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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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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Running a web server, WordPress on my phone

I was finally able to run an Apache, PHP, MySQL server on my Sony Ericsson K750i. I did it on my second attempt, the first was disastrous, and that’s putting it mildly, as I crashed my phone and I had to reformat its memory card, wiping out several photos I haven’t been able to save to my PC yet.

I have long wanted to set up a development web server in my K750i, which also serves as my primary USB drive.

wordpress in k750i WORDPRESS ON MY PHONE. Installing WordPress on my K750i, using Uniform Server. The phone doesn’t actually run it, its memory card is merely being used by the PC to run the server. Click on image to enlarge.

I use my shared hosting space for my WordPress-related work and experiments as well as tests on PHP/MySQL scripts that catch my interest. This setup is such a hassle. I have to FTP files to and from the server and sometimes connections can be so slow that frustration creeps in.

The files in my account have also become such a mess because I’ve tried quite a few scripts, each with its own sub-domain.

I decided I should have a “web server on a stick,” a functioning Apache, MySQL and PHP server on a thumb drive. The Sony Ericsson K750i, as with most multi-media phones, also serves as a USB mass storage drive. This makes it possible to set up an Apache server on its memory card.

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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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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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Upgrading K750i firmware to the latest version: R1CA021

I just upgraded my Sony Ericsson K750i to the latest firmware version: R1CA021. The actual upgrade took less than 20 minutes but I spent more than half an hour downloading the Sony Ericsson Update Service because I was also downloading a ton of podcast episodes that time.

To know the firmware version of your Sony Ericsson phone, do this (for < push the joystick to the left, for > push the joystick to the right): >*< <*<* After doing that, click on Service Info and then click on Software Info.

If you’re still using R1N035 or R1NA005 or R1AA008, then by all means download the latest firmware-it fixes the irritating USB transfer bug. If you already have R1BC002, I’d hold off for a week or two.

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How to solve missing K750i USB drive problem in Windows XP

If you can’t find your Sony Ericsson K750i memory stick duo in your list of drives in Windows Explorer, chances are it has been assigned a drive letter that is already in use by one of your network drives.

I found this out the hard way Monday when my office PC (which is connected to a lot of network drives) was upgraded into Windows XP service pack 2. I connected my K750i into one of the USB ports and when the Found New Hardware wizard came up, I pointed it to the device’s drivers. After the drivers were installed, I still couldn’t find the K750i memory stick in my listing of network and local drives. I unplugged the device, tried a different USB port and It still wasn’t listed as one of my PC’s drives.

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How to use iTunes to manage songs in your K750i

It’s a pity Apple limits iTunes synching to iPods and iTunes-enabled mobile phones. ITunes makes managing music files and podcasts very easy with its cataloguing and drag and drop interface. I use iTunes to play songs in my PC and the ability to have it manage songs and podcasts in my phone would be a big help.

I searched around for a solution and found Mass Storage Synchronizer (screenshots after the jump). The free software allows you to let iTunes manage songs in your Walkman phones, Palm devices, Samsung MP3 phones, Nokia units and other devices.

Installing and using Mass Storage Synchronizer is easy. But before you install it, make sure you have the latest Sony Ericsson K750 firmware, R1BC002. If you’re still using an earlier firmware, you’re phone will likely have the USB transfer bug and you’d encounter errors in sending files to your phones: many of the files you’d transfer to your memory stick via the USB cable won�t be transferred.

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FEAC2006: technical notes

Since last year, I have been actively moving files that I need to access anywhere online, in an experiment to “make the network my computer.” This served me well during the recent Free Expression in Asian Cyberspace conference in Manila.

The greatest benefit is that the files I needed for things I was working on was accessible whichever computer I was using. I host all my files with Box.net, the best online drive I’ve tried so far. Streamload is a close second and I use it for backup.

I used one of the newsroom’s laptops in the conference and it was a plain vanilla installation. In a few steps, however, I turned it’s Firefox into the browser that I use at home and at the office. When I used one of the laptops set up by the organizers at the conference hall, I was also able to turn it into my familiar Firefox installation (after they installed Firefox): with the same bookmarks and bookmarks toolbar. I did this using Foxmarks, a Firefox bookmarks synchronizer. Foxmarks synchronizes all your bookmarks into a central server, so you essentially have the same set of bookmarks and bookmarks toolbar for each browser that uses your account.

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