Desktop integration (sync)
As I run Windows as little as possible, this was a bit trickier. My
daily machine is a Mac powerbook, so I
had to do some digging. I found PocketMac for
does almost everything you'll need. The only thing it lacks is
an application loader. In the RIM world (pardon the Sci-fi reference),
the sync code is different than the program that loads
programs onto the handheld. PocketMac only solves the former; their
tech support assures me that
a loader is in the works but no ETA is available. I had to borrow a
Windows box, load the RIM
desktop softare, and load code from there.
Also, early versions of the pocketmac software had data corruption
bugs that bit me. This is
rather annoying since:
I ended up hand-editing the ics files in ~/Library/Calendars, but I'm
still pissed at PocketMac. Having said that, the bugfixed versions seem
to be stable now.
- The version sent to me at purchase was both outdated and
- Tech support didn't answer my anguished emails, even though the
fix was already released.
PocketMac syncs to iCal, and as of version 3.083 or so, it now
handles cross time-zone
If you run Windows, none of this is an issue. If you run Linux, I
know of no sync software.
Note that I tried the RIM desktop software in emulation, Virtual PC
6.1 under OSX 10.3.5. No joy - Googling revealed that no one has made
this work. I would suspect the same to be true of
VMWare on Linux.
I've still got major problems with PocketMac - incorrect syncs,
duplicate data, misleading dialog boxes. At the moment its my only
solution, but I'm looking for something better. Hand-editing iCalendar
files is lame.
Another sync solution
Looks like Epicad is
introducing SyncAgain as a competitor to PocketMac. Only for BES
users as of 1/7/05, but worth keeping an eye one.
Third party software
In general, software is much more scarce for Blackberry than for Palm.
You can get the SDK, but
installed apps require an signing, and that costs $100/year from RIM.
Personally, I see this
as a pointless barrier to entry to amateur programmers. My two cents.
The most useful app I've found so far is called
Berry 411. It lets you search Google (though the display of the
results is lousy, since it uses the Nextel browser), yellow and white
pages, and movies. All of this is based on 3 predefined locations:
Work, Home, and Other.
This rocks. Wonderful for travel. I use to find stores, coffee,
movie listings, and restaurants. You can even call phone numbers by
clicking on them in the web page.
Charityware, and a must-have.
is a really handy program for OS4. It's simply a startup screen showing
the date, battery and signal strength, message count, to-do items for
today, weather, and the daily schedule. Free, donate if you like it.
To me, one of the most important apps on my Palm is called Strip,
which is a great freeware program to store passwords, PIN codes and
in an encrypted database. I have too many passwords to remember, and
this means I don't worry
if the handheld gets lost, stolen or misplaced. In the Blackberry
world, the replacement I found is called CryptMagic.
Twenty bucks, almost as good as strip. As of version 2, it has
categories and is sped up
considerably. Not great, but workable.
Alternately, V4 of the OS now contains Password Keeper, which is free
and will probably eat CryptMagic's lunch.
I went looking for a to-list replacement with categories and found TaskPad Pro. Ten bucks.
Also includes a free web interface, where you can log onto a website
and enter or change items. This is nice, because the Blackberry program
is very hard to use. It does have categories, and a self-contained sync
with the website. Still evaluating this one. Unfortunately, it won't
sync with PocketMac or iCal, so I may end up not
After updating to OS4, I'd say skip TaskPad - the improved task list
Given the walled garden of the Nextel web, this is a nice find. It's a
wide-open web browser called WebViewer. Forty
bucks, limited time
trial available. Seems to work well, not fast due to the Nextel
network. I've exhausted the trial offer and am considering buying it;
$40 just seems a little steep. As far as I can tell, this
is the only such product in this category, which may explain the cost.
Note that you do not need WebViewer if you have a BES with MDS
capability and a carrier that provisions you to use it. More on the data page.
Idokorro Mobile SSH
Yep, it's not a real geek toy without SSH. I got spoiled by TuSSH on the UX50; that enabled 80x25
SSH for free. Mobile SSH
is a solution to
the telnet/ssh problem, at a cost. The lower display resolution of the
Blackberry limits its usefulness, and the $200 price tag puts it out of
range for all but serious-use types. The trial allows 20 connections,
so I'm hoarding those for really bad situations.
With OS4 and its MIDP/2.0 support, we now have the less-spiffy
but better-priced MIDPSSH.
Free is a good price, wouldn't you agree? Works on some Java-based cell
We're looking into one-time-password solutions, and a big player in
field is SecurID. Normally, they give you a small widget
for this, but there are also software-based solutions for Palm and, you
guessed it, Blackberry.
I may be checking this out if we go this route. Note that this is free
Still need to look into this. There is, of course, DopeWars,
though I haven't tried it yet.
I decided to try instant messenger apps, and ended glad that I did so.
After reading and googling, I tried VeriChat and
Both function, but VeriChat wins hands-down. Easier to use, looks like
desktop software, clean and usable interface, very nice. IM+ has this
utterly counterintuitive interface that has to be experienced; it
Both handle multiple networks (MSN, AOL, ICQ, Yahoo); I only use
MSN and AOL. After trying both, I went ahead and bought VeriChat (25 +
20/year, not cheap).
One huge problem that I'm having with Verichat is actually a known bug
on Nextel Blackberries - after a while, it gets an error whenever you
try to open a TCP/IP connection. Since IM opens lots of connections,
running Verichat guarantees that you'll have to reboot your phone at
least daily. This sucks bigtime,
and has basically stopped me running it for now.
AOL was fixed; I had typo'd the password. D'oh!
For an RSS newsreader, the only one I've been able to find is NewsBerry, $9
until 11/7/04, $20 thereafter. Testing it now, seems to work.
Buggy. Try Bloglines Mobile instead.