Posts Tagged 'HTC HD2'

My Mobile Phone Experiment, Part Three – Thoughts on Android

After reluctantantly saying goodbye to my HTC HD2 Windows Mobile 6.5 device earlier this year, I started an experiment. Grabbing a SIM Only Deal from mobile carrier, Three – I would, in turn, use an iPhone, a Windows Phone device and an Android device for a few weeks at a time each, using them in anger as my sole device for day-to-day activities, both business and leisure.

You can read about my original motivations for this experiment here.

You can read part one of this experiment – my thoughts on the iPhone here.

You can read part two of this experiment – my thoughts on the Windows Phone here.

HTC SensationAt the start of September, my friend Steve Silk at Staffordshire University provided me with a HTC Sensation running Android 2.3.

So how did I find it? Read on!

Firstly, this experiment isn’t about the handsets themselves – it’s more about understanding the capabilities of the various Mobile Operating Systems out there. That said, the HTC Sensation looks beautiful – with a large bright 4.3” screen, very thin design but comfortable enough in the hand – plus a dual-core 1.2GHz processor, making it really fast in use, and an impressive 8 Mega-Pixel Camera.

I initially felt uncomfortable using the catch to take the back of the case off to insert the SIM card, as the case does feel plasticky and flimsy, but got used to it over time. The Micro-USB charging slot is on the left hand side, which feels awkward too – and the power button on the top of the device doesn’t feel comfortable initially as it’s too thin, but again, you get used to it. You’ll hear that phrase “I got used to it” a lot…

The Sensation boots up quickly… sometimes. I’ve gone from pressing the power button to entering my SIM PIN and being at the home screen in as little as 5 seconds on most occasions, yet on others it inexplicably takes 30 seconds or more from the SIM PIN to arriving at the home screen. It’s still faster than most other Smartphones I’ve tried though.

Through the setup stage, and no surprise here, you’ll need a Google account. Everything revolves around a Google account, so if you’re going Android, get used to using Google.

imageOn the home-screen, HTC have placed their HTC Sense interface on top of the usual Android UI. As a fan of HTC Sense, I quickly got to grips with this and was swiping left and right between the numerous home pages you’re offered to install Widgets and App shortcuts.

Talking of Widgets, which are small “always active” apps on the Android screen, HTC bundle a load of them out of the box – from Calendars to Agendas to something HTC call “Friend Stream”, a Twitter-like display of all your friends Twitter and Facebook updates. I found myself using it a lot. There are also a ton of widgets you can download for free. The home-screen may not look too impressive at first glance, but you can customise it to your own specifications very quickly.

Android gives the ability to create folders on a home-screen to contain Apps, but it’s far from intuitive to do this. I had to ask a fellow Android user to show me how. Once you’ve got it, it’s simple. Likewise adding App shortcuts and moving them between folders is simple, but clunky. This was the start of a number of indications that Apple’s iOS is simply easier to jump right in and get working with when compared to Android, but that Android is more customisable. Another running theme in my findings.

Google+ ScreenshotGetting back to Social Media, and I was blown away by how well Android and HTC Sense integrates with not just Twitter and Facebook, but LinkedIn, Google+ as well as Exchange, GoogleMail, Flickr, Foursquare and seemingly anything else you wanted to use. Once you’ve setup an account for each of these platforms, the HTC Sensation pulls all the updates and any other information from them and presents it in a unified fashion within your contacts screen. It *can* get messy, the Sensation occasionally got confused with duplicate GoogleMail and Exchange information – but on the whole it’s fairly amazing to be able to see all your friends latest Facebook updates, their Mobile numbers (whether pulled from Exchange or Facebook), Flickr pictures, Twitter updates and everything else in one location. Of course, you can use the individual apps for Facebook, Twitter, Foursquare, etc. as normal – but if you’re a heavy Social Media user, then you’ll love Android.

Android is hot on notifications. It’ll automatically notify you of new e-mails, voicemails, SMS, Facebook messages, Google+ updates, software upgrades, patches and… just about anything it can. All of these are present in a non-obtrusive way in the notification bar at the top of the home screen, which you slide your finger down to open and view. Initially, all these notifications can become a distraction – constantly sat winking at you from the top of the screen. Over time I learned to quieten the Sensation though – turning off notifications and learning to resist the temptation to act upon others. Android is *very* customisable from this perspective. Out of the box it can blow your mind with all the info it presents, but as you become comfortable you can tailor it to your own liking.

As you’d expect, GoogleMail is supported very well under Android. It’s very easy to setup and you can easily archive messages, read HTML messages, and do just about everything you’d do in GoogleMail.

Microsoft Exchange support was just as easy to setup, and reading and responding to e-mails was a pleasure within the Android GUI. Frustratingly though, Android (like iOS and WP7) doesn’t support Exchange Tasks and Notes. Again I’ve got to ask, if Windows Mobile 6.5 supported these features years ago, why don’t modern SmartPhones? Bizarre. There is a 3rd Party app called Touchdown which brings Tasks and Note support into Android, but it feels a standalone app rather than integrated into the Android experience, and so I couldn’t find myself comfortable using it. Google – as well as Apple and Microsoft – please support Exchange Tasks and Notes in your Smartphones!

The SMS client was very easy to use, with threaded messages and the ability to forward SMS to other contacts. I did notice that Android grouped together conversations though, so if you sent a group SMS – then your inbox would show that conversation separately, but not under individuals SMS threads. I’m guessing this can be changed, and I can see why this would be of benefit to some people, but I occasionally found it confusing.

Wi-Fi is a breeze to setup. You’re instantly notified (see the pattern here?) when an Open Signal is available, and it’s a few clicks to setup your favourite Wi-Fi connections. Once you’ve set a number of Wi-Fi connections up, Android automatically and seamlessly connects to them as you move around. However… this hammers the battery something rotten. I found that using the HTC Sensation as a web browsing device killed the battery life, and it wasn’t unusual for me to require a charge after 90 minutes or so solid use. Not good.

Green Power Battery SaverAs with all the shortcomings in Android though, there are workarounds. I installed an app called Green Power Free that turns off Wi-Fi when the device isn’t in use. It helped, but the battery life on the Sensation is still really poor – I couldn’t get a full days use of it without some charging in between.

Getting back to Apps though, and this is where Android excels. The Android Market isn’t quite as nice an experience as Apple’s AppStore, but it is packed full of apps – some good, some shockingly bad. Whereas Apple vet all apps that appear in their appstore, Google don’t place the same restrictions on. This becomes self-regulating though as you find yourself using apps based on Word of Mouth recommendations or the ratings other users have given the app in the Market.

I couldn’t find a single App that I used on iOS missing from the Android Market. What’s more, I found a few Apps that I would have loved to have used on IOS but couldn’t find, available on Android. Overall, I think I prefer Android’s Open policy to Apple’s vetted apps policy as it allows more variety.

You might think that all these 3rd party apps (especially the poor ones) affect stability. Well, during a months use the Sensation crashed and rebooted just one time. Throughout the rest of the time I noticed one or two inexplicable slow-down’s, occasionally, but overall the platform was really robust.

Moving between Android Apps is fairly easy – pressing and holding the Home Button on the HTC Sensation brings up recent apps for you to browse through, and pressing the back button sometimes takes you back to your previous app. I say sometimes, because other times it didn’t seem to work and I had to manually go and find the app to re-visit it. With full multi-tasking support for all apps though, this wasn’t a problem as every app was presented in exactly the same state you left it.

Web Browsing is a great experience (battery life problems, as we’ve discussed, apart). I installed the free Dolphin Browser HD to replace the built in web-browser, and didn’t look back. It’s a pleasure to use, with the ability to pinch and zoom in on screens with text being wrapped automatically, and share content with any of the Social Media sites integrated into Android.

Android supports Adobe Flash, and there are great apps for both YouTube and BBC iPlayer. If the HTC Sensation had a more resilient battery, you could easily use this as your one and only media device.

The HTC Sensation has a physical Search button, and was context sensitive. Press it from the home screen and you’re presented with a Google Web Search box. Press it within Facebook, and you’re presented with a Facebook friend search. Very neat.

There is no physical camera button though, which is irritating if you’re a Social snapper like myself. The camera app is pretty amazing though, taking good quality shots and offering you the ability to easily tidy them up with crops and auto-enhancements, before sending them directly to Facebook, Flickr, Twitter or any other 3rd Party app you’ve installed. It doesn’t just blindly send the picture either – the Facebook app allows you to tag people, the Twitter app allows you to add Hashtags – just a really good experience.

Google+ Android App ScreenshotOne feature that did have me going “Wow” was the Google+ app feature that automatically captures and uploads any photos you take on the camera to a private location on the web, and then easily allowing you to share those pictures on Google+. A great way to both backup your snaps and share them.

Again, if you’re a Social Media person, you’ll love Android.

You don’t really need a PC to use this ‘phone, as it sets up out of the box and it’s easy to install apps and run Android updates over the air. However, if you do connect it to a PC then you can browse the device as a drive, or install software to use the PC’s Internet connection from your ‘phone – a useful feature I used whilst avoiding Roaming Data charges in Europe during the test.

Doggcatcher ScreenshotI didn’t play a lot of games on the Android, but there are tons to choose from. Likewise, I only used the Android to listen to Podcasts (using the great Doggcatcher app) and the occasional tune via the integrated FM Radio rather than lots of music, but it was intuitive to use, and I felt comfortable leaving behind my iPod Touch in favour of an all-in-one device like the Sensation.

By this stage you’re probably getting the impression I liked Android. You’d be right. It isn’t as intuitive as iOS, nor does it have the clean style of Windows Phone, and for that reason I didn’t pick up the ‘phone and become instantly “Wowed”. But for every irritation I came across, I found that Android’s customisation ability allowed me to overcome that irritation. What’s more, time and time again I came across instances where I thought “It’d be nice to be able to do this…” and investigation showed that Android allowed me to do that.

You’ll gather I think that Android’s Social Media integration is incredible. I thought iOS was good in this area, but it can’t hold a candle to Android – which offers an amazing choice of options to remain connected and share content.

It’s been a month since I began using Android, and a strange feeling has come over me. Unlike Apple iPhone users, or even Windows Phone users, I don’t feel voraciously defensive about Android. If I’m asked how Android is, I won’t staunchly defend the Android platform against the sticks and stones of others. I just smile and say “Well, I like it”.

Unlike the Apple iPhone – it doesn’t “just work”. It takes a bit of time to get used to, and for the non-techy this will be a challenge, but once mastered, you can customise it to the hilt to do everything you want, exactly as you want it.

Unlike the Windows Phone – it doesn’t blow your socks off the first time you see it. But it feels very much like Windows Phone in that it’s challenging the way you’re used to doing things, and offering you new, more efficient ways of doing stuff on a day-to-day basis.

But you know what? After a month, it feels comfortable and it works just how I want it too – both as a business device and a consumer device for a Social Media addict.

I really don’t want to give the HTC Sensation back. If I had a choice of which Mobile Operating System I’d like to use tomorrow, it’d probably be Android, but oddly I’m sure I’d begrudgingly live with a Windows Phone or an iPhone too.

I’m aware the HTC Sensation is a pretty kick-arse handset in terms of capabilities and has a ton of HTC customisation goodness to it. To this end I’m going to grab another lower spec HTC Android handset to see how that performs, and I’m also going to grab a non-HTC Android handset (the Samsung Galaxy S2 springs to mind) to see what the non-HTC Android experience is like.

Since I started the experiment, Windows Phone’s latest update – Mango – has also been released. As promised, as the next part of this experiment I’m going to revisit the Windows Phone platform with the Mango update to see what has changed there.

Despite having tested the three main mobile O/S from Apple, Microsoft and Google – this experiment is far from over. I think it’s fair to say you can see my clear favourites emerging though.

Watch this space. Smile

 

Richard Tubb is an IT Business Consultant who works with ambitious IT companies who want to grow their businesses in a scalable and sustainable way. He is also a Microsoft UK Small Business Specialist Partner Area Lead (PAL) and the elected chair of the CompTIA UK Channel Community. You can e-mail him at richard@tubblog.co.uk or connect with him via Twitter and LinkedIn.

Lessons from T-Mobile on how to convert a Raving Fan into an Active Critic

I thought it was worth sharing this story, as I think it’s an example of how simple it is for a business can chuck the goodwill it’s built up with a customer down the drain. Or possibly I just wanted to exercise my modern consumer right to publically complain about how I’ve been treated by a large Corporation. Either way, here goes…

T-Mobile UK LogoI’ve been a customer of the UK Mobile Phone network T-Mobile for 6 years or more. Overall, they’ve given good service to me – with few causes for complaint – and I’ve actively shared this fact with people when asked by others.

My trusty old HTC HD2 has recently gone from being a reliable workhorse to being an unreliable mess that gets in the way of me being productive, so reluctantly it came time for me to upgrade my handset and agree a new 2-year monthly contract with T-Mobile.

I’d picked a Samsung Galaxy S2 handset to upgrade to, as it’s received stunning reviews. Unfortunately, the reviews are so stunning that there is apparently a worldwide stock shortage.

In the middle of May, I ‘phoned T-Mobile to check whether they had stock, and wasn’t surprised to hear that they didn’t. T-Mobile advised me to call back the following Friday when a new stock shipment may have arrived with them.

I ‘phoned T-Mobile again the following Friday and was told there was still no stock but that deliveries may be arriving for the following Tuesday.

I ‘phoned T-Mobile again on Tuesday, and was told there was still no stock – but I’d been placed on the back-order system and so I’d receive notification when there was stock. Minor point, but it would have been nice to have been offered this option when I first called – saving further ‘phone calls.

I ‘phoned a fortnight later, and was told there was still no stock and there was no need to keep ‘phoning T-Mobile to check whether there was – as soon as stock arrived I’d be notified.

Near the end of June I received an SMS message saying my order had been processed, and would be shipped to me soon.

A fortnight went by, and no delivery. So against T-Mobiles advice, I ‘phoned them to see what the delay was. A lovely lady called Gill answered.

“Did you not receive the delivery a fortnight ago?”. No, I’m afraid I hadn’t.

“Can I just confirm your address is <address>”. Erm, no – it isn’t.

“What is your address?”. The one you send the bills to each month.

Gill was hugely apologetic, and said she’d credit £10 to my account as a goodwill gesture. She understood how frustrating it was that they’d messed up, and she also added that the ‘phone would be in stock for Friday and therefore delivered to me on Monday. If there was any problems at all, she’d call me on Friday.

I confirmed with Gill that delivery would be Monday, if if there was any problems, she was working over the weekend and could call me. Affirmative.

I was pretty irritated that I’d missed out on stock due to a ridiculous administrative error on T-Mobile’s part, but Gill had empathised with me, and assured me all would be well. So I gave T-Mobile the benefit of the doubt.

Friday passed without a ‘phone call. That’s good news, no problems!

Monday lunchtime arrived, and with a sunny day outside – I was regretting I’d have to spend it staying at home awaiting a delivery. So, despite Gill’s assurances, I thought I’d give T-Mobile a call just to be sure the delivery was on it’s way.

I spoke to a colleague of Gill’s who told me that the stock of Samsung Galaxy S2’s expected on Friday hadn’t arrived, and so I wouldn’t be receiving delivery today. T-Mobile were experiencing huge stock delays due to the demand for the ‘phone and that it was the same everywhere else.

I understood the stock shortages, but I was assured delivery after T-Mobile’s last mix-up, right? I didn’t even bother to ask why I wasn’t called on Friday as agreed to explain this delay or that I’d have regretted spending the rest of the day in the house waiting for a delivery that wouldn’t arrive.

So I asked for my PAC code, to transfer my number to another provider.

I was unceremoniously put on hold, and a few minutes later told that they’d found stock of a Samsung Galaxy S2 and could have it delivered to me tomorrow.

Perplexed how they’d found stock when I threatened to leave, when minutes earlier there had been none – I’m afraid to say I didn’t have any faith that said stock would actually be delivered as promised.

So I explained that unfortunately, as I’d been let down by T-Mobile twice already in assurances of delivery, that I’d have to insist on the PAC code.

In rather aggressive salesman fashion, I was then told that I’d not find a better offer elsewhere and that nobody else had stock of this ‘phone either. Plus, I did realise that if I refused this deal now, I couldn’t be offered it again?

I’m not sure what I was more irritated about – the fact that he’d not bothered to address my “You’ve already let me down twice” statement, that he’d insult my intelligence saying I’d not get a better deal elsewhere, or that I was suddenly being offered an ultimatum to try to force my hand.

I told him that I’d already found a better deal, and they had stock.

“I don’t think you have” he went on. “Nobody can beat £25 per month”. Grrr.

I explained that actually, T-Mobile had offered me a £35 per month renewal deal when I’d ‘phoned in May – not £25 per month as he suggested. “No, you’re mistaken. You get a £10 per month discount on that £35 per month tariff”.

That had surely not been communicated to me when I called to renew. I even checked my written notes to confirm this.

It’s at this stage that I lost *all* confidence in the ability to come renew with T-Mobile. They could have offered me a £35 per month contract with a £45 per month discount, and I’d not have bought it.

I went on to explain that I would have loved to have stayed thanks to the years of good service, but T-Mobile had let me down so much here that I’d lost faith in their ability to deliver, and that I hoped he understood my situation, but could I have the PAC Code please.

He didn’t take this last attempt to elicit an apology or any empathy with my situation. I was given the PAC code, and then the line went dead without any goodbye’s or apologies. I’m guessing he wasn’t pleased with the outcome of our conversation, and let me tell you that he’s not alone in that respect.

I’m not sure where to start with how many lessons can be learnt from this debacle, but the biggest mistake he made was to not empathise with my situation. If he’d had apologised unreservedly for T-Mobile letting me down not once, but twice, and told me how he understood the frustration it caused on my part – I may have been more receptive to any remedial actions he then offered. But he didn’t – he assumed I was only interested in the cost of the contract, not the service.

If he told me that there wasn’t any stock, but that as I’d been let down so badly that he had moved mountains to find a unit to ship to me next day – I may have bought it. As it was, he told me there was no stock, and then when I said I was leaving, he suddenly found stock. I’m assuming there wasn’t stock for upgrades, but there was stock for new sales and about-to-be-lost sales like me.

If he told me that he was sorry for the confusion, clearly they hadn’t communicated this to me, but they *really* wanted to keep my business and so had come up with a £25/month deal, not the £35/month I had thought I’d been offered – I may have forgiven that mis-communication. But he didn’t, he told me I was mistaken and that I wouldn’t find a better deal.

Add all these things together, and I’ve gone from being someone who would speak well of T-Mobile, to someone who will actively warn others off their service as untrustworthy and condescending.

From my perspective, I wasn’t comparing T-Mobile with another network on price at any time, and there was no question of me moving my contract elsewhere.

The bottom line is, throughout this back and forth all I really wanted was to be acknowledged – for T-Mobile to acknowledge that I was frustrated, that they’d let me down, that I was important to them. But they missed out the apology phase and went straight to trying to “fix” the issue. There’s a lesson to be learnt from that.

 

Richard Tubb is an IT Business Consultant who works with ambitious IT companies who want to grow their businesses in a scalable and sustainable way. He is also a Microsoft UK Small Business Specialist Partner Area Lead (PAL) and the elected chair of the CompTIA UK Channel Community. You can e-mail him at richard@tubblog.co.uk or connect with him via Twitter and LinkedIn.

The Tools I Use… Productivity Tips

In the webinar I recently presented in for MSP Business Management  entitled “Effectively using Social Networking to build your IT Support business” (now available to view on demand) – one of the most frequent questions that came up was “Which tool do you use for Social Networking?”

Those questions that I didn’t have time to answer on the webinar, I promised to follow up with a blog post.

Toolbox full of toolsAdd that in to the fact my friend Jeremy Epstein over at NeverStopMarketing recently encouraged me to write a blog post about the Tools I use (you can read about the tools Jeremy uses here) – and I felt compelled to write this blog combining the two ideas!

There may be a lot of overlap in the list below, but it’s more of a brain-dump than a fully blown article – still, I hope you find some useful tips! It’s a big old blog post, so I’ve divided it into sections so you can pick and choose what you read.

I’d be interested in hearing about the tools you use – feel free to post comments below, links to your own blog post, or reach out to me via Twitter.

***

Reading Blogs

I *used* to use Google Reader to manage my blog subscriptions through RSS feeds, but the truth is that nowadays I only tend to read articles that come to my attention through two channels.

imageFirstly – My iGoogle Homepage – this is my Web Browser “Start” page and has three columns, with my GMail, Daily Quote, a Currency Converter and Google Latitude displayed – in addition to a load of my favourite blogs. I also have three other tabs entitled “Self-Development”, “Technical” and “Entertainment” that I frequently browse through to read some of my other favourite blogs in those specific areas. These favoured blogs are always somewhat in flux – if a blog hasn’t been updated for a while, it’ll drop off my screen and another will take it’s place.

Secondly – Twitter. I tend to graze many of my favourite blogs by knowing that the author will let me know when an update is available to read. If you’ve got a blog and you’re not automatically updating your Twitter feed to let people know about new articles, you’re missing a trick.

When I’m on the move I don’t tend to read blogs unless I’ve found them through Twitter.

You can already see that Twitter is central to a lot of things I do!

 

Twitter

Talking of Twitter, I use TweetDeck as my main Twitter feed on my PC with many Twitter groups to enable me to read what is relevant to me – you can read more about my “strategy” for managing Twitter here.

I also read Twitter a lot from my iPod Touch, using Twitterific, and from my HTC HD2 using MoTweet. Both have really nice interfaces that I’m comfortable with.

 

Devices

I’ve use an iPod Touch – at home, around the house. Mostly for web-browsing, reading the odd e-mail and reading Twitter – but also with the eBay App and for a few games (such as Stick Cricket!).

I also have a HTC HD2 running Windows Mobile 6.5. Why use such an old device, I hear you ask! Here’s the full answer!

On the PC front, I have three computers. My main PC is a Lenovo Thinkpad T400 laptop PC running Windows 7 Ultimate, which is tethered to a Docking Station and a single 19” TFT Monitor when at home. Yes, I hear the gasps that I’m not using a Multi-Monitor setup…

When out and about, I primarily use my beloved Samsung nc-10 Netbook running Windows 7 Starter Edition, carried around in my (in)famous brown mini-Rucksack (or “Man-Bag” as it’s been called) which also contains a Virgin Media 3G Dongle, and an international travel adaptor with USB charger and a selection of USB Cables for charging gadgets on the go.

If I’m on a journey without Wi-Fi (such as flying) then I’ll use Googlemail’s Off-Line facility and Microsoft Outlook in Off-Line mode to work through items.

I’ve toyed with moving from a Netbook to a Tablet, but the iPad doesn’t appeal to me and there isn’t much in the way of competitors out there… yet.

I also have a Gaming PC connected to a KVM (Keyboard/Video/Mouse). It’s not used so-much anymore – apart from my favourite, Age of Mythology!

Hand holding Amazon KindleI own an Amazon Kindle (3G and Wi-Fi version) and take it just about everywhere. Anywhere I think I may have some time to kill between appointments (think the Doctors Surgery, Barbers, waiting for the GG to finish clothes shopping…) the Kindle goes with me.

I love the way it allows me to download and read books anywhere, and it automagically syncs my books.

I also use the Kindle Reader on my PC and iPod Touch, both of which allow me to continue reading short bursts of a book when my Kindle isn’t to hand.

On the subject of book-reading, I use GoodReads.com to listen to friends recommendations, and to write my own book reviews which I then share with Twitter and Facebook.

I own a Flip HD camera that I use to record video interviews for use on the blog and YouTube.

At home I use a Draytek Vigor 2600G Wi-Fi Router, and have the house flooded with under floor Ethernet cabling. Every room has at least two Ethernet points, terminating in a Netgear 48-port Switch within a cabinet in the loft that is protected via UPS Battery Backup.

I also use a FON Router at home to securely share a portion of my Broadband with anyone who cares to use it.

 

Bookmarks and Synchronisation

If I find an article that is of interest to me, but I don’t have time to read it there and then – I use Instapaper to save it for later.

If I come across the article on Twitter, I favourite it. My Twitter favourites automatically get added to my Diigo feed.

I use Diigo for all my Web-Browser bookmarks. A small Javascript bookmark (the Diigolet) button sits on my Firefox favourites, where I can tag bookmarks with easy to find Keywords for future use. I used to use Delicious for this, but then Yahoo threatened to pull it so I moved to Diigolet.

XMarks (formerly known as FoxMarks) is installed on my Mozilla Firefox browser on every PC I use. It synchronises my Web Browsing History, Cached Passwords and Open Tabs between different PC’s – thus making sure my browsing experience is uniform across PC’s.

I use Windows Live Mesh 2011 to sync important documents between my various PC’s, and DropBox when the Apple Mac-loving crowd want to exchange files with me. Both are great tools and just “work” to enable me to get on wherever I am.

 

Web Browsing

You’ve already worked out that I use Mozilla Firefox as my primary PC web-browser. I love the add-on’s it offers – including IETab 2, which allows me to load those annoying sites that insist on using Internet Explorer within Firefox. Other Add-On’s I use are

On my HTC HD2 device, running Windows Mobile 6.5, I use Opera Mobile 10.

 

Calendar/Contacts/Email/Tasks

Microsoft Outlook 2010 LogoI *live* in Microsoft Outlook. It is my trusted source for organising my personal and professional life. I heavily use Task Lists and I’m a big proponent of David Allen’s “Getting Things Done” (GTD) methodology for staying organised. On my PC’s I have Microsoft Outlook 2010 installed alongside GTD for Outlook.

I also use Outlook Notes, synchronised between my WinMo and PC, and every appointment (personal and business) goes in my Calendar.

I keep my work and personal e-mails separate though, and use GoogleMail for my personal mail (richard@tubbweb.co.uk). Every few months I’ll sync my Outlook Contacts with my Googlemail Contacts to keep the two up to date – I’d love to find a way of doing this automatically.

Microsoft BPOS is my hosted Exchange service. What can I say other than it’s reliable and it just works! Everything gets sync’d over the air to my PC’s and to my WinMo device.

I also use the Outlook Social Connector on my PC’s to get additional insight about what those who are writing to me are talking about.

 

Blogging

I use Windows Live Writer – a free tool from Microsoft and the best blogging tool I’ve come across.

I use the Zemanta plug-in for Live Writer to help create links, although I do find it a bit flaky.

This blog is hosted at WordPress.com.

As a blog article is published, it is automatically posted to Facebook by WordPress.com. I then manually create a short-link using Bit.ly and publish a link to the blog article to LinkedIn, Twitter, Google Buzz and occasionally, MySpace.

For leaving comments on blogs, I use a mixture of Disqus, Google Profile and OpenID. I much prefer being able to login using Twitter though.

 

Facebook

I use Facebook primarily for personal use, but have a lot of “business friends” on there too. I use Facebook lists to ensure the right people see the right content, and regularly browse Facebook a few times a day to keep up to date.

 

Keyword Listening

I use Google Alerts to keep posted on a variety of keywords, ranging from the vanity (my name and my URL) to business to local interest (“Weoley Castle”).

I also use SocialOomph to keep track of more business related keywords (“IT Support”, “Managed Service Provider”, clients names, etc)

Tweetdeck comes in handy again here for tracking #Hashtags during certain events – Conferences, etc.

 

Note Taking

I use OneNote, but I’m not as religious at using it as I’d like.

I carry an old fashioned pocket notebook with me most places, as I find it easier to scribble thoughts down during meetings – and it seems people don’t get offended when you write down notes using pen and paper, whereas typing on an electronic device can be misconstrued as a lack of interest in the meeting.

I heavily use SnagIt for grabbing screen pics and modifying them for use in blog articles.

I’ve already mentioned I use both Task Lists and Notes in Microsoft Outlook – and I do so across a variety of platforms all synchronised back to Outlook.

 

 

Spreadsheets, Word Processing, Presentations

It’s Microsoft Office 2010 all the way for me. Excel, Word and Powerpoint. I love the way they integrate into Windows Live Skydrive for collaboration.

I very rarely use Google Apps, but it’s occasionally useful for very small documents.

When I’ve produced content, such as a White Paper or presentation, it’ll get uploaded to Scribd for future reference.

 

Communications

As I work from home I use a Siemens Gigaset Dual-VoIP/POTS telephone in the home office. This allows me to have both my Business Telephone (hosted with VoIPfone.co.uk) and Home Telephone (Virgin Media) on the same line, and distinguish between incoming and outgoing calls on them.

TrueCall DeviceTo prevent my day getting constantly interrupted by British Gas, Virgin Media and other Telemarketers who ignore my registration with the Telephone Preference Service, I use a TrueCall device which has pretty much stopped nuisance calls dead.

On the Mobile Phone, I use MagiCall to undertake the same function – dropping calls from those who can’t take no for an answer from continuously interrupting me.

Instant Messaging is via Windows Live Messenger. I rarely use it for personal reasons anymore (Facebook chat has superseded that) but it’s a great tool for keeping in touch with my business contacts.

I use Skype heavily, both for International calls, calls when travelling and for Video calls. I’ve got a Microsoft LifeCam VX-3000 in use as a Webcam, and the ability to both see and be seen by my colleagues adds a authentic dimension to Skype calls.

I also use OoVoo for IM and Video Conferencing, and it works just fine – but I’ve seen no uptake on it outside one particular client.

For Technical Support for the family, and the occasional remote control I use LogMeIn. I’m warming to TeamViewer since it’s been acquired by GFI though.

 

Security

Pad-LockOnce built, PC’s are backed up with ShadowProtect Desktop from StorageCraft. I can then wipe PC’s and start from a Base Image if needed.

Critical data from each of my PC’s is synchronised to another within the house using SyncBack SE. This data is often encrypted using TrueCrypt.

All data is also backed up to the NAS, and this data is in turn backed up to Mozy Home, Amazon Cloud Storage and iDrive as well as being burnt off to DVD-R once a quarter and stored in a Fireproof safe.

My Mobile Phone is backed up on a monthly basis by Sprite Backup, both to mini-SD Card and to the NAS. My mobile is also protected by Lookout Mobile Security, which as well as stopping nasty’s, backs up my SMS and other information to the Cloud and has some additional tools to protect against Theft or loss.

Every electronic device in the house is marked with UV pen, and registered on Immobilise – the UK National Property Register.

We also have a number of CCTV cameras around the exterior of the house which record footage to a Geovision Server. Reassuringly, all we ever seem to record is local Fox Cubs play-fighting on the lawn, and Spiders making webs across the lenses of cameras. Money well spent then.

On individual PC’s I use Microsoft Security Essentials, my pick of the Anti-Virus products.

All my passwords (which are unique for every site I use) are stored in KeePass, which is synchronised between my devices using Windows Live Mesh 2011.

Finally, my GoogleMail, Flickr, Facebook and Twitter are backed up by Backupify. Yes, I use a Cloud Service to backup Cloud Services.

 

Photos and Videos

I mentioned I use YouTube thanks to my Flip HD camera.

I upload just about every photograph ever to Flickr, both for sharing with friends and family, and to use as an on-line backup of my photo library. I rely on the tagging facility here.

I also use a lot of photographs from Flickr under the Creative Commons license, to drop into my blog articles and presentations.

Lots of photographs find their way onto Facebook too, especially from my Mobile Phone.

PhotoBucket is used when I’m uploading photographs solely for use on eBay listings. The ability to use PhotoBucket’s HTML facility is invaluable.

I use the Image Resizer Powertool and Paint.Net to edit photographs locally.

If I’m editing videos locally, I’ll use Windows Live Movie Maker. Free, and relatively powerful.

 

Entertainment

I use an aging Topfield TF5800 as a dual-tuner Freeview PVR. It runs a number of cool 3rd party apps that enable me to record the Television programmes I want.

This is attached to a Sony Bravia KDL-40W4500 Widescreen Television, a Sony Blu-Ray Player and a Sony ST8-DG820 Multi-Channel AV Receiver with what feels like a billion input and output sockets.

imageAlso in the living room, we have a Nintendo Wii (which admittedly, I only seem to play Donkey Kong and Monopoly on) and an Xbox 360 which I use to play games on-line with friends on XBox Live. Attached to the XBox 360 is also a HD-DVD unit, which allows me to play DVD’s from the loser in the Blu-Ray –vs- HD-DVD format wars.

We won’t talk about my “retro gaming” room, which has everything from Atari’s to Commodores to Dreamcasts. That’s a blog post all of it’s own… Smile

For home media, I run a D-Link DNS-320 NAS box with 2 x 2TB HDD’s mirrored. This stores nearly all of our Music CD’s, Podcasts and many movies and other videos.

All of our audio media is kept in a structured and tidy fashion thanks to MediaMonkey (Paid for edition) on a PC, and TwonkyServer on a server. I try to avoid the horrible iTunes wherever I can, be it’s sometimes necessary.

In the living room I also run as Acer Aspire R3610 with Windows 7 Home Edition installed. Thanks to CoreCodec this can play HD content from the network to the Television.

I’ve mentioned I’ve got an iPod Touch, which I use for Music. I also own a Microsoft Zune HD, which tends to get used for Podcasts in the car. The HTC HD2 also gets used for Podcasts when I’m walking.

We’re big fans of DAB Radio, so radios are scattered around the house (including a Roberts SolarDAB in the bathroom). One of my follies is a set of yacht speakers flush into the bathroom walls, fed by a Pinnacle Soundbridge HomeMusic wireless steaming device. It’s nice to listen to good music whilst soaking in the bath.

I listen to Spotify at home on the PC, but not too often, and only the free edition.

Phew! An extensive list, but there are probably others. I can see myself adding these over-time as people ask me about them – so feel free to ask me directly.

 

Now …how about adding yours in the comments below?

 

 

Richard Tubb is an Independent Consultant who works with IT companies to enable them to feel more in control and to grow their business. He is also a Microsoft UK Small Business Specialist Partner Area Lead (PAL) and the chair of the CompTIA UK Channel Community. You can e-mail him at richard@tubblog.co.uk or connect with him via Twitter and LinkedIn.


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