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ElevationDock modified for iPhone5

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My ElevationDock is now modified to support an iPhone 5, using Mike Hellers’ 3D model and my own Lightning cable. I was in Carmel this morning to give a talk and stopped by afterwards to see Mike and Jody Elliot of XIT404, who were gracious enough to print me one of the adapters.

The printed part required the use of a dremel to install properly, and because it isn’t at an angle like the Lightning adapter ElevationLabs will be shipping soon, the iPhone 5 sits a bit high and doesn’t rest against the back of the dock.

The machined ElevationLabs part is $15 plus shipping and is probably better, but if you have access to a 3D printer and are OK with the drawbacks, you can do the mod yourself.

San Francisco | link | trackb | 1 comment » | Nov 5, 2012 08:13:53

Mophie is my best friend at #SXSW

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Yesterday, I heard a story about an Uber pedicab driver here at SXSW who was making a lot in tips by pedaling people around and letting them charge their devices via USB battery. Conferences like SXSW chew up mobile device batteries because people are Tweeting and using apps all day long, without any real opportunity to charge up during the day. One of our Lytro team members was so desperate that she climbed over the counter at a bar to charge her iPhone up.

I’ve been going to a lot of conferences lately, and finally bought a Mophie Juice Pack Plus because it’s more convenient than using an external battery and cable.

It’s awesome. It will more than charge up an iPhone from empty, which means that you can share it with your friends as they need power. Also, it is strangely satisfying to hold a larger mobile device. I actually find the iPhone (4S) more comfortable to use with the Mophie case than without. Highly recommended. The Juice Pack Air is even smaller and cheaper, but has a battery with 25% less charge capacity (people say that the Air won’t quite charge an iPhone from empty to full).

SXSW, Austin | link | trackb | 3 comments » | Mar 14, 2012 18:44:28

Did Siri stop working on your Verizon iPhone 4S? Here’s how I fixed mine.

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I have an iPhone 4S on Verizon. Last week, I asked Siri a question, and she responded, “I’m really sorry, but I can’t take any requests right now.” After 24 hours, it was clear that Siri was broken. I looked only, and there were dozens of support webpages offering various tips on how to get the service working again; apparently, it is pretty common for Siri, clearly labeled a beta product by Apple, not to work. This is unfortunate because the iPhone itself is clear NOT a beta product. For any Apple-branded service not to work taints the entire iPhone experience.

Here’s how I finally managed to get Siri to work again:

  1. Settings->General->Reset->Reset All Settings. This will reset things like your Desktop background, notification settings, and network settings, but will not delete any applications or user data. After I did this, Siri worked, but there were still a few problems: Siri refused to call anyone, and all phone numbers in my address book seemed to want to be 9 digits instead of 10. For example, if I entered a normal, 10-digit phone number like (415) 123-4567, Address Book would display it as “4151234567″. However, if I removed the last digit, it would display, “(415) 12-34-56″. Truly bizarre.

  2. I turned off Siri.

  3. I dialed *228 and selected option 2 to update roaming.

  4. After updating roaming, I turned Siri on again and waited for the phone to connect to the Verizon network. At this point, 10-digit phone numbers were again recognized and re-formatted to the proper “(xxx) xxx-xxxx”. Siri was again able to dial.

I hate wasting time trying to get services to work properly. One of the reasons I have an iPhone is that I just want things to work, and all of the effort expended to figure out a way to get Siri to work was not fun. If I wanted to endlessly tweak my devices, I’d still be on Android!

Anyway, I hope this post helps folks out there to get Siri working again on their Verizon iPhones.

San Francisco, CA | link | trackb | 5 comments » | Dec 4, 2011 19:56:31

Using Eye-Fi to automatically transfer images to DropBox

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I have become dependent on DropBox as my cloud solution for working files (with versioned backups!), and for cloud syncing support in many of the apps I use. I’m also an Eye-Fi user, and really like the idea of having a camera that automatically dumps images into a folder in DropBox. I asked Eye-Fi for this feature, but they told me that it’s up to DropBox to integrate with Eye-Fi—not the other way around.

Eye-Fi did, however, recommend that I give Pixelpipe a try. I successfully configured Pixelpipe so that I could automatically transfer all JPG images on my Eye-Fi card to a folder in DropBox, but I want everything to be transfered, including RAW files and videos.

My current solution is to use Eye-Fi Center on a Mac Mini that is (already) running all the time in a closet at home. That Mac Mini has a temporary DropBox account running on it, and Eye-Fi dumps images into a shared DropBox folder there. Once it arrives on my Mac Mini, DropBox pushes it into the cloud, and images and videos are then accessible on all of my machines and mobile devices.

This method is totally wasteful, but it works! I hope someone comes up with a better solution in the long run.

I’m also looking for an iOS camera replacement that shoots directly to DropBox. At the moment, I use the DropBox app to push individual images, which is inconvenient.

Mountain View, CA | link | trackb | 2 comments » | Mar 23, 2011 19:06:25

My $2.99 (shipped) iPhone 4 dock and cable

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$2.99 iPhone 4 dock and cable

2 weeks ago, I ordered an iPhone 4 dock and USB cable off of eBay for $2.99 shipped, which seemed impossibly low. As promised, the dock and cable came in the mail today shipped from Shenzhen, China (not surprisingly, the same city in which iPhones are made). Although the dock is black and is made of a different material, the fit and finish matches what I’d expect of a product made by Apple. Who knows? Maybe they used the same machines. :)

$2.99 iPhone 4 dock

At 10% the price of an Apple dock, it was an incredible deal (I bought 2). If this vendor can make money selling a dock & cable for $2.99 shipped from China, imagine Apple’s margin on its branded accessories!

UPDATE: I forgot to note that I have Wrapsol applied to my iPhone, and it fits just fine in the dock.

Caltrain, SF | link | trackb | 6 comments » | Feb 22, 2011 20:19:45

The first 3 days on my new Verizon iPhone (also, useful apps)

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Verizon iPhone

I’ve had my pre-ordered Verizon iPhone for 3 days now, and I love the thing.

My good friend, Sterling Zumbrunn, helped me with initial app suggestions — super helpful because he has pretty much tried every app in the app store :).

Things have changed quite a bit since I was last on iPhone (in the AT&T dark ages), and the infrastructure and app ecosystem are really mature now. One big difference for me is that many apps now support DropBox, which means that all of my devices are always in sync.1

For note taking and text editing, the combination of Elements on the iPhone and nvALT (a Notational Velocity fork) on Mac OS X is convenient and versatile. Since I don’t like UI clutter, I also have PlainText, which is cleaner but less powerful than Elements. All three are pointed at the same DropBox folder, so the content is seamlessly shared, and all three support TextExpander. I’m finding that this combination works well for both jotting down notes and composing and previewing longer articles (in Markdown). If you don’t already use Markdown and are a frequent web content creator, you really need to check it out.

Other apps that are indispensable for desktop / mobile device harmony are PasteBot, an app that lets you easily push clipboard content to and from your Mac, and DropCopy, which lets you easily send files and images to any other device currently running DropCopy.

For mobile WiFi, I retired my MiFi 2200 and am now paying $20/month for 2GB of wireless hotspot service (instead of $65). I rarely use over 2GB a month, and at $10/GB for excess data, it is a much better deal even if I do go over.

Other apps I use daily are Istapaper, Kindle, GoodReader, TextExpander, 1Password, Evernote, 42s, Twitter, Facebook, and Google.

Pam got her pre-ordered Verizon iPhone at the same time. I backed up her old AT&T iPhone 3Gs, restored the backup to her new Verizon iPhone 4, and she is happily using it exactly the same way she used to. The one big change? I can actually call her and talk for more than 20 seconds!

I do miss the physical keyboard on my old Blackberry Bold 9650, and I miss Blackberry Messenger. Blackberry is still the king of messaging, but since messaging is only 10% of what I actually want to do with a mobile device, an iPhone or Android makes much more sense. When I travel internationally, I will likely swap my line over to the Blackberry so I can take advantage of the unlimited global data plan. As I noted before, I believe the Blackberry has the only viable international plan for those of us living in the States.

  1. The notable exception is OmniFocus, whose iOS clients do not support DropBox even though their Mac desktop client does. 

San Francisco, CA | link | trackb | 5 comments » | Feb 10, 2011 01:02:01

For sale: Verizon MiFi, Plantronics headset

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I have a couple things for sale. Contact me if you’re interested!

  1. SOLD Verizon MiFi 2200 Intelligent Mobile Hotspot. Working perfectly. Comes with charge-only USB cable (works with your computer or any USB charger), but no AC adapter. $35 + shipping
  2. Plantronics .Audio 400 USB folding headset. Very good condition and clean. $25 + shipping
San Francisco, CA | link | trackb | 1 comment » | Feb 9, 2011 22:50:48

Hello, iPhone 4 (for Verizon)

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iPhone 4 for Verizon

iPhone 4 for Verizon

Look what was waiting on my desk this morning!

San Francisco, CA | link | trackb | 4 comments » | Feb 7, 2011 14:20:55

Why Blackberry is the only viable international phone (for USA residents)

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If you travel out of the country a lot like I do, you need a Blackberry. Here’s why. (read more »)

San Francisco, CA | link | trackb | no comments » | Jan 29, 2011 22:38:31

Setting up Gmail properly on iPad and iPhone / iOS 4

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A post I wrote in April 2010 called How to properly set up Gmail on your iPad has gotten nearly 50,000 page views since it went live. Users of Gmail are used to its archive-instead-of-delete model, but by default, Apple devices prior to iOS 4 were deleting trashed messages when integrated with Gmail. iPads running the original OS and iPhones running iPhone OS 1.1.2 -> 3.x needed special instructions to set up Gmail accounts properly, which is detailed in the post I linked to above. (read more »)

San Francisco, CA | link | trackb | 2 comments » | Jan 8, 2011 19:01:10

iPad only (plus Blackberry) for 3 days

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As I was running out of the house on Thursday for CES in Las Vegas, I opened up my small messenger bag, removed my MacBook Air, and replaced it with my iPad. My reasoning was simple — I’d be running around the show floor at CES, and using a notebook computer would be impractical compared to whipping out a tablet and showing pictures or looking something up on the web (I use my iPad with a Verizon MiFi, so I still had network access — AT&T users were out of luck). I was also originally scheduled only to be away for the day.

When I arrived at the airport, a series of events led to a decision to stay in Las Vegas for 3 days. Suddenly, I was worried. I didn’t have a charger with me and had never tried to be productive on the iPad for such a long period of time. (read more »)

Las Vegas, NV | link | trackb | 3 comments » | Jan 8, 2011 14:47:51

Verizon HTC Droid Incredible manual update to Android OS 2.2

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12-minute video showing upgrade of HTC Droid Incredible to Android OS 2.2 “Froyo” — this is the actual Verizon update installed manually instead of OTA (it hadn’t been rolled out to my device yet).

San Francisco, CA | link | trackb | no comments » | Aug 31, 2010 13:06:18

HTC Incredible / Android 2.1 battery life problem

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I’ve been using an HTC Incredible (running Android 2.1) for about a week now. Every phone / carrier combination has its trade-offs, but so far, I’m finding the HTC Incredible on Verizon to be the best combination of messaging productivity, application support, and mobile coverage (while I’m in the States, that is; when I leave the country, nothing touches a GSM Blackberry).

Starting yesterday, my HTC Incredible’s battery started draining at an unacceptable rate. Even leaving the phone alone in sleep mode resulted in battery drain, which effectively made the phone unusable if it wasn’t connected to a power source. (read more »)

San Francisco, CA | link | trackb | 11 comments » | Jun 8, 2010 01:21:53

For sale: Motorola Droid w/extras

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For sale: Motorola Droid w/charger, manual, box, multimedia station, and screen protectors
For auction on eBay, expires Feb 23, 2010 @ 18:29:05 PST

Excellent condition. Screen perfect (covered with screen protector as soon as it was taken out of the box). Original box, manuals, and AC charger / USB cable. Box has UPC cut out for original rebate application. Originally purchased in November, 2009. Selling because I am sticking with my Blackberry.

Extras: Motorola Multimedia Station ($34.95 new) and unused screen protector included.

Photos follow: (

San Francisco, CA | link | trackb | no comments » | Feb 9, 2010 22:45:42

Apple iPad, mobile device ruminations

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The Apple iPad, announced today

I just finished following various live blogs of the Apple iPad unveiling event at Yerba Buena (which is almost literally across the street from me). Regardless of your level of Apple fandom, the iPad is a groundbreaking product. There have been quite a few attempts at tablet devices in the past, but no one has ever put so much thought into usability and infrastructure.

I am a mobile device junkie, and have been long juggling Blackberry, iPhone, Droid, Kindle, Mifi and satellite phone in an attempt to find a solution that works best for me. I realize that I am not a typical user; I am always online, but I spend about half of each year out of the country in areas with poor connectivity. This instantly makes any device without an optimized, compressed wireless network nearly useless when I’m in the field (e.g. iPhone, Droid). Even if wireless networks were up to speed, the cost of international use would be outrageous. I took my iPhone to India a couple of years ago and chewed through my 50MB of allocated monthly data in a matter of days. A friend on a trip to Mexico last week went through his 50MB in 7 days — and that was with light usage during the day, plus a WiFi connection at night. So I stick with my Blackberry Tour and its fixed-cost, unlimited international data plan. It is the best of both worlds: Verizon CDMA in San Francisco (the only working network here) and CDMA / GSM / EDGE / 3G when I’m out of the country. Unfortunately, the Tour has a slow processor, which means > 5 minute hard reset times and frequent multi-second lockups, but there are no other options and I remain productive while using it. The trusty little Tour downloads 200 messages in a minute on EDGE while I drift by small Indonesia villages. Meanwhile, the iPhone can barely finish negotiating an IMAP connection, and the Droid is hopeless because it’s on CDMA.

In a protest against AT&T’s crappy network, I sold my iPhone and switched to Droid on Verizon. I like the potential of Android, but I’m finding that I only use the Droid as a fancy video player and alarm clock when I’m on the road. Because I don’t have time to watch TV or movies when I’m at home, most of my reading and video consumption happens from the comfort of tiny cabins on dive vessels. I read books on the Kindle because there is no Kindle app on the Droid and because I only need to charge the thing once a month. The Kindle app is the one thing I miss the most about the iPhone.

I think the iPad will change things, though. Its display is large enough for comfortable book reading and video viewing. It can be held easily while on the airplane and in situations where a notebook computer would be unwieldy. It will have more light-weight apps than one could ever hope for, is compatible with the iPhone apps I already own, and can beautifully display my photography and video portfolio.

I’m thinking that it will replace the iPhone / Android device in my lineup, as well as the Kindle. I’ll finally have one phone, one notebook computer, and an “in-between” device: Blackberry, iPad and MacBook Pro (plus MiFi). Now if I could only coax my Blackberry into creating a WiFi cloud…

San Francisco, CA | link | trackb | 14 comments » | Jan 27, 2010 13:16:13

Neurons not firing this morning

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After sleeping for 3 hours last night, I woke up at 4:45am to get ready for this morning’s flight. I was so well organized, I thought, until I realized that I had forgotten both of my phones! This has never happened before, and I was sort of horrified.

Luckily, Pam has a Blackberry Bold she has graciously agreed to loan me for the weekend. I promptly installed both TwitterBerry and Google Voice, and redirected my Google Voice number to her phone (this required a real browser — their mobile site didn’t offer me the option to add a phone). Hopefully, I’ve pummeled my Google Voice number into my friends’ heads by not being responsive when I’m called on direct lines. I love Google Voice!

// end kool-aid

San Francisco, CA | link | trackb | 5 comments » | Jan 1, 2010 07:29:57

Swype, an alternative keyboard for Droid

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One of my friends turned me on to Swype, an alternative virtual keyboard for mobile devices. Although it is not officially out yet for Android, is has been leaked, and works wonderfully on Motorola’s Droid (get it here).

I just installed it, and Swype makes the virtual keyboard on the Droid actually usable! It is a MUST INSTALL on the Droid, and I would never go back to the other keyboard. I might even prefer Swype to the physical keyboard on the Droid, which is atrocious.

If you are trying to install Swype using Mac OS X, you will probably run into the same problem I had, which is that the downloaded zip archive extracts to folder instead of an apk file. I got around this by copying the zip archive to my Droid’s SD card and using AndroZip to unzip it (and install it). Piece of cake.

San Francisco, CA | link | trackb | 3 comments » | Dec 31, 2009 01:54:09

Finally, I am able to cancel my AT&T account

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I really feel like celebrating! By the way, if you’re unhappy with your AT&T 3G coverage, you can call in to voice your concern. They’ll most likely credit your account to make you happy (I received $30 back in July).

If a company gives you money, it’s because they know they’ve done something wrong.

San Francisco, CA | link | trackb | 3 comments » | Nov 18, 2009 14:43:54

Droid Google / Facebook contact namespace clash

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There are two Eric Chengs in my life. The other is also a Taiwanese classical musician, but he looks quite different and lives in Los Angeles. Our parents even know each other, although we never met in person until both of us had finished university. I call him “Harvard Eric Cheng.”

I noticed today on my new Droid that there was only one entry for Eric Cheng, and that it was a mashup of my data with Harvard Eric Cheng’s data. The contact record had all of our phone numbers and email addresses, plus Harvard Eric Cheng’s Facebook profile image. Editing the record showed distinct identities — one from Gmail contacts (me) and one from Facebook (him), and I was eventually able to separate the two by changing my Gmail contact record’s name to “Eric H Cheng.”

Still, I can’t have another Eric Cheng on my mobile device because it causes too many problems. Ideally, I would be able to exclude Harvard Eric Cheng from Facebook’s Droid sync or intercept his record and rename him on his way to my phone, but I can’t find a way to do that (yet). So until then, I’ve had to de-friend him on Facebook, which seems wrong. I wrote him a message, apologizing, and hope I can connect with him again once this issue is resolved.

Monrovia, CA | link | trackb | 2 comments » | Nov 16, 2009 12:19:00

The switch to Google Voice (and juggling multiple phones)

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I’ve had multiple phone numbers for a long time, and have finally decided to consolidate all of my numbers into a portable Google Voice number. I had previously been a diehard SpinVox user because they transcribe voicemails1, but GV added transcription services (via computer) back in March, making it a viable service for me.

Everything was (and still is) working fine with SpinVox. My two mobile devices and my landline all forward unanswered and busy incoming calls to the same SpinVox account, which transcribes voicemails and emails (or SMSes) them to me. If I needed more information about a particular message, I call in to listen to the voicemail itself. But Spinvox hasn’t changed in years, and Google Voice continues to add features. There is something appealing about the Google Voice method, which involves having a single proxy number that I can direct where appropriate.

I’m signed up for Google Voice a long time ago (when it was still GrandCentral) but am now going to start giving it out as my main number. I’m also disabling SpinVox from my mobile numbers. With GV, I can direct incoming calls to any phone, and voicemails are transcribed and can be played back by a single click or tap on every computing device I own. International rates are reasonable, and calling is seamlessly integrated into the Motorola Droid calling interface.2 The Blackberry also has a GV application, but it is not seamlessly integrated. Calls and SMSes must be initiated from the GV app itself or from Address Book (it doesn’t work from the phone app).

Now I just need to figure out a way to forward my landline voicemail over to GV. At the moment, it does not seem to be supported, so I’ll continue to use SpinVox for landline voicemail.

  1. Spinvox is normally quite expensive but is extremely accurate because they use a human transcription farm. I have a free account because I was a beta tester a long time ago. 

  2. I use the Toggle Google Voice app for one-tap toggling between using GV for all calls, no calls, or being prompted for a choice with each call / SMS. 

Monrovia, CA | link | trackb | 1 comment » | Nov 15, 2009 15:37:32
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