Solutions At Hand

Handhelds, smartphones, mobile technology and the digital lifestyle.

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    Michael is a trainer and consultant specializing in making mobility technology work in people's everyday lives.
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Archive for the ‘Treo’ Category

Recent deal does not bode well for Palm

Posted by Michael Brown on October 5, 2007

Given that Palm recently stated in the Q1 FY08 investor conference call that the next generation Linux-based Palm OS would not be ready until the end of 2008, and that it was being developed in-house, I have grave concerns that Palm will not get it out the gate in time to make it worthwhile. These concerns stem from the recent deal between Emblaze Mobile, Sharp, and ACCESS, where they announce they are developing a device which will “revolutionize mobile communication”. Emblaze claims they’ve been working on the device design for the past five years, and that Sharp will provide the hardware and ACCESS the software. Let’s look at this more closely to see why I’m concerned for Palm.

First of all, Sharp is involved. Sharp is a major manufacturer, one that makes a lot of parts for mobile devices; in fact, many Palm devices use Sharp LCD’s . They’ve also made the Zaurus line of Linux-powered PDA’s, which have quite the following in Linux circles. They’ve been making other PDA’s for years; my first PDA was the Sharp SE-300. They also manufacture Notebook PC’s, mobile digital audio players, projectors, professional video products, and other entertainment devices which are of interest to today’s consumers. So, basically they are a multimedia, computing, and handheld powerhouse, one that makes much of their own hardware, which lowers their parts cost (and thus overhead) greatly. Compared to Palm, which contracts out the building to companies like HTC, they are now at an advantage by being able to sell the devices cheaper, while still making a good profit.

Sharp is also the manufacturer of the Sidekick/Hiptop series of mobile phones, which gives them a lot of experience in the mobile communications space. Now, when you combine that experience with their other product lines, it makes them a very formidable player in the mobile space. What has been holding them back is the limited selection of 3rd party software for the Danger OS running the devices, and the fact that software is written and encrypted for specific versions of the OS on specific carriers. Not all carriers carry their devices, since they compete somewhat feature-wise with the Blackberry, which limits their brand recognition and market penetration of the mobile space.

Now, we all know that ACCESS owns the former PalmSource, and it’s present and future versions of Palm OS (Garnet and ALP). ALP, the Linux-based successor for Palm OS, has been in development for years, and is now available to licencees. The Access Developer network is open to developers, and the software development kits and compatibility test tools are available now. That means the ALP software is available to manufacturers NOW, although we just haven’t seen any devices based on it yet. So, where as Palm is still working on “their version” of Palm OS Linux, Access has ALP ready to roll.

Now, enter Emblaze Mobile, centre stage. They’re the makers of the Emblaze Touch 7, a multimedia feature phone which was targeted at the youth market in the UK and Europe. They’ve got hardware experience and software experience, much like Sharp, but they’re a small, albiet creative, player in the mobile space. Think Handspring when they first came out with the Treo 180.

When you look at them individually, it’s just “business as usual”; different players in the hi-tech space. What should have Palm very worried is this deal, making them a direct threat to the Palm Inc. device lines. Emblaze mobile is kinda like what Handspring was before Palm bought them up, bringing the Palm founders back into the fold. A small, passionate company looking to create a wave in the communications world. Sharp brings manufacturing muscle to the team, as well as their own experiences with the Sidekick/Hiptop and Zaurus lines. Access brings instant Palm OS compatibility to the mix, allowing Palm device owners an easy migration path to the Emblaze/Sharp platform, while bringing thousands of existing Palm OS applications over to their platform. This mashup platform, (part Zaurus, part cell phone, part Palm device, part multimedia platform), should have Palm very worried. All the Palm OS goodness running on a Linux Kernel, with all the hardware people have been asking for, and by the looks of it, earlier than Palm can deliver their OS. Very concerning for Palm indeed…

Now, this is all my analysis and conjecture. No specs have been released, no dates finalized. But given the fact that a) ALP has been finished for a while, b) Emblaze has been working on a hardware design for 5 years, and c) Sharp is involved, it’s really looking like a better Palm device is about to be released, but not by Palm. Of the 6 Palm OS devices I’ve owned, 3 were not designed by Palm (TRG Pro, Handera 330, and Treo 600). Many people loved the Sony Clie’s for the same reason. Those companies were making better Palm OS devices than Palm was. It’s looking like we’re going to have the same situation again in Sharp/Emblaze.

Now, what really concerns me about Palm’s decision to write their own OS instead of licensing ALP like I suggested in postponing the Foleo, is the fragmentation of the developer community. Some of the smaller developers are not certain they’re going to write for the next generation Palm OS, because they’re already tired of fixing Palm’s device-specific “improvements”. If they take the same approach with their OS, and developers are faced with a choice of developing for ALP and it’s licencees or Palm, they may choose to develop for ALP. If Sharp brings this ALP powered device to market, and it’s a better “Palm” than Palm’s product/OS, then developers will choose to go with the greater opportunites for sales. And if Sharp/Emblaze does come out hardware-wise with a “Better PalmPhone” than the Treo, the ALP Palm OS compatibility will ensure they have a best-seller on their hands. Everyone who has been frustrated with the lack of Wi-Fi, OS resets, and NVFS issues will take a good look at a product which has those issues addressed, and yet will still run their existing applications.

Palm, learn from your Cobalt mistakes; you can have a great OS concept, but if no one wants to develop for it, it’s worse than worthless – it’s a moneypit. If you’re busy writing an “ALP clone”, then it better be compatible with existing applications, and it should be compatible with applications written for Linux/ALP with a minimal amount of rewriting or just a re-compile against the different headers & includes. If you make it incompatible, you may find your products going the way of Cobalt; into the trash can. This Emblaze/Sharp/Access announcement means the pressure’s on, Palm; get it right, or don’t bother.

Originally posted to Palm Addicts here.

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Posted in Linux, Palm, PalmAddicts, Technology, Treo | Leave a Comment »

Are you still hunting for the listings for your favourite TV shows?

Posted by Michael Brown on September 19, 2007

Still buying the paper for the daily TV listings? Or the TV Guide magazine for this weeks listings? Wish you could see what’s on next week? You can, and you can do it on your Palm or Treo.

Pocket TV Browser

I started using Pocket TV Browser about a year or so ago, and it’s been a hit with myself and my wife! I use it in combination with the Open-Source XMLTV to grab two weeks worth of listings, which get formatted for the Palm and installed at the next HotSync. In the Palm application, you can search on keywords and mark favourite programs. It automatically launches to the listings view at the current time, and it indicates by colour whether a program hasn’t started yet or if it’s in progress; it even indicates if something is a repeat! You can even add TV programs to your Palm Calendar, which is great for those folks who just have to see it live!

Pocket TV Browser ListingPTV SearchPTV Search ResultsPTV Add to Dialog

For those people using Pocket TV Browser and/or XMLTV, you need to know that the free listings formerly provided by labs.zap2it.com has gone away. To fill the void left by their departure, a bunch of people from various Open-Source projects have banded together to create a not-for-profit organization dedicated to providing a low cost listings service for those projects (and users) who depend on the listings service. You can find more information at schedulesdirect.org. XMLTV has been updated to work with the Schedules Direct service, and you can find information on how to configure XMLTV or Pocket TV Browser at the Schedules Direct forums.

My set-up is a little different from most. Usually, you would install the Windows application which would sit in the System Tray and periodically fetch the listings, and then convert them to a Palm ‘.pdb’ file, which is later HotSynced onto the handheld. In my case, I already get the XMLTV listings weekly for our Freevo Home Theatre PC, of which the server runs 24/7, anyway, so why download the same stuff twice?. I don’t get to my Windows desktop nearly so often as I would like, so I installed the Pocket TV Manager application onto my Linux Server using the Wine package, which let’s you run Windows applications natively on Linux. I have it configured to, weekly and automatically, use the existing Freevo listings and covert it to a PDB file, which is then placed in the Palm Desktop Install directory. I can either HotSync it when I have time, or I can access my home directory on the server and copy it onto my Treo over Bluetooth.

You can find Pocket TV Browser at www.doublebit.com/ptvb/, and XMLTV at xmltv.sf.net. For listing information, check out schedulesdirect.org

Originally posted to PalmAddicts here.

Posted in Palm, PalmAddicts, Treo | Leave a Comment »

Why postponing the Foleo makes sense

Posted by Michael Brown on September 7, 2007

I was surprised when I received the e-mail from the Palm Developers Network where Ed Cooligan stated that they were cancelling the Foleo in it’s present incarnation. It’s a tough decision to make for a product so close to market, but in this case, it was the right one to make. My respect for the executive at Palm just went up a notch or two; it’s humbling to say publicly “We goofed”, but it’s impressive to say “we’re gonna fix it”. The $10 million hit is nothing compared to the losses they would’ve faced had the Foleo gone to market. It wasn’t a total waste either; they learned some valuable lessons that can be applied to the next generation Foleo, and even to the handheld and smartphone lines. I think the CONCEPT of the Foleo is sound, it was just the execution of the concept that was FLAWED.

Prior to the introduction of the LifeDrive, Jeff Hawkins was alluding to a Third business unit within Palm. After the LifeDrive came out, we all assumed that the “Mobile Manager” line was the Third BU, but it wasn’t; it was the Foleo. So, the Foleo has been about 3 years or more in the making, which is a long time in the Technology field. In that time we’ve had a lot of changes, both in the Palm ecosystem as well as the computing industry in general. Now’s not the time to bring out the Foleo, and most certainly not THAT Foleo. I wrote a while back about what you (Palm) got right and did wrong on the Foleo, so take that and what other people have said about the Foleo, and do the Foleo II right, but only once you’ve got your business back in order and the customers flocking in.

Palm, thank you for listening, although it’s a shame it had to come to a lot of bloggers ranting about your present course before you paid heed to what we’ve been saying for a while now. Palm users and enthusiasts have stuck with you over the years because the ‘Zen of Palm’ lets us get things done in our active lives. We don’t want you to fail, but you’ve really been letting us down lately, and it’s hurt your credibility and our loyalty. Yesterday’s announcement goes towards building up our trust in you again, but you will need to go further. Here’s what you need to do:

Real support: You’ve fallen into the same rut that most of the industry has with regard to support. You outsource it to the lowest bidder, measure “performance” based on time-on-calls and the too hasty “resolution” of support calls without regard for the most important metric: Is the problem resolved to the satisfaction of the end-user? Get real technical people on the Tech Support lines, and have an established path to escalate matters to 2nd and 3rd level support. Happy customers are repeat customers.

Stop blaming your software bugs on 3rd party developers; log them, and fix them. 3rd party developers help sell YOUR products; never forget that. Get issue tracking happening, and make it available to the developers network so they’re not spinning their wheels over stuff you’re working on.

Wi-Fi,and while you’re at it, Bluetooth 2.0+EDR: Come on, Wi-Fi is essential these days; the iPhone has it, other Cell phones have it, many $200 media players have it, even the new iPod Touch has it. Just DO it! And build-in support for the Bluetooth profiles people want to use, like stereo audio, HID Keyboards, and DUN. And don’t let carriers’ short-sightedness convince you to cripple connectivity features in firmware; in the long run, it’ll hurt you both.

Standardize the platform: There’s new chipsets out there that do CDMA and GSM. The Blackberry Worldphone has it, and so do some consumer-type phones. It may cost more per-chip, but it will reduce the number of models and variants (especially radio boards) you have in your product line, and that will reduce your development time, time-to-market, regulatory approvals, and your support costs. At least do that with your flagship Treo line; use less expensive radios in the Centro line if you have to. Try and modularize your firmware builds, and reduce the number of software variants that are too “carrier specific”; those just add to your support costs, reduce your ability to test thoroughly, and increase the likelihood of problems. 700p MR come to mind right about now? How about the various 650 firmware upgrades? Do you really want a repeat of that? And stop changing API’s between devices! You’re really annoying your 3rd party developers (remember, 3rd party developers help sell YOUR devices; you need them, whereas they need somebody, but not necessarily YOU).

Do Linux already: It overcomes the limitations of the Garnet kernel, and adds many new features and device drivers. Not to mention a lot of available software and developers. If you go the WindRiver route, make sure you have a compatibility layer like PACE, and make sure it WORKS properly! (DataMangler, uh Data Manager patch). If the WindRiver product isn’t going to beat ALP at the Palm OS game, then swallow your pride and license ALP. You didn’t buy back PalmSource in time, so get over it. If Access releases to licensees a better Palm OS for Linux than you do on your own devices, the Palm brand will die. Fast. Just look at their partner page to see your competition, or your allies. Your call.

Enough with the “Evolutionary Upgrades” already! It’s time to get back to revolutionary. The iPod Touch is the LifeDrive done right, sans the 3rd party software availability. The Treo 600 was the last “Revolutionary” device under the Palm brand, but that was Handspring’s designers. The LifeDrive could’ve been one, but you didn’t take it far enough. There was a reason why the Sony Clies were popular, and hardcore techies were salivating over Handera. They were pushing the envelope of handheld computing, while you’ve been playing it “safe”. You’re in a fight for your very survival now, if you haven’t figured it out yet. Time to take some risks; no one has lost a customer by giving them what they ask for or what they want, and we’ve been wanting this stuff for a while now! Meanwhile, the competition’s heating up…

Make the PIM software easily extensible. Allow for stuff like linking between tasks and appointments, contacts, and memos, and do it in the OS. Allow for additional contact fields to be added, or custom fields in the calendar database, and do it right! Don’t cludge something together like undocumented BLobs and DataMangling patches. Think out the feature sets, then implement them properly! ALP seems to have…

So, Palm, Can you hear us now?

Posted in Foleo, Palm, PalmAddicts, Treo | Leave a Comment »

Palm Desktop for Vista: Thar be changes here!

Posted by Michael Brown on September 7, 2007

So, as I wrote in the piece “The Desktop is a Dying breed”, I was in the need of PC mobility, for in my house. Well, last week Tiger Direct had a deal on refurbished Gateway laptops, and the price was too good to pass up. Out came the credit card, and a few days later I had my “new” laptop. Like many new laptops, it’s running Vista Home (Premium), which is a different enough beast from XP that many applications don’t work properly. Vista itself is pretty slow on a laptop “out-of-the-box” unless you tune it up, but that’s something for a different day.

Now that I have the laptop, it’s time to see if it could replace my main machine as my personal productivity device. So, I start installing applications and testing them for compatibility. One of the first to install and test is the New Palm Desktop beta for Windows Vista. The Palm Desktop application looks and feels the same as the old one, so I won’t go into it. There are some major changes to the HotSync Manager and some others under the hood that anyone upgrading to Vista and the Palm Desktop Beta should be aware of.

Firstly, when you right click on the HotSync manager icon in the system tray, you only get two choices, as opposed to the many on the previous versions of PD; Settings, and install. Install launches the Vista compatible install tool, which resembles the original install tool and not the newer QuickInstall. The settings option launches the screen below.

HotSync Manager on Vista

Yup, HotSync has been “Vista-fied”. Looks pretty, and surprisingly, is actually very well laid out and organized. Applications is where you will find your conduits. It works much like the old one, where you can double-click to set-up the conduits. You have to click the Show Details checkbox in order to show how the conduits are configured.

HotSync Applications or Conduits

The HotSync Progress Dialog gives you the option of hiding it during the sync progress, which may make some people very happy.

HotSync progress indicator

The HotSync log is now a part of the HotSync Manager itself, and is displayed in the Summary screen when you hit the link shown at the top of the summary screen. The HotSync log is still created as a HTML file in the root of your Palm Desktop User Directory, and HotSync settings are saved in the sync.ini file in the same location.

HotSync Log

The major changes are where it stores your user data. Palm Desktop veterans know that in the past, Palm has stuck data in C:\Palm and later C:\Program Files\Palm or C:\Program Files\palmOne, in a directory that relates to your HotSync user name. With Vista, that has all changed (finally, and for the better!). Palm Desktop program files are stored in, wait for it… C:\Program Files\Palm but your user data is actually stored where user data is supposed to be stored, in your user directory. This means that backing up your Palm Desktop data is just as easy as backing up the rest of your user files. You can see in the picture below how it’s now organized.

Palm Desktop folders in User directory

Now, here’s the real problem for those that make use of third-party software like Dimex, Dawn, or any other package that accesses Palm Desktop data directly; Palm Desktop for Vista no longer uses .DAT files to store your PIM data in. They’ve made the switch to using Microsoft Access databases (.mdb) to store the data. That’s a mixed blessing; your old software won’t work unless it’s updated to work with the Access databases, but because they’re now Access databases, it means that it’s likely that there will be more third-party plugins available to use the data sometime in the future. Doesn’t help you now, though.

If you’re thinking “hey, I’ve got MS Access, I’ll just open and modify the databases directly”, you might want to hold off on that, or just open it read-only for viewing. Palm is using a BLOB (Binary Large OBject) to store large amounts of data in each of the PIM applications, and to my knowledge, have not released any information about their formats. If you try to modify a record, Access doesn’t know how to handle what’s in the blob, so it may trash your data. Third party developers should encourage Palm to release information on the formats, or create an API (Application Programming Interface) for others to use to access the PIM data (pardon the pun).

So, if you’re thinking of upgrading to Vista, and you rely on Palm Desktop, here are the key points to consider:

  • The Data is now in your user folder: C:\Users\{Win User Name}\Palm OS Desktop\{PD User Name}\
  • Third-Party Plugins may not work; contact the vendor for support information.
  • Documents to Go version 10 is the only one that works with the new Palm Desktop for Vista, so you’ll have to shell out for the upgrade (I did).
  • Other conduits may not work or may need updated versions; contact your vendor or read the FAQ’s on their website.
  • And finally, Vista is Slooooooooow on a laptop; spring for as much RAM as you can afford, and Google for “Vista Laptop performance tweaks”. That will help a lot!
  • Originally posted to PalmAddicts here:

    Posted in Palm, PalmAddicts, Time & Task Management, Treo, Windows | 3 Comments »

    Keeping in Touch with Contacts

    Posted by Michael Brown on August 10, 2007

    Contacts is another of the Core applications on Palm OS devices that is under-appreciated by some folks who use it. It’s not merely an address book, it can be a light form of Customer Relations Manager (CRM) application as well, with only a little bit of work from you.

    Categories are a great way of grouping contacts into larger batches, like clients, prospects, family, services, etc. Using one of the “user fields” as a keyword or tags field is another way of searching through batches of contacts. Simply use the Palm find feature while inside the contacts application to find people that have a certain keyword or tag associated with them. The same tricks could be used to keep track of services; input the details of your favourite restaurants, and then tag the contact with stuff like the nationality of the food, the atmosphere, or other criteria of interest to you.

    You can also use the other user fields for stuff like spouse’s name, children’s names, account numbers or order numbers, or whatever you need. The notes field is a great place for contact history or logging, as it can contain up to 32000 characters; if you need more history than that, you can use an external application like DayNotez, which links to records in the Contacts database. To make it easy to use, and to keep your keywords consistent, think of using an application like ShortCut5 to allow you to enter commonly used terms quickly and painlessly. Consistency is key when tagging information; either use the same abbreviation, or the same phrase, every time to ensure you find everything you’re looking for.

    Originally posted to Palm Addicts here.

    For some good tips on Tagging, check out this post.

    Posted in Palm, PalmAddicts, PIM, Productivity, Technology, Treo | Leave a Comment »

    Treo Battery-saving Tips & Tricks

    Posted by Michael Brown on August 10, 2007

    Find your Treo battery isn’t getting you through the day? Two things can be responsible for that. The first is poor coverage areas; like any cell phone, if the Treo isn’t getting good coverage, it powers up the radio to full in an attempt to reach the nearest cellular tower. If you’re going to be in an area for a while where you don’t get good coverage, you can turn your Treo’s radio off to save battery juice. A “profiles” type program may help schedule/automate this for you if your work or home location has poor coverage. The second is a logic flaw in the Treo’s Date & Time preferences, exasperated by poor coverage areas. If you have “Enable Local Network Time” checked, every time your Treo comes out of an area that had poor coverage and it connects to a cellular tower, it wakes up and resets the date and time. Now, imagine going in-and-out of coverage over the course of the day… it’ll wake up, reset the time, and then after the default poweroff period, it will turn the screen off; Imagine that happening over and over and over again… The quick fix for me was un-checking the “Enable Local Network Time” in Date & Time preferences and setting my location, date, time and time zone manually. Just by doing that, I gained an hour and a half of battery life every day. I use NVBackup, which has the option of setting the time against an Internet time server after the nightly backup, so that’s how I keep my time in sync.

    Originally posted to Palm Addicts here.

    Posted in Palm, PalmAddicts, Technology, Treo | Leave a Comment »

    Memo to Self: take a memo…

    Posted by Michael Brown on July 23, 2007

    The Memo Pad, or Memos on newer Palms, is one of the most underappreciated applications on the Palm OS platform. It’s simplicity is it’s power; it’s the one place where you can put a lot of unstructured information, and then define your own structure and methods for organizing it. At last count, I’ve got over 700 memos on my Treo, and climbing daily. I write blog posts in Memos before posting them, capture quotes and other pieces of reference information, record meeting minutes, and make lists of things to do or buy.

    I use psMemo as my main “front-end” to the Memos database, since it has some nice features like quick search, time and date stamps, and copy/cloning of memos or memo titles. Memoleaf also has some nice features like the keybank (tags), bulk operations like re-categorizing or marking search results private, and templates. daMemoPad gives you pop-up access to your memos from other applications, allowing you to copy and paste between programs. daMemoPad hasn’t been updated for a while, so you need to be aware that it will only access the first 4k on Memos (and not the full 32k on newer devices). Be aware that if you edit a memo that is larger than 4k using daMemoPad, it will truncate (delete) everything after the 4k point.

    All of these programs work with the standard Memos database, keeping all your information in one place, meaning that your conduits will sync all that information to your desktop, where it can be backed up and searched using your desktop’s search tools. Try it, you’d be surprised how handy it can be having so much information at your fingertips, just a global find away!

    Originally posted to PalmAddicts, here.

    Posted in Palm, PalmAddicts, PIM, Productivity, Treo | Leave a Comment »

    E-mail Round-up part 2 – VersaMail vs SnapperMail

    Posted by Michael Brown on July 20, 2007

    Here’s part 2 of the series. You might want to read part 1 to familiarize yourself with VersaMail, as I won’t be repeating it here.

    SnapperMail summary of versions.
    snapperversions.jpg
    SnapperMail has 4 versions: Lite, Standard, Premier and Enterprise. The image above highlights the key differences between the versions (and the bundled helper applications). SnapperMail has a 30 day trial version available which has most of the features of the Enterprise version available. It has pop-up messages when you access features that are not found in the standard version; it’s their way of letting you know it’s going to cost you to do that function. So, the more pop-up messages you hit, the more it’s going to cost you if you decide Snapper fits your needs. Two things to be aware of with the “Lite” version: it doesn’t support “Rich text” (HTML mail), and it doesn’t support folders. The Standard version seems to be the closer to VersaMail’s feature set than the Lite version.

    Now, notice that I said “most” Enterprise features; I found Snapper to have one of the most irritating trials of any software package I have ever used. The whole point to a trial program is that you get to try it – all of it; otherwise, why bother? When you run Snapper for the first time, it creates a default POP account, and a default IMAP account with one subfolder; that’s a nice touch for creating a default set-up for the new user. You can edit what’s provided to set it up for your service provider, but you cannot create new accounts or additional subfolders. So it really doesn’t give you the chance to really try the program using your “normal” set-up. I would’ve liked to try it with multiple sub-folders, and moved mail between them using my existing structure and workflow, but I couldn’t. Had I not been writing this review, I would’ve deleted Snapper off my Treo just because of it’s limited trial. Think about it this way; if you have something that works and comes with your device (VersaMail), and you’re trying something else (like Snapper) to see if it’s worth paying for to get some added functionality or usability, but you couldn’t really use it the way you were using the free one, would you buy it? Here are screen shots of some of the “nag dialogs” I ran into during my trial.

    nag-accounts.jpg nag-folders.jpg
    nag-junk.jpg nag-storage.jpg

    Obviously, many people did buy SnapperMail, including Jeff Hawkins (the creator of the original “Palm Pilot” and the Handspring Treo). Jeff said in an interview that he uses VersaMail for work e-mail, and Snapper for personal mail. Snapper has a very active Mailing list on Yahoo groups, and the staff (especially Michael M. Rye) are very active participants on it, and do provide good support for their users. If the Snapperfish folks dropped the damn limitations on the trial, they’d likely sell more copies, as people would find more features they can’t live without. But enough of my rant on limited trials…

    Snapper has a really attractive user interface; simple, clean and easy to use. There are two modes of operation, finger mode and stylus mode. Stylus mode gives you the most “stuff” on one screen by using columns for different attributes, and 1 line (row) per email. Sorting emails is done in the stylus view by tapping on the column headers; tapping toggles between ascending and descending order. The sort order set in stylus mode is used in finger mode as well. Finger mode makes each email occupy two line, making it a bigger target for “finger-tapper’s”. The same functionality is available in the drop down list in either mode, or you can use one-button hot keys like ChatterEmail or the Blackberry e-mail client.

    Finger Mode Stylus Mode
    snapper-fingermode.jpg snapper-stylus-mode.jpg

    POP mail retrieval is increadibly slow compared to VersaMail. I grab it on-demand, and not at scheduled intervals due to my particular set-up and preferences. IMAP mail is quite speedy in comparison, and ran on-par with VersaMail’s IMAP access.

    I opened SnapperMail one morning, to find a database error. Tried launching it again, same problem. Ok… So I exited to launcher, then soft reset the Treo, and opened SnapperMail again to find… I had lost all mail. I had to then retrieve it all from the server. This is a good reason to leave POP mail on the server (or use an IMAP server). Now, in all fairness, I can’t say that Snapper is the only software to have ever done this to me… VersaMail 3.1 has done it to me twice since I stopped using Snapper, and VersaMail loses everything including your account setup information when it bombs. But, considering I was storing the E-mail on the SD card, I would expect that something like that shouldn’t happen with Snapper, which only stores the indexes in RAM, and not the actual mail like VersaMail. It should recover more gracefully than it did.

    Snapper’s about screen The message view
    snapper-about.jpg snapper-message-view.jpg

    Overall, I found Snapper to be nice to use, but it wasn’t enough to convince me to want to buy it. It doesn’t have push e-mail (not that I want or need push), so that wouldn’t compel me to buy it. It has one button functions, but is that worth $60 to me? Same with Junk mail controls (which I couldn’t test due to trial limitations); it’s nice to have, but is it worth the cost? If Snapper had come bundled with the Treo, I would happily use it and not feel the need to look for another e-mail client. But, it didn’t, and I don’t feel that it offers any “must-have” features over VersaMail that justify me buying the Enterprise edition I would need for IMAP. It might be different if I only used POP accounts; then I could buy one of the less expensive versions, which would make Snapper more attractive. Since Snapper is priced is US dollars, I always have to consider that the price is going to be more expensive when converted to Canadian currency. Other than the limited trial, I can’t really complain about Snapper; it works well, it’s powerful and easy to use, and it does the job.

    Now, for anyone who will say I haven’t covered some of the special features of Snapper or Chatter like filters and Junk controls, it’s because I don’t use filters on mobile devices – not even in VersaMail. I do all my filtering with server-side rules; e-mail that doesn’t belong on my Treo will never get sent over-the-air. Stuff that shouldn’t be on my Treo gets filtered into folders, and I can pull it manually when I want it by syncing the IMAP folder, or by reviewing it on my desktop mail client.

    Overall, I found Snapper to be an excellent mail client for the Treo, but I didn’t find it to be miles ahead of the VersaMail client that ships with the Treo. Users of newer Treo’s like the 680, 700p and 755p already benefit from a more stable version of VersaMail than what shipped with the 650. 650 users can get an update to VersaMail 3.5 and Exchange ActiveSync for $11 CDN. Given that ChatterEmail has been bought by Palm, and it’s author is presumably working on adding some of Chatter’s features to future versions of VersaMail, the Snapperfish folks may be facing a tough battle going forward if they maintain their present pricepoints.

    Posted in E-mail, Palm, Reviews, Technology, Treo | Leave a Comment »

    Watch Treo Videos and Pictures on your TV

    Posted by Michael Brown on July 20, 2007

    As I wrote about in the post “Treo, collector of memories”, the Treo is a great device for capturing “stuff that happens”, like funny pictures, video clips, and sound files. The only difficult thing about sharing those memorable moments with a group is the small size of the Treo screen. Sure, it’s great for showing stuff to one or two other people, but if you have a few people (like a family get-together), it doesn’t work out so well. A laptop screen is a bit better, but not by much. It’s in this kind of situation where being able to show it on a TV would be the best. And that’s what we do in our house.

    As I’ve mentioned before, we use a Home Theatre PC in our Family Room, running Freevo. It has options to View pictures, and Watch Movies. Now, there are an infinite number of ways to have your pictures and videos appear via Freevo: you could copy them onto your Freevo HTPC’s hard disk, it could mount a Windows shared drive or NFS share, it could mount a Network Attached Storage (NAS) device, and so on… which is beyond the scope of today’s post. The important thing is they get placed somewhere where the Freevo HTPC can find them in a directory or directories. You can do that by HotSyncing your Treo and copying the pictures and Videos from your user folder to the Freevo share, or by copying them from the /DCIM folder on your SD card to the Freevo Share.

    Pictures are the easy part. Freevo works “out-of-the-box” with the JPEG pictures that a Treo takes. Just see
    http://freevo.sourceforge.net/cgi-bin/doc/ImageConfig for information on how to configure the Image plugin to find your picture directories, and to set the options for viewing the Pictures (stuff like transitions, slideshow options, etc)

    http://freevo.sourceforge.net/cgi-bin/doc/MovieConfig details how to set-up the Movie plugin. I had to modify things a tiny little bit to get Freevo to play the Treo videos.

    First, you set the Video items to the directory (or directories) you’re storing the videos in. You can have multiple directories, which will show up as many different menu options. Subdirectories can be browsed within the Movie browser, so don’t worry about having to list everythin in VIDEO_ITEMS.

    VIDEO_ITEMS = [ ('Movies', '/files/movies'),
    ('Family Movies', '/mnt/FamilyMovies') ]

    Next, you will need to add the suffix or extension ‘3g2’ to the list of playable extensions, as shown below. 3g2 is the extension that the Treo Camera application uses when it stores Treo videos on the SD card.

    VIDEO_MPLAYER_SUFFIX = [ 'avi', 'mpg', 'mpeg', 'wmv', 'bin', 'rm',
    'divx', 'ogm', 'vob', 'asf', 'm2v', 'm2p',
    'mp4', 'viv', 'nuv', 'mov', 'iso',
    'nsv', 'mkv', '3g2' ]

    Once that’s done, you just need to start (or restart) Freevo, choose to view a picture or video, and you and your loved ones can share some memories together.

    Posted in Freevo, HTPC, Palm, Technology, Treo | Tagged: , , , , | Leave a Comment »

    Treo, collector of Memories

    Posted by Michael Brown on July 18, 2007

    Since buying my first Treo, the 600, and my current 650, I’ve been using the Treo as a collector of memories. Since my Treo is with me all the time, and is quick to start up, it’s the perfect capture tool for those “things that happen”. Important things get noted in DayNotez for posterity. Having two young kids, “memorable moments” happen regularly, and the Treo helps capture them. The Treo’s camera gets some pretty memorable pictures, and some pretty funny videos, when otherwise they would’ve been missed. I’ve used mVoice to record first words or funny things that the kids will say. All of them get backed up onto our fileserver, and we can share the experiences together using our Home Theatre PC, Freevo. I also use the media application on the Treo as my “Brag Book”, where I can show these memorable moments to friends and family, no matter where I am.

    Originally posted to PalmAddicts, here.

    Posted in Palm, PalmAddicts, Treo | Leave a Comment »