Monday, January 12, 2009

Joined Up Contacts

So my new Blackberry turned up today and I can't sync my contacts and calendar entries from Thunderbird to that bad boy.

Disappointing... but time for a bit of googling to see how to get around the problem.

And the answer? I'm still disappointed.

I have managed to sort my email accounts in Thunderbird with the help of Folderpanes and I now have access to Hotmail from within Thunderbird using the webmail add-on. I've even sync'd my Google contacts with Plaxo (although that only works one way.... WHY!!!!).

I've downloaded Sunbird (though this gives me no benefit above and beyond the Lightning add-on for Thunderbird).

So... I have all this software, but no way to sync to the Blackberry unless I get radical as such:
  • Use Outlook (which is too expensive)
  • Use Outlook Express (which is too nasty)
  • Use Live Mail (which I just don't like)
  • Buy some additional software
I don't mind paying for software, but I've just spent a load on my Blackberry with the idea that I would be able to sync up simple things like contact lists and calendar entries. To find that I can't do it out of the box is.... disappointing.

Maybe I should write my own routine!

How To Search

So... I have a home network and a Mac Mini which is being used as a Media Server. It will stream video around my home network and I have a Pinnacle Show Center 200 which is a hardware based media player.

However... my Show Center isn't behaving itself. The picture is a bit 'slanty' and the sound is a bit tinny. My understanding is that this is the first sign of a power supply problem! At least, that's according to the horror stories online.

Replacement media players are going to cost anywhere between £100 and £200 and I can't justify that kind of expenditure just now. It would be simpler for me to reuse one of the old laptops with a software based media player installed and stream the output to a television.

What could be simpler?

Well, it is simple - once you have found the necessary software. A bit of googling and job is a good one. Except, googling for "upnp media client software" wasn't that helpful.

The On2Share plugin for WinAMP sounded promising so I downloaded and installed WinAMP. I downloaded and installed the On2Share plugin and the result? It doesn't stream videos at all. In fact, it downloaded the entire video before playing. Rubbish!

Kinsky and 4U2Stream appeared in the search results. I looked at their websites and the terminology used was alien to me. I downloaded them, installed them and.... rubbish! They aren't clients at all - they are remote control clients for UPNP servers.

VideoLAN Network Client also appeared in the search results and after it was downloaded and installed, I found that, once again, the software didn't work.

At this stage, it seemed that too much time and effort had been spent trying to solution what I figured would be an easy problem to solve. Windows Media Center can't play streaming video from a UPNP Media Server; Cyberlink's Media Center wouldn't bother to play streaming video either.

I promised myself just one final attempt and downloaded the XBMC Media Center - the software behind the XBOX Media Center. A quick download, and easy installation and guess what? IT WORKED! It actually worked and it worked brilliantly.

Why oh why was it so difficult to find it? I like to think that I'm skilled in the use of search engines but I'm finding that it is becoming more difficult over time. I recently had a requirement to relocate a DB2 database from one drive to another and my db2relocatedb command was failing. Could I find an answer to my problem? Not a chance.

The problem is that there is just too much information on the web and a tremendous amount of it is just garbage. And this tendency to end up at a site which is merely a site devoted to hosting paid-for banner advertisements is really winding me up.

What am I to do? Maybe the answer lies in storing the decent information when I find it and getting some trusted companions to also store decent information. I'm not talking DIGG here though. I'm not talking blogs. I merely want a repository of information that was difficult to find but was incredibly useful.

Anyone got an answer to that problem?