iPhone 3.0 vs. Windows Mobile 6.1 for Exchange users

I started this post a few months ago but I decided to give Apple another chance with iPhone OS 3.0.  Now that 3.0 is out and I’ve had a chance to use it for a while, I still conclude that the iPhone doesn’t quite cut it for hardcore Exchange users who don’t want to carry their laptop with them everywhere to remain a first class Exchange citizen.  Since I try to avoid brining my laptop to meetings to remain focused on the meeting, I typically use my mobile device as my tether when necessary to check what’s going on outside the meeting.

After periods of using both during the workday, I ended up keeping my Windows Mobile phone (a Samsung Blackjack running a special build of Windows Mobile 6.1) for work use and swapping the SIM card to my iPhone for weekends or some evenings.  That said, the iPhone is simply beautiful, functional and powerful resulting in a much higher emotional attachment for my iPhone than my Blackjack.

Here are the issues I have with the iPhone’s Exchange integration:

  • Deletes don’t enter into an offline queue so if the delete can’t be serviced immediately due to network or Exchange server issues it fails and the message returns to your list.  Compounding this problem is that you get one failure dialog per attempt so if you rapidly attempt to delete 5 message and the server cannot be reached right away you get 5 separate error messages.
  • Push only updates the unread message count and downloads the message header instead of having the whole message ready.  This means you have to wait a few seconds when entering your inbox for it to update to a useful state after you see that there’s a new message.  Since push kills the battery and is functionally limited, I just have my email update every 15 minutes.
  • You cannot reply all to a meeting invite when you’re remote and need those in the meeting room to setup the conference bridge.  Similar problem if you want to notify them that you are running late.  Yes, you can reply to just one member but you never know who in the meeting is checking email.
  • There is no support for tasks.  Yes, there are “apps for that” but this should just be standard and fully integrated.
  • There is no support for categories (though this is mainly something I use for tasks).
  • You can’t turn on/off the out of office message.
  • iPhone users who reply to a thread break the threading order when messages are viewed in conversation view in Outlook.
  • Replies are sent in Times font and mess up formatting.
  • When a meeting you are invited to gets cancelled, you cannot  delete its calendar item.  I find meeting invite/reply workflow troubling in general.
  • When you finally figure out how to lookup someone in the corporate address book (the GAL) you cannot add them as a contact from the GAL lookup.
  • You have to manually set/change the Exchange time zone to properly display meeting times relative to the local time.

Beyond Exchange integration, the other issues I have with the iPhone in general are:

  • I cannot get through a full day of average usage with 3G and Push email turned on
  • No Adobe Flash support.  Web standards and custom iPhone apps are great but there are still a bunch of sites I try to use which don’t render properly/at all because the iPhone doesn’t support Flash.
  • No background applications (kind of makes that GPS tracker app for running/biking useless).
  • Apple doesn’t allow 3rd party applications which offer a better/differentiated experience for Apple’s “integrated” apps such as phone or email.  I could write more about some of the things I’d like to see improved with the App store and lockdown but much has been written about this and for now it’s not a deal breaker for me.
  • You have to use iTunes.
  • On the 3GS, Nike+ integration is cool (and not available on WinMo) but you can’t use the watch remote to control iTunes unless you are in a Nike+ workout.
  • AT&T network and feature crippling.

It turns out that my friend Omar Shahine and a few others have a wiki tracking the issues and most of the issues that kept me on my Windows Mobile phone for work days are also listed there.

All of this said, I don’t want to come off as saying Windows Mobile 6.1 on the Blackjack is superior overall.  It is not.  Beyond the design cred, the iPhone has tons of features which are not yet available or possible with the current crop of Windows Mobile 6.1 devices.  WinMo does have many advantages for enterprise users but most people with an iPhone either learn to live without these features or never needed them in the first place.

In many ways, the iPhone vs. WinMo competition is similar to the Wintel/Macintosh competition in its enterprise/consumer split.  That’s a blog post for another day.

A year has passed since I wrote my note…

Yes, it’s true.  My blog has gotten little attention due to my work and the fact that I’m using Twitter and Facebook to do more granular posts.  I’m fixing the site up a bit and will probably blog a little more once I’ve fixed some things.

I’ve added a Twitter box and a link to my Twitter feed so you can see that I am still alive. 🙂

Bike to Radiohead

Alternative titles:

  • Bike 1000!
  • There are two colors in my head
  • The fog is changing colors
  • When I was a kid we used to bike to concerts uphill both ways

I was so excited to see Radiohead at the Outside Lands Festival — the first night concert in Golden Gate Park. I got home late from work and after waiting for a taxi for a while, I couldn’t wait any longer and decided to bike to the concert. I underestimated how much ascent there would be to get there but I just kept Radiohead on my mind as I pedaled away.

When I finally arrived at the free bike parking area, people were cheering and I couldn’t understand what was going on. It turns out that I was the 1000th bike they were parking that evening and though no prize was being awarded, I could at least do a quick blog post to congratulate myself. :)

This was my second Radiohead concert and it proved to be the better of the two. The “venue,” if you can call it that, was really cool and the fog, lit by slowly changing colored lights from behind, was the perfect complement to the music.

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The stage was lit with a matrix of led lighting strands to create an animated 3D rain-like effect. After wondering why they didn’t play one of my favorite songs, Everything in its Right Place, the encore began and in my usual ability to name a song after a few beats and one note, I immediately grinned as they started in with an extended version of the song.

Given the public transit and general transportation mess, I was glad I took my bike, despite the wait to get it from parking. The ride home was mostly downhill and I was home in no time and looking forward to meeting up with my brother and some other friends for the next two days of the festival.

August 6 – overtime in Munich!

I arrived at the Munich airport with plenty of time to spare before my flight.  Since I was flying business class I planned on taking full advantage of the lounge and my wifi access to slowly reacclimatize.  When I arrived at the ticket desk, I found out that an earlier flight to the US had been cancelled due to labor action and they were offering to bump me to the same flight the next day for pretty hefty ticket vouchers, a night at the five star hotel at the airport and meals.  Hmm, let me thi… YES!

It was another rare beautiful summer day in Munich and after letting the folks back at the office know that I’d be a day later, I dropped my stuff off at the hotel and headed into town.  I hit the usual tourist spots and then decided to chill at the Englischer Garten along with what seemed like most of the rest of the city.


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There were people surfing in the man-made currents of the Isar river near the park entrance.  You take what you can get when you’re an urban surfer in Munich.


Nothing beats drinking a gigantic beer along the river on a warm Munich afternoon.  Life was truly good to me that day and I returned later that evening to my hotel where I had my last dinner in Germany and later had a swim and sauna.  The next day I replayed my fly home routine, still hoping my trip could be extended yet again.  It was tough coming back and I think the glow of this vacation could be seen on me for weeks . . . only to be tarnished by the pile of work that had collected and the seemingly endless wait for my car to arrive back home.

After taking far too long to get the new car and do a big vacation, I had finally done both and am now thinking that I’ll have to find a way to do this again in a few years when I hopefully buy my next car — probably an electric or hyrdogen version.  I spent about $1500 on gas during the trip so that’s another reason to jump to an alternative fuel vehicle next time around!  If anyone needs a volunteer to take their car for BMW ED and make sure it runs properly over there, I’m game. 🙂

My summer 2008 travels in Europe – Part 3 – Italy

After a bittersweet conclusion to my time in Germany, I was off to Italy to see my relatives there.  Though my mom grew up in a small town in the hills, some of her relatives had relocated to Roseto, a coastal town on the Adriatic not far from there.  On this visit I was staying in the hills above that town with a beautiful view of the farmland, sea and mountains off in the distance.


It was wonderful seeing my extended family again and being back in Italy.  I was treated to some amazing home cooked meals and spent my time seeing the different families and lounging at the beach during the day.

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During my time there, the Montepagano Wine Festival was taking place just up the hill from where I was staying.  The annual festival in August features music and food in the main square and wine tasting from numerous wineries in the region in the different shops along the narrow streets that connect to the main square.


One of these days, I’m going to get a band together and we’re going to play Italian wine festivals since we can rock out in English.


What Italian wine festival would be complete without a shirtless man tossing pizza dough to music while smoking a cigarette?


Those people really know how to party and I highly recommend a trip to the festival if you want to taste some great wine and have fun doing something that’s probably not in the tourist books yet.  By day, the place looked rather tame betraying the bacchanalia that took place the night before.

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One notable feature of Montepagano and most other Italian cities is the various numbering schemes on the buildings.  It turns out that as new governments came to power, some decided to rename or renumber roads in the country.  The facade below featured four numbering systems.  I’m sure this makes being a postal carrier difficult.  Then again, being Italy, you can probably get close enough and someone will tell you where to go when you can’t find what you’re looking for.


No trip to Roseto would be complete without hitting the beach with Renato, my mom’s cousin and someone I refer to as the “mayor of the beach” since he knows almost everyone there – especially the ladies.


My thanks to the Tassonis for being very generous hosts and showing me yet another wonderful time in Roseto and its surroundings.


After one last night at the wine festival, and a very painful early morning after, it was time to say farewell and hop on a 5:15am train to Rome, travelling through the hills near L’Aquila as my body slowly came back online.


Though it takes much more time than the bus, the train was definitely the right choice since it provides views of castles, vineyards, farm land and small cities along the way and isn’t in much of a rush.  Once at FCO I was finally functioning and flew back to Munich for a quick stay and flight out to SFO the next morning.

July 31 – Munich – Neuschwanstein

No BMW European delivery trip is complete without a visit to the Neuschwanstein castle, rumored to be Walt Disney’s inspiration for Cinderella’s castle.  Unfortunately, my time with my new car was nearing an end as I had to have it returned by 4pm just outside of Munich so the castle trip had to be quick.

I headed out and enjoyed the winding roads through the German countryside on one of the most gorgeous days I had experienced yet in Germany – where the summer weather tends to be unpredictable with a penchant for clouds and rain.


Since the castle is located on the top of a hill there are several options for going up – a horse-drawn carriage, a bus and walking.  Incorrectly gauging the time and effort it would take to reach the top, I decided to go for a brisk walk to the top.


Drenched in sweat and glad to stop off at the concession stand, I reached the top and the view from there was breathtaking.july31-4 july31-5

Realizing that I would need to take advantage of my car’s engine and my driving abilities to make it back on time for my drop-off, I wasn’t able to stay long and walked back down the hill to go for the last leg of driving for a while.

I walked in with a only a minute or two before closing to get the car dropped off.  I met with Thomas, BMW’s representative for the shipping process back to the US.  He was an extremely nice and gregarious guy and he let me keep the car until midnight when my insurance and license would run out as long as I did all the paperwork that afternoon and left the second set of keys with him.  Like hitting the snooze button on an alarm clock that sounds far too early, I had a reprieve and took advantage of the beautiful day to find a nearby lake and soak up some rays, enjoy a cold beer and currywurst and go for a little swim.

Later that evening, I dropped off my stuff at my hotel, went out for a late dinner and took the car back to the shipping facility.  I arranged for a taxi home and could only take comfort in the fact that the next day I would be headed to Italy to stay with my extended family there for a few days.

July 30 – Frankfurt – Baden Baden – Munich

After my last night at Michael’s house, I managed to lock myself out while loading my bags into my car. I called him at work and he said that his mother had an extra key at their family home.  The only complication was that Michael’s mother doesn’t speak English and has never met me.  I walked into her store which is alongside their home and after some mangled German and utterance of “Michael” I handed the phone to her, a puzzled look still on her face.  After Michael cleared things up, I got the rest of my stuff and was on my way.

It was a nice morning so I decided to take the scenic route south with plans to stop off in Baden Baden to enjoy some world class spa time.  I had lunch in a small town along a lake and continue on to Baden Baden trying to dodge the rain.

In Baden Baden (the town so nice they named it twice) I skipped the casino and grabbed an early dinner at one of the many cafes.  The weather continued to waffle between nice warm summer evening and rain but rain eventually won out.  After dinner, it was spa time and I headed to the renown Friedrichsbad for some pampering.  This building was filled with saunas and pools and featured some great architecture – particularly a wonderful dome above the main pool.

With the sound of thunder in the background, I decided it was time to leave and I headed back to get dressed and head out.  A nice German spa attendant was alarmed at my hasty departure, explaining in German something to the effect of it was important that I rest a bit before leaving.  Needing to get to Munich and hoping to avoid heavy rain, I had to skip it and get on my way, feeling like a smooth very rested child.

It turns out the rain had a break and the storm was off in the distance but it was mighty and the difference in time between the lightning and thunder led me to believe I could get away with the convertible top open as long as the direction and speed cooperated.  I made my way through the winding streets to get back to the highway.  I was driving fast with the top open, the tunes cranked (U2’s “Electrical Storm” even made its way into the shuffle) and my spirits soaring with bolts of lightning chasing me in my rear view mirror.  Then I ran into tons of road construction and the rain caught up so I got my convertible top closed about 2 minutes before a torrential rain started and traffic slowed to a crawl due to the heavy rain and winds.  At about 1:00am I arrived at my hotel in Munich.

July 29 – Guntersblum – Rhein

It was raining in the morning and I was exhausted so I slept in for a change.  After catching up on some online tasks, I headed towards the wine region along the Rhein river.  I stopped off in St. Goar and Rudesheim and enjoyed a nice break and some wine in both towns.  Unfortunately the rain wasn’t cooperating much so I didn’t get to take many pictures.


In Rudesheim there was a great cuckoo clock store.


Having gotten my fix of castles, wine and clocks, I headed towards Ralph’s house where we had a barbecue to wrap up the “road rally with the Germans” segment of my trip.  It was a pleasure meeting Ralph’s wife and son and seeing my colleagues one last time before heading back towards Munich.  We had an enjoyable evening going through the photos and video, eating some excellent grilled food and drinking some wine from the region.

I want to thank Peter and Ralph’s wives for allowing their husbands to tear around the roads of the French Alps for a few days with me.  I am especially grateful to Ralph for putting together an incredible itinerary and making all the reservations.

July 28 Annecy – Genève – Frankfurt

The next morning we were bleary-eyed as we headed through the small town on the shore and went to breakfast.

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After breakfast we bid adieu to France and headed to Geneva.

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We parked at the Ritz hotel, gawked at the oil-funded cars from the middle east parked in front and took a walk along the lake.  We found a shaded place to escape the intense sunlight and treated ourselves to another slow lunch.  I took the opportunity to get my Rivella fix which is a difficult to describe milk-based soda only found in Switzerland.  I tried it there years before and it was as good as I remembered it – a testament to both my memory and my roots as a child of “America’s Dairyland.”  I still don’t know the difference between the red, blue and green Rivella but I was sure to try all three.

After lunch and some more walking we headed back to our cars and had to cope with the land of low speed limits, law-abiding drivers and plentiful speed cameras.  Not soon enough after that, we were back in Germany where we could drive our cars on the autobahn they way they were meant to be driven.  After some hours of driving we stopped off at a gas station and Ralph and Peter headed back to their homes near Frankfurt while I headed to Michael’s home in the small countryside town of Guntersblum.

I met Michael and his girlfriend at their home which was located just down the street from the home Michael grew up in and not far from where his girlfriend was from as well.  Since it was getting late, we headed to a nearby pizzeria for dinner.  Now you might wonder why you’d go to a pizzeria in Germany just before heading to Italy but I assure you this was one of the best pizzas I have ever had.  It turns out that the owner was from Italy and married a woman from Germany.  I enjoyed a great German beer with the pizza so it really was a fitting marriage of food for the proprietors.  We hung out at Michael’s place and I got to play with our product on the DT network which was pretty cool.

July 27 – Barcelonette – Digne-les-Bains – Sisteron – Annecy

The next morning we had another breakfast – large by European standards and approaching an American breakfast.  Michael and his girlfriend had to return to Frankfurt for work so we gathered for a group photo of the boys and their toys.


After some fun antics with photos that will not be posted here, we parted ways and Peter, Ralph and I were off to Digne-les-Bains beginning a day filled with some of my favorite roads of the trip.

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We had a brief coffee stop along the way at this quaint cafe alongside a stream.


While at the cafe we reviewed some of our “one arm sticking out of the convertible” photos and video.  Shortly after that we arrived in Digne-les-Bains.

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We stopped for lunch a bit early by French standards but we found a great place that was a little off the main street and seemed to be more oriented towards the locals.  I ordered fish and wasn’t quite ready for the surprise on my plate.


Fortunately, I was able to manage to take care of the skin and bones and the fish was actually delicious.  Some French wine didn’t hurt either.  After some dessert we were off to Sisteron.

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We stopped for a moment at the EDF dam in Castillon which created a picturesque lake on one side and an enormous valley on the other.  In the photo below, look for the door in the middle of the dam to get an idea of its size.


Driving away from the dam marked the end of the bulk of our winding roads through the mountains and we were headed towards flatter driving terrain after Sisteron.  We had managed to get very behind schedule somehow so we weren’t able to spend much time in Sisteron.

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We now had a long stretch of driving to make it back to Annecy for our last night in the French Alps.  On the drive back we dodged the rain a bit and had a fun time dealing with some crazy Spaniards driving Seats.  I swear, I was being a good driver.

It was about 10:00 pm and we still had a ways to go before Annecy so we decided to stop off in a small town on the way for dinner.  We found one of the few restaurants still open and it was packed with locals.  We sat down and struck up a conversation with some men next to our table who worked on a railroad project nearby.  They were surprised to see an American visiting their town since it wasn’t typically a tourist stop.  He was very excited about Obama and wished the American people well on the upcoming election.  We managed to close the place and were much happier with yet another delicious French meal in our stomachs.

At about 2:00 am we arrived at the Chateau in Annecy were we had booked our final night in France.  We had to figure out a way into a gated courtyard and after about a half hour we managed to wake someone who let us in.  We then proceeded to the hotel and got our keys from what I’m sure was a not-too-happy proprietor.  The problem with the keys was that their “key chains” were cowbells so as we went up the stairs of the small hotel with our bags, we sounded like a bunch of cattle and I’m sure we managed to wake up a good share of the guests.