Where’s my phone?

The most useful things in life are also the simplest and cheapest, like the elastic band, the biro, the paperclip, and for all BlackBerry owners reading this column I’d like to propose another: Berry Locator. I’m forever misplacing my phone: it’s somewhere in the house, but I have no idea whether in various shirt, jacket or trouser pockets, down the back of a sofa, on a shelf, my desk, in the garage, the kitchen, perhaps the bathroom. In pre-smartphone days, it was easy enough to hunt down a lost phone by simply calling it and listening for the ringtone, but these days I have an “at home” profile set up that makes all calls that come through out of hours vibrate it if holstered, or ring very quietly. Call-to-locate no longer works.

Where's my phone?

And that’s where Berry Locator (www.mobireport.com/apps/bl) comes into play. Once installed, it monitors incoming emails (on any account registered with the BlackBerry) for a user-chosen trigger phrase in the subject line, and if it spots it sends the phone into a veritable frenzy, buzzing loudly, vibrating like a Fiat dashboard and flashing the screen. It’s impossible to miss. Better still, if you have one of the GPS-equipped BlackBerry models it will try to get a satellite fix and email you back a Google Map showing the exact location of the phone, which is great if you mislay it out of doors. I reckon Berry Locator is a lifesaver, and best of all is the $4.95 price, “pint of beer” money that makes purchase a no-brainer.

I asked Mobireport, Locator’s developer, about its plans for the product. It’s considering a facility to remote-wipe a phone that can’t be found (useful for people using the internet- based BIS: enterprise BES users already have remote wipe).

It’s also considering GPS-less location via cell-tower ID, which wouldn’t give an accurate geographical fix, but might work well with pre-tagged locations such as “home” and “office” (similar to the FindMe application I wrote about a couple of columns back). In fact, in an ideal world the developers of FindMe and Berry Locator would get together, so the latter can access the former’s tagged locations database!

Even without such future enhancements I consider Berry Locator an essential purchase for any BlackBerry owner, and if you don’t believe me, there’s a trial version available on the Mobireport website.

The music business

Tim and Dick give me a pretty broad brief for this column, but one constraint that’s carved in stone is to write from a “Pro” business perspective. This next bit might need a little creative interpretation since it’s about a product aimed squarely at the domestic market, Logitech’s Squeezebox Duet. I’ve known about Squeezebox for several years, but until recently had never been tempted to splash my cash. It has always looked slightly old-fashioned – without being retro enough to be cool – all green fluorescent displays and cheap-and-nasty remotes. But when Logitech took over the Squeezebox product line it brought about radical change, the first sign of which is the Duet, which doesn’t have a fluorescent VU meter anywhere in sight!

So what exactly is Squeezebox Duet, how is it relevant to this column (and more to the point, what’s got me so excited)? It’s actually two devices in one, hence the “Duet”, a network audio media player – essentially, a boring grey box with audio outputs – and an ultra-hi-tech remote control. See Jonathan Bray’s PC Pro review of the Duet. What makes the devices relevant here is their super-clever use of Wi-Fi. The remote, which Logitech calls the “Controller” – although I prefer its pre-launch codename of “Jive” – is actually a small, powerful computer running Linux, driven by a 200MHz ARM processor and equipped with 64MB of RAM and the same again of NAND Flash ROM. The device runs a Linux 2.6.22 kernel with SDL (Simple Direct Layer) taking care of the onscreen graphics, and main applications written in Lua language. This is a really neat and exceptionally fast scripting language featuring extensible semantics and associative arrays, the latter making it ideal for looking up and managing large collections of MP3 files or playlists. If you’re feeling geeky, you’ll find more at www.lua.org.

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