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Fun with Live Mesh, Live Tools, Windows Mobile and Home Server

Posted by Keith Elder | Posted in Home Server, Live, Mobile Devices | Posted on 01-11-2008


image Just getting back from PDC 2008 I have to say the coolest non-developer thing your grandmother or mom can use that got an upgrade was Live Mesh.  I really like Live Mesh for a lot of reasons.  First and foremost it solves a real problem by syncing data, accessing devices and connecting devices together.  We are only starting to see the beginning that is the vision of the Live platform, trust me, there is a lot more to come.  Live Mesh in particular opens the door for a brand new world of cross platform peer to peer data syncing and more.  Secondly it provides a rich API through the Live Framework whereby developers can integrate their applications with it.  Let’s play around with Live Mesh, Live Tools and a few other things to see what kind of fun we can have.

What problems does Live Mesh solve?  Well for starters it solves the problem of syncing files.  Jeff Blankenburg wrote a post last week that gave five reasons you should give Live Mesh a try.  This week at PDC we can add two more reasons to Jeff’s list:

  1. Mobile Client
  2. Mac Client

If you want to play with the Windows Mobile client for Live Mesh, to get started read the post on the team’s blog here.  Note that Windows Mobile 6 or 6.1 is required.  Once installed on your mobile phone you’ll get a “Mobile Pictures” folder in your mesh.  You can also sync other folders from your mesh with your mobile phone.  Here’s what the mobile client looks like on Windows Mobile.


Once I installed the mobile client I picked up my Blackjack II and took a quick picture of my dogs taking a nap in the floor of my office.

Within a few seconds the photo I took on my phone showed up on my desktop.  From phone to computer and computer to phone is now incredibly easy.  Once the photo was on my machine I could open it up and edit it and drop it into Live Writer, yet another great tool from the Live team.  Are you starting to get the picture?


The story starts to really unfold when you start combining Live Mesh and other Live tools such as Windows Live Photo Gallery Beta and Windows Home Server

Here are the pieces of the puzzle:

  • Live Mesh – storage and peer to peer syncing from the cloud from various clients such as Windows, Mobile and Mac
  • Windows Live – a collection of various for free tools that are purposed for the cloud
  • Windows Home Server – the home appliance that let’s you access your data internally and externally as well as provides a powerful backup mechanism

Think of it like this.  If I take a picture on my windows mobile phone sure I want it to sync that photo with my desktop but I also want to make sure I have that photo backed up and also persisted to permanent backup to the cloud in case something happens (home server drives fail etc).  I also want this to happen without me having to *think* about it.  You might ask , “Doesn’t Live Mesh hold all of my data though?”.  The answer to that is no. 

Currently we get only 5GB of storage with Live Mesh.  Really this isn’t bad but I would never expect Microsoft to hold the world’s data.  However, there is this product called “Groove” that does great peer to peer replication among other things.  See the dog fooding going on now? 

If you exceed the 5GB of data Live Mesh gives you, it immediately switches to peer to peer.  This means you can sync way more data than 5GB.

I mentioned Live Photo Gallery and Home Server so let me start with Home Server.  Integrating Live Mesh with Home Server is where the story starts to get even more interesting.  At PDC2008 we got to see some of that story and where it is headed.  Nothing has been released yet for Home Server but Brendan Grant, who we interviewed in Deep Fried Bytes Episode 12 on Home Server, showed part of the Live Mesh story with Home Server at PDC 2008.


In other words there will be a direct Live Mesh plug in for Home Server.  Right now I am cheating and installed Live Mesh on Home Server directly to sync my Mobile Pictures to see how this will play out once the real plug in is released.  Since I run KeepVault on Home Server, an unlimited backup cloud storage add on for Home Server,  I now have this kind of story.  It goes something like this:


Your next question may be “How do I view the pictures?”.  Answer:  Windows Live Photo Gallery (which is currently part of the http://download.live.com tools).  To make the Photo Gallery and Home Server story work I have set my import folder directly to the Home Server share.


Since all of my photos are imported directly to Home Server (which then gets backed up to the cloud) it means any photos that home server syncs with my mobile phone are immediately visible via Windows Live Photo Gallery.  This means I can tag, edit, fix, or delete all from one central place.  Here is the picture above with Simon and Max shown in Windows Live Photo Gallery:


Are you starting to see the picture (no pun intended)? We are only seeing a small portion of things that Live* can do for us.  This is why I am “super excited” because this technology is something my Mom, my sister’s, and certainly my wife will use.  Today we use Live Mesh to sync GBs of audio we record for http://deepfriedbytes.com with Live Mesh.  Woody and I never have to worry about keeping track of where things are at, it just works.

If you haven’t started to play around with this stuff, give it a try.


Read RTA’s Techie Blog post before you decide to install Live Mesh directly onto your Home Server.  Again, this is going to be supported, we just don’t know when yet.

Blackjack II with Windows Mobile 6.1 Internet Connection Sharing (ICS) Fix

Posted by Keith Elder | Posted in Howtos, Mobile Devices, Windows | Posted on 25-10-2008


Since I upgraded my Blackjack II to Windows Mobile 6.1 I haven’t traveled anywhere where I needed Internet Connection Sharing to work.  Getting ready for a trip this week I decided to test ICS before I got to the airport.  I just assumed it would work but it wasn’t the case for me. 

First off props to Steve Harman for already posting how to get into the phone and unlock the connections on the phone.  Like Steve I figured the settings were not correct (I’ve gone down this road before with AT&T).   Here’s how to fix the Blackjack II with Windows Mobile 6.1 to tether to your computer using Internet Connection Sharing (ICS) that is built into the 6.1 upgrade.

Step 1:

Follow Steve’s outline on how to unlock the GPRS connections via the registry.

You’ll need to download a utility.  Here is the link for posterity sakes:


Step 2:

Once the settings are unlocked try to connect and see if you can. I was unable to.  I kept getting:

The remote party has ended this connection.

I went back into the settings and added the following username and password to the AT&T ISP setting and then it connected.  Success!

Password:  CINGULAR1

When connecting to wap.cingular as the access point, I’ve always had to enter the username and password to get things to work.  Maybe some don’t, I’m not sure what the rules are, maybe it is location based who knows.  Anyway, I hope this helps.  Cheers.

UPDATE 10/31/2008

When I was in Los Angeles, CA I had to change these settings.  The only thing I got to work was applying the same settings in step 2 to the AT&T MediaNet connection.

UPDATE 3/20/2009

The best way I’ve found to get ICS working on Mobile 6.1 is to install the previous fix.  You’ll find it on my other review of the Blackjack II here.

Aiptek HD 1080P Video Camera

Posted by Keith Elder | Posted in Mobile Devices | Posted on 14-10-2008


imageSeveral months ago I acquired a new video camera, the Aiptek HD 1080P.  If you aren’t familiar with this brand, don’t feel bad as I wasn’t either until a little over a year or so ago.  I haven’t owned a video camera in a long time and I honestly didn’t want to spend much on one knowing how little I would wind up using it.  The Aiptek fit perfectly into my price range and the features, well, they just can’t be beat for the price.

For starters, yes you read that correctly, this camera does 1080P.  Here are some specs that may be of interest.


I use a 4GB SanDisk Ultra II card in the camera which provides about an hour of high definition 1080P recording.  The camera saves files onto the memory stick in .MOV format (Quicktime).  This is good and bad.  It is good because you can drag the files directly to the computer and start playing them.  Some cameras have proprietary formats that force you to encode them which takes time.  The bad about having the video in .MOV format is it makes editing video really hard on Windows.  Movie Maker doesn’t support the .MOV format and I have had a hard time trying to figure out what to use to do editing.  As a matter of fact, I’m still trying to figure it out.

The video the camera takes really good video if there is good lighting.  It is horrible at night, don’t even try.  Thus, you wouldn’t want to take this to a night football game or soccer game.  If you have kids in sports, you should probably buy something else.  It is very portable and I have found it fits really good in my back pocket. 

One day I’ll produce some real video I’ve taken with the camera, but until then you’ll have to settle for “Deer in the backyard” to see a sample of the camera’s quality.  I shot this right before lunch today when I heard the dogs barking.  There are two fawns in the back yard wandering around.

This video was shot and the .MOV file transferred to my computer and then uploaded to Viddler (which has better quality than YouTube).  Nothing was done to it.  It should give you a good sample of the camera’s quality.

If you are looking for an economical camera that is cheap and records great video in good light this one may need to be on your list.

BlackJack II Windows Mobile 6.1 Review

Posted by Keith Elder | Posted in Mobile Devices, Windows | Posted on 04-09-2008


I was in Redmond back in April and had the opportunity to load my Blackjack II with a pre-release of Windows Mobile 6.1.  I was traveling and didn’t want to wipe my device and start from scratch.  Plus I was informed there were a few bugs, some of which I couldn’t live with.  So I waited for the official release.  A few days ago Windows Mobile 6.1 was released from Samsung and I’ve really enjoyed this update.  If you just want to jump in and get started with the update to 6.1 here are the links to get started.

Windows Vista Samsung Blackjack II 6.1 Update

Windows XP Samsung Blackjack II 6.1 Update

Be sure you use the correct one depending on which operating system you are using. 

Blackjack II 6.1 Upgrade – Scary But Worth It

If you click on the links above you’ll notice a very long web page, lots of screen shots and a bunch of steps.  The update definitely looks scary.  Even I was intimidated to start it.  But honestly once I got going it didn’t take that long.  The longest part of the whole thing is writing the new ROM to the phone.  I started and then went and did something else.  I doubt most non-tech users will go through with this update, but honestly they should.  It is worth the trouble even though it is lengthy.  This is something that I’d like to see simplified on the Windows Mobile platform.  I don’t have the answer but there has got to be an easier way to do these updates.

Blackjack II 6.1 Screen Shot Heaven

For those that have a Blackjack II and are wondering what the update has in store here is a pretty comprehensive list.  The main thing to note is the new home screen, voice command, and better scroll support.  The base operating system has a lot of new features but Samsung also did a nice job of bundling in a nice software package. 

Default home screen.  6.1 changes the home screen quiet a bit to make typical things one accesses easier instead of having them buried down in the menus.  Notice the icons right below the time. This provides an easier way to view activity. There are five items that bubble up under the home screen.  Missed calls.
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Voicemail Text messages
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Direct push email Another email inbox
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Under messages is calendar.  The settings section has five different items.
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Wireless manager (easy access to turn bluetooth on or off, also the keys fn-b by default will toggle as well) I’m not into ring tones so this doesn’t excite me that it is under settings.
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Change background image.  Again, not that exciting for me but I did set the background to a different one as you can tell in these screen shots. Task Manager.  Which can also be accessed by holding down the home key.
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Pressing the start button goes to recent programs.  This is new and I haven’t decided if I like it or not.  I was used to the old way.  Maybe I’ll come around. Pressing “All Programs” on previous screen goes into the menu.  As you can tell I use the list menu since it can hit hot keys for items. This can be changed in Settings->Display.
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Second screen of pre-installed applications.  The BJII has a built-in GPS chip and comes with a bundled GPS program which cost $10 / month to enable.  Personally I use it all the time when I travel. Notice this screen includes Internet Sharing right out of the box.  A huge time saver.  Previous this had to be added via a hack.  The RSA SecurID is a program I added, as well as Screen Capture.
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Voice Command is a nice feature that comes with the Blackjack II 6.1 upgrade.  This allows your phone to speak when certain things happen (new email, new text msgs, calendar popups, etc).  Skyfire and Tiny Twitter I added. This shows the Office Mobile applications included.
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These are the items pre-installed in the Applications menu. Probably the coolest app in this menu is Mobile Banking.  Currently about 7 banks are supported, Wachovia being one that I have one of my accounts at.  There are several steps to get things setup and you have to be at a computer to set accounts up.  Once complete, you can check balances and other options by simply entering a six digit pin number.  If only E*Trade would get on board.  Why an online bank would not be in the bank list is beyond me.     MobiTV is another application that is included.  This is an extremely cool application that allows the phone to stream live TV directly to the phone.  Yes, live TV!  It cost $9.99 to purchase.
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MobiTV provides 40 channels of live TV and an easy to use guide. This is MobiTV loading the Replican Convention from MSNBC.
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Within seconds you can be watching TV from anywhere.  If you are stuck in the airport or wherever you can stay connected and not miss a show.  Be sure you have the unlimited data plan though. Another view.
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This is MobiTV running in full screen.  Note the connection I had while viewing this was Edge not 3G and I have to say that it is very impressive. Of these apps there are a few duds.  Mainly the Movies Powered by IMDdb.  I’m sorry but I’m not paying for an application for information I can get in the browser for free.

The weather app is really cool but I’m not going to pay for it either.  If it were free, sure I’d use it.  Smart search maybe smart but it should be called “Slow Search”.  People is just a demo and for me provides zero value.  The RSS Reader is ok if you only want to read a few things.  I recommend Newsgator Mobile which is free and syncs with the web, a client version and the mobile.

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Finishing off the applications we have task manager and Office mobile. First settings screen.
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Second settings screen.  Of interest is the Key Settings. A new feature is the ability to change the wheel speed.  Alleluia!
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The default is low.  I’ve changed mine to high and it is a considerable improvement. A little known feature is the FN key settings.  From the home screen you can press combinations of “fn-{key}” and launch a program directly.  After an install I setup several to hot launch including RSA, Twittery, Internet Explorer and Skyfire.
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In the bottom right press add. Choose a keypad assignment and an application.  Note you can type the first letter of the application in the value box to just to that app.  Once set, when on the home screen type fn-{key} and that app will launch.
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As I said earlier, Internet Sharing is built into the ROM this time.  If you want to get your computer online if you don’t have free WIFI available, launch this app with the USB cable plugged into your computer and press connect.  Within a few seconds you’ll be on the Internet.  If you are on a 3G network, you won’t notice any difference. Bundled AT&T / Telenav GPS program.  This is a great program that provides spoken directions and turn by turn guidance.  It even supports a pedestrian mode.  Again, it cost an additional $10 / month to use.
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This is a welcomed update due to the fact it bundles Internet Connection sharing as well as fixes the sluggishness with the job wheel I mentioned in a previous review.  The GPS now seems to lock on faster as well.  This is something that has caused me trouble when traveling taking up to five minutes to lock on.  Lock on times seems to be about a minute. 

If you can get over the scary upgrade process I think you’ll like the update.  Give it go.

Would You Type Business Email On Your iPhone?

Posted by Keith Elder | Posted in Apple, Mobile Devices | Posted on 28-02-2008


Several web sites today are reporting that Apple is gearing up for a business release of sorts for the iPhone and possibly competing with the RIM or Windows Mobile and direct push.  So here is the question.  Would you type business email on your iPhone?

I don’t own an iPhone but I have a good friend who has one and every time someone picks up my Blackjack II phone to admire it he suddenly jumps in and exclaims, “Baaaaa, you don’t need that low level brick!  Get a real phone!”.  He then whips out his iPhone (which actually weighs more than my phone) and continues into a rant about his iPhone.  By the way, this same friend is also known to have a new disease I have identified as “Political Tourettes Syndrome”.  Just the mention of a Republican candidate will drive him to insanity.  He’ll start foaming at the mouth and start shouting anything he can think of.    Anyway.

I propose this question today because I have played with his iPhone numerous times.  I like gadgets just like the next geek but my problem with the iPhone is I can’t type on it.  One day sitting in the bar we raced sending a text message.  I finished way faster, basically he never even got off the starting line before I finished.  I have never benchmarked myself typing on my phone but using the iPhone numerous times I feel I have to resort to chicken pecking. 

If Apple is really trying to enter the market place with their iPhone will users adopt it that have to respond to email or will they keep their Blackberry or Windows Mobile device?  I’m sure some will struggle through it regardless but will the real hard core power users who rely on email heavily be able to stand the non-existent non-feedback keyboard on the iPhone.  What do you think?