iPhones

I’ve had an iPhone for about 18 months now. In the summer, I upgraded from my 8gb first generation model to a 32gb 3GS. It’s awesome, and with the 3G, extra processor speed and storage, plus improvements to the camera and the phone experience, I’d say it is the first true experience of what the iPhone was always meant to do, if that makes sense.

Here are a few recent examples of how the iPhone doesn’t change your life, but does subtly make it so much easier, and sometimes stranger:

  1. Before having an iPhone, when I went on trips to London for meetings and things, I’d take a laptop, mp3 player, and my phone. Go back a couple of years and I’d have a PDA as well (a Palm Tungsten T5, if you’re interested). I might have had a separate camera, and possibly something like a Flip, just in case. Now, unless I have a bit of work to do when I am traveling that involves a lot of typing, I just take the iPhone.
  2. I got a phone call the other day, when I happened to be in London, from someone asking to meet up. They told me where they were, and as soon as I hung up, I looked up where it was on the map on the iPhone, and where the nearest tube station was from it, and where the nearest one from me was. Then I went straight to the Tube iPhone app to get the best route from where I was to where I needed to be. This is great for me, as I don’t really know London that well, and means I don’t have to faff around with loads of maps, looking like a tit. Instead I get to stare into my phone, looking like a tit.
  3. Today I was in Halfords, looking for a bike rack. I found the one I wanted, but it wasn’t priced up! A normal person would find a Halford’s staff member to ask. I just went to the Halford’s website on my iPhone and searched for the product’s reference number. I got the price in a couple of seconds.
  4. On the train home, before Christmas, I was having several conversations, all through my phone. One was using SMS, one on Yammer, another on Twitter, another through email and another on IM. I skipped around them, keeping up and responding to each without any real thought. When I got home, I really couldn’t think why I was using each medium to talk to those people – I had the mobile number of the person I was emailing, so I could have sent them a text, for example.

The interesting thing about 2,3 and 4 is that I didn’t have to think about what I was doing, it just happened. The iPhone’s interface isn’t perfect – for instance, why are the compose buttons for SMS messages and emails at different ends of the screen? – but it’s still fairly intuitive and keeps out of the way. Having all these different streams coming into one device just makes everything so fluid.

The one issue is that typing a lot just isn’t feasible. This seems to be a great way of sorting that out, though:

I’m not willing to jailbreak my phone though. Let’s hope something similar that’s authorised will appear soon.

Importance of mobile

Mobile platforms are going to be ever-increasingly important to government, not least in terms of communicating and consulting with citizens – especially in terms of engaging with the disadvantaged who are more likely to have a mobile phone than a web-connected computer.

But there is another side of this too, which is the role that mobile will play within organisations. As Oliver Marks writes on his Collaboration 2.0 blog:

The danger in this recessionary era is ironically choice: many employees have to resort to their personal mobile phones and unofficial (and often illegal) use of web ‘Software as a Service’ applications, storing sensitive company data outside the company, simply in order to get their job done. The challenges of putting together workflows which leverage the power of the new technologies is far more about motivating people to use processes mapped to appropriate technologies than the actual technology tools.

We are in a period of unprecedented change, while also fighting our way out of a deep financial markets induced recession. Companies who focus on leveraging their most precious asset – their people – and empowering them with the workflow, guidance and tools to innovate and work perceptively and productively will emerge as a more sophisticated next business generation. Those who don’t are likely to choke to death on costly fragmentation and lack of focus.

In other words, if organisations don’t embrace new ways of working and empower staff to use new technologies to work together better, the ever increasing sophistication of mobile platforms will mean staff can get on with in themselves. Not only will this mean organisations won’t make the most of this opportunity, there will be risks created by staff doing their own thing.

Kindling

My Kindle arrived today.

I can haz Kindle

For those that don’t know, it’s Amazon’s own e-reader, a portable device that can hold around 1,500 books in its memory which can be read by turning pages using the buttons.

Even though I knew the screen was 6 inches, it still seemed smaller than I was expecting. The device is also a lot thinner than I thought it would be:

Thindle

The screen is really weird, it’s like nothing you’ve looked at before – other than the page of a book. Very odd.

Another interesting thing is the wireless – the Kindle uses the cell network, the cost of which is covered by Amazon and is presumably a part of the cost of the device.

Anyway, I can buy and download books from Amazon.com – not from the UK store yet (which may mean spelling issues…), or add books or documents from my computer. This can be done either by plugging the Kindle into my computer with the supplied USB cable (also my only way of charging it, since the plug supplied is US only too), or by sending a file by email to a special address, which is pretty neat.

You can also use the keyboard to add annotations to documents or books, so this could be really useful for students.

As well as established e-readers like the Sony Reader, the Kindle also has competition from Barnes and Nobles’ new Nook. Crunchgear has a useful comparison chart.

3 mobile broadband sucks for PAYG mac users

I have a 3 mobile broadband dongle, which I bought a ear or so ago just before this stuff started to get cheap 😦 It’s a pay-as-you-go job, because up till now I haven’t used it on that regular a basis – but it is handy to have now and again.

I tend to just pop into a mobile phone shop when I need to buy a topup for it, which – in the past – I would simply add to my account my visiting 3’s website. It was easy enough.

However, last night when I went to perform the top-up, I couldn’t. The link to do this just wasn’t there anymore. Fair enough, I thought, the site has been redesigned and the link must be somewhere else. Checking the help pages on the 3 site didn’t help either, as they told me to follow the old procedure.

I decided to ring support.

ME: Hello. I want to top up my pay as you go mobile broadband thing but your site won’t let me.

3: Oh. Have you tried following the instructions on the help page?

ME: Yes. It tells me to click a link that isn’t there.

3: Oh yes, we have upgraded the My3 site…

ME: But not upgraded the documentation.

3: Er, no. Apologies for that. To top up you just need to login to your My3 account online.

ME: I don’t have a My3 account.

3: To sign up, you just need to enter a few details on the My3 site. You’ll then get a text telling you your password.

ME: How would I receive a text on a USB modem?

3: Oh. Er, you know the 3 icon you have on your desktop, which you click to use the internet?

ME: No.

3: Which version of Windows are you using?

ME: I’m not, I’m using a Mac.

3: I’ll just put you on hold for a moment [pause] Can you put your modem’s sim card into a 3 mobile phone to receive the text?

ME: No, I don’t have a 3 mobile phone.

3: Do any of your friends or family have one you could borrow?

ME: What?

3: OK. I can apply the top up to your account over the phone.

ME: Fine. But, just to be clear, at the moment, there is no way for a 3 PAYG mobile broadband top up to be made for Mac users?

3: That is currently the situation, yes.

ME: Bloody marvellous.

[sound of phone being hung up, picked up again and a number being dialled]

ME: Hello, Vodafone?

More cloud working stuff

I missed a couple of bits out of my recent post on stuff I am/will be using to work once I am self employed (not long to go now, folks!). Here’s a couple more:

Communications

Being at home alone more often will mean I need to have good communications links with other folk to help me keep on top of things as well as keep me sane. So, I have Skype which is as useful for instant messaging as it is calling people over the web. I’m davewbriggs on Skype, if you’d like to connect on there.

I also use Meebo, which in an in-the-browser instant messenger client which allows you to chat to people whether they use Microsoft, Google, AOL or Yahoo! instant messaging. Very useful! These days it’s also useful to keep an eye on Facebook chat, which seems to be becoming increasingly popular.

One communications medium I would like to make more is online video, both by using ‘webinar’ (ugh!) type services like DimDim and GoToMeeting and video conferencing like ooVoo. It would certainly be cool to be able to provide support or even coaching online using these sorts of methods.

Intranet

It might be a bit strange for what is effectively a one-man-band to have an intranet. I see it as another tool with which I can organise myself, though. I’m using a wiki I created with Google Sites, which makes use of several templates to create the functionality I need. Each bit of work I undertake has a page in the wiki, and an entry in a big to-do list. All the files for a project are attached to the relevant wiki page, which also lists everything I know about the project: who I am talking to about it, URLs etc so I can’t forget anything. It also means I have a record of completed projects that I can refer to easily. It seems to be working pretty well so far.

Working in the cloud

This rather mega post from Paul Stamatiou made me think about what I’m going to be using from September to manage myself and my business. Most of these I have been using for a while, or have just started to get set up.

Email

I use Gmail for my email, set up  to work with the DavePress.net domain through Google Apps. It works wonderfully, including being able to access it on my iPhone.

Calendar

I use iCal on my Mac, which syncs with the iPhone through MobileMe. Some people have had trouble with this service, but it works fine for me. MobileMe also means I have a web based version of the calendar should I need to give others access.

Documents

I have two types of documents, those that I am working on with others, and those which are pretty much just for me. The former I put on Google Docs, the latter I edit with Office 2008 on the Mac and save on my iDisk, which thanks to MobileMe is accessible from anywhere. All Docs I regularly back up on my hard drive.

I’m currently experimenting with how to plan work and time, with spreadsheets and calendars. Am sure I will figure it out soon.

Contacts

I have contacts in my phone, synced to the Mac and online with MobileMe. I’m also starting to fill out Zoho CRM, which is an online customer relationship management platform, running in the browser, which is free for up to three users. It’s a very comprehensive system, far too big for my purposes, really, but I am trying to find the bits of functionality I need and how I can make them work for me.

The Zoho suite of online apps is truly amazing, though I have to admit to never having got into them properly because there is simply too much of it!

Notes

Mixture of old and new media here. First port of call is my notebook; but second I go for Evernote which syncs between web, iPhone and Mac desktop application, including text, images and audio.

What’s important

So what I seem to need in the apps I use is mobility. I need to be able access as much of my stuff as I can in different locations, whether I have my own laptop with me or not – and even when I only have my phone with me.