How Do You Manage Your Contacts?

May 11, 2007

As I mentioned in my previous post, I’ve been looking at backing up contacts by SMS.

I’m doing this partly because it’s something I would find useful myself – I want to be able to get the information off my phone to somewhere else when I may not have the option of cables or another Bluetooth device – but also because it’s a focus to do some non-Java work (which occupies my daytime).

And I know that there are certainly more technologically sophisticated options available, particularly on my Nokia N95, but the good thing about SMS is that it provides a lowest common denominator across a range of models (so other people could use it too); the downside, of course, is that it restricts you to one contact per SMS, and there is a cost per message, but most networks bundle a certain number of free text messages per month. I’m focusing specifically on mobile (smart)phones for now because that seems to be the one piece of kit people keep with them most of the time.

So far I haven’t found an easy to use solution that just works. The boys at Soocial set high expectations at the Future of Web Apps and I’m eagerly awaiting their app. In the meantime, the options as far as I can tell are to backup via your PC (using Bluetooth/IR/cable) or use one of the many services like Yahoo! Mobile and Mobyko that claim to do this for you. I’m with Orange, and they have a service that allows you to synchronise by SyncML but I’ve been having problems setting it up.

So I would really like to get your views on this? Is it a problem that needs to be solved? Or has it been done already?

And are there any features that you have been looking for, but not found yet, such as getting the number for a mutual friend of someone you already have in your phone book (without ringing round until you find someone who has it).

Is a phone backup service something you would — or actually do — pay for?

Please share your experiences, and views.

What I’ve Been Doing

May 4, 2007

Apologies that I haven’t posted much recently – mainly due to lack of time and inspiration.

Here’s what I’ve been doing:

  • Writing some unit tests to test the object-relational mapping part of a project I’m working on (in PHP) to allow me to back up my contacts by SMS. I plan to implement a subset of the functionality in mod_python and Ruby on Rails to figure out what works best, and get a feel for the issues.
  • Downloaded Flex and started going through the documentation (comments from Peter Nixey and Bruce Eckel have piqued my interest). My initial impression from looking at this through my Java glasses is that from a programming perspective it is vaguely reminiscent of the early AWT/Swing-based thick client builders (with panels, layout managers etc.); we’ve gone through a cycle of thick client to thin client and now back to thicker client again. I had to install the Flash Player plug-in for Firefox on my Ubuntu Linux install, but otherwise it is pretty ubiquitous so I believe it has a promising future, even with the challenge from Microsoft’s Silverlight. The Flex download doesn’t like Ubuntu 6.06’s default JRE, but you can get around this by downloading the latest JRE. Also, I see that there is an online compiler you can use.

These activities are part of my figuring out which technologies to focus on given my current background in JavaEE. I’ve considered the Spring/Hibernate option but feel that more lightweight approaches based on PHP/Python/Ruby are the way to go (for greenfield projects, at least).

Also — in my day job at Lloyds TSB — I am looking at the design process and figuring out (with others) what deliverables we need; this is for a large programme of work, involve deliverables across a number of strategic platforms so we need to do the design up-front.

I’m reading two books at the moment: Rebecca Blood‘s Weblog Handbook (to get me thinking about how to improve this blog), and Derek Powazek’s Design for Community (because there will be a community element to the project I’m working on). As an alternative to daily newspapers I have started buying “The Week“, which is recommended. It gives a somewhat more varied round-up of UK and world news than seems to come out of the mainstream newspapers.

Finally, in a gesture of pure altruism I’m leaving work early today so I can take the children to see Spiderman 3.

Have a good weekend!