Paybyphone – why this app may be for you

If you use parking meters, you should look at Paybyphone. This app allows you to pay for street parking meters with your smart phone.

To get going do the following:

    1. Go to your phone app store and download the paybyphone app
    2. Register for your account
    3. Put your car(s) license plates in
    4. Put in you payment info


Here’s how it works:

You park your car and walk up to the parking meter.

Without paybyphone, you would put money or use your credit card to buy parking time.  A ticket would be printed and you walk back to your car and put the ticket on the dash. The ticket is also your receipt, if you need one.

With paybyphone, you type the 5 digit paybyphone number into the app, select the amount of time,confirm and  a receipt is emailed to you.  No need to go back to your car, no need even to go up to the meter if someone is using it as long as you can see the large numbers on the side.  You may not even need to get out of your car, if its raining,  I’ll use my phone to snap picture of the numbers and then off to my meeting.  For me this is already worth the 35 cents fee charged per transactions, but it gets better. Here are some of the additional benefits

    1. Paybyphone will txt you 10 minutes before your time runs out.
    2. You can buy more time without going back to the meter, This allows me to use cheaper on street parking for many appointments I would not risk running out of time.
    3. If you try to buy time that overlaps a no parking time it will tell you.  This has saved me a few times


I’ve been using paybyphone for several month now and it has saved me stress and and money.  The last time I used paybyphone, it was at a location I’ve always parked in the paid parking lot.  It was a client I have in a medical building, I ended up being there for an hour and a half, this would normally have been $7 or $10, depending on which side of the half hour my time fell on.  Street parking was available, I paid $3.35 for an hour, went into my appointment, at 50 minutes I was reminded of my parking was running out and paid $1.85 to extend it by 30 minutes. That’s at least a $1.80 savings.

Paybyphone is available in many Canadian and US cities.

Posted in Uncategorized

Keepass on Android

To get KeePass up and running on your Android device follow the following steps

1) Install and configure DropBox on you Android

Open Google Play, touch the magnifying glass icon at top right and type “dropbox”Screenshot_2015-03-01-14-00-07

Select Dropbox, Download it, Open it and log on to your dropbox account

2) Install KeepassDroid

Open Google Play, touch magnifying glass icon at top right and type “keepass”Screenshot_2015-03-01-13-57-57

Select KeePassDroid and install.

3) Configure KeePassDroid

Open Dropbox from your homescreenScreenshot_2015-03-01-14-01-16

Navigate to your KeePass fileScreenshot_2015-03-01-14-01-25Touch Keepass file and it should open this window in KeePassDroid.  Most likely the white check mark will be missing, click the little box to enable it as your default file.  Screenshot_2015-03-01-14-01-32

Touch the Password field and type in your password and voila, you now have your cloud based KeePass file openScreenshot_2015-03-01-14-01-53

Posted in Security, SmartPhone Diaries

Keepass on Blackberry 10

To get keepass up and running on your BB10 follow the following steps:

1)  Log into do drop box on your Blackberry

For keyboard Blackberrys – while on your home screen, type “drop”.  This will open the Blackberry assistant with “drop” already typed in.

For full touch Blackberrys – while on the home screen, touch the magnifying glass (bottom of screen in the middle).  This will open the blackberry assistant, touch in the input field to bring up the keyboard and type “drop”

You should now see this on your Blackberry


Click on “Connect to Dropbox”  this will launch the Dropbox app. Follow through the wizard, you should see the following windows in order.

Drop loginIMG_20150301_091941IMG_20150301_092016


Step 2 Download the Keepass app from Blackberry world.

For keyboard Blackberrys – while on your home screen, type “world”.  This will open the Blackberry assistant with “world” already typed in.

For full touch Blackberrys – while on the home screen, touch the magnifying glass (bottom of screen in the middle).  This will open the blackberry assistant, touch in the input field to bring up the keyboard and type “world”

You should now see this on your BlackberryIMG_20150301_094752

Press on Blackberry world Icon, when it opens, click on magnifying glass (bottom middle)IMG_20150301_094808

type “kpd”IMG_20150301_094838

Select KPD (KeePass) and download it.

3) Configure KPD on you Blackberry

For keyboard Blackberrys – while on your home screen, type “file”.  This will open the Blackberry assistant with “drop” already typed in.

For full touch Blackberrys – while on the home screen, touch the magnifying glass (bottom of screen in the middle).  This will open the blackberry assistant, touch in the input field to bring up the keyboard and type “file”

You should now see this on your Blackberry, touch”File Manager”IMG_20150301_102036

You are now in the file manager app.  Touch the 3 bars at the bottom left of your screen.IMG_20150301_102113

Touch Dropbox and navigate to your keepass fileIMG_20150301_102120


Touch you keepass file, this will lauch KPD and open it something that looks like this.  Most likely the blue check mark will be missing, touch the little square to toggle it on, then touch the password field, type in your password and touch OKIMG_20150301_102552

You will probably get this warning.  It’s always a good idea to make a backup copy of your keepass file every so often.  Touch OK and voila you now have your cloud based keepass file open.IMG_20150301_102704

Posted in Blackberry, Security, SmartPhone Diaries

SmartPhone Diaries – Launcher

I got my first experience with home screens in the early eighties when I saw my first Apple 2.  This truly was a transformative experience for me.  I was 2 years into my career at Bell Northern Research (Canada’s version of Bell Labs) and to this point all my experience with computing had been either mainframes or calculators.  Here was something quite new to me, it was bigger than a bread box and smaller than my desk.  But it was not the size that struck me, it was the combination of a visual metaphor of my desk embodied in the OS; and the mouse which is really the virtual extension of my hands, that totally changed my relationship with computing.  Up until the Apple 2, computing was something you spent a lot of time studying, writing programs, finding existing functions and teasing out of all of this something that made sense and eventually translating this meaning into presentations and recommendations.  With the introduction of the Desktop and the mouse, my relationship with computing became one of discovery.

Fast forward 30 years, in 2014 the smartphone Launcher is the new desktop. Even though the environment is vastly different, the Launcher’s basic elements and functions have not changed much in terms of requirements.  So let me describe what I consider the elements of a Launcher and the functions I expect it to accomplish.  For the purpose of this blog, the Launcher system consists of 3 types of screens:  App Switcher screens, Home screens and App list screens as well as those gestures or button pushes to find, launch, switch between and close apps.

Every smart phone ecosystem has implemented these screens and functions differently.  In the Diagram below, I’ve listed the elements of each of the Screen types as well as how each Smart phone implements the functions.

Launcher Function



Blackberry HomeScreen (and App Switcher Screen)

Blackberry 10 is the newest OS of the bunch and this is evident in the Homescreen.  Until recently, it was not even clear to me what was Blackberry 10’s home screen. With the recent previews of BBOS 10.3 the homescreen is clearly what we know as the Active Frames screen. In BBOS 10.2 and earlier, when no applications are open then the active frames screen is not available.  When one or more applications are open, the the active frames screen is visible.  As of BBOS 10.3, the active frames screen will be permanently open and it will have an icon of a house. I will use the active frames screen as BB10 OS homescreen for this blog.

The BB homescreen consists of 4 regions, from top to bottom, they are:

  1. Info Bar (available on Homescreen, Applist screens and the hub).  Info bar shows  device status on the left, time in the middle and network status on the right
  2. Active frames are unique to Blackberry and can present information from the app in the active frame.  Up to 8 active frames can be open at a time, the information presented is up to the application, and the order of the active frames change everytime you open or close an app.  From the active frame screen you can go directly to any open app by touching the active frame of that app.
  3. Screen selector (not available on the Hub) – On BBOS10 from left to right you have the following screens: BB Hub (universal message box), Homescreen, Applist screens 1 to n.
  4. Tool bar – Predefined Applications (not available on the Hub) – You get Phone, search and camera. So far these can’t be changed.

To go to an unopened app you have 2 choices, browse through application list screens until you find the app you want, or touch the search button and start typing the name of the app you want.

Windows Phone HomeScreen

WindowsPhone homescreen was a delightful surprise.  I have had lots of experience with the Metro home screen on desktops and the first thing I do is to return the desktop to be as close as possible to Windows 7.  My clients all thank me profusely for this.  The Metro theme which is just wrong for a desktop, is a delight on a smartphone.

The WindowsPhone homescreen consists of Metro page most people would be familiar with, this page is completely customizable and expandable.  Any app can be pinned to the Metro page and like Blackberry’s active frames, the pinned app can present updated information.  Each pinned frame can be a small square (1×1) a large square (2×2) or a large rectangle (2×4).  You can edit and move them around as you please and  WP8.1 which I am using, the frames can be transparent.

I was able to easily set up this homescreen to my liking with all the information I want.

WindowsPhone homescreen also has an information bar at the top.

Android HomeScreens

The Android home screen is the most flexible and customizable of the bunch.  In fact, the homescreen depends on the specific load you installed and you can always install one of the many launchers.   I am using a customized version of  KitKat OS called Beanstalk which is maintained by volunteers.  I am also using Holo Launcher.  I bring this up because, while giving you a lot of customization options, it is also very complex.

The Homescreen on my android device consists of a selectable number of screens which can be accessed by swiping left or right and you have the option to treat them as carousel. Like BB10 each screen consists of 4 regions from top to bottom

  1. Infobar – Shows notifications, time, date, Device info.  This can be set on permanently or be pulled down when you want to see it.
  2. Apps and Widgets (there can be several screens of these).  It is essentially a grid, in my case it is 6×5.  You can place app icons or Widgets (each widget has its own size) anywhere as long as you respect the grids layout.
  3. Screen identifier, The little dots just above the tool bar
  4. Toolbar – This is also completely customizable, In my case I choose to have 7 icons and selected the ones I wanted.
Android HomeScreens Finder

Android HomeScreens Finder

If you want more flexibility,  you can also create folders on the home screen.

One thing that is unique about the android homescreen, is that the app icons are actually short cuts. So you can remove the icons without deleting the app and you can put more than one icon for the same app on the homescreens.

While Android does allow you to have multiple screens, I found I preferred to have a single homescreen.  To take best advantage of Androids approach, I would need to modify how I do things a little bit.  If this was my main device, I would do this.

iPhone HomeScreens (and App List Screens)

The Iphone home screen is about as simple as they come, It has the same 4 regions as the android homescreen with the following important distinctions:

  1. iPhone homescreen is also the iPhone app list.
  2. You can create folders
  3. No widgets
  4. You can change the backdrop
  5. 4 tools on the tool bar, these are customizable

App List

Application List Page

Blackberry App List Screens

Blackberry’s App List is almost identical the iPhone’s App list. You can have multiple screens of app icons and you can create folders.

To find the App you are looking for you can

Blackberry Universal Search

Blackberry Universal Search

  1. You can manually scroll through all the app screens, remembering to look inside of every folder.  I have this bad habit of trying to organize my apps, I end up setting up functional folders and putting all the appropriate apps inside them.  While good in theory, in my practice, after a few month these folders still exist but the likelyhood of all the right apps being inside is next to nil.
  2. You can  search for an application by clicking on the search icon and typing the first few letters in the app name.  Blackberry’s Universal search is quite good at this, although I would prefer predefined short cuts as inevitably an 5th app with “co” at the beginning of the name and now I have to type “con” to get my contact.



WindowsPhone App list Screen

WindowsPhone App Search

WindowsPhone App Search

WindowsPhone QuickGo

WindowsPhone QuickGo

The Application list screen on WindowsPhone is also a delight and my favorite one of the bunch.  It was a pleasure to have a vertical list with Icons and names ordered alphabetically.

Application icons are useful when you know approximately where it is, however when trying to find an application when you don’t know the icon and it is on 1 of 8 pages of 16 icons, it can be very irritating.

There are no folders in the windows app list.  Strangely I find this a plus not a negative.

To find the app you are looking for you have 3 choices:

  1. Quickly scroll down the alphabetically sorted list, this is remarkably fast by dragging your thumb along the edge of the screen.
  2. Quickly go to any letter by clicking on the Letter separators to pull up the QuickGo screen (my name) and clicking on the letter you want.
  3. Click on the search icon to bring up an App only search window.


Android App List Screens

The Application list screen on Android phones is a series of screens ordered as a carousel.  There are screens full of Apps and screens full widgets.

I found no way to search for Apps that are on your device, so the only way to find an app is to scroll through screens full of App icons.

While you can launch apps from the App List screens, it is more a place for you to go to manage your apps and widgets.  If you press and hold an app or a widget, it brings you to the HomeScreens and allows you to place the item on any of the HomeScreens or to uninstall the app.

iPhone App list Screens (and HomeScreens)

iPhone App Search

iPhone App Search

The App list screens on iPhone is the same as the HomeScreens.

To find an app on iPhone you can:

  1. Manually search the HomeScreens, being sure to also peek inside every folder
  2. Use the App Search function.  I really liked this feature, it was the easiest one of the bunch to initiate.  You simply place your finger on the screen and pull down and start typing




App Switcher

App Switcher

App Switcher


Blackberry App Switcher (and HomeScreen)

Blackberry’s App Switcher is also the Home Screen.  All open apps are listed from most recent accessed at the top left, second most recent at top right, third most recent at 2nd row left, etc.

To go to an open app you click on the frame. To close an open app you click on the x in the top right corner of the frame.

The icon for the app is not shown, but the app name is along the bottom of the frame.

WindowsPhone App Switcher

WindowsPhone App switcher shows all the open apps in a row, with the app you were just in at the front of the row(right end). The apps are ordered right to left starting at your most recent app and going backwards.

To go to the app you scroll to the app and click on the frame to open it.  To close the app you can click on the x at the top right or sweep the app down.

For each app, you have the actual screen you were looking at shrunk by about half in both dimensions (I really like this because if I just want to check a number or a word or something, its big enough to just look and go back to the app I was working on).  You also have the App icon and App name below the frame.

The WindowsPhone HomeScreen is shown in the App Switcher only if you accessed the Task Switcher from the HomeScreen,

Android Task Switcher

Android App Switcher  shows all open apps in a column with the app you were just in at the bottom of the column and the next most recent app above it and so on.

To go to an App you click on the frame of the app.  To close an app, you sweep it away to the left.

For each open app you have a frame (partial view of the current app screen, a full size App icon and the App name listed beside it.

iPhone Task Switcher

The iPhone App Switcher shows all the open apps in a row.  The iPhone HomeScreen is always the first in the row at the left, with the app you were just in to the right of the HomeScreen.

Go go to an app you click on the frame and to close an app you sweep up.

Visually each app frame is like the WindowsPhone.  Each app frame is a shrunk view of the screen that is open in the app.  You also have a full size app icon and the app name.

Launcher Gestures and Buttons

Blackberry – Launcher gestures

To access the HomeScreen/App Switcher screen, you sweep up from below the screen.  When you sweep up you have 5 choices:

Blackberry Peek

Blackberry Peek

Blackberry Hub peek

Blackberry Hub Peek

  1. Sweep up and leave your finger on the screen that gives shows you the Blackberry Peek Screen.  This is quite handy as you can check out a lot things quickly without loosing the context of what you were doing.
  2. From Peek if you sweep down you can go right back to where you were.
  3. From Peek if you lift your finger from the screen you go to the HomeScreen/Task Switcher screen
  4. From Peek if you swipe to the right you pull open a peek at the blackberry hub and you can see your most recent messages. If you remove your finger, you will remain in the hub, if you sweep back to the right you will go back your previous app.

From the HomeScreen/App Switcher screen you can sweep to the right to pull the Hub open or sweep to the left to pull the first App list screen.

Blackberry Screen Selector

Blackberry Screen Selector

Another feature of Blackberry’s Launcher is the screen selector. Lined  up from left to right are: Hub, HomeScreen, App List 1, App list 2, ….

Both Android and iPhone have a similar region on their HomeScreens.  These are to remind you of where you are in the multiple screens.

On the Blackberry this region is active, you can click on any of the images to go to that screen and even more useful, you can just slide your finger along that line, bringing up each of the screens for your inspection.

WindowsPhone – Launcher gestures and buttons

WindowsPhone Buttons

WindowsPhone Buttons

WindowsPhone has 3 touch sensitive buttons below the display screen (see image above).  To access the HomesScreen from anywhere, you simply touch the StartMenu Icon (middle button above).  One thing I particularly like about this, is that you can actually just sweep up across the StartMenu Icon and you go to the HomeScreen.

You can go directly to the last screen you were on by touching or swiping the back button.  If the last screen was a different app, you go that app.

To go to the App List from the home screen, you swipe to the left, pulling the App List open and from the App List you can pull the HomeScreen open by sweeping to the right.

On both the HomeScreen and the App List, you scroll up and down to get to items.  To me this is the most natural and intuitive HomeScreen/App List method of the 4.

To go to the App Switcher from anywhere, you press and hold the Back button.

Android – Launcher gestures and buttons

Android Buttons

Android Buttons

The Android phone that I have has 3 touch sensitive buttons below the display screen (see image above).  Some Android phones may not have these buttons, as you have to option to replicate these 3 buttons on the display.

To access the Home screen from anywhere, you simply touch the house icon (middle button above).  Unlike the WindowsPhone, you cannot simply sweep up from below to access the HomeScreen.

The Back button will move you to your previous page within an app.  When you are at the first page in the app, the back button will bring you to the home screen.

To access the App Switcher, you simple touch the right button.

These 3 buttons are are also very customizable with both touch and hold modes.

If you have multiple HomeScreen pages, you can scroll between them by swiping left or right.  This sequence of HomeScreen pages can be configured with a start and an end or it can be configured for continuous scrolling like a carousel.

To get to the App List screens, from the HomeScreen you click on the Icon above the House icon. You can scroll between App List screens by swiping right or left.

iPhone – Launcher gestures and buttons

iPhone ButtoniPhone has one physical button below the screen.  Things have not changed much since my one button mouse on my Apple II.

To access the HomeScreen from anywhere you press the button.  You access the other pages of the HomeScreen you swipe right or left.

To access the App Switcher from anywhere you press the button twice.

Final Comments

Launcher Summary

Launcher Summary

I’ve tried to keep my biases and opinions out of the descriptive part of this blog, its not been easy and I’ve failed a couple of times.  My ranking of these Launchers is: WindowsPhone the best of the bunch, Android a close second, iPhone a distant third and Blackberry Last.

For the HomeScreen I was looking for the ability to have uptodate info, in particular, I wanted to have the weather and the moon phase displayed. I had this on my Bold 9900 and I was able to do this on both WindowsPhone and Android.


I was surprised how much I loved this launcher.  The homescreen was easy to understand and customize to my liking, the App list was fantastic, an alphabetical list.  Moving between HomeSceen and App List is intuitive.

I believe that WindowsPhone’s Launcher is the one that all the other phones should strive towards.

Android Phone

Android’s launcher is rich and with so much customizations and options it can be confusing.  I was however able to set it up to my satisfaction

The combination of Android’s HomeScreens and App List screens is one that requires a lot of fiddling and changing to get it to your liking.  I like this and know that after using an android phone as my main phone for a month, I would have it humming to my needs.


Not much to say about the iPhone, it does the job in a very sterile way.

iPhone does have a feature intended to deliver updated info, like WindowsPhone’s active tiles, Blackberry’s active frames and Android’s widjets, its just not part of what I’ve defined as the Launcher for this blog.  When you swipe down from the top or the screen you get a today screen of sorts and this has limited widget like capabilities (this will be included in another blog).  Apple is promising to open up this feature to developers, I look forward to seeing what comes of this.


In my view, Blackberry’s OS10 Launcher needs a lot of work.  The Active Frames screen tries to fulfill the functions of both the HomeScreen and App switcher.  I do not use it as a home screen, the simple fact that everything moves around all time makes it useless as a home screen for me.  Blackberry has further hurt themselves on this by their choice of what goes on the ActiveFrame for their own apps:  Blackberry World puts advertisements ( I do not want any advertisements on my HomeScreen).  BBM puts updates on the ActiveFrames screen.  The only updates I want on my HomeScreen are weather and moon phase and to be honest if I never want to see updates from people or companies or groups on my Homescreen or anywhere else for that matter.

I’ve been using Blackberry OS 10 as my main smartphone for about a year now.  In all that time, I cannot go anywhere on my phone without having the Active Frames Screen coming up.  It happens hundreds of times a day and every time it happens it reminds me of how useless a screen it is.  In all that time, the Active Frames screen has never provided me with any up to date info I needed and I almost never use it to get to another open app.  There seems to be only one use I can find for it and that is to close open apps and it does not even do that very well.  All the other SmartPhones allow you to sweep the apps away.  This is easy and quick.  Blackberry insists that you click the little x button, which I miss about half the time and have to go back to the ActiveFrames screen and try again.

Blackberry has announced changes to HomeScreen in release 10.3.  What is proposed sounds promising as it seems to moving towards the WindowsPhone Homescreen, however I would like them to bring back a proper App Switcher separate from the HomeScreen, so that the HomeScreen can focus on doing the Home screen functions right.

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Posted in Blackberry, SmartPhone Diaries

SmartPhone Diaries – Keyboards

When I was in Grade 9 (first year of high school) in the early 70’s, I made a very good course choice for all the wrong reasons.  I liked math and sciences and I did not like languages, history, geography etc.  So to fill out my credits I took a typing course.  At the time this course was aimed at giving girls the skills needed to be a secretary (times have changed:)).  For me, this was a lark, but it turned out to be one of the best courses I’ve taken as it taught me how to touch type.

By the time I started my first co-op job in 78, the secretaries job was already starting to disappear at Bell Northern Research (first employer) and by the time I joined BNR full time, in 82 after graduating from University, everyone was already on COCOS (an internal BNR email system at the time) and most professionals were typing their own reports using mainframe based word processors.  And since then the skill of being able to touch type has been ever more useful to me.

On smartphones, the keyboard is the most important feature to me, so much so that I happily give up screen size to have a physical keyboard.  That being said, I must say that Soft keyboards on smart phones have made great strides in the last few years, to the point that I find myself constantly reassessing the physical keyboard vs larger screen question.

In this episode of the SmartPhone Diaries, I will compare and contrasts the current state of soft keyboards on all 4 smartphone OSs.

Basic Keyboards

All the soft keyboards work in a very similar manner, whenever you click on a field the appropriate keyboard pops up.  For typing paragraphs, there are essentially 4 keyboard:

  1. Lower case letters
  2. Upper case letters
  3. Symbols 1 – Numbers plus important punctuation symbols
  4. Symbols 2 – Secondary symbols

The following image shows the lower case keyboard for all 4 phones.  I am representing these keyboards in relative size as seen on the screens of the phones.  If you want to see how big they are in real life, scale the picture so that the iPhone keyboard is 5cm wide.  In this blog, I will use a few keyboard diagrams to illustrate the points I’m trying to make.  As an addendum to this blog, I provide as complete a listing of the different keyboards as I can.

Lower Case Keyboards

The keyboards are very similar, the only real difference is that all the keyboards have a comma and a period key except for the iPhone.

The other significant difference is that the Android keyboard has all the characters for the symbols 1 keyboard displayed small and in grey in the upper right corner of each key,  this is quite useful, as  when you press and hold a key the symbol 1 character will come up.  I will discuss these quick access features for all keyboards later.  At the end of this blog, I’ve included most of the available keyboards in the same format as above.

Keyboard Usage

All the Phones operate essentially the same way:

  • The keyboard appears when you place the cursor in a field, which keyboard depends on the field
  • Autocaps for the first letter of a sentence and of names
  • To capitalize you click the arrow and one letter is capitalized and the keyboard goes back to lowercase. Android and Windows shows the letters in either upper or lower case while Blackberry and iPhone only show uppercase letters on both upper and lower case keyboards
  • You select the symbols keyboard by 1 or 2 presses on the lower left hand button (?123 or &123).  This toggles the symbols keyboard until you press the lower left hand button again to go back to lowercase

Caps Lock

All the phones have a caps lock capability.  For Blackberry, Android and WindowsPhone, you hold the shift key for a few seconds. For iPhone, you double tap the shift key.  To disable the caps lock, just tap on the shift key again

Single Symbol

In many cases while you are typing you want only one symbol, say ?.  All the phones allow you to do this by pressing the symbol key and then dragging your finger to the  desired key and then lifting your finger.  The character will be inserted and the keyboard will go back to lower case.  On the Blackberry, you can also swipe down and that will toggle through the keyboards (Sym1 – Sym2 – lc ), when you press a key after this, the keyboard will go back to lower case ( I find this one the easiest to use).

Long Press

This to me is one of my most used keyboard features and each phone implements it different or not at all.  One of the reasons I probably use this feature a lot is that you always discover it in normal typing when you leave your finger on a key longer than normal.

On the diagram below you can see the different implementations.  All the phones allow multiple languages, I had a third language on the iPhone that’s why it has more accents than the others

  • Blackberry – press for lower case, hold for upper case and then accents.
  • Windows phone – press for lower case, hold for accents
  • Android – press for lower case, hold for symbol and accents
  • iPhone- press for lower case, hold for accents.

Long Press Keyboard


Double space will insert a period on all phones

Text Substitution

This feature is extremely useful and only Blackberry and iPhone implement the feature.

It works like this, you take a word or a phrase or even a paragraph that you often use and you give it a short form.  For example, I have “cj” which expands to:





When I’m finishing a letter I type cj space and it expands to my ending.  There are lots of uses for this feature, its only really limited by what you can easily remember.  For example hn can be your home phone number.

Blackberry provides 20 or so built in examples, but it also goes a step farther by allowing you to use system variables like the current date, time, your pin, your cell phone number, etc. See the figures below for examples


Blackberry Default Text substitutions

Blackberry Text Substitution

On Blackberry, the expanded text is shown on the space bar and inserted when you hit the space bar.  If you change your mind or you simply want lt in this case, you backspace and twice and it goes back to lt and wont expand.





iPhone provides one example built in and as far as I can tell you can just do text substitutions.

IOS KB Text expansion

iPhone Text substitution

On iPhone, the expanded text appears below the caret and is inserted when you press the space bar.  If you change your mind you have to delete the letters. If you don’t want the expansion you can click the little x.









On all keyboards, deleting works by hitting the back key and it removes one letter at a time, or if you have selected a word or a sentence (more on selecting in another blog) the back key will delete the selected section.

Blackberry adds another way to delete, by swipping backwards with one finger on the keyboard it will delete one  word. Two fingers deletes two words, it works up to 4 fingers, but its pretty hard to swipe with 4 fingers :).  But even with one finger you can delete a sentence or a paragraph pretty quickly.


All Smartphone ecosystems have a version of AutoCorrect which you can choose to turn off.

AutoCorrect and Pedictive Text

All the AutoCorrect features work the same way, when you press the space button the corrected word is inserted along with a following space and you keep typing.  All AutoCorrect features are integrated with the predictive text feature which I will discuss later.

The main difference between the phones is in how the corrected suggestion is displayed and chosen.

  • Blackberry displays the corrected word on the space bar itself, at this point you have the choice to choose the corrected word by hitting the space bar or to use the misspelled word by sweeping up (more on this later).  I find this is particularly effective, as you keep typing (using predictive text) and when you are about to start a new word your eyes go to the space button as that is the next key you want to hit.  Your eyes are already looking at the space button so the choice of autocorrect does not require you to look somewhere else make a decision and then return to the keyboard.
  • WindowsPhone makes one of the predicted words (listed above the keyboard) bold, this is usually the first word on  the left and if you hit the space key it will insert this word.  This works ok but your eyes are moving back and forth from the keyboard to the list of words.  Also there is no way to keep the incorrect spelling at this point.
  • Android puts dots under the middle word, when the dots are visible pressing the space button will insert the corrected word.  The same issue here as on the WindowsPhone of having to move your eyes from the keyboard to the list of corrected words and then back to the keyboard.  If you want to keep the incorrect spelling, that spelling is the first word on suggested word line and you have to click on it and then add a space to keep typing.
  • iPhone displays a single word under the cursor,  when that word is displayed and you hit space the corrected word will be inserted.  If you want to keep the incorrect spelling you hit the x under the cursor add a space and keep typing.

Another difference between the AutoCorrect functions on all the phones is what happens when you choose the autocorrected  word and you actually wanted the word that you typed even though your dictionary thinks its misspelled.

  • Blackberry:  backspace twice and it reinserts what you originally typed.  I’ve also noticed that if you explicitly choose a misspelled word, then the next time you type that spelling it will not be autocorrected.
  • WindowsPhone: backspace and delete letters until all the corrected letters are gone, this time when you type the misspelled word WP will not auto correct
  • Android: backspace and it reinserts what you originally typed.
  • iPhone: Backspace to the inserted word and you will be give choices, one of them will be what you originally typed, select it and it will be reinserted.

Predictive Text

For me, predictive text is the main feature that makes smartphone that do not have a physical keyboard at least useable.  (you can refer to the above diagram for how predictive text works).

 All smart phones except the iPhone have a predictive or context sensitive text feature.

  • Blackberry: The predicted words are displayed over the next letter you would type if you were typing the word. In this way, both your eyes and your fingers are going to that spot on the screen.  If the word you want is above the letter you swipe up and the word + space is inserted and you continue typing the next word.  The suggested words are context specific and will also guess as at typos you may have made and suggest words.  Sometimes using this feature its quite amazing how it guesses at the words.  It constantly learns your style and seems to get better and better at predicting your next word.  If you don’t want the suggested word you just keep on typing and maybe the next letter will suggest the word you want.
  • WindowsPhone:  The predicted words are displayed along a line above the keyboard in the order of the most likely guess.  This works, but it tends to be slower than the blackberry approach as you always have to stop typing, look at the suggested words and move your finger to press the word.
  • Android: Android is the same as the WindowPhone but it suggest only 3 words.
  • iPhone: Does not implement this feature.

For one of the best videos of how predictive text works you can check out this link. Z30 Vs iPhone 5S Typing

Swype Typing

Swype typing is implemented by both Android and Windows phone.  It is a very novel approach to typing and works well once you get used to it.  It involves drawing your finger or thumb across the keyboard from one letter to the next letter in the word

Swype Typing Video

Auto tuning where you press (This is not the official name )

This feature applies only to the Blackberry phone.  One of the main problem with small keyboards is that when you actually press on a key, your finger or thumb is covering several keys so to some degree you are guessing at which key you actually touch.  On all the phones (Android and WP with Swype typing disabled) will allow you to move to an adjacent letter if you hit the wrong one. In all cases popping up the letter you are going to get when you lift up.  To improve the likelyhood of you hitting the letter you are going for, the blackberry implements an infrared sensor where the keyboard is and over time adjust the target point for each letter based on how you have corrected yourself overtime.  This may be a little much for some people, but I have found that my typing accuracy (hitting the letter I’m going for) is much higher on the blackberry than on any of the other phones.

Final Comments

When it comes to smart phone keyboards, be they physical or virtual, Blackberry wins hands down.  Its predictive text coupled with positioning the words just above the letter you would be about to type and using a flick up to choose the suggested words puts it ahead of all the others.  Also the text substitution feature is very usefull.

I was however quite delighted by both the WindowsPhone’s and the Android’s virtual keyboards.  They were not as refined as Blackberry’s but they were both a close second.

For many people I think the Swype Typing feature of WindowsPhone and Android would move them ahead of Blackberry.

iPhone’s keyboard was a distant last place in my opinion.  Its most advance feature was spell checking and that’s been around for decades.  It was nice to see that iPhone is planning to catch up a bit in the virtual keyboard space by adding predictive text in the next version of IOS due in the fall this year.

Addendum – Keyboard gallery

This gallery gives a fairly complete look at all the possible english keyboards.  For the standard keyboards, I used the email keyboard on all phones.  In some of the diagram I touch on some key differences.  I’m sure I will find some different keyboards as I dig deeper into some of the applications, I will highlight those in the respective blog.

I am representing these keyboards in relative size as seen on the screens of the phones.  If you want to see how big they are in real life, scale the picture so that the iPhone keyboard is 5cm wide.

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Posted in Blackberry, SmartPhone Diaries

Smartphone Diaries – Introduction

I love my blackberry, and I’ve been confused over the last few years by how much bad press and hatred Blackberry seemed to get in the media. They have been and still are fantastic phones. Late last year John Chen was appointed CEO of Blackberry and I felt an immediate sense of relief. For the previous 4 years all everyone was talking about is that Blackberry was dead. The first time I heard John Chen talk about Blackberry, I was convinced that Blackberry will be around and making the best keyboard smartphones on the market for a long time.

With that release of tension, I decided to have a good look at all four smart phone ecosystems in the market and thus I begin this series called “Smartphone Diaries of a Glebenerd”.

So here’s my plan, get a reasonable smart phone for each of the four smart phone OS ecosystems: Blackberry, iPhone, WindowsPhone and Androids. The focus of SmartPhone Diaries will be on the details of the usability of the various OS, although I may make editorial comments on attributes specific or unique to a specific phone or compare it back to my Bold 9900 which remains the best smart phone I’ve ever held. All the four smart phone ecosystems have great phones that can do everything you need. Unfortunately, choosing the right phone for you can be difficult as most of the review are at best feature comparisons or at worst spec comparisons. So my approach will put all four OSs side by side and I will show the same page on each OS or go through the specific steps to do a task that I do regularly on my smart phone.

Firstly, my phone is primarily a productivity tool: Phone, Email, IM (BBM mostly), PIM (calendar, contacts, notes, tasks), Remote access to my business folders, quick browsing for urgent info and surprisingly as a flashlight a lot.

Secondly, I use my phone in my car for: BT calling, Music, GPS.

Thirdly, I use my phone for recreation when waiting somewhere other than home: Book reading mostly but also catching up on news, mostly using twitter feeds from CBC.

Fourthly, I use my phone for quick photos and to play a few mind games to pass the time.

Things I almost never use my phone for: TV, Video calling.

I will not be spending much time on the phones performance, in all cases they more than meet my needs.

I plan to set up all phones identically (as much as the OSs allow) to my working phone which is a Blackberry Q10. While all the phones except the iPhone 4s are LTE compatible, my SIM card is HSPA from Bell that came from Bold 9900 and I cut down to fit the micro SIM slot in all the phones.

Potential blog topics

– Overall impressions
– Home screen experience: finding and launching apps, moving between apps, universal search, keys, buttons, gestures, settings and options
– Messaging: Integrated hub, email, IM, Compose, Forward
– Contacts
– Calendar
– Notes/tasks
– Document Management: Cloud services, Desktop, Device,
– Word/excel/powerpoint
– Onenote
– Phone
– Navigation
– Readers
– App worlds
– Keyboard

The Phones

From left to right: iPhone 4S, Blackberry Z10, HTC One XL, Nokia Lumia 920

From left to right: iPhone 4S, Blackberry Z10, HTC One XL, Nokia Lumia 920

Each phone will be a Full touch screen phone (no keyboard) and be capable of running the latest OS available.

Blackberry Z10 (I already have)

– Released Jan 2013
– Current OS – 10.2.1 – Released Jan 2014
– Screen – 4.2”, multi-touch display, 1280 x 768

iPhone 4S

– Released Oct 2011
– Current OS – 7 – Released Sept 2013
– Screen – 3.5”, multi-touch display, 960 x 640

Nokia Lumia 920

– Released Nov 2012
– Current OS – 8.1 – Released April 2014
– Screen – 4.5”, multi-touch display, 1280 x 768

HTC One X Released March 2013

– Released May 2012
– Current OS KitKat
– Screen – 4.7”, multi-touch display, 1280 x 720

I will set up each phone as close as possibly the same as my Blackberry Q10 is set up.

– Email accounts: 2 Exchange, Gmail, 2
– Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, BBM, YIM
– DropBox, Box, OneDrive, Mega
– Kindle, Kobo, Overdrive, other
– KeePass (password organizer)

     So join me on this journey exploring the little details of the various smart phones that actually make want to use them all the time or make you want to scream and throw your phone against a brick wall.

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Posted in SmartPhone Diaries, Uncategorized

BBM – Why is Blackberry messenger different than any other social media platform

I have been a big blackberry messenger user for years now, my biggest complaint has always been that I could not use BBM to communicate with more of my friends and family.  Recently BBM went multiplatform, so it is now freely available on Blackberry, Android and IOS (iphone, ipad, ipod).  Despite all the negative publicity that Blackberry the company has been getting, BBM’s brand has largely been untarnished. This was so evident when 20 million new BBM users signed up in the first week of availability.

BBM is at its heart an instant messenger, but it has grown over the years with an increasing number of features, not all of them available YET on all platforms, but they have all been committed to by Blackberry.

This is my list of features and I may have missed some

  • Instant messenger (lets you know when the message has been delivered and when it has been read)
  • Multiple participants instant messaging
  • Voice and video calling
  • Status updates (Pictures, location, music)
  • Picture, location, music, file sharing by: individual, multiple individuals, group, all BBMcontacts
  • You can, on the fly, bring others into any conversation
  • Permanent group
    • Instant messaging
    • Picture, location, music, file sharing
    • Group calendar ( which is visible in your main calendar app if  you wish)
    • Shared lists (todo list, grocery list etc)
    • Group profile
    • Group administration (group creator can allow any group member to invite other to group or restrict it)
  • BBM Channels (just out of beta for Blackberry users, coming for Android and IOS users)
    • BBM Channels is a micro blogging services (twitter is also a micro blogging services)
    • You can blog from website or BBM
    • Others can follow you
    • You can enable discussions within the blog.
    • You can follow who you want, control notifications etc

The list of feature is quite complete and is comparable or better than any other multiplatform social network service I am aware of.

BBM has a few thing that none of the other public social network services have.

BBM is encrypted end to end

BBM is encrypted end to end, which means that no copy of your communications is or can be stored on a server somewhere in the network in an unencrypted fashion unless it is by you or someone you have given rights to access your BBM client.  I’ve never given this feature much thought until, within 2 weeks of BBM’s multiplatform launch I was told of 2 situations where this very fact is a key reason for using BBM (and its blackberry predecessor PIN to PIN Messenging) .

The first was a large institution, which had moved several years ago from Blackberries to iPhones.  This institution, within a week of BBM availability on iPhones was using BBM on all their iPhones.  The reason was very simple, it is the only solution for electronic communication that can assure privacy.  If you delete BBM chats from both BBM clients, they are gone, there is no other copy anywhere.  You can save BBM chats, email them, share them if you want.

The second example was with a governmental organization.  In this case they were using Blackberry PIN to PIN messages.  These are the precursor to BBM and are transmitted encrypted end to end.  In this case the ability to permanently delete electronic conversations was a key reason for using them.

BBM is compressed

This means that it uses less of your data plan than other messages, it is sent via Wifi by preference which will further save your data plan.  A lot of people today use TXT messaging for much of their  IM, I’ve never understood this, as TXT msg is a very expensive way to IM.  I’ve had to add a $5 a month txt plan to my phone service simply because people who have iphones (Apples IM service will send the other person a txt message if that person is not on the Apple IM Service).  There is no way to block a TXT, if you don’t have plan, you will be charged sending and receiving.  Even with a plan, you may be charged for various reasons: a txt to or from another country, a TXT with a picture attached, a TXT to a TXT service.  As far as I am concerned TXT messaging is a phone company scam and the sooner people STOP using TXT the better.  BBM is the least expensive mobile IM there is.

BBM is always on and push notifications

I’ve tried pretty much every multiplatform IM system to come along.  I was always left wanting: the app had to be turned on after reboot, if left on the battery would drain, the app would stop working….

For a mobile IM service to be useful in my opinion, it must be always able to receive messages, it must have a negligible impact on your battery, it must give audio, visual and physical notifications of messages.  BBM has always had these attributes and while I’ve not had a chance to use BBM on IOS or Android, I’ve asked those who have and BBM on those platforms also has these attributes.

BBM Groups

BBM Groups are probably  the biggest differentiators between BBM and all other mobile IM platforms.  Again, within weeks of BBMs multiplatform launch, I had clients who had set up a BBM group for their family, so they could set family events, todo lists etc.  Sports team groups were set up.  The possibilities are endless.  It is possible to do some of these things using web services, but once they become part of you mobile device it makes them a whole lot more useful.

BBM Channels

This is very recent addition to BBM.  It is essentially like twitter in that you can create a channel and any can follow  you, people can also engage in a conversation on the channel.  It has 2 key advantages over twitter in my view.  First, it is not constrained to 140 characters, it allows 400 and when I’ve cut and pasted larger times into it automatically creates a link to the overflow.  Second, you can have more than one channel and you have managements rights of the channel.   If you would like more info on BBM Channels check out this link.

If you’ve not already downloaded BBM to your IOS or Android do it now and give it a try.  BBM is faster, cheaper, more reliable and more secure than any other mobile IM/Social network available.  The more people who use it the better is it becomes.

Posted in Uncategorized


I am a seasoned technology Director with more than 20 years experience in the Telecommunications Industry. During my career at Bell-Northern research and Nortel Networks, I was always at the front end of technology innovation and introduction. I was intimately involved with planning the following major network discontinuities. • Replacement of analogue switches by digital switches • The deployment of local CCS7 and Calling Line ID services • The introduction of optical transmission systems followed by SONET and Bi-directional protections switching • The convergence of Optical Networking and the Computer Industry with a key focus on Storage Networking. I hold 2 joint patents, one of which launched a new optical packet switching product and triggered competitors to respond in kind and to the establishment of a standards forum. Since leaving Nortel in 2002, I have enjoyed the most satisfying career as an eNerd at Nerds on Site. Every day I get to help people and solve their problems.

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