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GPS Tracking for the Rest of us…

June 23rd, 2009 | Category:

Many feel the pain of losing a valuable device (such as an expensive cellphone).

Many don’t want, can’t afford or simply don’t feel the iPhone is worth the money, but would love the feature capability of tracking down their device when left somewhere like a bar, restaurant or cab.

First off (I love all my Mac stuff, so I’m NOT a hater)… despite what people think of my “devil’s advocate posts”. :P

On with the info: I personally use and prefer my Nokia N95, of which has had many functions the iThing brought out through “marketing” before and for a while now as well as doing some of them much better. ;)

One of those is the ability to track your device live and in the background, using it’s GPS, A-GPS or wifi. I ran into this 1st company while looking for a way to record my runs and biking times and trails. The application I started with on Symbian is by a company called 3DTracking. There product is great! It’s light on the processor, runs in the background, starts at boot (without the new handler’s knowledge and has features such as speed, direction and gps sat connection info, live tracking (obvious) recorded tracking, use of internal GPS or bluetooth GPS and distance in Miles or kilometers. The site you would track your device from (for free) is and you can view it from nearly any device with a browser available today (although the site is built more for a computer screen’s size).

If you have a Symbian OS and want to give this a try, head on over to their site… I’m sure you will like it.

And, for those that don’t have an iThingy or a Symbian Device, you can always use Google’s Latitude (which works on many more devices than the above two and has been out longer then the iPhone’s app/function also. (I have to plug that since so many think the iThing is a god send that existed no where before “marketing”).

Anyway, with Google’s Latitude, you have the same features that 3Dtracking has (mentioned above) less speed (so far). Additionally, it’s viewable on just about any device for that “live tracking need” where “presently” you can’t view the live tracking info for an iThing from another iThing. And, like 3DTracking you can set the Latitude function of the google Maps app on your device to run in the background providing you with the same up to the date info you would need to find where your expensive device has walked off to.

It probably goes without saying, but (like any electronic or antenna based device)… you need a few things for this to work; power (to power the antenna and device so it does not die mid-search) and well, the correct antenna(s).

While you can use google Maps Latitude or 3DTracking from many mobile devices (including computers)… without cell coverage or an auto connected wi-fi hotspot, it cannot update it’s location info and thusly won’t be as “accurate” since that data could be delayed and reported when a connection is available to upload it’s location. So, THIS is where you will have to pay the cell company for data or hope the cell phone is in a location with wifi and your device was previously set to just latch on to an open network.

Keep those things in mind, you’re going to need a data connection (cell or wifi) that can report back the position of the device whether it’s found with the built in GPS, AGPS or wifi antenna(s).

And, if you think the iPhone can do these things without a data connection or visibility with the sky, think again. GPS is satellite based, and if you’re in poDunk (spelling) with no cell coverage and no wifi, in a covered storm hole the device can’t report back yet where it is, much less triangulate (which requires cell service or wifi hot spots) or “pinpoint” using GPS (not AGPS “triangulation”).

That’s a separate note, but in case your curious, AGPS is “assisted” global positioning. The A in assisted triangulates using cell or wifi connections to speed up GPS searching and or provide you with approximated location data while the GPS satellites are connecting to your device.

Hope that helps in your search to be like or beat out the iThings of the world. ;)

Below are two shots I snapped from my ‘puter using both 3DTracking and Google’s Latitude on my N95 at the same time. You can see how close they are (I’m across the street in a building). That is relying on week GPS (since I’m in the building) and Assisted GPS (triangulating me using cell and wifi locations). But both within… oh, 50ft of me.

Please let me know your thoughts and if this story or the noted items are helpful to you!

3DTracking’s PinPoint (click to see larger)


Here is a shot using Google Earth with 3DTracking and yes, it too is live!  So cool!
I’m in a brick building with no windows, (goes to show how well the wifi/agps/cellular triangulation works)!


Google Latitude’s PinPoint (click to see larger)


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Microsoft Tag: Microsoft’s own 2D barcode – istartedsomething

January 08th, 2009 | Category: Camera Phone,iPhone,N95,Nokia,technology

Microsoft Tag: Microsoft’s own 2D barcode

blogged by:
Long Zheng on January 8th, 2009

Click here for Video

It just wouldn’t be right if Microsoft didn’t have its own barcode technology too, which is why today Microsoft Tag (Beta) was announced at CES 2009. Much like other 2D barcode technologies including the popular but underwhelming QR Code, Microsoft Tag allows data to be stored in a graphical bitmap using shapes and colors. But with a twist.

If you were to assume Microsoft Tag is just a clone of QR Code, you’d be wrong. In fact you should be ashamed of yourself for even thinking about it. Microsoft Tag is based on a whole new technology called High Capacity Color Barcodes (HCCBs), which was invented in-house by Microsoft Research. The difference is not using square pixels, but triangle shapes and colors to store data. The following diagrams show off its advantages.


Unlike other tag technologies too, the Microsoft Tags don’t actually store the information. You see, all it stores is a unique ID which it then sends to Microsoft’s servers. This way, you can include much more information, and more variety of information, then if it was just on the tag itself. A nice side-effect of this is also the ability for publishers to gather reporting data on how many times it was seen.

To read these tags, Microsoft is making available today a downloadable application to a handful of mobile platforms including Windows Mobile, J2ME, iPhone, Blackberry, and Symbian S60 phones. A camera and internet connection is obviously required. To get the application, point your phone’s browser to

I’ve only played with Microsoft Tag for a few minutes on my Windows Mobile phone, but its a noticeably better experience than I’ve had with other 2D barcodes in the past. For example you can read it from a very far distance, from a very side angle and even if it’s partially blocked.

In addition, it wouldn’t just be a Microsoft platform without developer tools. That is why starting today the “tag maker” service is also available so anyone can create these tags. For the moment this is a free service, but out of beta, one could potentially see this is where Microsoft plans to make a buck.

Here is a tag I created:

What I like so far over the 2D tags is that the image (perhaps their software) scans much quicker and interacts immediately.  In comparison to the 2D bar codes I’ve created, they can be slow and fight with white/black contrast, so focusing and reading sometimes compete.  (where it trys to read while it focus’ and or stops reading after it’s focused (a timing issue I’m sure with the software/read).

All in all, my views on the blog above and the product, is it’s a winner and I can see it easily taking off, espically since Microsoft has implemented numerous software for numerous platforms all at once!

Here are a few tags Long created so you can try it out.


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AT&T Sucks, giving free Wi-fi to iPhone customers only!

October 30th, 2008 | Category: Apple,AT&T,ATT,Cingular,EDGE,GPRS,HSDPA,technology,Wi-fi,wireless
AT&T has decided to give away their massive wireless network to iPhone users. Yes, I said, JUST iPhone users. Personally, I just think this sucks! Granted it’s only an opinion.  

For years there have been customers using wifi capable handhelds, and paying carriers through the nose to use their data service just so they’re mobile (not laptops) were more than just a calling device. But whenever they are at an airport or location that does not provide the faster more efficient connection for free, they’re forced to use the slower and more frequently annoying 3G, EDGE or GPRS connections OR pay for the wifi they find.

I’ve dumped nearly $100 a month in their pocket for 5 years just for the use of 3G, and since the release of the iPhone (and 3G capable device) the cellular data connection has only gotten worse. With that, I have owned multiple devices that have wi-fi capability, simply due to the poor and getting poorer data connections they provide.

NOW, I find out through iPhone users that they have received a message (click image above) indicating they can get (as an iPhone user) free wifi on any of the massive number of AT&T wifi hotspots. Personally, this just makes me steam!

AT&T, if you can’t bring enough to the party for everyone, don’t bring any at all.

Sorry iphone users, I love everything Apple, but the stupid @$$ deal they’ve made with this carrier!

Just call it what it is, give it another Apple name, “Free iFi”!

AT&T Sucks, giving Free wifi to iPhone users ONLY!

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Games are Good for Teens?

September 16th, 2008 | Category: John C Dvorak,tech5
Google-Yahoo deal to be eyeballed by US Justice Dept. Android phone launch coming soon. The latest Pew research indicates that games are good for you and good for teens. Apple doing its own processors. The beginning of the end? As of today social networking trumps porn on web searches. New Blackberry hype beginning. Microsoft and Cray to do a Windows Supercomputer. I want a Cray desktop. HP doing huge layoff no thanks to EDS. Mozilla EULA to change. Tech stocks in the dumper. tech5
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Spam Works? Oh no!

August 19th, 2008 | Category: John C Dvorak,tech5
iPod batteries overheating in Japan. Meanwhile, Jobs says he’ll fix crashing iPhone. More on the bigfoot scam. Google Android phone is real. Yahoo opening up Buzz to the public. Sounds like Digg to me. Researchers say Vista gets dumped from 1/3 of enterprise PC’s. Microsoft dropping fees left and right. They also like tailored search now. IDF in play in San Francisco. MSNBC behind the times. 29-percent Internet users buy from spam solicitations. tech5
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Apple Sells One Million Phones Instantly

July 14th, 2008 | Category: John C Dvorak,tech5
Blackberry and Palm release new phones. Apple says it bought 1 million iPhones already. EU to regulate SMS roaming charges. Netflix looks like it is going on the Xbox360. It may never work out if the Net clogs up as predicted by at least one study. Load expected to be 100X worse. Icahn and Ballmer on Yahoo deal. But it’s not their company. Yahoo will reject any offer. Xbox360 to go to 60GB. IBM reveals 8-core Power 7 chip. tech5
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iphone 3G, pleeease.

July 11th, 2008 | Category: Apple,AT&T,ATT,GPS,HSDPA,iPhone,live stream,qik,voip,Wi-fi

This is silly, just silly.

I have to agree with Leo Laporte (of and many related to the industry when It’s said that you may be wasting your money if you let “At this time” screw you into a contract for a partially functional (based on definition) device!

Leo’s been online (live) since the first Apple store opened in New Zeland, on Friday July 11th, 2008 convering the launch of the 3G iPhone! And, although I don’t have his following, I have been re-streaming Leo’s audio for those that can’t view it, but want to stay connected via audio only. (my live stream on the right menu). This has been nice for those who only have their mobiles or capable of a .pls stream.

Just as a plug for me and Leo, (as it’s my site)… I re-stream Leo whenever he’s online, for those interested in a mobile version at a lower bit rate for ease of cellular streaming.

But…, the title of the post is really, “iPhone 3G, pleeease.”

So far this is what we’ve learned about the new iPhone 3G.

1. It’s got GPS (but it seems to act more like triangulation) the kind that google maps uses for mobile devices. Hmm, not turn by turn… seems that’s what GPS is mainly used for.
2. It has 3G (thus the title). However, as it’s been repeated, 3G is really (At this time) only available in Major Metro cities (and not even all of them). In fact, there is more wi-fi coverage across the globe than 3G, so you decide which you’d rather use and (NOT) pay for?
3. Apps, Shmaps. Software is cool, but many other devices that have many other cooler and “completely functional” hardware have been open for development for a long time!

These seem to be the 3 most noted changes in the launch of this new device (and the apps don’t really count) since the software version 2.0 enables new apps on the old iPhone, and if you can install Google Maps on the old iPhone, then your “triangulated” GPS has been available since it was installed. Sooo… it seems 3G is the only enhancment. No?

Personally, I’d not get screwed into a contract, and rather have the immediate option to buy the device and plug my own/old sim to work. Sadly, Apple descided that was not a good idea (for who knows what reason)?

In addition to all this, with all the activation problems, (servers down, etc.) Apple and or AT&T “At this time” are sending people out of the stores with an inactive device. This may just lead to some never activating it “under contract”. Rumor has it, it only took approx 3 1/2 hours to unlock it yesterday (Via someone in New Zeland). This of course won’t take long to get into the wild for everyone to use, and thusly, if you have a device that is unactivated (opposed to activated forcefully in the store)… you may just be able to unlock it and pop in your existing sim.

Hmm, I’d love to know the numbers on that one.

If you don’t need the cellular, just get an iPod touch, install a VOIP client and use wi-fi for phone calls. :) Hey, at least your coverage would be greater with Wi-fi. ;)

One positive thing I can say, even though the new iPhone STILL does not have video recording (built in) (as I understand it), a company called will allow you to do just that, and live at the same time. So, if you’re one of the secondary “early adopters” of the newest iPhone, don’t fret completely, it has one improvement. (oh wait, the old iPhone can do qik too). DANG!

Thoughts, if Apple and At This Time are going to go into a shady @$$ deal like the last and this one, things really need to work, immediately! No? Or, was it your intention to have many unactivated devices in the wild?

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A Quadrillion Operations per Second?

June 11th, 2008 | Category: John C Dvorak,tech5
iPhone 3G gets more and more ridiculous publicity. This is a classic. Google co-founder decides to go into space on a Russian rocket. Big story beginning: TV viewers do not know to switch from analog to digital. HP new machine takes on MacBook Air. Some guy take 13,000 cell processors with 7000 dual core AMD chips and makes machine to do a quadrillion calculation a second. YouTube scandal over punks doing YouTube video. Carl Icahn won’t go away. My thoughts on Microsoft Office. Employees said they would take a pay cut to work at home. tech5
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Is iPhone Sex Next?

June 09th, 2008 | Category: John C Dvorak,tech5
Steve Ballmer says all content within 10 year will be IP-based. Laughable prediction. I mock thee! Apple new iPhone may be designed for video phonesex. iPhonesex? No Zune phone. Look for Snow Leopard as the latest for the Mac. Microsoft meanwhile working on a very bloated embedded OS. Yoikes! IBM does petaflop machine. WiMAX folks decide to share patents, finally! Carl Icahn becoming a pest. tech5
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Microsoft Says it Will Spend All its Money Anyway

May 23rd, 2008 | Category: John C Dvorak,tech5
It’s snowing in California? Ballmer says MSFT is going to spend $50 billion one way or the other. Yahoo is not a strategy. Carl Icahn worried a deal will never happen. Vista user account control are confusing says MSFT exec. XP SP3 corrupting the registry says Symantec. HP is now taking over the server business from IBM and Dell. RedHat software is greener. So what? Google slaps Microsoft. I’m just joking when I say the oceans are being carbonated by the CO2 in the air. I suspect the iPhone will have GPS built-in or have a bluetooth gizmo nearby. tech5
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