LifeDrive size compared

Are you interested in the Tungsten X?
The Tungsten X, formerly known as the “LifeDrive”, is due to hit the streets around May 19 (yes, the same day as the final episode of Star Wars, making it a day of geek frenzy). This thing has specs to beat the band: WiFi, Bluetooth, an amazingly bright and rich HVGA screen, voice recorder, beefy battery and a 4GB hard drive built in.

But, early reports also indicate that it might be as much as a solid 1inch thick (2.54cm for those of you across the pond). Ow. Is that a TX in your pocket or are you happy to see me? Not to mention the inevitable “everything’s bigger in TX” jokes.

It also seems my original deduction might hold true and the TX will not have any flash memory for storing the traditional Palm databases. Your calendar, contacts, etc. will all live on the spinning hard drive, which means it not only can’t do the same power-saving hard drive tricks the iPod uses (putting up to 30 minutes of music in a RAM cache and powering off the drive), but launching applications may take a few seconds while the drive spins up and copies the relevant app and data into RAM (just like the T5 does, but the T5 is faster because it’s all solid-state).

So given the above, are you waiting on tenterhooks for the TX, or might your give this one a pass?

The Costs of Bluetooth Networking

With WiFi and Bluetooth built in, you are networked wherever you want to be. If you are at home or in the office with an available WiFi connection (or even in some coffee shops or other hotspots) you are on the air. If you aren’t, just Bluetooth to your mobile and start building up a big GPRS phone bill.

I have Sprint here in the States, and I pay a flat $15 to connect to the internet via my phone. Whether I use the paltry phone browser or a Bluetooth connection to my T5 (gee, which to use?) I pay the same $15 a month, no matter how much I surf.

Why is there a perception that WiFi is free, but surfing with Bluetooth and a cell phone costs money? If anything, it’s just the opposite here in Denver, Colorado. Most WiFi hotspots charge for the service, and most cell companies offer flat rate cellular digital internet. Sprint’s a CDMA carrier, so I use 1xRTT instead of GPRS, and I get transfer rates a bit faster than a dial-up modem, plenty fast for handheld use.

So why does everyone think WiFi is so much a better deal?

Whoa, Maybe I Don’t Want A Treo…

Orthopedists say they are seeing an increasing number of patients with similar symptoms, a condition known as “overuse syndrome” or “BlackBerry thumb.” In some patients, the disability has become severe.

Bette R. Keltner, dean of the Georgetown University School of Nursing & Health Studies, has been forced to put her BlackBerry down. After two years of constant use, her hands were in so much pain, she had to stop typing. She remembers the trigger point: It was a 10-hour conference one Saturday where she answered about 150 e-mails. “Days later, I was in excruciating pain,” she said.

The American Society of Hand Therapists issued a consumer alert in January saying that handheld electronics are causing an increasing amount of carpal tunnel syndrome and tendinitis. With that warning, the society included directions on how to properly hold the devices, urging users to take breaks and, if possible, place pillows in their laps so their wrists are in a more upright position.

At least Fitaly and Graffiti 2 vary my hand movements enough to reduce the risk of RSI. Something to think about…

Buy One Get One at Audible
For those of you that still aren’t hooked on audiobooks, Audible is running a “buy one, get one free” sale. I’m listening to Blink, by Malcolm Gladwell (unabridged, of course) and it’s blowing my mind…

I still think this the best pure PDA that Palm has ever made. When not running incompatible software, the T5 is fantastic. Coupled with my Sony Ericsson T608, I can get online anywhere. It’s great.


I upgraded to the T5 from my Zodiac because I wanted a “standard” implementation: I wanted application buttons that worked, I wanted to run FontSmoother and Fitaly. I already had the T608, so it was a simple matter of just dropping the T5 into my existing system.

What I didn’t stop to think about was what I needed to do and how to do it.

As a writer on the go, I need/want the following out of a mobile rig:

A high-resolution screen capable of paper-quality typography

Good battery life, enough to get through a busy day without stopping to recharge

The ability to edit native Word and Excel documents with minimal formatting loss

A solid and fast web browser, capable of reformatting on the fly for the small screen if necessary

An email client capable of POP3, IMAP and attachment support

A phone that’s easy to use and loud enough to hear in my car

Audio playback for Audible, podcasts and background music while I write

A clean and steamlined user interface

My tandem of T5/T608 fits that pretty well. But it could be better.

The T608 battery life is poor. I have chargers at my desk, by my bed and in my car, and make use of all of them.

The T608 is not the easiest phone to use. I only use the phone book and voicemail, and of course Bluetooth for the PDA, but I haven’t approached most of the phone features. And it doesn’t have a camera, which would come in handy.

The background music doesn’t work because Pocket Tunes chews up enough on my 416MHz T5 to noticably delay input in Graffiti 2 and Fitaly. It’s generally not worth the hassle of listening to the background music. Which makes me wonder why I bother storing it since…

I only have a 1GB SD card. That sounds like a lot for a PDA, but it’s easy to fill that up with audio files. I’ve got podcasts and Audible on there, but I only have room for 50 movie score tracks and 25 rock songs at a time.

Fitaly is great for input, but it requires digging out the stylus, something that isn’t always convenient.

There’s no single device that can do all that I want, though the Treo 650 comes close. It’s missing mass storage for audio and the horsepower to play audio while I’m doing other things. I’ve tried all in one devices before and came away unsatisfied. One-device convergence isn’t the answer.

Then it hit me. I’m carrying two devices now, but maybe they’re not the right two devices. Instead of a T5 and T608, what about a Treo 650 and an iPod?

Adding the iPod to the Treo 650 addresses my concerns. Audio will be on the iPod’s 20GB drive, so my 1GB SD card can hold apps and ebooks. The iPod is a separate unit, so music playback won’t impact the Treo performance, and splitting audio into a second device will greatly increase the Treo’s battery life.

I gain a camera and a voice recorder, both valuable tools for interviews. I never used the recorder on my Pocket PCs for voice notes, but recording an interview to later insert into a podcast might be useful. The thumbboard on the Treo and the modifications made to Garnet by PalmOne mean that I might never need to reach for the stylus.

I’m losing the HVGA screen and going back to 320^2, but I doubt that will be a big deal. When reading ebooks I tend to autoscroll, so the screen size is irrelevant there. Only the text quality matters, and font rendering should be the same or better on the Treo 650. The 650 screen is also much better in daylight.

I doubt I’d carry the Palm Wireless Keyboard with me as much, dropping my total gadget count from three to two. The Treo 650 (and the PalmOne Bluetooth Headset) use the same car charger I use for my T5, so battery life shouldn’t be an issue.

What’s the perfect balance for you? Do you have the optimal setup for what you want to do?

And Back Again to Graffiti 2
Even though I can use the Graffiti 1 libraries on my T5 now, I’ve gone back to Graffiti 2. Turns out I’ve spent so much time over the last few years with G2 that G1 now feels “alien” to me and I kept getting errors. Mostly a shortcut stroke as I tried to enter a lowercase E like you would in G2.

Some tips though on successful G2 use:

When writing an L and a space, write the space beneath the lowest point of the L.

Don’t wait for it to catch up, just keep writing. Breaking your rhythm will lead to mistakes.

Make a K as an uppercase K; make the angle part big for better recognition.

In general, write as big as you can: the more pixels for the recognizer, the better.

Dot your Is and cross your Ts, and do it quickly. G2 only gives you about a third of a second to do this.

What are your Graffiti 2 tips?

On Why It Cannot Be Done
I’ve been reading Kent Pribbernow for years (he goes by Foo Fighter on many boards). Kent is intelligent and delivers his analysis in a clear, easy to understand manner. In many ways I consider him and a dark mirror to me and Writing On Your Palm.

Why a dark mirror? Because Kent is a “glass is half-empty” kind of guy. While I tend to focus on what’s possible and how it can work, he focuses on what is and why it won’t work.

Case in point. I’ve stated that I think a big selling point for the Tungsten X is its facility as a media player. I don’t think this device is really targeted at the PDA market at all, and instead is PalmOne’s attempt to break into the media player market of Archos, Rio and of course, Apple. PalmOne has included a 4GB drive in the X, and both Bluetooth and WiFi for streaming. Carry your favorites with you, stream everything else. Neat idea. In a recent editorial on his site, Kent explains why this can’t possibly work. From

If and when PalmOne does indeed introduce the LifeDrive/Tungsten X, it’s going to steal market share away from Windows Mobile, not iPod. These two products don’t even compete in the same segment. It won’t even compete with Microsoft’s Portable Media Center devices. And ultimately T|X won’t grow the overall PDA market either. It will merely siphon sales away from other mobile devices and nothing more. What’s likely going to happen is the usual “Mac effect”. Initially it will sell briskly as geeks and gadget freaks line up to get one. Once that market is satiated (after about 3-4 months), Tungsten X sales will drop sharply once the product is left to face the mainstream consumer electronics market, where it will meet with changing fortunes. Sorry, but there just isn’t much demand for a $600-700 Wonder-PDA.

This isn’t a “$600-700” device, it’s a $500 device. Also, Kent is absolutely positive this won’t work in the media player market, but gives no idea how he knows this. Everything about this device screams “multimedia” and yet he assumes it will only appeal to the geek market. If he’s correct, yes, it will fail. I’ve said for some time that geeky wonder-devices will sell only in small numbers. But what makes this device different, or at least should make it different, is that it has the extra features to appeal to a wider “music and video” audience. I think this will allow it to succeed, Kent thinks it’s doomed. Optimist vs pessimist.

The media player software that would enable the Tungsten X, or any Palm OS device, to function as a digital media player. Take a look at the available offerings on Palm OS today; namely AeroPlayer and Pocket Tunes… Both interfaces rely too heavily on stylus navigation… The fact is that digital audio players are simply easier to use for the purpose they serve than any PDA. On my iPod it takes just two seconds to drill down into any playlist or find a particular track from my music library. On a Palm or Pocket PC, the same task involves screen taps, and drop down menus (usually with a stylus). Way too much interaction…

If Kent had done his homework, he’d know that on the T5 (upon which a great deal of the X interface is based) you can control Pocket Tunes exclusively with the d-pad. I don’t have to go anywhere near the stylus to open my libarary, select non-contiguous songs and play them. Nor do I have to use anything but my Model A finger to play, stop, pause, forward or rewind, etc. Pessimists have a tendency to ignore those facets of reality (I call them “facts” for short) that don’t align with their particular argument. In this case, Kent has overlooked the fact that new Palms have come a long way in terms of one-handed, no-stylus control. And I know he knows this, because he owns a Tungsten T5. So why the misinformation?

He who claims something cannot be done should not interrupt he who is doing it.

Writing on Your Palm

When I switched back to the Palm from the Pocket PC two years ago (has it been that long?) one of the most difficult things to leave behind was µBook. Available for all variants of Windows but not for Palm OS, µBook was a do-all read-all ebook program that could handle anything: it could read ASCII, RTF, Word, PalmDoc, from any folder or even zipped. I missed it, but eReader wasn’t bad, as long as I didn’t mind converting all my ebooks to its format first. (I’ll conveniently ignore the “dark period” where an NFVS-compliant version of eReader Pro wasn’t available and I had to choose between a stable but feature-limited version or a slightly unstable Pro version.)

Recently, I heard about a new program called Palm Fiction, but the website wasn’t encouraging. First off, it was entirely in Russian, which I don’t read. And the project was open source, which I’m shamed to admit, I often read to mean “amateurish.” (This is the part where all the Linux users burn me at the stake.)

I installed it anyway and took a look. After an hour or so, I picked my jaw up off the floor. This thing is amazing. Let me say this right up front. If you own a Palm and love to read, Palm Fiction is a must-have.

It will take you a while to get it working just the way you like it. There are dozens of options to set, and the interface is completely configurable. You decide how many toolbars to have and what goes on each one. You decide the fonts, the colors, justification, the works. I don’t have the space in this article to go over everything Palm Fiction can do, but let’s cover the really juicy stuff.

First let’s talk formats. Much like µBook, Palm Fiction can read PalmDoc, ASCII text, RTF, HTML, and Microsoft Word (as well as zTxt, a compressed Palm database that uses the zip algorithm for tighter storage than PalmDoc). So far, it strips out any rich formatting, but that may change; after all, it’s open source and probably just a matter of time before the code to parse italics and whatnot finds its way in there.

What does this mean? It means that you can download and store your documents in whatever open format you’d like, and Palm Fiction can read them. I didn’t like having to keep two copies of my books before: one in an editable archival format (alas, no one ever seems to find every typo), and one in eReader’s compiled (and one-way) format. Now I can just keep my books in HTML or RTF (or plain text, if that’s all I have) and read them directly. I just copy them onto the card I have in my Palm, and there they are. (BTW, if anyone knows how to extract text from an iSilo document, drop me a line.)

What do you do after you get your files on the device? Let’s talk file management. If you’ve used iSilo, this will seem familiar. You can view your library just about any way you’d like. You can assign books as “favorites” so they’ll always be in that list (although again, since I can’t read the Russian documentation, if anyone figures out how to remove a file from the Favorites list once it’s there, let us know). You can view books by most recently opened, and you can browse the Palm’s memory and the directories of any memory cards you might have. What’s better is that Zip archive files are treated as folders, and you can browse into them as well.

Read the rest of the review in the forum!

Mobile Managing
PalmOne has officially announed a new class of handhelds in their line up, the “Mobile Manager.” Why a third class? Unlike the organization-focused PDAs and communication-focused smartphones, the Mobile Managers will be media-focused. They’ll be able to handle organization and communications just fine, but they excel at collecting, organizing and accessing media, both audio and video.

We’ve suspected PalmOne was moving in this direction for a while, and barring the confusing “Tungsten X” rumor, the upcoming LifeDrive was always assumed to be the lead-off for a new product line, one that I suspect will be as important as smartphones to PalmOne’s future.

The PDA market is in twilight. While there are still hundreds of millions of people worldwide that could benefit from a PDA and don’t have one, most of the people that can benefit from a PDA and would actually use one already have one. For example, my mother would benefit greatly from a PDA for both scheduling and ebooks, but I can’t make her use one. Eventually, the PDA market will fade to a very small niche (although those can be profitable; see Apple’s 5% PC market share for an example).

PalmOne has known for a while that smartphones will eventually be big, and the Treo 650 is widely considered one of the best on the market. It’s so good, in fact, that HP is shamelessly copying the Treo with their upcoming Windows Mobile communicator, the hw6500 (which even has a “650” in the model number).

But a “sleeper” category in portable electronics has been media players. While the iPod has defined the audio player market, the multimedia player market has been chaotic. Many of the popular devices in this category, from big names like Archos and Creative, are too large for anything but a cargo pocket and twice the price of an average PDA.

PalmOne can become an overnight leader in this space if they execute well. The leaked specs on the LifeDrive make it much more attractive than the competition. It’s smaller, lighter and significantly cheaper, while having the same battery life and screen brightness. It also does far more, including the organization and communications features from the PDA line. It’s also launching at an opportune season, just in time for Dads & Grads. This could be the hot device this summer.

The key to everything, though, is in the marketing. Positioned as a media player, the LifeDrive can dominate. Positioned as a PDA, it’s pricey and thick. Most of the complaints I’ve seen about the LifeDrive thus far stem from looking at it as a PDA, comparing it to what a PDA in 2005 should be. This is entirely the wrong way to see it. Looking at it as a media player that can also handle time management, it’s cheap and tiny. But people won’t think that if stores stock it in the PDA department rather than the media player department.

The device is ready, but can PalmOne’s marketing department pull this off?

It was a relevation to my Photoshop workflow when I started using layers. In short, layers are simply images stacked on top of some original image you’ve created. The new layers do not have to contain the same information as the background (i.e. first and bottom-most layer). Layers can contain text, or masks, or shapes, or other images. The magic comes when you combine the layers in different ways. Or you can use the new layers for manipulation while keeping the original handy. I’ve found that layers are indispensable in my Photoshop use.

So why hasn’t anyone created a text or word processor that supports a form of textual layering? I realize that there is a fundamental difference between paragraph structure and visuals, but is it so hard to wrap multiple layers/documents/text files within a tar-ball or ZIP?

I find that I splinter and fork a lot of my writing, mostly with the idea of keeping drafts, at the very least for my own edification. I even tried using CVS to handle text document revisions in the past.

So here’s what I’m thinking in making textual layering useful. Paragraphs are the basic structure of the document. You can create layers “focused” on some existing paragraph. Changes made in the new layer would replace or merge with that one paragraph. If the course of editing required you create new paragraphs in a new layer, they will be inserted after the original paragraph in the original layer, should you choose to merge.

It does sound a bit involved, but I think it would have the virtue of keeping multiple drafts in front of the writer. There can simply be status bar along the left side of the text window that notes which paragraphs have layers, and how many, associated with them. You can then specify which layers are shown, so if you have 5 layers associated with one paragraph, and 3 with another, you can display layers 4 and 2 as your reference display.

Just a thought. I find multiple files just doesn’t work so well for me.
Posted by mcheung on 05/09 at 08:13

Sinclair computers reviews

Sir Clive Sinclair ( or Uncle Clive as he was affectionately known) got into making computers in the late 70s when he offered the Mk 14 kit computer to electronic enthusiasts. But his first serious micro was the ZX 80 with its white plastic finish and 1k of RAM. In 1981, there followed the ZX 81 – still with 1k of memory and a mono display, this machine sold in large numbers. In 1982 the revolution in Britain really began with the launch of the Spectrum colour computer. The first 60,000 of these were 16k models, identifiable by their light grey rubber keys. This was soon followed by a 48k version with dark grey keys. By 1984 the 48k Spectrum was available in a smart new body with a “proper” keyboard – now called the Spectrum +. In 1985 a new Spectrum emerged from Spain, a 128k model looking exactly like the + but with two modes, ie 48k and 128k. The outward differences on the 128 were a large black heat sink down one side and the 128k logo on the key board.

In 1985 everything began to go wrong for Sinclair as he lost his fortune developing the C5 electric car and the ill-fated QL computer. Clive eventually sold Sinclair Research to Amstrad for 5 million pounds lock-stock and barrel. Alan Sugar took the Spectrum and dropped the QL. The Speccy, as millions of British owners knew it, gained a completely new keyboard in light grey with the bonus of a tape deck stuck on the side. It was now called the Spectrum +2. In 1987, Amstrad remodelled the Spectrum as the +2A – looking pretty much the same as the +2 but returned to its black casing. It also had some extra features like Centronics printer port and disc operating system that couldn’t be used because that was meant for the final model, the +3 which had all the +2A features minus the tape deck. It had a none-standard 3 inch drive in stead.

The Spectrum enjoyed a huge following through its life and, even today, there are still many users and collectors in the UK. Some 20,000 games were produced for it, a lot of which are hard to find now. Many of the games have been emulated and there are a lot of clones of the machine around the world. However, you can’t beat the real thing.


MK 14., Rare! Came as kit and didn’t do much. It had just 256 bytes of memory and a vacuum florescent display. You had to program it in HEX.

ZX 80., Rare! You could buy it as a kit or finished through mail order. This micro had a BASIC and with a 4k RAM pack you could at least do something with it – not a lot though! For playing arcade games it wasn’t. However, it could do simple text adventures and bits of number crunching.

ZX 81., You can still find them but rarely boxed, and usually in poor condition. However, a nice boxed machine does command a good price .Games-wise, it wasn’t much better than the ZX 80. There is also a Sinclair 16k RAM pack, and a ZX Printer for it (the thermal paper rolls are hard to get though.

SPECTRUM 16K The first and rarest of the Spectrums, came with light grey keys and the spectrum colour stripe across its lower corner against a black face. The machine had 8 colours in its display and though the graphics weren’t brilliant its speed was quick enough to handle arcades.

SPECTRUM 48K Fairly common, but difficult to find in mint/boxed condition. This model had the dark grey keys and extra memory but in all other respects its the same as the first Spectrum. For this model, Sinclair produced the Interface I which handled Microdrives, RS232 printer port and Networking. Interface II,which soon followed, could take Sinclair’s new cartridge games – rare in themselves.

SPECTRUM+ Fairly common but, again, difficult to find in mint/boxed condition. The + came in a new black casing with a proper keyboard. It is essentially the same as the earlier model but it did have the extra facility of a Reset switch. All the add-ons work with it ok.

SPECTRUM+128K Not so common, and even harder to find mint/boxed. Again, there is little to tell the 48k and 128k machines apart except for the heat sink down one side and the 128 logo. In operation the 128 editor is much better than the 48 but the buety of this machine was that it had a 48 mode which enabled all the early software to run on it. The other advantages were that sound was output through the TV and it had both a built-in RS232 to support MIDI and an RGB out-put. Its failing was that some of the add-ons like the Interface I wouldn’t work with it.

SPECTRUM+2 Quite common but still worth a fair price boxed/mint in the UK. This is the first Spectrum produced by Amstrad. It was grey and had a good keyboard. It also had a tape deck built onto it. In most other respects it was the same as the 128 but it did have an extra RS232 port and a pair of built-in joystick ports to take Amstrad’s very own “Sinclair” joysticks. Interestingly, Interface I actually works fine on the +2.

SPECTRUM+2A Quite common and, as above, still worth fair price boxed/mint in the UK. This machine was a big let-down on the earlier model and suffered from a dodgy display and a tendency to crash. However, most of the faults were put right on later issues. Apart from the edition of a Centronics printer port and the fact that it was returned to its black casing there’s nothing much one can say about it.

SPECTRUM+3 In mint/boxed condition its a hard one to find but they do turn up. You can still find well-worn examples but usually the disk drive is naff! Apart from the disk drive and an extra port to take drive B as an add-on, there’s little difference from the +2A. However, the disk system dos make it functionally better. It should be added, not surprisingly, that Interface I didn’t work with this model or the +2A unless you got a devise known as the Fixit from MGT – now long gone.