53 Hardware Secrets

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Cell-Phone Assistance

By Grace Aquino

Browse Faster on Your Treo

Illustration: Glenn Mitsui
If your Treo's Web connection is as slow as rush-hour traffic, here's one way you can speed things up: Use the fast mode on the browser, which blocks the phone from downloading Web graphics, thereby making pages load more quickly. Treo browsers place their "don't load images" option in various locations. For example, on a Windows Mobile Treo, open the View menu, select Options, and and deselect Show Pictures (see
FIGURE 11: Load Web pages faster on your Treo by blocking images from downloading automatically.
FIGURE 11
). Although photos won't appear on the pages automatically, you can see them by selecting their placeholder box on the Web page. If you're looking for a simpler option, sign up for the free Mdog.com information service for mobile browsers. Log on to the site to see mobile-optimized versions of such news and information sites as the New York Times and the Internet Movie Database).

Customize Your Soft Keys

You can change the soft keys and four-way navigation keys on many cell phone handsets to the settings that you use most. On most phones, you reset these features by accessing the device's main settings menu. On the Motorola Razr, for example, select the Menu button, go to Settings, click Personalize, and choose Home Keys. Scroll to the key you want to modify--such as Up, Down, Left Soft Key, or Right Soft Key--and then select the app for the shortcut (you can choose almost any of your phone's programs and features). To modify the shortcut keys for the four-way navigation soft keys on the LG VX8300: Click the OK button (also called the Menu button), scroll to the Settings & Tools tab, and select Phone Settings. Choose Shortcut Key and pick the key (such as Left Key or Up Key) that you want to change. Select the feature you want as a shortcut, and click OK.

Back Up Your Address Book

Most big-name wireless carriers offer apps that back up your cell phone's address book. But I found an even better deal: a free Web-based backup service called Zyb that supports a variety of phone models that have a Net connection.

To get Zyb on your phone, you simply create an account at zyb.com (see

FIGURE 12: Automatically back up your cell phone's address book--for free--at the Zyb.com site.
FIGURE 12). Some phones will automatically sync your contacts to Zyb's secure server, but others, such as Motorola's Razr phones, must have their address books uploaded to the server manually: To do this, open the phone's Settings menu, select Connection, Sync, and enter Zyb's setup details. The company's Web site provides step-by-step instructions based on your phone model.

If your phone is compatible with Zyb's automatic sync, the service sends configuration information to your handset. When you select this option, the company pops up a warning on screen, asking you to verify the phone number you entered (if you type the wrong number, your account details could be accessed by the person whose number you entered). The syncing process can take a while, depending on your connection speed and the number of contacts in your address book. Afterward you can update your contact information on Zyb's site and sync it back to your handset. (For people who use cell phones that Zyb doesn't support, I recommend the free BitPim phone-contacts-backup program at www.bitpim.org.)

Create Shortcuts to Your Apps

Your cell phone's applications and features are often layers deep within menus, making them difficult and time-consuming to find. You can get to them faster by creating a shortcut, similar to those you put on your PC's desktop. Nearly all phones less than a year or two old support some kind of shortcut creation, although you may be able to make shortcuts only to navigation keys, as in the Nokia 8801 (shortcut options are usually found in your phone's settings menus). On the Motorola Razr, however, you can assign a shortcut to each number of the dial pad for quickly launching your favorite apps or for accessing the features you use most often. Navigate to and select the item that you want to jump to (for me it's the game Bejeweled). Hold down the Menu button--it looks like a hyphen or a minus sign and is located in the middle of the top row of keys--for about 2 seconds. When the 'Assign Shortcut for:' window pops up, select the Yes hot-key. Next, you'll see the name of the app; make sure it's the correct one. In the Key field, select the number that you want to use, and then click Done. Now the next time you want to play Bejeweled, you simply press the Menu button plus your assigned shortcut number. This sure beats having to click your way through all those menus.

Add Shortcuts to Your BlackBerry

The blackberry is the original always-connected device. And its keyboard shortcuts can make you even more productive. Here are my favorite ones:

  1. Go to the top of your Message screen by pressing the letter T.
  2. Capitalize a letter by holding its key until the capital letter appears.
  3. Insert the @ sign and periods in any field of an e-mail message by pressing the spacebar.
  4. Move the cursor to the top of the page by pressing <Cap> and the spacebar simultaneously. To place the cursor on the bottom, just press the spacebar.
  5. Press the spacebar twice to capitalize the next typed letter.
  6. Type an accent mark or a special character by holding the letter's key, rolling the track wheel, and selecting the character you want to enter.
  7. Reboot the device by pressing <Alt>-<Cap>-<Backspace> simultaneously.
  8. Toggle between programs by pressing <Alt>-<Esc>. While holding the <Alt> key, select a program, and then simply release the <Alt> key to switch to the program you selected.
  9. Change the phone's signal strength from numbers to bars by holding down the <Alt> key and typing the letters NMLL on the device's Home screen.

Contributing Editor Grace Aquino writes the Dialed In column.

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