Campus Warrior with Phone

I recently started a new job which entails running around a University campus installing new Macintoshes and fixing the odd ailing one and since the second battery in my old phone was dying I thought it might be time to upgrade.

I asked the nice young man in the phone shop what he could give me on the cheap if I wanted Java and Bluetooth. I discovered that for an extra ten bucks a month on my current plan I could get a free Sony Ericson K700i. A quick trip to the Salling Software web site told me he had at least beta support for the K700i with Clicker and the phone was mine.

I’ve never had a phone capable of GPRS, Bluetooth or with a built in Calendar so this was going to take some getting used to.

First thing I discovered was how neat Bluetooth in the phone can be. I enter my calendar for the day into iCal, hit the Sync button in Mark/Space’s Missing Sync and the phone wakes up and the data gets pushed across. Neat, much better than my Zire 72 where I have to hit the sync button on the Palm. It turns out that the easiest thing to do is plug my iPod in to get its evening charge, put the phone on the desk and when I’m ready to sync the data push the sync button on the Zire and Missing Sync fires up and all three devices start talking to the Mac swapping information perfectly. Missing Sync is a marvelous tool and does a better job of syncing information across a number of devices and software than anything else – well worth the price.

That process lasted all of a week before I realised that the Zire was staying in my bag most of the day and I was only getting information off either the phone or the iPod. I now use a Hipster PDA instead of the Zire for taking notes on the run, it never runs out of power and transferring information to other people or my computer is trivial. I still carry the Zire but use it for other tasks.

I’ve discovered that both the iPod and the phone ignore the ‘Location’ field for iCal events. The phone also has a limit of around 256 characters in the note field for an event so I make sure to put important information such as the location and phone contact for an event at the start of the note and the details of the problem at the end. That way my phone has the vital facts and the iPod has further details if they’re required.

The beta support in Salling Clicker is still a little rusty but for the important things like advancing to the next slide in Keynote it works fine. There are other advantages to using Clicker with my Zire 72 rather than the phone such as browsing the photos in my iPhoto library but once again the phone tends to get used as it is right there. My favourite is controlling VLC or the DVD player from the phone when I have the laptop hooked up to the TV showing a DVD or avi file. I can also hook the iPod to the PowerBook and use my phone to control iTunes. One of the problems with this hookup is that the phone disconnects from the computer when it goes into sleep mode.

Internet access on the phone itself is not a huge boon. I don’t use it to download ringtones or wallpaper, I use the Macintosh for that and transfer them to the phone using Apple’s “Bluetooth File Exchange”. The main use is cricket scores while I’m working and film times when I’m not. That’s a very small screen on the phone and so few sites have a decent WAP interface.

Here is where the Zire 72 started to become useful again, the screen is just that little bit bigger and after some searching online I discovered PalmOne had the right scripts to get it using the GPRS in the phone. Since WAP is a bust I tried RSS using Quick News. Now GPRS comes into its own, RSS feeds adapt easily to the screen of a handheld device and the headline format is perfect for deciding what warrants a pull down from the site. I also tried an RSS feeder for the phone, but the screen is still too small.

The Zire is also useful for SMS messages. It can suck all the messages off the phone to make archiving them easy and writing a message on the Zire and then sending it via Bluetooth and the phone is a lot easier than using the phone’s keypad, though you can find yourself sending enough text that it takes two or three messages to transfer it.

The big problem with roaming around using the iPod and Zire so heavily can be power. Fortunately the USB cable for the iPod is small and fits easily in a bag or briefcase. For the Zire I found a cable that splits at the end to both recharge and swap data via USB so I can top it up during the day as well. Apple’s new iMacs and eMacs with three USB ports make that easier, I can often charge both devices at once while working on a computer. The phone seems to have enough power to easily last a day of heavy usage.

So I now have a mobile office a lot lighter, more convenient and more functional than carrying around my 15” PowerBook. Next step (since the University is improving WiFi access across the campus) is to knock the GPRS charges down by using a WiFi card in the Zire. I’m investigating the campus VPN (Virtual Private Network) to see if I can get a client for the Zire, it looks promising but there may be a hurdle or two before I finish.

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