip that holds the front of the case to the phone can be a bit hard to open once it’s been shut up. It takes a bit more force than I’d like (at times making me worry about opening it and having the phone pop out), however I suppose that’s needed to keep the phone secure. The second issue is using the case while charging. The charging port is not covered by the case, however to open the port cover, one must use their fingernail to slide along the bottom of the cover and pop it open. When the case is on the phone, my finger is simply too large to get in there and have enough leverage to pop the cover open. The result is that I must remove the device from the case to open the charging port cover, then can place the device back in, plug in the charging cable, and be done. In the morning I can easily close the port cover without removing the device. Takes but a minute to pull it out to open that port, yet it is still somewhat distracting.

Like all Vaja cases, the ivolution comes in a variety of colors and designs. The starting price, before customization is around $75, however if you’re looking for a nice sleek case that appears durable and elegant all at the same time, the price may be worth it. After all, the device you’re housing wasn’t exactly cheap! Speaking of that device, someone should really write up a whole review on it… perhaps having it up on the web by the end of the week… !

Jon Westfall is a contributing editor for Pocket PC Thoughts, as well as a Microsoft MVP for Windows Mobile. Currently he is finishing his doctorate in cognitive psychology, and experiencing the usual holiday stresses! Find out more about him, his life, his cat, his meaningless thoughts, at JonWestfall.Com

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Enjoy Christmas Week With A Chance To Win Infestation!

http://www.htk.com.br/infestation/

“The general sent you to bomb an alien infested area, unfortunately your spaceship falls. Assuming that you´ll be dead soon and he´ll get the permission to bomb that area, he tells you that it will take 20 days to get you back…Can you prove he´s wrong? “

Thoughts readers looking to have a bit of Pocket PC Gaming Fun this Christmas season are in luck – we have 10 copies of Infestation to give away to anyone looking to lighten up their holidays with a fun storry about aliens, bombs, and all of that festive stuff. Simply post your answer to the following question: “How will Infestation make your holiday season better?” to this thread, and in 1 week you may be enjoing a post-Christmas gaming experience. 10 winners will be chosen at random early next week, and you have until 12 noon MST 12/29/2008 to get your post together and attached! Good luck!

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Palm Treo Pro Reviewed at Pocket PC Dubai

http://pocketpcdubai.com/index.php?…ware&Itemid=197

“The Palm Treo Pro has been one of the most anticipated devices of 2008 thanks to its radical design change (from its predecessors) and current (almost) industry standard hardware specifications. It is one the first devices from Palm that is actually moving along with the times as opposed to it’s previous iterations such as the Treo 750 and the likes. The Treo 750 was by far one of the best devices that I had ever used; however it’s biggest drawback (for me) was the lack of WiFi and GPS.”

Palm finally got the memo from 2003 and put WiFi and even GPS into their latest offering. Nice looks in a fairly compact form – anyone out there looking to grab a Treo Pro? Check out Pocket PC Dubai’s review for more great info.

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Pocket PC Techs Offers Christmas Sale on Accessories & Repairs

http://www.ppctechs.com/

Until December 31, our friends at Pocket PC Techs are offering a discount of 25% off Accessories and 10% off repairs. Use coupon code Santa08 at checkout to grab the deal. Not a bad deal – especially since I’ve found their accessories to be of a bit higher quality than competitors (specifically their retractable sync and charge cords). Happy Holiday Shopping!

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Scott Jordan Signature System: How Geek Can Meet Chic

http://scottevest.com/v3_store/Q5_Systems.shtml

Product Category: Clothing
Manufacturer: SCOTTEVEST
Where to Buy: SeV Store
Price: $340 USD ($250 for Quantum Jacket; $140 for Fleece 5.0)
System Requirements: Body ranging from XS to XXXL Sizes
Specifications: 52 pockets, cable management through channels / pocket passthroughs, removable hood (Quantum Jacket), removable sleeves (Fleece 5.0), various specially designed features such as key holders, bottle holders, and pockets accessible from the interior or exterior.

Pros:

  • Be an unabashed geek without having to look like a nerd;
  • Attention to detail and usability;
  • Eliminates the need for a separate bag (some days).

Cons:

  • Price (for some), Sizes (for others);
  • Does not connect (as in previous SCOTTEVEST systems);
  • Lack of color options.

Summary:
The first SCOTTEVEST product I ever purchased was the 4.0 Tactical system, the closest thing to a predecessor to the Scott Jordan Signature Series. I was blown away and since then have reviewed many other SeV products. The direction foreshadowed by last year’s “Evolution” jacket has now come to pass with the release of the Fleece 5.0 and Quantum Jackets (together they make up the series). But with any new thing, old favorite features can be lost or changed – and new features added can somewhat make you forget about the old. How does this system stack up to its past, and pave the way to the future? Read on!

What’s New
The Signature Series has many new features as well as SCOTTEVEST classic options. The most apparent new feature is the change in fabrics in the jacket. The Tactical 4.0 jacket was, well, tactical – it felt like something I’d wear if I was a secret service agent or SWAT officer. The material was a bit coarse, with a nylon base.


Figure 1: SCOTTEVEST branding in the velcro section used to tighten the sleeves around the wrist. Notice the material has a grain, yet feels smooth.

The new material used in the Quantum jacket is very similar to shell of the Evolution jacket. While the material has a grain to it, it feels very soft to the touch, likely due to the Teflon fabric protector used. In the rain, the jacket does not soak up water but rather promotes beading and flowing of the water off – keeping the occupant drier than the alternative.

The Fleece 5.0 also gets a subtle change in fabric. On the inside the fabric mesh is more accented, allowing you to easily see where pockets lie and where your gear is going. On the outside, the material feels a bit more plush and soft compared to the 4.0 fleece. At least it did to me, my wife insists that it’s closer to the 4.0. In any event, we both agree it’s nice and cozy.


Figure 2: Exterior of the 5.0 fleece.

Another new feature to the 5.0 fleece and Quantum jacket is the introduction of Clear Touch fabric. Clear Touch is designed to replace those awful hard clear pieces that clothing manufacturers sometimes place on their products to let you “see” what’s inside a pocket. The plastic is always rigid, and feels like, well, hard plastic! Clear Touch pockets on both the Quantum and Fleece are clear, but feel like fabric. Or at least best approximation of fabric that plastic can get to.


Figure 3: A Clear Touch pocket in the Fleece 5.0. Both jackets feature two Clear Touch pockets. Notice the red piping also present on the interior.

Clear Touch is a winner when it comes to controlling a touch sensitive device while it is safely stowed. Lastly, a very pronounced difference in both jackets is the red piping around the interior pockets, similar to what was done on the Evolution jacket. It sounds really strange, but I was always able to ‘lose’ pockets in my Tactical jacket. Trying to remember where they opened or where they hung so I could see if I had something in them. With the red piping, it’s easier to find the pockets, and the overall pocket design has been streamlined substantially.

What’s Gone
SCOTTEVEST has been careful not to call this the direct update to the 4.0 line because some of the 4.0 series nuances are missing in the 5.0 Signature series. For example, on the jacket, a front right breast pocket with ID card window has been removed. The new version in the 5.0 line is a internal lower-left pouch specifically to hold your ID and provide quick access. Yet you can’t be wearing your ID here and have others see it, a potential problem for those of us who must wear visible ID.

Here are some other quick differences I’ve observed:

  • The hood on the jacket, while still removable, does not roll up and tuck away like previous versions.
  • The sleeves on the jacket are not removable. Scott Jordan told me this in a phone call earlier this year when I told him about the zippers breaking on my Tactical 4.0. Apparently this was a feature only of use to a few, and since it had issues, it was removed.
  • The jacket used to have two small pockets below the right and left “hand” pockets that weren’t very deep and sometimes hard to open. I used to keep my gloves in those pockets but alas they are now gone. They do allow the other pockets that you normally throw your hands into to be deeper.
  • There is only one key-chain holder on the jacket, in the front right pocket (unlike the tactical 4.0 that had a key chain holder in both the front right and front left – two different styles). This holder is the better of the two styles, with a retractable rubber chain.
  • At least one of the deep pockets on the jacket has been removed (on my Tactical I have a deep pocket on the inside of both sides, the pocket on the right side has been removed on the Quantum). Given the fact that I once used both deep pockets to carry (on one side) a large bag of potato chips, package of cookies, and on the other side two 2 liters of soda, I guess I’ll have to cut back during grocery trips!
  • The fleece shows only minor changes over the 4.0 version, such as the red piping and clearview pockets.

Overall while things have changed, the core features remain the same. I’m not sure which jacket I’ll end up using this winter more – the 5.0 or the 4.0 – so check in with me in the spring to see if the above changes proved to be dealbreakers.

Finally a note about sizing. Anyone who has met me in person knows I’m on the large side (some would even say Scary Large). The 4.0 series XXXLT fit me just fine, however with the removal of the tall sizes in the 5.0 line, the XXXL jacket is a bit snug (like the Evolution jacket that I reviewed last October). The 5.0 fleece fits just like the 4.0 did. While I could wear the 4.0 Fleece and Tactical Jacket at the same time, I doubt I’d be able to do that with the 5.0 series. Then again they were not meant to go together like their predecessor, so I doubt many will try to do this (e.g. the 5.0 fleece does not zip into the 5.0 jacket). If you’re a “big” man wondering how you may compare to me and if the XXXL will be big enough, feel free to drop me an e-mail with any questions if you’d like to be discrete and not post them here.

What’s Missing
Scott and his team have done a wonderful job with the Signature series, something I know Scott takes great pride in. I do have a few suggestions though, some easier to implement than others:

  • A padded compartment (possibly removable) for a sub-notebook or netbook. I travel with a 14 inch Lenovo Tablet (the x60s), and it fits nicely into both the deep pockets on the 4.0 and the 5.0. However a bit more protection would be nice.
  • Similar to the above suggestion, a removable accessory pouch that would connect up within the jacket. This way I can keep my AC adapter, mouse, and other computer accessories with the computer and completly get rid of the bag.
  • Pre-wired “Options”. While wiring up a SCOTTEVEST isn’t terribly difficult to do, it may interest some to have pre-wired options available straight from the factory. iPod owners could order the “iPod version” which would come wired with headphones, and an iPod charger connected to an external battery safely stowed (such as a Proporta or Pocket PC Techs extended battery). GPS enthusiasts could order a “GPS version”, etc… Of course these would cost extra, but may appeal to some who would love something tailored to their needs.
  • SCOTTEVEST is able to embroider logos onto corporate orders, but why not offer custom embroidery to individuals? I’d be very tempted to embroider my name discretely on my SeV fleece, if for no other reason than to wear it to parties where everyone’s already forgetting each other’s names!
  • I’m a lover of basic black (I own many, many black shirts, much to my wife’s dismay). However when it comes to jackets and fleeces, colors can be very nice – and the Signature series has only black as of this writing. Perhaps one or two other colors might be a nice addition.

Some of you may be wondering if the first two bullets above would really be prudent to implement. Surely you can’t carry all your gear (including a laptop) in a SCOTTEVEST, can you? Well let me share a story:

Last April I was in a hotel room in Seattle the first night of the MVP Summit when my roommate asked me a question. He’d seen my SCOTTEVEST in the closet and asked “Is that one of those technology vests?”. Being from Australia, he was aware of SCOTTEVEST but hadn’t seen one in person. I told him it was and gave him a brief tour of its pockets. In the process I realized that it was pointless for me to take my messenger bag with me to the Microsoft campus the next two days when I had a SCOTTEVEST with me. I quickly took stock of what I had to transport (Lenovo laptop, adapter, a few cords, a small camera, 2 or 3 Windows Mobile devices, proporta battery, and a few other things) and realized that I could put them all in the vest. I loaded up and over the next two days fellow MVPs were amazed as I walked into a conference room and within 2 minutes had “unloaded” my mobile workstation for the day! So yes, you can in some cases ditch a computer bag for a SCOTTEVEST.

Conclusion
As I write this, I sit in my office (a converted attached garage) wearing my 5.0 fleece. It’s keeping me nicely warm as I wait for a FedEx truck to bring me a few gadgets for my latest geek project. Tomorrow I’ll probably wear it as I walk to my office in Toledo – switching proverbial hats as I go from Geek to Doctoral Candidate in Psychology. While my work today is tinkering with VoIP codecs and tomorrow will be proofreading decision making problems, my SCOTTEVEST keeps me warm, connected, and fairly stylish. No matter how geeky you are, part or full time, you don’t have to look like Goofy with bulging pockets and bulky bags. After all, no self respecting geek could ever stand being called a Nerd!

Jon Westfall is a Microsoft MVP for Windows Mobile devices, contributor to the Thoughts Media network of sites, and full time academic, currently finishing is PhD in Experimental Psychology. He studies decision making and interhemispheric interaction while teaching undergraduates a variety of things they didn’t know! Want to know more about him? Visit JonWestfall.Com


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New York City


Waiting for the Metro-North train from Garrison to NYC

On Tuesday we went up to NYC from West Point. Before we left I had to take care of some computer issues on a few servers several hundred miles away. So the day was interesting – see something historical, check Pocket PC to make sure nothing blew up, see something historical, etc.. Anyway, we took the Metro-North down to Grand Central Terminal, and then made our way down to Battery Park and onto the ferry over to the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island.

 


Lady Liberty

We elected to stay on the boat and not file off at the Statue. Probably a good choice considering how long the tour at Ellis Island lasted. We took the audio tour, and by the time we were done looking all throughout rooms like this one:

 


Ellis Island Registration / Main Room

… it was around 5:30 and my phone was dying from the “Get signal/drop signal/get signal” dance and MSN Messenger running. We went to TGI Fridays for dinner (near the WTC site). We looked at the WTC site then road the express up to 42nd street to walk down to Grand Central. Along the way we saw a Sanrio Store! Karey had go into it – it had a giant Hello Kitty on top of it! I bought her something that resembled a small bag, with pockets. I don’t know exactly what it was as all the writing was in Japanese! Anyway, we were tired and made it back to West Point around 10, where we all collapsed fairly quickly. Today we’re heading to the West Point visitor center and museum, and generally relaxing before more festivities kick in later this week.

 


Security Tent

As one last note, to get to the ferry to the statue and Ellis, you must pass through airport-style security. Myself and my comrades made it through in under 1 minute (for all 4 of us, mind you), however the people in front of us apparently had more metal objects than most foundries or steel mills. They were leather-clad bikers who were very annoyed (and thus took longer) at the process. And I thought activities at West Point were primarily revolved around “waiting”. Of course when it comes to the military, the prolonged waits make sense: After all, why do you think Wars take so long!

Take The Internet With You When You Go!

About a year ago, I switched from Direcway Broadband Satellite internet to a Sprint EVDO Rev A card for my home internet service. The choice was easy – the Sprint card was cheaper and had better speeds overall than the satellite. For awhile, I put my broadband card into a spare computer and had it share the connection via Internet Connection Sharing (ICS) in Windows XP. Then I found a router online (The WRT54G3G-ST) that would let me pop the card right into my router and avoid the ICS hassle. The best part about using a broadband card for your internet service is that when you leave, you can simply take the internet with you when you go. However unless you want to install the broadband card drivers on every laptop in the family, there is no easy way to share (Unless you think setting up an adhoc network in Vista and sharing the internet – reliably – is easy!). My Solution? A cheap and easy rig that will let you pack “The Internet” with you when you go!

Step 1 – Parts

You’ll probably want the following (At least my rig is set up like this). My rig allows for the internet to be powered through AC or DC, depending on if you’re in a car or hotel room. Here are the parts:

  • Broadband card (Duh…)
  • Broadband Router (The WRT45G3G-ST in my case)
  • Short power strip (Optional, I suppose)
  • Some sort of Power Inverter (DC to AC). Mine is 400W, however you may be able to get away with less!
  • Box (Either an actual project box from somewhere like Radio Snack, or in my case, two Avon box lids)

 

Step 2 – Construction

You’ll probably want to plan out your rig before actually constructing it. I did mine visually, however for the sake of easy explaining, I’ll do up a small diagram (Click on it to see it a bit clearer!):

Next you’ll probably want to cut holes for vents, ports for cords, the hole for the antenna to stick out, and the power strip access. I used a simple swiss army knife as it cuts through cardboard quite nicely (What doesn’t…) and used masking tape to secure each item to the base of the box (I do want to disassemble this when I get home to put everything back where it normally goes). Feel free to improvise here – you may want to add more power ports, etc..

My design was specifically made to allow for AC or DC powering, and it works like this. When using AC, the power strip’s cord runs straight out the port to the right of it, and into a wall outlet. When on DC, it loops around the inverter (and plugs into the outlets at the bottom of the inverter. The Inverter’s cord then comes out the port to the right of the power strip, and into a car cigarette lighter. I’m planning on bringing an extension cord for the DC cord, as it is shorter than the power strip’s.

Step 3 – Complete & Accessorize

Here are some pictures of my completed rig. Note the snazzy title I gave mine (The Internet, complete edition, in color!). Accessorize to your heart’s content, just don’t block the vents!

(Edited to remove SSID – I’m paranoid…)

That’s all folks. Feel free to register and post your comments or suggestions!

Jon Westfall is a research psychologist and confirmed techno-geek. He’s a contributing editor for Pocket PC Thoughts, as well as a Microsoft MVP for Windows Mobile. This blog is where most of his longer articles reside, however jonwestfall.com also has other goodies and more than you want to know about him.

Getting More Sleep

I sleep with a wife to the left of me, a laptop to the right of me. And I have a bad habit – when Outlook “Dings” saying I have new mail at 1 AM, I like to look at my pocket PC (also to the right of me) and see what it is. It’s sick, I know, but it’s indicative of my overall connectedness.
Anyway, my solution to this for many years has been to simply mute the laptop, however I don’t always remember to do that (Come to think of it, I don’t always remember to do a lot of mundane things like that…). Today I set up a solution I used to have on my Compaq before I re-imaged it a few months back, a wonderful freeware command-line app named NirCmd (http://www.nirsoft.net/utils/nircmd.html). With a simple scheduled task I now have my computer auto-mute itself around midnight. Automation is a wonderful thing.
NirCmd has a plethora of switches to it, so if you’re looking for a multipurpose freeware do-it-all command, check it out – it just might have what you need.