Monday, January 31, 2005

The magnetic Tungsten E-magnetism continued

Recently, TamsPalm carried a story about a magnetic Tungsten T3. The request for user experiences and images got me an email from a PalmOne insider who-of course-does not want his name published. The photos below show a Tungsten E holding up a 5cent coin. This is interesting, because the TE's are said to ship in a plastic housing. The magnetic field must be really strong because it can break free from the plastic!

In addition, I have repeated the tests with a Palm V and a Palm IIIc-to no avail. The screw didn't move at all. There is another .3gp video available at the magnetic Palm gateway that demonstrates this.
Now lets get the scoop on some of the theories that were commentated when the first article appeared: Since the TE does not have the magnet that some commentators rumored about, it looks as if it really is the speaker! Maybe the magnetization is dependant on MP3 player usage or on some specific application that produces especially magnetic sounds. BTW, I deem this the most probable excplanation by now-especially when you look at the low-res pictures of the TE-the magnetic place is the speaker area!
Well, but I still don't know the exact reason-so keep the images and the reports flowing in!

Sunday, January 30, 2005

Crazy software protection-the kamikaze program

Every developer hates software pirates, and nearly every user has sympathy for a developer including some protection code to hinder the cracking process. After all-if a program is available in a cracked form, many will not buy the registered program anymore. Including a troutine that softresets the PDA slows it down,.. is all ok for most users-but wiping out all data?
A PocketPC programmer called Anton Tomov is said to have a very vitriolic attitude towards software pirates and seems to have no problems whatsoever with punishing them as hard as possible. His programs include an automatic self-destruct function that hard-resets the handset when a cracked serial number is entered or program manipulation seems to have occurred. Perfectly reasonable, isn't it?
Actually, at first I didn't quite understand ther fuzz that was made about all of this. But then, thought struck me. What would happen if a user downloads the file somewhere and somebody maliciously gives him a bad serial number? What would hapen if somebody downloads the program and it gets corrupt while beeing transferred(this can happen, trust me)? These two more-less legitimate users would now have all of their data wiped out forever. Now, think about that for a minute-lose all you data for nothing. Will you ever buy a program with the culprit again? Actually, I would be so pissed that I may just send him a virus in return. If this ever hapened to me, the developer would never ever see a cent of my hard-earned bucks. Actually, I would not really care if the developer wanted to damage my handheld or not. And now think of an user who has less technical knowledge and doesnt even know what a software pirate is. What would he think?
Lets conclude-never ever include severe copyright protection schemes! Even if you didn't intend to hit users, if someone will get hit somehow, he will definitely blame you for it-regardless if it was your fault or not. Bug'em, slow'em down, annoy'em, but don't kill their data...
What do you think about this subject?

Saturday, January 29, 2005

The Qoo!/Qool QDA-700 smartphone ships in Germany

There has been a lot of fuzz about Qoo! Labs new Smartphone QDA-700. It has been delayed, reanounced, celebtarted, curswed, etc. And now, finally, it is here and can be purchased in Germany. According to the news portal Nexave, the smartphone will sell for an initial price of 469€ without contract, which makes this one of the cheaper smartphones that have a touchscreen. See below for an image of the device:

The QDA-700 has standard hardware that will not generate much of a fuzz-lets ignore the screen and other details for now. The Processor is a 200MhZ Dragonball I-MX, and the machine has 32MB of standard volatile RAM. Nobody knows how much of this will be available to users though. The memory expansion is handled with a SD/MMC/SDIO slot, and there is no other wireless communication possibility when you ignore the integrated tri-band GSM/GPRS. So, no bluetooth or WLAN for ist users-who knows if this isn't a step towards carriers who want more data traffic. By the way, palmDubai states that PalmSource is working on a Wifi driver-so who knows what will happen next!

The software is a vanilla Garnet, there is no detailled information about the additional software bundle. Some sources state that it will ship with Documents To Go-the only confirmed thing yet is the new PiLauncher picured above. Looking ats its icons you can xsee a lot of new, yet unknown things-who knows what they actually are.
The main features of the phone are its 1.3 Megapixel camera and its QVGA 16bit-screen. The latter is also its achilles heel in my oppinion-the last time such a resolution was seen was with the Handera handhelds-and long time has passed since then. Very few programs are optimized for this resolution, abnd the transition is not as easy as it was with 160² to 320²-you canot simply double the pixels here.
Lets conclude for now-this definitely is an interesting device! If developers start suporting its screen and carriers start subsiding it, it will be a kick-ass phone. It is cheaper then the Treo 650, has a smarter memory system, is a clamshell and has the physically bigger screen.
What do you think?

Friday, January 28, 2005

My thoughts about PalmOne's new web site

The PalmInfoCenter is full of buzz about PalmOne's new page targeted at schools. It basically should teach users how to use their PalmOne handheld. While I could not yet open the page in my Firefox(Redirection limit for this URL reached), this looks like PalmOne has finally understood that users want manuals-and tries to save the buck per device by creating a homepage that handles the manual's tasks!
While most of the readers of this blog will not understand why leaving out a manual is so bad, think of a standard user purchasing a PalmOne handheld. Who tells us that he has internet access? Who tells us that he knows where/whom to ask for help? Nobody-and many users will then return their PalmOne handheld unsatisfied and buy a PocketPC or a Symbian phone.
Some may argue that a manual would artificially increase unit prices-but I can only object to that. Even the cheapest mobile phones come with nice, thorough multi-language manuals. They may not have the format of the manual "books" that shiped with the first Pilots, but they are something nevertheless! Users aren't left alone after purchasing the device-they feel happy and will stick to the brand... . There is an old saying in german-the first impression is everything. And I think that everyone will agree that having a manual will definitely improve the first impression! Only third-classy gadgets come without a real manual or with a foldout card-do we want to see PalmOne handhelds as third-class gadgets though?
What do you think??

Thursday, January 27, 2005

Why device drivers are essential for the platform-and how to improve selection

The Handera 330 was introduced in m5xx times-but it still sells for more than 100$ at ebay. Compare that to an m5xx. Since nobody has cash to dump, this price must have a reason-Handera 330 users in the german Forum330 say that it is due to the huge driver selection. The machine behaves like an all-you-can-insert-machine, and accepts lots of different CF peripherals.
Now, lets look at the current state:
Most handhelds do not have two expansion slots, and the SDIO slots are not really supported with drivers-same thing when bluetooth peripherals are concerned. While a PocketPC owner can select from a variety of different peripherals, the PalmOS user is limited to a select few.
If you ask PalmSource for a reason, they blame the licencees and hardware manufacturers. However, I do not accept this reasoning. Handera cared about their drivers right from the start. PalmSource never made those drivers part of the operating system. In addition, there is only little information about driver programming in the SDK.
My way of handling the problem would be the creation of a driver bounty system. Put up a list of devices that you want to support along with detailled protocol specifications, and offer the first driver developer a free handheld with a refund for the peripheral that he got working. Release the driver as open-source then, with credits and everything. This would motify privateers to develop drivers, and the increasing amount of available sample code would simplify development for hardware designers.
The actions I have outlined may not work immediately-but the bigger amount of device sale would soon recompensate the loss!
What do you think?

Wednesday, January 26, 2005

PalmOS 5 and number crunching

PalmOS video players are said to be much slower than their PPC counterparts. This is ridiculous-isn't the PalmOS the faster operating system? Actually, it's API is. But a program consists of more than just calls to operating system functions. There is glue logic in between-and video codec's have very little in common with OS calls. And here lies the problem-OS5 expects the Glue in Motorola code which then is emulated in an environment called PACE. Altough ARM code can be inserted in a so-called ARMlet, using those is pretty complicated. Difficult endian switching is needed to exchange data with the 68k glue code that is still needed for the PilotMain routine and other tasks, and the emulator cannot run programs with ARMlets.
To avoid the outlined problems, developers use ARMlets only when absolutely neccessary. Thus, the faster OS calls loose most of their speed with their glue code. While many programs consist of lots of API calls and thus can reach high speeds, number crunching does not involve the OS. So, altough the PalmOS works faster, the PocketPC uses smarter execution methods, making it faster at some tasks.
PalmSource has repeatedly stated that Garnet can run native ARM applications, but Licencees are the only ones who have the necceccary tools-let's ignore the privileged Zodiac game programmers.
I don't know why PalmSource refuses to release the necceccary tools-but I hope that they have a good reason.

TamsPalm giveaway-GMAIL Invites in excess

Hi you all,
a comrade invited me to have a GMAIL account. Since that day, loads of invites trickle into my inbox waiting to be used. Since all of my friends already have accounts and since I get 4 or more invites a week, I tought that the readers of my blog may be interested in having a little present from their host!
So, if your email account is at a very dumb/expensive provider and you want:
  • POP Access
  • Nice online application
  • 1GB of mail storage and 10MB of attachment size
  • All of this for free
Then email me at Tamog at gmx dot at or leave a comment here!

Tuesday, January 25, 2005

Web browsers vs. Offline readers-who's better when HTML ebooks are concerned?

Everybody knows ebooks-they are IMHO one of the reasons why Palm OS handhelds are so popular. Raw, DRM-Free EBooks exist in two main formats:
  • PDF
  • All kinds of HTML(.htm,.html,.chm)
Let's concentrate on HTML for now-PDF will be discussed another time. There are two options available right now-offline readers that gather data in order to display it afterwards and web browsers that can open data from card. Here is a list of pros and cons:

Web browsers
Benefits
  • No conversion needed
  • Good display of advanced HTML elements
  • No extra program needed on handheld if web browser is installed
Weaknesses
  • Slow rendering of pages
  • No data compression
  • No intra-file search possibilities
  • Memory card needed, transfer of whole file difficult
Offline readers
Benefits

  • Speed
  • Data compression
  • Comfortable search facility
  • No memory card needed
Weaknesses
  • Slow conversion needed
  • Bad display of advanced HTML elements
  • Extra programs required
I personally prefer Plucker because of its compatibility and speed. But this shouldn't influence your comments! Once again, this is a vote! What do you prefer?

Monday, January 24, 2005

The magnetic Tungsten T3

Recently, my Tungsten T3 was used at night and was placed on my desk-where a 5 cent coin lay. Ridiculously, the 5 cent coin was gone! Turning the T3 around, I saw the coin sticking right on the back of my trusted handheld.

These pics were taken in a teacher's workshop with my SX1. They show the T3 holding up to four medium-sized screws or up to two coins. BTW, 10 cent coins do not work, it only works with the "red" euros-1cent, 2cent and 5 cent are ok. Also, a video was created that can be downloaded at the magnetic Palm gateway.
Now, documetning a phenomenon is one thing-explaining it is another. Tests performed on a IIIc and a V did not succeed, these handsets dropped even the smallest of screws(thanks to Ing. Gerik for providing me with loads of different screws to test). Well, one can also see that the magnetism concentrates in an area around the speaker-and speakers always have magnets in them. So, the speaker has a field stong enough to carry a coin, and the titane housing carries it to the outside of the handheld. Plastic is worse when it comes to conduicting magnetic fields, so that may be another way to explain why the IIIc failed. But-why did the V fail too?
Of course, some may now ask about negative influences on credit cards, etc. To be honest-I do not know! My blog income definitely isn't big enough to warrant a credit card of its own (anybody wanna sponsor me??), and well-experimenting with another one is just jackass behaviour. So, this question is to remain mysterious.
Readers, talk back! Is your Palm magnetic? Mail me photos to my email address Tamog@gmx.at. Tell me what you experience!

Sunday, January 23, 2005

FrmReturnToForm and the handled flag-trouble straight ahead

After having solved my variable-related problems, new ones-this time involving a popup form-have arisen. The world of PODS seems like a saga from homer-solve one thing and face the next... .
A modal form was popped up using FrmPopupForm. To all new hands here: FrmPopupForm allows you to install a new event handler for the popup. Unlike FrmDoDialog you actually can control how the form behaves on the screen.
When the form must be removed, FrmReturnToForm is used. Usually, the ID of the form below is used, but some smarter developers simply pass 0 to refer to the form below.
However, sometimes this simple strategy fails with the most ridiculous errors. Look at the codepiece below for a potential candidate:

case ctlCloseForm:
FrmReturnToForm(0);
break;

Compile, run on debug ROM-Nice fatal alert about an invalid pointer. Can you bust the bug? Ridiculous, but true-the handled flag is not set to true. Simply changing the code to set the flag solves the problem-see below:

case ctlCloseForm:
FrmReturnToForm(0);
handled=true;
break;

This looks amusing-invalid memory because of not setting the handled field. So-we have a new rule for Ben Combee's rule list:
Set thy handled field to true or false-or find thy head handled by the gallows!
Now-the rule is proven-but why? After a short think a solution can be found-it should the OS event handlers causing the bug. FrmReturnToForm removes the form from memory immediately-but since the handled flag is not set, an event concerning this form still gets to the OS "event dump". There, the debug ROM seems to verify the event's data-and boom. This is of course only an assumption-anybody with a better explanation is urged to use the (anonymous) comment facility.

Saturday, January 22, 2005

Rumor-Sony Clie landscape "patch"

From the moment Sony released the first hiRES+-Clie, users demanded landscape mode. While PalmONE handhelds with a big screen(like the T3) have this feature for quite some time now, Clie users never got to enjoy it! However, a company called MobileStream today announced a product that should enable these devices to use a landscape mode. Click the images below for bigger versions:

While there is no demo available yet, this report lines in nicely with the 1src rumor that a Sony employee had a landscape TH55 at a big computer mass. MobileStream however goes a bit further and claims that the product has almost no impact on device performance. This would be absolutely impressive, the Tungsten T3 slows down by almost 50% when used in landscape mode! The images also look pretty authentic, as the screens seem to have their regular reflectivity to them.
The interesting thing about this announcement is that the CLIE line has been discontinued quite a logn time ago. However, there still is developer support(even though you can no more access the developer forums,...) for this platform. Maybe Sony should make these handhelds available in the US again?
What do you think about this topic?

Friday, January 21, 2005

The WristPDA is here

Fossil finally made it to release their WristPDA! A few days ago, the watch-sized handhelds finally hit the market at about 250$ and sold extremely fast. However, it is pretty difficult to get inmformations about this device-and Fossils Webdesign definitely doen't help out. See below for a photo of one of the three design variants:

Now, after a long Google session, I have found a few interesting links and want to share them with you:
Main homepage at Fossil's
Device homepage popup at Fossil's
ScreenShots of the PIM available on the WristPDA
WristPDA SDK-available without registraiton!
On Fossil's page you can find detailled hardware specs. While there was quite some rumoring about the processor speed, rest assured that it is 66MhZ. Here is the rest of the specs:
  • 8MB of Ram, about 7.4 MB available
  • 4MB of flash ROM
  • PalmOS 4.1.2
  • 4-bit grayscale screen with EL backlighting
  • IRDA port
In addition, this device has a lot of new APIs to accomodate for the smaller display. Palmsource has published an excellent article that discusses the most important changes in their developer newsletter. The main changes are:
Handling of screen refresh
The WristPDA needs to conserve power. Thus, it only refreshes its screen when it really needs to. However, sdome applications may want to have a standard refresh like on all other PalmOS applications. These need to use API to control the refresh mode!
New hardware buttons
The WristPDA has an entirely different hardware button configuration, with a pageup key, a pagedown key, a 3-way "rocker" and a back key(seems to be like the jog dial found on Sony handhelds). The OS converts some of the unhandled key events. Find strategies to handle the button-o-rama in your program here.
Font handling
Of course, this handheld has an entirely different approach to displaying data. Find more in the article mentioned above...
Concludingly, it looks as if we have a nice new toy for developing programs. The ultra-small screen, its refresh management and the limited amount of hardkeys will make us face new compromises(think about a scroll bar for example...)! While this PDA will dwefinitely have a hard stand against the Sonies, PalmOnes and Garmins, it may open up an entirely new area of buyers. People who don't want to carry a PDA, but still want its features. It may also appeal to the REX customers-but that is an entirely different story.
What do you think about the watch? Will you optimize your programs for it? The comment casts the vote....

Thursday, January 20, 2005

Metal cases and the winter-a new look at the problem

When the T5 was introduced, many users-me included-ranted about its plastic case. The people on the "dark" side couldn't understand our fears-PocketPC's usually don't ship in metal cases.
Most users like metal cases for two reasons:

  • Sturdyness
    While the IIIc had heat and stability problems with its plastic housings, the m5 and V series usually survive falling 30cm and more. Also, a metal case can stand higher temperarures then a plastic one.
  • Design
    Face it-metal housings usually look nicer then stock plastic ones. In addition, plastic has more of a cheap touch-something palm user's eyes are not glad to accept.

However-now come the weaknesses

  • Weight and Cost
    Well, usually a metal case is more expensive and heavier then a plastic case. While I do not have exact figures here, I have already touched and carried metal and plastic bars at my technical schools. And trust me, the metal bars were way heavier...
  • Icyness
    And here we have the main reason why I loath my T3 sometimes. In austria, things can get uncomfortably cold, down to more than -10 degrees centigrade. While a plastic housing does not really conduct warmth/coldness-the metal housing does. Oh boy, you can't imagine how my hands froze to the old m505 in Winter sometimes.

That was a quick lineup of pros and cons. However, now it is YOUR TURN. Visitor-what do you prefer? Metal or Plastic-the (anonymous) comment casts the vote!

Wednesday, January 19, 2005

Why DSP's have little impact on third party programs-revisiting the DSP-o-rama

When the Tungsten T was introduced, it had a 144MhZ ARM CPU. Most reviewers considered the machine on par even with 400MhZ XScale units because of the DSP integrated into the OMAP1510 core. When the Zire 71 came out, it used the OMAP310 CPU without DSP core. Users experienced no slowdowns though, the Zire 71 benchmarked at 111, the TT at 109 speedy-MhZ. Now, this is interesting. The DSP has no impact on Speedy. But what is their perpetual task in life, then?
DSP's can do some things very, very fast-lets take the MultiplyAccumulate instruction as an example. While a regular CPU would take a few cycles to complete one MAC, most DSP's can do it in one cycle-if they get a go at it. However, the licencees usually do not publish the SDKs that are required. Thus, the DSP is sitting in the device and eats power, but does little to nothing for the users. The ARM part does all the calculation, and the DSP sits idly. I once heard that the only DSP useage on the TT was the filter for the output sound that was removed with the audio patch. This may be true or not-but pretty much proves my point.
And-even if the SDK's were available, third-party developers will still not be too motivated to support these chips. Every handheld has a different DSP-and thus the assembler code needs to be rewritten for each chip series. There are lots of different chip series on the market-as long as PalmSource does not select an architecture and creates a SDK, the Palm platform will miss out on this support.
Let's face it-the DSP parts of the OMAP and Sony handheld engined don't help the average application. They look nice on the datasheet-but that is it.
BTW-what do you think? Do you have one of these elusive SDK's-or some experience? Feel free to comment.

Tuesday, January 18, 2005

Garmin proves-PalmOS superior to PPC

Well, sometimes the PalmOs world can be confusing. While I originally wanted to place an article about DSPs here today and already have it sitting in my memo pad, our comrades at Garmin's crossed through my plan!
We all know these guys for their iQue series of handhelds. PalmOS-based, GPS-seem to be pretty popular if maybe a bit pricey. Handhirn has further information about the two:
http://www.handhirn.de/en/search.php?show=manufacturer&manufacturer=Garmin
However, recently they announced a PPC version that basically was an iQue 3600 with Windows Mobile! Many users said that this was the Palm OS'ses doom-but others also celebrated the coming battle between the OS's. It was indeed the first time that the PalmOS and Windows CE were facing each other on almost identical hardware. Up to now, the PalmOS handhelds always were inferior-look at the Palm IIIc and the HP IPAQ 3600 for example. It is almost impossible to beleive that these two units actually faced each other in reviews. Well-let's end that sway through history! The battle was waging for a few weeks now-and it looks like we have a winner!
The PalmInfoCenter today carried an interesting article about a new Palm powered solution by Garmin-see here for further details:
http://www.palminfocenter.com/view_story.asp?ID=7492
The new product iQue 3600a is a GPS device aimed at aviators-people who need 100% reliability when using their device! Now-some of you may ask why this is a victory for the PalmOS. Look at it like this: Garmin chose to base this product on the PalmOS-and not on their Windows Mobile based handheld. They could have used either of the two machines, they produce both themselves and still picked the Palm powered handheld over the PocketPC. Looks like the PalmOS simply is superior when stability is concerned.
What do you think? BTW, see you back tomorrow for the promised coverage of the DSPs....

Monday, January 17, 2005

Why the PPC is outt'a luck

There is an old song called Gangsta's Paradise-and it has a verse that some deem fit to PocketPC's-I see that my life is outta luck, fool.
When you consider the recent development in the handheld PC sector, you will notice a new kid on the block-Microcomputers like Sony's QOQ. These systems are PDA-sized, but run a full version of Windows XP. While their purpose can be discussed(more on this another day), they look like a lovely source of income because Windows XP is quite expensive when licenced. In addition, the software needed for working(Word, Outlook,OneNote,..) costs more $ because it isn't integrated into the OS-and will usually be bought at Microsoft's.
PPC users are more-less used to waiting-so the change to their Desktop OS will not be as big as when a Palm User switches. Also consider the third-party landscape. While PalmOS and PocketPC 200x are more-less on par if applications are concerned, Windows XP kills PalmOS in this aspect.
Also, there are more drivers available for Windows XP then for both PDA operating systems together.
Let's face it, PocketPC buyers. Those of you who wanted a full Windows XP in their hand will no more buy one of the VGA handhelds-they will get one of these tiny tablet PC's. Microsoft has little reason to keep on developing their dedicated PDA OS. While real-time and smartphone branches will definitely survive, I expect PocketPC to loose importance in the next year in favour of tiny TabletPCs. While this change doesn't need to be permanent(we already had it once)-it definitely is bad news for a high-end PPC buyer.
What do you think?

Sunday, January 16, 2005

New devices and rumors-when they're good and when they're bad

Recently, a few photos of new Siemens mobiles leaked out at a german mobile phone site. Immediately, bickering starred in the boards. Stupid Siemens, damn stupid Siemens, etc... . of course, when you know about a new device, many users will wait for its release and not buy the one currently on the market. We already had that with the m505 and will possibly also have it with the Treo 600, Tungsten E. So, following the experiences above, these guys must now have problems with their current lineup too! But now let's change perspective.
Siemens isn't the biggest handset maker-one can almost call them an underdog. Their products usually are good-but the market share simply isn't as big as they would deserve. names like Nokia simply value too much to youngsters and teens.
Now, the Nokia handsets currently on the market are more-less on par with their products. With these new products beeing more-less announced, many users will be astonished by their features. Some will not purchase the Nokia handset that they wanted now, but will rather wait for the new handset whose data was "leaked" out.
In addition, rumors make beautiful advertising. Look at the PalmInfoCenter-usually rumors get discussed way more then product announcements. Buying headlines and TV spots is expensive-posting rumors just takes a few photos made with a cheap digicam, a stupid story of theft and crime, hardweare specs and a webspace. The discussion also allows the company to gather user oppinions before releasing the new product, and some minor changes can be done to better suit the user's needs(e.g. RAM amount, software features). I do not want to accuse Siemens now, but rumors sometimes can be very helpful when it comes to marketing!
What do you think?

Saturday, January 15, 2005

Handango and trial versions-a software distributor goes mad

We all know software portals like PalmGear or Handago. We all know the old, never-ending fight between developers and portal owners about how much of the sales the portal can keep to finance its operations. While I would not mind my distributor to take 25% of my income and keep my customers 100% satisfied(authors get 10% dudes), Handango recently overdrove it according to MsMobiles.com
As you know, Shareware is based on the concept of free trial versions beeing distributed for free that contain advice about how to register the product. usually, this information is a link pointing to the developer's homepage or a ESD portal.
However, Handango now has a new rule saying that evaluation versions distributed via this portal may not a way of purchasing that is not asssociated with Handango(read-no other links,..).
This is bad for Handangos own customers-the developers. They now need to create two different evalutaton versions-one for handango and one for the-well, rest of the world! While this may be acceptable, developers can no more use the challenge-response activation system and must use a less safe, handago-approved way. This type of activation system is more secure and reduces software piracy. It requires the activation key to be provided by the software developer, not by the vendor. Here is a short explanation about this procedure:
A challenge-response authentification works by having the customer pay the program and then send his unlock code consisting of Device ID, Type, Hotsync Name,... to the developer(challenge) who in turn sends him the fitting unlock key(response) after having been paid! However, this procedure is not possible with Handago-so a less secure way must be used. Not a good idea in the times of PalmOS warez sites all around the web...
What do you think about software portals? Tell me your oppinions!

Friday, January 14, 2005

Ipod-ize the Palm

Recently, Apple has released yet another member of its highly popular IPod family of MP3 players. While many other manufacturers also offer portable MP3 players, none of their products is nearly as popular as these IPods are. They are not the smallest, and they arent the cheapest/most featureful devices available either. In addition, they also have quite some weight.
These units have only one strength-its an intelligent mix of features paired with ultra-simple usage. You don't need a special software for transferring music-the player can even be used as an external harddisk.
Palm OS licencees can learn a lot from Apple.
The most important lesson concerns features and hardware size. If a device can do all that the users want, and can do it well, hardware size is less of a concern. Inuitive usage reduces frustration.
Now, why do I think that the Palm OS ias better suited to such a task.
Well, the IPod has recently received lots of attention from extension manufacturers. This shows that IPods users want more from their handheld. But, the IPod lacks a big screen and an inuitive way of text entry. If Apple ever adds these features to the firmware, it will take at least half a year until good, stable applications become available. ln addition, these programs will work only on a new generation of iPods-leaving the existing user base frustrated. Compare this to the Palm OS-lots of programs are available right now.
Now, a PalmOS-based media player would be extremely feasible if only PalmSource could implement a FAT32 file system for Garnet.
The media application shipping with Zodiac and T5 handheld has the neccecary beef if enhanced to handle playlists,... , and the drive mode allows easy media transfer. You must also consider the advantage of a touchscreen when media management and selection is concerned.
Battery life can be increased by including underclocking routines into the application, and a poweroff&lock-option for the screen would also fit in nicely.
If the concept outlined above is equipped with big screen you have a super high-end gadget-use a small Low-Res screen for cheap products. The PalmOS is-unlike WinCE-not very picky when screen sizes are concerned.
Lets conclude-the PalmOS can be ideal for the huge PVP/media player market. Palm-powered media players have huge advantages over their dedicated comrades. Let's only pray that PalmSource finds a licencee.

Thursday, January 13, 2005

Palm powered camera?

I recently exchanged my T630 for a Siemens SX1, because the T630's camera only shipped interpolated VGA(just as info). The new mobile phone creates better images, but is pretty difficult to use because of the lack of control possibilities. Also, quite a few of my collegues have digital cameras-and all of them struggle with the difficult on-screen menus.
Now, users do not want to carry huge digital cameras along other gadgets. It was pretty evident that small cameras were going to be integrated into PDA's-but of course, these hybrids still mainly are PDA's- its a PDA with a camera.
Now, I wonder why nobody goes the other way round-create a camera with an on-board PDA instead. You may wonder how I imagine this to happen, but its simple. Use a good, small camera and put the touchscreen on the other side instead of the buttons,.. . Then adjust the OS of the PDA to let it share memory with the camera.
The result would be a superb camera with a full-fledged computer in the size of an average digital camera. Even if the user does not use the camera as a scheduler, he still profits from the simplicity and size of the touchscreen. Users who understand more about the PDA can benefit from its advanced functions-e.G. mail the pictures away immediately.
Now, why is the Palm OS so well-suited to a task like this one? There are three main reasons here:
1)Stability
A untampered PalmOS-if done right-is ten times more stable then any other system. No photographer wants to reset his camera regularly. In addition, the PalmOS bloats less. Try using a PPC(or a Symbian phone with multiple apps trying to use the camera at the same time,..) for a short time-you will understand me...
2)Screen resolution
Different camera housings require different screen sizes. While a PocketPC restrains device manufacturers to rectangular(VGA,QVGA) displays, the PalmOS works with square screens too. Licencees can adjust the operating system to the camera instead of having to go the other way round.
3)NVFS
Beleive it or not-this is a legitime use for this new system. While PDA users have little trouble with always keeping their handhelds charged, camera users do not expect to permanentely keep their units charged. They are used to only use SD or CF-cards. While a integrated PPC will loose all data sooner or later, a NVFS storage system will be just like a 'real' digicam.
Well, now PalmSource needs to find a hardware licencee and help with the implementation. I would be willing-but which company employs a 16-year-old austrian(even if he is darn cheap.....).

Wednesday, January 12, 2005

Why Firestorm didn't get certified

Recently, TapWave rejected to sign Firestorm-a highly anticipated and popular (I dare say hyped) software for the Palm OS 5-it is a (slow) Gameboy and Gameboy advanced emulator. Of course, uproar followed imediately-bad, bad Tapwave!
While the rejection looks like arbitary use of power, it can easily be understood when you look at firestorm's history:
Right after its announcement, Nintendo attacked the program using its emulation patent. However, the company didn't oblige to the letter sent by Nintendo's lawyers and published the product.
I was in the first row when it came to getting a demo(oh, may my TT rest in peace)-the program was buggy, and quickly was booted of my handheld!
Now, the program is said to have improved, but speed still is low. Applications that are signed by Tapwave however are expected to work flawlessly on a Zodiac-thats on of the reasons why the signing procedure was introduced after all. Imagine downloading an M$-signed driver and having your system blown up-you would be in a very annoyed state of mind, wouldn't you. Now think of an appliaction that you purchase thinking that it works perfectly-only to discover that it is damn slow. While most users will blame CrimsonFire, many will also have ressentiments against Tapwave-why did they sign it after all...
In addition, altough Nintendo's patent is IMHO highly questionable(I am not a lawyer though, but I attended a few hours of patent management at my higher technical school) because it is way to broad and since there were emulators way before the day when it was issued(2000)-Tapwave doesn't have the spare cash to fight with Nintendo. Lawsuits are expensive, and fighting a juggernaut like Nintendo definitely isn't funny!
So, I can understand Tapwave now-hopefully, you can do too....

Tuesday, January 11, 2005

Printing and the Palm OS-incoming waterloo

Recently, a defective Psion Revo made it into my hands. I could reanimate it for five minutes and was heavily impressed by its applications(Word even handled Styles). The most interesting feature was the printing support-built right into the OS.
At its time, IR capable printers were rare, thus uses were limited.
Lets now end the time travel. Nowadays, most handhelds have integrated bluetooth or even WLAN. It is very easy to connect to a printer(or a printer share) nowadays-and printing is one of the essential business operations. As handhelds begin to become notebook-replacements, users will want an easy, well-supported printing facility.
Currently, some developers already react to the trend and either gang up with print products that need to be purchased seperately(DocsToGo with Printboy,...) or integrate their own solution(RepliGo). Thus, users can print-if they really want to. However, some problems arise due to this plethora of systems. People wanting to print need to install, purchase and configure many different applications, leading to annoyance. Developers will need to consider the different printing utilities, and eventually redesign their print codes as print helpers get discontinued.
Now compare this to an integrated solution. Developers don't need to worry about selecting a printing solution, and users only need to configure one application. In addition, driver development can be controlled and regulated at a central location(only one knowledge center for manufacturers), leading to a better driver selection.
It may be more work for PalmSource, but it will pay out on the long run.

Monday, January 10, 2005

The brighthand story-solved

Hi,
I contacted Ed Hardy about the story yesterday-and he sent the following answer:

The company we're doing the survey for has already filled its quota of Palm OS users, which is why we're not asking for any more.

-Ed

Now, I myself visited the survey, and ttried to enter some data. the reply I got can be seen here:

Survey.com thanks you for your interest in this study. Unfortunately, we have already filled our response quota for your segment. We do appreciate your willingness to participate and, as promised, upon entering your contact information below, you will be entered into the drawing to win $500. Thank you for your time and your opinions!

Seems like the story is cleared, a big sorry goes out to BrightHand's staff for doing them unjustice...

Sunday, January 09, 2005

How fair is BrightHand?

UPDATE-Story was a wrong assumtion. Find full coverage here:
http://tamspalm.blogspot.com/2005/01/brighthand-story-solved.html

Well, I recently had an article mentioned at the PalmInfoCenter. Since I was not the original source, quite a lot of people were buzzing about how the PalmInfoCenter was unfair and not integre. Everybody says that Brighthand is better, etc.
While this may be true for the forums and the quality of the comments, BrightHand is not always correct either. Lets take a look at this article:
http://www.brighthand.com/article/survey2005
Brighthand states that
Do you own an HP iPAQ or Dell Axim Pocket PC? How about a Blackberry or other type of smartphone (e.g. O2, Nokia, Samsung, Motorola, Sprint PPC, Orange SPV)?

These users are invited to join a survey. I tested the survey and found out that Palm OS handhelds are accepted too. But why didn't Brighthand mention them then?
Of course, the Brighthand staff will now say that it was only a misinterpretation, but I am not 100% sure about this. Hopsting a web portal is very expensive, and a few extra bucks are always gladly accepted(I wouldn't mind about a donation either;-)).
When Palm OS users don't join this survey, it will look as if the Palm OS was steadily declining-good News for RIM, PocketPC and Symbian. Microsoft has attempted the same strategy when Linux was concerned, and nowadays, companies do much to increase their market share!
Now that Brighthand isn't the always-correct source of information anymore, what can one do? I seriously don't know-but as always, will keep on reading multiple portals to get as many views as possible... .
BTW, I mailed Brighthand about the story and will publish their reaction here!
Tell me what you think!

Saturday, January 08, 2005

Initialize your structures, it may save your back

Some PalmOS API functions require pointers to structures. Usually, this is a standard operation-until APIs start calculating and returning junk.
Lets take the following piece of code as an example. It is a time limiter that lets a beta expire after a defined day, or rather on a fixed date.
DateTimeType date;
date.day=2;
date.month=2;
date.year=2005;
if(TimGetSeconds()>TimDateTimeToSeconds(&date))
{
FrmCustomAlert(1000,"Beta Period expired!!\n", " "," ");
return 222;
}

Looks perfect-doesn't it? Common sense finds no error. In tests, the routine didn't work well. The program did not expire at the date specified, but rather at a random date a few years later. After rewriting the code for a few times, the structure was nulled out. And alas, the code worked well(see below)
DateTimeType date;
date.minute=0;//All Values must be defined!!!
date.second=0;
date.hour=0;
date.day=2;
date.month=2;
date.year=2005;
if(TimGetSeconds()>TimDateTimeToSeconds(&date))
{
FrmCustomAlert(1000,"Beta Period expired!!\n", " "," ");
return 222;
}

As we all know, C compilers do not initialize local variables while they are declared. Thus, random values were contained in the hour, minute and second fields, each of which was defined as a UInt16(I don't know why->waste of memory without apparent bonus in simplicity). Thus, values of up to 2^16 could be contained. The API did not check for the sanity of the input, and thus the displacement occurred.
Discussing the matter with the developer community, three possibilities for nulling out structures. The first one was used in the example above. Altough it works well and makes a nice, fast fix, most programmers will prefer a tidyer way of duking it out with the structure.
A more advanced way of programming would be the use of structure constants. ANSI C allows the programmer to preload structures with definite values. You just use a list of elements, like shown in the example below:
struct{
int a;
int b;
int c;}foo;
foo={ValueA, ValueB, ValueC};

As you see, each structure element can have a value assigned-if the types match. If there are less values than struct elements, the ones defined first get values, and the rest stays undefined.
However, this solution still has a disadvantage. Every type of struct needs a different list.
The ultimate solution is the use of the MemSet function. If you aren't familiar with the call, look it up here.
If you now have a structure foo and want to zero it out, all you need is a call to
MemSet(&foo,sizeof(foo),0);
This can be packed into a parameterized macro if you plan to use it a lot. Use the preprocessor, you paid for it after all!

UPDATE-when zeroing out structures, think about what the caller expects to find there... . You an provoke a fatal alert easily.

Friday, January 07, 2005

Vienniese PUG met on the 6,1,2005-TamsPalm readers get informed

The vienniese PalmUserGroup meets at the first thursday of each month. Ideas are shared and devices are tested-keep on reading for a short report and lots of photos from the event!

This time, we met in a Pub called Bieramt for a last time. It served the PUG well for almost a year, but staff recently got cocky(e.g. calling me Mr.Palm, beeing slow, giving cheeky answers, ignoring drink orders,...). Thus, a new meeting spot had to be found-the members shall soon be notified about it. Well, I was there late by a few minutes(I had to write the TE2 article), and immediately bumped into Alex, our coordinator. He proudly presented his latest achievments-a Tungsten C purchased for 240€ with a memory card and an old Treo 270. In return, he was treated to my Palm Vii and stowaway keyboard prototypes-reviews with more images are coming soon. These two circulated among the users on the meeting, along with my SX1, the TE2 article and the advertising stuff I showed in my blog a few days ago(card and magazine).
Eventually, other users trickled in, having a total of two TT2s, three TT3's, a TC, a V, a Treo 270, a Zire 71 and a Vii accompanied by a huge pile of different mobile phones. These little gadgets provided us with lots of ranting opportunities-we spent like half an hour debugging different configurations(SX1 dials as Nokia 3650, but no SMS).
After that, most problems were solved and the rest was given up.
we then proceeded to swapping different kinds of software using memory cards, bluetooth and infrared as appropriate. We discussed ideas and problems of the platform in a more or less familiar way. It was very interesting and all the members are already looking forward to the next meeting in february.

How are the PUG's in your area? Is there one? Please comment!

Scroll down for a few pretty bad photos(the SX1 isn't all that good in dim light)

Me and Alex, the chairman of the PUG

Alex looking at the StowAway prototype

The Palm Vii prototype next to a Palm V-on protective rag(spilt beer...)

A comrade using his T3

Comparing alu and metal hardcases

Oh no-its christmas charol time. Damnit...

Swapping some programs. This is the best way to keep yourself curent and productive-visit your local PUG!

A T3 and a TC exchanging data via IRDA. Bluetooth or WLAN could not be used, because the two handhelds did not have an equal transfer system...

The first victom of the day-Alex's Tungsten C crashed. Luckily, unlike my T3 a few days before, a softreset fixed it...

Me and my T3, in the background our palm-user couple

Thursday, January 06, 2005

The true PalmONE E2-leaked at FCC

When the Tungsten T5 hit the market, most commentators said that it was only a rebranded E2. However, the real E2 flashed up shortly at the american FCC web site for a few minutes. Thanks to Daves PDA Place, TamsPalm has a few images and a bit of technical data for you.
TamsPalm has not yet gotten any confirmed data about the handheld. All you see here is based solely on one source and my personal experience!
Here you can see the E2's front and back:
The Tungsten E2 looks like the TE1
Another TE2 shot, viewable with graphical browsers.
Not much is known about the internal hardware or the OS version. I personally think that the processor and the memory amount will be more-less similar to the Zire 72-why should PalmOne reengieer the planar two times? To all OS freaks-forget OS6 on this one. If the OS will ever debut, it will IMHO(!!) debut on a flagship product,and not on a cheap, mid-class handheld!
However, the screen is said to have a color depth of 18 bit, finally getting back on par with Symbian and MDA handsets. While the difference is subtle and cannot really be seen, its good for the numbers...
However, when you look at the back of the unit, it looks like the connector has changed a little bit. It now should be compatible with the Treo series, so you will have to chuck away your old navigation equipment,.... . However, nothing is really known here yet!
The Tungsten TE2s backside sticker contains a bluetooth and a SD logo
The shield you see here speaks a clear language-Bluetooth 1.1. This basically backs up my thesis about the Zire 72 planar beeing recycled here-anyway, its a nice feature for a mid-class PDA! If the SD slot has SDIO is not known yet, but since PalmOne will definitely want users to have WLAN(card purchase=extra income), it will probably be SDIO....
So, thats a short round-up about the handheld. The device looks promising, altough it will have a hard stand against PocketPC's with their physically larger screens! Lets hope that PalmOne finally gets the quailty control working...
I will comment further, as I get further information! Feel free to comment if you have a question or know something new!

Wednesday, January 05, 2005

Tapwave, move out of the gaming sector!

Tapwave is considered the new Sony by many commentators. Indeed, their Zodiac handhelds deployed with fascinating new hardware-even the TE was endangered by the Z1-its darn cheap and still has a superb, large screen. The OS contains nifty hacks that let any other handheld look like a brick. ln addition, the second SD Card slot can get useful in some situations. The powerful graphic chip and processor can cook up graphics that beat the crap out of all Gameboys. A creative stereo speaker makes cool tunes, and the double battery gives stamina.
When this handheld was introduced, most commentators were sure that Tapwave hit the bull's eye.
Indeed, the Zodiac is a superb gaming platform-but it is also a very performant PDA. And here is Tapwaves achilles heel-they focus on the gaming part because they are alone in this sector. This strategy seems to work well for now, but I see a big dark cloud coming from Japan-its the Sony PSP. This system is said to be more-less compatible with stock playstation games(its just a recompile/media change-not even a real port) and thus will have access to literally thousands of famous games from experienced developers. Now compare that to the few PC ports/custom no-name games(Command and Conquer is more famous than Warfare Inc.) for the Zod. Looks like real trouble straight ahead-if Tapwave keeps focussing on the gaming sector only.
Now, lets forget the gaming part for a minute. The Zod is a powerful handheld workstation that doubles as MP3 and Video Player. However, most users never hear about this special feature. The marketing focusses on the gaming part-and this definitely isn't the way to go! If the ads would concentrate on stopping the Zodiac=Gameboy++ beleif, the PSP could prepare for a bloody nose. Well, there's no email client for it, and where's the spreadsheet and photo viewer?
What do you think? Am I just talking rubbish? Or do you share my thoughts? Anonymous comments are allowed, so lets discuss!

Monday, January 03, 2005

Why there isn't that much discussion about the Zire Series

Recently, 1src carried an interesting thread of a user asking about why discussion about the Zire series is so rare. He thought that the whole handheld series is very unpopular. However, when we look at PalmOnes press releases,.. we see that the Zire series sells well.
So, why is thhere so little discussion about this kind of handheld? A dificult question at first. Isn't it like this:
Much Talk=Much sales
and vice versa? Looms sensible at first, but it isn't! Why are there so many communities discusing the long-discontinued Apple Newton series? Actually, forum discussion can IMHO not be used as a measure of device popularity! Users who talk about their handhelds do not see them as usual tools(do you talk about your bread knife?). Forum visitors are power users, that find fun and enjoyment in doing more with their PDA then it can do when it comes out of the box.
Zire handhelds go for a less than 250$, the most even go for 100$ and have only the most purist features. When you look at the advertising slogans PalmOne uses for the Zire series(see this article for details of the PalmOne advertising), one clearly see that they are advertised as an all-in-one effortless solution for users who do not know much about computers. They are intended for use as tools-the users use whats packaged and thats it! Some users treat these just as a replacement for the filofax-not grasping the idea of expansion/extension of possibilities.

Now, think about the statement made above. Will such a user want to discuss about extension possibilities, additional fatures or even peripherals that cost him extra money? The answer is simple and short-No. The users have their Zire handhelds in their suitcases and bags, and treat them as a stock filofax. Nobody discusses his datebook/address book, so why discuss the Zire...
What do you think about this topic?

Sunday, January 02, 2005

Updated-the equillibrium of Palm, Symbian and PPC hardware-or-Tam,the sucker

We all know Mike Cane, and most of us share a strange dislike for him(not me though). Well, the poor guy wrote an editorial with PalmInfoCenter-and he immediately got a nice flogging. Serves him right, doesnt it?
Actually, it does not serve him right. Altough he chose an extremely provoking title-nobody does like beeing called a sucker- and made a few big mistakes comparing kernel and API, two of his core statements are sensible.

Lets start with him stating that OSses shall soon be interchangeable. While this definitely wasn't true a few years ago, the Palm OS nowadays runs on ARM processors. Same architecture like PocketPC, Symbian, Linux and a load of other OSses. Lets face it-my stock Siemens SX1 almost equals a Tungsten T without touchscreen(OMAP CPU, 4MB of RAM, pretty big screen(higher resolution than Zire 31),bluetooth, MMC-Slot,...) . And a standard PPC is more-less a Palm OS handheld with more ROM and a different screen format!
A german reviewer(I know him as a trustable source) even found out that the T3 was produced with ASUS-a company that is known for a huge selection of PocketPCs. I think that the dominant question in the following years will be: Touchscreen?

Next thing:
Mike thinks that PalmSource will soon start porting the core Palm OS PIM apps to other platforms. Many commentators thought that a suite of Date Book, To Do, Address Book and Memo Pad would have no chance on the market. However-lets face it. What is Outlook? It is essentially the same thing bundled with a decent email client. If you think that Microsoft should stop developing Outlook, come on and mail'em! See what they answer you, it will be funny for sure!
What do you think about my statements?
P.s. Thanks to Steven Fisher for pointing out the thing with the API!

Saturday, January 01, 2005

PalmOne marketing stuff-in close-up

Looks like PalmOnes marketing is starting to get innovative when the Zire line is concerned. Your favourite author has a small house in a remote area ub Tyrol. There is a little suboffice of a famous austrian computer store there. Of course, a good blogger immediately went in-and saw an interesting piece of marketing stuff.
It was a regular cardboard cube(about 20cm high), and had Zire images printed on it. A friendly shop clerk was happy to help out with photographing-altough she didn't want to have her face pictured. Find some images at the bottom of the page. In addition, there was a info card(also pictured) that did not contain the T5. Another interesting thing: The price tag for the Zire 31 read USR Palm, the Zire 72 was sold as Palm Zire 72. T3 and T5 were not available, but there was a Tungsten E nav bundle, a load of PPCs and a case for the Palm V.
Customers were given a foldable info card and an issue of the so-called PalmOne magazine. These are currently processed and can be scanned in if anybody wants.
Interestingly, all of this stuff was not available in the store close to my flat in Vienna.
Here are a few photos of the cube(click Images for more detail). Interestingly, no such thing existed for the Tungsten Line:






This is the front of the fold-out card. It says: Life now gets easier

And this is the back of the card. It contains advertisement for PalmONEs GPS solutions and the WIFI card.

This is the T3 picture. Translated, it says as much as A new way to look at things

This is the T5. Interestingly, it was pictured right beside the T3 and did not appear in the PalmOne Magazine, that was distributed alongside. My store clerk did't know anything about it, either. Here is a brief translation of the red slogan:Store more. See more. Work everywhere

This is the TC part of the fold-out card. If performance is what you need

This is the TE. Slogan:A tool you can't miss at work

Here we have the Treo 600. The 650 isn't available in Europe yet, just as information. Advertising says: The more intelligent mobile phone

After turning the card around, you can see the Zires. Here is the Zire 21, beeing advertised with the words Paper is out!

And the Zire 31-Effortlessly colourful

Zire 72 gets advertised as: Multimedia tool-absolutely cool

Here are two pictures of the reference card folded out and laying on my suitcase.



And here-the Tungsten reference card(the front side of the reference card that stood in the window). No T5 here...

And the backside-containing all the zires

Here, the Zire 72 and 31 eval sampls and their price Tags. PalmOne is only seen witht he Tungsten E nav bundle, the Zire 31 is said to be coming from US Robotics(USR). Long, long time is it gone... Please note that the evaluation samples ae no actual handheld computers, but rather plastic replicas. The PPC's however had real test units!



How is PalmOne marketing in your area?