ElevationDock modified for iPhone5

My ElevationDock is now modified to support an iPhone 5, u sing [Mike Hellers' 3D model](http://mikehellers.com/blog/2012/09/30/3d-printing-iphone5-adapter-for-the-elevationdock/) and my own Lightning cable. I was in Carmel this morning to give a talk and stopped by afterwards to see Mike and Jody Elliot of XIT404, who were gracious enough to print me one of the adapters. The printed part required the use of a dremel to install properly, and because it isn't at an angle like the [Lightning adapter ElevationLabs will be shipping soon](http://www.elevationlab.com/products/lightning-adapter), the iPhone 5 sits a bit high and doesn't rest against the back of the dock.

The machined ElevationLabs part is $15 plus shipping and is probably better, but if you have access to a 3D printer and are OK with the drawbacks, you can do the mod yourself.

[smugmug url="http://photos.echeng.com/hack/feed.mg?Type=gallery&Data=26350018_g96mSp&format=rss200" imagecount="100" start="1" num="100" thumbsize="Th" link="lightbox" captions="true" sort="true" size="L"]

Mophie is my best friend at #SXSW

Yesterday, I heard a story about an Uber pedicab driver here at SXSW who was making a lot in tips by pedaling people around and letting them charge their devices via USB battery. Conferences like SXSW chew up mobile device batteries because people are Tweeting and using apps all day long, without any real opportunity to charge up during the day. One of our Lytro team members was so desperate that she climbed over the counter at a bar to charge her iPhone up. I've been going to a lot of conferences lately, and finally bought a [Mophie Juice Pack Plus](http://www.mophie.com/iPhone-4-s/47.htm) because it's more convenient than using an external battery and cable.

It's awesome. It will more than charge up an iPhone from empty, which means that you can share it with your friends as they need power. Also, it is strangely satisfying to hold a larger mobile device. I actually find the iPhone (4S) more comfortable to use with the Mophie case than without. Highly recommended. The Juice Pack Air is even smaller and cheaper, but has a battery with 25% less charge capacity ([people say](http://forums.macrumors.com/showthread.php?t=1194000) that the Air won't quite charge an iPhone from empty to full).

Did Siri stop working on your Verizon iPhone 4S? Here's how I fixed mine.

I have an iPhone 4S on Verizon. Last week, I asked Siri a question, and she responded, "I'm really sorry, but I can't take any requests right now." After 24 hours, it was clear that Siri was broken. I looked only, and there were dozens of support webpages offering various tips on how to get the service working again; apparently, it is pretty common for Siri, clearly labeled a beta product by Apple, not to work. This is unfortunate because the iPhone itself is clear NOT a beta product. For any Apple-branded service not to work taints the entire iPhone experience. Here's how I finally managed to get Siri to work again:

1. **Settings->General->Reset->Reset All Settings.** This will reset things like your Desktop background, notification settings, and network settings, but will not delete any applications or user data. After I did this, Siri worked, but there were still a few problems: Siri refused to call anyone, and all phone numbers in my address book seemed to want to be 9 digits instead of 10. For example, if I entered a normal, 10-digit phone number like (415) 123-4567, Address Book would display it as "4151234567". However, if I removed the last digit, it would display, "(415) 12-34-56". Truly bizarre.

2. **I turned off Siri.**

3. **I dialed *228 and selected option 2** to update roaming.

4. After updating roaming, **I turned Siri on again and waited** for the phone to connect to the Verizon network. At this point, 10-digit phone numbers were again recognized and re-formatted to the proper "(xxx) xxx-xxxx". Siri was again able to dial.

I hate wasting time trying to get services to work properly. One of the reasons I have an iPhone is that I just want things to work, and all of the effort expended to figure out a way to get Siri to work was not fun. If I wanted to endlessly tweak my devices, I'd still be on Android!

Anyway, I hope this post helps folks out there to get Siri working again on their Verizon iPhones.

Using Eye-Fi to automatically transfer images to DropBox

I have become dependent on [DropBox](http://db.tt/wne3FtQ) as my cloud solution for working files (with versioned backups!), and for cloud syncing support in many of the apps I use. I'm also an [Eye-Fi](http://www.eye.fi/) user, and really like the idea of having a camera that automatically dumps images into a folder in DropBox. I asked Eye-Fi for this feature, but they told me that it's up to DropBox to integrate with Eye-Fi—not the other way around.

Eye-Fi did, however, recommend that I give [Pixelpipe](http://pixelpipe.com/) a try. I successfully configured Pixelpipe so that I could automatically transfer all JPG images on my Eye-Fi card to a folder in DropBox, but I want everything to be transfered, including RAW files and videos.

My current solution is to use Eye-Fi Center on a Mac Mini that is (already) running all the time in a closet at home. That Mac Mini has a temporary DropBox account running on it, and Eye-Fi dumps images into a shared DropBox folder there. Once it arrives on my Mac Mini, DropBox pushes it into the cloud, and images and videos are then accessible on all of my machines and mobile devices.

This method is totally wasteful, but it works! I hope someone comes up with a better solution in the long run.

I'm also looking for an iOS camera replacement that shoots directly to DropBox. At the moment, I use the DropBox app to push individual images, which is inconvenient.

My $2.99 (shipped) iPhone 4 dock and cable

$2.99 iPhone 4 dock and cable 2 weeks ago, I ordered an [iPhone 4 dock and USB cable](http://cgi.ebay.com/ws/eBayISAPI.dll?ViewItem&item=330518840243) off of eBay for $2.99 shipped, which seemed impossibly low. As promised, the dock and cable came in the mail today shipped from Shenzhen, China (not surprisingly, the same city in which iPhones are made). Although the dock is black and is made of a different material, the fit and finish matches what I'd expect of a product made by Apple. Who knows? Maybe they used the same machines. :)

$2.99 iPhone 4 dock

At 10% the price of an Apple dock, it was an incredible deal (I bought 2). If this vendor can make money selling a dock & cable for $2.99 shipped from China, imagine Apple's margin on its branded accessories!

**UPDATE**: I forgot to note that I have Wrapsol applied to my iPhone, and it fits just fine in the dock.

The first 3 days on my new Verizon iPhone (also, useful apps)

Verizon iPhone
I've had my pre-ordered Verizon iPhone for 3 days now, and I love the thing.

My good friend, [Sterling Zumbrunn](http://sterlingz.net/), helped me with initial app suggestions -- super helpful because he has pretty much tried every app in the app store :).

Things have changed quite a bit since I was last on iPhone (in the AT&T dark ages), and the infrastructure and app ecosystem are really mature now. One big difference for me is that many apps now support [DropBox]( https://www.dropbox.com/referrals/NTY3ODc2OQ), which means that all of my devices are always in sync.[^1]

[^1]: The notable exception is [OmniFocus](http://www.omnigroup.com/products/omnifocus/), whose iOS clients do not support DropBox even though their Mac desktop client does.

For note taking and text editing, the combination of [Elements](http://www.secondgearsoftware.com/elements/) on the iPhone and [nvALT](http://brettterpstra.com/code/notational-velocity-alt/) (a Notational Velocity fork) on Mac OS X is convenient and versatile. Since I don't like UI clutter, I also have [PlainText](http://www.hogbaysoftware.com/products/plaintext), which is cleaner but less powerful than Elements. All three are pointed at the same DropBox folder, so the content is seamlessly shared, and all three support [TextExpander](http://smilesoftware.com/TextExpander/). I'm finding that this combination works well for both jotting down notes and composing and previewing longer articles (in Markdown). If you don't already use Markdown and are a frequent web content creator, you [really need to check it out](http://daringfireball.net/projects/markdown/).

Other apps that are indispensable for desktop / mobile device harmony are [PasteBot](http://tapbots.com/software/pastebot/), an app that lets you easily push clipboard content to and from your Mac, and [DropCopy](http://10base-t.com/macintosh-software/dropcopy), which lets you easily send files and images to any other device currently running DropCopy.

For mobile WiFi, I retired my MiFi 2200 and am now paying $20/month for 2GB of wireless hotspot service (instead of $65). I rarely use over 2GB a month, and at $10/GB for excess data, it is a much better deal even if I do go over.

Other apps I use daily are Istapaper, Kindle, GoodReader, TextExpander, 1Password, Evernote, 42s, Twitter, Facebook, and Google.

Pam got her pre-ordered Verizon iPhone at the same time. I backed up her old AT&T iPhone 3Gs, restored the backup to her new Verizon iPhone 4, and she is happily using it exactly the same way she used to. The one big change? I can actually call her and talk for more than 20 seconds!

I do miss the physical keyboard on my old Blackberry Bold 9650, and I miss Blackberry Messenger. Blackberry is still the king of messaging, but since messaging is only 10% of what I actually want to do with a mobile device, an iPhone or Android makes much more sense. When I travel internationally, I will likely swap my line over to the Blackberry so I can take advantage of the unlimited global data plan. [As I noted before](/journal/2011/01/29/why-blackberry-is-the-only-viable-international-phone-for-usa-residents/), I believe the Blackberry has the only viable international plan for those of us living in the States.

For sale: Verizon MiFi, Plantronics headset

I have a couple things for sale. [Contact me](/contact) if you're interested! 1. **SOLD** Verizon MiFi 2200 Intelligent Mobile Hotspot. Working perfectly. Comes with charge-only USB cable (works with your computer or any USB charger), but no AC adapter. $35 + shipping 2. [Plantronics .Audio 400](http://www.plantronics.com/us/product/audio-400-dsp) USB folding headset. Very good condition and **clean**. $25 + shipping

Why Blackberry is the only viable international phone (for USA residents)

If you travel out of the country a lot like I do, you need a Blackberry. Here's why.

I was in Taiwan and Japan in December / January and used email, web and apps (Twitter, Facebook and others) pretty much constantly on my Verizon Blackberry Bold 9650. The total data usage was 40MB in Taiwan and 20MB in Japan -- not too bad, because Blackberry web and email are so efficient in data transfer (read: intelligently compressed at proxy). My total roaming charge for data? $0.

I'm on the $64.99/mo. unlimited international email, web and app data plan, which some people consider to be expensive. But consider what would have happened on an iPhone. AT&T's "affordable" [international data packages](http://www.wireless.att.com/learn/international/roaming/affordable-world-packages.jsp) are as follows:

Using 60MB of data would have cost an additional $119.99 (per month) over a domestic data plan if you had the foresight to sign up for the 100MB plan. If you didn't and say, signed up for the $59.99, 50MB/month plan, you would have ended up paying $59.99 plus (10 * $20/extra MB) = $259.99. If you hadn't signed up for any international data plan, 60MB would have cost an obscene $1,200 (60MB * $20).

This isn't all. The iPhone is like a real computer, which means that it connects directly to all of the data services you use. If someone embeds a 500KB image in your email, it downloads the entire image, and you get charged $10 for the 0.5MB transfer.

In countries with low data quality of service, it is likely that an iPhone trying to connect to your email server via POP or iMAP may never even finish negotiating the handshake required to start receiving or sending data. I was in India with an iPhone, and a Blackberry downloaded 100 emails before the iPhone started downloading its first email. Even though I used the iPhone lightly, I blew through 20MB in 3 days, leaving me in a bad situation for the rest of the 3.5 week trip because I had signed up for the 20MB monthly international data plan.

If you live in the states and travel internationally, spare yourself the burden of trying to use an iPhone or Android device overseas. Get a Blackberry.[^1]

[^1]: If you're on Verizon or Sprint, make sure you get a Blackberry with both CDMA and GSM so it roams properly overseas.

Setting up Gmail properly on iPad and iPhone / iOS 4

A post I wrote in April 2010 called [How to properly set up Gmail on your iPad](/journal/2010/04/05/how-to-properly-set-up-gmail-with-your-ipad) has gotten nearly 50,000 page views since it went live. Users of Gmail are used to its archive-instead-of-delete model, but by default, Apple devices prior to iOS 4 were deleting trashed messages when integrated with Gmail. iPads running the original OS and iPhones running iPhone OS 1.1.2 -> 3.x needed special instructions to set up Gmail accounts properly, which is detailed in the post I linked to above. Starting from iOS 4, setting up an iPhone or iPad using the big "Gmail" button archives mail by default instead of deleting it (but there is an option to go back to deleting mail). The trash icon even becomes a filing cabinet icon to signify archiving instead of trashing. I'm not sure what happens to drafts and sent mail in the new scheme.

Note that older versions of iPhone and iPad operating systems continue to delete trashed Gmail messages unless you set the account up as an "Other" mail account as detailed in [my other post](/journal/2010/04/05/how-to-properly-set-up-gmail-with-your-ipad).

I'm still using the old way to talk to Gmail on my iPad, and it continues to work well.

Here's [what Google says to do](http://mail.google.com/support/bin/answer.py?answer=86614) as of today (January 8, 2011):

Other useful links:

- [Gmail help's official instructions for setting Gmail up in iOS 4](http://mail.google.com/support/bin/answer.py?hl=en&answer=77702) - [Gmail help's official instructions for setting Gmail up in iPhone, iPad, or iPod Touch 3.0](http://mail.google.com/support/bin/answer.py?answer=184972)

iPad only (plus Blackberry) for 3 days

As I was running out of the house on Thursday for CES in Las Vegas, I opened up my small messenger bag, removed my MacBook Air, and replaced it with my iPad. My reasoning was simple -- I'd be running around the show floor at CES, and using a notebook computer would be impractical compared to whipping out a tablet and showing pictures or looking something up on the web (I use my iPad with a Verizon MiFi, so I still had network access -- AT&T users were out of luck). I was also originally scheduled only to be away for the day. When I arrived at the airport, a series of events led to a decision to stay in Las Vegas for 3 days. Suddenly, I was worried. I didn't have a charger with me and had never tried to be productive on the iPad for such a long period of time.

Here are a few things I noticed:

- If you use complicated web passwords, life becomes difficult. I am a diehard user of 1Password, which normally makes it a keystroke to login to the various websites I depend on for social media productivity. I use 1Password on the iPad as well, but the round trip to the app to look up and copy/paste passwords is disruptive.

- Battery life is excellent! I have been using the device a lot and still have 16% as I board the plane to return home.

- Autocorrect is a huge pain in the butt when it goes wrong.

- The iPad sometimes auto capitalizes letters in the middle of a sentence if you backspace, which slows down typing a lot if you are not OK with having random caps in what you write.

- As always, showing any sort of media (photos or video) to another person is a joy when compared to showing the same content using a notebook computer.

- Multitasking in iOS 4 has made the iPad actually viable as a productivity device. But don't expect your web pages in Safari to remain cached if you switch away for too long.

- I'm not really missing the lack of Flash.

- I uploaded images automatically to Facebook using an Eye-Fi card in my Canon S95 and was able to annotate and caption on the iPad after they were uploaded. This worked well, except that the camera and card combo hits batteries hard. I often had to put my Eye-Fi card into Adam Tow's card reader on his Mac so it would upload without using my camera battery.

- I love Flipboard, Instapaper and Simplenote apps.

- I can type really quickly on the iPad when things like autocorrect and random capitalization don't get in the way.

- Everyone loves the Dodo moleskin notebook-like case.

- Travelling light (iPad, point & shoot camera, Kindle3, MiFi) is a joy

- I'm at the airport now, and all I see are MacBooks and iPads. Only 1 non-Mac in sight (Thinkpad).

- I'm typing this on the iPad.

- Scrolling within a textarea in Safari for iPad is hard.

- Overall, I was able to function well.

That's about all I can think of at the moment. One huge annoyance is that the updated MiFi firmware no longer is hackable to support routeroverusb. Since I didn't have a charge-only cable with me, I was unable to leave the MiFi plugged into the wall and working as a WiFi router.

I think I'd still bring an Air and Kindle over an iPad, given the choice, but I might bring an iPad instead of my 17" MacBook Pro.

HTC Incredible / Android 2.1 battery life problem

I've been using an HTC Incredible (running Android 2.1) for about a week now. Every phone / carrier combination has its trade-offs, but so far, I'm finding the HTC Incredible on Verizon to be the best combination of messaging productivity, application support, and mobile coverage (while I'm in the States, that is; when I leave the country, nothing touches a GSM Blackberry).

Starting yesterday, my HTC Incredible's battery started draining at an unacceptable rate. Even leaving the phone alone in sleep mode resulted in battery drain, which effectively made the phone unusable if it wasn't connected to a power source.

The HTC Incredible on Verizon comes with HTC's Sense UI and a bunch of applications that you cannot uninstall, including Facebook for HTC, Backup Assistant, Weather, City ID, Peep (a Twitter client), and more. On the HTC Incredible, I can sync Google, Facebook, Flickr and Twitter accounts, and link multiple accounts to a single contact. In theory, this is fantastic: it allows me to look up a friend and see all her contact information, her latest Facebook status update and her photos uploaded to Flickr. Reviewers seem to love this feature.

But in practice, all of this integration and syncing is broken. Facebook, Flickr and Twitter sync settings allow users to set the interval between synchronization, but [reports in Android forums](http://androidforums.com/support-troubleshooting-incredible/72539-i-found-fixed-htc-incredible-battery-bug.html) show that allowing these services to sync can prevent the phone from ever going to sleep, which means full battery drain in a matter of hours -- even when the phone is not in use. Everyone seems to agree that Flickr integration will prevent phones from sleeping. Some say that HTC Facebook integration also causes problems.

Here's a good way to see if your phone is going to sleep:

1. Turn off your phone 2. Turn it back on 3. Wait 10 minutes or so 4. Go to **Settings->About phone->Battery** and compare the *Up time* and *Awake time*

If they are the same, your phone is not going to sleep.

I'm not sure if Flickr or Facebook integration were also causing problems on my phone, but I discovered that my battery drain issues were a result of problem with Google's *Sync Contacts* feature. All of the other Account sync settings allow a sync interval to be set, but Google account synchronization has no such settings. Instead, Google's sync schedule is governed by the master *Auto-sync* setting in *Accounts & sync*. I noticed that my *Sync Contacts* had an active sync icon by it, and an error message was flashing repeatedly (every few seconds) at the bottom of the display. It appeared that my phone was trying to sync Google contacts every few seconds, endlessly! It's no wonder that my battery was draining so quickly.

I turned *Auto-sync* off and snapped a photo of the error message (I need a screen snapshot app -- miss this feature of the iPhone!):


"Sync is currently experiencing problems. It will be back shortly."

I'm not sure how the Android team defines "shortly," but it had already been 24 hours, so I took matters into my own hands. I went to **Settings->Applications->Manage applications**, tapped *Contacts Storage*, and then *Clear Data*. Immediately after clearing my local contacts, my phone began to re-sync Google contacts, and everything has been fine after that. I have turned *Auto-sync* back on, and have not noticed excessive battery drain.

What this episode has done to me is make me extremely wary when enabling account sync features in Android / Sense UI. I've also started monitoring apps because the *Background data* setting in *Accounts & sync* governs background data access for every single app on the device. Most apps that consume background data seem to have settings that allow users to define sync / fetch intervals, but we are completely at the mercy of developers here: one bug, and your phone may never sleep again. This is one of the main disadvantages of not having centralized app approval.

I've already uninstalled one app because it refused to stop loading itself. The BBC News app seems like it might be really useful, but it constantly loads itself even when told not to (it doesn't allow you to disable checking altogether, so I set it to an interval of 365 days). If an application doesn't honor my request to stay off, I will remove it from my device.

Here are all the steps I took to get my HTC Incredible battery drain issues under control:

1. Removed Flickr account in *Accounts & sync* 2. Removed Twitter accounts in *Accounts & sync* 3. Removed Facebook for HTC Sense account in *Accounts & sync* (instead, installed the normal non-HTC Facebook app from Android Market) 4. [Disabled Backup Assistant](http://thedroidblog.com/htc-droid-incredible/222-disabling-backup-assistant-htc-droid-incredible.html) - If you're setting up your Incredible for the first time and don't need this, DO NOT ENABLE IT. Once you enable it, you can never completely disable it... but you can effectively make it do nothing. 5. Cleared *Contacts Storage*, allowing Google to re-sync Contacts

I should have known better than to try to use all of the features presented to me. I always try to push my devices to the edge, but no device can actually ever do everything its manufacturer's marketing department says it can do.

**Update**: After taking these steps, I used my phone for an entire day (light internet and mail access and about 80 minutes of voice calling). My battery is still at 40%.

---

**Update**: Being unable to fully remove Facebook for HTC and Backup Assistant was bothering me, so I decided to do a factory reset of my phone (**Menu->Settings->Privacy->Factory data reset**) and re-sync. A factory reset is the only way to really disable those two apps once they are configured and running.

During the initial HTC Incredible setup wizard, I gave it my Google credentials but declined Backup Assistant support. I also didn't enter any other accounts (no Facebook, Twitter or Flickr). I also replaced my battery with a Seidio 1750mAh battery, which has also helped a lot.

It's really easy to do a factory reset if your mail, contacts and calendar are all on Google. My phone re-synced my 1161 contacts fairly quickly. I went to the Android Market and selected **Menu->Downloads**. All of my purchased and recently downloaded apps were listed there, so I just re-downloaded them, one at a time. I was back up and running in less than an hour.

My battery life is actually quite good, now. Today (so far), my phone reports up time of 9:17 and awake time of 1:04, and my battery is still at 70%.

For sale: Motorola Droid w/extras

For sale: Motorola Droid w/charger, manual, box, multimedia station, and screen protectors For auction on eBay, expires Feb 23, 2010 @ 18:29:05 PST

Excellent condition. Screen perfect (covered with screen protector as soon as it was taken out of the box). Original box, manuals, and AC charger / USB cable. Box has UPC cut out for original rebate application. Originally purchased in November, 2009. Selling because I am sticking with my Blackberry.

Extras: Motorola Multimedia Station ($34.95 new) and unused screen protector included.

Photos follow:

[smugmug url="http://photos.echeng.com/hack/feed.mg?Type=gallery&Data=11198293_jMi8P&format=rss200" imagecount="100" start="1" num="100" thumbsize="Th" link="lightbox" captions="true" sort="true" size="L"]

Apple iPad, mobile device ruminations


The Apple iPad, announced today
I just finished following various live blogs of the Apple iPad unveiling event at Yerba Buena (which is almost literally across the street from me). Regardless of your level of Apple fandom, the iPad is a groundbreaking product. There have been quite a few attempts at tablet devices in the past, but no one has ever put so much thought into usability and infrastructure.

I am a mobile device junkie, and have been long juggling Blackberry, iPhone, Droid, Kindle, Mifi and satellite phone in an attempt to find a solution that works best for me. I realize that I am not a typical user; I am always online, but I spend about half of each year out of the country in areas with poor connectivity. This instantly makes any device without an optimized, compressed wireless network nearly useless when I'm in the field (e.g. iPhone, Droid). Even if wireless networks were up to speed, the cost of international use would be outrageous. I took my iPhone to India a couple of years ago and chewed through my 50MB of allocated monthly data in a matter of days. A friend on a trip to Mexico last week went through his 50MB in 7 days -- and that was with light usage during the day, plus a WiFi connection at night. So I stick with my Blackberry Tour and its fixed-cost, unlimited international data plan. It is the best of both worlds: Verizon CDMA in San Francisco (the only working network here) and CDMA / GSM / EDGE / 3G when I'm out of the country. Unfortunately, the Tour has a slow processor, which means > 5 minute hard reset times and frequent multi-second lockups, but there are no other options and I remain productive while using it. The trusty little Tour downloads 200 messages in a minute on EDGE while I drift by small Indonesia villages. Meanwhile, the iPhone can barely finish negotiating an IMAP connection, and the Droid is hopeless because it's on CDMA.

In a protest against AT&T's crappy network, I sold my iPhone and switched to Droid on Verizon. I like the potential of Android, but I'm finding that I only use the Droid as a fancy video player and alarm clock when I'm on the road. Because I don't have time to watch TV or movies when I'm at home, most of my reading and video consumption happens from the comfort of tiny cabins on dive vessels. I read books on the Kindle because there is no Kindle app on the Droid and because I only need to charge the thing once a month. The Kindle app is the one thing I miss the most about the iPhone.

I think the iPad will change things, though. Its display is large enough for comfortable book reading and video viewing. It can be held easily while on the airplane and in situations where a notebook computer would be unwieldy. It will have more light-weight apps than one could ever hope for, is compatible with the iPhone apps I already own, and can beautifully display my photography and video portfolio.

I'm thinking that it will replace the iPhone / Android device in my lineup, as well as the Kindle. I'll finally have one phone, one notebook computer, and an "in-between" device: Blackberry, iPad and MacBook Pro (plus MiFi). Now if I could only coax my Blackberry into creating a WiFi cloud...

Neurons not firing this morning

After sleeping for 3 hours last night, I woke up at 4:45am to get ready for this morning's flight. I was so well organized, I thought, until I realized that I had forgotten both of my phones! This has never happened before, and I was sort of horrified. Luckily, Pam has a Blackberry Bold she has graciously agreed to loan me for the weekend. I promptly installed both [TwitterBerry](http://www.orangatame.com/products/openbeak/) and [Google Voice](http://google.com/voice), and redirected my Google Voice number to her phone (this required a real browser -- their mobile site didn't offer me the option to add a phone). Hopefully, I've pummeled my Google Voice number into my friends' heads by not being responsive when I'm called on direct lines. I love Google Voice!

// end kool-aid

Swype, an alternative keyboard for Droid

One of my friends turned me on to Swype, an alternative virtual keyboard for mobile devices. Although it is not officially out yet for Android, is has been leaked, and works wonderfully on Motorola's Droid (get it here).

I just installed it, and Swype makes the virtual keyboard on the Droid actually usable! It is a MUST INSTALL on the Droid, and I would never go back to the other keyboard. I might even prefer Swype to the physical keyboard on the Droid, which is atrocious.

If you are trying to install Swype using Mac OS X, you will probably run into the same problem I had, which is that the downloaded zip archive extracts to folder instead of an apk file. I got around this by copying the zip archive to my Droid's SD card and using AndroZip to unzip it (and install it). Piece of cake.

Droid Google / Facebook contact namespace clash

There are two Eric Chengs in my life. The other is also a Taiwanese classical musician, but he looks quite different and lives in Los Angeles. Our parents even know each other, although we never met in person until both of us had finished university. I call him "Harvard Eric Cheng." I noticed today on my new Droid that there was only one entry for Eric Cheng, and that it was a mashup of my data with Harvard Eric Cheng's data. The contact record had all of our phone numbers and email addresses, plus Harvard Eric Cheng's Facebook profile image. Editing the record showed distinct identities -- one from Gmail contacts (me) and one from Facebook (him), and I was eventually able to separate the two by changing my Gmail contact record's name to "Eric H Cheng."

Still, I can't have another Eric Cheng on my mobile device because it causes too many problems. Ideally, I would be able to exclude Harvard Eric Cheng from Facebook's Droid sync or intercept his record and rename him on his way to my phone, but I can't find a way to do that (yet). So until then, I've had to de-friend him on Facebook, which seems wrong. I wrote him a message, apologizing, and hope I can connect with him again once this issue is resolved.

The switch to Google Voice (and juggling multiple phones)

I've had multiple phone numbers for a long time, and have finally decided to consolidate all of my numbers into a portable [Google Voice](https://www.google.com/voice) number. I had previously been a diehard [SpinVox](http://www.spinvox.com/) user because they transcribe voicemails[^1], but GV added transcription services (via computer) back in March, making it a viable service for me. Everything was (and still is) working fine with SpinVox. My two mobile devices and my landline all forward unanswered and busy incoming calls to the same SpinVox account, which transcribes voicemails and emails (or SMSes) them to me. If I needed more information about a particular message, I call in to listen to the voicemail itself. But Spinvox hasn't changed in years, and Google Voice continues to add features. There is something appealing about the Google Voice method, which involves having a single proxy number that I can direct where appropriate.

I'm signed up for Google Voice a long time ago (when it was still GrandCentral) but am now going to start giving it out as my main number. I'm also disabling SpinVox from my mobile numbers. With GV, I can direct incoming calls to any phone, and voicemails are transcribed and can be played back by a single click or tap on every computing device I own. [International rates](http://www.google.com/support/voice/bin/answer.py?answer=141925) are reasonable, and calling is seamlessly integrated into the Motorola Droid calling interface.[^2] The Blackberry also has a GV application, but it is not seamlessly integrated. Calls and SMSes must be initiated from the GV app itself or from Address Book (it doesn't work from the phone app).

Now I just need to figure out a way to [forward my landline voicemail](http://www.google.com/support/voice/bin/answer.py?hl=en&answer=165176) over to GV. At the moment, it does not seem to be supported, so I'll continue to use SpinVox for landline voicemail.

[^1]: Spinvox is normally quite expensive but is extremely accurate because they use a human transcription farm. I have a free account because I was a beta tester a long time ago.

[^2]: I use the Toggle Google Voice app for one-tap toggling between using GV for all calls, no calls, or being prompted for a choice with each call / SMS.