First, if you already have a Google account (like a GMail address), you will want to log out of by clicking on your name or icon up in the upper right corner of any Google app, and then click the “Sign Out” button:
I decided I’d walk through creating a new app to replace one I’ve used for years on my iPhone that no longer appears to be maintained. The app in question is called GasBag which as near as I can tell stopped being updated in 2009 (see: http://blog.jam-code.com/).
At a high level, what I want is an app that easily captures my mileage, and allows me to save that information somewhere that won’t get destroyed. There are a number of features that GasBag had that I liked (for instance being able to send an email with my mileage information), and a number that it doesn’t have that would be nice (like allowing me to use it for multiple cars, or to do some data capture from a gas station receipt).
To do this, you need to add a new Exchange service on the device. There’s a nice step by step of this at http://support.google.com/a/users/bin/answer.py?hl=en&answer=138740
Alternatively, you can use the standard GMail settings, on the iPhone, but my favorite approach is to actually use the GMail app from Google in the App Store. The reason I like that app over the standard iOS mail app is that it is much more of a true mobile client that takes advantage of the platform.
First get the App from https://itunes.apple.com/us/app/gmail-email-from-google/id422689480?mt=8
You can do this either from your iPhone/iPad directly, or using the iTunes store on your Mac/PC.
Once you have the app installed, you need to set up your GMail accounts. Either tap “open” from the App Store page about GMail, or find the GMail icon and launch it.
On launch the app will prompt you to log into your account. For a Google Apps account, this will be the email your administrator assigned you like firstname.lastname@example.org, and the password that you’ve set up previously by going to http://gmail.com.
Launching the App the first time takes you to the login page, where you can type in your email address and password. Note that this is the same whether you are logging in to a GMail account or a Google Apps account, to Google they are just different users as far as mail goes.
Once you log in, you will be shown the inbox for that account, and be able to read your email pretty easily. To navigate the folders (like sent, draft, etc), you tap on the little icon in the upper left corner that looks like a box with stacked bars.
This will cause the folders and settings pane to slide out from the left and reveal your email structure so that you can choose. Clicking on a particular folder will display that list in the same fashion as you saw with the inbox.
Additionally from this screen, you can add other email accounts by tapping on the profile area at the top of the pane, which slides the list of accounts down and changes the direction of the panel indicator at the top of the pane.
If you’ve already done this, you will see the list of accounts, and each one will be badged with the number of unread messages. Adding a new account is as simple as tapping the large plus icon and logging in. Tapping on a profile picture will switch you to that account once you are logged in.
Once you log into the new account, you will again see the loading page, this time with the image from the new account’s name and profile image
The next time that you go to the account selection page, you’ll see a list of accounts with the icon for each badged with the number of unread messages showing so that you can easily see what needs your attention at the moment.
Google apps on the iPhone are a mixed bag, with some being native, and others not, so it’s also a good idea to set up the Apple “Mail, Contacts, Calendars” for synchronization of those things (which can use the Exchange push in the same way as an actual Exchange server).
The best way to do this is to follow the instructions at http://support.google.com/a/users/bin/answer.py?hl=en&answer=138740
First go to your settings (normally you can find this by clicking the home button on and looking for the gear icon that says “Settings”.
If you’ve previously added accounts, the “Add Account …” will appear below the existing account settings list (in my case I actually have to scroll in order to get to this button.
Tap on the add account button and you’ll be presented with the choice of types of account that you want to use. You can use GMail here, but I prefer to use Exchange simply because it pushes the information to the phone asynchronously
Once you tap on the Exchange button, you’ll get a new page that prompts you for the authentication information. This uses Microsoft’s autodiscover method to figure out how the account should be configured.
Type in the user name and password for your account here, and give it a description. Typically I use the name of the company that has the domain that I’m adding (for example PMI-SFBAC for my pmi-sfbac.org address).
Then click the “Next” button which should bring up the Domain screen. The only thing you need to make sure of is that the server ends up being m.google.com, and that you still have the right username and password. To continue, tap “Next”.
The final step is to choose what you want to be pushed to your phone. Generally the important ones are the contacts and calendars, since those are business related.
It really doesn’t hurt to have Mail turned on as well, since that keeps your inbox in the iOS Mail app up to date, but if you’re worried about your data plan, just set up the contacts and calendars, since that is the part that the GMail app won’t really be as helpful with.
Tonight’s the night we make history …
This last weekend, a group of us from the San Francisco Bay Area Chapter of PMI were set to attend the PMI – 2011 Region 7 Leadership Summit in Reno. We made it to Reno and back in record time (although not in the direction one usually associates with breaking records).
It was a classic example of project management at it’s finest: we made plans, with allowances for expected risks, and the world accommodated our plans by giving us additional challenges along the way.
We had decided to try and save the chapter some money by carpooling over the mountain to Reno from the Bay Area. Knowing that there is always the possibility of snow this time of year, we made sure to rent an SUV with 4WD, and made allowances for extra time in case there was snow. I’d driven in that area in the snow quite a few times, and a couple of others in the car were OK with driving through the snow as well.
No surprise, a big storm blew in the Friday we were due to travel. There was a mixer that we were due to attend Friday evening at 7pm, so we left in the morning leaving around 10am for an anticipated 6 hour drive.
Once we got to the mountains, the snow started coming down. It wasn’t too bad and it was looking like we had left early enough to miss any problem in getting over the pass. We stopped at Ikedas market in Auburn to enjoy a nice lunch, and were on our way into the snow around noon.
The first thing I noticed as we started through the snow was that there was a low pressure notification for our right rear tire. I was hoping that it was just the cold weather (I’ve seen those sensors go off when the temperature goes down). We adjusted the plan to stop at the next gas station and check the tire pressure.
We got to about Colfax, when the traffic slowed to a crawl. This wasn’t too worrisome, as we expected it to take a few hours to get over the hill. We were still doing OK until we saw the CHP officers waving us off at the next exit and telling us to go back westward because the highway was closed.
Once again, we talked about options and decided to head back down to Auburn and wait for the highway to open in comfort. This also would give us a chance to check the tire pressure.
We drove back down to the first gas station we saw, only to find that the tire was pretty much flat. We pumped it up as much as we could, and headed out to find someplace to get the tire repaired. A helpful chain installer pointed us down the road to a tire store where we got the tire repaired.
Back down the hill, we stopped at a Peet’s inside a really nice Raley’s market to wait out the closure and discuss options. I called my brother-in-law Myles, who works in the area to see if there might be a good alternate route with the snow coming down. His advice was to not to take an alternate route a local had suggested (he drives up there all the time, and if he wouldn’t drive it, I didn’t figure it was a good idea for me to try).
We looked at the DOT site to see whether there were any estimates on when the road would reopen, and asked others who were on the road what they knew. Eventually we heard that there had been a 40+ car pile up with at least one fatality and 20 or so injured. There had been at least two big rigs involved, so it was going to take some time to clear.
We started checking on places to stay in case it started getting too late for us to make it that night. By five or six, we’d pretty much decided it wasn’t going to open that night, and Ray Ju (our current chapter president) had spoken to his nephew who had volunteered to put us up in Roseville. The plan was adjusted again, and our new goal was to get to the conference in time to support our fellow members who were there presenting.
After arriving at Mike and Linda’s house, we got directions to a Japanese buffet called Mizu. Once again we found ourselves adjusting plans as we somehow missed the restaurant and ended up in downtown Roseville. I pulled out my iPhone and got us to where the restaurant was supposed to be, only to find it had been renamed.
By this time we’d realized that the team could respond to just about anything, and rolled with the changes. We had a great meal, returned to Mike and Linda’s and decided to roll out of the house by 5am the next morning so we could try and make Sharawn’s presentation.
Getting up early with a good night’s sleep, we sojourned forward over the pass. The snow started up just above where we’d been turned around the night before, and just kept getting heavier as we climbed. After fighting with ice fighting on the windshield (which we fought by turning the defrost up to 80°) the snow started slowing down as we approached the summit.
We arrived at the hotel at around 8am and were greeted by Alan Yue (the incoming chapter president), checked in and met our goal of being there in time to check-in, shower and support Sharawn in her efforts.
We had a great conference and watched the weather nervously for our expected trip home Sunday afternoon. The weather was supposed to be getting worse, and as time went on, it looked more and more like the pass was going to close again. By 10 or 11am, it was clear that the pass had been closed, and there wasn’t much chance that they’d be reopening before Tuesday.
The trip home was planned with the best expert advice possible: Victor our new best friend from CalTrans, Google Maps, and some vague experiential knowledge from Rob. The word on the street was that the only remaining open pass would take at least 14 hours to get home at best (since everybody would be driving on that two lane road at 10 mph or so).
So we put on our PM hats again, huddled, considered options (including staying a day or two longer in Reno), and came up with a new plan. The lowest risk approach it appeared was to drive far south, avoiding the passes, and completely skirting the mountains. Our preliminary estimate put that drive at 10 hours or so, which was better than any of the alternatives we considered, and also would theoretically get Myles Lawless (chapter’s PMO Director) home in time to make it to his new client location the next morning.
Well of course it wouldn’t be historic if there weren’t more challenges. Driving south took much longer than what we’d anticipated, and then just as we had realigned our expectations on the arrival time, we ran into (luckily not literally) another snow storm outside Bakersfield.
We did what project managers always do, plan as well as we can with the information available, decide on a course of action, and adjust as we go along. It was a great bonding event for all of us, and will make the year ahead even more fun as we already have a really long journey with a shared vision behind us.
I’ve made a slight change to the way I’m doing meeting minutes for standing meetings that I find helpful.
I am using a feature of OneNote that allows me to check off attendees a bit more easily.
It’s a bit of setup in the beginning, but it really works nicely once you have it done the first time.
Step 1: launch your meeting notes as usual from Outlook (by clicking the OneNote button on the ribbon). If you’ve installed the meeting template you’ll see something like:
Step 2: Now, because we haven’t figured out how to make the fields all flow into the right place in the template, a lot of the meeting information is actually way down at the bottom of the template. So scroll down until you see the meeting information (normally I just delete that). In this example, no attendees show up (I think because it’s not my meeting):
Step 3: Insert the meeting details by choosing “Insert Outlook Meeting Details” from the menu (Do this near the existing text in the notes so that you don’t have to scroll as much):
Step 4: Choose the meeting you want the information for from the list:
Step 5: Now you have a copy of the information for the meeting, including the attendee list (in the order it is in the invite):
Step 6: Copy the list of attendees to the Attendees section of the notes:
Step 7: Highlight the names and choose the “To do” tag from the tags list on the ribbon bar (or hit ctrl-1):
Step 8: Reformat the attendee list in whatever way makes the most sense to you (for long lists I typically split it into multiple columns):
Step 9: use this as the template for your roll call, click the check box for anybody who is in attendance, uncheck if they’re not. If your attendee list doesn’t change much, you can just copy the notes from a prior meeting and go forward with that.
It’s also easier for people receiving the notes to see who was actually there.
I recently switched from DSL (which I’d had since it first was invented) to Comcast Cable for my Internet connection (and TV and phone). By doing so I saved about a hundred bucks a month over AT&T and DirecTV. Of course as soon as I switched, AT&T started calling me with a bundle that was roughly the same price, but that’s a different story.
One of the things that happened a while back was that Plaxo was bought by Comcast. I have always been a premium Plaxo user, feeling that I wanted to support them since I find the product so incredibly useful. What I learned was that if you are a Comcast subscriber, you are automatically a Plaxo premium user.
Now, being a premium subscriber used to only mean you got VIP support and access to a couple of tools (like the address and calendar deduplication tool). But now Plaxo has announced that the Outlook synch is a premium member only tool. While I worry that this decreases the value of the service (since there will be fewer reasons for people to sign up, therefore fewer members, and decreasing the number of automatic updates I get), what is interesting is that every Comcast subscriber gets access to these premium services.
To activate this, first you have to make sure that you are signed up for Plaxo through your Comcast email account. First, log in to your Comcast email by going to http://www.comcast.net and clicking on the Email link in the “My Comcast” portlet:
If you’re logged in already it will go straight to your email, otherwise you’ll get the login screen, where you need to log in:
Log in with your Comcast email address. This will be something like your last name and street address unless you’ve changed it. Once you have logged in, you’ll be at the Comcast email screen, which uses the Zimbra email client. From the tabs, you’ll want to choose the address book:
The first time you go to the address book, you’ll be asked to build your address book:
If you click on the “build your address book”, you’ll go to an initial Plaxo setup screen. Since they already have some of your information (name and email), they don’t have to ask you for anything but where you want to populate your address book from:
So now it gets interesting. If you click on Plaxo, you can link an existing Plaxo account to your Comcast email. If you were already a Plaxo user, this will get your current address book and calendar.
If you’re not already a Plaxo subscriber, you can choose one of the other options to build your address book by logging you in and pulling the address book from there:
Note that the GMail synch only works for accounts ending in “gmail.com“, and not GMail accounts that are using Google Apps. I suspect that Yahoo accounts would also be restricted to “yahoo.com“, but I don’t know that for sure.
There’s a shortcut to signup to Plaxo immediately by simply going to http://www.plaxo.com/ftue/activateComcast, clicking the Activate button will get you set up:
This one does require you to fill in your name and basic information (or link to your existing Plaxo account by following the link at the bottom right). Either way, once you have the account linked, you are signed up and active as a premium member. Now not only can you set up synch points, but you can also install the Outlook synch tool on any computer you use.
Along the way the steps will ask you to update your address book, and if you want to invite your friends. I always skip that step, since I send my friends enough email already.
At the end, you can validate that you’re a premium member by clicking on “Settings” at the top right of the screen, and then choosing “Premium” from the list at the left:
This shows my account has premium status.
If you use Outlook, there’s a few more steps to get fully set up with the Outlook synch tool. There are multiple ways to get there, but ultimately you want to download the sync tool from http://www.plaxo.com/people/tools?src=tools
Note that you have access to all of these tools, some of which are very cool (like being able to roll back your address book). If you aren’t a Plaxo premium subscriber, you can download and install the tool, but you won’t be able to use it, since the synch verifies the account status when you run it for the first time.
Plaxo has a nice walkthrough of the install process here: http://www.plaxo.com/downloads/outlook?src=pulse_tools_outlook〈=en, so I won’t duplicate that. One thing that I did learn the last time I did this for somebody is that you have to install it with an account that has admin priviledges. The install won’t fail, but you just won’t get the Plaxo tool bar in Outlook.
Once the install completes, and you start Outlook up, it will walk you through a wizard that will sync your Outlook and Plaxo address books. From then on, you should see the Plaxo tool bar at the top of your Outlook screen:
There are lots of other neat things about Plaxo, not the least of which is that you can synch between multiple machines. There’s a version of Plaxo for the Mac, and it seems to do a fair job of interacting with the built-in Mac synch tools (including MobileMe).
I’d definitely recommend you take advantage of this “free” service if you are a Comcast internet subscriber.
This weekend, AT&T finally fixed my visual voice mail. I still don’t know what they did to fix it, but I’m pretty sure it’s related to a hack that I’ve been reading about which lets the phone do tethering.
Now I didn’t try this hack on my newly replaced phone, but when I asked the AT&T people about it, they said they were working on a fix on their side for a wider problem (meaning I wasn’t the only one who had gone without visual voice mail for some time).
I’m hopeful that this problem won’t recur, but I wonder if perhaps it was caused by AT&T trying to block the tethering hack. Now my phone is happy again, and I’m no longer missing calls (at least as far as I can tell).
A couple of weeks ago, I notice that my iPhone was not receiving voice mails, and I seemed to be missing calls on occasion. In fact, I hadn’t received a voice mail since around the time I upgraded to the 3.0 firmware.
Since I use this as my primary business phone, I was a bit concerned.
I had been seeing occasional error messages about being unable to connect to the network like:
So of course I called AT&T to find out what could be wrong. The first time I called, I followed the path that took me to an Apple representative, and they had me reset the network settings (From the Settings icon, General/reset/reset network settings). After doing that, all of my voice mail from the prior month flowed through into my visual voice mail box.
In the next few days, I was told by a couple people that they had tried to call me, and I again didn’t see any voice mail. I also started seeing the odd network errors again, sometimes in my email or browser:
So I called 611 again, and this time I talked to the AT&T people. They walked me through resetting the network settings, recreated my voice mail box, and a number of other things. At one point, I even got the screen that asked me to setup my voice mail. But still I wasn’t getting the new voice mail messages appearing in my inbox. Finally after bouncing back over to the Apple guys, we made an appointment at the Apple store so I could have the phone checked out.
Somewhere along the line, the visual voice mail simply stopped working. Now when I hit the voicemail icon, I wouldn’t see the list of voice mails, but instead the phone would dial my voice mail:
No matter what we tried, we couldn’t seem to get the visual voice mail to come back. We even tried restoring it as a new phone without any luck. The support people thought that perhaps this was a result of the phone hardware failure, and maybe the Apple Genius could find a fix for it.
So I waited and went to my appointment at the Apple Store Genius bar. They ran some diagnostics, asked a few questions, and determined the phone did need to be replaced. They didn’t have one in stock, so they ordered one, and told me that they’d call when it was ready.
A couple of days later, I went to the store, and they activated my new phone. Naturally the first thing I tried was going to visual voice mail, and what did I see ?
So back home, more hours on the phone with both Apple and AT&T, now I have a case open with the AT&T network group.
To be continued ….
…Or how to brick your phone with an upgrade, and recover…
I became very excited by the email that I got saying that submissions to the Apple store have to be compatible with iPhone OS 3.0, which to me means it won’t be long before this is a production OS. With that in mind, I strapped on my crazy cap and decided to upgrade my phone to beta 5.
After downloading the firmware and software for the new beta, I began the upgrade. According to the instructions, you needed the new beta of iTunes to do the upgrade, so that was the first thing that I installed.
Once that was ready, I followed the process that has become familiar to me for upgrading the phone:
- Launch iTunes
- Dock the phone
- Right click on the phone and choose backup
- After the backup click the “Restore” button while holding the option (alt) key.
- Browse for the new firmware and watch things roll.
As it turns out, the mistake I made at that point was clicking the “Restore” button, later I learned that beta 5 won’t install unless you click “Check for Update” while holding the option key.
The first thing I noticed was that there was an odd cartoon that flashed up on the screen with a pink background. I figured it was some developer’s Easter egg, so I didn’t worry too much. After the usual series of minutes of resetting the phone and iTunes validating the software, the upgrade told me it was done, and I waited for the final reboot. This is typically the point at which the phone reboots, and iTunes detects it and activates.
Instead I ended up with an endless wait, as the phone never rebooted. So I went through the usual tricks to get it to come back to life. Eventually it worked, and I got a pink screen that showed the graphic you see with a new phone.
I plugged it in again, only to find that it wasn’t recognizing the phone (which after several tries led me to believe that the upgrade was not complete). Not only was the phone stuck, but I couldn’t seem to get it back into DFU to restore the software.
At this point it occurred to me that perhaps there was something nefarious going on: my phone had been jailbroken prior to the upgrade, so perhaps that was the issue. Luckily for me, I had my wife’s phone to play with, and it hadn’t been jailbroken, so I decided to try and upgrade it.
Unfortunately, that didn’t work, so now I had two phones that were basically useless. Digging around the web, I found some references to problems that people had with updating to beta 4, and a workaround for the pink screen problem. The workaround talked about the problem being related to a change in the USB drivers for OS X 10.5.6 that made getting a phone into DFU mode difficult, so I thought it was worth a try (see: http://gizmodo.com/5166029/how-to-install-unofficial-apps-on-your-iphone-3g-or-ipod-touch-easily-and-safely) .
After downgrading the USB drivers on my Mac, I was able to get it into DFU mode, and restore the 2.2.1 version of the firmware. Inspired by this, I tried upgrading my wife’s phone on a PC (figuring the problem was something in the USB drivers). Sure enough, her phone loaded the 3.0 software just fine.
So, once again, I tried upgrading my phone, and couldn’t get it to go. I tried it on the Mac, then on the PC, same results both times. For some reason it wouldn’t work. I could downgrade to 2.2.1, but not upgrade to 3.0.
More digging on the internet, and I found a posting on the iPhone developer forums that talked about installing beta 4 then upgrading to beta 5 if you have an old silver back phone (both of mine are the metal backed pre-3g phones). I figured it was worth a shot, so I downloaded a copy of the beta 4, and ran the upgrade. Eureka! The beta 4 firmware upgrade worked !
At this point it had been a few days since I had my phone working, so I took a breath and decided to run with beta 4 for a while. I kept scouring the web and watching the discussion on the beta 5 upgrade problems to see what people were doing to get it to work.
In the mean time, I ran into an interesting (and scary) side effect of the USB driver downgrade. I forgot to upgrade the drivers after my successful downgrade of the firmware, not thinking that those drivers were actually for a different version of the OS. Whenever I plugged a USB stick into my machine, it would go into panic mode and shut down. I thought my hard drive was dying until I realized it only happened when I plugged in a USB stick, and remembered the driver downgrade. Upgrading to the current drivers fixed that issue.
Finally, I saw a post that talked about clicking the “Check for Upgrade” button while holding the option key instead of the “Restore” button. I decided to try this, and was amazed when it worked. So apparently, all along the secret was to use the upgrade button instead of the restore button. There’s some evidence that the reason this fails is because of part of the upgrade to the firmware, so it makes sense that there may be a difference in the way that iTunes processes an upgrade as compared to a restore.
At any rate, my current thinking of the process is as follows:
- Download the firmware and iTunes beta
- Install the iTunes beta
- Dock the phone
- Do a backup of the phone
- Option click the “Check for Update” button
- Choose the beta firmware IPSW file you downloaded
- Be happy if it works.
- If it doesn’t work, follow the link above to downgrade the USB drivers.
- Go through a normal restore (should put you back to 2.2.x)
- Repeat steps 5-7
Hopefully Apple will have this all figured out with the next release (and especially before the production update). As near as I can tell, this only affects the older phones, and doesn’t happen with the 3g iPhone.
I’ve been pretty happy with this iPhone OS, it seems to be quicker and more stable than the 2.2.1 was – still looking forward to the actual release.
Recently I downloaded the iPhone beta 3.0 firmware upgrade and decided (without thinking it through) to update my phone to use the new version. In hindsight, Apple makes it pretty clear this is a bad idea, and warns you that you won’t be able to revert to a prior version of the software:
But warnings were meant to be ignored, so I blithely went ahead and updated with the new firmware. Immediately after doing so, I had a d’oh moment when I realized I better not have my business phone running on beta software, so I wanted to revert.
Well, this turned out not to be so easy, as soon as I tried to reload the prior version of software, I got to a place where the firmware restore would simply stall, and eventually fail.
I tried every version of firmware on my machine, including the beta, and my phone simply couldn’t be reloaded.
Just when I thought I was going to have to give up and take the phone to the Apple store, I remembered that jail breaking your phone involves a process of putting your phone into DFU mode (allegedly stands for Device Firmware Update, but I think it stands for Dumb Frantic User). In essence this does a hard reset of the phone and puts it back to a factory clean state.
Once I fired up PwnageTool, and ran through the process of jail breaking my phone (mostly because it has a step that helps you through the steps of getting your phone into DFU mode), the restore of the firmware worked again, and I was able to restore to the current 2.2.1 version of the firmware without any problems.