Friday, December 17, 2004

Reverence for gadgets

This morning while I was getting for work, I got to thinking about the gadgets that so many of us take for granted every day. I was thinking about ENIAC and how tremendously large that system was for how little it did (by today's standards). We now carry orders of magnitude more computing ability in our smartphones than this first computer packed into more than 30 tons of wiring and vacuum tubes. ENIAC’s designers would probably not believe the modern computing achievements.

I work for a firm that develops computing silicon. We pack millions of transistors into an area the size of a penny. How can you not sit back and feel bewildered about this ability? We're talking about stuff that's so small you can't see it with a normal microscope - isn't that amazing? The development that has taken place over the last 100 years has been absolutely amazing. Just think about what technology was like a century ago:
  • Experiencing state of the art communication meant you received a telegraph
  • Higher octane fuel for your transportation meant oats instead of hay
  • Engineering faster computing meant creating a slide rule that experienced less friction
  • Word processing meant arranging the movable type in the one press in town

So what’s the point? Stop and think about your gadgets and what they do for you and do something nice for them. Get crazy and clean all of those fingerprints off your PDA or splurge and buy a set of Duracells for your GPS. In all seriousness, we’ve got it pretty good…every once in a while it’s good to sit back and remember that when we’re complaining because we’re only getting download speeds of 150 KB/s.

Tuesday, December 14, 2004

MSN Desktop Search problems

I downloaded the MSN Desktop Search tool yesterday, but got pretty frustrated because I couldn’t get it to index my email. I use Outlook as my default email client, but the search options would not allow me to select Outlook (it had selected Outlook Express and wouldn’t let go).

Josh helped me get around my problem by suggesting that I change the default mail client on my start menu and switch it back. At first, I questioned this because I had tried this solution yesterday through the Internet Options in the Control Panel. After a moment, I came to the realization that I had nothing to lose, so I followed his advice and it worked. So, if you find yourself in the same dilemma, here’s what you do to fix it:

  1. Right-click on your “Start Button” and choose “Properties”
  2. Make sure you are on the “Start Menu” tab and click on the “Customize...” button
  3. In the drop-down menu for the E-mail app at the bottom of the window, change your client to “Outlook Express”
  4. Click “OK” to close the window and “OK” on the next window to close everything.
  5. Repeat steps 1-3, but this time, select “Microsoft Office Outlook” for your email client
  6. Tell Microsoft Desktop Search to “Index Now”
  7. Voila - that’s it…now search your email!

Happy searching!

Wednesday, December 01, 2004

Mobile computing applications

I have noticed a monumental difference in the software available on the Palm platform compared to the PocketPC.  I think this difference is best summarized by noting that Palm has the breadth and PocketPC has the depth in the software solution space. 


I have to say that I have been impressed with the variety of apps available for my Palm.  I get the impression that there are more Palm developers out there, but that the platform doesn't easily lend itself to feature rich applications.  Perhaps the most obvious application that illustrates this limitation is Adobe Reader for Palm.  This has got to be one of the most disappointing downloads on the internet.  The presentation, features, and usability are all light years behind the same title for PocketPC.  I personally think this is probably due to Palm’s concern over providing backward compatibility with previous models.  Sure, you can find some little app that will track your pets' birthdays that will work on your brand new T5 and your neighbor's ten year old Palm Professional, but chances are it is going to look horrible on both.


On your  PocketPC however, it will be harder to find those cool little obscure apps (and they're more likely to be shareware than freeware) but what is available is often more appealing and feature-rich.  For example, if you want to expand the basic PIM functionality on your PDA, you may look at Pocket Informant for the PocketPC or Agendus for the Palm.  Having used both, I can say that Pocket Informant has more functionality and considerably more eye candy than it's Palm equivalent.  There are exceptions of course.  For example, there is a fantastic freeware calculator for the Palm called Easy Calc that I absolutely love.  I searched high and low for an equivalent application in my price range for my PocketPC and never found anything that was even close.  My general observation has been that exceptions aside, PocketPC applications are generally more appealing.


All of this having been said, I am not ready to declare a champion either way.  The jury is definitely still out on the issue, and I will try to post more on this subject at another time.