Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Bookmark Sync for Chrome

This is so handy for folks like me that work on multiple computers.  Install or update to the latest Chrome browser and you can synchronize and merge your web page bookmarks across all your computers.

Details are here:

Prior to this 4.0 release I found Chrome had some compatibility issues with certain web sites but it's definitely the no contest performance winner over all other web browsers.

Monday, January 25, 2010

Android Phone OS makes impressive gains

I've been using the LG Eve GW620 Android 3G phone from Rogers for a few weeks now.  I'm extremely impressed by the platform but it is ready for prime time use by heavy business users?

It's awesome if your company is already on Google Apps or Gmail as it synchronizes automatically with your email, calendar, and contacts plus uploads pictures directly into Picasa.  There are no extra applications to install or web accounts to set-up like you have to with a Blackberry.  You also don't need Blackberry Enterprise Server (BES) to make everything insantaneous and eliminate the typical 10 to 15 minute delay for email.  Keeping everything in the Google family certainly makes everything simpler to set-up and simpler to use.

One limitation I've run into is the inability to create new calendar appointments that include other attendees.  Also, I can't run real time stock streaming software like Quotestream, however, I've opened a ticket with Quotemedia to see if there is a work around. (Update: Open this link directly to install the mobile Java version of Quotestream Wireless.  It works but cuts off the edges of the window if you hold the phone horizontally instead of vertically)

The Android phone platform is definitely growing rapidly.  I was surprised to see that Android has 27% market share compared to iPhone's 54% market share for mobile ads displayed.

Friday, January 22, 2010

First Impression: DrayTek Vigor2950G Dual Wan Router

After much research we recently installed the Draytek Vigor2950G Dual Wan Router for a client to replace their NetGear FVS336G.  I'm impressed by its functionality and sophistication for $475 USD.  The NetGear's load balancing was simplistic and couldn't properly utilize the combined bandwidth of the customer's T1 line and Rogers Cable modem.

All of the customer's software applications are cloud computing based so our goal is to provide redundancy, yet still utilize all the bandwidth available for better performance.  We also wanted stronger QoS for consistently clear phone calls over Voip.

We configured the Draytek to allocate up to 75% of the T1 line to Voip/SIP calls.  The 75% can still be used by other traffic but only when it isn't needed for Voip.

There are certainly more expensive firewalls/routers with the same functionality.  So far it's working great.  I'll post again after we've had more time to put it through it paces.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Surf the web via your Blackberry - no Internet stick required

Who likes to pay separately for their Internet stick and its data plan?

I've been using Blackberries to surf the web from my notebook (as tethered modems) for over 3 years yet still very few people know about it.  It's never been simple to configure.  There are no additional monthly costs outside of your existing Blackberry data plan.  Make sure you have a 500 Mb/month plan or greater or it's very pricey.

2 ways to make it work via a USB cable which also charges your battery:
  • The old way is complex, details are here but it can be done over Bluetooth or a USB cable.
  • The new way is to install Blackberry Desktop 5.0.1 or greater and simply click the IP Modem button but this works only with a USB cable
It works on Rogers Wireless and Bell Mobility.  Should work on Telus but I haven't tested it myself.

There's no need for buying software like Tether for Blackberry. I hope this helps a few people save some money.

Connect your computer to the internet via Rogers LG Eve GW620R Android phone

I was wondering if the tricks that work on my Blackberry for modem tethering to let your computer surf the web from anywhere would work on the LG Eve Android phone from Rogers... and it does!

I tested it on Windows 7 32-bit plus Windows XP on Rogers Wireless and the speeds over 3G are excellent.  These instructions should work for Vista too.

  1. Install the GW620R LG Eve USB Drivers from the LG Support page
  2. Go to Device Manager, Modems, LG Mobile USB modem, Properties, Advanced and add the extra initialization command +cgdcont=1,"IP","internet.com"
  3. From Network and Sharing Center, Set up a new connection or network, Connect to the Internet, Create a new connection, Dial-up, Choose LG Mobile USB Modem
  4. Dial-up phone number: *99#, User name: wapuser1, Password: wap
  5. Optional Step: Dial up Connection Properties, turn off Prompt for name and password, turn of Prompt for phone number so that you don't have to click the extra prompt each time you connect.
Note that there are driver issues with Windows 7 64-bit so I doubt it will work but let me know if it does.

I initially tested PdaNet for Android which works fine but requires repeatedly turning on Settings, Applications, Development, USB Debugging, plus running the app on the phone and the computer.  It also costs $25 after the trial period.

This means there's no need to purchase an internet stick or run extra software to surf the web from your notebook from anywhere!

Google Apps

This past year I did a fair bit of business strategy consulting for small businesses. Having been through the pain and heavy lifting of building a business myself it's been a lot of fun to counsel others on it.

I quickly saw a theme in small businesses where their company had grown and so too had the complexity and problems with their most mission critical system - Email. One client had implemented Microsoft Exchange for calendaring but was still using ISP based POP3 email accounts and storing all email locally on every employee's computer. Most Exchange consultants are already cringing as they read this but the client didn't know any better and why would they when their focus is on manufacturing high quality products not on information technology (IT). They were sitting on a house of cards that was going to bite them soon if we didn't clean it up but they had no budget for it.

Google Apps has over 2 million businesses using it yet it's surprisingly not well understood by the street. For $50/user/year we gave the client instant disaster recovery, a single system to manage, zero configuration of desktops, no spam software to manage, instant receipt of emails on their blackberries, and accessibility to all email from anywhere on virtually any device. Of course there were some lessons learned along the way too... such as Stockhom Syndrome with users when we tried to take away Outlook.

I enjoyed reading Chris Lyman's blog on Stockholm Syndrome and How Google and the cloud changed my company

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Introducing... My Interlock IT blog

I'm a bit strange in being a professional account (CMA) with an insatiable curiosity for technology and gadgets.  I'm lucky that my wife of 16 years, Lesley, a psychotherapist, puts up with my constant tinkering and spending on the latest gizmo's.  Take for example, the birth of our first child in 2003, when I pre-built a website to host all the baby pictures and then spent too many hours trying to find a web cam that could see in the dark.  I ended up buying a camera solution from one of the baby monitor manufacturers that required too many steps to use the picture-in-picture on our TV, and had horrible image quality and lots of static... but I wasn't willing to give up.  Lesley had to stand by the TV and constantly give me feedback until I finally figured out the one spot on the wall that produced a reasonable image but required rearranging all the furniture in the baby room.  What normal wife would put up with that?

Anyway, back to the topic at hand.  For me this blog is about contributing tips that will hopefully help others with their business and technology challenges as similar contributions from others have helped me time and time again.

I love figuring out things that stumped everybody else and most of my solutions are found by scouring the internet forums for ideas. Some would say I'm gifted in my ability to make things work but it comes naturally when you love doing it.

Certainly, I also hope that my blog will generate referrals which are so critical to the long term success of an organically grown consulting firm.