Monday, April 29, 2013

Cloud Sharing your Email, Contacts, Calendar Between Different Devices

I’ve come across a lot of people who still struggle with different devices and having to physically plug them into their computer when they want to sync their calendar or contacts.  Sure, Email is a solved problem for them, but not that pesky Calendar or the list of Contacts.  This post is intended to help those people.  But those people have to embrace “the cloud”…

The cloud sounds scary, but it’s not, you’ve been using it for years, it’s just a server on the Internet that’s always accessible. Sure this can be a single mail server that’s been holding your email until you connect it, or it can be a scale-out solution that offers compute, storage, and database needs, but let’s start small.  Your email server, is in the cloud.  Yes, that same one offered to your by your Internet Service Provider (ISV).  That’s “cloud”.  See, you have email, you’re already using “the cloud”.  Your problem is you either (a), have an e-mail only server that uses POP3, or (b), you’re not taking advantage of the features of your server to leverage contacts and calendar.

If you have an e-mail server that only does email (i.e. only offers you IMAP or POP3 access), then you are living in the stone ages.  IMAP and POP3 are to email what rotary dialing is to the telephone.  The first is to switch to something that offers the email, calendar, contact suite of products.  I find it best to switch to the product that your spouse or significant other is using, primarily because it makes it easier to share things like the calendar.  My preference is Outlook.com, but you can also use GMail or Yahoo! Or if you wanted something more powerful, you could choose Office365.  The bottom line is you need to ditch that ISV email server.  Some ISVs leverage the above services for their email solution.  That’s better than POP3, but I still don’t like being tied to an ISV, because if you move or that ISV gets bought by another, things change, but this is your call.  This may or may not require you to get a different email address.  This is by far the most painful part of the process, so you’ll want to do this part once.  If you want to use your own domain name, so your email address never needs to change.  I have instructions on how to do this with Hotmail / Outlook.com.

Let’s overview the set up that you’re aiming for:

Cloud to Device

 

This means that each phone, tablet or computer connects directly to the Internet (or cloud) to get your Email (which it does today) and your calendar and your contacts.  This means that the primary location for your E-mail, Calendar and Contacts is in the cloud.  Your devices and computers are just a “view” into that.  While you probably won’t need this with today’s devices. All of my computers are configured to use Exchange Active Sync (EAS).  Apparently Google is the only service that doesn’t use this anymore.

This works for me, and allows me to share my calendar with my wife, so we can always be in sync (provided she enters her events into her calendar!). 

I have the following devices, that are always up to date and never need to be plugged into a computer for “syncing”.

  • Windows Phone 8
  • Surface RT
  • Windows 8 PC (both built in e-mail client, and Outlook 2013)
  • iPhone
  • iPad
  • Blackberry Playbook

This is the set up you “don’t” want, as you are now dependent on your computer, and if you’re computer crashes, or dies, you loose your calendar and contacts.

Bad Setup

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Installing Pebble Watch Faces when you’re not a Developer

 

I have a developer background.  I went to the University of Waterloo and have a degree in Pebble Time: Beer O'Clock Computer Science.  The problem is I don’t have time to do any development.  Between my “day” job and my kids, when I get an hour to myself, I have to do some house maintenance so this place doesn’t fall down around me!

However, I got myself a Pebble watch, as part of the Kickstarter wave.  Yes I was a backer, and followed it from almost the beginning.  I got in pretty early as I took off my watch mid-university not believing I could wear something that only did one task, and one that was on my phone, and almost anywhere I looked.  If I was going to wear a watch, it was to do more than tell time!  I told a ton of my friends this and almost as soon as Pebble came out on Kick Starter, a bunch of my friends were sending me links.  I jumped in immediately and then had to patiently wait… and wait… and wait, but the wait was totally worth it.  I’m loving Pebble.

The Pebble team has done a ton of work on their SDK, it’s one of their most prized parts of the Pebble.  This is fantastic if you want to make your own watch face, but, while I’m a tech enthusiast, and the @Pebble guys even added me to their ├╝ber Pebblers list, I just don’t have time to develop watch faces.  BUT, I did want to take advantage of the hard work that other backers were doing and get some fancy watch faces. 

To get new watchfaces, you simply point your phone’s browser over to www.mypebblefaces.com, click on the one you want to download, then follow the steps on the phone to install it:

Open in "Pebble"

Click Open in “Pebble”

Choose "Continue"

Ensure you are installing from a trusted source, and choose Continue

The watchface installs on your Pebble and you’re good to go. Since these are only 24KB max, you can download them on the fly.  For example, when I hit the party, I just download the Beer O’Clock watch face, and I’m good to go!