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14 June, 2004

The future of PDAs

Being the resident Palm OS freak in my circle of friends, I’ve been getting a lot of questions about what’s going to happen to PDAs in light of Sony’s announcement that it won’t be producing any new CLIÉ models in the United States this year. Here’s a question I received from a friend via email:

Does this mean they are stopping forever?

Only Sony knows the answer to that question. I don’t think they’re likely to give up on the PDA entirely, especially because they’re still planning to produce iq option for windows new models in Japan. PDAs of all kinds haven’t sold as well in the last year or two as they did in previous years, and there are a lot of people in the industry who think that convergence devices, like smartphones, are the right direction to look for future small electronics.

My guess is that Sony might develop Palm OS-based smartphones through their Sony Ericsson division. At the very least, they’re still producing their existing line of PDAs, which they’ll still be selling for a while; they’re just not going to release any new models in the U.S.

I don’t think the dedicated PDA is likely to completely disappear,despite the dire predictions analysts are making. In the consumer electronics space, they’re not going to sell as well as devices that are able to make calls, take pictures, play music, and make coffee. As electronic components become smaller download iq option for pc, cheaper, and higher quality, carrying a single device instead of a PDA, cell phone, MP3 player, digital camera, and coffee maker makes more sense, but only if someone can manufacture a device that’s able to do all of those functions well.

Dedicated handheld computers are likely to be around for a while, because they make more sense in the enterprise space. A large company that uses PDAs for a custom sales force application, for instance, isn’t going to want to pay extra for a coffee maker on their employees’ PDAs, especially when they can get just the PDA by itself dirt cheap.

The other thing dedicated PDAs have in their favor is that they are very good at what they do. I’m sure someone clever will eventually figure out how to make a converged device that does everything well, but so far, you end up with a half-assed effort at all the individual parts. The PDA is harder to use because of the form factor; the phone doesn’t get the reception of a true cell phone; the camera takes fuzzy pictures; the coffee tastes like motor oil. I know several people on the upper end of the gadget freak market who carry a separate MP3 player from their music-playing PDA, simply because it plays music better than the PDA can. And if it’s an iPod Mini that you want, why buy anything else?

And then there’s my wife’s argument against a combined PDA and cell phone: what do you do when someone asks you for a telephone number?

“Yes, I’ve got that right here. Just a moment.”

[move cell phone from ear so you can look at the screen and use the stylus]

“Hang on. Almost got it.”

[make loud scratching and tapping noises while looking up the number]

“Okay here it is.”

[move phone away from ear to look at number]

“206…”

[move phone away again]

“555…”

[move phone away again]

“8974.”

[glance at phone again]

“Oh, no, sorry, it’s 8947. Got that?”

[check number again]

“Sorry, I missed that; I was looking at the phone while you were talking. Say again?”

“And do you want his address, too?”

This scenario isn’t as problematic if you’ve got a headset, but who wants to take the time to plug in and use a headset every single time a call comes in? Bluetooth headsets are a bit more convenient (you can skip the plugging in step), but at $150 or more for one that I’d actually consider using, they’re a bit steep. I’m not on the phone that often.

I think eventually, when all the bugs have been hammered out and the public has been forced to endure a series of truly terrible convergence devices (like the Nokia N-Gage, a combined cell phone and game console iq option that performs neither function well), someone will hit upon a perfect combination. Handspring/palmOne already did a great job with the Treo 600, as I’m sure any Treo 600 user will tell you. It will just be a while before the device can also take great photos, play clear and crisp music, and serve up fabulous coffee.

20 May, 2004

Semi-remote blogging

My latest experiment in terror: attempting to blog from my Tapwave Zodiac via a Bluetooth connection to my desktop PC. Okay, it’s not exactly a practical thing to do, given that my PC has a perfectly good copy of Mozilla Firefox installed and the computer’s keyboard is mere inches from the Palm Wireless Keyboard upon which I’m typing now, but it’s a good proof-of-concept to see if this would work over a real remote connection, like a Bluetooth phone.

The Web browser that ships on the Zodiac’s CD full of extra goodies isn’t half bad. I’ve had some problems with CSS rendering on some sites, but for a browser that’s not pulling pre-chewed bytes from a proxy server, it’s surviving first contact with the naked Web quite well. If this post makes it to the Web intact, then I can be assured of the browser’s usefulness for filling out Web forms, too.

Well, no time like the present, I suppose. Time to tap the Save button and see what happens.

Almost, but not quite. The blog entry was saved in the database, but posting produces an error in the Web browser. Apparently, it can properly get to http://www.tribblescape.com, but http://tribblescape.com is beyond its capabilities. Looks like I should check to make sure everything is forwarding properly at the domain level.

19 May, 2004

Mano a mano, ranged edition

Bowman is a clever Flash game that features one-on-one combat using bow and arrow. The physics and gratuitous violence to stick figures make the game well worth the (free) price of admission.

It also gives me SCA flashbacks. I used to engage in one-on-one bow combat, albeit with blunted arrows instead of the deadly little barbs featured in this game. Aside from the blood, the game is somewhat more civilized in its approach to duelling with bows. In Bowman, competitors take turns releasing arrows at their opponents, whereas SCA missile combat was more of a nerve-wracking simultaneous affair.

28 April, 2004

Green tea: good for you, good for hard drives

Scientists have been touting the health benefits of green tea for a number of years. Now someone has figured out how to use the tannin in green tea to polish hard drive heads. Not only are the researchers getting better results than the traditional diamond-and-harsh-chemical process, the solution is biodegradable.

via Boing Boing

27 April, 2004

Magical computer girl

Yet another amusing waste of time at Memegen, this really short online quiz determines what your life would be like as a character in an anime show:

What would your Anime life be like? by hearthlight
Name:
Gender:
Your looks:Kitty ears and few clothes.
Your best friend:Your computer. Really.
Your powers:No powers, just a magic sword.
Your beloved:Mr.Wiggles the sock puppet.
Your occupation:Magical girl.
Your ending:Exactly as you’d want it.
Created with the ORIGINAL MemeGen!

I’m not entirely sure what that’s supposed to mean, but the computer bit is certainly correct. Thank you, Karen. I think.

15 April, 2004

Bluetooth: easy as quantum mechanics

I’ve just picked up a Bluetooth adapter for my PC so I’ve got at least one device to which I can connect my Tapwave Zodiac. HotSync via Bluetooth works brilliantly, but trying to share out my PC’s net connection has been anything but simple.

I still haven’t quite got it working, but this Palm Bluetooth Guide looks like a great starting point. With any luck, I’ll be able to bash my Windows settings into something that allows for a net connection on my handheld.

Mind you, if I’m within ten meters of my desktop, it’s considerably less effort to simply walk up to the computer and open a browser. But it would be nice for debugging network programs on an actual Palm OS device. And it’s cool.

28 March, 2004

Indian PDA

The Amida Simputer is a brand new handheld computer from India. It runs on a Linux and X Windows base, with a 206MHz processor, 64MB of RAM, 32MB of “permanent storage” (flash memory, I’d assume), and a pair of USB ports.

Among the more innovative features is a built-in accelerometer, which allows the user to control applications by moving the handheld around or wiggling it in certain directions. For example, flicking your wrist a bit can turn pages in an electronic book, or rotating the device ninety degrees switches between portrait and landscape display of images.

It comes with a vast array of applications, from the usual date book and memo pad, to “Panchanga”, an astrology program for planning events during auspicious times of day. It’s got support for English, Hindi, and Kannada text, and if the screen shots are any indication, it looks like you can annotate most applications by scribbling digital ink directly over the application.

I’m curious what the reaction at PalmSource and Microsoft is. If the Amida works as well as advertised, it’s easily competetive with high-end handhelds running Palm OS or Windows Mobile. Amida appears to be primarily targeted at the Indian market, but given that it’s already a trilingual device, it could become another important player in the global mobile devices market.

There are three versions available: a high-end consumer model with 64K-color TFT screen, a low-end consumer model with a greyscale screen, and an enterprise model with a greyscale screen and fewer bells and whistles. They’re shipping around the world, and if I could afford to drop US$480 on a whim, I’d be tempted to pick up the high-end Amida 4200.

via Slashdot

18 March, 2004

Who is the multitaskiest?

Jeff Kirvin has a great article up titled Ford vs Chevy, which is an excellent layman’s explanation of the differences between Windows Mobile and Palm OS multitasking. In short, they’re different, but roughly equivalent in end-user experience.

17 March, 2004

"What's the sitch?"

I’ve recently become completely infatuated with Kim Possible, a quirky and hip cartoon about an overachieving high school girl who is “cheerleader by day, crime stopper by night”. With her friends Ron Stoppable (always accompanied by his naked mole rat, Rufus) and Wade (who never appears in person, only on Ms. Possible’s “Kimmunicator”), she keeps the world safe from evil masterminds . Surprisingly enough for a Disney show, Kim Possible is masterfully written and animated, with more than enough intelligence to keep adults as glued to the screen as younger viewers. I haven’t laughed this hard at a cartoon since Samurai Jack debuted a few years ago.

As any good obsession revolving around a specific piece of intellectual property will do, Kim Possible has driven me to scour the Web for desktop wallpaper, cell phone ring tones, and whatever other digital tchotchke I can point my browser at. Inspired by the Zodiac Gamer background competition, I took Photoshop in hand and created my own Zodiac launcher skin based on my new favorite cartoon character.

Click the image above to see the skin full size.

Read more (380 words)

15 March, 2004

Great C reference

My copy of K&R is buried in a box somewhere, so I had to go hunting for a basic C language reference. The first thing that popped up on a Google search for c language reference was The C Library Reference Guide.

I may just leave K&R buried in that box. This is an excellent reference, and far quicker to use, even though my copy of The C Programming Language is dogeared and falls open to the printf page when I lay it on a flat surface.

lonnief@pobox.com
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