Any recommendations for a Bluetooth headset for Treo 650?

The choices for Bluetooth hands-free headsets are dizzying — anyone got any recommendations?

I’m not looking for “style,” because I don’t believe it exists when it comes to a Bluetooth headset, and any claims to the contrary by vendors are patently false. I’m not planning to wear it everywhere I go — just in the car.

I’ve always found it incredibly distracting to carry on a conversation with someone who wears a headset as a permanent fashion accessory. If I ever become one of those guys, I beg of you. . . please come rip that thing off my ear and crush it on the sidewalk. I promise I will thank you.

The Chad, Vlad, and Marco club at Yahoo!

Little did I know that when I joined Yahoo! , I would be joining a “Chads, Vlads, and Marcos” club. On Friday, I got an e-mail from one of my fellow Chads noting that I am Chad #6 in the Search & Marketplace group (I am Number Six) and pointing me to an intranet page entitled “Handy Guide to Chads, Vlads, and Marcos” with photos of all of us (in addition to the six Chads, there are three Vlads, and four Marcos). Then I was asked for my t-shirt size — this is more than just a page on the intranet.

I’m looking forward to my “Chads, Vlads, and Marcos” t-shirt. I promise to represent Chads, Vlads, and Marcos well.

Hard lessons learned with Feedburner and Bloglines

For about a week, updates to the blog using my Feedburner feed were not available for reasons I feel compelled to explain in full, if only so similarly afflicted users don’t make the same dumb mistakes I did. In a nutshell, I unwittingly blew away my Bloglines readership for about a week through sloppy feed management. Hopefully this will keep someone from learning the same lessons I just did.

First, despite the basically self-inflicted problems I’m about to describe, I really like both Feedburner and Bloglines. I tested out Feedburner at InfoWorld and was impressed. I’ve been using Bloglines for a long time and despite occasional inopportune appearances by the plumber, I’m satisfied. I’ve met key folks at both companies and they’re nice people.

With that said, it’s time to describe how I screwed up my feed.

Mistake #1: I did a vanilla install of WordPress, set up my Feedburner feed, then installed the WordPress Feedburner plug-in to handle redirection of my feeds to Feedburner. I forgot one thing, though — I didn’t change the autodiscovery links in the header of my blog, so some RSS clients picked up the local feed not served by Feedburner. I went on vacation and by the time I returned and looked at my traffic more closely, I had a chunk of people subscribed to my Feedburner feed, and chunks of people subscribed to the local feeds. Feedburner tells you all the right things to do here. I changed my autodiscovery links to point to Feedburner. I just didn’t do it early enough, and my feed serving fragmented.
Lesson: make sure you have your autodiscovery links correct on Day 1 of your blog.

Mistake #2: I decided to try to force those subscribed to my local feeds over to the Feedburner feed, so I put in a couple of 301 (i.e. permanent!) redirects last Saturday afternoon to do just that — realizing, of course, that this was drastic and I was really putting my eggs in the Feedburner basket. (This particular impulse was probably of the same type that saw me under the house one Saturday swinging a sledgehammer somewhat randomly to remove an old cabinet in my crawlspace, knocking out the electrical service to the back of my house in the process.) I created a fancy mod_rewrite rule to do this (take that R for redirect, and tack a =301 on it, like so: R=301), ran a quick but hardly exhaustive test, and all looked good. I didn’t know that I had created an infinite redirect, forcing my Feedburner feed to return a 500 error (see Mistake #4 on how I should have known about this).
Lesson: test, test, test, and be careful with the 301 redirect sledgehammer, and mod_rewrite in general. I am reminded of Brian Behlendorf’s famous quote in the mod_rewrite documentation: The great thing about mod_rewrite is it gives you all the configurability and flexibility of Sendmail. The downside to mod_rewrite is that it gives you all the configurability and flexibility of Sendmail.

Mistake #3: I didn’t post anything about this. A post would have served two purposes: 1) to let people know I was fooling with the guts of my feeds, thereby alerting a bunch of kind people that they should let me know if they see anything weird, and 2) I would have noticed that my post never showed up in Bloglines, where I subscribe to my own feed. Instead, I posted about something entirely unrelated on Wednesday, which is when I noticed I had screwed up. By then, Bloglines was reporting that it couldn’t retrieve my feed (which I checked a few times on my feed preview page). I rolled back to my earlier working state and explained my plight using the help form at Bloglines and posted over at the Feedburner Forums for good measure.
Lesson: Post when you’re changing things. (Duh.)

Mistake #4: For every feed, Feedburner offers FeedBulletin, which includes FeedMedic, a service that lets you know when you’ve blown up your feed (via RSS, of course). This is a great service, though it doesn’t seem well-promoted in the least (as Charlie Wood noted in his post about FeedMedic a while back). My suggestion to anyone using Feedburner: Go to My Account right now and subscribe to it.
Lesson: When you’re using a third-party service of any kind, make sure you investigate automated means of error reporting. (Aside to Dreamhost users: you can get Dreamhost problems reported to you automatically via the RSS feed on their status page.)

The folks at Bloglines got back to me this weekend, letting me know that they had reset my feed, so all is well again and my posts are once again flowing to Bloglines. While the Feedburner part was easy to fix (I just fixed my source feed and resynced), I do wish that there was some kind of ping service at Bloglines so you could let them know when your feed has been corrected after you’ve screwed something up. As I’ve proven, those things can happen. . . .

I sorta wish I was using a Mac again

While Russ just laid out his reasons for a possible reverse switch (Mac to PC), I’ve been missing my PowerBook just a bit lately after voluntarily deciding to switch to the PC when I started the new job (I still use a Mac at home, though). Working with the PC is going ok, but sometimes I kick myself, honestly. I mean, I’m getting my work done, but it’s those little things. Here are a few of them:

  • To put the Mac in sleep mode, I used to just close it. On the PC, I have to go to the Start Menu, select “Shut Down,” then choose “Standby” (this process might not be described perfectly because I don’t want to bring my PC laptop out of standby right now to check. That is slow, too. I’m typing this post on a Mac!)
  • I really like Mail.app, and still use it at home. I have not yet figured out how to effectively search my mail in Exchange like I did effortlessly in Mail.app. (Yeah, yeah, Exchange can be kind of lame, but the GoodLink software that pushes mail to my Treo is all worth it. And I know you can get POP/IMAP mail with SnapperMail on a Treo, but been there, done that — GoodLink is WAY better.) Exchange isn’t required in the Windows environment, just thought I would mention it anyway.
  • I spent part of the weekend fooling around with the Bluetooth on my PC and it didn’t quite work. I’m sure I’ll get there, but I doubt I’ll be very well-positioned for Bluetooth heroics with the PC. Stranded families are unlikely to appreciate the slow wake-up of the PC when every moment is critical.
  • I can’t type very well in the dark any more (that backlit keyboard. . . oh, how your memory haunts me!)
  • I didn’t know how much I would miss the built-in Terminal (though it’s not perfect by any means)
  • Man, it was nice having gcc and my own dev environment running on my laptop.

One good thing about using a PC at work and a Mac at home is that I can try out pretty much anything out there, but I think the best thing is that I can bitch about them both on a regular basis.

Adium rocks!

Quack! Tim wasn’t kidding – Adium for OS X (based on Gaim) is awesome. I had been using iChat on my OS X box at home until I picked up a bunch of Yahoo! Instant Messenger pals in my new job. I tried Fire for a few weeks, but it left me cold. Honestly, I never really liked iChat that much either, even after exhaustively going through its preferences and stripping it down interface-wise as much as possible (getting rid of the text bubbles, the sounds, etc.)

That being said, I hadn’t spent any time looking for alternatives, but two minutes after reading Tim’s post, I was up and running with Adium. Easy switch, and totally worth it, though I recommend disabling the sound effects immediately — I jumped out of my seat when the first IM came through with a loud “QUACK!”

iChat and Fire are both gone from my dock now.

Making built-in Contacts app the default on a Treo 650 with GoodLink

(if you don’t have a Treo 650 with GoodLink software installed, you probably want to skip this post entirely)

When I left InfoWorld recently, I got a very nice send-off and an utterly amazing cake, but as much as I wish the company-issued Treo 650 I had grown to love (after some serious hate) could have been a parting gift, it wasn’t meant to be. The telcom folks there were nice enough to give me an old phone they had in a drawer for a good deal, and I was able to transfer the account into my name and keep the SIM card, thereby keeping the number I have had for a long time. I got my Yahoo! Treo last week, and despite some porting issues, I carried the same number over to it and it’s all working now — except for one thing that was driving me crazy and was a bit delicate to fix (instructions are below). The GoodLink software that hooks the Treo into the company Exchange server links up to the contacts database stored on the Exchange server, and makes it the default contacts app on the Treo.

This matters to me because:

  1. I already had hundreds of contacts in my vanilla Palm contacts database and didn’t really want to sync those up to the Yahoo! Exchange server (stuff like aunts and uncles numbers, my favorite local Chinese take-out place, my friends’ numbers, and bars in SF with good jukeboxes)
  2. The Treo uses caller ID to display a contact’s name on an incoming call if there’s a match in your contact database. I love this feature, but if the GoodLink Address Book is the default, it looks there for a match, and if you don’t have all your contacts on the corporate Exchange server, you get nothing but the number on an incoming call.
  3. All the shortcuts to “Contacts” on the Treo go to the default app, which makes it more difficult to make phone calls easily (since you have to work a bit more to get to the old Contacts app)

On the other hand, the GoodLink Address Book includes a lookup facility for everyone at Yahoo!, including e-mail address, desk phone, and cell phone in some cases, so I didn’t want to wipe that out completely either. I just didn’t want it as the default. After some research, I found a way (and the whole process made me a bit nervous — kind of that same feeling you get when you login as root on a unix box to do something delicate).

First, I recommend that you run a GoodLink backup to your SD card. Open the GoodLink app, go to Preferences in the bottom pane (all the way to the right), select it, choose Backup, then run the backup (you’ll need to know your handheld passcode — ask your administrator. But don’t tell your administrator what you’re doing or you’ll probably get your hand smacked.)

Then, if you don’t already have it, you need to download and install FileZ on your Treo. All this does is give you access to all the files on the Palm OS filesystem. This is a tool that must be used very carefully, since you can move, copy, and delete any files on the Treo, even ones you didn’t know were there.

Next, use FileZ to find the file GoodAddressBookApp.prc on your Treo and select it. Look at the filename you have selected, count to ten, then look at it again to make sure it’s the right one. Then delete it.

After I did this, the built-in Contacts database on my Palm became the default, and I was back to managing my contacts on Palm Desktop and using HotSync as I did before. Even better, the GoodLink contacts database still works, but I have to get to it by going to the GoodLink app, then navigating to it in the bottom pane. No big deal. For some reason, though, the caller ID didn’t seem to work properly until I did a soft reset on the Treo 650. Now incoming calls once again display the name of the caller if they are in my personal contacts database.

Of course, I’m putting this out there because it worked for me, but if you blow up your Treo doing what I described, I won’t really be able to help you. Do this at your own risk.

One last thing: my decision to do this is no knock on GoodLink. It’s an awesome product, and I’m loving it so far. E-mail is pushed to the Treo Blackberry-style, and I can manage my calendar and meeting requests just as easily as I can using Outlook on the desktop. I highly recommend it.

(Some credit: one of the posts by dennisl on TreoCentral got me on the right track.)

Bill Gates: The Udell Interview

Dan Farber offers high praise for Jon Udell’s recent podcast interview with Bill Gates, saying that “it really shows the geeky Gates, and is one of the better interviews I have read/heard in covering Gates for more than two decades.” I agree (though I haven’t been following Gates for two decades yet myself). I listened to the podcast and enjoyed exchanges like this one (a big thanks to Jon for putting up a transcript — but you should listen anyway because a transcript doesn’t do justice to the palpable geeky excitement in Gates’ voice):

JU: Yeah, somebody had a nice quote that RSS is the human face on Web services. I kind of like that a lot and related to that is something that I’ve said a few times, which is that human beings are the exception handlers in all workflows. And so…

BG: Absolutely. That’s a really good way of capturing something I was saying about the boundary between structured and unstructured. Eventually you’ve got to know who in what role and how to communicate to them, because if software could just talk to software, we could get rid of all the humans. Everything that’s real, eventually there’s a human involved in. And there is a little bit of tension between very interpretive, simple-to-create stuff, like REST or POX, and very structured, tight stuff like Web services. And if the industry is smart, we can get the best of both worlds, where things that are not very complex, you just want to go get a stock quote, a weather thing, fine. Use REST. Even, you know, go to Wordpad and type in the ugly URL.

If this interview was a book, it would be much closer in spirit to an O’Reilly title than the relative fluff we got from Bill Gates in The Road Ahead, a book that surely helped thousands of businessmen achieve deep sleep on airplanes back in the day.

The imminent arrival of the six-blade shaver: a sloppy unscientific analysis

(Dear Readers: I promise to get back to insightful technology punditry very soon — but this was too good to pass up.)

A lot of people have written about the new five-blade razors from Gillette (including one of my new Yahoo! co-workers, Jeffrey), but I haven’t seen anyone ask the obvious question: when will the six-blade arrive? I decided to do some analysis, thinking that there must be a corollary to Moore’s Law, except for shaving.

Let’s look at the facts (thank you Wikipedia for your history of Gillette — and who knew their stock ticker symbol was plain ol’ G? Or that their market cap was $53.9B as of today?):

Time elapsed between key blade-related technologies:

Single blade safety razor (1901) to the double-blade Trac II (1971): 70 years
Trac II (1971) to triple-blade Mach 3 (1998): 27 years
Mach 3 (1998) to quad-blade Schick Quattro (2003): 5 years (note: Schick was sued for patent infringement in the process)
Schick Quattro (2003) to quintuple-blade Gillette Fusion (2005): 2 years

I put a graph together to help me predict the next logical advance: six blades:

graph of technology advances in razors

My prediction: we’ll have six in late ’06.

Update: Now I realize that I had just gotten behind on my BoingBoing reading. Lots of stuff on this there.

The soul-crushing agony of number portability

Cell number portability is a beautiful thing, right? (Not really, according to the truly Kafkaesque experience I’m going through right now, which I’ll go into in a moment.) This chirpy page at the FCC lays the number porting process out in a checklist with lots of Pollyanna-ish assurances:

Contact Your New Carrier — Do Not Cancel Existing Service! Your preferred new carrier will handle all the details, and they have every incentive to make this process as easy as possible. Be sure not to call and terminate your existing service-let the new carrier handle the transfer.
. . .
Use your phone during the transition. You will be able to send and receive calls while your number is being transferred, but be aware that certain features may not work

Visuals are the key to making a point, so without further ado, two photos from my number portability experience: 1) my old phone, which I call “The Phone that Can Receive Calls” (on the left), and 2) the new phone, aka “The Phone that Can Make Calls” (on the right).

       

For those of you thinking ahead, yes, if you call my cell number, the phone on the left (“The Phone that Can Receive Calls”) rings. If I miss your call and need to call you back, I have to use the one on the right (“The Phone that Can Make Calls”).

“The Phone that Can Make Calls” can not successfully call “The Phone that Can Receive Calls” (Busy signal. I suspect — and hope — that a computer is crashing somewhere each time I do this).

I am afraid that the checking of voice mail might initiate a chain reaction that could destroy the human race itself, so please, send e-mail for now.

I was enjoying the absurdity of my two-phone situation when “The Phone that Can Receive Calls” rang with a strange number in the caller ID, so I answered, thinking it might be my provider checking on me (true story: once my cable modem connection died several years ago and I looked over at my friend on the couch and said, “hey, the cable modem connection is down,” and — no lie — within seconds, there was a knock at the door, and a smiling @Home technician greeted me with, “Good afternoon, sir, is your cable modem connection down?” I said, “yes” and he fixed it. This will give you faith in people.) It was a telemarketer (a telemarketer! on my cell phone!) telling me that a ticket to Acapulco had been reserved JUST FOR ME.

So, as I was listening to the spiel about Mexican beaches on “The Phone that Can Receive Calls,” I stared longingly at “The Phone that Can Make Calls” and couldn’t resist saying this:

“I’m gonna have to call you back.” Heh heh.

(Hopefully this will work itself out soon. . . Cingular seems to be having serious problems.)

Microsoft, Salesforce.com, and Web 2.0

David Berlind wrote recently about Marc Benioff’s (CEO of Salesforce.com) response to Steve Ballmer’s recent proclamation that Microsoft is going to give Salesforce.com “a run for its money.” In in an e-mail to the press, Marc wrote:

Microsoft’s failed enterprise software strategy has let the industry down. We have competed against them in the CRM market since 2002, and they have failed to deliver a competitive product. They just cancelled version two of that legacy application and skipped ahead to three. In the meantime, we are on the 18th generation of our service in just six years. Customers are tired of waiting for Microsoft to innovate.

What Marc didn’t mention in his e-mail to the press is the fact that Salesforce.com already has a serious leg up on Microsoft in the web services arena with its sforce web services platform (something I wrote glowingly about at InfoWorld almost three years ago now). My experience as a customer of Salesforce.com at InfoWorld was largely what really made me “get it” when it comes to web services. Anyone thinking about “Web 2.0″ and “web as platform” in the non-enterprise context owes a debt to the the smart folks over at Salesforce.com. They were “Web 2.0″ before it was cool. I don’t know if they get enough credit for their vision, probably because it’s so ingrained in the way they think and operate that they don’t remember how cool it really is. (Hey Marc, it is really cool).

Salesforce was a Web 2.0 pioneer, but they certainly aren’t sitting still now. Check out their AJAX toolkit (released in late July) and the ultra-cool Spanning Salesforce, a third-party app developed by Charlie Wood’s Spanning Partners which uses the sforce API as the platform to deliver sales leads via RSS. How cool is that?