An important service message for MobileMe members

I got this email from MobileMe. It was a strange non-apology. It was a litany of all the things that they have been working on without any mention of the things that were promised but not yet delivered. This message appears to have been sent out to all MobileMe members.

An important service message for MobileMe members.

Dear MobileMe member:

Over the past few months, we have been working hard to make MobileMe the best service it can be. Here is a summary of the improvements and performance enhancements that have recently been completed.

Easy file sharing. iDisk now makes it even easier to share files that are too big to email. Simply select a file in the iDisk web app and click the Share File button to generate an email with a download link. You can also optionally add password protection and set an expiration date for the link. For more details, view this tutorial.

Faster syncing with Mac and PC. Changes you make to contacts and calendars on your Mac (Address Book and iCal) or PC (Microsoft Outlook) are now automatically pushed up to the cloud every time you make an update. Likewise, changes you make on me.com, iPhone, or iPod touch are automatically pushed to your Mac or PC. As a result, your contacts and calendars update faster across all your devices. To take advantage of faster syncing, be sure you’re running Mac OS X Leopard 10.5.6 (Mac) or MobileMe Control Panel 1.3 (Windows).

Improved notifications and sync on iPhone. Reliability of new email notifications and syncing of contacts and calendar with MobileMe have both been improved. To get the best MobileMe experience on your iPhone or iPod touch, you should be running iPhone Software 2.2 or later.

Better web app performance. We have also improved the overall performance of the web apps at me.com including faster start time in Calendar and searching in Contacts. For more details, see this support article.

Remember, to take advantage of these improvements, your computers and devices must be running the latest software versions indicated above.

We are committed to making MobileMe the easiest way to sync, access, and share what’s important to you. That’s why we’re constantly working to improve our service. You can stay up to date on upcoming changes by checking out MobileMe News. And thank you for being a MobileMe member.

Sincerely,

The MobileMe Team

Mobile App Stores Bind Customers to Device

The phone makers are happily creating app stores to supply their customers with 99¢ utilities. They are setting up huge infrastructures and developer programs to court both users and developers alike. The reason: they know that your investment in these 99¢ gems will insure your loyalty to their platform long after their 2-year contract has expired. What you end up with is a platform lock that is every bit the barrier as the Windows/Macintosh switching cost.

Imagine you have the perfect set of utilities and games on your iPhone. Then the unthinkable happens: someone comes out with a newer better phone. This time its not made by Apple but by Google. What are the barriers to switching?

First there’s your phone number. The laws a few years ago changed and now you can bring your number with you when you change providers, provided… From what I have heard, it is not that easy. There are all sorts of provisos and limitations. There may also be an ongoing cost from your old provider whereby they simply forward your old number to your new number.

The second barrier is the annual contract. Know when your contract is up. When that anniversary comes up it is the best time to maximize the value of your commitment. Every month that you wait is lost opportunity for you. When your contract is up, know what the continuance rules are. Some carriers will automatically renew you for another year or two. Read the fine print. Ask.

The new barrier is the device and platform that you have chosen. In the past it was just a matter of copying your address book from one phone to the other. Today, you may have dozens of apps each with their own data.

So how can you protect yourself from this new barrier? By following a couple of guidelines you can leave yourself the option of a future defection.

Choose applications by developers with reach to other platforms. This is hard now but some vendors have already announced that they will port their apps from iPhone to Google Phone. When I moved from my Newton to my Palm I had the luxury of continuing to use some programs that I was already familiar. I of course had to buy them again but in some cases I was able to keep my data.

Choose applications that store their data in the cloud. A good example of this is Evernote. it stores its data in the cloud and you can use any client that you want. The mobile client becomes interchangeable. Other apps like Mint are simply façades for a web site.

Choose applications that are based on standards. That way even if the developer and program are not available, you should be able to bring your data.

What about games. Games for the most part are bound to a platform. Consider the expense of a game to be pure expense and enjoy it.

Great Use for that old iPod

I have owned several iPods over the years. My first iPod was a blue iPod Mini. I bought it in the original Audible promotion to replace my Rio. The iPod Mini had a 4GB hard drive and an aluminum anodized case. It came in several colors but for me the blue was the best. I eventually upgrade to a full iPod and later to an iPhone. This little blue guy made the rounds in my family before finally being deemed too old to use by my youngest child and I got it back.

The iPod still works great but the battery cannot hold a charge for more than a couple minutes. It has a great tiny screen and the aluminum case looks as good as new. I found a great use for it. I am using it in my blue car. The color makes it look like it was planned.

My car has a cassette player so I am using a cassette adaptor to get my music to my stereo. I have tried various FM Transmitters and do not consider them acceptable for everyday use. I have one that I use only when I am traveling in someone else’s car. The cassette adaptor provides good sound. It is not as good as a line-in or aux jack of course. The cassette player itself makes a little noise. I’m on my third cassette adaptor from having warn out my two prior ones.

Instead of plugging the cassette adaptor directly into the iPod, instead plug it into my Belkin Auto Charger. What makes this charger unique is that it provides a line out jack on it. I plug my cassette adaptor into this line out which gives me a constant volume level regardless of the volume level on the iPod itself. This charger connects to the iPod Mini via the dock connector leaving the top of the iPod free.

http://xevio.us/amazon/belkin-auto-charger-ipod-white

On the top of the iPod I have a Griffin Technology AirClick Remote Mini. This plugs into the audio jack on the top of the iPod Mini. The iPod Mini has a special audio jack with a control slot next to it. This used to be how a user would control their iPod. This was phased out of later models. The AirClick Remote can control the play/pause, previous/next tracks and volume via a wifi remote. It came in two flavors for the iPod and iPod mini. It in turn has an unused headphone jack exposed. Since I am not using it, the volume controls on the remote are not useful for me. The remote itself features a clip and a little sled. Using the included velcro® strap I have affixed the sled to my steering wheel. The clip connects to the sled and I can access the controls without taking my hands off the wheel. The iPod is stashed up under the dash. I only need to see it if I am changing playlists.

http://xevio.us/amazon/griffin-airclick-mini-remote-control-ipod-mini

I keep my iPod Mini full of Audible books and some music. I usually listen to Audible books on my commute. I do not use it for podcasts as I would like because that would require remembering to bring it into the house more often. As it stands now, I only sync about once a month when I buy new Audible books.

I foresee this iPod outlasting my car. It has taken a beating over the years. Even cooped up in a sealed car when the temperature is 110°ree; outside and probably 140°ree; inside the iPod still works. The LCD screen is completely black until it cools down.

Using an old iPod for a specific task like this is a good way to put your old equipment to good use.

Armor

Armor is a another take on the future warrior story. It is similar to the novel Starship Troopers (not the movie) except that you really get inside the main character’s head. Felix throws himself into incredible nuke-wielding battles with aliens. The reader must pay attention as the perspective changes throughout the story.

The Forever War

I’m not really sure how I stumbled on to this book. I found it in paperback and read it years ago. I recently heard that they were going to make a movie out of it. I decided that I wanted to revisit this Hugo and Nebula Award winner. The story is pretty straight forward. The Earth is attacked by the Taurans. We decide to retaliate. At this point it sounds like Starship Troopers. That’s about where the similarity ends and this story begins to look more like Ender’s Game. You see, it takes 27 years to get to the Tauran home world. But for our “hero” Mandella, it feels like only 1. By the time they reach the Tauran world, they have had 27 years to get ready for the attack and handle it easily. Mandella returns home but now 54 years have passed. The story is about how he is disconnected from the Earth. The war drags on with volley after volley.

Joe Haldeman wrote this story in the 1970s and it is clearly a metaphor for Viet Nam and the alienation of its soldiers returning. The protagonist gets to the point where they are fighting the war just because that’s all they know. The author points out the futility of the war. The story seems rip for a Hollywood update where the parallels with today’s headlines could be drawn.

Bogus Proxy Site Shows Up in Google Results

Yesterday I was doing a search on Google for a person. One of the search results was a link for Facebook. When I clicked on the link I was take to a page that looked like Facebook but actually wasn’t. When I click again I was asked to login. I thought this was strange because Facebook usually doesn’t make me log in. I looked at the address line and it showed facebook*com*urrsa2*com (with dots instead of asterisks). I was taken aback. I did a search for this domain using the site qualifier in Google and found no less than 137,000 pages in the index. That looks phishy.

I did some testing. You can type in any domain in front of that domain and it will show you the page in question. Visiting the main page just shows a sad looking page — not very professional if it is legit.

I checked the whois data for that domain and it also looks phishy. It is using a Dynamic DNS service and the registrant address is “One Microsoft Way”. So either its a scam or Microsoft has gotten really sloppy about their proxy service.

I use OpenDNS but they had not yet blocked this domain. I attempted to report it to them and they referred me to phishtank.com who had no record of the domain.

On OpenDNS I was able to block the domain so my home is protected. Consider this a warning.