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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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Novatel MiFi gives you a personal 3G Wi-Fi hotspot

December 09th, 2008 | Category:,social network,technology

Shared by thecolor

this is cool and all, but personally, I use JoikuSpot ( on my Nokia N95, and it provides me with exactly the same thing, no extra hardware. It’s available for many other devices as well.

Novatel MiFi

has just announced the future release of their new MiFi 3G portable hotspot, and we are officially excited. Using the MiFi, you’ll be able to grab the signal from your EV-DO Rev. A or HSPA account, and share it over Wi-Fi to a group. For example, you can hit up Starbucks with two buddies, break out the MiFi, and all three of you can hit the Internet without paying for Starbucks Wi-Fi three times. The MiFi device itself looks just as awesome as its usage scenarios, as it just as long and wide as a credit card, and isn’t really that tall. Novatel is also touting that the battery will last for 4 hours when used actively, and 40 hours when on standby. Nice.

Mark our words – we are going to be keeping an eye on the news leading up to the Novatel MiFi official release. Expect to see if available for purchase in for first half of 2009.

Novatel MiFi gives you a personal 3G Wi-Fi hotspot originally appeared on Gear Live on Tue, December 09, 2008 – 10:59:19

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Google (gMail) Video Chat…

November 13th, 2008 | Category: conference,gmail,google,gTalk,video,video chat
It’s been a long time coming, after all, we’ve had video conference / chat since before the internet, skype has it, AIM and MSN has/d it… however, after trying Google’s gMail Video chat, I must say, I’m impressed.Installation was near instantaneous, and almost completely behind the scenes. I had no idea it was installed (most likely a few seconds later) when I had clicked the “Install Voice and Video Chat” button, as it wasn’t until I wondered what was going on, and moved my browser out of the way that I saw the completion dialog box behind chrome.      

That was nice and quick, just needed a more obvious confirmation.

As for usage… well, nothing seemed to really tell me that the settings are within the “chat” portion of your gMailsettings“, but that wasn’t to hard to figure out.      

I started off like this… installed, hmmm, what do I do now? Friend IMd me… oh cool, an opportunity, within the browser (gMail),

gMail Settings
I started chatting and then clicked “video and more”, Video and More
this enabled a smaller turn up (kinda like a clock rotation / pop up)… once I did that, it was then blatantly obvious to click “video chat” or invite the friend to video chat.My chat-hort was unaware it was out yet, so we had an audio conversation at first… smooth and easily understood. I was on a wired connection and he wi-fi at $bucks and once I told him the great news, he immediately clicked on the red text at the top of his gMail or iGoogle page that said, “| New! Video chat |” and his download was as instantaneous as mine.      

We were off, with the install there was not even a need to restart the conversation, it just worked, immediately! Now that is seamless!

I made a few adjustments in the “Camera” settings drop down, and it immediately changed in the chat session I had going… no hang up, no reboot, no hassle at all, it just worked. Again, SEEMLESS!

Google, I must say, it’s an impressive addition to the already easy and clean gTalk (chat) function already available. NOW, I want to see it available as a mobile application (and please don’t fall into the iPhone only trap, at least make it for Symbian devices as well.  Otherwise I’ll just continue using Fring and for video confrencing on my Nokia N95-4 8GB.  ;)

Oh, and on a slightly sadder note… I have two PPC macs, and this does not work on PPC.  :(  So, I was restricted to using it on my PC, since I don’t have an intelMac.  :(  I feel like I’m being left out with fewer apps being made for PPC.

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My experience with an airports Mobile Web Check-in (beta)…

July 24th, 2008 | Category: paperless ticket

So, this was possibly a first for an actual consumer using Mobile Web Check-in… I’m lucky enough to be in a test group since my fiancee works for one of the airlines.

I’m writing about what Mobile Web Check-in is, does and the experiences I had using it today.

Mobile Web Check-in is a fairly new manner of getting your boarding pass for an airline (flight).

To access (or obtain) your electronic boarding pass you have to request or are advised (somehow) of an airlines mobile url “the electronic boarding pass check-in site” or “paperless ticket”. It’s similar to your airport kiosk but directly from your handheld device (mobile web capable phone). Of course, you need web access (so you will use your mobile carriers data network or wi-fi (whichever you choose or have access to.)

Once you’ve logged into the airlines/airports paperless web check-in page on your device, you will be asked all the security questions you normally see when obtaining your boarding pass from your personal computer at home, your kiosk check-in or a representative at the counter. (i.e. do you have sharp objects, dangerous objects, explosives, etc.) the typical security check.

Once you have successfully navigated your way through all the standard security checks (again, very much like how you would do it at home or the airport kiosk) you are presented with your “paperless boarding pass”.

That paperless boarding pass will have the same information a (well) paper one does. The cool (e) part about it, is that the bar code that is displayed on paper boarding passes is also on your screen. ooh, the exciting part.

You ask, “what do I do with it now”… it’s on my tiny little screen.
Well, just take it up to the TSA rep (stand in line of course like everyone else). Once you get up there, be sure you have your ID out (like always) present them with the paperless ticket (your phone). ;) They will then scan the bar code (rather than stamp the paper version (like all those that are less techie) and (are suppose to) give you a confirmation card (kind of like stamping your paper boarding pass).

This was my experience when using it today:
After obtaining my paperless boarding pass (by using my Nokia N95-4 8GB), I presented it to the TSA security rep. This was her first time doing it, as she had the scanner there, but it was not on (and although excited) repeatedly pounded the Windows Mobile device wrapped in an ugly grey box with her finger trying to turn it on. With additional excitement once the screen came up, she pointed the red cross hairs at my screen. “bleep”, it scanned. (or so we think)… as she confirmed the information on her screen with my ID. “Yeah!”, we both exclaimed, as passengers behind us went “ooh, technology”. :)

This is where being “possibly” the first to run through this is the test. After she confirmed who I was, she let me through. Of course, I did not think about what else I might need to complete the security check, as it was my first time too. ;)

Once I walked up to the security scanning area, I mentioned I had a paperless boarding pass (the TSA rep was confused). It turns out, the first TSA rep was suppose to give me some sort of card to identify the fact that I had passed that first check point. Oh well, I brought a backup paper pass from the kiosk. (a word to the wise during it’s initial phase). Thankfully they were very helpful, took my phone from me to the first TSA rep to verify I was a good guy… :) and comparing it to my paper pass let me continue through to my gate). :) Yeah.

So far so good, yes?… well, here are a few issues I potentially see. Given that I was flying non-rev and being a beta user, I did not need to show my paperless boarding pass again (past the TSA security point)… ’cause I was just waiting for an available seat (did not already have a seat assignment like a paying passenger). The question mark is to identify the fact that a paying customer with a seat assignment will have to present that paperless boarding pass again (to get past the gate check point).

Short/Long story short… ;) it’s a cool feature, I love being at the forefront of technology and think it’s a great idea to actually go paperless, but, the process at TSA was a stumble (being the first of course) and having to obtain a “your ok” proof of pass card simply ruins the “paperless idea”. If you had a boarding pass, then you would only be “stamped” at the TSA line, and would not need to obtain any further piece of paper (as that one does it all, even gets you through the gate).

Lastly, and a potentially problematic point for those that really use their mobile devices, if you navigate away from the screen you end on with your paperless boarding pass, uh, you’ll lose it. That’s not good for a few reasons… sure, you might have passed TSA’s check point and maybe even security, but now what do you do? You’re up at the gate and need to present the boarding pass to enter. Granted I did not have this difficulty, I expect that one may have to either go through hoops to prove they have a seat on the plane, OR go back to square one, (obtain a paper (not less) boarding pass to get on, Argh. What happened to the paperless concept here.

One thought I had was (at least on the last part) to make the paperless ticket an image that is downloaded to your device allowing for the use of the phone, pda whatever and not losing the page you’re on to make a call, check email, shut down your device or any other interaction that forces you to leave the valuable ticket in the digital ether.  ;)

Feel free to check out my qik stream about it (when I was actually there). Short, to the point stream (in comparison to this long explanation). :)

Thanks for reading, and let me know your thoughts.

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WiMAX in Amsterdam Now!

June 17th, 2008 | Category: John C Dvorak,tech5
Philly municipal Wi-fi on again after being off again. Toshiba steps up and promotes its R500 laptop. Bumper stickers on your car could indicate you are unbalanced. Microsoft having various issues in Europe. Jon Shirley leaves MSFT board. Google Apps suffer outages. Good news for people pushing cloud computing. Firefox wants 5 million downloads. It’s a publicity stunt all the way. Samsung suing TV makers. Amsterdam to run mobile WiMAX. How did they get into the act? tech5
Click to listen:

Audio clip: Adobe Flash Player (version 9 or above) is required to play this audio clip. Download the latest version here. You also need to have JavaScript enabled in your browser.

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PocketCaster vs Qik Live Mobile Streaming…

Well, I can’t really do a VS.. but the title makes you look. :)

Reason I can’t do a comparison at this point is ’cause no matter how many times I sign up for QIK, I get the same, “we’ll let you know when were ready for you’ type of statement. It’s actually kind of annoying. So, I went with Comvu for software called “PocketCaster.” PocketCaster is a similar service that allows you to stream from your mobile device (in my case the Nokia N95-4 NAM).

So far, it’s a killer app. Simple install, simple usage, and (for a live mobile stream where most devices are not capable of that yet), it’s not to shabby. :)

I can stream using my front cam (the smaller lower res one) or the main (back) cam which still seems to be compressed for the upload, but again, still cool and convenient.

Again, it’s LIVE, not pre-recorded! :) I have all the connectivity options, wi-fi, standard cell data connection, GPRS, 3G, EDGE, HSDPA as well as the ability to store the file locally or remotely for that “pre-recorded” archive. :)

Quality options range from 24kbps to 160kbps, of course I set mine to the highest.

It also has a GPS location functionality, which I assume will let viewers know exactly where you are. Now that rocks. My first test was indoors, so I did not bother testing the location function, but will let you know how that goes.

My second, third and fourth tests were outside on a walk from home and after viewing the archived footage and hear/rather seeing the IMs my friend in the NL was sending me (while I was narrating and strolling home in the rain) touring them a bit around Seattle, were, “this is just amazing!!” Streaming over wi-fi was great at home, but over 3G and EDGE it worked beautifully, which is a nice thing considering a walk down the street on a router (wi-fi) does not get you very far (no hand off like a cell tower). Thusly I was very happy to see how well it did over standard cell connectivity. :)

The one thing I wish was added was the “always ask” feature the N95 typically uses for data connectivity… as you have to manually set your connection option, which can be annoying to have to go in and change if you’re not near wi-fi.

Over all, my first few tests are way cool and super fun. Now, if I could only get an account and software for quick for a better comparison!

The embedded player was slowing the blog load, so I removed the embeded player and added a link to the right column.  Or, here.  :)

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Nokia N95-4 8GB NAM review…

This is a great product, superior to the iPhone by far!!

I’ve wanted an N95 since the first version came out, and I’m happy it’s only better with the newest NAM version with a built in 8GB card.

I would have appreciated an included expansion card slot, as I will quickly use the 8GB if not for applications for music and movies, but it’s acceptable.

I am very happy that it has all the needed freqs for the US both voice and data, which really make the experience of making calls or using the net all that much better.

The GPS freakin’ rocks!.. to bad the free 6 month plan that shows on the box is really only 1 day. I’m not willing to pay for GPS navigation since most cheaper units come with it for free. So, I turned to a better java application to replace Nokia’s pay GPS (not once by the way, but monthly) called amAze GPS, it has all that Nokia’s “maps app” offers and more.

The 5MP camera and near DVD quality video is the best, no other all in one device offers something that high (yet).

The video out is nice, although it seems to show at the phones resolution, not ntsc resolution or higher (320×240 I believe, so the images are jagged or pixelated on TV)… so I might use it for a full on movie, but it’s nice for surfing on a bigger screen or watching things like YouTube, (included) etc. where my computer (already attached to the HD TV is not on, not sure how that would happen. ;)

I could go on and on, but over all, Nokia has always provided an excellent working and well built product, and I’m VERY happy I went with their newest N95-4 8GB NAM. I don’t know what cause me to stray.

As for mobileCityOnline, their service was great. I admit, I had been burned online before, so was skeptical when I placed the “pre-order” since their orders kept getting pushed back by the manufacturer or shipped in smaller quantities, but the customer service was great in respect to keeping me informed and the natural process of their specific business with outside manufacturers… so that made me feel good. As for their shipping, can’t say it was more than prompt. I paid an extra $10 bucks for next day service, and as soon as the device came in their warehouse, sure enough it was next day I got it!!! Now that is excellent!

I would recommend this product and mobileCityOnline for it’s purchase. Hey, it saved me several hundred from the manufacture or Nokia store price! :)

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amAze gps for my N95

Well, even though the box my new N95 came in advertised 6 months free nav, it lied :( I got a day.

So, (as always,) not desiring to pay a stupid license fee, ‘specially for a typically free app when hardware is purchased, I set out to find just that, a free app that gave me nav for free (not just the sat
connectivity feature).)
Well, gotta love google and O.S. developers, ’cause with one search, “free N95 gps app” I came across amAze gps.

The first nice thing of course is it’s free!

Second, it’s java so it works on more than just Symbian and with external (bluetooth) gps as well as the phones built in gps.

Third (bonus) it has built in / again free voice nav, something my first thought for an alternative “Google Maps” lacks, but has sat./hybrid mapping, COOL!!

Fourth it has the sat./hybrid maps, like what Google Maps has but the built in N95 maps app does not. It does use your cellular or broadband connection to grab the maps, but most of us with this kind of toy have an unlimited data plan or use neighboring wi-fi from the sidewalk as we navigate our way down the street anyhow. ;)

Fifth it has a “gps location weather app”! Way cool! It’s kinda like lookin’ at your fancy in car, outside temp info and it’s location based, so no more guessin’ the zip or city. ;) Like that’s hard, but also a functionality option anyhow.

Those are only a few of the awesome things this powerful yet small app can do in addition to the basic gps/find your way/navigation things any standard gps should do but without all the extra costs involved with buying voices and maps, sheesh!

Fun, Fun!!

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Nokia N95-4 8GB NAM (North American Model) shipping…

Well, I finally heard from MobileCityOnline that my device is in stock and should be shipping within the day.

I’m way stoked as I feel this is (in my opinion) the best multi-purpose device out there yet.

Multi-purpose is for those of us that hate to carry more than one device around to do most everything.

This Nokia N95-4 8GB is not just a phone… it’s a full on PDA, in addition to having a well qualified 5MP camera, near DVD quality video recorder, GPS with A-synch capability, music and movie capability, wi-fi, GSM/GPRS/3G/HSDPA connectivity along with the standards like bluetooth A2DP for full stereo music control and entertainment, a normal headphone jack (not the stupid micro jack you see in most phones now a day), an accelerometer, and so much more.

Lastly (before I give this device a serious run over when I receive it and review the heck out of it)… Nokia’s proven this line of devices 3 times over (being the 4th in the “NSeries”) as well as many other excellent products, and are so ahead of the game in SDK capabilities we can only imagine the possibilities of what we get and what lies ahead!

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Starbucks Free Wi-Fi…

March 03rd, 2008 | Category: AT&T,ATT,Wi-fi,wireless

Update… based on discussions with a few different Baristas… (although not totally educated on how this change over will work)… several employees have indicated they feel the “card” StarBucks is referring to is the coffee card, not a Credit Card.

This is good news, as I’d gladly re-fill my coffee card (if not already filled) as opposed to signing up for a StarBucks C.C. to get 2 hours of free wi-fi. :)(not gunna happen).

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