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Business Card with QR Code

That funny black and white pattern on the top of my new business card is called a QR (Quick Retrieval) code. Think of it as a two dimensional successor to barcodes; naturally it can hold much more information than an old fashioned linear barcode. In this case my contact information is encoded in there. If you read it with one of the many QR reader applications which are available for smartphones, it will resolve into a vCard, which can then be stored directly into an address book. After you have my address in your address book, you can throw the card away – or give it back so I can use it again.

QR codes are a link between the print and online worlds. You see them more and more often in magazines. When they appear in an ad or as part of a news story, they contain a URL which both takes you directly to a relevant web page and tells the owner of the web site what publication sent you. A QR code can also contain a phone number and even a text message to send to the phone number. In fact any short text can be encoded this way.

QR codes can also be the link between a computer screen and a smartphone. I put my vCard QR code at the bottom of my email signature so that someone can scan either the printed or onscreen version of a message from me and capture my address information. From now on I'll put it on PowerPoint presentations when I want the audience to be able to contact me and they'll be able to point their phones at it instead of trying to write down address information or the URL of the presentation.

I use a free application called Barcode Scanner on my Droid X to read QR codes. When you run it, it uses the Droid's camera to see the code you want to scan. As soon as it recognizes a code in its viewer, it captures it and decodes it. The application is also able to read traditional barcodes -something you may want to do in a store before buying so that your phone can get some competitive prices on the same item. The documentation says that Barcode Scanner can be used to make QR codes but I haven't tried that.

goqr.me is a free site I used to make my QR code. Worked fine. It has a link to zazzle.com, which, for a price, will put the QR code on business cards, t-shirts, coffee mugs or whatever. You can also download your free code and paste it into your own documents or send it as a picture file to whoever makes your business cards or t-shirts.

Now you know what I was doing today in nerdville.

Related posts:

Droid Setup – Day 1 of My Re-Retirement

Droid, Gmail, gSyncit, iPhone, Outlook, Mary and Me

Navigating on My Droid

Swyping from my Droid – The Supplement

Blog Blocked by Breakin

Shards of shattered window glistened on the asphalt and on the backseat where my laptop bag shouldn't have been so conspicuous. The bag was gone, of course, and with it the laptop, extra batteries, several cables and chargers, a mouse, a USB multiport, my Garmin watch and chest strap, miscellaneous pills, and whatever else had accumulated in the bag's many pockets. I always put the valuable stuff in the carryon bag so it won't get lost by the airline. Ironically the to-be-checked suitcases lightly disguised under the hatchback weren't taken, and Mary's carryon bag was still on the floor of the back seat. Truly a smash and grab and a lousy way to end a great week visiting grandchildren and their parents.

The purpose of this post isn't to whine, though, or even to make an excuse for not blogging for a couple of days (there's an unfinished post still on the laptop – maybe). The real story is about technology, reconnecting, and help from the cloud.

First things first: Mary called the cops; I called Hertz. The very polite Sunnyvale police told us we were unlikely to get the computer back; but opened a case and gave us a number. You can't file any claims without a number.

Hertz said they'd come and tow the car but that I'd have to go the Hertz office to file a report, not what I wanted to at the moment since son-in-law Hugh kindly said he'd drive us to the airport hotel and we didn't need another car. They said I had to; but, when the human hung up, a robot gave me further instructions for reporting an accident, which said I had 24 hours to report and gave the URL of an online form. Much better.

The stolen computer has built in Verizon wireless connectivity so, while waiting for the tow truck, I 611'd VZW. I could get to the place in the voice menu where it asked if I wanted to cancel the phone I was calling from – "Duh, no". But I don't know the pseudo phone number associated with the radio in the phone. Pushed zero for an operator. Was told zero is not a ten digit number. Tried zero again. "Push zero to confirm you'd like to be connected to an operator." Did that. Robot hung up. Tried again; same sequence; same result. Calling and immediately saying "operator, operator" AND pushing zero did get through to a very helpful human who retrieved the computer's number and suspended it without inadvertently killing the phone which was now my only remaining connection.

In the hotel in the middle of the night it occurred to me to worry whether I had let the browser remember my password for anything important. The computer itself was protected by its own password but I assume someone knows how to hack through that. Decided to change my passwords for Google, PayPal, and Amazon; but, of course, had no computer to do that with. Took my Droid into the hotel bathroom and fired up its browser. All three of these services have mobile-formatted pages but none of them let you change a password without going to the regular version of the website. I could never have done this on my old Blackberry but did get the passwords changed for Google and Amazon. PayPal's site and the Droid couldn't agree about where on the screen I was touching (clicking); and PayPal was the service I cared about most.

Ah, but I still had my Kindle, which had been in Mary's bag. Kindle has Internet capability. Used that to change my PayPal password but didn't quite get back to sleep before it was time to get up for the 6am flight.

There was a lot not to panic about. My computer, except for the partially completed post I'd worked on that day, was backed up in the Mozy cloud. Incremental backup happens every connected night. I wasn't out of email touch since I get and can respond to email on my Droid. My contacts and calendar are not only on Mozy but also on Gmail thanks to gsyncit; and they replicate from gmail to the Droid. A year ago I would have been much more concerned and much less connected.

next the world's worst e-form, an unfriendly business center, and training a new computer: Getting Back Online

Droid Setup – Day 1 of My Re-Retirement

It's the first day of my re-retirement. Yesterday I handed in my badge – can't unlock state doors anymore; surrendered my parking pass; and gave back my Blackberry. For a while the empty holster on my belt continued to vibrate "you've got mail" like an amputated limb is supposed to keep itching.

So time for the new, new thing. Mary has an iPhone she's been boasting about for a year; that's so yesterday.

With impeccable timing my new Droid X arrived; I ordered it last week from Verizon Wireless and it was supposed to be backlogged until the end of the month but here it is. So rehanging my pictures and straightening out my home office'll have to wait.

I've barely scratched the surface – actually I WON'T scratch the surface because I bought screen protectors and immediately put one on. This screen is going to get a lot of touching since the device has no keypad. It wasn't too hard to get the little bubbles out from under the protector.

Registration was easy. Verizon shows its POTs heritage by not letting you start registration online but did send me an email saying what number to call to activate and warning me what questions I'd be asked. Worked fine.

Now the scary part – will my new phone actually activate or will my old phone just deactivate and leave me unreachable. No problem; the Droid doesn't even make me dial *228 as Verizon had instructed; it does it under the covers when I press the activate button.

Right on! I can make and receive calls.

When you setup the phone, it wants your gmail account and will set one up if you're not already registered. I have a gmail account so no problem – but I don't use it except as a throwaway email address and a way to play with Google apps development. So my contacts and calendar and email are in Outlook. The email comes from a POP3 server. Here's where things get a little complicated.

When the phone came, I was busy merging the contacts I'd been accumulating at work (Outlook, Exchange) into my Outlook client at home. I'd exported them to a *.pst file; emailed them to my home computer after changing the file extension from ".pst" to ".glp", because Outlook won't mail a file with a .pst extension; saved and renamed the attachment back to ".pst", then imported the contacts into my contact folder in Outlook. Did roughly the same thing with my calendar because I'd been using my work calendar for everything when I had a job since both work and personal things were likely to happen at any time.

OK, so now I've got all my calendar entries and contacts all on my home computer. The easiest way I could find to get them onto my phone is through gmail since the Droid syncs with gmail. Google has an app which syncs an Outlook calendar with gmail so I downloaded and used that. I'm paranoid so I told it just to sync gmail with Outlook but not to change my Outlook calendar; didn't want to find that the empty calendar in gmail overrode all my Outlook contacts. I also made a copy of my Outlook contacts and calendar just in case. Hey, I used to write software; I know what can happen.

The sync took about five minutes and shortly after that my calendar entries showed up on my Droid – but only some of them. Turns out that the Google sync software doesn't like the calendar entries that got merged into home calendar from my work calendar so didn't copy them to gmail. They are a little weird and have a warning that the organizer of a meeting won't be able to make changes. Not enough of these to be worth worrying about so I remade them. Still, it would have been nice if the software told me that it was leaving some of my appointments behind.

Google does NOT have software which syncs Outlook contacts with gmail. You can export your contacts to a comma-delimited file and import them into gmail, so I did that. The obvious problem is that contact changes on my PC won't get to gmail or my Droid and changes on the Droid won't get to the PC. There is third party software for this; I'll have to give it a try (comments welcome if you've tried it).[Now have tried and like gSyncit for this. More here.]

Setting up to get my email from the POP3 server was easy; I copied the settings from Outlook. It was only after sending a test message that I realized I would have to change to default "Me" as the sender to "Tom Evslin" if I didn't want recipients to think of ME as terribly egotistical. Sending messages is pretty good EXCEPT that, if you're typing in an address, the "@" sign is buried one screen down in the popup on-screen keypad and the ".com" key, which is on other popup keypads, isn't on this one.

More serious, since I've been spoiled by Blackberry synchronization, is that deleting email on phone doesn't delete it from the POP3 account nor does deleting it on the computer. So I'm going to see the same email in both places even if I've already dealt with it. And I can't refolder or look into my folders from my phone. I assume – but haven't tested – that these options do exist with gmail and believe they would also exist if I were synchronizing with a server-based corporate account. So the capability I've lost is really because I've gone from having an Exchange server behind me at work to having just POP3 for my personal life.

The browser on the Droid is great. I never could get the browser on my Blackberry to be usable at all. The same two-fingered motions enlarge or shrink screens as on the iPhone. The browser is also supposed to be Flash compatible but I haven't tested that yet.

Much more to come but now I've got to play with the embedded GPS, then get WiFi working.

Now on Kindle!

hackoff.com: An historic murder mystery set in the Internet bubble and rubble

CEO Tom Evslin's insider account of the Internet bubble and its aftermath. "This novel is a surveillance video of the seeds of the current economic collapse."

The Interpreter's Tale

Hacker Dom Montain is in Barcelona in Evslin's Kindle-edition long short story. Why? and why are the pickpockets stealing mobile phones?

Need A Kindle?

Kindle: Amazon's Wireless Reading Device

Not quite as good as a real book IMHO but a lot lighter than a trip worth of books. Also better than a cell phone for mobile web access - and that's free!

Recent Reads - Click title to order from Amazon


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