Jawbone revisited and down the Google Docs rat hole

A couple of weeks ago I discussed the Aliph Jawbone, a Bluetooth headset that I highly recommended.

Reader “Anonymous” pointed out in a posting on Network World that the Amazon ratings for this device are all over the place, and I’m at a loss to explain why. Complaints range from poor build quality to inadequate warranty coverage and poor performance. I can only comment on the first and last issues as I haven’t had to make a warranty claim: I and two other people I know who have Jawbones like the build quality and have found the performance to be excellent.

Anyway, the reason I bring up the Jawbone again is that I just received a Jawbone 2 ($130 from Amazon) and, miracle of miracles, Aliph has managed to shrink the new model to about half the size of the original and improve it!

Having used the new one on and off for a few days I’ve found the audio performance and noise reduction is at least as good as the original (actually I think the sound quality is slightly better), while the device is even more comfortable and the battery life is longer. In addition, the new headset is lighter and less obtrusive and simpler to use. As with the original, I highly recommend the Jawbone 2. Your mileage, it would appear, might vary.

This week I had a small problem to solve and no time to waste so I had to find a quick and dirty fix. The problem was the need to provide someone with a simple database for names and addresses. I didn’t want to install anything on her computer because then I might have to go and fix the machine if something went wrong. The answer was obvious: The solution had to be Web-based.

I considered creating a data entry form on my Web server and using Form Mail from Matt’s Script Archive to e-mail the form data to another program running locally that would read the messages and build a database. This is a fairly simple solution, but in the end I decided to use Google Documents for two reasons: It removes the need to e-mail and decode form data, and I wanted to see what I could get Google Docs to do.

It is at times such as these that you realize just how much of a geek you really are. You have a problem to solve and instead of solving it with the tools you know, you just have to try using something “more interesting.” And here’s the problem with Google Documents: It is way too interesting! Say after me: “I will not go down that rat hole. I will not go down . . . Ohhhh! Shiny!”

Anyway, if you haven’t checked out Google Documents I would advise you to do so – as a place to store documents you might need when you’re out of the office and as a means of sharing documents it is pretty amazing. And free. Gotta love free.

I set up a simple Google Documents spreadsheet and then shared it with the person doing the data entry. She could now edit the contact data directly in the spreadsheet. But wait . . . there was a better way: Google Documents supports forms.

Google Documents will generate a form for you that will send data to your spreadsheet. There’s just one problem. The Google form is ugly and poorly laid out. But as it is just a regular HTML form that uses the POST method, creating a form on my Web site and using the same URL to send data to the spreadsheet on Google Documents was the answer. W00t! Works like a charm.

But that’s not all. Google Documents has a rich API that is just begging to be explored. Next week we’ll go a little further down that particular rat hole.

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