Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Tips for Managing Your Email Accounts

Today, many people have more than one email addresses.  Especially those within the deaf / hard of hearing population segment tend to have multiple email accounts in order to accommodate the use of wireless email devices. Drawing on my personal experiences, follow these tips for managing your wireless and wired email accounts.

- To reduce the number of wireless email messages you get, only give out its email address to a select few people.  Such as family, important friends, co-workers and significant others. So that your wireless device isn't buzzing all day long.

- Use a Internet service provider email account for your everyday non-time sensitive / everyday emails.  If you do not have Internet services at home,  try Gmail (Google), Yahoo, and Hotmail, which are free email providers.

- Utilize RSS feeds and news readers to help cut down on e-mailbox clutter from subscriptions.  In fact, this blog is available via a Rss reader such as Google Reader.  Review your email subscriptions and see if you can subscribe to RSS feeds instead of their email services.

- If possible, utilize email rules on your computer (I.e. Ms Outlook) or with your email provider.  By using rules you can automatically sort incoming emails to designated folders.

For example, I sign up for Chicago Tribune email alerts to stay on top of important breaking news which I can access wirelessly.  The next time when I use my computer to check / respond to my regular my emails, a rule will automatically dump Chicago Tribune emails into a specific folder. There I can either re-read, save certain messages, or delete them all at once instead of having to peck and hunt to emails received from with in Inbox.  This is especially the case when I travel and emails easily pile up.  By using various email rules, I can clean out my mailbox faster and spend less time managing my box.

For email subscriptions, I sign up for RSS feeds whenever possible.  It helps to keep the number of emails down even more.

Lastly, be careful who you provide your email addresses to.  If its someone you don't know, its likely to be a spammer (junk emailer).  They can get you on all kinds of email lists, and you can end up getting a lot of junk email. Which requires time to clean out or set up email rejection rules.  In worst case scenarios, if spam email seriously becomes a problem, you can create new email account(s) and start over.  Which of course take time and requires you to notify your contacts so they can update their electronic address books.

By keeping these email rules in mind, you can get a better handle on your e-mail boxes and be more productive.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

The Missing Link: Data Sharing Among Wireless Devices

This blog entry has nothing to do with accessibility but rather data sharing between devices.

I'm constantly finding that many wireless devices do a poor job sharing bits of data in other ways than using Bluetooth or doing infrared beaming.

Sharing data is a topic that's rarely documented or discussed, and is often left up to consumers to spend some time experimenting on how to share data and information.

What's The missing link?
Being able to send items such as memos items, contact cards, files, and calendar events to other consumers who are not in the same room.

In a sense, yet, only a few devices such as the Treo Palms can do this now.  Items can also be sent by sending items from ones laptop.  However, in today's world, many of us don't want to use / carry our personal laptops everywhere we go.  Our wireless handhelds are supposed to be an extension of our laptops.

Currently it appears that Windows Mobile devices can't share info without subscribing to a complex Exchange service or shared Internet calendar.  For many consumers, including my spouse, these exchange services are usually expensive, complex, and a overkill of what is needed for occasional use.

Wouldn't it be great if Blackberrys,  Windows Mobile, Palm, SideKick, iPhone, and the Google Android devices could share information seamlessly without needing to be in the same room?

Let me point out a couple of typical scenarios:

Scenario #1
- I plan meet with a friend later in the day, and would like to give him my updated contact info without having to resort to my PC or having him to re-enter my details.  Solution: I email him my contact card from my handheld device.

- Scenario #2:
I have a new upcoming business trip planned, and need to inform my spouse to jot it down in her calendar.  Solution: Email my calendar event.

We should be able to do both of the above scenarios without having to resort to our desk/laptops, or Bluetooth / infrared beaming or the re-entering of information.

There are many other possibilities of what could be sent / shared between devices. 

Hope the wireless industry is listening for this need to share data easily.  If we can send emails, documents and photos, we should be able to send memo, calendar and contact items.

To help others be able to send items between lap/desktops and wireless devices now, a few tips are listed below

- Palm Treos can send contacts and calendar items to other Palm Treos directly.  By selecting the item: select menu, send item by email.  The receiving Palm Treo can just open the email and click on the attachments.

- Memos can be sent by opening to specific memo, select menu and select 'Send Memo'.

- Palm Treos can't send to Windows Mobile devices directly. 

However, there are a couple of work arounds.

1) Send to the recipients email box and have them open the attachment with MS Outlook on their computer and synch with their device. 

2) Alternative, is to use their Windows Mobile Treo to open the emailed attachment in their main email box.  Note that it seems this can't be done thru MS Hotmail, but will work for other providers such as Comcast email.  You will have to experiment by trial and error to see what does/does not work.

- Oddly enough, Windows Mobile 6.1 doesn't seem to be able support the ability to send calendar, memo or contact items. You can send items from desk/laptops to other desk/laptops and Windows mobile devices by selecting the record and send to the recipient email/device.  Again, trial and error is needed. Again, the whole point of this article is to encourage wireless providers and makers to offer easy ways of data exchange between devices for consumers.

Monday, October 6, 2008

Weak Points of the Apple iPhone

Over the past few weeks I have been seriously considered getting an iPhone to replace my existing Palm Treo. As it turns out, I found a few weaknesses with the iPhone. For some, these concerns may not be an issue. However, I believe over time, Apple and 3rd party developers may improve on these concerns.

The following weaknesses were identified by playing with the device in Apple stores and by research on the web.

The 4 areas that the iPhone needs improvements are:
- (1) No cut and paste capability between applications or emails
- (2) No two-way synch of Memo Notes or To-Do lists with Microsoft Office
- (3) No slot for external memory cards for increased or portable storage
- (4) Lastly, while the touch screen keyboard is intuitive, I found it somewhat difficult to use. It would be helpful if the keys on the screen were larger, offered in landscape mode, or have an optional slide out keyboard. If you plan to email, write, or text a lot with the device - then I highly recommend trying the touch screen keyboard in a store or on a friends / co-workers iPhone to see if it suits your typing styles.

While the iPhones applications are eye appealing, colorful and fun to play with, the short comings identified above may be some of the deciding points for me not to pick the device for my Treo replacement. For some, the iPhone may be perfect, while for others, it may lack the needed advanced features for "power users".