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September 16, 2010

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.

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