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Tip: Record LiveScribe Pulse Smartpen Ink Without Audio

livescribe_pulse_2gb

I’ve had my LiveScribe Pulse Smartpen (2GB model) for a week now. It won’t get a real-life field test until next week. So, I’ve been using this time to figure out how make the best use of it. One of the first things I learned that I was wrong in assuming that it could only sync its data (ink and audio) with a single computer. I’ve been syncing with three computers for the past week without any issues (Windows Vista desktop PC, Windows 7 netbook and a Mac).

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The next issue that only occurred to me after getting the pen was: How do I just record ink (drawing and writing) digitization WITHOUT recording audio. Pre-purchase my main focus was the audio recording capability that synced with the ink (writing and drawing). After receiving my pen, the obvious struck me: It is nice to just capture ink without audio as when I’m writing notes.

I couldn’t find this feature in LiveScribe’s various documents, how-to videos, or knowledge base. So, I tweeted @livescribe to get advice and was told that solution was simply to do nothing but write. Yes, that’s right. All I had to do was NOT press the Record “button” on the bottom of each note page. Pressing the Record button begins recording audio synced with ink. I assumed that the pen ink activity was not recorded unless that button was tapped. This, however, is not the case.

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As you can see in the image above, I digitally captured my writing by simply writing on the microdot paper without pressing the Record button. The only requirement is that the pen is turned on. The writing seen in the image above is, by the way, not a photograph. It is a screen capture of the synced digitized data on my Mac. Pages can also be saved as PDF files.

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Mobile Devices

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iPhone Tip: Resize Text Columns by Double Tapping It

The brief video above contains two iPhone/iPod touch screen double tap tips:

1. Double tap narrow hard to read text columns to automatically resize them to fill the screen in either portrait or landscape modes

2. Double tap the top of the web browser to automatically return to the top of a web page (assuming you have scrolled down the page)

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Back to Basics: Never Use Windows Mobile Messaging Automatic Email Settings

Google’s IMAP4 email service was so slow that it drained my Dash’s batteries 4% everytime it checked for mail. So, I removed it from the Dash’s Messaging (email) app last year. I decided it was time to check again. But, instead of the Dash, I decided to try using a TyTn (Windows Mobile 6 with a recent update from HTC) touch screen smartphone. Just for fun, I decided to say yes when asked by Messaging’s account setup if I wanted to have Windows Mobile to check if it knew how to configure the account automatically. I have never seen this thing actually find settings. So, I figured it would fail as usual and then move on to the manual configuration windows. I was shocked when Messaging reported it had found settings and had applied them to the account.

However, when I had Messaging try to get mail from Gmail, I knew right away that another miserable Windows Mobile failure was in progress. It was grabbing hundreds of email messages (or so it said) but not displaying anything. After spending many minutes going through this process (I had to grab a power supply so the TyTn wouldn’t power down or drain its batteries), absolutely nothing was in the inbox list despite the fact that I had mail as recently as a few minutes previous to starting the Messaging process. Why did this happen? Because Windows Mobile Messaging is clueless about Gmail’s IMAP4 service and configured it for POP3. Moreover, Windows Mobile Messaging’s POP3 interface is broken. It has been broken from the first day it rolled out of a Visual Studio on someone’s desk and remains broken today.

The moral to this story is NEVER NEVER NEVER bother to use Windows Mobile Messaging’s feature to auto configure and email account. It has never actually found anything for me until today. And, now that is has finally found something, it turns out it didn’t actually know how to configure the so-called “known” mail service correctly.

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Mobile Devices
Pocket PC/Phone Edition
Smartphone
Windows Mobile

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Back to Basics: Email Key Sort


I cannot believe I did not know about this until yesterday. You all probably know that you can search through contacts and recent calls by typing a string on a Windows Mobile smartphone keyboard. Type O-G-A and my full name shows up as part of the search results of people in your contacts list, for example. But, I didn’t realize this also works with Email. In the example illustrated above, I tapped the keyboard letters P-B. As you can see, the email messaging client found this two letter sequence in both the From and Subject lines and highlighted the string. I am kind of embarrassed that I didn’t know about this useful email filtering feature until now. I wonder when it first appeared? It works on both the Standard (non-touch) and Professional (touch) Editions of Windows Mobile.

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Pocket PC/Phone Edition
Smartphone
Windows Mobile

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Back to Basics: Which Idiot at Microsoft Decided Anniversary Events Should Alarm at Midnight?

Windows Mobile smartphones (Standard Edition) can be actually powered down. However, Pocket PCs (Professional & Classic Editions) are not really off unless the battery is pulled out. So, if you have an anniversary event (birthday, wedding anniversary) set in contacts, it wakes up at midnight and sets of the audible alarm (if that is turned on which is usually the case). I’d like to know which braindead idiot at Microsoft decided this is a desirable behavior.

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Pocket PC/Phone Edition
Windows Mobile

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Back to Basics: The Mobile Browsing Experience


Most web pages are designed to be viewed on a desktop or notebook computer. Looking at these pages on a small screen phone is like looking at a mountain range through a pinhole. It is not a good viewing experience. Some web site owners and designers now understand that many people look at their pages on-the-go on their phones and other small screen mobile devices. Unfortunately, there are tremendous differences between the various browsers on various devices.

My first web-enabled phone had a monochrome display that placed black characters on a green-ish tinted background like the green-screen CRTs from decades ago. It supported the Wireless Access Protocol (WAP) which simply placed characters on the tiny screen and assumed your main input was a 12-key phone keypad. These days it is still considered the most basic format supported and you still see addresses like wap.ao.yahoo.com. It has the advantage of being lightning fast because it is usually text with little formatting. It also works on almost every mobile device running today.

Many of today’s so-called smartphones use mobile versions of familiar desktop browsers such as Internet Explorer and Opera. These smartphone browsers often are missing some of the functions of their desktop counterparts but can deliver a limited but still useful web experience if a website is designed for the mobile browsers limitations.

Finally, there are mobile browsers that deliver near desktop experience on a small screen. Opera Mobile and the Apple iPhone’s Safari deliver outstanding mobile web browsing experiences. However, as good as these browser are, the pinhole viewing effect still exists. Fortunately, some websites are now designed to identify the different mobile browser types and deliver optimized web pages for the different platforms. The USA Today newspaper online site is a good example. If you type usatoday.com in an iPhone (or iPod touch) Safari browser, it automatically redirects you to the iphone.usatoday.com site optimized to look and work best with an iPhone. Typing the same usatoday.com on a Windows Mobile smartphone, on the other hand, sends you to the simpler but still useful m.usatoday.com formatted for use with most of the web browsers used by smartphones using various mobile operating systems.

You can see two versions of the same USA Today web home page above. The screen on the left is the page formatted for an iPhone. The screen on the right is formatted for most mobile web browsers. This specific screen capture came from a Windows Mobile Professional Edition smartphone with a touch screen.

Incidentally, the one thing you rarely see is the ill-fated attempt to create mobile specific web domains ending in the .mobi name suffix. The common naming conventions for mobile friendly websites use prefixes such as wap. (wap.oa.yahoo.com), mobile. (mobile.msn.com), and m. (m.digg.com). Sites designed specifically for the iPhone sometimes use the prefix iphone. (iphone.usatoday.com). There are other variants such as a trailing /i path after the domain name (friendfeed.com/i). So, it can be a challenge to figure out what the correct mobile friendly webpage name is if the site does not auto-identify and redirect you to the correctly formatted site as USA Today does.

The good news though is that browsing from your phone or other small screen devices is on the radar of web site ownes and developers. And, it has resulted in a much improved web browsing experience when on the go.

Apple
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Mobile Devices
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Windows Mobile

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Live Mobile Reformats Web Pages For You

One Live Mobile feature I like is its option to reformat web pages you jump to from its search results to fit on your phone’s screen. The screen cap here shows the settings option to turn this on.

photo

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Microsoft
Mobile Devices

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iPhone/iPod touch: Tap Top Tip

I’ve had my iPod touch since, hmm, last October. But, I only learned about this iPhone/iPod touch browser tip a week ago. One web page design convention for iPhones is to put a tabbed row at the top of a web page for navigation. This tab set disappears if you are reading a long page that scrolls down. If you tap the top of the screen, you are flung back to the top of the page and, therefore, back to the nav row. I really should read product documentation more :-)

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Back to Basics: Cameraphone Sports Mode Setting


Generally speaking, the cameras on most phones are much slower than even the slowest of the first generation consumer digital cameras back in the 1990s. So, I’ve never really expected to get much in the way of action shots with my cameraphone and ignored the so-called Sports Setting the camera configuration. However, while waiting for my daughter at her gym today, I decided to play with that setting to while the time away.

You can see one of the photos I took using the Sports Setting using my T-Mobile Dash (AKA HTC Excalibur). On this particular phone, this setting reduces the resolution to 640×480 (which makes sense) and takes three (3) photos in succession after pressing the selection button. You can adjust the number of photos it takes per squeeze in the configuration menu.

I’ve shrunken the photo from the original 640×480 to make it blog-friendly. It won’t make anyone throw away their Digital SLR. But, the result was better than I expected. I guess I should try some of the other camera phone settings too now.

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Digital Photography
Mobile Devices
Smartphone
Windows Mobile

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Windows Mobile Voice Command, Alarms, and Bluetooth

The T-Mobile Dash running Windows Mobile 6 has one really annoying bug: Once you set the phone to vibrate profile, event notifications always vibrate even if the profile is set back to normal. However, there is a workaround if you use a Bluetooth speaker or headset. The Dash comes with Voice Command in firmware. If you set it to send voice notifications to the Bluetooth device, the darn Dash will still vibrate for event notifications, but it will provide a text-to-speech notification via the Bluetooth device.

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Mobile Devices
Smartphone
Windows Mobile

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The Dash’s Battery Died Faster Than Any Other Phone Battery I’ve Used

I’ve had my T-Mobile Dash for about a year now. I don’t switch phones very frequently although I often do have a couple of phones to play with. Why? I usually find a specific phone I like a lot and stick with it for a while. The Dash is a great phone and I haven’t seen anything that might make me switch away from it. I almost switched to the TyTn, but I decided a while back that I prefer phones that can be operated with one hand and one I don’t mind using in the rain. Touch screen devices do not meet those requirements.

I noticed my battery was discharging faster than usual a couple of weeks ago. At one point, it was down to 40% at 2pm in the afternoon with minimal use. At first I thought one of my connected apps might be the cause. Email and my RSS reader came to mind first. Adjusting their update frequencies helped but did not resolve the problem. So, I started taking a closer look at my battery. I always fully charge my phone in the evening and then turn it off until the next morning. I started checking my battery level right after turning the phone on. The first time I checked my battery was at 78% right after turning the phone on. Remember it was 100% the evening before and the phone was turned off during the night. I tried this again to make sure it wasn’t a fluke. And, yep, the next morning, the fully charged battery was around 80% first thing in the morning.

My next guess was that something during the start cycle was burning up the charge. So, I plugged in my phone while it booted up. It showed 100%. So, I unplugged it and headed to the office. A few hours later, it was down quite a bit. It lasted longer during the day but still didn’t look normal. I tried this booting while plugged in the next morning and saw similar results. It finally dawned on me that this one year battery had already gone bad. So, I ordered a spare battery. And, yep, my battery was at 80% around 4pm in the afternoon. Phew. I am heading Seattle for the Microsoft MVP Summit and don’t want to worry about my phone’s battery.

I’m still surprised by the Dash’s battery lifespan. I’ve used a lot of phones. And, I think all of their batteries are still in pretty good shape. Still, it is a back to basics lesson to consider battery issues before looking at other possible causes for odd phone behavior.

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Mobile Devices
Smartphone
Windows Mobile

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Back to Basics: The Subtler Differences Between Cameraphones and Digital Cameras

Dash cameraphone vs. Canon A710IS

Discussions (and sometimes rants) about camera phone photos usually steer towards pixel count, clarity, and color. However, there are subtler differences between camera phone photos and digital camera photos. Take the two photos above taken using a T-Mobile Dash cameraphone (left) and a Canon Powershot A710IS point-and-shoot digital camera. I’ve resized both photos from their respective 1.3 megapixel and 7 megapixel resolutions so that both images are 320 pixels wide.

The first thing you probably noticed is that when resized to the same width the Dash’s photo is much squarer than the A710IS’. Cameras vary slightly in aspect ratio. So, if something seems slightly odd in your cameraphone photos, compare it to the aspect ratio of the digital camera you normally use. Cropping the camera phone photo to match the aspect ratio you are comfortable with might help.

Although I did not take the two photos at the exact same angle, you can still see that the camera phone photo seems flatter than the digital camera’s. Seeing distinct people (mostly heads here) drops off rapidly after a row or two of tables in the food court. The digital camera has a slightly wider angle of view even though I took both photos from exactly the same spot.

So, if something about your camera phone photo doesn’t seem quite right to you. It may not be the resolution or even the sharpness of the photo. It might be some of the subtler aspects of  camera phone’s imaging characteristics that might be at play for you.

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Digital Photography
Mobile Devices
Pocket PC/Phone Edition
Smartphone
Windows Mobile

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