Sunday, February 27, 2005

Benefits of an internal file system

The biggest difference between a PocketPC and a Palm Os handheld is the file system. While the Palm OS goes for flat storage, the PocketPC has a directory structure in internal RAM and allows developers to work with more-less native files like they are used to on a PC.
The use of proprietary data formats was 100% o.k. when the Pilot hit the market-there weren't all that many units to exchange data with. However, we are living in a more-less connected world nowadays. Everybody has bluetooth on his cell phone and PDA-and this PDA isn't necceccarily a Palm OS handheld anymore.
Users want to exchange data! But, a file format proprietary to a platform(may it now be Palm OS, Symbian or whatever) can not be exchanged with a different kind of machine unless a viewer is installed on the other machine in order to handle the data received. Compare that to industry-standard formats like .bmp and .jpg. The latter will work on almost any platform.
Now, some of you may ask why a file system encourages developers to write native apps. In order to understand the problem, you need to understand the way the Palm OS handles data. The data is stored in so-called databases that consist of records that have a maximum size of about 64kB. Native files usually are mich bigger-so they would need to be spanned over multiple database records(yeah, I know about file streams, leave me alone on that one). In order to avoid this hassle, developers create a custom way of storing data-alas, byebye interoperatibility.
Even if the database contains a single record with all the native data, transmitting it without the help of a special application will transfer the file as a .pdb file and not as whatever it should be. In order to access the industry-standard data, you first need to strip off the headers,.... .
The biggest anti-thing about a file system is of course its tendency to hog resources. The üproblem could however be avoided-create a special "Native File Interface" that allows developers to store arbitary-length chunks of data in a specified format. Then have the system strip away unneeded headers,... when beaming-alas,the problem would be solved...
What do you think?

Saturday, February 26, 2005

Software influence on camera quality

Recently, there was a discussion about cameras integrated into mobile phones. Also, many users are angry about the bad quali9ty of the Zire 72's images-they are huey and unsharp. Mistakingly, a comrade did not update his SX1's firmware to version 15 like I did a few days ago-a few boring minutes led to the following comparison photos-click for larger versions. The left image always is firmware version 12, the right one version 15!


Regular images

Closeup in bad light(under desk)

Image against sunlight
Now, let these impressions sink in. As we see, a simple software update can enhance a camera significantly! A sub-average source of boring images(before) can indeed become a nice tool for making new photos for TamsPalm readers!
There are so many ways of aquiring higher quality(superresolution problem, brightness adjustment,..)-the companies only need to do it... . And somehow, Siemens is doing this well.
What do you think?

Friday, February 25, 2005

SyncML vs HotSync-why the technology won't go away

Recently, many users were concerned about PalmSources announcement to depart from the HotSync architecture. I can very well understand their concerns-all the old conduits, etc would need to be updated-and god knows how well all of this would work. In the begining most of the new SyncML handhelds would not have conduits, and the HotSync users would be alienated...
However, I feel different about this announcement. First off all, who knows if it is really true. Secondary, look at the history of the Palm OS. Well-written OS1 apps should still run on OS6-a huge glue library simplifies porting back. HiRes was introduced in a careful way that didn't break old applications! The old serial manager is still around, altough it should have died long ago and wouldn't be missed IMHO.
Compatibility goes even further though! Cobalt even recreated the PIM databases, so that old applications don't fail as they attempt to access PIM data like contacts or appointments. Some people call Cobalt a huge compatibility hack-and indeed, they are not all wrong!
So, what will happen with SyncML? Personally, I beleive that the transition will be a slow one, with PalmSource eventually fading out the old HotSync architecture. But wait-isn't SyncML mainly a standard for syncing via bluetooth? At least thats the only place where my eyes ever spotted it. So, why won't this happen?
PalmSource retains the HotSync conduits, but integrates a SyncML protocol into its bluetoth stack. This would significantly enhance bluetooth usability-as one can't even send a file from a PocketPC to a Tungsten T3 via the bluetooth radio link!
In the end, nobody knows what will happen. However, I wouldn't get too stressed about the topic-what do you beleive??

LedManager-a program by the TamsPalm creator

Hi you all!
I just wanted to tell you that my first program LedManager has been released a few days ago and can now be downloaded/registered at PalmGears. Here is a link to the download gateway:
http://www.palmgear.com/index.cfm?fuseaction=sc.buy&prodid=93487&PartnerREF=&siteid=1
The program allows you to use your LED as a status indicator, RealOne player controller, system activity tracker, torch etc. It currently works on most PalmONE OS5 handhelds-porting possibilities to the m5xx series and to the Sony Clie are currently evaluated.
The program can be purchased for the ultra-low cost of 3.49$-further information can be obtained at Tamoggemon OnLine

Thursday, February 24, 2005

Siemens Mobile Customer Care-PalmOne could cut a piece from that

Well, my comrades SX1 recently broke down-he went to a Siemens Lab to have its firmware updated to level 15. This upgrade brought him a better camera quality(the images are less green, altough I still edited the last one). T-Mobile hadn't yet released the firmware-so I went to this store too in order to see if they would get this thingy on my SX1. I expected a rough, regular tech suport office with files and folders everywhere, and competent engineers in lab suits wearing ties and goggles. However, I was surprised-after walking into the huge store, I was immediately greeted by a female dressed like-well-not an engineer but rather a model. She took the phone and updated it immediately, letting me stroll through the shop where different kinds of equipment were showcased and could be tested (that goddamn cute flash didn't work on my SX1 though, shoot). Indeed, a female customer was greeted by an equally styled male agent. The whole process took me about 20 minutes, and the engineer did what she could to keep me entertained. Discussions about technology included-BTW, she didn't have a T-Mobile version-so she flashed me the regular version without branding-but sadly, she couldn't modify the SIM lock.
Now compare this to PalmOne-you have discuss an hour before they allow you to ship the handheld, the customer care is slow, badly trained, they return unrepaired devices etc. If Siemens had a Palm OS handheld(I hate WINCE Looxes)-that would definitely be my next machine! Here you see a few images of the store:

What do you think?

Wednesday, February 23, 2005

The hardcase-an endangered species

Recently, a comrade rewarded himself with an ipaq. I wondered how he treated the unit-no baby care, the machine sled over tables and was dropped a few times. This is not unusual, because hardcases usually do a good job at protecting a PDA. But-his poor handset had no hardcase-it even missed a screen protector. I beleived that my friend did not understand the fragility of his machine and immediately offered him one of my screen protectors. To my astonishment, he refused, saying that his PDA was 100% insured by the store for five years. The fun costed him thirty euros.
This is crazy news. Hardcases were designed to protect the screens of handhelds, which were terribly expensive to repair or exchange. Investing 30$ was reasonable, as a screen worth 200$ was kept out of harm's way-and you also saved the time that the exchange would take. But my comrade misses out on all these problems-when his ipaq breaks, the shop exchanges it for him immediately. In addition, there is a high probability that the store would run out of the model that he currently owns. This opens a cheap upgrade path for him-he ruins the device after two years and offers to pay 100$ for the upgrade. If the store refuses, they(IMHO) break their immediate-exchange contract and have to refund the purchase price. Little to loose for the guy, much to loose for the store!
When confronted with the decision hardcase or insurance, I would definitely go for the latter. My next upgrade will cost me at least 200$-my T3 won't get me much more on ebay anymore-and forget the extra cradle I have for my machine....
Hard times lay in front of hardcase manufacturers-what do you think?

Tuesday, February 22, 2005

The T5 premium bundle


Recently, PalmOne announced a T5 bundled with a docking station for a pretty nice of 349€-at least in germany.
Now, what does this mean? We already saw a similar thing with the T3 business edition, the free m100 that came with some orders et al. When PalmOne has to get rid of stuff, they cook up a nice promo. So, following this trail of thoughts will lead us into beleiving that the T5's successor is coming. This is a move expected by all people beleiving in the T5-TE2-VGA "conspiracy". To cut this story short: the real T5 would have needed more time to mature, but PalmOne was under pressure to attack the VGA PPC lineup. Thus, the Tungsten E2 was modified, and the real T5 was left in the lab. Adventists of this idea treat the FCC E2 leak as a cloaking maneuver-PalmOne has registered a trademark once for this purpose.
Other people put trust into sources knowing about measly device sales. Indeed, many users were annoyed about having to pay extra for a cradle. Altough I cannot fully understand this anymore-drive mode lets me loath my cradles for their weight-many users still want a cradle for their device. In addition, many usrs have not yet understood the benefits of landscape mode(I loved it right from start, just as info). Take my comrade as a bad exxample-his IPAQ can do landscape very well with its QVGA screen and 400MhZ CPU-but the goon doesn't use it at all. He even reads long texts in portrait, etc and thus cannot understand the annoyance that a cradle is when the unit is in landscape. These people will claim that PalmOne is trying to solve one of the main complaints users have.
The T5 remains a highly controversial topic-the only ones who really know what happened are the insiders. And-well-nobody from there has emailed me yet(I treat his name with caution and delete the email straight away, just as info)... . What do you think?

Monday, February 21, 2005

Memory card bingo-1GB or 2x512Meg

Recently a user raised the following question on a german forum:
Which kind of memory card should I get - two or one of double capacity?
This is indeed a pretty popular question now that memory card prices have fallen so low. Most wannabe experts have only one answer get the biggest one you can get. At first, this answer is obvious:the latest cards have cutting-edge controllers and thus deliver ernormous data rates. In addition, you should always get the best tech you can afford.
However, I have painfully learnt to feel different about this and also about the importance of backups for a programmer. I am dependant on my Palm OS handhelds-if it fails, I can no more work efficiently. Same thing valid for my SD card-imagine the whole SDK, the ebooks and everything elso going down the drain. Or, imagine a crazy programmer vitriolicly erasing all my programs and also formatting my SD card-thanks to Anton Tomov we are now familiar with this kind of thing, too. Or think of an ordinary hard reset, improper card removal,... .
To cut a long story short-I always like to have 2 memory cards that are totally independant of one another. I would like to have one card only for storing backups and other vital data(64MB is enough for my T3, as my backup program can compress...). The second card would be used for storing files and all the stzuff that I work on daily or that is amusing(stupid movies, stupid photos(e.G. the No-Palm house),...).
Next issue-speed. The big diffwerence of nowaday controllers is all about writing data. Writing data, get it? No problem with having nice data rates when reading(except some SanDisks)-my ole Hama 64MB SD performs lovely and reads at least 2MB-which is about the biggest file that I tend to load into memory contiguously(oggs are read sequencially, and so are movies)...
So, to get to an end: when buying memory cards-keep in mind that bigger isn't automatically better! Feel free to discuss your ideas here!

Sunday, February 20, 2005

The CMS merge is starting to take effect

PalmSource recently bought China MobileSoft, and thus aquired a working Linux distribution caled mLinux that targets mobile devices (smartphones mainly). At the time when PalmSource first published the informations about the aquisition, everybody was buzzing about how China MobileSoft has 10 licencees for their OS-totally ignoring the nice tidbits that come with mLinux abnd that will possibly benefit Palm Os users. TamsPalm has taken a short look at the programs CMS has on offer-here is what I found:
mBrowser
Finally, the Palm OS gets a usable web browser. Yahoo! Visit the homepage to take a look at the stats, everything seems to be there what you need everyday(Javascript, HTML4 , Unicode support...). While this may not be a benefit for current OS5 devices who still have to stick out with their abysmal web sleepers, the future of the Palm OS looks brighter now...
mMMS
Here we have a full-fledged SMS/MMS application. Looks as if the days of FunSms's unlimited growth finally are counted.
In addition, CMS has loads of other applications available that will greatly enhance the Palm OS's wireless capabilities. Among them is a Flash Player, a dictionary, games, a media player, etc. These applications come packed in two main distributions called mFone and FeaturePhone, that can be licenced as appropriate!
Lets conclude for now-this is a merger that really has a reason. When Be was bought up, I felt that little of the technology could be reused. Too different were the BeOS and the Palm OS. However, now PalmSource has actually bought another mobile technology provider, that already has working tech that goes well(unlike Be....). The licencees are no small companies:

  • CEC Telecom
  • CEC Wireless
  • Cellon
  • Intel
  • Freescale
  • NeoMagic
  • Skyworks
  • Texas Instruments
  • Konka
  • ZTE
Palm OS users shall be on the look for new stuff to come-exciting times to come, dudes!
What do you think?

Saturday, February 19, 2005

3GSM-Part 3:Third-party apps

PalmSource's 3GSM stands were used for demonstrations of 8 new, wireless applications that were deemed important. Here is a short look at each, enhanced with a few comments.
Abidia O-Anywhere
O-Anywhere has already been featured on TamsPalm a few days ago-a perfect solution, especially when you pair it up with Abidia's ebay client!
Handmark English/Spanish dictionary
Don't ask me what this has to do with wireless... . Just a plain dictionary, but enhanced with pronounciation guides for better learning effects.
Kinoma Player 3.1EX
Kinoma Player is one of the oldest video players for the Palm OS. It even played movies on a Palm IIIc, but required them to be converted to a special kinoma format. The version 3 EX of the Player can also accept a few types of native files, version 3.1 adds support for QuickTime cubic panoramas-whatever that is.
M-Penbase
This is a framework that will simplify network communications.
Sonic Admin
This program will allow network administrators to manage their servers on the go. Not much more info is available right now.
SplashData SplashBlog
This program will allow users to create pghotoblogs right from their camera-enabled smartphone. Since it comes with a free splashblog.com account, users have zero effort when they create their online "photo gallery". The SX1 has a photo share client integrated into the OS-so why not have it on the Treo/Qool/GSPDA too?
Stand-alone Quicknews
This is a new, mobile RSS reader(it follows Hand/RSS) that will be able to obtain its news both when hotsyncing and in an OTA fashion. The concept of RSS readers for Palm Os isn't new-but there seems to be quite a market! Users pay lots of money for getting short SMS summaries of news-now imagine if they could select their own sources and pay only the transfer costs....
VeriChat 2.5
VeriChat is the number 1 IM client for the Palm platform. Version 2.5 supports ICQ,MSN,IM, AIM and Yahoo. In addition, it can connect to the corporate LCS, Sametime and Jabber networks. New features include the linking of address book entries to buddys and the possibility of having multiple accounts on the same service.
This definitely looks nice and may provide a replacement for the expensive SMS/MMS services of carriers. We austrians pay 20 cents for 160 bits of data-GPRS allows you to send about 50KB for the same price. The only weak point is the high price of the service-you pay 20$ a year for access to the VeriChat servers....

These eight applications are different to the ones discussed yesterday, as end userss will be capable to purchase them through ESD channels. Thus, the existing devices can also benefit from these-so finally some new stuff for us. There is IM, RSS, Ebay, whatever-looks as if the Palm Os is finally starting to get a perfect internet terminal! Indeed-you are right about this, but there are two thinghs that you need to consider:
a)Abysmal Web Browsers
The main thing users do on the Internet is surf the WWW. The current lineup of browsers for Palm OS is-well-not perfect and is said to be surpassed by way by PocketPCs and even some Symbian phones. I personally beleive that this deficit can not really be compensated by adding additional services-users will still feel it.
b)PocketPCs can do this too
A comrade of mine has a perfect ICQ client on his Ipaq-for free. Versamail is pricey. As if that doesnt say it all....
What do you think? Who wins the race for the best internet machine?

Friday, February 18, 2005

3GSM-Part 2:Hardware+Software concepts

The 3GSM brought lots of new hardware and software-this article covers non-PalmSource stuff that looks interesting. However, please keep one thing in mind-I am not at the 3GSM. All my informations come from press releases and the developers themselves!

Hardware


PalmSource presented two solutions at their stands. Here is a short look at each:
GSPDA M68 smartphone
The Treo650 gets yet another competitor-GSPDA recently released a new smartphone called M68. It is a logical addition to the existing family of the company. The phone is available in Germany, France, Italy and Spain and has not yet been accepted by any of the local carriers there.
The M68 looks extremely similar to a regular phone and has a 1.3MP camera with bluetooth and 32MB of RAM/64MB of Flash.
Since lots of reviews have already been written about this device, TamsPalm will not cover it any further. Contact Tim Wong for further informations.
TI OMAP cobalt boards
Texas Instruments is a known player in the PalmOS platform. The first OS5 handheld had an OMAP CPU, same story with the Tungsten E-the most successful PalmOS handheld. Recently, the Intel XSCALE processors won ground-but TI doesn't give up. The OMAP730 GSM and OMAP850 EDGE are now available on PalmOS Cobalt compatible evaluation boards. This is great, as it simplifies hardware designs. Evaluation boards are very important for the success of a platform, as licencees can use the circuit schematics as base of their designs.
Contact Marisia Speziale for further information.

Software


The main focus of this year's 3GSM laid on software-here are two new technologies that sound interesting:
Qualphone POC
Push-to-talk(over cellular) is a very popular service in the USA. Think of it as a vocal SMS without cache-if you arent in range, you loose the message. The only somehow attractive thing I see is the flatrate price Looks like the SMS-outdated tech gets boasted. email is here for a few years already.
Lets however ignore my personal view for now-Qualphone is porting a client that is compatible with the Nokia implementation to the Palm OS. While this may not be interesting for the average PalmOs handheld, this is definitely good news for the Treo series and the Qool-if the product is made available to end users!
In addition, Qualphone joins PalmSources Palm Powered Mobile World program and also plans to port its IMS multimedia client-whatever that is...
If you want additional news, contact QualPhone's marketing department at partner@qualphone.com
PacketVideo media equipment
PacketVideo is known for its impressive array of Symbian video applications. PalmSource plans to have a 2way video telephony application with PocketVideo's tech, and a demo of the video Player is said to be demonstrated at the 3GSM stand.
If you want to know more about PacketVideo's offerings, contact Dann Wilkens!

Conclusion


The 3GSM definitely is focussed on mutlimedia applications, and PalmSource has a few interesting new things. I am especially impressed about the winning of PacketVideo, this really puts pressure on Nokia and the rest of the symbian platform!
However, there still remains one question-what actually arrives at the end user. PalmSource has excellelent Email Clients available, but end users canot purchase gthem because the company gives them away to licencees only-for whatever reason they may have! It looks as if the PacketVideo program will not be available for end users when it finally gets ready, it will only be available to licencees. Nothing is yet known about QualPhones stuff, but I have a dark feeling that it will go the same way...
What do you think? Will the programs be available openly?

Thursday, February 17, 2005

3GSM-Part 1:overview

PalmSource has traditionally appeared on the 3GSM-this time, the focus laid on wireless and multimedia applications. TamsPalm's report will be divided into 4 parts-today, we will take a quick overview of all presentations. Tomorrow, TamsPalm will take a detailled look at hardware and software concepts. This will be followed by a detailled look at the new applications. The final article will cover the new PalmSource stuff for smartphones-stay tuned for detailled coverage.
GSPDA M68
GroupSense has announced yet another smartphone calles M68 and makes it available in europe only-they now have four of these on the market.
TI Cobalt boards
TI has created new boards with OMAP CPU's-Cobalt is used as operating system.
Qualphone
QualPhone has begun porting a POC client to the PalmOS. This program will make Palm powered smartphones compatible with Nokia's push-to-talk system.
PacketVideo
The No1 Symbian video player is coming to the PalmOS-a variety of additional questions arise.
New PalmSource stuff
The merge with CMS starts to get visible-the PalmOS gets companions that work on mobile phones.
Third party stuff
Many third parties have developed new software-PalmSource presents eight of them at their CES stand.
So, some hot news-tune in tomorrow for more CES goodness.
What do you think? Have some news to share? Comments and emails are appreciated!

Wednesday, February 16, 2005

Abidia/O-Anywhere...Auctions get mobile

All of us know about eBay and Overstock, as many of us have bought or sold our palm devices with these services. If you have used ebay or Overstock.com Auctions before you are probably aware that the best way to bid on an auction is at the end, right before it closes. This can be a very dificult task, even more so when you are on the go.. Using the portable web browsers for the Palm OS platform is not a reasonable thing; The portable web browsers for the Palm OS platform are great, but they usually fall short when trying to use eBay; Either you cannot see the whole screen, it is just too slow, or they wont support all of eBay, making the website unusable on a mobile device.

But fret no more! Abidia has come to the rescue! This small company situated in Salt Lake City, Utah, has recently released a new product called O-Anywhere. This nifty tool will allow you to tune into Overstock.com auctions via PalmOS TCP/IP without web browsers! Just enter a search for the auctions you want and bid on the go. It even synchronizes with your buying and selling lists in your account! If you dont have an Overstock.com Auctions account, no wories, it can even create an overstock account for you.....now this is useful.
Here are a few screenshots:

Details of an auction

Auctions searches are also be categorized. Above you see the palm category of an evaluation machine!
Abidia claims a speed increase of 10x compared to using a web browser; and if that doesn’t make a difference, what does? In addition, every Palm down to OS2 is supported! That’s what I call careful programming! BTW, OS 1 couldn’t be supported because it doesn’t have a TCP/IP stack-so that isn’t these guys fault either!
Of course, this does not help an eBay user. They will need to purchase a different product called Abidia Wireless. This product was available before O-Anywhere and uses eBay, allowing you to tune into eBay auctions (if your handheld has a wireless link). Abidia Wireless is older than O-Anywhere, and is missing some of the features of O-Anywhere. However, Abidia told us they plan on updating it shortly.

Concluding, it looks as if a new market will soon open up to the Palm OS-eBay maniacs. These users will definitely profit from being able to wirelessly track their auctions, thus quickly saving more than they had to invest into Abidia.

What do you think? Would you buy this program? Have you got any experiences?

Tuesday, February 15, 2005

Palm OS and the Nintendo DS-a demiperferct pair

Recently, Nintendo is said to have licenced the Palm OS for use on its Nintendo DS machine. Of course, freaks went all bonkers about this announcement and crazy discussions started! At the first look, everything is set-the Nintendo DS has a touchscreen, so maybe we will have a new PDA soon.But is this true?

While Nintendo always had very good quality control, they also have an infamous history of attacking end users, programmers, etc-they even built a copy protection scheme into the hardware of the original Gameboy series that prevented independant programmers to create applications for the machine. This can be clearly understood when you grasp the idea that almost all consoles get profitable only by the sale of software-some sources claim that M$ makes a loss with every XBOX sold... . And now think about a Palm OS card for their DS. It could run literally any program available for the PalmOS-no control for Nintendo here anymore. Not something they would want.....
Also, look at the Zodiac. Many business users dislike it because it looks so similar to a gameboy and cannot be used in a meeting. While I personally cannot understand this, unpacking a real Gameboy will get you booted out of the meeting for sure. So, business users won't swap to the DS!
And then, we also have the abysmal hardware of the DS. Do not get me wrong, the DS has the power to be a very nice PIM machine(Licencees can create all-ARM apps) with its 66MhZ ARM core and 4MB of RAM-but real PalmOS apps won't be satisfied with the hardware. So, no danger for the Zodiac either.
If Nintendo actually releases a Palm OS card or sth else, it will operate as a PIM enhanement. Insert it into your DS, and do your appointment planning(think homework), mobile phone number storing-remove it and that is it. The only benefit that Palm OS users will see is the slight probability that a teen eventually upgrades to a real PalmOS handheld-but Nintendo will for sure do something to prevent this....
What do you think?

Funny image-a house where few Palm users have access

The image below was made in vienna from a train. I drive past this building once a day, and it always leads to me having a good laugh;-P-click it to see it in full size as you will not see the funny point in thumbnail view.

Have you got a funny picture to share? Please send it to me at Tamog@gmx.at and see it posted here-of course with full credit and everything!

Monday, February 14, 2005

Hasta la vista, drive mode

We all know Softick Card Export 2 or the drive mode applications that ship with the Tungsten T5 and the Qool QDA-700. Their task is simple-they just simulate an USB stick and thus simplify access to the data on the memory card. While this feature definitely is helpful, both SD and CF cards start to have USB transcievers integrated.
Point Computer has recently started to sell CF cards that have a retractable USB port. A 256MB model costs 45€ and is already available in Germany-buy it at Viadis's. Here is a pretty unsharp photo of the device:

The round knob is the slider for the USB port, and the c't reports 0.9MB transmission speed over this interface-no USB2 here either. SD cards with integrated transceivers arent new anymore-these amazing products from the same manufacturer have already been discussed on PalmInfoCenter and other news portals. Viadis sells a 128MB version for 40€ BTW.
So, what influence will this have on PalmOS handhelds? First of all, it will slowly but surely kill third-party programs like the aforementioned Softick Card Export. Same of course is valid for the integrated solutions. Ultimately, it will lead to an entirely new experience of freedom. There will be no need for carrying bulky cradles just for exchanging data with a PC. Data will become truly mobile-and so will our beloved handhelds.
Do you agree?

Sunday, February 13, 2005

Why a traditional digicam can't beat an integrated one

Recently, many new devices contain small digital cameras. Reviewers tend to ignore these 'hidden eyes', as their image quality is not on par with even the cheapest of digital cameras. A simple VGA CMOS sensor can never compete with a multi-megapixel system that has a variety of optical zooms at its disposal-but do you need cutting-edge image quality all the time?
Transfer volume
Actually, I don't. Altough having megapixel JPEG's may be nice for printing, an online publisher usually won't need this enormous quality and can go well with VGA images. Just think of the incredible amout of bandwith a 1.3MP-Image would need. TamsPalm is currently evaluating a new host, which is one of the best and offers 20GB of traffic for just 99 cent. Now think of a 1MB image-20000 visitors and good bye. In addition, not everyone has a broadband connection nowadays. My collegue with his 56k modem is producing lovely Palm Os programs and music-but 1MB of image size would kill his connection!
Availability
Next point-availability. Most people always carry their mobile phone and their PDA-adding a third device seems unpractical-thus the digicam has to stay at home as it is the device one needs the rarest. Now imagine that you run into a nice scenery for a photo(e.g. the PalmOne Cube)-you gotta go home, get camera which is probably not charged, go back-and there is a high chance that the image isn't available anymore.
Ease of use
Not everything is keen on beeing photographed-the owners of some things prefer not having their deeds/stuff pictured(all I say is Tungsten T5, etc). A digicam is very difficult to hide, but a cameraphone? Just whip it out and pretend to play tetris, silent the shutter and a few lovely snapshots of whatever victim you have selected!
Lets conclude for now. A digicam definitely has its right to live-but not always. Especially journalists or bloggers should think seriously about which device to get-I was offered a low-end digicam instead of the SX1 but still took the SX1 for the reasons mentioned above.
What do you think?

Saturday, February 12, 2005

The PDA industry is loosing its design enthusiasm-another look at the topic

We all saw the PocketFactory editorial about how the PDA industry was loosing design enthusiasm. The post led to an enormous amount of visitors and comments, probably to both PocketFactory andPalmInfoCenter.
On the first look, this may be true. After the Palm V, little new design has been introduced-lets ignore the sliders for now. The industry is loosing its design enthusiasm and will die soon-voila, our perfect editorial that will produce lots of trolling and put the page/author back in the people's minds!
When you look at the editorial closer you shall see that-well-there isn't that much to innovate anymore. There literally are hundreds of OEMs that producte handheld devices-and from factors aren't infinite. Thus, everything that is celebrated as an "innovation" will usually already have existed for a loong time before.
Lets take the Zodiac 2 as an example-it has a nice landscape form factor, I agree on that. But is it innovative? No, it is not-the GameBoy advanced has already done this for years, and so has the Atari Lynx. We already saw it before, remember?
Another popular example for "innovation" is the UX50-but I see no innovation here either-PocketPC's had had this form factor for quite a long time(e.g. HP Jornada 710), and the REVO's got great in exactly this format!
Now, please get back to the topic of innovation-if almost everything has already been done once, there is little place to do something new. You can only redo it again and again-and that is what the PDA industry is doing right now! But this should not be called lack of innovation, its a sign of maturing industry boys and gals.
And something else-why aren't PDA's ultimately cool anymore? Well, because eyeryone has one now! Ten years ago a PDA was a nvoelty, that only few people had access to. Nowadays, everyone can have a handheld, everybody knows it, everybody is accustomed to it and thus it is cool no more!
What do you have to say?

Friday, February 11, 2005

News on TH55 landscape mode

TamsPalm recently carried an article about the company called MobileStream planning to release a patch that would enable screen rotation on the portrait mode clies. Recently, a tester from this company approached me with further informations about the release date and a benchmark value for a TH55.
The information published here is based on one(1) sole source. Thus, it must be classified and treated as a rumor.
The biggest concern clie users had about this program was the speed of the unit in landscape mode. The Tungsten T3 slows down by almost 50% when its screen is rotated-but the enormous 400MhZ XSCALE can easily loose this amount. Clies have slower processors though-loosing 50% on a 123Mhz TH55 would lead to annoying lags.
However, this fear is not needed. My source reports a TH55 scoring about 100 MhZ(exact number not published to protect source) in Speedy. A unmodified TH55 benchmarks at about 150 Mhz-33 percent speed loss only. This leads to a performance roughly on par with a Tungsten T, which definitely isn't a slow machine.
Application compatibility is said to be excellent, Netfront is reported to work flawlessly. Same is valid for many other apps and the Grafitti area-the manufacturer says that rotation works fine with it. Please follow this link for further information!
The tester did not want to mention an exact release price, but had received insider informations about the program beeing due for release "in the next few days".
Let's conclude for now-looks like this definitely is an app to look forward to. What do you think?

Thursday, February 10, 2005

Bundled apps on CD are worthless apps

I hope that you already were in one of these shopping malls where the different handhelds are chained to their chargers and can be tested thoroughly. Many users go there to decide which handhelds they buy. They thoroughly test the software and hardware, and shop clerks regularily hard-reset the evaluation units.
Here we are-right at the achilles heel of the current PalmOne handhelds. The PalmOS is a sleek operating system where most features are supplied from third parties. Licencees select the apps that they want to bundle with their machines and burn it on the accompanying CD. After a user purchases the handheld, he can install the programs that he wants. While this is helpful for the device purchaser, the user in the store does not see these apps. A PocketPC/mobile phone(!) comes with games, applications, sounds and pictures-most PalmOS handhelds only have their four core apps installed. Thus, a user testing one of these handhelds will think that this is all a PalmOs handheld can do-and will surpass it in favour of a PocketPC or Smartphone.
Now, some of you may say that this is not true-they know what the Palm Os can do and they like it for its customizability. True-but look at the average shop clerk-he usually has little knowledge of smartphones/handhelds, and thus the user decides by what he sees.
The problem outlined above isn't a platform-inherited thing. Looking at the different PalmOs handhelds over the last few years(exluding TT and VII-series), almost all on them had a lot of free space in their ROM-thats what Brayder is living off, btw! In addition, they have lots of apps on the CD. Now, why not take a few cool apps and put them into the device's ROM? Then, users would see these tools in the store-and purchasers will be happy after a hardreset!
What do you think?

Wednesday, February 09, 2005

The media center train-why PalmSource needs to jump it

Recently, a new TV technology has started to evolve-digital TV. Microsoft has already announced a firmware patch for its hard-disk based video recorders that will allow these devices to create movies for PocketPCs. Lets have that sink in-the M$-powered handhelds would get like small Video-on-demand players. As if this wouldn't be cool. Record your favourite TV show and watch it on the train. This feature would really endanger Tapwave-if they don't support it themselves. This may cost them a few $ of licence fees, but would add another possibility.
This is impressive, but the triving digital TV market opens up another market sector. Imagine a Zodiac with an integrated TV receiver. People are willing to pay lots and lots of money for short video bursts delivered to their handset via MMS/GPRS. Now imagine that these users could tune into the TV programs that they view at home. Many people record video shows to view later-if they could watch them on the move, the time spent at home could be recycled. Also, mobile TV sets have recently gained popularity with campers and globetrotters. These people always have a cell phone and want to reduce the weight of the stuff they have to carry-a PalmOS smartphone with a DVB receiver would be a killer application for them.
Lets conclude-digital TV is coming and the PalmOS will need to support it-the sooner, the better. Or do you think in an other direction?

TamsPalm GMAIL giveaway-Part 2

GMAIL logo from google's homepageThe last round of GMAIL invites given out at TamsPalm ran out extremely fast! A few readers reported that their account suddenly contained 50 Invites-mine wasn't affected yet. One of them is ready to share the wealth with you, my fellow readers!
Just as a quick roundup-here is a short list of GMAIL features:

  • 1 gb of mail storage
  • Login serves as Google groups account
  • POP access
  • 10MB maximum email size
So, if you want a GMAIL account, please email me at Tamog@gmx.at.

Sunday, February 06, 2005

Carrier influences-why bluetooth gets crippled

We all know bluetooth and we all love it-when it works perfectly. While this wireless transmission system is a standard in almost every Palm powered PDA that doesnt have WLAN, many smartphones have neither of the two. Users always make a fuzz about the omission, but nothing changes in the end-the Qool QDA700 came without bluetooth, and the TREO 650 had its wireless profiles crippled! But why? Bluetooth allows you to attach different peripherals as needed, and allows you to share files with your desktop computer..
Bump, reality check! Many users use bluetooth to access the internet at home. They have a bluetooth dongle/router and surf the internet wirelessly using their home internet access-especialy handy while using a home trainer. Bluetoth peripherals are still uncommon.
Now, its all about internet access. The most expensive service at my carrier is just that-1Meg of GPRS data costs about a €. If I would have done all my surfing via their networks, the company would be rich by now-my T3 creates like 2Meg of traffic a day. Now, a smart phone already has the GPRS access integrated(the T3 would ned bluetoth to connect to a mobile phone), and users want to get their email, etc-thats why they did not get a dumbphone in the first place!
So, now we understand the way providers think-full bluetooth is bad for business. But, why do licencees support this system? Well, every carrier has his own selection of handsets that he subsides and thus sells cheaply. When opening/elongating their contract, most users simply take one of the phones on offer and don't even consider the other alternatives available on the market. Thus, a smartphone without carrier subsidiation is a sitting duck with little mass-market potencial. Carriers know the power that they have over device sales-and have little scruples to use it for maximizing income-even if they have to remove "useless" features from their machines!
What do you think?

A new star on the graphics market

An interim note about this article made it out yesterday mistakingly, sorry for that. TamsPalm is known for not publishing useles bits of information, but I mis-clicked. Sorry yet again.
Anyway, I would not ignore the little company called Falanx Microsystems. Altough they do not have their own chip fab(they specialize on marketing IP cores like ARM does), their 3d chips seem to be very interesting and will likely be used in many upcoming smartphones/mobile gamking consoles and possibly even in Palm powered handhelds or the rumored Zodiac 2.
The Mali product line looks impressive, here is a short feature list for the high-end Mali 110. This machine can handle 2d,3d and video in one chip, and promises to deliver 30fps encode and decode of video, the only advanced 16X Full Scene Anti-Aliasing (FSAA) support and texture filtering for increased bandwidth savings for high-performance multimedia devices. The Mali 55 is a die-shrink of the Mali 110 and is targeted at cheap mobile phones. Face it-thats a video procesor(DSP-like) and a 3d graphics chip in one IP core that can be integrated with other IP cores like the ARM CPU's.
The MaliGP shall be used as an additional processor to the Malis mentioned above. Its Name stands for Mali Geometry processor and it delivers integer, floating-point and 3D graphics. Think of it as a T&L engine for the handheld that reduces the work load on the main processor of the unit. When this was intoduced on the PC, the main processor could handle different tasks, as matrix rotations, etc could be off-loaded to an optimized core that was specialized on, well, doing that!
The cores are already available in a pre-validated state!
How will these Malis fare? Wil they be cool and sucessful against NVIDEA/ATI? Or will they end up as stupid Mules? Time will show, and you are invited to comment!

Saturday, February 05, 2005

Why portable hardware will become more and more similar when memory is concerned

Memory always has been one of the biggest points of discussion-how much does a good PDA need, how much does the new machine have-and most important of all, how much does its competition have! The Tungsten T3 had 64MB like most of its competing ipaqs-q00t, the Treo 650 had less-so laaame in comparison with Symbian phones. While this craze may not really be justified, it will soon have an end-because IC manufacturers start creating "memory sandwiches". these chips contain many different types of RAM and ROM-basically everything that a Palm/PocketPC/whatever needs.
Lets take the recently anounced MCP's from Samsung. Please don't run away just yet, as MCP doesn't stand for my highly-certified Microsoft Certified Professional comrades, but rather for Multi-Chip-Package. These chps will be about 1.4mm high and wil contain different dies for different memory types-here is a link to the manufacturers homepage:
http://www.samsung.com/Products/Semiconductor/MCP/
In accordance to the german magazine c't Sony isn planning to use/is using a slightly modified version of these chips in its PSP.
Lets now look at the subject from a PCB designer's view. I myself was an electronician for quite some time(give me a lab and I am at it again, d00ds). the Main concern when creating printed circuit boards for a mobile computer is simple-size, size, size. The planar needs to be as small as possible in order to simplify case design,....
Now, can you tell me a good reason for a circuit developer to not use one of these chips instead of sacrificing lots of board space for "huge" RAM/ROM/FLASH/.... chips? The planars will get smnaller, and costs will get lower. Since no company wants to pay too much for its production, the handheld markers should jump on this like crazy. So, maybe we will soon have Palm powered handhelds with as much Flash as their PPC counterparts. Then, licencees could finally install all the softare inton the flash and make the devices look better in the stores......
What do you think?

Drive mode-do it well or skip it

Recently, rumours have surfaced that the Qool QDA700 smartphone has its RAM/Flash divided into a 15meg RAM and a 17meg flash drive like the one available on a T5. At first glance, this looks nice. You can immediately store MP3/Video on the handheld and don't need to purchase an SD card. Another step towards multimedia handhelds-w00t.
Lets think of the users for a moment. Some will use this smartphone as a media player, not needing much aditional storage RAM. Others will use many legacy applications that insist on having al of their data stored im RAM and cannot do much with external memory. The Qool's memory division isn't perfect for either of them-actualy, it isn't perfect for anyone except maybe the manufacturer. RAM disk programs have always been capable to create RAM disks of different sizes as apropriate. While resizing these sometimes required a reformat, it was possible to select how much RAM/expansion memory you wanted on your machine.
In addition, lets now look at the size of the drive: its a freaking 17MB-thats an SD card that isn't even sold in austrian(yes, austrian) retail stores anymore... . A 16MB card may be o.k. for handling photos and native files, but these can as well be stored in main memory. Installing 15 minutes of MP3 in good quality would however bust the internal memory already, same valid for longer movies.
On the qool, the only use I can imagine for the internal memory card is the exchange of data with PC's that do not have the Palm Desktop installed. The handheld can be mounted as an USB medium, and native files can be exchanged between PC and handheld-but that is about it. Everyone who wants to do some serious multi-media tasks will still need to purchase a memory card-nothing has changed here even with the added internal memory...
So, come on, manufacturers, if you add an internal memory card, do it the smart way round! Give your users enogun free space for a few MP3 files and also enough RAM space-128MB is not soo expensive nowadays-and can be partitioned into both 32meg RAM and 96 meg Storage and also evenly in 64/64 pieces....
One last thing: Please don't get me wrong. The QDA700 is a nice smartphone, and internal memory cards are cool. But it is as with everything-do it properly or forget it... .

Friday, February 04, 2005

Looking at the ipod shuffle from a PDA view

Yesterday, there was PUG in Vienna! Of course, one of our visitors had the new ipod shuffle to show off with, and here is my personal scoop of thoughts about this machine:
The machine is very very small and can be worn anywhere-definitely a plusfor somebody wanting to use the ipod in outdoor/remote/sport areas where he needs both hands free. The classical example for this is a bath/swimming pool. Really, it is not that much bigger than a strip of chewing gum and has a USB connector at its bottom-one could easily think it was an USB stick...
There is no numeric/graphic display on the enbtire unit-very unlike its competitors. It also does not have any fancy options to it, just play/pause, forward, back and stop-ot thats all that I could make out. Now, how can one use it?
Most PDA users always take the standard approach to listenting to music-they create a playlist from the files installed on the memory card, then select their favourite file/the first file and select the music that they want to hear. However, the ipod shuffle user takes an entirely different view. He has the machine select a few files from his collection and then play them in random order. He has no real means of influencing the sequence of the songs, etc-his ears are exposed to the Apple machine....
This may look crazy at first-but now think of radio. Yes, I am talking about plain-vanilla FM radio that anybody can listen to without much of a do. There is no way to influence the sequence or even the selection of the songs-and the servicer is popular.
So, I personally would not see the ipod shuffle as a danger to the Palm OS handhelds or to PDA's in general. Instead, radio station owners should be worried-the ipod shuffle allows users to create their own "radio station" with music that they like-without annoying ads and shows and in constant quality...
Do you own an ipod? Are you happy with it? Am i talking rubbish? Have you got another MP3/ogg/xxx player maybe-talk back!!!!

PUG Vienna met today

First of all a sorry to everyone who was waiting for an update that didn't quite happen in time, I am 5 minutes late... . However, my local PalmUserGroup met at a new location and every one of its members was invited wholehartedly!
It was an interestring cerimony as usual, with programs and ideas beeing swapped. First of all we helped a new user with eliminatign the random crashes on his T3-a quickly beamed evaluation version of Crash will serve him with logging the crash "causers" from now on.
Then, Alex presented his Treo 270 yet again due to popular demand. You might wonder why there is so much fuzz about this old smartphone-well, there are a few reasons: First of all it has handspring quality, it is quite a decent machine and most importantly of all-it is rather small and can be obtained cheaply(120€ or so).

As you see the Treo 270 was admired much-finally an affordable, small color smartphone. Its owner had lost of explaining to do, see the left picture for a reconfiguration attempt...

How else should it be-lots of equipment was laying around on the table. The V and IIIc woke up nostalgic thoughts in many users. The two T3 hardcases pictures on the right were for sale BTW, but nobody quite wanted them-looks like everyone already protects his palm someway or the other...

Here we see Herwig examining his newly purchased wireless keyboard. His oppinion was interesting for me too, as my good ole PPK didn't quite survive my repair attempts to get the broken key into a working condition again.

And here we have two comrades discussing the software configuration of T3 machines. While software was swapped, we also came to our oldest topic of dispute-screen protection! Most PUG-goers support Brando, while I personally prefer simple vanilly overhead foils for their simplicity and cheapness. If you destroy one of them with a parker pen or other item(don't ask me what I already used as stylus, I dont really have a good relation to styli since my first IIIc initially shipped without one and I was forced to use a hard pencil in conjunction with an overhead foil, that was how I got the idea btw), all it costs is a cent for a new A4 sheet that will last you for quite a few screens.... .
Also, my projects were gladly suported by the users there-stay tuned in for some more PUG-generated content on TamsPalm in the next few days!

In the end, we did a little comparation of siemens camera phones. The left image shows yours truly using his Tungsten T3 and was made with a 1.3MP-SL65 from Siemens. The other images on the page were made with my trusty SX1, that doesnt have one of these nifty click-on flashes available for the SL65 BTW. Alex did not really participate here, he only flashed his digicam....
Once again, it was a really interesting meeting-I have many more pictures that I will gladly forward to you if you email me at Tamog@gmx.at. Go to your local PUG, trust me, it will be a time well invested!

Wednesday, February 02, 2005

System palette trouble-distorted screen images

You might already have experienced this-an application suddenly has different colours than it had before. The images below show a german game called MohrHuhn-once with and once without the distortion:

As you see the image number 1 looks cruel-but why? Let's leave trickery out for the moment as it isn't April Fools day yet. Difficult, huh?
Well, the answer lies deep in the PalmOS and in the way it handles colours. When the IIIc was introduced, a strange limitation was introduced that didn't let its TFT display more than 255 colours. In order to make the graphics appear smoother, the developers were allowed to select these colours from a full 12bit RGB palette. Thus, unneeded colours could be replaced with ones better suited to the image(altough this was rarely done on IIIc and co.).
Of course these events have happened years ago and all handhelds now have a 12/16bit screen. But they cannot be forgotten just yet, as lots of games still run in 8bit mode for speed and change the palette so that it better suits their Sprites.
And this is exactly what happened above. Another game was started before MohrHuhn, and its developer simply forgot to reset the palette. The PalmOS didn't care(it never does)-and MoorHuhn didn't bother either! It simpliy drew its sprites, not caring about the palette used to display them!
Thus, when you see user interface elements,.. distorted next time-don't freak out. A softreset will cure the problem.
What is your experience?

Tuesday, February 01, 2005

Possible SanDisk WIFI driver for TE and T3

SanDisk has an attractive lineup of SDIO WLAN cards. There is a card bundled with 256MB and a regular one that only worked with the Zire 71 and the Zodiac by now. The devices are not too expensive, and seem to work well-for PocketPC users! Palm users had to miss out on the joy of using these devices because there was no driver available. SanDisk blamed PalmOne, and PalmOne blamed whomever. Whatever really hapened here, a ridiculous file was supplied to me recently. After virus-checking it, it was installed on a Windows XP box. Afterwards, it offered to sync stuff to my palm-and that was just what I did. Soon afterwards, a file called WIFI Setup was on my T3-but since I haven't got a WIFI card, that was about it. I ran the setup app and kicked the apps off my handheld.
Googling did not bring up many results, but one source stated that the driver worked with a Tungsten E. Most other reports state that the driver is intended for use on a T3 and a TE. However, I believe that one could also try a Treo 600 or one of the older Tungsten T handhelds(pretty similar hardware to the TE).
Here is a link to the file:
http://www.sandisk.com/tech/docs/palm-driver-v3.zip
The source stated that the driver wasn't released officially because the card drew too much power. But, since the source reports the card to be working for quite some time now and since the SDIO port should also be protected somehow, I personally do not see any risk here-but of course, I cannot take any warranties!
Please tell me if the program works/doesn't work, and what card(with or without memory) and handheld(TT,TE,...) you are using.