Why I gave up Facebook and how I replaced it part 3 – Replacing the rest

September 19, 2012 § 1 Comment

Facebook logo

Facebook logo (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

And so we come to the next phase of my Facebook replacement, sorting out how to fill the remaining gaps in my digital life. This was, for me at least, relatively straightforward. There aren’t many things I do online that really need complex services, therefore replacing them was nice and simple. So, if you would like to refresh yourselves with Part 1 and Part 2 of this article we can then proceed.

FULL BLOGGING

Seriously, if I have to spell this out for you I think you should stop reading and go back to playing with wooden blocks. I blog here, actually, I also kind of blog on Tumblr too but only for really techie stuff. WordPress.com is a fantastic platform for blogging, mainly because it ranks high in search engines and removes the hassle of hosting. It does have limitations, but nothing too crippling. Tumblr and Posterous are nice alternatives for the ‘Press averse and well worth a mention too.

NETWORKING

LinkedIn. No arguments. People who try and mix personal and professional networking (and I used to do this!) are fools. The fact of the  matter is that for personal networking I have a phone. If I know someone well enough to network with them personally I will have their number. Professional networking however is more of an art, and LinkedIn is the king of this field. It is also a MASSIVE subject which I will blog about another day so for now remember this simple equation. NETWORKING = LINKEDIN.

MESSAGING (INSTANT AND OTHERWISE)

Dealing with messaging is a pain. It’s not that I don’t like other people, I do for the most part, it’s just that they are so needy for attention. And this is the problem with instant messaging, people expect an instant reply and if I am busy the fact of the matter is that they are not gonna get one. I have therefore weened instant messaging out of my social life for the most part and limit it to a few close family members and friends I keep on Skype, for work I have a separate internal messaging platform and for everyone else there is no instant. You can either track me down on Twitter, send me an email, call me or message me on LinkedIn. The monster that is social IM’ing is going to be the subject of yet another post.

LOCATION TRACKING

I use FourSquare. It’s simple, fun and comes with deals. For me this kind of service is more about creating a personal diary than letting the world follow my every move but again this service is just better than anything Facebook can churn out and integrates with Twitter if I have the urge to tell everyone I am on the loo in Buckingham Palace…

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Computer Free Galaxy Note GT-N7000 Root for ICS

September 15, 2012 § Leave a comment

IMG_5215

IMG_5215 (Photo credit: 이홍영)

How to root a Samsung Galaxy Note GT-N7000 ICS without a PC

I love my Galaxy Note. Yes it is huge (a Phablet as my friends call it) but I love it so there. It is also fantastically easy to root if you have ICS installed on it just follow these quick and easy steps and in 5 minutes you can be rooted and done without even having to touch a PC.

  1. Go to downloadandroidrom.com on your mobile browser of choice.
  2. Navigate to Galaxy Note -> Rooting -> ICS
  3. Download the following files and copy them to your microSD card (you MUST have a microSD card for this method of rooting):

    – CWM-SuperSU-v0.87.zip

    – CWM.zip

  4. Boot into recovery mode (hold down volume up, the center button and the power button and do not release them until you see the recovery mode menu.
  5. Select apply update from external storage (scroll up and down with the volume rocker and select options with the power button.
  6. Select CWM.zip, this will load the ClockworkRecoveryMod.
  7. Select install zip from SD card (the interface supports touch input from here on in!).
  8. Choose zip from internal sdcard.
  9. Select CWM-SuperSU-v0.87.zip.
  10. Reboot your device and you should see a new app installed called SuperSU.

This process is perfectly safe however I take no responsibility if you do somehow break your phone using these instructions.

Why I gave up Facebook and how I replaced it part 2 – Replacing the core

August 8, 2012 § Leave a comment

Facebook logo

Facebook logo (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

As you will have read in my first post of this series I am on a mission to replace Facebook. But to replace something first you have to understand what it actually does, so I sat down and tried to think of all the useful services Facebook actually provided me. Your mileage may vary but here is the list I came up with:

  • Micro blogging
  • Full blogging
  • Photo storage and sharing
  • Networking
  • Instant messaging
  • Email-esque messaging
  • Location tracking
  • Music sharing
  • Stalking

With this list in mind I decided that the services that made up the core of Facebook for the majority of users are micro blogging and photo sharing, so this article is dedicated to replacing them.

MICRO BLOGGING

This, in my mind, is an absolute no brainer replacement. If you want to micro blog, use Twitter. There are other services out there, identi.ca for example, but most of these are barren wastelands full of people who want to tell you just how much they hate Twitter and not a lot else. Twitter is, however, a brave new world and most people find themselves getting lost. One day, I will post my stinky nuggets of wisdom for getting along with Tweets but for now Twitip should satisfy any need you have to ask stupid questions before we move on.

Move on to what I hear you ask? Well, one of the smaller issues I had with Facebook was accessing it. Not to say that I can’t use a web browser, but you had 2 main channels. You either used the website, which had more seedy ads posted around it than a Soho phone booth, or you used a delightfully crippled mobile app which, although currently ad-free, I reckon with the trend towards mobile access this will also look like a grimy billboard within 12 months.

Twitter though, well we can access that using a wide variety of wonderful applications. Sadly, although the selection of wonderful applications is wide it is far eclipsed by the range of not so wonderful, and indeed occasionally terrible applications. Here, however is where I can save you some time with a quick run down of Twitter apps that won’t have you drooling with madness:

Once you start on Twitter it is difficult to stop. Aside from friends and family (which is pretty much what you are limited to on Facebook) you can follow a range of people and get updates on the topics you are interested in, not what that guy you hated at school had for breakfast. You can also meet NEW people on Twitter very easily instead of being limited to the same old faces. It can take a little while to get in to, but once you do you will never leave!

PHOTO SHARING

This is not as straightforward as micro blogging, not by a long shot. In fact it is such a grey area I have had to cobble a couple of services together to achieve my desired effect. Firstly, I had to understand the problem, and it looked like this:

  • If you dont post a regular stream of photos to the internet, people assume you are either a recluse or dead.
  • Whilst most of these photos need not ever see the light of day, some of them may be quite nice and you may even want to keep them.
  • Flickr sucks (at the moment, but Marissa Myer may fix this for us).

For outright sharing of cool snaps I take with my phone I have Instagr.am. You can take a photo, edit it and post it for the world to see, it integrates with Twitter, so my followers get a face full of photo action and thanks to the third party Instagrid.me people can even view my pictures on the web! What Instagr.am does not provide me with however is a really good way of storing my photographs, just in case I want to show my offspring just how drunk I got in the summer of 2012. For this I have my phone configured to automatically shoot my photos to both Google+ and Dropbox which is nice and easy on both Android and iOS. Why both? Simple, Google+ gives me nice web galleries and Picasa to sort things out and Dropbox acts as my Data Apocalypse contingency plan for pretty much everything.

In my eyes, this fixes everything I miss from the Facebook core. I will discuss how I replaced the other services soon but that should get you started.

Outlook.com review – Mobile Access

August 6, 2012 § Leave a comment

outlook.com

outlook.com (Photo credit: Dekuwa)

Ok, for those of you who have been following my review of Outlook.com you know that I am generally impressed with it so far (although I have noticed some issues with the POP connector to my Gmail account, but I can’t help but feel this is more of a load thing for the new system and I will forgive them for now). I am so impressed with Outlook.com that I decided to get it up and running on my trusty Samsung Galaxy Note Phablet.

Now, this being an Android device, I don’t expect 100% seemless integration. What I do expect is a little love for one of the “Big Two” smartphone operating systems.What I get is a choice which is something akin to losing my left nut or right nut.

  • POP Access (Yuck)
  • Use the Hotmail App (Padded bra syndrome returns!)

Frankly, neither of these are acceptable. POP access for anything other than server to server communication should be taken out the back and shot like Old Yeller and the Hotmail app, whilst it does have a nice widget, doesn’t seem to sync folders from Outlook.com automatically so unless you store everything in your inbox good look finding your older email in a rush! I am going to assume this is a temporary situation and that Microsoft are going to sort us out with a nice dedicated app because with so many people now checking their email almost exclusively on their smartphone (and only a fraction of those smartphones using Windows Phone 7, despite it being quite good) surely Microsoft realize that the current situation is pretty poor?

I have promised to review the solution as is for now though and that means, to carry on using my previous analogy, losing a nut. So I have chosen to try struggling with the Hotmail app until something more suitable becomes available. And if anyone has any suggestions I am happy to listen.

THE OUTLOOK.COM HOTMAIL APP FOR ANDROID

The Hotmail app is, in itself, not a bad little app, its just not a good app either. It has the bare bones of what you need but lacks certain features I would consider key, like searching email. It supports push email, but for the battery conscious it supports timed and manual sync too. By default it saves the last 7 days of email in the folders you have selected to keep synced, and truncates messages at 25Kb unless you ask for the rest so in theory it wont take a nuke to your data plan. You can also sync your (Hotmail!) calendar and contacts, but I am holding off on that for now.

One nifty feature of the app however is the “Quiet Time” feature which allows you to set times and days where the app doesn’t sync and therefore doesn’t hassle you with notifications. This also engages if your battery is low which may help you scratch a few extra minutes of juice out of the bottom of your battery.

In general I am not a fan, and I am hoping for an update to the app soon as currently even the Gmail app for iOS is a better package than this (and that is saying something). Once again I can’t help but feel that Outlook.com has been pushed out the door and whilst beautiful, is only half dressed, and not in a good way.

Outlook.com review – Sorting it all out

August 4, 2012 § Leave a comment

outlook.com

outlook.com (Photo credit: Dekuwa)

So, having migrated all of my wonderful email data into Outlook.com it is time to try and sort it all out. I have an inbox containing every email I have ever recieved in the past 8 years and a list of contacts that contains all sorts of duplicates and other issues. Surprisingly, Outlook.com manages both of these issues with relative ease.

ORGANIZING EMAIL IN OUTLOOK.COM

To be honest, whoever came up with the email organization system for Outlook.com deserves a promotion, a pay rise and, to be honest, Steve Ballmer‘s job. Faced with 8 years worth of email I had it all filed away with relative ease in an hour or so and here is how.

Firstly a primer, for those of you who, like me, have been using Gmail for a while now we are used to labels. We shunned folders and started tagging everything and I was never sure this was the right option for email. Sure it is nice to be able to sort email in multiple different ways, but I never really had much need to apply more than one or two labels to any given email meaning my labels started acting like folders anyway. Outlook.com handles this beautifully. We are back to using folders, which I like, but we also have categories. Every email can exist in a single folder and have a single category and in my eyes this is perfect.

For example I have a folder for personal email, and into this folder goes all of my correspondence with friends, family and everyone else who really has no business actually talking to me. As you can appreciate this folder gets busy. By using categories however I can then flag certain emails as being from family, others from friends and so on and so forth. I have a shopping folder in which I have categories like receipts, shipping updates and the like. It is clean and neat.

The best feature for the initial scrubbing of my imported Gmail data however is the magic Sweep button. This is a stroke of genius as it essentially works as an ad-hoc mail rule. I deleted thousands of old Facebook emails with a single click by selecting one and having Outlook.com delete all from that sender. I filed every email from my Dad by highlighting just one, selecting the Family category (and selecting “Apply to all from”) and then Sweeping them into my personal email folder. This on-the-fly rule creation is just easier than Google’s solution.

ORGANIZING CONTACTS IN OUTLOOK.COM

After having such a simple time sifting through all of my old email I was drawn to sorting out my contacts almost immediately so I jumped over to the People module, clicked on the cleanup option and… Hotmail. Once again I found myself thrown back into that pastel blue hell. And the automated contact cleanup mechanism in Hotmail is, quite frankly, terrible. It doesn’t remember when you say no to merging contacts (meaning they keep appearing) and it is just generally poor at spotting duplicates. I gave up and dived back into the Outlook.com People module and used the link functionality to perform this manually per contact and it worked really well, it was just too time consuming and if I wasn’t suffering for the sake of you, my beautiful reader, I don’t think I would have bothered.

BACK TO EMAIL AND THE WONDERFUL WORLD OF THE ALIAS

Here is the stand up feature of Outlook.com for me. The alias. You can create any number of alias addresses (shopping.yourmail@outlook.com, social.yourmail@outlook.com) and have them automatically shuffle off into separate folders, or have separate categories applied to them. No need for complex rules or filters. Why Google never did this I do not know because it is fantastic and has made my inbox far easier to manage than my Gmail ever was.

A WELL SORTED SUMMARY

Again, I like what I see so far with Outlook.com but I hate the fact that every now and again I get expelled to the internet hell that is Hotmail. Why did they not delay release and just finish the product? Everything in Outlook.com, the folders, the categories, the Sweep button (that I almost want to have sex with I love it so much) is so well thought out and looks so damn pretty. Every disappointment I have had so far is a disappointment that I have seen before in that fetid pit of a web mail service that they are trying to replace.

Outlook.com review – First impressions

August 3, 2012 § Leave a comment

outlook.com

outlook.com (Photo credit: Dekuwa)

Unless you have been living outside of the intertubes for a few days you are probably aware that Microsoft have finally admitted that Hotmail is somewhat of a dead duck. It is a shame, after all Hotmail is the great ancestor for all web mail services, but if you leave a service to rot in its own filth for a few years without giving it the same level of tender loving care that your rivals are giving their competing products then what do you expect Mr Ballmer? There was however, another big announcement from those lovely Redmond chaps, they have a Hotmail replacement and it is called Outlook.com.

With the obvious nod to Microsoft’s popular desktop email client, Outlook.com is an attempt at a modern web mail service. Gone is the horribly cluttered pastel shades of Hotmail (or Live mail if you want to use its not-so-cool official nickname)  and in its place we have a very clean, very neat and simple Metro styled interface. This is a serious competitor, this COULD be the Gmail slayer! And I am not the only one who thinks so if the several million signups in the first 24 hours are anything to go by. I had to check this out, I had to be sure, so I did what any sane person would do… Migrate completely over to it and hope for the best!

MIGRATION

The first stage of managing the migration from one email service to another is always the most painful. You have to get all of your data from point A to point B. This is never fun but Outlook.com handles this very well, if slowly. When you first sign in to your shiny new Outlook.com inbox there is a lovely email waiting for you which will guide you through the migration process. I have a Gmail account, I have had the same Gmail account since the service launched in 2004 so simple math tells you I have 8 years of electronic correspondence to move (and up until recently I never deleted anything!). The first link in the email promises to whizz all this over for me in short form though so I click it and… Hotmail? Suddenly I am staring at the Hotmail import tool, gone is the lovely Metro look , replaced by a pastel blue slap in the face. Not to panic though, I dutifully fill out the forms so that Hotmail Outlook.com can import all of my old email into either my inbox, or a separate folder. I opted for the inbox as sooner or later I was going to have to sort it out and it might as well be sooner. You also have an email land in your old inbox allowing you to verify that you want to be able to impersonate your old account from your new Outlook.com address. For some this is a must, for me not so much.

A point to note here. I started the transfer almost 24 hours ago and I am still watching old mail pour into my inbox. By my reckoning I am almost there, but just remember if you have a big mailbox this does take time.

The next step is to migrate contacts, a distinctly simpler process and one that does not occur in the Hotmail interface (disjointed much?). You can import your contacts from a wide variety of sources including Google, LinkedIn, Twitter and Facebook for the socially impaired. I hooked up the first three and lo and behold I ended up with a mish mashed contact list full of dupes, but more on that later.

Logical next point of call is to migrate the calendar, but wait, there is no option for calendar migration. That’s ok, I thought, this is a web mail client after all not a PIM. But wait, there is an option for a calendar if I click the Outlook.com drop down, maybe if I click that there will be migration…. AHHHH HOTMAIL!

This is an open letter to the Outlook.com team. Please either make it fit or drop it. Every time I use your promising new product I find myself stumbling into a pit that takes me back to Hotmail and, quite frankly, it makes me want to vomit. In addition it makes your whole product feel like a padded bra. Lovely to look at until you get under the hood at which point, well, its just disappointing. I am going to stick with it, and I will be writing more on the subject but in summary my first impressions are mixed, it looks good, it feels good, but am I just using Hotmail again?

Why I gave up Facebook and how I replaced it part 1 – The Why

July 31, 2012 § 1 Comment

Facebook logo

Facebook logo (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I hate Facebook. I hate Facebook so much I deleted my account. Why? Well there are a  lot of reasons for the sane person to leave Facebook:

  • Privacy – Facebook wants to know everything about you. EVERYTHING. From the perspective of their business though this is a necessity; the more they know about you the better they can target the advertising that makes up their revenue.
  • Advertising – To Facebook adverts = money, and now they are a publicly traded company money is even more important and considering they still haven’t figured out a way to generate money in meaningful amounts in any other way the already invasive advertising is only going to get worse.
  • It is a popularity contest – “I HAVE 3000 FRIENDS!” No, you don’t…
  • The inability to filter out crap – People wanting you to give you an elephant for their online poaching game, the creepy girl asking you to join her league of vampires, quick “like” this product you have never, and will never use. Facebook bombards you with crap, constantly.
  • It doesn’t do anything really well – Facebook tries (and in many cases, fails) to do everything. Photo sharingmicro blogging, location tracking, email, chat, gaming the list goes on and on. You can replace all of these services with better alternatives. Think of it like desktop applications, your OS comes with Outlook Express (or Mac OSX Mail), but that does not stop you replacing it with something better now does it!

I made this decision some time ago and in this series of articles I am going to share with you how I replaced Facebook in my world.