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FireChat – Off the Grid Instant Messaging

FireChatEvery Friday I try to share one of my favourite finds of the week – a web-site, tool or app that has impressed me. My Friday Favourite this week is FireChat, an off the grid instant messaging App.

IM without an Internet connection

FireChat is an Instant Messaging app that – in the absence of Wireless or Mobile Internet connectivity – works by creating a mesh-network via Bluetooth that enables you to chat to fellow FireChat users. If you’ve ever been to a large concert or sports event and trying to communicate with friends in the vicinity, only to find the Wireless or Mobile Network is unavailable due to the volume of people nearby – FireChat could be useful for you. If you live in a part of the world where the Internet is monitored or restricted by Government, FireChat could be essential to maintaining anonymous communication. FireChat also enables live and anonymous discussion groups, of which there are many!

Multi Peer Mesh Networking

With Apple’s new multi peer mesh network capabilities likely to grow in prominence over the next few years, FireChat could offer a real insight into the next stage of networking.

The Best Windows Mobile Apps – Part III

In my last blog posts, I talked about the 3rd Party applications you can run on your Windows Mobile device that will 1 – help you be more productive – and 2 – help you work remotely and get from A to B efficiently.

As promised, in the final look at my favourite Windows Mobile Apps I’ll mention the “best of the rest” that I have installed on my T-Mobile MDA Vario II Windows Mobile device.

The MDA Vario II has Wi-Fi built into it, but the software for finding Wi-Fi signals that comes with the device is best described as “basic” at best. Aspecto Software’s excellent WiFiFoFum is a much more mature  alternative which I regularly use to help me set up Wireless Access Points at client sites and to find free Wi-Fi signals when out and about. It provides a wealth of information on nearby signals including an excellent “Radar” mode which shows you in which location the signals are coming from! WiFiFoFum is free for personal use, although a donation of £10 is suggested to help support development, and costs a mere £10 to register for Commercial use. Bargain!

Ok – you’ve got a Windows Mobile Phone, but don’t want to pay your network provider the frankly outrageous prices it charges for those call minutes. You’ll therefore be needing a decent Instant Messenger and VoIP client. For IM, you can’t go far wrong with Windows Live Messenger – which is now in the later stages of it’s Beta trial. Simply point your mobile browser at and sign on with your Live ID as you would on any Desktop PC. Most Windows Mobile devices come with an older built-in version of Pocket MSN which will also enable you to chat to your colleagues, friends and clients. For VoIP, I’m afraid to say that the SIP based clients I’ve used aren’t up-to scratch yet – so my recommendation has to go to Skype Mobile, which gets better and better with each version I’ve used. I’d recommend using a hands-free kit or ‘phone to ear-cable when using Skype in this way, rather than holding the ‘phone to your ear in the traditional manner. I recently used Skype extensively in this way to make free calls from my Windows Mobile device in Europe (via a free Wi-Fi hotspot I’d found using WiFiFoFum!) back to the UK – result!

Now when out and about sight-seeing or partying, I generally carry my ageing but still sexy Pentax Optio S4 Digital Camera to help populate my Flickr account with dodgy snaps. But there are times when you just want to take a quick snap and you don’t have your Digital Camera to hand. The MDA Vario II and similar devices have a 1.3 megapixel camera built in – hardly cutting edge, but ok for basic pics – but the built-in camera software is nothing short of appalling. Clumsy, slow – you’d be quicker doodling a quick impression of your intended photograph, rather than faff around with your ‘phone to take a picture. To the rescue comes Ateksoft’s Cool Camera, which can be used to replace the in-built Mobile Camera client and provide you with some useful facilities for making photographic life easier. You won’t become the next David Bailey using your ‘phone in this way, but you won’t dread trying to take a quick snap with it either.

Browsing all those photos and files you store on your Mobile device can be a chore if you use the bog-standard File Explorer in Windows Mobile. Upgrade that to Advanced Explorer and make your life easier with features such as different view methods, easier cut/copy/paste, network/FTP browsing, ZIP file support, Registry editing and Recycle Bin use. You’ll wonder how you coped without it.

Now – you’ve used your Sat-Nav to find your way to the pub, you’ve been in that pub all afternoon slaving away over your Windows Mobile device using the Remote tools we’ve mentioned to serve your colleagues and clients. You’ve taken a very tasteful photograph of yourself with the lovely pub barmaid and sent this picture to your friends via e-mail and Instant Messenger, using the free Wi-Fi you tracked down earlier. All that hard work surely deserves a break – so sit back and fire up Pocket Music to listen to a few MP3’s. Sure, you could use the in-built Windows Media Player, but you want to play those bizarrely encoded Swedish folk-music tracks your friend just sent you, and WMP frustratingly doesn’t want to do that for you. Pocket Music supports a whole swathe of formats that WMP doesn’t, and has a much nicer interface to boot. There’s also a free version! What are you waiting for?

Tired of listening to music? An IT Professional surely doesn’t play games on his Windows Mobile Device, but if he did – he might want to take a look at 3D Mad Cars, Bejewelled 2 or Snails. They certainly beat the in-built Solitaire for wasting your time away.

Finally, cramming your Windows Mobile device with all these 3rd Party applications means that you’ll be running out of storage space a lot quicker, and if you need to reset your ‘phone to Factory Defaults during troubleshooting – you’re in for a loooooong rebuild period reloading all those apps! You’d therefore be wise to invest in Dinarsoft’s MemMaid, which run regularly on your Windows Mobile device will free up a simply amazing amount of storage space that would otherwise be wasted. Then, regular back your device up to both external storage (carrying a spare SDCard or other storage media with your latest backup on means you can recover your device to a working condition from just about anywhere in the world when disaster strikes) and/or your PC using the excellent Sprite Mobile Backup. The next time you need to recover your Mobile device from a critical failure, this software will have paid for itself by making the process a quick and trouble-free experience – taking you from a factory default device to all your data and applications in mere minutes.

So there we have it. We’ve covered a lot of Windows Mobile applications, and the good news is, there are thousands more out there for you to try! Go take a look at a site like Handango for more ideas. I hope this little look into the 3rd Party Applications that take up the storage space on my own Windows Mobile 5 device has been useful – if you have any recommendations to make about the software you use, please leave a comment or drop me an e-mail – I’d love to hear from you!

Windows Live Messenger Charity Campaign – I’m Making a Difference

If you’ve seen any of your Windows Live Messenger contacts with a tiny I'm making a difference logo logo next to their name – the reason it’s there is they are choosing to support the Messenger “I’m Making a Difference Campaign”.

Using Windows Live Messenger 8.1 –  simply sign up and every time you start a conversation with a contact (wherever in the world they might be) a small donation is made to the Charity of your choice. A simple and easy way to do some good.

At the moment, the campaign is U.S. specific, but even if you are outside the U.S then by signing up you can both show your support for your chosen charity, and increase the likelihood of the campaign being put to work outside the States.

I covered Charity Donations for Tight Arses in an entry last year – so if you aren’t doing your bit already in some way, there are plenty of methods that are simple, painless and in many cases, free!

Yahoo! Messenger and Windows Live Messenger Now Interoperate

Dare Obasanjo (who’s blog is worth reading regularly if you are interested in any behind the scenes Microsoft developments, or the thoughts of a Microsoft employee involved in them) reports that Yahoo! Messenger and Windows Live Messenger Now Interoperate.
It’s still a Beta program, and there is plenty of work yet to be done, but it’s a step in the right direction.
Of course applications such as Trillian, that allow multiple logons to different IM services have been around for some time – but it’s long overdue for the big IM providers to start to get together to provide something “official”.

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