I was on vacation in India for the past 4 weeks with varying levels of internet access. I carried a laptop and my iPhone with me, but given the limited time I could spend on the Internet each day, I tried to be creative about keeping in touch while I was away.
Snail-mail: Someday, I’ll try and send my friends post card from every place I visit. But given my lazyness in handling physical objects and the fact that I have no idea what most of their mailing addresses are, makes this an instant fail.
Phone: I actually do have the phone numbers of my friends and acquaintances. I’ve meticulously collected them over the years and kept them updated, but calling friends in the US in the middle of their night to tell them I’m somewhere sunnier is probably an expensive way to piss them off. All my phone numbers and other contact information is still stored on my exchange server and (active)synced to my phone. How I wish there was an IMAP-like sync protocol for contacts so that non-ActiveSync clients could also download my contacts (SyncML?GroupDAV?).
Text Messaging: Refer to my earlier post on how I feel about text messaging: [the economics of texting]
Email: I have only one personal email address I check with any frequency (the @umeshunni.com one – all others forward to it) and (active)sync it to my iPhone. I had a data plan for 75% of the time I was on vacation, so staying up to date on email wasn’t a problem. The rest of the time, I use OWA to get to my personal exchange account. In the spirit of time away from work, I also chose to not check my work email and being religious about never sending personal mail from my work address made it unlikely that any friends would send me mail there anyway.
IM: Sadly, I have contacts I care about on just about every IM protocol. Since an open instant messaging protocol is still a bit of a pipe-dream, I have to rely on multi-protocol messenger clients. The best (free) IM app I could find for the iPhone was Fring, which is actually pretty good. It does all the basics – multiple protocols (AIM/Y!/MSN/GTalk), archiving messages etc. It even has surprisingly good Skype integration which I used once to make a few international calls over WiFi which worked like a charm. On the PC, I’ve been using Miranda and Trillian for some time now, neither of which are perfect but suffice for 99% of my IM needs.
Social Networks: Most of my friends are now on Facebook (and I threaten the rest that I will create profiles for them if they don’t). I mostly use the Facebook iPhone app to access Facebook on the go. During the past month I think I noticed a couple of times where the news feed displayed in the iPhone app was actually different from the one displayed on the facebook homepage. This is really strange since I always thought the iPhone app was just a different display layer on top of the same backend data. I’m not sure what the reason for this difference is (or whether it’s just something I imagined), but it’s odd if true.
I occasionally use Orkut, mostly to stay in touch with family members who haven’t made the upgrade to Facebook yet and over the past month or so, I’ve also started tweeting more frequently (inference: frequency of tweeting is directly proportional to the level of boredom). Orkut had a well done iPhone-enabled website and twitter has about 2,543 iPhone apps built for it.
So, this brings me to this little app called Digsby that I discovered while searching for a better solution to keeping on top of my communication needs with limited time. My review of this app is coming soon here.
News and Blogs: I’ve been a Google Reader user for a while now and use it on the PC and phone to keep track of all my favorite blogs and sites. I used google.com/reader/m while I had my WinMo phone and now use the iPhone version (google.com/reader/i). I recently started using the Byline iPhone app which beside being a better front end for Google reader can also sync down upto 200 of your most recent feed items for offline browsing. This is super-useful for those long flights or other times where you know you won’t have Internet access. I found out that this actually works better than Google Reader’s own offline feature which doesn’t sync images or other RSS enclosure content.
For non-RSS news, I continued to use my.live.com (aka Windows Live Personalized Homepage) as my home page on the PC and also visit Google News, NYT and BBC every now and then. All of the above, except my.live.com, have excellent mobile/iPhone versions of their homepages too.
And with that, I conclude my quarterly blog update 😛