We had the pleasure of interviewing Mr. JR Lawhorne, the Founder of Fieldstone Software, LLC, which is a professional software and web development company located in Staunton, Virgina since August of 2006 and the maker of TaskJot.
1. Tell us a little about yourself
I’m a young (29) family guy living and working in Virginia, USA. I live with my wife, two sons, dog, cat, a turtle, and some tropical fish in a rural area called the Shenandoah Valley. The area has many historic landmarks and plenty to do for those who enjoy the outdoors. We love it and we’re close to family so its perfect for us.
In 2006, I founded Fieldstone Software, LLC. I had the idea (not original) that I would start the company out by doing small jobs for local businesses, i.e. consulting. Web development is easy for me and its not too difficult to sell. There are customers everywhere. So, we started with web work and we continue to offer those services.
After being in business a couple years, I was ready to start a software project. After reading David Allen’s [Getting Things Done], I started gathering tools and implementing GTD in my life. As part of that, I needed a todo list that would sync with my Blackberry so it would be functional everywhere. After searching for an online app with Blackberry sync, I went with Toodledo. It didn’t have Blackberry sync but it did have an open API for integration. From past experience in an unrelated project, I knew it was possible to build TaskJot with the Toodledo API for Blackberry devices and that’s the story of how TaskJot was born.
TaskJot is currently our primary focus at Fieldstone. If you check out our website (www.fieldstone-software.com), you’ll also see samples of our web work. Having an awesome designer on staff coupled with talented software engineers has proven to be a very valuable combination for TaskJot.
2. What BlackBerry do you use now and what PDAs have you used in the past?
I started in the Blackberry world using the 8830 with Alltel. It works like a charm, BTW. I loved it. One problem: while developing TaskJot, we needed a Storm to use for testing. The Blackberry simulators work great but for the Storm, there really is no substitute for the real thing. So, we switched to Verizon and picked up the Storm. After about two months using it, I finally decided I wasn’t getting any more proficient with the touch interface and wanted my roller ball back. Most of our beta testers for TaskJot were using the Curve and I’d done some testing/playing on a Curve before so I thought I’d try it out. I absolutely love it! The Storm might be right for some people, but for me the Curve is a much better tool. I’ve since passed the Storm on to a co-worker to use for testing.
3. Why is the BlackBerry a good platform to develop on?
The Blackberry device line-up has a long and solid history. For our development, we wanted to be able to support as many device models as possible without losing major functionality. Because of RIMs dedication to forward compatibility, we’ve been able to develop with the 4.2.1 development environment and support a huge range of devices in use today.
4. Other than your own, name your three favorite applications for the BlackBerry.
- Google Sync – Keeps my contacts and my calendar in sync with my Gmail account.
- Facebook – I sometimes have “down time” while I’m out and about so mobile FB is great for me when I’m bored.
- I’m too busy to have a third favorite. I reserve this slot for some fun game that I’ll start playing when all the bugs are out of TaskJot.
5. What’s your favorite trick or feature that you use on your BlackBerry?
I don’t know if I’d consider it a trick but I often use my Blackberry to take notes when shopping. For example, I just bought a banquet table from Lowe’s and it didn’t have a UPC label on it (you know, the little barcode that tells the cash register what it is I’m buying). There were two models of banquet table they had for sale that the cashier quickly found in their system using search. Both six foot tables, both with “folding” in their name. One had folding legs. The one I was buying had folding legs AND it folded in half. I had the item number of my table of choice which made it a snap at the register.
6. What’s the most important feature that the BlackBerry lacks?
A straight forward connectivity framework for developers. Writing networking code for Blackberry is overly complex. To their credit, they have been trying to tell developers how to do this properly in the forums. But, it remains an arduous task for a developer new to the platform to figure out all the caveats to the various connection types and configuration settings. If complex were the only obstacle, it wouldn’t be quite so bad. But, its complex AND mostly untestable. There is no way we can possibly test all the various network configurations and settings for all the wireless networks within our lab. In this case, I think the problem begs for a better solution by RIM.
7. Where do you see the focus of third party programs for the BlackBerry going over the next few months?
I certainly hope to see more applications offered on the platform and continued growth. Fieldstone Software will continue to listen to customers and build products to suite their needs. I can only hope other developers do the same and the platform continues to grow in function and popularity.
Fieldstone Software Website: www.fieldstone-software.com
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