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Palm Column

The ones that stayed around

by Shawn Barnett
November 2001, issue 42

I'm worn out from all the new hardware that's come out this year. As I settled into one new machine, another was already on its way to me for review. My backpack was fairly bulging with devices, such that I wondered, as the shoulder straps cut into my flesh, what it must be like to actually enjoy having a single handheld computer in a shirt pocket. Isn't that what this is all about? Along the way, with so much space dedicated to hardware, I was forced to remain mum about the cool software applications that I use on a daily basis.

My favorite app, measured by usage, is clearly the Address Book. It was my major reason for purchasing this device, and it has maintained my productivity ever since. With all my phone numbers easily accessible at all times, I can call whomever, from wherever I am. We all get that one.

Next would have to be AvantGo. I HotSync the news every day and read it at my leisure. Okay, I have very little leisure time, because I'm always on the phone, according to the paragraph above. That's why it's so important to have the news with me in such a portable format for when that leisure time strikes! Semper paratus (always prepared). The sheer variety of news channels available at allows one to read newspapers and magazine content from across the Nation and indeed the World. My daily read is "Good Morning Silicon Valley" by John Paczkowski of the San Jose Mercury News. While I live and work three hours from Silicon Valley, I get a taste of the SJMN via AvantGo every morning. I also have The Economist, Wall Street Journal, Business Week, Pen Computing, and Yahoo!, all downloaded daily into my Palm. Good stuff.

Along the same line, I carry Peanut Reader, now renamed Palm Reader, with one or two books loaded at all times. This is for when leisure time comes and I want to mentally escape, rather than read about what's going on in the world of work. While many book reader formats try to emulate the width of paper books with a nice, wide screen, I find the Palm format to be reminiscent of newspaper columns, making for a quick read with your eye motion more down without so much left to right. It works for me. And I rotate the page so that I can more comfortably hold the Palm and read.

CityTime gets a lot of use because I often have to call people in other time zones. Many of them are far enough away that simple calculations won't do, because sometimes I get them backwards. Calling to both Europe and Asia can really mess you up. CityTime's day/night plot makes it very simple. It also includes a time calculator that tells what time it will be in a given location when it's a certain time in your own zone. This is helpful if you're trying to figure out when you can next call your associate and find them awake.

WordSmith is a quick and easy way to sync and update Microsoft Word documents every time you HotSync. It's from BlueNomad, and has come in quite handy for starting story ideas or planning the next issue. I also like Documents to Go from Dataviz and QuickOffice from Cutting Edge Software, both of which are full office suites. I like each enough that I've had a hard time deciding which I'll use. For me, since I mostly work with Word, WordSmith is just right.

I'm also always using Cruise Control on my older Palms, also from BlueNomad. And BackupBuddy VFS is a new, permanent fixture on my m505.

Among PQAs I use Britannica an awful lot. It's great for learning the history of a place you're visiting, complete with biographies of notable people from the area. CBS MarketWatch keeps me informed as well of what's happening right now in the market. MapQuest has saved my reputation quite a few times, keeping me on time for meetings in unfamiliar places. And the Weather Channel app often tells me enough information so I know what to pack on a long trip. I sure would like it if a more comprehensive service, like, came up with a PQA. It would be helpful for planning those days out on the water in my kayak, because they get down to wind conditions by the hour in their forecasts.

Finally, the newest application I've been carrying around is the Solidarity program for patriotic American Palm owners, written by Steve Lemke. Its original version simply displayed an American flag, but subsequent releases have added more features, like MIDI songs, including America the Beautiful, God Bless America, and the Star Spangled Banner. Beaming of the program is encouraged, to spread that Sprit born in 1776.

Those applications aren't exotic by any means, but they do extend the usefulness of the Palm beyond a simple organizer.

More Hardware

Handspring has announced their next product line, a small cell phone called the Treo. It comes in two formats, one called the Treo 180, which has a RIM-like keyboard instead of a Graffiti interface, and the other called the Treo 180g, which has the more traditional Graffiti area. Both are expected to run on a 33MHz Dragonball processor, with 16MB of RAM. There are no expansion slots, though the HotSync port could theoretically offer expansion.

Of the two products, most think the keyboard model will be the more successful. The overall design of both models is much like a Motorola flip-phone, and borrows some features from the VisorPhone. Most impressive on the keyboard model is the simple integration of the various dialing methods. Using the keyboard, you can either type in the number, or just start typing in the person's name-either their first or their second name-and the program will pare the list down at typical Palm OS lightning speed.

Its data features will not be fully implemented until the major service providers get their GPRS system in order, but these devices are expected to support it when it happens. In the meantime, Internet features are still supported, with the SMS and Blazer applications taking the place of the traditional ToDo and MemoPad buttons. Both units are very impressive. Because of phone company approvals and evaluation schedules, consumers won't be able to buy a unit until the first half of 2002. From what I've seen, though, it'll be worth the wait.

Shawn Barnett can be reached via email at

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