Thursday, April 22

A funny thing happened on the way to living the rest of my life.

A Facebook friend of mine who happens to be the daughter of some close friends got me to thinking. She's almost 18, you see, and she's a senior in high school. The last two weeks of school are killing her. She wants to be on to the Next Thing so badly, she almost can't stand it.

Wow. I remember that. I'm going to be 50 years old this year, and I can still remember that feeling as if it was yesterday. Your breath gets a little short, your stomach has this really weird combination of feeling hungry and nauseous at the same time, your skin feels a little bit itchy, and you have to go to the bathroom. Yep, that's it. Nervous anticipation with a super sized side order of impatience.

Some time ago, probably when we moved in to our current house (let's see, that'd be almost 14 years ago), I found a box that contained some notes people had written to me back when I was in college. I don't think I intentionally kept them, and I certainly didn't keep all of them, so whether by ranked importance or random chance, I had a small number of notes that represented about two years in real time.

Almost every single note was from a friend encouraging me to get some rest, and saying how they hoped I get to relax soon. I kid you not, I had to sit down when I read that. I was flat out stunned. You see, from where I am now, I remember college as a time of playing guitar for an entire day, going somewhere just because we felt like it, hanging out with friends (sometimes all night), and just generally one big party.

When I think back on that time, I have almost the exact same physical sensations now, wishing I could go back there, as I remember clearly having back then, wishing I was here.

I've had a truly incredible life. I'm married to someone who has made me a better person, and who has built with me a family that I never hoped or dreamed I could have. I have two children who are smarter, better looking, and more mature than I ever was or pretended to be. I get to do work that I love for people that appreciate it, I'm not rich but we're comfortable. Faith, family, career... It makes me get teary-eyed just to consider what I've been handed.

Yeah, I've had my health problems. Some chronic crap, and oh yes, I got fat somewhere along the way. I sure would've taken better care of myself, if I'd given much thought to how much I was going to need my body as I got older. But that's just the skin I live in, it's not me.

And still, I wish I could go back to 18 again. But, only if I could know then what I know now. Because just to rush through it all again would be pointless. Yet, to slow down, I mean REALLY slow down, and appreciate how wonderful, random, and free it was to be young? That would almost be worth a do-over. Except, of course, that I would have to give up all that I have and am today. And in that little moment of clarity, the longing disappears. What I am today is a product of how life went, and is still going, and I would not change a thing. Not. One. Thing!

So I guess I'll do the next best thing. I'll blast out a blog post to nowhere, on the off chance that no one reads it, and that this nobody is 18, just getting out of high school or just entering college, and they're feeling like time is just draaaaaaaaaggggggging on because they can't wait for what's next. That's who I'm talking to when I say this:

Slow down. Next will get here just as fast if you enjoy Now.

Just breathe, dammit! Take a deep breath and look around. The days you have, right now, are days that you will one day look back on with longing because of how simple and free life was for you then. Please don't live through them in such a way as to wind up with a shoe box full of regret that's shaped like notes.

Wednesday, April 14

Social Beat - An Awesome Free App for BlackBerry!

The upgrade to the 5.0 system software on my BlackBerry Tour 9630 brought with it a new icon on the home screen. It read, simply, "Social Beat." Ever the curious one, I clicked it.

(Now, this is the spot where you pause for a moment, because the app wasn't actually on my phone. Verizon had given me the icon, which would now load the app, and then it would be on my phone. So please just imagine for yourself the time spent watching the progress bar fill. If you'd like music, feel free to hum something catchy. I'll wait.)

After the download, I clicked the icon again with far more satisfying results. Social Beat turns out to be an app that consolidates Facebook, Twitter, MySpace, Google Talk, and RSS feeds into a single unified stream of information. Now I've seen other social media programs that do this, but I've not yet seen one that also lets me choose from among my favorite tech news sources (Engadget, Gizmodo, and CNET, to name a few).

I find myself leaving the phone in Social Beat almost all the time now, and picking it up to periodically check on things throughout the day. It's Facebook integration is actually faster and smoother than the BlackBerry Facebook app (it doesn't do everything that the FB app does, really it just handles status updates and comments - but that turns out to be all I really care about from Facebook). And I'm pleasantly surprised at how much I enjoy feeling as though I'm keeping abreast of the tech news. This is a necessary thing, you see, because I happen to be "The Geek They Know" for a whole bunch of my friends, and they don't take it well when they ask me if I've heard about some new gadget or gizmo and receive a blank stare in return.

Social Beat is from iSkoot. It's completely free. However, at the present time, it runs only on BlackBerry smartphones and exclusively on the Verizon network. Hopefully this will expand soon, so the rest of you can also enjoy keeping up with ... well, everything, in an almost effortless manner.

Monday, April 12

More BlackBerry Shenanigans

Hi there, fictional people in Bloggerland who aren't reading what I write. That's okay, you don't have to be real. I'm pretending you're real in my mind, and it gives me a fluffy, warm feeling in my tummy. That's all one can ask of imaginary friends...er, readers, I think.

Today's blog entry is about how not to lose everything on your BlackBerry. Here's the deal: Your BlackBerry comes with some built in apps. Email, contacts, calendar, text messaging, web browser, etc. You will also have a handful of other things that your wireless provider put there for you.

In BlackBerry parlance, those last ones are called "virtual preloads." What THAT means is that you have an icon on your home screen and it looks as though you have an app loaded, but you DON'T, not really. What you DO have is an icon that knows where to go and download the actual app, the first time you click on that icon. Once the app is downloaded and installed, then clicking on the icon starts the actual app. Despite the fact that these apps had icons on your BlackBerry when you first turned it on, they are still third party apps.

But I digress.

To get back on track...you have built in apps on your BlackBerry. And if all that you ever do is use those apps, you don't have to ever back up anything except for your data. Your data is your emails, your text messages, contacts, calendar, and so forth. Backing those up is simple.
  1. Start the Desktop Manager program.
  2. Connect your BlackBerry to your computer with its USB cable.
  3. Once the computer recognizes the BlackBerry and the Desktop Manager software connects with it, select Backup and Restore on the Desktop Manager main menu.
  4. Click on the "Back up" button under the Backup category, and then tell the program what folder it can use to store the backup file. The backup shouldn't take long.
And that's it! Your data is safely backed up. If you've never downloaded a new app to your phone, then you're all done. Go forth, and worry not for thy data!

Oh, but that's NOT all, is it? You still have a few, some, maybe dozens of third party apps that you've downloaded to your BlackBerry. Sure, you could download them all again after a crash, but that requires an awful lot of time, and you might not even recall where certain apps came from. It would be better, would it not, to back up those third party apps? The procedure for this, however, is a bit more convoluted than backing up the data.

One of the things you will need to know, before you get started with this, is what your BlackBerry's PIN is. This is a unique ID that sets your BlackBerry apart from all others. It will become important, in just a minute. To find this PIN, look at the Desktop Manager main menu AFTER your BlackBerry is connected and recognized. You will see "Device connected (PIN):" followed by the model of your BlackBerry and the PIN. Write down that series of letters and numbers, so you can recognize them when you see them again.

Okay, let's get started. For this backup, you must use the Device Switch Wizard. (I'm picturing the mixture of surprise and confusion on your faces right now. It's kinda cool. I wish you could see it from my end. I'd draw a picture, but I suck at art.) There is a solid reason here, though. BlackBerry does not give you a tool for backing up your third party apps, but if you WERE going to switch to another model of BlackBerry, you would want your third party apps to move with you, correct? So the process of switching devices needs to be able to copy third party apps.

Return to the Desktop Manager main menu, if you're not there already. Then choose Device Switch Wizard.
  1. Under "Switch BlackBerry devices," click Start.
  2. Under Options, CLEAR the check mark for "Device data and options," LEAVE the check mark for "Third-party applications," and CLEAR the check mark for "Update the software on my device."
  3. Click Next. The Device Switch Wizard will run, copying all your third party applications.
  4. When it reaches the point where it asks you to connect your new device, STOP.
  5. Click on the Start button and in the "Search programs and files" box, enter %temp% and press Enter. (This assumes you're running Windows. If you're running a Mac, that's great for you, but I don't know how to do this on Mac OS, sorry.)
  6. This should open a folder view of your temporary files folder, no matter where that sucker happens to be. Inside, you should see a folder that is named with your BlackBerry's PIN.
  7. COPY that folder (do NOT move it) to another place on your hard drive. I happen to put mine in my Downloads folder.
  8. This step is important. RENAME the folder that you copied. If you don't, you won't get a complete copy of all third party applications when you do this again in the future.

And that's it. Told you it was more complicated, right?

In the event of a crash now, you will reload your device software in the normal manner. That is, you will click on the Application Loader at the main menu, then click Start under "Update Software." Once that's done, you need to add back your third party applications.

Click Start under "Add / Remove Applications." You'll see some progress bars flash about, and eventually it will stop and show you a list of the applications you can add to or remove from your device. To reload those third party apps, click the Browse... button. Navigate to the backup folder you renamed at the end of the procedure above. In it, you should find a file with a filename matching your BlackBerry's PIN and an extension of ALX. Double click on that file, and you should be returned to the Application Loader screen, where you will now have all your third party applications available for selecting, in addition to those applications that came with the device.

It's not as hard as it might sound. It IS a little tricky to do, but it does work, and it's the only way to protect yourself against losing those third party applications.

Good luck!

The best and the worst things about the Internet

Just a short entry this morning. Something random, a fleeting thought. A gigantic societal NIGHTMARE that won't go away...er, sorry about that. I sort of jumped a bit there, didn't I? My point? YES, I have one. Hang on a second.

So, a Facebook friend invites me to an "event" that is a rally for weight loss. "Okay," I say, "I'm fat, so let's go check this out." Now I've been on every diet known to man, some of them more than once, and I'm curious to see which one this is. There's a link included with the event, pointing us to a report on this new diet that the event organizer is going to follow. The implication, of course, is that you and I should follow it also.

I check out the link for this "report" on the "new diet." What I find there is a web site mocked up closely on US News and World Report, only it's called "US World News." It's the same old acai berry and colon cleanse blah blah blah. If you like reading in the bathroom, go ahead -- that's a GREAT diet for you.

But, what's amazing to me is that almost 20,000 people seemed to be impressed by a web site that is so PLAINLY an advertisement. At the bottom of the page, it has a HUGE disclaimer saying we're not affiliated with any of the news organizations we mention at the top. *sigh*

The great thing about the Internet is, anyone can put up a web site.

The awful thing about the Internet is, yeah...same thing.