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.

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