A graphomaniac’s wet dream

At last, Power Books has opened a branch in Cebu. The single storey outlet in the North Wing of SM City Cebu is heaven on a mall for book lovers.

I went to the shop when it opened, fought urges that were bordering on primal, and just checked on books that were on display. There aren’t computer or technology books yet. Members of the Power Books staff said these were still coming.

paperblanks handstitched notebook PAPERBLANKS NOTEBOOK. The pages of this handstitched notebook are acid-free and are held together by coptic binding. Paperblanks and Moleskine products are now available in Cebu, at the Power Books outlet in SM City’s North Wing. Click on photo to enlarge.

Last Sunday, I came back.

The store’s middle counter is a vortex. It drew me in. Around it were displayed several exquisite notebooks. For the first time, Moleskine (official pronounced mol-a-skeen-a) and paperblanks products are sold in Cebu. I went round and round the small counter, picking one notebook after the other.

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DocSyncer updates service: You can now choose which folders to synchronize

DocSyncer, a service that synchronizes Microsoft Office documents in your computer with your Google Docs account, has just updated its application to allow you to choose which folders should be synchronized.

When I first tested it (read the previous post), it immediately synchronized all compatible files in the desktop and the My Documents folder. It offered no interface to designate which folders or files to synchronize with your Google Docs account. I found this lack of control unnerving.

But when I opened the DocSyncer application late yesterday afternoon, the list of folders now had an edit button. The edit interface allows you to specify which folders, in the desktop and My Documents folder, will be synchronized.

The change is a tremendous usability improvement.

docsyncer4
CHOOSING FOLDERS. DocSyncer now allows you to specify which folders, in the desktop and My Documents folder, should be synchronized with your Google Docs account.

Synchronize Microsoft Office documents with Google Docs using DocSyncer

I finally got an invitation to try out DocSyncer, a service that allows you to automatically synchronize Microsoft Office files in your PC—documents, presentations, and spreadsheets—with your Google Docs account.

DocSyncer DOCSYNCER. The service synchronizes your Microsoft Office documents with your Google Docs account. It’s still being tested and far from being a dependable day-to-day application. But you should bookmark DocSyncer as it holds a lot of promise. Click on photo to view larger image.

The service is still in beta but DocSyncer holds a lot of promise. I tried it out for close to two hours last night and found that it’s not quite ready for daily use. It is, after all, still in beta or testing phase.

What’s evident when you try the service is the lack of user control over such things as designating which directories to synchronize and refreshing the list of files due for synchronization.

When I first ran the software that you download to work with the service, it immediately synchronized all Power Point files, Word documents in .doc format, and Excel files contained in My Documents folder as well as the desktop. It did not ask me to specify which folder to synchronize with my Google Docs account. (This has changed in the latest DocSyncer update)

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New Google Maps for Mobile tracks your position using cell phone towers

Google released last week a new version of its Google Maps for Mobile application. The release, as with many of Google’s products, is designated “beta,” a label used for software that is still being actively tested and not yet released to the public.

I’ve read about mobile maps applications before, including the earlier Google versions, but I never bothered trying it out because I don’t travel much. In fact my daily travel is such a routine I can tell you what size of potholes are located in which part of the highways in Mandaue and Lapu-Lapu Cities.

Google Maps for Mobile GOOGLE MAPS FOR MOBILE. A satellite photo of Fuente Osmena rotunda as seen through the Google Maps for mobile application running in my Sony Ericsson K750i. Click on photo to enlarge.

But what caught my interest in last week’s announcement is a new feature in Google Maps: it can now plot your location using the cellphone towers of your mobile network. The application then displays a blue dot showing a bigger light blue circle to display your approximate location. That feature is called My Location.

Previously, you can plot your locations in mapping applications if you have a GPS (global position system) device or module. With the new Google application, the software can plot your location via triangulation of your position using the cellphone towers that connect your phone to your mobile network.

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Sony Ericsson unveils the K660: ‘engineered for mobile Internet’

Sony Ericsson has unveiled a phone that I’m sure will give second thoughts to those already set on upgrading units this Christmas. The company announced earlier this month the coming availability of the Sony Ericsson K660, a phone that the company said was engineered for the mobile Internet.

The phone will only be available early next year so you might want to postpone your Christmas phone upgrade by a month or two.

k660i FUNKY COLOR FOR A COOL PHONE. The lime on white version of the Sony Ericsson K660i, an HSDPA-enable phone that has been engineered for the mobile Internet. Click on photo to enlarge.

The K660, which will be marketed as the K660i in the Asia-Pacific region, is an HSDPA-enabled phone. The phone can access so-called “mobile broadband” networks that offer higher connection speeds. This not only makes browsing on the phone faster, it also makes it a good laptop accessory—as mobile modem.

I don’t know how wide HSDPA coverage is in Cebu but in my previous experience with PLDT WeRoam, I got strong and consistent HSDPA signals within downtown and mid-town Cebu City areas. I got a consistent GPRS speed at home in Lapu-Lapu City but this was a few months back. I suspect things have improved since then, based on my wife’s experience with using her Sony Ericsson K800i as modem.

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Smart TextMail and mobile alerts on tasks, website availability

One of my longest mobile experiment drew to a close early this month with my rediscovery of Smart’s TextMail.

For more than a year, I’ve been trying one service after another in an effort to get my e-mails sent as text messages to my mobile phone. The answer, you might say, is simple: buy a Blackberry.

I’m not, however, prepared to spend thousands of pesos for the device and its mobile e-mail solution when I have only very specific alerts in mind: website availability and tasks reminders. For regular e-mails, I am perfectly satisfied with the GMail for mobile Java application.

Scrybe online planner ONLINE PLANNER. My current online planner of choice, Scrybe. The free service allows me to manage my tasks and get alerted of deadlines via SMS messages sent through Smart TextMail. Click on photo to enlarge image.

I run and help oversee several websites and need to know whenever the servers where these are hosted encounter problems so that I can work on fixing it or submitting a support ticket. All the sites I run are monitored by free web server monitoring services that check every few minutes or so whether these are available.

Whenever the monitoring services I use detect any of the my sites to be down, it immediately sends an e-mail to alert me of the problem. I wanted to be able to get that message as an SMS alert. Sure many of these services offer SMS alerts, but for a fee.

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Wi-Fi piggybacking widespread, anti-virus firm warns

While setting up a Wi-Fi network for the PLDT myDSL connection at home earlier this week, I got a timely warning from a press release. Anti-virus company Sophos said many people now use someone else’s wireless Internet connection without their permission.

Sophos said 54 percent of 560 respondents who took their online survey admitted to using other people’s Wi-Fi connection without their permission. The survey is not scientific and I don’t see how you can see a “widespread” trend from it. But it does provide a timely warning to home users who have gone wireless.

Sophos said “many Internet-enabled homes fail to properly secure their wireless connection with passwords and encryption, allowing freeloading passers-by and neighbors to steal Internet access rather than paying an internet service provider (ISP) for their own.”

I don’t know how common Wi-Fi piggybacking is in Cebu or in the Philippines, save for anecdotal feedback from geeks I know. I’ve heard of maybe three persons who said they were able to use an unsecured wireless network.

Still, the absence of reports should not be a reason to be complacent and just leave your home Wi-Fi network unsecured. This absence of reports may be because none have been caught.

And with more mobile devices like phones having the capability to use Wi-Fi, the risk will only get higher.

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Smart unveils USB modem for mobile Internet access anywhere

SMART Broadband, Inc. (SBI) has unveiled a USB modem that will allow users to access the Internet with speeds ranging from 384 kbps to 768 kbps anywhere where there is a Smart signal.

The device will be offered under SBI’s “Smart BRO Plan 799.? Under the plan, which costs P799 a month, subscribers have 60 hours of Internet usage per month and will be charged P10 for every 30-minute block in excess.

Smart BRO USB modem MOBILE INTERNET. The Smart BRO USB modem allows you to connect to the Internet anywhere where there is a Smart network coverage. The device is offered under a P799 monthly plan. Click on photo to enlarge.

When I first read the press release, I was immediately tempted to get one. But it’s not something I need just yet. I rarely go out right now and at any given hour I’m either at home or at the office or on my way to either place. Still, it’s certainly something I want.

People who are always on the go, however, will find the device useful, especially in areas with sparse Wi-Fi coverage.

The device is certainly a cheaper alternative to PLDT WeRoam and one that you can also use in a desktop PC. The device, according to a company press statement, is part of Smart’s “thrust of broadbanding the country, of making wireless broadband Internet services more accessible and more affordable.”

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Going cold turkey while setting up a hotspot

With my wife and I now using laptops as primary workstations at home, we decided to use a Wi-Fi router to share our PLDT myDSL connection. The snaking network cables were threatening to trip us and our kids.

I bought a Linksys WRT54G after reading about its storied history. Mark Stephens, writing as Rober X. Cringely, calls the WRT54G and its Linux system “The Little Engine That Could.”

Linksys wrt54g LINKSYS WRT54G. I used this Wi-Fi router to set up a wireless broadband connection at home. Click to enlarge image.

In my case, it was “the sleep-deprived blogger who couldn’t with the little engine that could.” I did eventually set it up—and I’m now using it to publish this post while downloading tons of files—but only after I went Internet-deprived cold turkey, at home at least.

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MyTV? May TV! Analog TV in mobile phone

A Sun.Star Cebu colleague bought an interesting phone recently. May TV. (Note: Pronounce may as mai; may is the Tagalog word for “with.”) It’s not Digital Video Broadcasting – Handheld or DVB-H, the technology used by Smart’s myTV service. It’s good old analog TV, the free-to-air signals picked up by regular TVs using antennae.

Mobile TV MOBILE TV. Viewing QTV in TVMobile, a Chinese-made touchscreen phone that can pick up analog TV signals. The antenna at the bottom of the phone can be used as a stylus. Click on photo to enlarge.

The brand printed on the faceplate is TVMobile and for P7,000 (the price when he bought it), it is chock-full of features. The phone was made in China and came with a Chinese manual. It is being sold by a stall in one of the department stores on Colon St. in Cebu City.

The mobile TV offered by Smart’s myTV uses DVB-H and, apart from needing a compatible handset, you need to pay a monthly subscription fee to view the shows. With the TVMobile phone, you don’t need to pay fees, maintain a credit load in your phone, or subscribe to a service.

Since it picks up regular analog TV signal, the video quality isn’t that great, unlike the high-quality video you get with myTV.

When we viewed a show in his cubicle inside the Sun.Star Cebu building, the video was grainy—a signal that, in the time before cable TV, meant you had to climb up your roof to adjust the antenna’s orientation and shout “OK na?”

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