Friday, May 29, 2009

If You Could Ask The Inventor Of The Internet A Question - What Would It Be?

Vint Cerf, currently Vice President & Chief Internet Evangelist at Google, is widely known as "the father of the Internet". Together with with his colleague, Bob Kahn, he was responsible in the late 1970’s for developing the architecture & core TCP/IP protocols that underpin today’s Internet.

Vint is also responsible for the development of IPV6, the new Internet Protocol that will provide enough unique IP addresses for every device on the planet to be connected to the ‘net.

And if this wasn’t enough - he’s is also on the Board of the Jet Propulsion Laboratory - where he’s working on data compression algorithms for the Mars Mission, as part his NEXT big project: the Interplanetary Internet.

My friend Stan Relihan is honored to count Vint as one of his 1st-degree LinkedIn connections - and proud to have had Vin as a featured Guest on Stan's Podcast, "The Connections Show".

Stan collected questions for Vint from a cross section of the Linked-In community. He than included those in his interview of Vint for "The Connections Show".

To listen to Stan's interview with Vint go to The Connections Show

To learn more about Vint Cerf go to his Linked-In profile here: Vint Cerf On LinkedIn

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Wednesday, May 27, 2009

What Features Would Like To See In The iPhone V.3?

Oh boy, there are lots of things the new iPhone should have, like the following:

- full Bluetooth connectivity, so you could pair it with a pair of stereo headphones

- 7.2 Mbps HSDPA connectivity

- A better camera (with flash, video shooting, etc)

- Voice dialing

- A GPS and better maps (In many countries Google maps are terrible. If Apple could make the iPhone work with Mio or iGo software applications, that would be great)

- Copy/paste function

- Better sync options

- QWERTY keyboard would be nice too

And all these without making the device too heavy or too bulky :)

I'd also like to see Apple consider the following .....

- To make the device much more useful to the Enterprise/Business User.

- The key issue is that as a consumer device its primary function is as a information display device.

- Enterprise users need text entry as a much higher order capability than the touchscreen keypad allows.

- Put simply a keyboard that you can use for 10's of minutes at a time to write useful e-mails or make comprehensive notes during a meeting. Voice to text does not solve this requirement, voice is not confidential enough for the business environment most of the time.

I'm sure some of these functions will be included in the new device, but most of them will only be available in a perhaps 4th edition.

Anyway, the iPhone is a pretty cool gadget. But if you're looking for a proper business phone ..... there will always be better choices on the market.

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Monday, May 25, 2009

The Best Anti-Virus Approach For Home Personal Computer Use

Of course anti-virus software is an important part of your war chest for protecting PC use at home .... but "working safely" is just as important. My techie Brother recommends not running any AV software on your windows machine all of the time .... though one thing you should have on ALL the time is Zone Alarm free version.

What you can always do though is never ever use Microsoft Outlook or Outlook Express and never use Internet Explorer. Always virus check any files you download which aren't from utterly reputable sources i.e. Java updates from SUN, etc, using the very handy online scanner from Trend Micro. Other machines on your LAN (i.e. the kids) should be firewalled from your machine and everything networky should go through a Linux server running iptables Firewall and an ADSL router (NOT modem).

These safety-101 basics can help you not to worry .....

* Incoming rogue internet connections.

None of the Windows machines are directly addressable from the internet, only the firewalled Linux server.

* Dodgy emails being executed by your mail client.

Thunderbird never loads images from the internet, never runs javascript or embedded media, and will flag suspect content such as obfuscated URLs and spam pretty reliably. Always delete suspect email without opening it.

* Malicious website content.

Although Firefox has its bugs they are usually fixed exceptionally quickly. Don't go to 'those' sort of sites which are likely to have unpleasant scripts on them.

* Unknown background network activity.

Zone alarm while not perfect will alert you to any unauthorised programs trying to gain network access.

* Compromised downloads.

Virus scan them with the above mentioned Trend Micro tool before executing any programs. The TM database will be the most current revision every time and it only takes a minute or so to do.

It's important to remember that an AV solution is NOT going to protect you or your data or your network, working on your PC sensibly is way more valuable to you with your AV tool as a backup for when your vigilance lapses. I've known of commercial AV software failing to the tune of dozens of infected systems on a corp network, slowing machines to a crawl, etc!

Adhering to the above doctrine .... the number of viruses my techie brother has had in the last 3 years?

None!

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Friday, May 22, 2009

Review .... Free Direct TV DVR and Free Installation

Let's be very honest here ... we are an entertainment focused society. We LOVE our TV programs .... sports, movies, music, reality shows, sitcoms, etc. This is the prefered entertainment of choice for millions of households in the US .... particularly since it's cheaper than the alternatives such as a night out at the movies. With this in mind the best value with the most choice is satellite TV. Particlualrly when HDTV is part of the package.

This goes beyond household entertainment too. Sports bars and restaurants thrive by employing satellite TV systems .... as do many school systems (for learning programs of course).

Here's a review I ran across of just one of the many specials available for those who are interested in Satellite TV. Particularly through Direct TV. I found it quite impressive and much better than I expected.

We Got a Direct TV Deal in Four Rooms - FREE!!

We had been hearing a lot about Direct TV and their offer to install satellite TV service in one to four rooms for free. Since we are a large family with a wide variety of different tastes, we decided to give it a try. Of course, the offer seemed to good to be true, because these days you can rarely find a true free offer. Usually there are some strings attached, and you end up paying in some way. However, we were delightfully surprised to find that with the installation offer from DirecTV, this was not the case. It really was free!

The DirecTV installer who came to our home was friendly, courteous and knowledgeable. Even our family dogs liked him! We told him which rooms we wanted DirecTV installed in: the living room, the upstairs den, the basement, and our teenage daughter’s bedroom, and he went right to work. It seemed as though he had all the equipment installed in no time. Then he took the time to explain how our new Direct TV DVR equipment would work, and showed us how the position of the satellite would affect our reception, along with how we could adjust the satellite if the picture was not clear. The installation was altogether a pleasant and painless event, and we didn’t have to wait long to start using our DirecTV service.

Now, we can tune in to a variety of different channels, and there is no more fighting over which station the television should be on! Our twin boys can watch cartoons in the basement without trying to pry their younger sister away from watching Sesame Street, which she can do any time in the living room. My husband loves being able to watch sports in the upstairs den any time he wants. Our teenage daughter can have friends over and watch scary movies in private without worry over “the little ones” interrupting them. Best of all, after the youngest is tucked in for the night, I can settle in to watch the movies and shows I enjoy without anyone asking whether we have to watch “this girlie movie.” Getting Direct TV installed in four different rooms has been wonderful for our family—and we can still all get together to watch the latest new releases or our favorite sitcoms from time to time!

When we received the first bill, it was just as DirecTV said it would be: only $29.90 for the month, with no hidden installation, service, or equipment charges. It was so refreshing to find someone who actually delivered the free service they promised! Now we are all enjoying our four-room DirecTV satellite TV service, with no more fighting over who gets to control the remote.

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Here's more about Direct TV that I found out .....

* NO equipment to buy
* NO start up costs
* 99.96% reliability. DIRECTV delivers a digital picture 99.96% of the time, rain or shine. That's better than DISH or cable.
* #1 in Customer Satisfaction for 7 straight years, according to 2007 American Customer Satisfaction Index, University of Michigan Business School

16 Million people can't be wrong!

For anyone interested in learning more about what is available through Direct TV .... and getting a great deal for yourself .... here's a link for more information:

Direct TV Special Deals

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Wednesday, May 20, 2009

What Bandwidth Solution (T1, DS3, OC3) Makes Sense For A Supply Chain Network?

Firstly, I would probably consider getting a carrier VPN service for the backbone as this removes many of the capacity planning and management issues. You can then concentrate on the bandwidth required to each of the premises and this can vary depending on the circumstances.

For dimensioning the tail circuits, you need to consider the rate of transactions and the typical size per transaction. From this you should be able to work out bandwidth. If you assume largest transaction size and peak number of transactions then this will give you the peak bandwidth. Add at least 20% to this to be safe (TCP overhead will consume some of this). Also consider the service response required. It may be possible to "smooth" some of the peaks by allowing some transactions to be slightly delayed.

Of course you should, ideally, be working this out for each site over a 2 year period and planning for any growth. Find out from your service provider how quickly upgrades can be made and how much they are... it may be better to put in a bigger pipe on day 1. Where it isn't, keep track of the growth rate and factor in the service provider's upgrade time as well as internal delay caused by business case and budget approvals, PO signoffs, etc. and make sure you order in plenty of time.

What you need is a scalable (easily increase Bandwidth for growth), secured (at least as good as layer2 OS equivalent), and flexible (connect various entities that will be part of the SCM). IMHO, I would rather explore what WAN technology would be a better fit, for example MPLS or VPLS than access methods. I truly like the latter because of inherent flexibility, protocol independence, coverage, scalability, security, and yes, flexibility. Some providers may also offer you Secured Internet gateway option thru the xPLS backbone for ubiquitous connectivity and "bring your own internet" connectivity options for smaller B2B links.

DS0, T1, T3 (DS3), OC3, OC12 are all the same technology at different size and price points. The only difference is price ... you buy the size you need. Its like asking what is better to pump water, a half inch copper pipe, a 1 inch copper pipe, a 2 inch copper pipe, or a 4 inch copper pipe ... it kind of depends on how big the pump is and how much water you have.

You don't buy telecommunication for the future, its too flexible - you structure your contracts for the future, you configure your network to expand, you buy the services you need.

I would like to suggest an application level approach to determine your .....

1) application bandwidth requirements,

2) number of locations,

3) extranet/partners requirements,

4) security requirements,

5) closed network or internet based vpns.

Bandwidth doesn't solve all problems, you need a functional strategy to determine your currently capabilities, identify gaps with the solution today, identify gaps and then decide what it would take to address current, and future capabilities, and bridge those gaps.

Companies rely on the technologies in various combination to resolve business problems. they are chosen based on bandwidth requirements, cost, their capability to provide service quality levels, local availability and the degree to which they can interoperate with other technologies and applications.

Given that you supply chain network can have head office, warehouses, suppliers, branch office, wholesalers and retailers accessing it I suggest a multpoint packet switched network as core (sic MPLS).

The IP / MPLS VPN can solve your connectivity problem and you may go for a certain CIR (with time of day, tie of week flavor) that meets your traffic needs to keep cost low. The CIR can range from 1 mbs to Gbps (depending on location) and even remote login can be accomodated. The EIR can be built into the contract to compensate for any traffic fluctuation.

T1, DS3, OC3 are commodity products. It depends on the quality of the network that you need at the locations that you need. Not all services are available everywhere. Also, you might want to consider metro-ethernet, which might be cheaper. With metro-ethernet, you can take into account bursts of needed bandwidth easily. You might want to consider MPLS as well. It also depends on the level of security you need. Often that's dictated by legacy systems, and the customer is not willing to cut-over to a new network because of prohibitive costs or policy.

Although this all may sound very complicated .... it doesn't need to be. You can get no cost help to find the best solution via the services at DS3 Bandwidth Solution

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Monday, May 18, 2009

How Do You Determine The Right Wide Area Network (WAN) Architecture For A Voice/Data Network?

The first and foremost thing in deciding about the WAN architecture of any organization is ....

- How many locations you would like to connect?

- Architecture - hub and spoke or mesh architecture?

- What applications would be run on this network .... Voice, Video, Data?

- Precisely which applications will be run in case of Data?

- What will be the % each QoS will take, the total of all three should be 100%?

- Voice is the premium level QoS and hence the most expensive as it is a real time communication, followed by video and then data.

- How many users precisely will be using the network at a given point of time at each location?

- What will be the concurrency factor? Are you are looking for 100% concurrency or you can manage with lesser concurrency?

- What is the scope of scalability at each location and hub location?

- Will the access to internet also be given to users?

- Internet at a central location can help you in implementing and enforcing various security policies of your organization.

- Do you want to give access to the network resources to a mobile user?

The answer to all these questions will help in arriving at the MPLS bandwidth required at each hub and spoke location.

Honestly speaking no organization should ideally try to do this calculation themselves. Instead they can hire a consultant or a telecom service provider to do this activity as they are experts in designing this solution. With their help you can easily decide upon the bandwidth for each location, select suitable router, make redundancy plans, routing the traffic on atlantic or pacific routes, blah blah.

For help walking through the analysis .... and determining the best solution .... take advantage of the free help at WAN Solution

Ideally I also recommend to give the freedom of providing and managing the routers at each location to the Telecom service provider. Then it becomes a managed solution and the service provider can easily monitor your network in the event of an outage. They then can remotely login into the routers and manage your complete network giving you higher uptimes and SLAs.

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Friday, May 15, 2009

Part III .... What Are The Pros And Cons Of T1, DS3, OC3, And Ethernet Bandwidth Solutions For Voice/Data Networks?

This is the 3rd and final part of a 3 part series that will hopefully help guide you to making better decisions on bandwidth solutions (T1, DS3, OC3, And Ethernet) for your voice/data network. Read closely and soak up every tidbit from all three parts of this series (see previous posts for Part I and II).

When you speak about T1 versus DS3 verus OC3 you are speaking about primarily physical layer protocols. These protocols define the size of the data pipe, the type of connectors used, etc.

What I think you need to be more concerned with is which Layer 2 protocol to run. I myself favor MPLS as it is rapidly becoming the de facto standard for most carriers in their own backbone networks. And most of the larger carriers (i.e., AT&T, Global Crossing, Sprint, etc.) have 'productized' MPLS and made it available to their customers. The advantage to MPLS is it can run on any and/or all of the aforementioned layer 1 platforms.

In addition, MPLS afford you the ability to prioritize your network traffic. The most immediate impact is the ability to successfully collapse voice traffic onto your data network, effectively getting 2 networks for the price of 1 through the use of VoIP. MPLS allows you to set a higher priority "tag" to ensure VoIP gets routed in a time efficient manner by the carrier(s). If you want to see a large scale deployment of this, look at any of the major carrier's own internal LD backhaul network. AT&T and Global Crossing have both been using VoIP/MPLS LD backhauls internally for years now.

I believe a properly designed network infrastructure can be cost justified to all but the very smallest businesses. And even that line is starting to blur as some DSL carriers are offering MPLS over DSL now.

If you need assistance (FREE) finding the best fit MPLS solution for your network ... I recommend you use the no cost services of the folks here: MPLS Solution

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Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Part II .... What Are The Pros And Cons Of T1, DS3, OC3, And Ethernet Bandwidth Solutions For Voice/Data Networks?

This is part 2 of a 3 part series that will hopefully help guide you to making better decisions on bandwidth solutions (T1, DS3, OC3, And Ethernet) for your voice/data network. Read closely and soak up every tidbit from all three parts.

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Some carry more bandwidth and are more expensive .... and others carry less bandwidth and are less expensive.

However, this is probably asking the wrong question because service level agreements will define your experience and cost as much as the carrier technology.

For example .... some agreements allow for very high latency and this would make conferencing and voip insufferable, no matter the bandwidth. Others allow the service to degrade under certain circumstances. Others provide for uptime guarantees or the lack of them. Symmetric or asymmetric service may be to your liking or not depending on what you do.

All these and more service level terms apply to all the types that are mentioned. Ultimately you want or need a certain bandwidth either in bursts or continuous and you will make your contract accordingly. It really doesn't matter whether they use OC3 bandwidth or Applesauce to meet the agreement.

As with all things, decide what you want, what you need, and then go shopping.

For help with your shopping .... take advantage of the free assistance available from DS3 Bandwith

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Monday, May 11, 2009

Part I .... What Are The Pros And Cons Of T1, DS3, OC3, And Ethernet Bandwidth Solutions For Voice/Data Networks?

This is part one of a three part series that will hopefully help guide you to making better decisions on bandwidth solutions (T1, DS3, OC3, And Ethernet) for your voice/data network. Read closely and soak up every tidbit from all three parts.

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This is one of those questions that just begs to be answered with "It Depends..."

These are really physical layer technologies and the benefits of each will depend on how they are used and what data link layer techologies they transport (ATM, Frame Relay, MPLS). Then there is always the question of availability.

T1 Bandwidth, for example, can be used as an access circuit into a multi-node network like Frame Relay or MPLS or as a point-to-point circuit. In a large multi-site MPLS network, a T1 may be an appropriate choice smaller locations with a small number of users. However, A point-to-point circuit may be appropriate to connect a small satellite office to a regional office that is connected the larger network.

Knowing the size of the business only provides part of the information required. What kind of traffic do they have? Are they running voice and video on the network? Do they have an IT staff capable of managing routers? What facilities are available in each location (copper/fiber)? Do they have replicating servers in different locations?

I think this question puts the cart before the horse. In my opinion, you need to understand your network traffic, establish bandwidth requirements and allow the carriers to make recommendations on the transport technology based on what's available in the locations required.

It's kind of like asking what's better, a pick-up truck, a tractor-trailer or a freight train?

Each of them can carry cargo over long distances, but each one will have advantages and disadvantages based on payload, availability, and cost.

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Friday, May 08, 2009

iPhone Pros And Cons

The NEW iPhone is supposed to come out in early June. So whatever you decide, I might wait until then to make the purchase. The 3.0 machine might answer some of the cons.

* iPhone Pros.......

- The interface is REALLY elegant and intuitive. The touchscreen puts you within one or two taps or "swipes" of just about any function. The icons are big and bold so you should rarely make "fat finger" errors.

- The number and variety of applications available in the App store is almost staggering (in a good way). Chances are if there is a function you need, you'll find an app to do it. Often, more than one, with plenty of user reviews to help you make a choice.

- The web browser is a "real" web browser. This won't help you test "mobile websites" per se, but it will give you some insight into how your real site looks on a mobile browser.

- 3G speed is pretty good. Overall, the experience is that sites load pretty quickly. I'm fairly patient in this area, though, so what's fast enough for me might be too slow for others.

- GREAT interface with Microsoft Outlook server so you can get and respond to your business email anywhere anytime.

* iPhone Cons......

- People make fun of ATT coverage. Some friends have had very few dropped calls, but a couple of my colleagues who use the phone complain about this. I think there may be very distinct locations where the ATT signal is weak (the dropped calls my friends have had have been in the same places every time) ... if you are regularly in those areas, you may be frustrated.

- Using the iPhone to it's fullest means buying into the whole iTunes software interface. This is really the most efficient (or in some cases, only) way to browse apps, install ringtones, etc. It rankles some slightly that they have had to join Apple's "cult" to use this phone ... but, oooooo it's so pretty.

- Need third party apps to manipulate Microsoft Office documents.

- Battery life is relatively short. You really have to get into the habit of plugging it in whenever you have the chance. Listening to music or watching a video can drain it in a matter of hours.

There you go .... some pro and con information to help those considering iPhone make an informed decision.

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Wednesday, May 06, 2009

What Is Expected Of A Green-Minded CIO?

I'm going to give a humorous response for this question. If it offends anyone .... so be it. There are plenty of serious "answers" available by simply Googling the subject. There's also no "one" approach to going green for a business. The general approach really involves common sense actions which implement energy conservation and address reducing environmental impact of business activities.

Now for the humor ....

First, the aesthetic. Men should grow a beard to start. Next, purchase and drive a hybrid vehicle conspicuosly. Eat only organic foods, again, conspicuously. Wear hemp clothing instead of those Brooks Brothers suits. Pat yourself on the back for all you've done for the environment.

Next, the mechanics. The green corporate ethos can be further proclaimed by championing projects that team with alternative energy providers and University R/D. Exploit these token examples of greenness in the media and your company's In The News section. Secure celebrity endorsement from Ed Bagely, Jr. to widen viewership.

The real trick is to surruptitiously outsource all IT directives offshore to unregulated developing nations to circumvent high cost environmental regulations. Don't kid yourself, "green business" is a farce unless you are a manufacturer, international industry regulatory body, or an advanced R/D organization. Other than that, try to use vendors who aren't doing what I mentioned above.

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Monday, May 04, 2009

Who Uses Smart Phones?

I am going to answer this question based on the following definition of Smartphone:

"A smartphone boasts of powerful processors, large crisp displays, a complete operating system whose interface supports powerful applications"

My definition implies I am hinting at all Windows Mobile, iPhone, RIM and Symbian OS (S60) users.

Smartphone usually implies 3rd party applications that turn the phone into an internet, email, navigation (GPS), location-based services, etc. device. Business users have been using Blackberries since about 2004 quite regularly, but certainly the iPhone has opened up an entirely new demographic because of it is easy for developers to create 3rd party apps. Windows Mobile has also helped to perpetuate mainstream adoption because users are already familiar with the platform.

The demographic of users has expanded in age range as well as the type and of course the gender of the user. We have gone past the early adopter phase with Smartphones and into to the mainstream. The user is only limited to those who can afford the monthly cost for a data package.

To keep up with a growing consumer demand for multi-function handsets, manufacturers like LG, Motorola, Samsung, Sony Erricson and Nokia have all created outstanding "communicators", which are opening the door to a need for expanding 3G networks and in the not so distant future, 4G. The point I'm making, is that the demographics are changing and evolving and trying to pinpoint that consumer now is really difficult.

The best part about the evolution of the Smartphone is that it will more and more become a tool to mobile workers in the field. So it is extending the user beyond their need to communicate information that is relevant to doing business, and into a tool for improving the way business is done all together. Everything from inventory control from a warehouse worker (the camera acts as a barcode scanner), to credit card transactions in a cab (mini mobile card swipers/receipt printers that work in tandem with a Smartphone are available), have the necessity for the combination of an "on-deck" (on the handset) application and a mobile network for real-time work-flow efficiency.

For a handy online tool that searches and compares smart phones ... and all kinds of cell phones and accessories .... go to: Smart Phone Comparison

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Friday, May 01, 2009

Blackberry Storm Tips & Tricks

A lot of people think the Storm is more of a "fun" phone than a business phone .... but I wouldn't say the Storm isn't for business. It has all the robust enterprise server/mail support .... plus excel, word, powerpoint capabilities, etc. It's just that it adds a lot of multimedia power (especially video), than you normally see on Blackberries.

For many it is the best of both worlds. You don't lose the power you need for business, and it adds many of the iPhonish luxury features (tv shows, music, movies, gaming, etc).

The Storm does take some getting used to ....... but well worth it once you have.

What follows is a collection of tips and tricks useful for Blackberry Storm users. Storm owners should know this already, but here are few things newbies may not realize .....

1. Keyboard/hide/show -- just swipe down to make it disappear (no need to go into the menu to do this), and swipe up (to make it appear).

2. Icons can be moved around, and even into folders if you feel you have too many taking up icon slots.

3. If you upgrade your OS and any applications or icons disappear, you can get them back immediately by going into options, advanced options, host routing table, hit bb menu button, then register.... re-registering fixes promptly.

4. To get a status bar while playing media or music, just lightly "tap" the screen (this can be picky sometimes).

5. You can change the default browser from the blackberry browser to Internet Explorer or Firefox ; This gives you FULL browser pages, and not Mobile versions if you prefer this. This is done while in the browser, hitting the BB menu button, options, then browser configuration.

6. You can delete several messages at once, easily. Just tap the first message, then tap the last message, all messages in between will also be highlighted.

7. Hopefully everyone knows how to change the wallpaper. Just go into media, pictures, select the one you want, use the BB menu button and choose to use that picture as home screen.

8. As a note, there are TONS of apps out for the Storm (some more games as well, even a couple that use the accelerometer), in an ongoing thread at crackberry.com in the Storm forum.

9. Please go into Options, Screen/Keyboard, and change your hover, tap, sensitivity settings to 100, 100, 6 (high), or whatever your prefer. Too many people complain about lag/delay without even attempting to adjust the standard (default settings) to something more inline with "their" speed/use. Its like PC users leaving the mouse/tap settings at default, instead of adjusting for your individual preference/skill/speed.

10. To switch back to handheld from speaker when on a call and using speakerphone .... press the Blackberry button and than press "Activate Handset".

11. For closing apps, there are some that will remain open all the time - phone, world wide web, bb messenger, home icon, and the mail icon. You can't close these.......and this is normal. Any others that show up, just select them, then hit the bb button (menu button), then go down to "close". Always make sure to "close" apps when done....not just use the return or back buttons (which doesn't really close down the app).

12. When backing up your Blackberry .... to back up third party apps that were downloaded review the guidance here: Third Party Applications

13. A new version of Google maps (3.0.2) is available which utilizes the Storm's GPS capability. Prior to this version it gave you an approximate location using the nearest cell tower. The new version can be downloaded here: Google Map

14. For most new Storm users, it does need some "tweaking" of the settings for each individual (hover, touch, sensitivity settings) under Options. But doing this, and upgrading to the latest OS would solve any slow/sluggishness concerns you "might" have..

That ought to be enough tips and tricks to get any new (or experienced) Blackberry Storm user pointed in the right direction. If you have tips and tricks you'd like to share .... simply leave them as a comment. The more the merrier.

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