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Palm Tipsheet 26 - January 2002
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Happy New Year!
I hope your holidays were relaxing and enjoyable. We had a wonderful time with family and friends; a true gift in light of the troubles in our world.
An update on The Lord of the Rings movie: it exceeded the hype and my expectations! The film encapsulated the story well, New Zealand was gorgeous and the special effects were excellent! Highly recommended!!
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Looking forward to a blessed new year,
Palm Loses Graffiti Lawsuit, Will Appeal -- In December 2001, a judge ruled that Palm's Graffiti character recognition system infringes on Xerox's Unistrokes recognition system; Palm will appeal. If the appeal fails, Palm may have royalties to pay on every Palm which used Graffiti:
Oxford English & Chinese Dictionary:
You look like you've lost a couple of fingers. That was Jim's take, watching me switch my life over from Psion 5mx to Visor Edge. He's a co-worker and longtime Palm user. Through eight years and five hardware upgrades my fingers pecked on a Psion keyboard. But there I was; struggling with Graffiti and a foreign OS.
Lose your PDA and you realize it's nearly an appendage. So why put myself through this misery of change? Psion announced they won't be making handhelds anymore. The next day I heard the price of the Edge fell $100.
Pocket PCs weren't even a consideration. The units are too bulky for pockets. The only beauty I find in a Microsoft OS is leaving its frustrations on your desk. I don't see a need to try to cram these frustrations in your pocket and take them with you.
Before my conversion, I'd never used the Palm OS before, but I'd already convinced a few people to buy a Visor. I liked the Springboard slot. It gives developers a solid vehicle for endless expansion ideas.
The differences between handheld OSes is more befuddling than the differences between Windows and Mac. Both the Palm OS and the EPOC platform do the same thing. For me, both are combination word processor, newspaper, bookshelf, filing cabinet, piano, calculator and stopwatch. Each OS is impeccable at what it does, but each does it in a very different way. The Visor is an efficient, single-tasking extension of my desktop computer. The Psion is a stand-alone pocket computer that can run 31 programs at once.
Psion invented the digital organizer in the late '80s. They've had years to master the small keyboard. It's slightly wider than a Visor is long, and offers true touch-typing. I typed two books on a Psion keyboard and edited two others. I also used the Psion exclusively for my home email, and some days I sent out over a hundred emails.
The Psion 5mx severed it's dependence on a larger computer with the birth of the nConvert program from Neuon Shareware. It gave me the power to convert Psion Word, Data, Sheet, and Sketch files into formats that Windows, Mac and Linux could read. Tap on a non-proprietary file, like a jpeg or MS Word file, and the Psion would seamlessly open it. It had become more file friendly than either Windows or Mac.
I had complete freedom in a handheld. But unsupported freedom becomes a chain, so I decided to stop investing in dying hardware.
If the 5mx is that fantastic, why wasn't it popular? Bad marketing. Psion owned the handheld market in Europe, but they never tapped the psyche of the American consumer. The reserved Brits were slow to release new machines, because they wanted the OS to be bugproof. It was. I never had to do a hard reset.
But Psions never got sustained buzz in the media. Psion had a two-employee marketing department in the US for years. You can't be misers when you're competing against the marketing budgets of Palm, Sony and Handspring.
The EPOC OS lives on. There are other handhelds using EPOC, but I'm concerned software development will lag when Europe's Psions die out.
The Edge's key advantage is that it's truly pocketable. The Psion was bulky and felt like four rolls of quarters in my pocket. I often forget that the Edge is next to my wallet, even in its case. The 5mx isn't truly a "handheld." It was hard to type on it standing up, since my stubby thumbs couldn't span the keyboard. It also wobbled in my lap, so I had to sit at a table to use it.
With the Edge, you can walk and write at the same time. I haven't added chewing gum to the equation yet. My Visor screen is infinitely tiltable, where the Psion had one fixed position that was usually at a poor viewing angle. With the Edge's solid backlight, I can jot notes at 3 am and read past dusk.
The detachability of a keyboard is a big advantage. The folded Stowaway is in my satchel if I need it. But if I'm just reading the news at lunch, I leave it behind. Surgery report: my fingers have been stitched back on.
Psion's powerful Word was replaced by the tiny, efficient FreeWrite. This program mirrors your documents in HTML on your desktop. Since the two universal word document formats are plain text and HTML, I'm content.
FreeWrite doesn't do stylized text. If I need to style text, it's little trouble to copy and paste text into a word processor document on the Mac. That gives me formatting and print possibilities that no Palm word processor and infrared printer combination can offer...yet.
FreeWrite also has a 109,000 word spell checker that can be installed if you feel it's worth the system space. The program's drawback is transferring documents into FreeWrite. The process is not seamless, but workable.
Psion's Data was replaced by the simple List database. It offers two brief text fields and a 4K note field for each entry. Plus, it gives me the standard drop-down categories so I can organize 15 folders within each database.
List databases are popping up on the MemoWare site. It looks like the format is becoming an accepted standard.
For email, I settled on TopGun Postman. It's freeware that's no longer in development, but it gives me a stable modem connection for my Edge's built-in Mail app. Mail is fine for most of what I do.
I had a brief and nearly-successful career as a freelance cartoonist, so I'm always sketching and jotting down visual ideas on my Edge. Diddle and Gray Paint are my mini-art arsenal. They both produce only screen-size images, but are adequate for most of my drawing needs. Diddle is a monochrome drawing program. It can also insert the system fonts, so it's fast at slick maps and diagrams.
Gray Paint gives you 16 shades of gray to doodle with. It's harder to learn than Diddle, but it lets me zoom and work pixel-by-pixel for some surprisingly complex drawings you wouldn't think possible on a 160-dot square screen.
With SnapShot, I can turn art from both programs into Image Viewer files.
NoLinesHack gets rid of the annoying lines of dots on memos and word processing docs.
Phlegm Hack enables you to switch quickly between two apps and gives you a pop-up menu to access recent apps. This hack makes me feel at home, since switching quickly between programs was a strength of the Psion. I use Phlegm Hack to jump between a research document and the word processor.
VirtualKB is a hack that replaces your on-screen keyboard when the job is not big enough for the Stowaway. In addition to giving you more lines of visible text, it has some powerful editing features, like find-and-replace. Plus, it keeps Graffiti enabled. Its most valuable feature is a cursor control that lets you get in front of an "1" at the start of a line.
I paid for ClipHack. It's a 32K clipboard that also gives you a word and character count. For me, the seven bucks was well spent.
I found a dangerous program called Filez. The Palm OS is designed so that users can't screw it up by removing working hunks of a program. Filez gives you both access to these hidden files and the freedom to obliterate your system. It's useful for deleting orphan files left behind by neglectful parent programs.
If you have two image viewers or two doc readers on your Palm, you can't get rid of one without deleting all image or doc files. Filez lets you remove the second program and keep the databases. It's also useful for deleting programs that the system delete function can't, beaming anything from your unit, etc. Use only under adult supervision.
Thanks to X-Master, my fingers are still a little stiff, but they've got feeling again.
Fireviewer and AvantGo are incredible apps worth the space. The Fireviewer Web page has an online converter for putting gifs and jpegs on your handheld. Both AvantGo and Fireviewer can be used as Web browsers. AvantGo does admirably with images and password connections. Fireviewer gives blinding, text-only performance that's well-suited for search engines. You can view images, but you have to load each individually.
I'm also using AvantGo to its fullest. The content offered is great. I also found there are many other sites not listed that you can channel to, including Palm Tipsheet.
I have laments about shelving the Psion. It was a well-designed machine with Achilles' hinges as its only weakness. The best true war-story came from a Russian journalist whose Psion took a bullet for him and still worked.
But the 5mx is now on a shelf with the batteries ready to be yanked. I've immersed myself into Palm culture and learned the system quickly. The Edge fits my hand and my needs. The final prognosis: rehab has been slow, but even without my Visor's calculator, I can count to five again.
Thanks. That's the elegant simplicity of the Internet; it makes it so easy to communicate with people and exchange information.
The big question for Canadians right after Handspring's Visor came on the market was whether it would be available in this country. The frustrating thing for many Canadians is living right next to this big marketplace where so much is available and yet we may not be able to get certain items. The good news is that major Canadian retail chains have picked up the Visor and the price ain't bad.
People here know about PDAs, but still consider them a luxury, something you might get for a gift but not actually buy for yourself. It's changing, gradually, as prices come down, products become more available and more applications are created. I've heard of employers actually requiring staff to have PDAs, to carry company info and have access to data on the go.
When I got my Visor last year, before it was even available through Canadian retail outlets, there was a mild curiosity. But people know I am somewhat computer-literate and enjoy gadgets and technology. So it was viewed as very much a techno-toy for someone like myself. I think more people will come around the first time I make a call from my Visor phone... When the service plan is available where I live.
I don't bring out my Visor much in the newsroom. I usually work on it while waiting to drive the kids to school in the morning and in the evenings. People are always on deadline at work, so they don't pay much attention. I've shown them what it is, and they're polite, but they view it as a frill.
I make shopping lists, to-do lists, gift lists, you name it. I like lists. I've tapped in daily and weekly tasks and jobs around the house. I have even programmed everybody's birthday. It's great for keeping track of family appointments. So, it's an extra bit of memory that comes in very handy.
I'm a basic, practical user. I'm just feeling my way to add programs. I've gone to the sites, including Freeware, Visor Village and Palm Gear to browse around for applications.
Lately, I actually purchased two software programs specifically for work-related productivity. One is Action Names' organizer/datebook/address program which provides far more extensive capabilities than the Datebook and Address software loaded with the Visor and even Handspring's own Datebook Plus. Because Action Names is so easy to use and has so many functions, I'm using my Visor far more and regularly. I have more than 500 names loaded now, and I've even devised my own date book icons.
Handmark's Mobile Database program is very useful and good value for the money. It provides me databases of useful information as well as entertaining databases like the lists of Seinfeld episodes and movies. I'm really jazzed with it, although my friends now consider it the ultimate confirmation of how much 'out-there' I've become with technology.
I haven't yet devised my own database -- a capability built in with the Mobile Database and requiring Filemaker compatibility. It is staggering how much data can be compressed into that little Visor -- lists of Bordeaux wines, nutrient values of foods, it's endless. And, you can go back and check for more databases on the site.
I've downloaded several free programs and passed a few to the Mac users group I belong to. Palm Gear had an offbeat application called Cal Date, which calculates the number of days between specific dates you provide:
I can see myself using it just once on the job some day and just having it available for that one time will have been worth the memory space.
For anyone who makes lots of notes, I would suggest Word Complete, which a friend gave me. It offers suggestions for completing words after typing a customized number of letter characters. And you can even add your words. It sure shortens the amount of pecking away with the stylus, and I think it would even eliminate the need for a portable keyboard.
Finally, I'm not really a gamer, but I play the Patience solitaire game occasionally while waiting for phone interviews:
I'm toying with buying the digital camera module. I think it would be terrific snapshot camera. And when service plans are available in Canada, I will definitely consider the Visor cell phone module.
As for software, I think the e-book will be hard to resist. I can see myself reading one on a train, at work, etc. You're carrying the Visor with you anyway, so the information is available, and you don't have to carry a book.
The main thing for me is that the Visor makes it so much easier to record and keep track of contacts, a reporter's bread and butter. Instead of handling all these paper record files at the office, I have them with me 24/7. The Visor makes it easy to update them, sort them into categories and to search through them on demand. The Visor especially helps me coordinate appointments and tasks at a glance with the different calendar views. I can make quick memos and write notes.
Here's a for-instance: I write a column about dining out, and one night after a restaurant visit I came home, sat in bed and wrote my notes while waiting for a favourite TV show. In the morning, I downloaded the notes into an e-mail message I sent myself at work. I referred to the notes while writing my column.
I meet friends regularly for breakfast. A few weeks after showing them my Visor, a friend bought one and brought it with him. We fumbled around to configure the Visors to beam a program and set them down beside each to start the downloading and uploading. Someone said that the Visors looked like they were preparing to mate, and, gosh, in public, too...
It's just amazing the advances that have been made with PDAs and in such a short period of time. I mean, we're talking voice recorders, MP3 players, GPS modules, time-temperature probes and technical manuals for doctors, pharmacists and who knows who else. I think that's the appeal and the future of the PDA -- that it can be configured so easily to the use you want and/or need at the time. The bonus is that it cleans up paper clutter and replaces things like an appointment book and business card/contact file and makes them so portable and accessible. For me, the Visor is my briefcase.
In the short term, I can see it relieving the workstation computer of many tasks. In the long-term, maybe one day I'll be watching wireless TV instead of playing solitaire. Or, maybe I'll be playing solitaire while keeping tabs on a TV show or webcast AND waiting for an e-mail message before I make that call to my wife and/or broker... Now that's multi-tasking! And all on AAA batteries!
The list of upcoming interviews includes: Argentina, Mexico, New Zealand, Thailand, Venezuela, Malaysia, Chile, Singapore, Italy, The Philippines, Belgium, South Africa, Bahrain, Barbados, Russia, Romania, Honduras, Saudi Arabia, Greece, Argentina, Guatemala, Portugal, Slovenia, Lebanon, Luxembourg, Kenya, Croatia and Denmark.
The list of past interviews includes users from: Canada, Switzerland, Spain, Israel, The Netherlands, India, Costa Rica, Ireland, Germany, Australia, Brazil, Britain, China, France, Japan, Norway, Poland, and Turkey. If you are from a country *not* represented on either list, feel free to apply with an an e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org for consideration.
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