In the cloud? What if it all goes up in smoke? The case of my missing phone numbers

LAST Thursday, I got the phone number of an elementary school friend I haven’t had contact with in more than a decade. After saving the contact info in the cellphone I am currently testing, a Nokia 5800, I immediately synchronized my phonebook with Zyb.

Zyb is a web-based service that stores your contact data. It has social networking features that plug into such sites as Facebook, Twitter and Flickr.

But Zyb’s core function is to make sure you have an updated (and backed up) copy of all your contact details. It is a very useful service especially when you get a new phone or use several units.

To make sure you always have the latest contact details of people, Zyb regularly reminds you to synchronize your phone book with its servers.

Synchronizing with Zyb
SYNCHRONIZING WITH ZYB. Zyb holds the latest copy of my phone contacts. The service regularly reminds you to synchronize your phonebook to make sure you have the latest copy of your phone contacts.

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Smart launches mobile TV service

For less than the monthly subscription fee of a cable TV connection, you can now watch digital TV anytime and anywhere on compatible mobile phones.

Smart Telecommunications Inc. and 360media launched on Tuesday myTV, a service that allows people to view high-quality TV broadcasts on their phones. The quality of the video is really great, it’s better than the quality of the SkyCable feed, on a bad day, to the unit next to my newsroom cubicle.

mobile tv MYTV. CNN as viewed on a Nokia N92 unit during the Cebu demonstration of Smart’s mobile TV service. Click on photo to enlarge. (Photo by Sun.Star’s Ruel Rosello)

Unlike the current prevalent video streaming and downloading service, myTV does not use the cellular network to transmit the video. It is broadcast, similar to how regular TV receives images via an antennae. MyTV uses the Digital Video Broadcasting-Handheld or DVB-H platform for broadcasting.

For P488 a month, Smart subscribers can view CNN, MTV Philippines, Cartoon Network, National Geographic, Pinoy Box Office, History Channel, Solar Sports, Basketball TV, ETC, and Jack TV.

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Turn your mobile phone into a document scanner with Scanr app

I would give anything to have had this Scanr tool a decade ago when, as a beat reporter, I had to frequently photocopy documents for news stories. When I was still covering the Cebu City Hall beat, I did a series of news reports that exposed illegal collection of fees and various other transactions disallowed by government auditors. These stories were from documents officials never intended to be released to the media.

Scanr mobile application STEP 1. Scan the document using your phone camera. Fill as much of the phone screen with the document you want processed. Click on photo to view larger image.

I had a City Hall source whom I befriended after weeks of offering free cigarettes (there, smoking can do something good) at the hallway. We became such good cigarette break friends that I started asking him for documents officials did not want released.

How to use scanr STEP 2. Start the application. It will open with an image gallery. Browse the photos and look for the images you want processed. Click on photo for larger image.

The source would alert me during our cigarette breaks whenever a document I requested was already available. I’d then go to the press room, get a brown envelope, go to the comfort room and get the documents from him. I’d then rush to the photocopier and, while chewing on my nails, wait for her to finish copying the papers. I’d then go back to the City Hall comfort room and then return the papers.

Using scanr to scan documents STEP 3. Click on a photo and mark whether it is a document, business card, or a whiteboard snapshot. Click on photo to view larger image.

In one of these exchanges, I panicked because the source said I should return the papers immediately but I wasn’t able to find a vacant copier near City Hall. I had to cross several blocks.

Looking back while playing with Scanr these past days made me think how easier things might have been for me using the service and its mobile application.

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Traffic, flood, crime data on your mobile phone

Apart from Bulacan State University’s Smart Phone Guard, the Smart Wireless Engineering Education Program (Sweep) project that really piqued my interest in this year’s Innovation and Excellence Awards is Ateneo de Manila University’s Smart Safety Assistance (3S).

The system packages mobile services, using open source projects, into a system that offers people access, via a PC or mobile device, to data on traffic and road conditions, floods, and crime incidence.

3s project of Ateneo de Manila SMART SAFETY ASSISTANCE. Ted Angelo Chua, lead student of the team from Ateneo de Manila, explains to judges how 3S works. (photo by Smart PA)

Perhaps because it isn’t as visceral as the three winners, Ateneo de Manila missed a place in the top three. The 3S package is an excellent system, albeit more geared toward urban centers.

The 3S system centers on a web server that gathers traffic, crime, and flood data as well as video streams from cameras placed on major roads. The server then processes these data and makes it available via the Internet to a PC or phone. The server can also send the data as an MMS message and information as SMS message.

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Using mobile technology to control entry to houses, spy on intruders

Bulacan State University had the most number of entries to this year’s Smart Wireless Engineering Education Program (Sweep) Innovation and Excellence Award. The school’s Smart Phone Guard application took the top prize.

BSU could have taken the top two prizes had it combined its two home security projects: Smart LockInterCom and e-Spy Mobile Security. On its own, the two projects were good but not good enough to break into the top three.

The home security project that won second place, Smart House, was better than the two BSU projects individually in that it offered both security (alarms, SMS notifications) and convenience (turning lights and appliances on and off through SMS).

SMS controlled house CONTROLLED THROUGH SMS. The project model of Bulacan State University’s Smart LockInterCom. The system allows you to open and lock doors and windows using a Java application in your phone that provides a visual interface to the SMS commands. Click on photo to view larger image.

Smart LockInterCom allows people to open and close doors and windows in their houses using SMS. The team that created the system also created a Java application that simplifies the process in your cell phone. The Java application provides a visual representation of your house or office and you can just click on doors to either open or lock it. The application also indicates which doors are locked.

It is that Java application that differentiates the project from others like it. The second place winner, Systems Plus College Foundation, only created the security system and you had to control it by sending SMS codes.

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Sony Ericsson unveils W200i, W610i, and W880i in Cebu

For a confessed Sony Ericsson fan boy, last Thursday’s unveiling of new Sony Ericsson models was a slice of heaven for me. The company launched three new Walkman phone models–the W200i, W610i, and W880i. The phones are expected to be available in the Philippines by the second quarter of this year.

Sony Ericsson w880i SEXY. I thought to myself during the presentation of the phone by this drop-phone-and-say-hello-gorgeous model that if a booming voice from up there were to suddenly say “Max, you have been a good boy these past few months. As reward, you can pick either the phone or the model to take home with you tonight,” I’d pick the phone anytime. It is that sexy. Click on photo to view larger image.

I normally don’t get to attend launchings, they’re either too early–morning and lunch events–or too late–evening affairs–for me. But last week, I swapped news desk tasks with a colleague just to attend the event. When I got there, the event hadn’t started yet and I got to talk to Sony Ericsson officials about their products. One, in particular, warned me against converting my K750i into a W800i, a task I’m 90 percent bent on performing. “Huwag!!!? (No!!!!) was what she said, but that’s for another post.

Of the three phones launched, the cheapest is the W200i. It is marketed as a “Walkman phone for everyone,? an entry-level music mobile.

The W200i is a tri-band phone that does all the things a modern phone does: send SMS, MMS, take photos (but with only a VGA camera, but what do you expect, it’s an entry-level phone for crying out loud), play games and a host of other multi-media phone functions.

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Manage songs in your phone, mp3 player with MediaMonkey

I have long stayed away from using music players such as iTunes to manage songs in my Sony Ericsson k750i because of the way these software organize the files in the mobile phone’s memory stick.

mediamonkey MEDIAMONKEY is probably the best software to use to manage your phone’s audio library from your PC. Click on photo to enlarge.

I find it more efficient to just use my favorite Windows file manager, Total Commander, to transfer the music files from my PC to the phone. I’ve tried using third-party software to make iTunes manage my phone playlist and they work but not to the extent that they’ve become the primary way I manage my songs. I hate the way synchronization with iTunes breaks apart files in compilation albums into artist sub-folders. You’d have to recreate your playlist by repeatedly clicking on album folders. I’m sure there’s a way to configure this but I’m just too lazy to find out how.

But the first time I tried MediaMonkey, I immediately knew it was a piece of software I could rely on to manage songs and podcasts in my phone. The free (but sadly not open source) music library software is easy to use and doesn’t require a lot of fuzz, hacking or third party applications and plugins to connect to the K750i.

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From Google Video, YouTube to your phone in 3 steps

When I saw Matt Cutts’ video series in Google Video, I immediately wanted to convert the clips to play in my phone, a Sony Ericsson K750i, for viewing and listening in times when I have nothing to do and I’m away from the computer.

Google Video allows you to download MP4 videos and I downloaded a bunch of Matt Cutts videos in MP4 format, thinking it would play in my phone. Wrong. I could hear the sound of the clips but I couldn’t see anything. This suited me just fine as you can understand what Matt Cutts is saying without visual cues.

And then I saw Bob Dylan. I found a bunch of Dylan music videos in Google Video and I was spurred into finding a way to convert the files to play in my phone. I tried converting the MP4 videos using ImTOO MP4 Video Converter to no avail.

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Old-school rocker in Rokr concert

Motorola launched the MotoRokr in Cebu yesterday with a press briefing and the finals of the Cebu leg of the Rock Mo’to Band Competition. I went over the features of the MotoRokr and played with it briefly in yesterday’s briefing and I can say it’s a phone audiophiles would be drooling over – the Rokr’s stereo surround sound will have rockers banging their heads in no time.

The MotoRokr runs on Linux and is the company’s first “mid-tier” device running on the open source software. But enough about the phone, I’m featuring it in my next (print) column. What truly defined my day yesterday, apart from meeting Angela Calina and talking search engine optimization with her, was this sense of disconnect that has had me feeling geriatric these days.

With Angela Calina
With Angela Calina after dinner during the launching of MotoRokr in Cebu. Click to enlarge.

I went to the Gaisano Country Mall a few minutes before the scheduled 7:00 p.m. press briefing and took some photos. Denise Haak of Ogilvy, who coordinated the briefing, was very helpful as she told me about features of the phone and the now iconic Motobus.

She then told me that the Itchy Worms were going to be joining us for dinner. Motorola’s head for marketing, Mari Litonjua, then asked me whether I wanted to interview members of the Itchy Worms. I begged off saying that that would be for the Lifestyle section. I was about to ask who these guys were but cut myself off.

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Back up your mobile phone data online

Most people today rely on cell phones for the storage of contacts and appointments. This reliance on a single device can be risky and devastating when your phone gets lost or stolen.

To prevent a disaster such as losing important contact details, you need to regularly back up your phone data. Most phones today come with PC suites that allow you to easily manage and back up these data. If you’re using a SonyEricsson phone, use Float’s Mobile Agent, it’s the best PC software for your unit.

The problem with using PC software to back up your data is that you need to regularly connect your phone to your PC in order to get an up-to-date version of your data. I don’t have problems with this as my phone is always connected to my PC when I’m in the office because I exclusively use Float’s Mobile Agent to manage it.

But for those who don’t regularly do this, there’s an easier backup option: use the free zyb.com service. Zyb.com allows you to store your address book and calendar online and then synchronize the data between your account and your phone (or phones since you can use multiple handsets with one account.) (See screenshots below.)

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