BlackBerry App Permissions

29 01 2008

This is a topic that came up in the Beyond411 Application Review.

When you load an application on a BlackBerry it generally requires certain things from said BlackBerry – access to the Internet, access to phone information (address book, etc.) and sometimes access to your GPS location (if you’re using a turn-by-turn navigation application, fr’instance).

The majority of application will ask you questions when you first run them (The Application has requested access to you GPS Location) followed by the option to allow or deny that access.

In the event that something still doesn’t work or you accidentally answered “No” to something you can manually set those permissions.  This is in the event that your BlackBerry is not under the control of a BlackBerry Enterprise Server ( BES) .  The BES issue is something that I’m going to leave alone because the focus of these reviews is to make the BlackBerry approachable to non-business users.  These people wouldn’t (usually) be on a BES administered device to begin with.

Anyway, getting back to the point, these permissions can be set manually so that you can tell your BB “Hey, if <insert app name here> wants the Internet, let <insert same app name here>  have the Internet, ok?” 

This will, in theory, give the app whatever it needs to function properly.

How do I change these settings?  Glad ya asked!

On a BlackBerry with a Pearl (the little ball)

ex: 8800/20/30, Curve 8300/10/20,  Pearl 8100/20/30

Go to Options (this is the little wrench).  On some GSM BB’s (at&t, T-Mobile) you need to enter Settings (little gears) to find options.

Select Advanced Options

Then Applications

Then highlight whichever app we need to monkey around with and press the Menu key (left of the Pearl, has a bunch of dots on it).

Select Edit Permissions

Press the Menu key (yes, again)

Select Reset Firewall Prompts

Now you’re going to be looking at Connection, Interactions and User Data.

All three of these need to be set to “Allow.”

Once they are, press the Menu key one last time and select “Save.”

Once you’re done “Please Wait”ing (try it and you’ll understand) turn off the BB, wait about 30 seconds and power it back on.

You’re set!!

If your BB still has the wheel

ex 7100i, 7130e, 8703e, 8700c/r

Go to Options

Advanced Options

Click on the app

Select Edit Permissions

Set Connection, Interactions and User Data to “Allow,” click the wheel and “Save” and then power cycle (turn the BB off and then back on) once the waiting is done.

I hope this helps, and it will be added to the App Review page as well.





Beyond411

29 01 2008

Just like “Lost Souls” (JC Sackett knows what I’m talking about), this application suffers from great concept, poor execution.

Beyond 411 is a BlackBerry application that starts off as a free way to search for phone numbers, but goes Beyond 411 to offer a slough of other options.

Sounds great (“concept”). Have you used Beyond411?  Once you leave the familiar realm of looking up a business (and this is after you get past a semi-unfriendly interface) you get slapped in the face by how well it does(n’t) get the job done.

When you first run the application it seems promising; you’re prompted to enter a “home,” “work” and an “other” address.  These addresses are used when you look up a business – basically, it will look for matches near to the selected address.

You can also select what Internet connection the application will use to search for these results, but there’s really no good reason to take it off of “default.”

Click “Save” and you’re ready to (try to) use Beyond411.

The home screen is a little daunting and lacking in direction.

In the upper-right corner it will say “home.” By clicking on this you can select one of the default addresses that you’ve already entered or select GPS to try and use your current location as the area around which to look for businesses (this is only an option on certain BB models and will not work on, for example, the Pearl 8100).

After selecting your location you start typing (presumably the name of a business you want to find) and Beyond411 will start guessing the business that you’re looking for – very cool.

When you’ve finished typing a click of the Pearl will display a menu, with “Yellow Pages (selected location)” highlighted.  Click again and you begin your search for the nearest Sushi restaurant, or whatever painfully addicting product you need to find.

When your results are displayed you can click on the name of the business and you are treated to a new menu:

Directions to (1st listing)– Click here to get directions from your location (whatever location was selected when you started your search) to the selected listing.  This will give you a MapQuest-esque list o’ turns from point A to point B.

Call– If your listing has a phone number attached to it, clicking here will call it for you (tres self-explanatory).

Map– Gives you a map based on the address for the listing.

Add to address book– Add the listing’s address to your BlackBerry address book.

Set Current Location – This will change your “other” address to the address for this listing.

Email Business Info– The info for the listing in emailed to whatever address you enter.  This one is pretty darned cool.

Tell a friend about Beyond411 – Select a contact from your address book and send them an OTA (Over the Air) download link for Beyond411.

 And this, for me, is where the coolness ends.

After you enter your search criteria and click the Pearl, another option given to you is White Pages – if you’ve entered a person’s name as opposed to a business the application will launch Google and run a search for residential listings based on that name and your selected location.  It’s a little more time-consuming (you need to wait for it to launch your browser and load Google) but it’s certainly easier than trying to enter effective search criteria for your own Google search.

Web Search– In theory, this would launch a regular old Google search for whatever.  This consistently times out and gave http errors.  I checked my coverage (fantastical) as well as my Application Permissions* and try as I might, it wouldn’t work.

Loading up my Internet browser, navigating to Google and entering in the same search terms worked like a champ.

Edit Settings– This is where you can edit your default addresses or change the Internet connection that Beyond411 uses to connect to the Internet.

The next set of options are based upon your location, as opposed to any specific business or person you may be searching for.

Weather– In theory?  Gives a forecast based on the selected location.

Shopping – In theory? Places to shop.

Movies– Find showtimes and theatres.

Sports – In theory?  Sports scores and game times?  Maybe?  If it had worked I would totally be telling you.

If you do not have anything in the search field you will be given one more selection:

Local Info – This pulls up a new screen with all of the above options along with an option for driving directions (here you can get directions or a static map).   These directions did work…on about the 5th try.  More weirdness to the directions is that they pull up via Yahoo! as opposed to Google.  I only mention that as “weirdness” because everything else seems to be based on Google search results – it seems weird (to me, at least) that it would switch to a different database to pull driving directions.

Also, “Sports” is divided into categories for each sport (NHL, MLB, etc.).

There is also a Reverse Phone Lookup.  Cool!  Except that it doesn’t work.  I was thinking that my test phone numbers were all unlisted, so I tested it:  I ran a white pages search for a name (I was feeling generic and used “Smith”).

I then took the phone number from one of those listings and input that as my search criteria for the “Reverse Phone Lookup.”  Where’s the beef?  Here it is; there was no indication that it was even trying to find any info based on the number I entered.  Granted, the little arrows in the upper-right of the screen started flashing, but that isn’t much help.  Those arrows indicate network activity, so it implies that it’s trying, but on a BB those arrows go off all the time.  So it could be trying the reverse lookup…or I could just be getting an email.  Then, after it (presumably) failed it just sat there on the same screen.  There was never any kind of notification that the search failed.  I hate that.  A lot.

Lastly, there is Mobilize Web Page.  Pretty cool idea – enter a website and the application will try and optimize it for a mobile device.  Who cares?  The BlackBerry can already do that for you.  Point of fact, almost all cell phones automatically (try) to convert web pages to a mobile-friendly version.  The only phones that don’t are generally Windows Mobile devices.  If you have one of those you probably are not going to be downloading an application for a BlackBerry.  Just an assumption.

As before we are leaving (relative) objectivity and jumping into my opinion of Beyond411.

I’m impressed by the 1st part of the application – the ability to find, call, and even navigate to businesses. 

The White Pages search is very Ok.  A little clunky but generally easier and faster than trying it on your own.

Everything else (beyond the business listings) seemed to be a cluster-f***.  I’m just not impressed by the execution.  At all.  I would much rather have 3 options that work flawlessly than have 30 that kinda-sorta work.  That’s just me.  I’m a stickler for quality and presentation.

There’s also the issue of errors: the errors were plentiful and varied, but there was no offer of any kind to view details or potential troubleshooting steps to take.  It frustrated the heck out of me.  I even went so far as to delete and re-install the application (twice) to no avail.  My BB’s firmware (this is the phone’s operating system, like Windows is for your PC)  is totally up-to-date.  And we aren’t talking about having the latest firmware for a phone that was discontinued 3 years ago.  My BB is the 2nd-newest model available from Sprint.

My overall view on Beyond411 is that it is about halfway done.  If it had a big fat “Beta” after the name I would be much more forgiving.  Which is to say, I would Bbe forgiving.  When I download an application onto my phone I want it to work.  Not just work, but work properly.  A cell phone, especially a BlackBerry, represents a significant chunk of change to me.  Anything that I do to it is not something I take on lightly.  The BlackBerry is not a toy to me.

Like I said from the start; The underlying idea is amazing.  It really is.  The execution is what’s not floating my boat.  This essentially Beta (test/pre-release) software doesn’t meet my admittedly high standards for a final version and doesn’t leave me feeling especially confident in subsequent releases of the app.  If a new version is released I will try to test it out with as little bias as possible.  I will not, however, be going into a new release with the same excitement and optimism as I did with this initial installation.

Guys, please turn me around.  I would like nothing more than to be entirely blown away by the next release.

For information on the guys behind Beyond411:

http://thebogles.com/blog/ – Not much info about the company or the guys behind it (kind of disappointing).

To download Beyond411 navigate your BlackBerry’s internet browser to:

http://thebogles.com/b411.jad

Please, The Bogles, make me eat my words with the next release.

*Application Permissions –

BlackBerry Apps often make requests for information from or access to the BlackBerry.  For an application like Beyond411 it needs access to your GPS (if you want to use your GPS location as the center for your searches) phone information (to make calls, add to addressbook, etc) and access to the Internet (do I need to explain why?).  Most applications will ask you questions upon initial setup that will take care of this, but I went so far as to manually tell my BB to let Beyond411 do whatever the heck it wanted.  And it still wasn’t enough to get the rock-solid results I demand.





TwitterBerry

24 01 2008

As promised, the premier BlackBerry App Review is indeed a Twitter application, sent to me by Andrew Feinberg.  We (Ok, I) are reviewing Orangatame’s TwitterBerry.

For those of you who don’t know, Twitter very simply asks the question: “What are you doing?”  You send up a post (140 characters or less) which is instantly viewable to any Twitter member (unless you’re weird and have made your updates private).  It’s a quick and easy way to communicate with friends, get the cathartic value of a full-fledged blog, and even reach out for help and advice from your friends and “followers.”

Now, on to TwitterBerry.

Andrew sent it to me and the download was quick as a bunny.

Sadly, as quickly as it was installed it hit me with a bit of a stumbling block:  after logging in there is no confirmation.  No where on the screen did it tell me that I was logged in, nor did it display my user picture or anything else.  The only way that I could tell that I was not logged in successfully was that it didn’t work.  Even then, I couldn’t tell that right from the home screen.

The TwitterBerry home screen is very Spartan.  It simply asks “What are you doing?” and provides a cursor.  Once you start typing a counter appears to let you know how many characters you have remaining (just like the website does).  When you’re done, a simple click of the Pearl gives you the option to “update” and away you go.  In theory.  Because TwitterBerry does not display log-in info or tell you if your log-in was not recognized you won’t know that your post didn’t work until you log-in to the website and see that it isn’t there.

If we press the menu key we have some more options, first (after update) being “Configure”.  This lets you view or change the name you’re signed in under.  No, this isn’t as helpful as you’d think because you could put in totally wrong info and not be told.  However, if you’re like me and assume that it was some sort of password typo you can go in and try try again.

Next down we have Friends Timeline.

The “Friends Timeline” is similar to what you see if you’re logged in at Twitter.com.  You have all the posts left by you and the people you follow, displayed with their user picture, most recent on top.  The only downside is that, unlike the site, there is no “older” function; you see the 20 most-recent posts and that’s it.

The posts are truncated, but clicking on one will expand it.  Once expanded you can read the whole post and even navigate to any embedded URL’s.  A simple click of the back button returns you to your list-o-posts.

Once you’re on the “Friends Timeline” you need to go back  to the home screen if you want to go access any other functions.   The menu key will only give you “open” (as in “open this post”) or “close” (which takes you back home).

Next feature:  Get Replies

“Get Replies” pulls up a screen like the “Friends Timeline”, but displays the last 20 replies to your posts.  Replies start with @<your name here>.  “Get Replies” offers a quick and easy way to see if anyone has anything to say about your posts.

My Timeline

Just shows the last 20 posts that you’ve written.

Public Timeline

This one shows you the last 20 posts left by anyone who does not protect their updates.  “Public Timeline” allows you to exercise your voyeuristic tendencies and see what strangers are up to.

Lastly, there’s an “About” which will let you know how to get in touch with Orangatame and learn more about who they are and what they do.

There are also BlackBerry options on the menu, and those are “Check Spelling” (duh) and “Show Symbols”, so that you can pull up some additional symbols that aren’t displayed on the keypad.

Now we will leave the realm of the objective and get into my reaction to and opinion of TwitterBerry.

My only real concern is the lack of confirmation after logging in.  I would love to be notified that my log-in failed and maybe even have my name screen name displayed somewhere on the home screen.  There’s enough space at the top of the screen (where the only thing displayed is “TwitterBerry”) to throw in a “Welcome, Lobsticles” or some such greeting.

The lack of a “view older” function from the “Timeline” screens is very minor.  Chances are, if you’re installing TwitterBerry it’s because you keep a decently close eye on your Twitter already.  You don’t need older posts because you’ve already seen them.

The only other thing that I’m not a fan of is the inability to go from one timeline to another without making a pit stop back at the home screen.  Why the heck can’t I jump from the Public Timeline to go and see My Replies?  I couldn’t tell you. Luckily, the home screen loads almost instantly, so we’re saved from waiting around just to load a page that we don’t even want to be on.  Not a big deal at all, and certainly nothing to lose sleep over from a free app.

I’m really impressed with TwitterBerry.  The open and simple nature of Twitter seems to have carried over nicely.  There’s nothing very intricate, which is grand.  It is far simpler than opening up the BlackBerry browser, navigating to Twitter and then proceeding to write a post.  The fact that the home screen is devoid of anyone elses posts or pictures lets it load up super fast so you cna open TwitterBerry, post and run.  Even while I sit here, right in front of the computer, I prefer posting via TwitterBerry because it is so fast.

Overall, I think that anyone who uses Twitter already would certainly be served by checking out TwitterBerry.  It’ll give you the best of the site, beautifully optimised for the BlackBerry and its on-the-go nature.

Orangatame Software is located at www.orangatame.com

Click on Products and the TwitterBerry to see if your BlackBerry is supported.

To get TwitterBerry, navigate your BlackBerry browser to http://www.orangatame.com/ota/twitterberry