Archive for February, 2009

Creating a mobile timeline blog (interconnected moblogging)

Blackberry 3rd party softwareOne of the things I could never really wrap my head around was the complete and total failure of moblogging as a platform and as idea. Moblogs had a (very) short renaissance period in 2003 when camera phones made their mainstream debut (yes, it was only 6 years ago) and carriers were heavily pushing MMS. There were a few problems back then – MMS to email was extremely expensive and users were heavily restricted by the types of content they could upload – moblogs never really caught on in the way blogging did – even though they probably should have.

The rules of the game are slightly different today. Data is cheap(er), most mobile phones can send emails without the use of MMS and 3rd-party software to upload photos and videos are a dime a dozen. The “moblog crowd”, however, has moved on, and mobile bloggers have long been posting to Twitter from their mobiles as a means of getting their content published on the go. Twitter is excellent for getting mobile content pushed immediately to the masses – especially with Twitpic and Qik added to the mix. But the question remains – how can the model of the standard moblog evolve into a truly useful (and flexible) mobile blogging platform, especially when we share different types of mobile content on different platforms and networks?

I revisited Tumblr today, and realized that, if set up correctly, it could be a wonderful tool for creating a mobile timeline blog, aggregating my published mobile content from throughout the day. Tumblr is a blogging platform for Tumblogs, which wikipedia describes as:

a variation of a blog that favors short-form, mixed-media posts over the longer editorial posts frequently associated with blogging. Common post formats found on tumblelogs include links, photos, quotes, dialogues, and video. Unlike blogs, tumblelogs are frequently used to share the author’s creations, discoveries, or experiences while providing little or no commentary.

One of the great things about Tumblr specifically, is that is allows one to set up the service to pull posts from other services via RSS. This is great – because it means that you don’t have to change much of your current behavior in order to set up a moblog with Tumblr. I post articles to Delicious bookmarks on my mobile via Viigo and upload photos to Flickr from my mobile via the Flickr Uploader for Blackberry. All that’s left, really, is to pull all of these together and mash them up.

Hippocamp Software provide a great (and free) Blackberry client for Tumblr, which allows you to post text, links and images to your Tumblog directly from your Blackberry. You don’t have to do this though – if you’re using the Flickr Uploader for Blackberry (or Shozu for most mobile phones, or Nokia Share Online), you can assign a special tag to your uploaded Flickr/Picasa photos (I chose “mobileupload”) and instruct Tumblr to automatically “pull” these tagged photos into your Tumblog, where they will be ordered by date taken. If you use Viigo (Blackberry / Windows mobile), you can easily post articles from your favorite websites to your Delicious bookmarks. If you give these links a special tag (like “mobilelink”), Tumblr can fetch these, too. If video is your thing, Tumblr can fetch your Qik videos, too.

The result is a timeline of links, text snippets and photos you’ve posted throughout the day on your mobile phone. It may not be as immediate as Twitter – but that’s not the point. The point is to document a timeline of you outside, out and about on your mobile. It’s incredibly easy, requires minimal setup, and if you’re posting links, videos and photos via your mobile anyway – this method brings everything together into a streamlined format for your friends and family to enjoy.

I hope you enjoy mine.

Pretty Things t-shirt sighting: Hamburg

Henning over at posted some photos of his “I can has Coffee” Men’s Latte Tee from the Pretty Things shop.

Coffee I can has Coffee I can has

Coffee I can has

Check out I can has Coffee printed tees in the shop.
15% off all color printed shirts from Feb 20th to March 1st! Coupon code WINTERADE

Don’t forget to post photos of you in your Pretty Things tee(s) in the flickr pool!

Beaker’s Never gonna give you up

I have obviously been living under a rock, because this is probably one of the best videos I’ve seen since Internet People.

Happy belated Hanukkah from Nintendo

I know Hanukkah is over, but browsing through my flickr feed I came across this snapshot I took, and couldn’t figure out why I hadn’t posted it.

This “Festive Candle” was up for sale at Nook’s in Animal Crossing DS over Hanukkah. Yeah, I know it’s a Menorah, not a Hanukkia.

Maybe I should have saved this for next year… but then I’d miss this wonderful chance to share my massive GEEK CRED with you. At least it’s better than that Hanukkah video I did in December.

Happy Hanukkah from Animal Crossing DS

Push email: Why I don’t need it (yet), and neither do you.

youve got mailEver since folks around the office have been stocking up on iPhone 3Gs and Blackberries have been roaming the halls, the subject of Push Email has been popping up in one form or another on more than one occasion.

It’s easy to configure your email account on your mobile device, regardless of if you have an iPhone, a Blackberry, a Nokia or whatnot. While Blackberry phones (and Nokia phones running Blackberry Connect) are the only (?) mainstream devices at this point in time that employ real “push technology”, other mobiles can set up to get their IMAP mail accounts to poll/pull emails instantly when they arrive via TCP “push”.

Back on my Nokia N95 8gb, I had been using System Seven to get my mail. Email would arrive instantly in my inbox, however after a few weeks, I realized it was more of a nuisance than a productive way of communication.

I stand by this notion: Personal email on mobile devices is not mainstream enough to be an efficient form of communication. For those of us who are using email on their mobile devices as part of their workflow (especially freelancers and executives) – mobile email is a great way to make sure decisions are made quickly and the lines of communication stay open. For the rest of us, personal email is a quicker form of “snail mail” – we use our inboxes to receive updates from our favorite websites and communicate with people on a non time-committing basis. In the world of personal email, it is completely proper to answer an email a day or two later. Immediacy is not required.

The transition to purposeful push-email for the masses is more of a mental “switch” than it is a technological one. Due to the general attitude towards personal email being non-immediate, using email like SMS is not efficient. If I have push-email configured on my mobile device, it serves me no use to email my friend who is on his way to meet me in order to tell him that the party has been cancelled. He probably doesn’t have email on his phone. I’d rather send him a costly sms in order to make sure he “gets the memo” on time.

It’s not that we’re not prepared for the transition of mobile email to the next level of communication – this has been something that has been in the making for a long while. The truth of the matter is, it remains in the carriers’ best interest to keep private consumers on the low-end of the communication spectrum, due to the amount of money they pocket from each of us every month on SMS costs. This is not only true for email, but true for mobile VoIP as well.

When emails arrive to my mobile device, one out of 100 requires my immediate attention. The remaining 99 can wait for a few hours until I reach a computer. And with a non-immediate email reaching my inbox once every 15 minutes on average, this instant retrieval of emails is not only pointless, but rude in social situations. If I’m not at my desk at home or at work, I’m probably being social, and reading emails constantly is a bad way to kick off a conversation.

While I’d love for mobile email to really take off, ushering the mobile world into a new era of cheap, instant and rapid communication – carriers need to work to integrate this in a more efficient manner. But like the electric car and mobile voice-over-IP, those who stand to lose the most money in the process are fighting with their teeth. But like the VHS cassette and digital music – they will eventually lose this war against technological progression and be forced to adapt.

But this day has not yet come.

My favorite 3rd party BlackBerry downloads

Blackberry 3rd party softwareI’m a big fan of mobile software – I love playing around with 3rd-party applications on my mobile phone and am always curious as to how mobile software can integrate itself into my daily life and make me more productive. Since I’ve been dabbling around with a Blackberry for a few weeks (that’s a screenshot of my home screen on the right, by the way), I figured to put together a more comprehensive list of some of the great free apps and resources that I’ve come across so far, and where to get them.

Some are world-class applications, some are beta software with quite a bit of polishing before prime-time. That said, it’s nice to see such an expansive world of 3rd-party applications for the Blackberry being distributed without charge.


Email and Messaging

  • Gmail Mobile – For those not using BlackBerry Internet Service, Gmail mobile is a great way to get your mail. It also flashes on new incoming messages and notifies with an icon overlay.
  • Nimbuzz – a nice multi-protocol instant messenger. A little sluggish on the BlackBerry and doesn’t support typing in the message screen like Palringo, but supports Skype IM.
  • Palringo – If Skype IM isn’t important for you, try Palringo. Very elegant and fluid interface, in-thread typing and very snappy.
  • Instango – nice, minimalist multi-protocol IM app which notifies you with a notification light when you’ve got a new message. Could be a little prettier, but gets the job done well. Only (other) gripe – wouldn’t take my Jabber account settings, even if correct. This one needs some prettifying/usability work and is a winner.
  • LogicMail – Another email alternative. Open source and free, supports IMAP accounts.
  • Funambol – email/calendar/PIM sync solution similar to Apple’s MobileMe service, but open-source and free. I use the email plugin for work mail.


  • GPSed – I love this app! Similar to Nokia Sports Tracker, GPSed lets you save your tracks on a map (or broadcast them live), add geotagged photos and share on Facebook/Twitter.
  • Bliin GPS tracking – a location-based social network with a blackberry client. Their web interface is very difficult to use, I’d recommend waiting for the next release.
  • BBtracker – Simple, open-source application for creating tracklogs.
  • Spotjots – Spotjots allows you to create a location-aware moblog and post via your GPS-enabled Blackberry.


  • Google Sync – great for those who keep their contacts/calendar in “The Cloud“.
  • Google Maps Mobile – The classic mobile maps application which integrates with your local address book to show you addresses on a map.
  • Google Mobile App – provides a quick shortcut to search, search history and other Google mobile services.
  • Documents to Go Standard Edition (OTA link) – allows you to view .doc/.ppt/.xls files on the go (premium paid version allows you to edit).
  • BBnotepad – Similar to the standard Blackberry memopad, but allows you to save and open .txt files from your media card.
  • BBtran – wonderful dictionary translation app which interfaces with Google’s translation service (or systran, if you rather).
  • Vlingo – Voice recognition software (US English accents only at this time) which allows you to preform a variety of actions via voice, like SMS, google search, Facebook and Twitter status message posting.
  • Blackberry Launchers – Blackberry home-screen launchers for your favorite mobile sites.
  • IntlCodes – an international dialing code lookup program for folks who dial abroad a lot.
  • OANDA Currency Converter – I handle 4 currencies on a regular basis (US Dollar, Euro, British Pound, Israeli Shekel) and with the recent market fluctuations, a currency converter is something I find myself using often.
  • MidpSSH – ssh/telnet client for remote administration.
  • BBweather – look up weather forecasts for cities all over the world.
  • WeatherBug Direct – Cute little application which will put an icon on your home screen which tells you the local temperature and updates automatically.
  • QuickPull – resets your blackberry.
  • bit.lify – shortens your URLs for use in SMS or Twitter.
  • Otello – Will be a very interesting visual search service when it comes out of beta. They have an experimental Blackberry client.
  • BBFileScout – A simple and nice free file manager.

Internet and Social Networking

  • TwitterBerry (OTA link) – probably the best mobile Twitter application I’ve come across. Not great for smaller screen sizes (like on the Pearl) but still simple and comfortable to use.
  • Viigo – All-in-one news/rss power app. By far the best I’ve seen on any mobile device, works extremely well. It allows you to post links to Twitter, too! I use this every morning on my way to work to catch up on the news.
  • BBplacemarks – Downloads your Brightkite placemarks and allows you to set your location.
  • Flickr for Blackberry – an official Flickr photo-uploading app from RIM.
  • Facebook for Blackberry – an official Facebook client from RIM.
  • bbMetaBlog – For blogging on-the-go to a Wordpress blog or others that support XMLRPC.
  • Qik – allows you to broadcast video live to the web.
  • BlackBerry tumblr Client – An excellent client for posting to your Tumblr tumblog.
  • Opera Mini – mobile browser which renders large pages faster (and with less data transfer) than the standard Blackberry browser.
  • Yahoo! Go for Blackberry – While I’m no longer a Yahoo! Go user, I highly recommend this application for mobile web “newbies”.

Other Applications


Corkberry Pearl
iPod Berry
Chalk 2D
Bold/Storm replica themes
Luminescence (OTA link)
Agua (OTA link)


Retro wallpaper collection
Blackberry Pearl wallpaper pool on Flickr

Add your favorite free Blackberry resources and apps in the comments!

Pretty Things t-shirt sighting: Berlin

Some great photos from Ami in Berlin wearing T shirts from my Pretty Things shop.

© Ami Osherov 2009

© Ami Osherov 2009

Check out Typography Builds Character and Tel Aviv My Love in the shop.
14.2% off all orders until Feb 10th! Coupon code HERZ2009

A week with a Blackberry: The Good, The Bad & The Ugly

Blackberry 8110 Pearl
I have a love/hate relationship with my Nokia N95 8gb. It’s a great device and completely smashes devices like the iPhone in terms of capabilities, but it was everything and the kitchen sink – just short of a refrigerator, which is what it felt like in my pocket. It felt more like it was designed by General Electric than by Nokia.

As my texting vs. calling behavior changed drastically, so did my requirements. So when my co-worker Jan offered me to pick up his 2nd hand Blackberry Pearl 8110, my answer was “duh”.

After a week with the device, I’ve completely fallen in love with it (even if it can’t play Rolando, which one of my co-workers is hopelessly addicted to). I still get funny faces at work for not owning an iPhone.

So what do I like about the Blackberry, and what makes me want to hurl it overboard to join my N95 at the bottom of the Alster?

The good

  • Email, email, email.
    I don’t have Blackberry Internet Service with my carrier (Simyo), so I do not have the “standard” push email service which the Blackberry is famous for. BUT! Gmail Mobile for Blackberry has superb integration into the Blackberry’s UI, far surpassing the standard features of the app on other mobile devices, like proper notifications. Same with Funambol’s solution (which is more suitable for enterprise environments).

  • Suretype + Qwerty layout.
    The Blackberry has been built for typers. The keyboard is brilliant, typing long sentences is easy and Suretype is absolutely brilliant. Bye-bye, T9.

  • Great native applications.
    Flickr for Blackberry with geo-tagging, Facebook for Blackberry, Google Calendar/Contact sync, MilkSync for Blackberry, Viigo RSS, Vlingo, GPSed and Twitterberry with Twitpic integration are all great apps, many of which don’t exist on any other platform. Many apps which I used on my Nokia such as Truphone, Qik, Detusche Bahn Railnavigator and Palringo work on the Blackberry or have a native Blackberry version. There also seems to be a world of sysadmin tools available, such as SSH clients and VNC.

  • Camera is better than expected.
    I thought that the weak 2mpx camera was going to mirror my old Nokia 7373 in terms of (crap) quality, but I was wrong. It’s not a great camera by any means, but it preforms significantly better than other 2mpx I’ve seen on the market.

  • GPS lock-on in T -5 seconds.
    It took my Nokia up to a full 2 minutes to get a good satellite lock-on with the inbuilt GPS chip. The Blackberry locks on in 5-10 seconds.

  • Out-of-the-box support for semetic languages.
    This one is major for me, so I’m happy to report that Hebrew email and text messages display correctly on the device. The Apple iPhone and Android G1 still do not support this at all.

  • Beautiful build quality.
    The Blackberry Pearl is solid, well built, sturdy handset. None of that flimsy Nokia plastic slider stuff here.

The Bad

  • Sub-par Mac support.
    Probably not as bad as Windows Mobile yet still inexcusably bad, Blackberry’s sync software for Mac is buggy and broken, Markspace’s Missing Sync for Blackberry is only slightly better. Thank goodness for Google Mobile Sync (which syncs over the air, which is brilliant) otherwise I’d probably keep my address book in a Moleskine.

  • Apps downloaded to the computer only installable through desktop manager.
    Perhaps I shouldn’t whine about this, since iPhone users are used to this kind of behavior, but it irks me that apps are either installable over-the-air of through the PC-only “desktop manager”. It is impossible to transfer a non-jar installation file (.alx, .cod) to the device via USB and install it directly on the handset, like Nokia s60 allows one to do with .sis and .sisx files.

  • No Wi-Fi or UMTS.
    Newer Blackberry models have both these functionalities, but the Pearl 8110 does not. This is not a big deal if you’re mostly dealing with minor amounts of data, but if you’re planning on tethering or distributing large files over the air, you should look at the Blackberry Bold, which looks to be an amazing device.

The Ugly

  • Abnormally long boot time.
    I was complaining about the Nokia N95 8gb’s boot time of 15 seconds? The Blackberry Pearl 8110 takes a full two minutes to boot.

  • Having to reboot the phone after uninstalling applications.
    What is this, Windows???

  • Built in a way which allows carriers to crew consumers over.
    This is a big one – You can only use the built-in mail app with BIS through your carrier (no client-side IMAP configuration, need to use a 3rd party solution like logicmail), GPS and other various features can be disabled by the carrier, some software (like the official Google Talk client and Blackberry Messenger) can only be used on top of a Blackberry Data Plan.


The Blackberry Pearl is a good solid phone – most of the annoyances I’ve been coming across are largely related to the Blackberry as a platform, and having to “jump through hoops” to get a workable setup if using an unlocked phone on a non-blackberry service plan. As a private consumer, my setup works well, however if considering such a device in an enterprise environment without running the Blackberry Enterprise Server, a system administrator should consider installing the free and open-source Funambol Server, which takes care of the whole email/calendar/contacts sync and can then be deployed across many, non-blackberry devices as well.

If you’re a power mobile internet user – the Blackberry Pearl isn’t for you. The screen resolution is small (240×260) and better suitable for text than for images. If you’re a power texter like I am, using Twitter, IM and Email constantly, all Blackberry models should be interesting for you.

Will I consider another Blackberry in the future? Probably. I’ve been looking to get away from Nokia until they redesign their interface for s60, so unless they come up with something really enticing (no, not the N97) and stop shoving Ovi in everyone’s faces, I won’t be looking at another Nokia purchase.

Which mobile phone do you have? Are you happy with it? What do you not like about it? What is your next purchase going to be?

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