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Gadget catharsis

My employer consolidated the management of cell phones and plans, forcing me to abandon my Treo 650 for a Blackberry 8830. Yeah, I know. The Blackberry vs random other brand mobile phone here comparison post is way too overdone. You don't need me to tell you the differences.

This isn't one of those posts.

At first I got ticked. It's not just the money down the tubes or the time invested. It was a bit like being dumped. It's been a few months, and I still miss using my Treo.

Some of my remaining Treo co-workers haven't been forced to move yet. But as some make the move, most seem to be expressing similar concerns and reach out to the Treo group to vent and support.

It may be obvious to you, but I'm still not sure why I (and other folks) get so attached to some of these devices.

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If you use your Palm religiously as I have done for the past 8 years, you start to understand that there are a number of programs that become so indispensable. For the past few months, and especially last week or so, Tealscript emerged as one of those programs in my T3. Ever since Palm abandoned the original Graffiti writing recognition system (G1) for the new Graffiti 2 (G2) system, I had not particularly enjoyed using G2. I have always found the letters i and t were cumbersome and inefficient in G2. I installed G1 over G2 in my Tungsten C and Tungsten T3 for a while, but number of conflicts got in the way (including restoring the handheld from hard reset--if you installed G1 over G2, then you cannot restore the device after hard reset w/o getting rid of G1 from the backup directory to prevent fatal exception loop).

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2003 is gone, and 2004 is here! Here are my new year's resolutions:

1. I will not rush out and buy a new Palm OS6 device the first time it comes out. As we have learned from the Tungsten T3, perhaps the third time is the charm. It's likely that the new OS6 device will be released in the late spring, but it might be better to wait for the Fall release.

2. I will not hold onto too many PDA's in my possession. I have a tendency to keep the old PDA's when I get the new ones. Perhpas it's due to a sentimental reason, but it doesn't make any financial sense. So, I'll sell the old ones as soon as I buy the new ones (For instance, my old Sony Clie N60X with the Sony CF Wi-Fi card is going on E-bay this week at an incredible low price).

3. I'll not buy any more new smartphones this year. I have found my T610 and the Tungsten T3 to be a perfect combination for now. Besides, I'm locked into T-mobile till December 2004. In 2003, I ended up buying the Treo 180, but then I switched over to the T610. It's good thing I got the T610 for free; otherwise, it doesn't make any financial sense.

4. I'll play less with my new Palm toys this year and write more reviews. This is a dilemma every reviewer or writer faces--should we play more or write more?

5. Last but not least, I will not buy any more digital toys this year. Last year I invested heavily on my digital photographic gear when I transitioned from my Nikon film SLR to my Nikon digital SLR (D100) with several brand new lenses (due to digital's 1.5 magnification factor), several large capacity CF cards, and many others. Unless we get the 24 mega-pixel digital camera in the reasonable price range (less than $3000), I don't see upgrading this camera for a long time.

Well, that's my new year's resolutions for technology-related items. What's yours?

So, 2003 is almost over. I know everyone is busy buying gifts and attending holiday parties, but this might also be a good time to think about how your year went. Was 2003 a fruitful, enjoyable, and rewarding year for you? Well, for someone who writes about Palm OS topics, 2003 was indeed a busy year. It was a little more than a year ago that both Sony and Palm released the first Palm OS5 device, but they and other Palm OS licensees kept me busy during the year. So, what are some of the highlights of this year? Let's review PalmCorner's top 10 memorable moments in 2003.

1. Palm broke the 16MB Memory Barrier. Now the Tapwave Zodiac features 128MB of RAM, and even the low-end Palm Tungsten E features 32MB of RAM. For years, we've been tied down to having only 8 to 16MB of RAM, but when the Tungsten C came out with 64MB of RAM, Palm rewrote the book on this front.

2. First built-in Wi-Fi in a Palm OS device. The Palm Tungsten C showed us how to design a device that both web and battery friendly. The Tungsten C set the new standard for web enhanced device (excellent screen, useable keyboard, built-in Wi-Fi, and battery life).

3. Fast Intel X-scale 400MHz chips. The Tungsten C and the T3 now boast the fastest chip ever in the Palm OS device. Bring on more speed.

4. Built-in GPS in a Palm OS device. Garmin released the IQue that has built-in GPS capability. Those of us who needed the navigation system, our prayer had been answered.

5. First built-in Wi-Fi and Bluetooth in a Palm OS device. Sony released the UX50 that has both wireless capabilities. The jury is still out on this device, but if you want to have it all including the built-in camera and the keyboard, this is it.

6. Lower price barrier for Palm OS5 devices. The new Palm Zire 21 features 126 MHz TI OMAP 311 ARM processor and 8MB of RAM. Who would ever thought this is going to be possible about a year ago? Kudos for palmOne for making this possible.

7. Tapwave Zodiac. The gamer's paradise. Need I say more?

8. Palm Tungsten 3. The 320 x 480 Virtual Graffiti screen (plus hardware driven landscape mode) is awesome. Sony has had the 320x480 screen for awhile, but Palm got it right the first time.

9. Not having to listen to Pocket PC users boasting about their technological superiority over Palm OS devices.

10. GearBits, the most interesting and creative web site for technology-related topics, was launched, and PalmCorner finds a new home.

Well, that's it. I'm sure you have your own favorite or memorable Palm OS moment(s) in 2003. Let us know what yours is.

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You have just bought a new Palm OS5 device, and you are excited about all possible things you can do with your new device. It kind of brings back memories of your childhood when you got a new toy for Christmas. Well, just like the Christmas gift, such excitement will soon wear off, and you start to find certain faults with your device. Well I have heard so often from my readers that they are not happy with the way the texts look in their devices. In other words, some people do not like the way the default font looks in their device.

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A few days ago, I wrote a brief article about my new combo gadgets -- not one gadget but a combination of two gadgets. I now use the Sony Ericsson T610 and the Palm Tungsten T3 instead of the Handspring 180.

There has been a lot of noise in the industry about the proliferation of smartphones and the bleak prognostication for the stand-alone PDA device. I for one do not believe it's going to happen. Yes, I have to agree that carrying one device is much more convenient than carrying two devices, but what if you have to compromise how you work in order to do carry one device. To me, that is not an ideal solution and so far not acceptable.

Having separate devices offers certain advantages that all-in-one devices cannot. Each device can be selected for its features without making compromises. Also what happens if you want to replace one device in your chain? Well, you can simply replace one without replacing the other.

I do however believe the key to carrying separate devices is integration. If you want the separate cellular phone and the PDA, then both need to be seamlessly integrated that it feels like you are using one device, not two.

After having used the Tungsten T3 and the Sony Ericsson T610, I can now tell you this is one combination that offers the seamless integration and simplicity.

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Well, I have been sick and tired of waiting for Handspring (Oops! I mean palmOne) to release the Treo 600 for T-Mobile and seriously contemplated exploring an alternative route. Interestingly, I was buying a CD from Amazon the other day, and I came across a great deal for the Sony Ericsson T610--Free!. Yes, I got the free phone after the combined Amazon and T-mobile $200 rebates, and Amazon even included $79 BT Jabra headset for free. So, it was a great deal to pass up. Furthermore, T-mobile is now offering the unlimited GPRS service for $19.99 per month. Serendipity also played a role here. My Treo 180's flip cover broke over the weekend, and I had to get it replaced anyway. To make a long story short, let's just say I passed on the Treo 600 and went with the T610.

Also, ever since I got the Palm Tungsten T3, I was itching to find out how great a T3 and BT phone combination might be. Needless to say, I thought the BT feature in my T3 was one of the most underutilized features. So, this was too great of an opportunity for me to pass up.

My initial impression: This is a fantastic combination. Everything worked as advertised or expected first time: transferring phonebook data, connecting to the web and sending/receiving e-mails using GPRS, and so forth and so on. I never realized how convenient BT was until I tried this combination. I was also pleasantly surprised to discover how much faster this combination was compared to my old Treo 180 when surfing the web and downloading e-mails.

I will have more later, but I'm pleasantly surprised and wildly impressed with what I discovered today. Stay tuned . . .

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Hopefully, by now, you’ve been thinking about Zen of Palm as much as I have been for the past few weeks. So, let’s fast forward our clock to 2004 from 1996. So, where are we now? In 2004, Palm is no longer just one entity, but two separate entities. PalmOne, the hardware company, still makes Palm-branded devices, but Palm Source, the OS company, is now the brain of any Palm OS device. Now there are many Palm OS licensees including Sony, Tapwave, Garmin that produce their own unique Palm OS devices. So, we no longer have one company that does everything, and in one sense, that is great for having more diversity, but what about Zen of Palm? Let’s briefly review what happened in the past few years to see if we can make sense of what’s going on today.

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Zen of Palm

So, what is Zen of Palm? We have often heard folks talk about Zen of Palm, but what is it really? Well, this is my attempt to put some clarity into the phrase: Zen of Palm. I believe Zen of Palm is related to a couple of design principles or philosophy (whichever you want to call it) that seem to separate Palm OS devices from the rest of the PDA community. When Jeff Hawkins and his gang started to design the first Palm OS device, they set out to give the user a different experience than using desktop computers.

Sorry, folks, but there won't be any Weekly Feature today. Instead come back toward the end of the week for the PalmCorner Monthly Feature: Reviews of the Palm Tungsten T3 and the Tungsten E.

Also next week, I'll be featuring two-part series on Zen of Palm in my Weekly Feature.

So stay tuned.

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The much anticipated Treo 600 was released on October 8, 2003; however, if you are like me and most of other previous owners of the Treo smartphone, you might be still waiting for the Treo 600. Existing Treo owners were excited to learn that you could get your new Treo 600 for $399 if you decide to upgrade with any one of the carriers. However, the caveat is that most carriers do have a hefty penalty for breaking your existing contract; so, if you do not want to pay the penalty, you are stuck with your current carrier.

Interestingly, if you check any of the Treo specialized websites such as Treocentral, you will also notice that there are a lot of frustrated customers out there. So, what's going on?

One of the problems is that it looks like Handspring and carriers have decided to do a staggered rollout for the different versions of the device, and also the upgrade is only available for 3 weeks after each version is released. So, only Sprint version (CDMA) was available from Oct. 8 (10/8 to 10/29 for upgrade), and now Handspring is offering Cingular version (GSM) starting Nov. 3 (11/3 to 11/24 for upgrade). There is a rumor going around that T-mobile version will be available around Nov. 24. Perhaps AT&T will follow suit after T-mobile, and general unlocked GSM phones will be available sometime early 2004(?). I don't know who is to blame for this "moronic" scheme--Handspring or carriers, but I'm getting to a point where I'm going to pass on the Treo 600, and wait for the next version. Perhpas when my T-mobile contract expires next March, I'll get one of the Bluetooth phones (Nokia or Ericsson) to use with my T3 instead of the Treo 600.

To make things worse, even though Cingular version was released on Nov. 3, Handspring won't be processing orders till Nov. 17, and I've been hearing a week to two weeks delays for customers who ordered the 600 earlier. This seems to suggest that Handspring has a real problem meeting the market demand (whether it's manufacturing or supplier issue I don't know). So, perhaps this staggered rollout is nothing more than Handspring's way of resolving the supply issue. Handspring has done a great job creating a lot of hype for the Treo 600, but in this case, it might backfire on them if they make their customers frustrated or leave a lot of customers out in the cold.

What's been your experience, or what do you think?

T3 Update

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PalmOne has just released the update for the Tungsten T3. This update fixes the problems we've been experiencing with SD cards. You can download the file here. Thanks to Rik for pointing this out. I'll update this report after I apply the patch to see if it solves a number of problems I have had with my backup software.

UPDATE:

I applied the patch, and now everything is working great. Now I feel like I'm back in Paradise again. By the way, if you installed the original Graffiti (G1) on top of G2, then make sure you don't restore these files after you update the T3. Take them out of the backup directory and then reinstall them when the device is restored to the previous condition.

Thank you, Palm, for making my night!

Wireless Keyboard (1)

One of the rituals we often go through when we get a new Palm device is to buy a new keyboard since our previous keyboard does not work with our new Palm device. There are several keyboards lying around in my study that are painful reminders of such experience. However, Palm has just released a new infrared keyboard that will save us from investing in any more keyboard even when we switch our Palm-branded device. Unlike other traditional keyboards that use the hotsync port connector, the new keyboard uses the ubiquitous IR port. I have tried the keyboard on my Tungsten C and Sony Clie NX60, and I’m happy to say the keyboard worked great on both devices. In fact, I was able to use both Wi-Fi and the keyboard at the same time in my Tungsten C, making it easy to work on my e-mail and surf the web.

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It was two years ago when Sony released its N710C, I wrote an article at MemoWare about Sony disturbing the peaceful Palm Universe, and true to its form, Sony has continued to innovate its Palm platform product line in the past two years. One of the latest additions to the lineup the NX80 is however more of an evolutionary change rather than a revolutionary one.

The Clie NX comes with an Intel ARM processor running at 200 MHz and Palm OS 5. It features a high-resolution plus screen (320x480), it has a built-in digital camera (1.3 Mega-pixel), a built-in voice recorder and MP3 Player. This is a classic clamshell design with a built-in QWERTY keyboard and a new retractable CF slot. The device is also compatible with new Memory Stick PRO cards. Although the NX80 comes with 32MB of RAM, only 16MB of RAM is available for use.

The Clie NX80 is priced at $ 549.99 and Sonystyle is currently offering a free leather case at that price.

Can you improve on something that is already great? If the case you are talking about is Sena, then the answer is yes. I had a chance to try out the new Tungsten C case from Sena, and the short answer is it is definitely staying put with my Tungsten C.

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The case comes in three different colors (black, tan, and red). The case I have came in tan and without a belt clip, but you can order one with it as well. The Tungsten C slides into the case, and the transparent plastic cover offers the keyboard protection. The plastic cover did not interfere with using the keyboard, but it did introduce a different tactile feel. The cover did not also interfere with the hardware buttons and the 5-way navigator button.