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BlackBerry Hacks: Tips & Tools for Your Mobile Office Paperback – Dec 14 2010
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About the Author
David Mabe is a system administrator and programmer who has been engineering, administering, and implementing Blackberry platforms for 4 years. David's He's also been heavily involved in standards-based web development and automation. Through his involvement, David He's been in the trenches with the BlackBerry and has discovered innovative ways to get the most possible out of the BlackbBerry.
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Chapter 1 uncovers some of the tricks you may not have known your device was capable of. New users will be happy to know what's just below the surface: a clipboard [Hack #2], multitasking [Hack #6], and wireless calendaring [Hack #4]. The hackers in the crowd might like to display the signal strength in decibels instead of bars [Hack #17], use your computer as a wireless headset [Hack #16], or get mobile Internet access on your computer [Hack #9].
Rather than building an organizer and then retrofitting email support onto it, Research In Motion (RIM) designed the BlackBerry for email from the beginning and only then added support for other features. Highly secure, push based email is what has made the BlackBerry so popular in the business world. Every effort was made to allow users to efficiently process the mountain of email messages they receive daily. Email is great, but it can quickly become a burden. There are a number of hidden features of the BlackBerry you can use to your advantage. You can clear a bunch of messages at once [Hack #22], filter your messages [Hack #24], and make your email doubly secure [Hack #28].
Although the BlackBerry is optimized for the suit-and-tie business crowd, newcomers are pleasantly surprised at the graphics capabilities of the device. Currently, Magmic Games has a big lead in the BlackBerry gaming market, which is the subject of chapter 3. There are even some games that you can play against online opponents. While Magmic pushes the limit of BlackBerry games, there are plenty of free games you can download and install over the air in seconds. You could even use the device simulator [Hack #93] to play the games.
With the advent of the Mobile Data Service and TCP/IP on the BlackBerry [Hack #37], an entire world of Internet services became accessible on the BlackBerry. Some of the best applications in existence are accessed by using some type of client software (perhaps just a browser), but the real power comes with its integration with a central service where users and data meet in interesting and exciting ways. Very few client-only software packages carry the same importance as one that integrates well with a web service. With your BlackBerry, you can track your to-do list [Hack #47], corral your bookmarks [Hack #46], and even use instant messaging [Hack #44].
Chapter 5 is about free software. If you tried out every commercial program that interested you, you'd be nickeled and dimed to death. Luckily there are custom applications that come free of charge--if you know where to look. Because RIM chose J2ME as their platform for the BlackBerry, the device is seen as a viable operating system by the millions of Java developers worldwide. This chapter includes a small subset of the free applications available for the BlackBerry. You can view the night sky [Hack #55], go shopping [Hack #58], and even put your device through the paces in a stress test [Hack #54] to see how it stacks up. As the BlackBerry third-party application explosion continues, the number of free programs available for the device will continue to grow.
In places where the BlackBerry comes up a little short, there are a growing number of third-party developers ready to fill the void. Chapter 6 showcases the entrepreneurial spirit of the BlackBerry application developer. Most of these providers are small businesses that have found a nice niche with the BlackBerry. RIM's loyal customer base makes a nice, motivated target audience for third-party applications. If you've got a need, there's a good chance there is a BlackBerry application that can fill it. Chapter 6 highlights some useful third-party programs to get you started: a real-time stock quote program [Hack #70], a program to modify Office documents [Hack #68], an alternate web browser [Hack #66], and an alternate email program [Hack #67].
It's fairly easy to get a BlackBerry Enterprise Server off the ground. However, as many a BlackBerry administrator will tell you, it is a difficult and time-consuming chore to keep the service running smoothly. For the most part, it is no fault of RIM's--there are many tools provided that continue to go unused in many BlackBerry shops. There are more than a few tips and tricks to keep the BlackBerry server and your users happy. The motivated BlackBerry administrator will find several gems in chapter 7 from simply adding several users in one fell swoop [Hack #72] to implementing security [Hack #73]. There are several hacks you can use to send yourself proactive alerts when problems arise.
One of the most significant innovations in RIM's short history is the addition of the BlackBerry Browser to the operating system. In combination with the BlackBerry Enterprise Server's Mobile Data Service (MDS), this instantly unlocks entire intranets along with mountains of rich corporate data. Unfortunately though, corporate networks are full of lazily coded FrontPage web sites that were designed for ancient versions of Internet Explorer viewed with large monitors. To make those sites viewable on the BlackBerry, some sites will require minor tweaks [Hack #88]. For others, it might be easier to start from scratch. For especially time-sensitive data, you can push that data [Hack #90] to your users' BlackBerry devices.
The final chapter is about application development. There are applications for getting real-time stock quotes [Hack #70] as well as spellchecking [Hack #65]. If you speak a little Java, you can write your own application to communicate with web servers [Hack #94]. Best of all, there are no license fees to get started--in fact, you don't even need to own a BlackBerry device [Hack #93]. RIM provides free access to the BlackBerry JDE, a development kit that includes an IDE, or integrated development environment. The other nice feature of the BlackBerry platform is there are a variety of ways [Hack #97] for your users to install your program over the air wherever they happen to be.
As usual it has a collection of well covered items aimed at the beginner, moderate and expert users, but regardless of your experience level there is enough information available to give any of the tips a try. Expert users may even find some gems in the beginners entries!
I was particularly impressed that the book didn't limit itself to just operation on the Blackberry hand-held devices, it also gives tips on integrating it with you desktop and other ways to extend the functionality and get full use out of the device. Possibly of less use is the section covering development for the Blackberry and some of the specifics about the BES and MDS servers, but some of the tips mentioned are of great use to developers and I would recommend the book to them too. Other readers may also appreciate this look under the covers.
"Blackberry Hacks" doesn't stray from the standard "Hacks" formula, so it can be skimmed easily in an afternoon or so, but the projects will keep you busy for a long while, and you'll also have problems holding onto this book due to the people who will be trying to borrow it. This one is a great resource for jump starting your Blackberry usage and getting all you can from the gadget.
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