This week at Mobile Tech Manor #4- something ate my contacts

Mobile_tech_manor_large_2Mobile Tech Manor can be a hopping place with new things going on to keep me on my toes.  It can also be a place where problems crop up that must be dealt with and sometimes those can take a lot of time and effort to fix.  This was one of those weeks as something ate my contacts!  I’m still reeling from that one.  Otherwise it was a good week as I kept busy writing fun stuff while poor Kevin was off dealing with personal issues of his own.  To top it off we had five straight days of rain which is unusual for Houston and that played a big part in keeping me at the Manor the entire week.  Pull up a chair and sit a while and I’ll share my week with you.

Manorisms this week

French_doorsThe week started good enough with the French doors getting installed on Saturday.  My office previously had an open arched entry and the lack of privacy/ quiet was driving me batty.  The installer was here over 8 hours getting the doors installed and I must say they turned out very nice.  They are solid mahogany and extremely heavy and they have made my work environment so much better.  They look good too.

The rains came all week, sometimes heavy but constant in any event.  This kept me from doing my mobile blogging thing and I was stuck in my office all week.  I now know why I enjoy working outside so much and I really missed working in the local coffee shops.  Staying cooped up for so long is just not natural so tell your boss I said so.

I had a good week and got a LOT of writing done.  Since I’ve been doing this full-time I have been repeatedly amazed at how fast each day passes.  I get started pretty early as a rule and it seems I look up at the clock and it’s lunch time already!  How the days pass so quickly is beyond me but they sure do.  A lot of that time this week was spent worrying about Barb, Kevin’s fiancee.  The poor girl was hospitalized with viral meningitis which must have been scary on top of the discomfort I know she was feeling.  Thankfully they got her on the road to recovery and she got back home and is resting comfortably.  Anyone who’s been hospitalized can tell you that it’s impossible to rest in a hospital and getting home is oh, so, sweet.  I’m awfully glad she’s doing well and hopefully poor Kevin will catch up on his sleep soon.  He was out of pocket most of the week and he’s resting up.

iPhone is all updated

This week Apple released the iPhone update, version 2.0.2 and I applied that right away.  They were not very forthcoming as to what this update addressed other than it contained "bug fixes".  I haven’t noticed any difference at all in the operation of my iPhone so who knows what bugs got squashed.  Many iPhone owers were hoping that the 3G issues that have been in the news would be fixed but since I wasn’t really having any I can’t tell.  At least it hasn’t introduced any new problems so far.

I am still quite happy with the iPhone and how well it’s working for me.  I do a lot of web stuff and the iPhone is handily the best device I’ve used for all of that.  It is nice to be able to jump on the web no matter where I am and with the iPhone in my hand I can get quite a bit of stuff done.  The keyboard is not my favorite but it works well enough for what I do.  I don’t do any writing with it of course, at least not more than fairly short emails.  I did reply to an email on the iPhone with a little more content than I normally would and got a response from my friend that said he was scared that I’d typed all of that on my iPhone.  It works well enough when you have to use it.

Visit to HP

I spent some time at the HP offices that are nearby and got to play with the new EliteBook 2730p, the refresh of my 2710p.  I am totally impressed with the 2730p as HP took all the complaints often levied against the 2710p and addressed them with the refresh.  The new Tablet will be available with LV processors in addition to the ULV which means faster performance.  They also added a jog dial on the side of the screen, the lack of which I complained bitterly about the predecessor.  This jog wheel will make it a breeze to work in portrait slate mode and is a very welcome addition.  HP also added a trackpad for those who like them but had the good sense to keep the trackstick which is my favorite.  All in all the 2730p is a dandy new addition to the Tablet PC family and I can’t wait to get one to play with.  I was also very happy when HP assured me that my current 2710p accessories would still work with the 2730p.  That protects my investment in the slice battery and the ultra-slim dock with its 7mm thin optical drive.

I also got to play with the super small 2530p notebook.  This little jewel has a 12-inch screen and is as thin and light as can be yet still have a serious keyboard.  You won’t find a smaller notebook that has an optical drive like the 2530p and with 3 battery options you can run this thing for hours on a charge.  All in all this is a very nice business notebook that is built from the ground up for the mobile professional.

Entourage and GMail issues continue to plague me

I touched previously on the issues I’ve been living through making Entourage on the MacBook Pro play nice with GMail.  I got things fairly settled down after a lot of trial and error, at least I thought I did.  A couple of days ago I had GMail and Entourage frustrate the heck out of me as something happened that scares the bejeebers out of me.  I have been working with GMail through the Entourage client which polls the GMail inbox using IMAP.  Once I’ve read an email in Entourage I move it to one of my Exchange Server (ES) folders for safe-keeping, at least iI thought it was safe.  I have always thought that when I move an email this way that it actually copies it into the ES sub-folder and then deletes it out of the GMail inbox.  That’s what it looks like is happening anyway.

In reality I do a group of emails at once as I only process my email at given times so I’m not constantly distracted every time an email comes in.  A scary thing happened that has shaken my faith in how well this works.  I highlighted the email I wanted to move into a sub-folder and told Entourage to move it.  It dutifully disappeared out of the GMail inbox as usual and I went about my business.  A while later I needed to reference one of the moved emails and I went to the Exchange Server sub-folder where I’d moved it and it wasn’t there!  In fact, none of that group of email was there!  I looked in every single sub-folder on the off-chance that I moved it to the wrong one but they weren’t in any of them.  They were however gone from the inbox so basically that meant that a few hours worth of emails were gone as if deleted.  This was not just an inconvenience, it is very dangerous as it demonstrated to me that I can’t trust the method I’m using to process email.  I’ll have to figure out a better way.

OneCare won’t update

I have been using OneCare on my Windows boxes since it first debuted and overall I like the way it works.  I have several notebooks running it currently and this week for no reason one of them stopped updating the anti-virus/ anti-spyware signatures.  This is the single most basic function that OneCare provides and if it won’t update then that system is exposed to new threats.  No matter what I did it would fail to update the AV/AS signatures so I went online to research it. 

The sad part is it’s a known issue that OneCare will suddenly just stop updating.  There are KB articles and forum threads galore dealing with it and Microsoft has even written a utility to delete the OneCare database to fix the problem.  Apparently it’s a corrupt AV database that makes OneCare just stop working which is downright silly.  I ran the utility which did not fix my problem so the ultimate solution is what I had to do, uninstall OneCare and then re-install it.  That did the trick so my laptop is protected once again but you have to wonder how a simple database can get corrupt like that.  Once that happens how can deleting the database fail to correct the problem?  Who knows.

Exchange Server contacts are totally safe?  Nope.

I have used a hosted Exchange Server for years and years and it has kept my data safe and sound.  I would have bet you big buckets of money that my PIM data would always be protected from the data bogeyman until this week.  That’s when ALL MY CONTACTS DISAPPEARED FROM THE SERVER!  Sorry for yelling but I have spent a harrowing half-day trying to find out where they went and how to get them back.  It’s a very scary tale that has shaken my trust in the ES setup I’ve used for so long.

It started out innocently enough.  I use Entourage on the Mac and Outlook on Windows which both have always interfaced with my Exchange Server no problem.  I have configured the iPhone to interface directly with the Server too.  All of this has worked perfectly until this week.  It’s so rock solid that when this first happened I didn’t truly believe what I was seeing. 

I got a call on my iPhone from a contact in the database and surprisingly it showed up as the phone number and not the contact’s name as usual.  I didn’t think too much about it and later I went to send an email to a contact on the phone and got a shock.  There were only two contacts on the phone.  Not the 402 that were there for weeks since I had spent hours in Outlook deleting all my old geophysical consulting contacts out of the contacts database.  I had decided since I had basically retired from my old consulting gig that I’d get rid of those contacts to make the database more manageable.  I had manually trimmed it from 4300+ to just 402 and everything sped up after that.  All of that effort spent cleaning out the server contacts flashed before my eyes as I looked at the iPhone and only found two contacts there!

As I said the iPhone syncs directly with the Exchange Server so this was not cool.  I jumped in Entourage on the Mac and the Exchange Server contacts still numbered 402.  I opened up Address Book on the Mac and it still showed 402 contacts.  This was getting stranger and stranger as the iPhone still only had the two contacts.  I fired up Outlook on the 2710p sitting next to the Mac and it it got even stranger.  Outlook is configured to work directly with the Exchange Server, in fact when I log into Outlook it’s actually logging directly into the server.  It fired up and only had the same two contacts showing on the server.  Uh oh.  Big trouble, flashing red lights ahead.

I checked everything I could and even logged into the server using Outlook Web Access through the browser and the server definitely only had two contacts remaining in the database.  Something, somewhere had deleted 400 contacts off the server.  It made no sense as the Mac still showed 402 which indicated to me that it wasn’t really communicating with the Exchange Server.

My immediate concern was to get the missing contacts back onto the Exchange Server.  I could try and figure out later what happened, I just had to have them back.  I created backups on the Mac of the 402 contacts in case something happened to them since they were now the only copies of those contacts.  I fussed around for almost half a day and nothing I did would get them back on the server.  It was clear at this point that the Mac apps were not really talking to the Exchange Server as far as the contacts were concerned.  The calendar and email in Entourage were in sync with the server but not contacts.  This points to Address Book on the Mac as the culprit since it also talks to the server.  The big question at this point is how to get them back on the server?

It turns out the solution was MobileMe.  Say what we want about the less than stellar service by Apple it came to the rescue here.  Sort of.  I fired up MobileMe on the Windows box and told it to sync just the contacts with Outlook.  My hope was to have MobileMe put the 402 contacts back onto Outlook which was connected to the server.  You see where I was going with this.  MobileMe fired up the sync, something I had not done previously, and it immediately indicated that there were 400 contacts with a conflict resolution.  So far so good and I told MobileMe to replace the Outlook contacts with the MobileMe ones.  It started up and I watched it go.  And watched it.  After an hour it was still syncing, something I thought was strange with only 400 contacts to sync.  I opened up the contacts in Outlook since I could see how many were now in there and instead of the infamous two there were now a little over 500.  That’s right, the sync was putting them back but there were now more than in MobileMe.  What the heck was it doing?

I let it keep going and three hours later it was still going and Outlook now had over 2,000 contacts.  Great, I thought, it was creating duplicates, triplicates, no quintuplets of everything.  Upon further examination I found that wasn’t true.  What it was doing was putting back in all of the 4,000 contacts I had weeded out weeks ago!  How the heck did that happen?  They were not in the Mac apps, not on the server and not in Outlook so how did syncing with MobileMe put them back in?  At this point I had no choice but to let the MobileMe sync finish and then figure it out.  It took about 5 hours after which I had 4319 contacts on the server, about what it was prior to my manual weeding.

At least my missing contacts are now back on the server which is a big relief but now I’m confronted with another manual weeding back to the 402.  Hopefully I’ll figure out exactly what happened by then so it doesn’t happen again.  Meanwhile I have the iPhone set to only sync with the server and I’ve turned off MobileMe syncing on the Mac side to try and at least keep it simple with just Exchange Server syncing.  Let’s see how that does.  I have a feeling that Address Book is the culprit but why it has remained constant with 402 contacts through this whole process is beyond me.

Cool programs I’m playing with

I’m always messing around with software and this week was no different.  MIcrosoft released a major update for Office 2008 for the Mac and I applied it right away.  It addressed some security and stability issues and was highly recommended so I applied it.  Hey, come to think of it that was right before my Entourage situation above!  Come to think of it after this update the Mac told me that my Entourage database was corrupt.  I ran the Office Database Utility and rebuilt the database just before my problems began.  I smell a rat.  Otherwise the office suite is running as always and I can’t tell any difference so I’d recommend this for Mac users due to the security fixes.

I was looking for a simple outliner for the Mac to use for articles and I found Deep Notes.  It is a very simple outliner with not many features but it’s pretty solid and it’s free.  I’ve been using it all week and like it pretty much so if you’re looking for an outliner you can try it for yourself.  Outliners are very personal things I’ve found so some will like and and others won’t.


I ran a press release for a "new" iPhone app this week, AirMe.  I was quickly informed that even though this was a new press release that it had been available for the iPhone for quite some time.  I installed it on my iPhone and am liking it a lot.  AirMe lets you take photos with the phone and post them directly to Flickr or Facebook.  It’s pretty simple to use and works well.  It auto-tags the photos with customizable information like GPS location data, weather at photo time, etc.  It’s free so you can try it for yourself.

Playing with AirMe and Flickr with the iPhone got Kevin to mention that he likes Exposure for working directly with his Flickr account.  I tried that too and I like it as well as it makes looking at photos on Flickr very nice and easy.  It will also use your iPhone’s location and find other Flickr photos posted around your current location.  This is pretty cool to do and it’s fun.  Exposure is free too.

Books of the week

You know I’m getting a lot of reading done thanks to eReader on the iPhone and this week I sped through two good books.  First up was Black Market by James Patterson which is a good domestic terrorist plot.  I read everything James Patterson writes and he’s one of my favorite writers.  His books cover a bunch of different genres and this one was a typical Patterson thriller.  Highly recommended.

I also am reading The Tunnels by Michelle Gagnon.  I’m almost done with it and it’s a good story about a serial killer.  I seem to like most novels about serial killers, what does that say about me?  I think I like them because I can’t fathom what makes these sickos tick, at least that’s what I tell myself.  Most books about serial killers seem to become best sellers so what that says about us readers I’m not getting into.  The Tunnels is a good book and I’m enjoying it as much as her book I read a while back, Boneyard.

Weekly wrapup

This week was full of computing trouble as you’ve seen but it had many good things too.  On the health front I’m happy to report that my diabetes is under good control. I’m a Type 2 diabetic and I take insulin up to four times a day as needed.  I check my glucose level at mealtimes and inject insulin based on the measured levels and I’m happy to report that this week my level was normal as often as not.  That means that I didn’t have to inject insulin half the time which is great.  I inject it in the abdomen which freaks my family but I find it to cause less discomfort there than anywhere else.  I take Lantos insulin at bedtime to keep my glucose level from rising in my sleep, a common situation with Type 2 diabetes.   It’s keeping my glucose level much lower upon waking than before and that’s good too.

I hope you had a good week like I did and will keep visiting us at jkOnTheRun.  We will be covering all sorts of cool gadgetry and tech and you won’t want to miss it.  Thanks for stopping by and I’ll see you next week.