Windows Mobile 6.5 - Follow-Up

A couple of weeks ago I posted an article criticizing Microsoft for the lack of innovation in Windows Mobile 6.5.  Engadget has had a flurry of articles on the topic over the past month, and there is an interesting trend in the comments.  Most commenters are getting into heated fanboi arguments over which is better: iPhone, WM6.5, WebOS, etc.  To me this argument misses the point of the chief criticism towards Microsoft and the Windows Mobile 6.5 offering.  The point is not to compare WM6.5 with iPhone and others, but instead to compare WM6.5 with WM6.1 and previous versions.  Microsoft has stated that WM6.5 will probably not be available until the end of the year, and at that time will only be available on new phones.  So the question is, is WM6.5 enough of an improvement over WM6.1 to purchase a new phone?

It is clear to me the answer is no.  There simply isn't enough new here to warrant upgrading a phone to get the new OS, especially when considering the high cost of smart phones with or without contract.  Microsoft really needs to do something to breath new life into Windows Mobile if they want consumers to upgrade to a new phone to get the OS.

Is the OS Relevant Anymore?

I just read a post from @absenth referencing an article in Linux Journal about the relevancy of the OS.  The crux of the article is that, due to the transition to Cloud Computing and Software as a Service, the host OS is becoming less important.  Users are less concerned over the version of Windows or MacOS that the system is running, and more concerned with finding a good web browser and an office suite.  This trend is most visible in the netbook arena where most offerings include a stripped down version of Linux at a reduced price.  

So is the OS relevant?  If you were presented with a new laptop, and you had your choice of running Windows, MacOS, or Linux, would you have a preference?  How much would you pay for your preference?  I don't have any hard evidence, but I suspect that the average person would pick Windows if price were not a factor.  That would be my choice.  It would also be my choice when choosing an OS for a family member or non-technical friend.  I know my family members are familiar with Windows, and familiarity means fewer calls to me for tech support. That's worth at least $30-$60 from me.  On the other hand, I would choose the Linux variant for myself if it meant saving $100.  

I like the trend towards cloud computing, and I think it can only mean good things for consumers as the OS and hardware become less important.

Experiment: Pico-ITX as Hulu Client

I tried a little experiment tonight.  I wanted to see if my Artigo Pico-ITX machine could act as a Hulu client.  I cleared off the machine and installed Ubuntu 8.10.  After installing the flash plug-in for Firefox I pulled up Hulu and loaded a 30 second clip from Family Guy.  The audio was perfect, but the video was very choppy.  I checked the resource monitor and the CPU was just getting hammered.  I guess I'm a little disappointed that even with a 1GHz processor and 1GB of memory, this little machine can't display streaming video.  YouTube suffers from the same stutter.  This is unfortunate, as I had hoped to connect this box to my HDTV as a quick and dirty web video streamer.  

Windows Mobile 6.5

The Mobile World Congress (MWC) is underway, and all your favorite cell phone makers are there pitching the future of their products.  Microsoft is at the event in a big way to introduce Windows Mobile 6.5.  This facelift to WinMo 6.1 is hyped as the new, touch friendly version of the interface.

I'm not very excited about this update.  I think MS is right to call this a 6.5 rather than a 7.0.  There just isn't enough there.  And to make matters worse, it doesn't achieve the goal of making the interface a one-handed touch only affair.  

When I first purchased my PDA, it was running Windows Mobile 2003 SE.  I used the WM 5.0 upgrade when it was available, and recently upgraded to WM 6.1.  So what has changed in the Windows Mobile experience in the last 6 years?  Very little, to be quite honest.  If you have an old Windows Mobile PDA collecting dust in a drawer somewhere you could pick up the WinMo 6.5 devices on display and feel right at home.  The only significant change that I have noticed is that I am not required to soft reset my device on a daily or weekly basis anymore.  Taking six years to simply get the device to work is a sorry excuse for progress.  It is time for Microsoft to really rethink how to approach the mobile market.  If not, Apple, Nokia, Palm, and others are going to bury them with the smart innovations they are putting into their latest phones.

Flower on PS3

Last week the highly anticipated game Flower was released for PS3 via PSN.  I had heard a lot of hype around this game.  Rather than a high intensity kill fest, it was supposed to be a very relaxing experience more than a game.  I liked the idea, and for only $10 was ready to give it a try.  After getting the software loaded I jumped right in.  The idea is that you control a gust of wind.  Tilting the six-axis controller determines the direction the wind will blow, and holding a button will cause the wind to build up speed.  You guide the gust of wind into flowers.  Each time you connect with a flower, the flower blooms and adds a petal to the trail of the wind gust.  Bloom enough flowers and a section of the map comes alive with color.  As advertised, it is a very relaxing experience.  It is a game to the extent that there are loose objectives, a start, and an end, but really it is more something to do for the simple pleasure of the experience, like doodling or hanging your hand out of the car window.  If you have a spare ten-spot, and an open mind, I definitely recommend downloading this software.

I also watched a video published by the games creators.  In the video they describe Flower as a new experience in gaming, a video game poem, and something that will elicit an emotional response.  I can agree with the first two items, but I draw the line at the third.  Flower is definitely more experience type play than gaming play, and I can see the parallels with poetry.  I'm not buying the emo BS though.  When I think of emotional response, I think happy, sad, angry, etc.  I get none of those from "experiencing" this "poem".  The emo bit is just new age nonsense to my ears.  Fortunately, it doesn't detract from the experience.  

Friday the 13th Strikes!

I've gotten into the habit of donating blood to the Indiana Blood Center every two months when the blood mobile comes around.  Today was no exception, but it was also Friday the 13th.  My morning schedule was busy, but it looked liked I could fit everything in:

  • 8:00am Brief introduction to potential employer
  • 8:30am Donate blood 
  • 10:30am On-Site interview
Fate had other ideas.  After my morning intro, I asked around to see if the bloodmobile was ready.  It wasn't.  Apparently, the bloodmobile from Kokomo had broken down, so another one was coming in from downtown Indy.  When it arrived (just a few minutes after 8:30) I asked if they were ready, and they asked for 20 minutes for the everyone to arrive and get settled.  No problem, I though, donating only takes a few minutes and I'll still have plenty of time to get to my interview.  My office is on the Northeast side of Indy, and my interview was on the Northwest side, so I figured 30 minutes would be a good buffer for travel.    At 9:00 I stopped in again at the bloodmobile.  I finished up my paperwork, and then the technician came in to do the finger prick, temperature, and blood pressure.  Oops, no blood pressure cuff.  Whoever packed up the second bloodmobile apparently put the wrong case of equipment in, and it was missing a blood pressure cuff.  So someone drove off to pick one up while I waited.  Twenty minutes round trip they said, still plenty of time to donate.  So I'm having a snack with the crew at around 9:20 when they realize that all of the thermometer strips are expired.  This invalidates the temperature I had given, and they have to call the person fetching the blood pressure cuff to turn around and get thermometer strips as well.  Guessing that it would be another 20 minutes before they were back and I could even start to donate, I had no choice but to leave.

I feel kind of bad, as I think donating blood is an important thing to do.  Unfortunately, Friday the 13th worked some magic against me and the bloodmobile today, and it just didn't happen.

Lending and Home Sales

Is this the right offer for the times?  On the one hand, it is a great idea to offer a potential home buyer the peace of mind that, should you lose your job, your mortgage will be one less worry.  Wait a minute though....isn't risky lending one of the components that got us into this economic mess to begin with?  Exactly what kind of buyer is this ad going to attract?  If it attracts responsible buyers purchasing within their affordable range who are uncertain about buying, then great.  Getting responsible buyers to make responsible purchases is the goal of all of the economic stimulus we'ver heard about recently.  If, however, it attracts irresponsible buyers who KNOW their job is in danger, or encourages those with uncertain employment to get a bigger loan, it is a terrible idea.  This same sort of offer is found in not just home buying, but in nearly all areas of major purchases.  Hyundai recently ran television ads with a very similar message.  

I'm all for doing what it takes to get responsible people spending, but I hope that the lenders tied to these deals are donig a better job of screening applicants before giving a loan.  

Google Sync

After I gave up my BlackBerry, I switched back to using my Dell Axim PDA. I'm very happy with it, and I'm having great luck with Windows Mobile 6.1 One thing that I have struggled with is to find a way to synchronize my mobile calendar, contacts, and e-mail with my Google calendar, contacts, and e-mail. Actually, I should not include e-mail, as that was always easy to do. You can synchronize either via POP or IMAP, whichever you prefer.

So next up was calendar synchronization. My goal was to find a solution that would synchronize my work calendar with my google calendar, and both my Google and work calendars onto my PDA. The first app I tried for this was Google Calendar Sync for Mobile Devices (GCSfMD). This is an application that runs on a Windows Mobile 5.0 or later device and synchronizes the calendar data on the PDA with the Google Calendar. The advantage here is that my work calendar would sync to my device, and then GCSfMD would modify the calendar to also include my Google Calendar appointments. Unfortunately GCSfMD is a one way sync. If I change an appointment on my Google Calendar my device is updated, but if I change an appointment on my device, the Google Calendar is unaltered. So my next attempt was to use Google Calendar Sync. Although the two have very similar names, they behave in very different ways. Google Calendar Sync synchronizes your Outlook calendar directly with your Google Calendar. It is a two-way sync, so if you update either your Outlook Calendar or your Google Calendar, the updates are synchronized between both. This is a great app, and I have gotten great use out of it the last few weeks.

This left contact synchronization. There simply is no good solution for synchronizing Outlook Contacts and Google Contacts. Likewise, the only application that I found that will synchronize my mobile contacts with Google Contacts is OggSync.

Fortunately, today Google released Google Sync. Google Sync works with Windows Mobile and iPhone devices to synchronize both the Calendar and Contacts with your Google data. Best of all, it required no installation on my PDA! I simply modified my ActiveSync setup to point to the Google Mobile server, and everything synced up perfectly.

A couple of questions you might have:

  • Why not just use the device web browser to check the Google sites directly?
That would be perfectly acceptable...if my device were a phone. It isn't, and I don't want to pay the extraordinary rates carriers are asking for all you can eat data service. By synchronizing my device, the data is available offline. So even if I'm in the car I still have access to all my calendar, contact, and e-mail data.
  • How do you merge the data?
I still need Google Calendar Sync. Google Sync will sync your device data with your Google data, but it will not merge with your Outlook data. I still use Google Calendar Sync to merge my Google Calendar with my Outlook calendar. There is still no solution for merging my contact data, but I'm okay with this because I can live with only having my personal contacts on my device.
  • Can I sync my device with both Google and Outlook?
At this time, no. Windows Mobile and iPhone both restrict you to a single synchronization source. You'll need to decide how you want to approach it. For me, I've chosen to make Google my primary data provider, and I sync all of the other data with Google. You may prefer to sync with your Outlook data, in which case you will need to find alternative applications to sync up.

In an ideal world, my device would sync and store all of my various calendars, contacts, e-mail, and data from as many sources as I wanted. Until then, the combination of Google Sync and Google Calendar Sync will fill the void.

Resume Writing

Over the years I've had the opportunity to review hundreds of resumes.  In doing so I've found that there are certain things I scan for in a resume.  If I scan and find what I'm looking for quickly, you'll get a phone interview.  If it isn't there, or I don't find it on a quick scan, you might be out of luck.  

So here are some of the things I look for in a resume:

Your Name - In a large, bold font at the top of the page.  If I met you at a recruiting event and I somehow managed to remember your name, being able to flip through the stack and find you is going to be to your advantage.  Too often I see resumes where the name is lost somewhere in the page, and I have to go hunting it down.

Contact Information - Give me at least your current e-mail address and phone number where I can reach you.  In this age, mailing address isn't that important, but it doesn't hurt.  It should be near the top by your name.

Objective - A one line meaningful objective.  What are you looking to do?  Do you hope to climb the corporate ladder?  Happiest writing code all day?  Part time, full time, or intern?  Like dealing with customers?  Let me know so we don't waste each other's time.

Categorized Skillset - This should be a bulleted list of your major skills that you feel comfortable using.  This is what I'm scanning for to see if I will read the rest of your resume, and if you'll get a phone interview.  Do not pad this section with skills you no longer use, or would not feel comfortable being tasked with.

Job History - The job history is both a blessing and a curse, and it is where I see most applicants struggle to find the right way to discuss what they have done.  My pet peeve is to get a resume that reads like a personal diary.  I have had folks submit 17 page resumes.  I simply don't have time for that.  Be concise.  Three pages or less.  Backup the skills you bulleted earlier.  Tell me when you used your skill, and in what way.

Education - The education section is not a deal breaker for me.  If I've found the skill I'm looking for, and you have work experience to back it up, then you can leave it out.  If you are switching careers and have no job history with a skill, include your education as an alternative reference.

Last year I spent some time making campus visits and collecting resumes from students.  Here are some things to avoid with your resume:

Paper - Students spend an inordinate amount of cash on having Kinkos print their resume on the finest paper stock they have.  Kinkos loves it, especially at 75 cents a copy.  The truth is, as soon as I get your resume back to my office it hits the scanner, and your original hits the recycling bin.  You'll need lots of copies, so use whatever cheap paper stock is available.

Fonts - I don't know why folks feel an intense need to use fancy, script fonts.  They are hard to read, and that isn't helping you.  Don't stress on the font, just use the default for your word processor and forget about it.  

Clubs - I've heard recruiters recommend including your professional and non-professional memberships on your resume.  Frankly, I don't understand why.  Your membership to IEEE or the local Kiwanis doesn't tell me anything about your aptitude for my open position.  Save it for the face to face interview.

That is all that comes to mind at the moment.  I spent this past weekend brushing up my own resume, so all of these things were fresh in my mind.  If you have any additional tips or pet peeves for resumes, I'd love to see them in the comments.

Jade Mason