Friday, December 22, 2006

Laptops are heavy, brutish and slow to boot

Now that This Old Mac is pretty much as far along as it's going to get, I'm starting a new project, and if I stick with it past the weekend, probably will have a new blog to go with it.

It's all about the Palm. As in the PDA. Ilene got one for free as a promotion. It's a Palm Tungsten E, and I decided to fire it up and see how it works for e-mail and word processing.

I'm only using the Graffiti method of entering text with that little stylus. It's surprisingly easy, except for special characters, and then you can bring up a miniature keyboard.

What attracted me to the Palm was the promise of the Documents to Go software to read and write Microsoft Word-compatible files. So I could work on things on the Palm and then bring them into Word (or in the case of the office, Open Office).

The most impressive thing about the Palm is that you hit the "on" button and the thing turns right on. Maybe takes 1 second to boot. Then you find your application and launch it. Another couple of seconds at the most. No long waits for a PC (Mac or Windows) to boot, and then for an application to load. Of course this Palm has no Wi-Fi, and browsing on such a small device is probably more limited than what I can do with This Old Mac.

The way it syncs with the main PC is ingenious and complicated. Basically, all data, both applications and documents, is stored on a main computer and is backed up every time you hit "sync." A good thing. If the Palm dies/gets lost, you still have all your data and can sync it to another Palm in about a minute.

It does e-mail, either as POP or IMAP, or in some kind of sinister "helper" mode, interacting with applications on the host PC. So far it has worked seamlessly with the POP mail at DSL Extreme. It wouldn't work with Gmail, and I got only one-way mail with the Daily News' POP service (receive only). However, I managed to get it to work with Outlook Express for the LADN e-mail. The only problem with that: I have to sync at the office for the mail to go out, since there's no Outlook on the Mac. But it works. Does it work on Yahoo? They seem to say yes, but I found no evidence of that on the Yahoo! Mail help site.

But I can get e-main in and out through DSL Extreme, making this a credible platform for mail-blogging to Blogger. And the word processing through Documents to Go also works. But there's one problem.

Smart quotes.

I've blogged at length at how the lack of smart quotes is a killer in any application that has to kick out Word-format files. And here it seems you can type closed and open quotes, both single and double, but they don't do it the "smart" way, i.e. you have to pick the quote mark facing in the proper direction ... and they're under "special characters." Still, I think you can create your own keyboard shortcuts, perhaps even remap the keyboard itself (assoming I can get a keyboard for this thing), and if I can somewhat easily type smart quotes, I will be very, very happy with this free Palm and just might use it regularly.

One thing is for sure: It's damn liberating to carry around a 5-ounce Palm PDA as opposed to my 10-pound laptop bag o' junk. And the quick booting makes it great to get ideas down instantly, as well as set up, write a bit and close up without undue stress.

While this PDA doesn't have Wi-Fi, I believe it's available as a $99 add-on (I'll have to check on compatibility). But the more-expensive Palm T|X has built-in Wi-Fi (802.11b, not g) and Bluetooth, along with a specialized browser. At least if it could do Web-based e-mail and be able to grab photos off the Web, that would make it great for writing and blogging. As it is, I can get e-mail in and out with a sync operation, and the screen on the Tungsten E is remarkably clear and bright for such a small piece of equipment. It's way brighter than the Powerbook 1400.

I'm just so happy with the real PORTABILITY of this thing that I'm inclined to give it a chance to see if it fits with my style of working.

1 comment:

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