Welcome to InterconnectNow - Interconnected Technologies' blog about technology and other items of interest to small businesses and individuals.

The topics here will usually deal with productivity-enhancing technologies of interest to small businesses and individuals, but are often of broader interest.  Productivity is the goal of all of this technology that we use. Enabling productivity through refining or adding technology-based capabilities is what we're obsessed with at Interconnected Technologies, and so this blog is dedicated to discussions of all things related to that.


Entries in Digital Lifestyle (30)


Google Apps (etc.) still not ready for prime time

Many have heard me say it:  Google isn't ready for prime time, yet.  That appears to be the case, still.  I just went through the process of rationalizing the "old way" Google let users of Gmail and Google Apps be with the "new way" Google is requiring users to be. What this means is beyond the scope of this article.

Suffice it to say that with just a few services assoicated with Google Apps and Gmail, and only about 15 documents in Google Docs, this has taken me an hour (so far) to complete.  As is typical of Google Apps and associated services since the beginning, the process they document ALMOST works as described, and the places that comprise the cracks in that ALMOST working are deep and treacherous and time consuming.  I can only imagine what early adopters with thousands of documents and hundreds of users are going through.  I feel a tiny (1 user and 15 documents) bit of their pain.

Google Apps is very powerful and very capable and very attractively priced, but it has at least a couple of years of maturing to do before it catches up with with Exchange for core functions, and settles down the rest of the functions it offers beyond what Exchange can do.  Microsoft is threatened, to be sure, but as Google continues to mature its offerings, Microsoft is warming up the oh-so-complicated and oh-so-powerful Office 365.

Let the battle continue!


Wow! G2x review from Android Central!

My new phone.  Nice review!


Addendum from using this phone for a little over a month:  it's an amazing, powerful device, but in my relatively low signal area for T-Mobile, the reception/consistency on phone calls, and the battery life, are really verging on terrible.


Watch this space - vital Android apps (according to me)

This is just to get things started, these are the best apps of their kind, and essential to my daily use of Android:


Core application replacements / enhancements

Enhanced Email - improved Exchange client. If you need multiple Exchange accounts, or a mix of Exchange and Google Apps / Gmail in the same place, this is for you. (requires Contact Editor by dmfs as well).

Calengoo - replacement calendar; brilliant!!

Calendar Snooze - better control over calendar reminders.

MeContacts - "favorites" app for frequent contacts.

Contapps - another spin on the dialer, with some very handy functions.

Tasks for Microsoft Exchange (or Roadsync) - if you want to sync Todos with Exchange.

Go Launcher EX - excellent alternative launcher.

Alarm Clock Plus - just what it sounds like.


Life productivity apps

ToMarket - shopping list manager.

Carrr Matey - "dude, where's my car?" only better!

Shazam / Soundhound - let it "listen" to a song and it'll tell you what it is, who sang, it, etc., etc.


Functional enhancements

B-Folders - encrypted notes that sync between Android and PC over local wireless.

Evernote - data capture of all types; sync'd to web and PC.

Movies (Flixter) - movie reviews from Rotten Tomatoes, showtimes, reviews, etc.

Documents To Go - Word, Excel, Powerpoint, PDF.

Jukefox - interesting and powerful music player.  Caused some instability on my G2x, but interesting for the future, nonetheless. 



Beautiful Widgets - I resisted a long time, but the small home screen clock/weather widget, and the 1x1 day widget are dead useful if you have a phone without Sense.

Circle Battery Widget - a very nice, easy to use 1x1 battery meter.

Battery Notifier (Big Text) - puts the battery level in the notification bar where you can always see it.

Wifi Manager - much better/clearer widget to manage wifi connections.

Bluetooth Widget - home screen shortcut to toggle Bluetooth, or access Bluetooth settings.

Astro File Manager - file explorer.


More detail (links, reviews, etc.) to follow.


Finally! Gmail allows conversation threading to be turned off

OK, ladies and gentlemen.  I said when it first came out, and I still maintain, that Gmail (and Google Apps) web-based email, while powerful and very advanced in some ways, began and remains with one of the worst user interfaces I've ever seen.  From the start it was confusing, disorganized and inefficient.

"Hey, Don, don't hold back; tell us how you really feel!"  you might say.

I have watched the evolution of the Gmail web interface over the past couple of years as it has moved ever-closer to what people are used to, toward a more efficient, intuitive interface.  Pushed aside is the original avant-garde concept of "don't delete anything; just remove the 'Inbox' label instead and keep it forever" (and in Google Apps, this filled up more one user's mailbox in the process, with no abilty to obtain additional space, even if one is willing to pay, still!).  The buttons and actions on the main email screen have gradually been altered to be more "normal".  How many people really want to add multiple labels to a given email?  Not many.  Read/Reply/Forward/File/Delete.  That's what people do with email.  Concocting elaborate tagging schemes for email creates the same tangled and inconsistent mess that so many people who created hundreds of folders in Outlook created for themselves. 

Now, some say this is a concession by Google.  I guess I agree:  it's a concession to years of user interface design evolution that made email clients better.  Something Google initially just decided to throw out.

Enter the latest:  the ability to turn off threaded email.  Now, I don't mind threaded email: for some select situations in which it makes sense, like discussion groups with long back-and-forth discussions on which I might not keep up on a regular basis.  But for regular email the Gmail interface for threaded conversations (the only view available) is cluttered and confusing; has led to people forwarding or replying to the wrong "place in the thread"; is less than stellar.  In the vernacular: it sucks. 

Google has finally decided to let us turn it off.  This feature (really an anti-feature, I suppose) will be rolled out over the next week or so.  See the Google Help posting, below. 

Now, before anyone describes me as an Anti-Conversationist, let me say that I actually like the way Outlook 2010 shows threaded conversations.  It's not the function, it's the interface.  Until Google morphs the interface for conversations into something clearer, less cluttered - you know, better - I'll stick with unthreaded, thank you very much!

Here's the Google help page:


Gmail groups all replies with their original message, creating a single conversation or thread. In other email systems, responses appear as separate messages in your inbox, forcing you to wade through all your mail to follow the conversation. In Gmail, replies to emails (and replies to those replies) are displayed in one place, in order, making it easier to understand the context of a message -- or to follow the conversation.

When you open one message in a conversation, all of your related messages will be stacked neatly on top of each other, like a deck of cards. We call this Conversation View. In Conversation View, each new message is stacked on top of the ones that arrived before it, so that the newest message is always the one you see first.

To see all the messages in a conversation, just click Expand all. Note that a conversation will break off into a new thread if the subject line of the conversation is changed, or if the conversation reaches over 100 messages.

If you'd like, you can change this setting so that replies aren't threaded into conversations, but appear as individual messages in your inbox. To do so, go to the Generaltab of your Gmail Settings, and select the radio button next to 'Conversation view off'.

We're in the process of giving users the option to turn Conversation View off. Everybody should have this option within a week or so.

What's a Smartphone buyer to do?

Attention citizens:  the smartphone world has been turned on its ear (almost pun intended . . . think about it)!  A couple of years ago the iPhone burst on the scene and changed everything!  Well, that's what Apple would have you believe.  It changed some things, yes.  It created a new market for a machine that was, yes, a phone, but was so much more.  Trouble was/is, it was/is only a mediocre phone, thanks in part to the cellular radio and/or antenna, and thanks, in large part, to AT&T about whom it can be said that their service isn't very good, but at least it's the most expensive!

When the iPhone was released, smart phones had smallish screens and did basic business stuff:  email, PIM apps, and the like, along with a smattering of other things.  Everyone forgets that the Palm stores sold tens of thousands of apps long before the Apple App Store, though, so the precedent for a device that was "so much more" was set long before Apple did its thing.  That said, the iPhone is credited with changing everything - so be it.

Enter Google.  Google made a modest little Linux-based open-source operating system called Android. It quietly came out on a single T-Mobile phone, the G1, and that's the way it was until fairly recently.  In the past year, everything has changed again, and it's not Apple's doing this time.

Android has experienced astonishing growth over the past year.  The numbers are all over - just Google them (yes, again, almost pun intended).  With faster growth and a larger installed base than the iPhone, Android has emerged as a power to be reckoned with, and a darned fun "phone" to have.

The point?  If you have an old PalmOS phone, or a Blackberry, or a featurephone (or, yes, even an iPhone that's driving you crazy), and are considering an upgrade, look very seriously at one of the new crop of Android devices.  If you use Google's Gmail or Google Apps or Exchange for "email", Android phones do these things as well as anyone.  For Exchange users, you can get email, contacts, calendar and task sync over the air with Exchange for far less (typically about $23/month less) than comparable service for a Blackberry. 

Don't just go get an iPhone.  They're wonderful devices, but really not very good phones.  Android phones are wonderful devices, and very good phones.  Even some of the most devoted iPhone fans will admit that once the iPhone comes out (probably) on Verizon they'll be switching carriers immediately.  Trouble is, that's probably not going to happen until at least 2012 (when, as we all know from the movie, most of the world will be destroyed anyway).  Plenty of time to experience the yummy goodness of Android, and then go get an iPhone, if you still want to.  Sometimes people go get iPhones because they don't know that there's a viable alternative out there.  There is. 

Don't just go get another Blackberry.  They are great devices.  They changed everything before Apple did.  But they are expensive to run, and if you are not required to use one, or don't need the extra things that they do (and I contend that if you're reading this you probably don't), why pay for them? 

Don't just buy an Android phone, either.  The decision about what "phone" is right for you is as important as (or perhaps these days more important than) the decision about what computer is right for you.  If you're a client of mine (or a relative!), let's discuss it!

Something to think about.