Google Docs on Android in Samsung Galaxy Tab

In the cloud? What if it goes up in smoke?

I wrote this column in Google Docs, the Internet search giant’s free online office suite. I thumb-typed a rough outline on an Android device—a Samsung Galaxy Tab—before I finished the first draft on my favorite desktop, which runs Ubuntu Linux, and edited the final piece in my office PC, which runs Windows XP.

All the time that I worked intermittently on this article during free time from desk work, I did not know precisely the physical location of this digital file nor the number of its copies and iterations. All I knew was that it was in Google’s data centers–precisely where I do not know nor care.

Saving digital office files in the correct location is among the first things you are required to learn on the job, whatever the industry or the size of the company. In our newsroom, file location is something seared into your brain the very first day on the job. Unless you saved your article in the designated folder, editors cannot access your story in the modern-day filing tray called The Local Network.

Google Docs on Android in Samsung Galaxy Tab
Writing using Google Docs on the Samsung Galaxy Tab.

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Ditching paper planners for Google Calendar-Android combo

EACH November, I’d eagerly start my annual search for the next year’s planner. It is a circuitous process that almost always ends the same way each year—I’d drool over one planner after the other, go on coffee binges to collect stickers for a free diary, and end up buying a Moleskine.

I’ve been regularly trying and experimenting with online calendars and task managers for years but never got around to using one for long, back when the only interface was a Web browser and you needed to have an Internet connection to be able to use the system.

Paper was more efficient, apart from being more beautiful.

Starbucks 2011 planner and Google Calendars on the Samsung Galaxy Tab

BLANK PAGES. My Google calendar items in the Galaxy Tab placed on top the blank pages of the free 2011 Starbucks planners that I got after a coffee binge. Click to enlarge. Click to enlarge. (PHOTO BY MARLEN LIMPAG)

Last year, however, I started to gradually shift from using paper planners to online calendar services and a mobile phone.

I started with Nokia Ovi using my trustworthy-but-now-gone Nokia E63. If you have a Nokia phone, you have to use it with Ovi, a suite of online services that allow you to manage your phone’s calendar and contacts from the Web. Although I repeatedly encountered downtimes and syncing problems with Nokia Ovi last year, I found it useful enough that I migrated my office tasks and even marathon training schedule to the service.

With Ovi, you could enter tasks on the Web, set reminder settings and then have all these downloaded to your phone. Close to the end of last year, the service started allowing the sharing of calendar tasks and I was about to test it with the Sun.Star Cebu business section team when I lost my phone.

Then I got an Android phone.

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Turning into a fandroid

HOW long does your initial fascination with a new phone last? Two weeks? A month?

In my case, it used to take about two weeks before the novelty of a new unit started to wear off.

But not with my LG P500, a device that has Android 2.2 or Froyo as operating system. Two months after buying it, I’m more fascinated and attached to it today than in the day after I unboxed the unit.

Before Android, I wouldn’t have considered buying either a Samsung or an LG unit. I was a Sony Ericsson and, later, a Nokia person. It was such a hassle having to transition to another mobile phone brand and relearn everything—from quirks in the keypad to the way other software components worked.

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Why I’m leaving Sony Ericsson for Nokia

Like Saul, my conversion happened on the road.

I was on my way to a meeting and needed to constantly check my e-mail as well as keep my instant messaging (IM) accounts online when it hit me, like the Biblical blinding light, that the Nokia E71 is the best mobile Internet device I’ve used.

It isn’t just the ease by which the device is able to use multiple Internet access points—from various wi-fi hot spots with different security settings to HSPA —it is also the dependability of the device in keeping that connection. Nokia E71

In the two weeks that I was asked to test an E71 review unit, I’ve never experienced having difficulty going online and staying there.

When I was asked by Nokia to test the E71, I was a rabid Sony Ericsson fan boy. But a decade of using Sony Ericsson phones was no match with just a fortnight with the E71. By the end of the test, I had decided to shift to an Eseries device later this year.

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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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Spamming Charles Krauthammer

Last year I got a curious e-mail buried in the pile of auto-responses that clogged my inbox. Someone using a forged @limpag.com address not only sent spam to scores of poor souls all over the world, he or she also spammed Pulitzer Prize-winning columnist Charles Krauthammer.

That spurred me into action. I use my limpag.com domain for my personal e-mail as well as that of immediate family members.

I initially used Windows Live Custom Domains to manage my limpag.com e-mails. But I, as well as other Limpags, didn’t use it much. For one, it came with the old Hotmail interface and while it promised a 25MB storage for non-US folks, we only got 2MB of inbox storage because you had to undergo a verification process in order to get the full 25MB.

When Google launched its Google Apps for domains, I immediately transferred e-mail service. Google Apps lets you manage your domain’s e-mails through GMail, and with it came excellent spam controls and a 2Gb of storage. It also offers such things as a shared online calendar as well as documents storage.

It was after the transfer that I noticed that spammers were forging e-mail addresses using my domain. My main limpag.com e-mail addresses was getting auto-replies indicating that spam messages, including e-mails with virus attachments, were being sent from @limpag.com addresses.

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Re-installing my life: the perils of keeping everything online

For more than a year, I have been moving my data online as part of an experiment to make the network my computer. With the telecoms disruption caused by a recent earthquake in Taiwan, my world crashed.

As I write this, the Globelines Broadband connection I have at home is still horrendously slow. It is a 7.8 mbps line to nowhere. I was giddy upon seeing for the first time the notification that my connection to Globelines is 7.8 mbps (it used to say 2 mbps). Now, the notice feels like a taunt.

It takes about as much time to load pages with Globelines Broadband right now as it would take a Sinulog contingent to finish a dance. To say the connection is as slow as molasses would be to overstate the viscosity of the substance.

It was a good thing that I use Gmail for mobile application in my phone, a Sony Ericsson k750i using a Smart pre-paid subscription. I can open my GMail messages faster on my phone than I could using Globelines in my home PC. Half of the time, I couldn’t even get past the Gmail login screen when I use the Globelines connection.

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