Wednesday, November 24, 2004

Laptop design requirements

I have discovered that I have a design requirement for laptops that I was unaware of. At work, they had to swap out my laptop due to power management issues I was having with my previous unit. The replacement is exactly the same except for one thing - the keyboard. This new keyboard is the loudest keyboard I have typed on in a long time! It makes it very difficult to work in meetings or other places where you want to be quiet.

Each keypress is loud. It's probably not as loud as I think it is, but it feels like I am trying to sneak up on someone in the forest by riding an elephant. Maybe if I would listen in meetings instead of send email and write blog posts, I wouldn't have this guilty conscience! :) As it is, I feel about as stealthy as a bank robber using a bright-yellow school bus for a getaway vehicle.

Wednesday, November 17, 2004

Getting GMail on my T3

I think one of the things that my Palm is best at is reading text.  I read tons of e-books, web pages, email, and other content on it all the time.  I was excited when I read that GMail was going to make their email POP accessible, but I ran into a bump trying to get it going on my T3 today. 


The configuration is very straight forward with the configuration information that Google provides except for the fact that Versamail will not support STARTTLS (or SSL) for SMTP connections.  The workaround:  use a different provider for SMTP access that uses ESMTP for authentication (or none at all if your email provider does not use authentication).  No one ever said that you have to use the same provider for your outgoing mail and mail recipients don't know any different either.  It works perfectly and looks like it came from my gmail address. 


I don't know if anyone else out there is going to have issues getting it configured, but just in case someone does a Google search for "receiving gmail on Palm T3" maybe this post will help some.  I'll answer any specifics via email if it ever comes up.


It is time to clean house!

Man, I sat down in front of a PC at school last night that was lightening fast!  It responded to commands almost instantly and applications opened in the blink of an eye!   When I completed the tasks I initially set out to do, I went to the system stats to see what was under the hood of this speed demon.  I couldn't believe that it was only a 2 gig system with 512MB of RAM.


The only real difference between this system and mine at home is how little is installed on it.  It has MS office installed and almost nothing else.  It made me realize how encumbered my system at home has become after a couple of years worth of installs and uninstalls of the software interest of the week on it.  This experience has really stirred my desire to rebuild my system (something that I periodically succumb to).


That fresh build performance is calling my name and I can't ignore it!  The countdown has begun to rebuild and you can bet that the time to rebuild will be measured in days now, not weeks or months.


How about you, how often do you purge your system?

Tuesday, November 16, 2004

Contemplating an MP3 player

Many may disagree with me, but I think that MP3 players fall safely within the geeky category. Agreeably, some are more geeky than others, but even though they have been adopted by the masses, I still think they're geeky.

I have held off on buying one about as long as I think I can. In the search, I think I have narrowed the choice down to just a few. I want something large enough to carry my whole MP3 collection (which isn't all that big), but also want to be able to use it as something of a portable hard drive. The leading options are the Apple iPod (20 GB version) and a new-found interest, the iAUDIO M3 by JetAudio.

The M3 is a pretty cool device that would allow me to record NPR's Car Talk on Saturday mornings (since both my wife and my children beg me to listen to something else) and then listen to it later in the week. It would also allow me to listen to local radio stations without burning my employer's network bandwidth. It's certainly not as standard as the iPod is though (didn't think I'd ever say that about an Apple product!).

Decisions, decisions, decisions...

If you have an opinion, I would take it...

Palm T3 battery life

Over the weekend I experienced what I thought was better-than-average battery life from my T3 that I wanted to share.  The last time before the weekend that I charged my Palm was on Thursday (since my cradle was at work and I worked from home on Friday).  I used the device as I always do (powered on about two hours a day) over the weekend.  I was surprised that on Monday morning, the battery was still showing 40% - not bad for what turned out to be 4 days of use.


Another thing that surprised me is that it recharged back to 100% in about 40 minutes during my first meeting of the day on Monday.  The reason why I wanted to share is that the recharge time made me realize that this performance was noticeably better than my iPaq 2215.  Both the discharge and recharge times were superior to my T3's predecessor.


It doesn't take much to get some geeks excited!


Thursday, November 11, 2004

True mobile computing

This has got to be one of the coolest setups I have ever seen!

This is so close to my vision of true mobile computing that it is
frightening! I think that this type of solution is truly the computing
platform of the future. You can work from anywhere you are with full
processing capability. About all I can say is that I am terribly jealous -
way to go JK!

CF Hard drives?

Yesterday I read that compactflash manufacturers have now hit the 8GB storage milestone. It got me to thinking again that one day solid-state media may find itself installed in laptops in place of hard drives. As an IT professional, I found that hard drives are by far the most common failure in laptops...that wouldn't be so with solid state media. In addition to greater durability, there may even be power benefits to using solid-state media for storage as well. The one thing I am really not sure about is that solid-state media is rumored to have a limited number of write cycles (????).

I know there are performance issues with digital media being slower than typical hard drives, but I think that one day we will see that problem overcome. It's already conceivable that you could use RAID with these smaller existing CF cards to stripe data and increase performance. I wouldn't mind having a laptop without any moving parts, how 'bout you?

Wednesday, November 10, 2004

Some thoughts on platform

I have been enjoying a new sense of platform independence lately. With the use of my USB storage device as my primary drive for current documents, I find that I am able to work on documents on many different computers (part of the time on my home PC, some on my work laptop, and some on computers at school). It dawned on me last night that not only am I working on different hardware, but also different platforms and doing it fairly seamlessly. For example, I did part of my work last night on a Mac at school when I am primarily a Windows person...but Word, Adobe Reader, and Internet Explorer didn't care about that!

I am excited to see software developers make the effort to make applications cross-platform friendly. I personally envision a day when not just your data, but your applications will also follow you around on a portable device of yet-to-be-determined form. If your word processor was installed to your portable device, not only could you work on documents anywhere, but you'd get to keep your familiar toolbar layout and other personal preferences. At that point, the hardware each person uses may become even less of an issue than it is today. I could be completely wrong here, but I think that mobile computing is really still in its infancy.

If today I can work on my IBM laptop, home-brewed desktop system, school-provided HP PC's and Macintosh G4's, and my Palm PDA...what great stuff is coming in the future? I am not sure, but am excited to find out!

Friday, November 05, 2004

Some thoughts on OpenOffice

In an earlier post, I said that I am more inclined to use a product based on its merits than on it's brand. As a testament to that claim, I have been finding myself using OpenOffice more and more lately. It is a good product that does a number of things very nicely. Now don't get me wrong, I love Microsoft Office and consider myself a very good salesman for the product, but it is not a perfect product.

There are a number of things I like about OpenOffice, but let me give just one example of something it does very well. For school, right now I am doing a lot of article writing of pieces that are getting posted on a web page I don't control. To insure that my work remains my work, I wanted to publish PDF files. I am not personally aware of any way to save a Word document in PDF format, but OpenOffice has a "publish to PDF" button on the toolbar. The resulting file maintains formatting almost perfectly.

There is a LOT of room for improvement for OpenOffice, but rest assured that this geek will be keeping an eye on it.

Wednesday, November 03, 2004

Feeling giddy about being blue

Bluetooth has been one of those technologies that I have really wanted to embrace, but couldn’t find much of a use for it. Well, that issue has been resolved and I am glad to say that Bluetooth is treating me very well. I spent several hours trying to get things configured so that I could surf the web wirelessly at home with my Palm via Bluetooth and finally came off victorious! I can now surf the web via GPRS (through Bluetooth) when I am away from home and via Internet Connection Sharing (through Bluetooth) when I am home.

Connectivity is better than I feared it would be. Our home is pretty small and the Bluetooth coverage is just about perfect for connectivity without worrying about whether my neighbors or some wardriver are stealing my internet connection (which I have never been too paranoid about anyway). It works through the walls as well as upstairs and down. Only when I combine the floor with multiple walls between my USB Bluetooth dongle and my PDA do I lose the signal. It seems just as fast as 802.11b was on my iPAQ.

Now that I have it working, I think this is a great technology that is under-utilized. The whole notion of a PAN (Personal Area Network) has taken on new interest for me. Not only can I share my internet connection with my PDA, but I can sync over the same medium and the possibilities beyond that are exciting. I thought that the car PC’s (previous post) Bluetooth connectivity through GPRS was a great implementation of this technology. There really are a lot of uses for a low-power, close-range network connection. I guess now I need to buy a new Bluetooth mouse, keyboard, headphones . . .