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 ‘PalmAddicts’ Category

Interesting times ahead

Posted by Michael Brown on February 14, 2008

There’s an old Chinese proverb (or curse, depending on your point of view); may you live in interesting times. Well, there’s interesting times ahead in the mobile sector, based on the press releases coming out of Barcelona this past week. It’s made for interesting reading while I’ve been getting over the flu.

Access (formerly Palmsource and makers of ALP or Palm OS on Linux) had a tonne of announcements. Every one of those were significant, and really showed how badly Palm has mis-managed things since the Palm/PalmSource split. The first significant announcement was that Access and MontaVista (another big mobile Linux OS vendor) are combining software stacks. That means Palm OS compatibility on many Mobilinux platforms (and not just cell phones). So, you could see “appliances” like GPS units or media players running Palm OS applications in the near future. This gives Access a much wider application and manufacturer base; for example, Motorola uses MontaVista Linux in it’s smartphone products.

Right after that announcement came one about Wind River (another major Linux OS vendor) and Access providing an integrated solution featuring ALP. So, basically it means that the other major Linux handset OS vendor is also now PalmOS-compatible. So, we now have two major suppliers of Linux for handsets and embedded devices, both with established manufacturing client bases, running a PalmOS-compatible environment that any hardware manufacturer can load onto their handsets. Palm Inc., you sweating yet? If not, you will be in a minute.

Access also announced the availability of their ALP software development kit, or SDK, and the launch of their developer website. So, all the software, tools and support to write applications on a next-generation Palm-compatible Linux OS are available to third-party software developers. Palm Inc. still hasn’t finished their next-gen OS, much less have the tools in place for other developers to write value-added software.

For a change of pace, here’s another significant announcement that doesn’t involve Access (directly). Dataviz announced that Documents to Go is coming to MontaVista Linux. So, that means the Office document software for mobiles that has been a mainstay of Palm Handhelds is now available for Linux-based Handsets running Mobilinux. That’ll be a native Linux-based version, one that can take full advantage of the hardware and OS features (rather than running Palm DocsToGo in ALP’s PalmOS emulation environment, which is also a possibility). This means any Mobilinux licensee gets a real, native, Office-compatible office suite AND Palm OS compatibility through ALP. Sweating buckets yet, Palm?

The real Pièce de résistance is that you can have yourself a brand new, next-generation PalmOS-compatible, Linux-powered handset in June if you’re on Orange in Europe; but it won’t be made by Palm. The Samsung i800 is expected to be shipping in June, and will be running Access’s ALP platform. And that’s just Samsung; Panasonic and Motorola also license MontaVista Linux (and thus ALP). We could have a plethora of new, next-generation Palm-OS compatible handsets on the market before year’s end… and before Palm Inc. ships it’s first next-gen smartphone. Hey, Palm! That smartphone better be the best thing to hit mobile computing since the original Treo; you’re not going to get a second chance. These are definitely interesting times right now; a blessing for some, a curse to others, and only time will tell which it will be for Palm Inc.

Posted in Palm, PalmAddicts, Technology, Treo | 4 Comments »

A smartphone should be an essential part of every sound tech’s kit.

Posted by Michael Brown on February 10, 2008

Console

I’ve been doing sound both as a hobby and professionally/semi-professionally for almost 20 years now. There’s been a lot of changes to the business and to how I’ve operated over the years, and much of my changes have included Palm OS handhelds and smartphones.

Much of my work has been as a Sound Designer and Front-of-House mixer for musical theatre productions. There’s always a lot of paperwork, with Mic input lists, FX and board patch sheets, Intercom patch and distribution, and cue sheets galore! DocsToGo spreadsheets and documents cover all those bases nicely, and allow me to make changes on the fly at rehearsals while juggling my script book & score and sitting shoulder-to-shoulder with the other members of the production team in the busy rehearsal hall. A laptop just wouldn’t fit in that kind of situation, since you don’t really have a table to put stuff on; you’re sitting on a folding chair in a row with a dozen other people, with your binder perched precariously in your lap. Datebk6 and it’s template and copy appointment functions allow me to schedule rehearsals and production meetings for the next few months with just a few taps. The built-in contacts and phone mean that production team members are just a few taps away when any details need to be settled, and the rental shop can be on speed dial for when you need to get a hold of them. The speakerphone or a Bluetooth headset come in particularly handy when you’re up to your armpits in gear and cables, troubleshooting.

The media features always come in useful; I can take sound effects in on a memory card and audition them for the director at rehearsals or production meetings. I can also record stuff I might need to use or refer to later. There are also a plethora of musician & sound oriented tools, like metronomes, tuners, even a Spectrum Analyzer! Combine all that with portability and ease of use, it’s easy to see why a smartphone should be on every sound techs belt, right next to your Leatherman.

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

So, how do you know if that remote is working?

Posted by Michael Brown on February 10, 2008

Remote Control on Camera

Pretty much every electronic gadget has a remote control these days. The fancier ones have a status light or backlit keyboard, so you know if the batteries are still working. But what about the remotes that don’t have the fancy features? Here’s where your Treo or camera equipped handheld or mobile comes in…

IR Monitor

Fire up the camera app on your device, and point the remote at the camera. Start pressing buttons on the remote. You should see a bright (or dim) pulsing light depending on the strength of the batteries. You can also use this trick to test individual buttons on remotes that have suffered accidental drops or beverage spills (or toddlers/pets chewing on them).

If you need to get fancier in your reception of IR signals, you can use a Palm application called IR monitor on any IR enabled Palm device. It let’s you observe the actual IR modulation, so you can really see what’s going on with your remotes. And don’t forget, you can always use your handheld or Treo as a remote, using software such as Novii Remote.

Posted in DIY, PalmAddicts, Technology | Leave a Comment »

Following through on your New Year’s resolutions.

Posted by Michael Brown on January 4, 2008

Times Square BallNow’s about the time people start thinking about their resolutions and how they’re going to achieve them. Your Palm Handheld or Treo/Centro smartphone can be a helpful companion in helping you achieve your goals for the New Year. Here’s how:

First, you need to commit to writing your resolutions down. Saying them is fine, but there’s more commitment when it’s in black & white (or colour) and staring you in the face. In David Allen’s “Getting Things Done”, David insists people keep a Projects List, which is a list of what you presently have on your plate. Resolutions or goals are projects too, so they should go on that list. Create a Memo category called Projects, then create a new memo titled !Projects List. The ! before Projects will ensure that your list of active projects will be at the top of your list of project memos, which you will create later.

Next, write down your goals or resolutions on your !Projects List. Take your time writing them down, since you want to write them in a way that will help you succeed. Goals like “get fit”, “lose weight” or “clean up my office” are too vague, and are guaranteed to fail. Goals should be specific, and allow you at answer them every week with a Yes or No as to whether or not you have achieved them. So, a better goal would be “Lose 20 pounds and increase my energy level so I can easily exercise 4 times a week”. The office example could be better put as “Make my office an area where I can be productive and enjoy my work”. We’ll see why we phrase them that way shortly. It’s also a good time to list all your other work and personal projects onto your !Projects List, which becomes a dashboard for what you’re presently dealing with.

Now that you have all of of your goals, resolutions and projects listed on your master project list, it’s time to create a “workspace” for each of the “projects” you listed. Create a new memo, and title it the same as what you listed on your !Projects List (you can copy and paste if that helps speed things up). This memo is the place where you put next actions or steps to take to achieve your end, brainstorming and any other reference material.

As you think of things that relate to you projects, put them into your project memos if you have time; otherwise, find some means to capture it; you could use an application like Slap or Snap, an unfiled memo or task, a voice recorder, or any other means to capture the information for later processing and action. I use a combination of unfiled memos and voice recordings on my Treo for my capture “in-boxes”.

The second step is to make a weekly appointment with yourself to review and plan for achieving your goals. Find a time that works for you, one where there is no distractions for about 30 minutes to an hour. Put an appointment in your calendar for that time, and make it a weekly repeating appointment. Treat it like a meeting with the president of your company; in other words, nothing else should take priority.

The weekly review is the time you go through your projects, read the title to yourself and ask yourself, “Is that statement true?”. If it is, your project is done and can be archived. More than likely, though, you’ll answer no, so the next question becomes “Why not?”. This will lead you to brainstorming and creating next actions. Write them into your project memo. If they are actionable, copy and paste them into Palm Tasks. This is where a DA Launcher and a DA like ToDoDA come in handy. You can pop-up ToDoDA over top of the Memo App, paste your task in, and send it to the tasks Database, and then go back to where you were in your project memo. You may also need to schedule time to work on your goals, so make appointments with yourself in your Calendar and keep them as sacred as if you were meeting an important client.

While you are trying to accomplish your resolutions and goals, don’t bite off more than you can chew at one time. When creating new habits, it’s best to focus on one at a time, and keep at it for a month. Next month you can keep at the first, and add another habit you wish to tackle. Most people get enthusiastic at the beginning of the new year, and try to become a whole new person over-night, only to get overwhelmed and frustrated and return to their old habits in short order. If your projects list is getting overwhelming, choose what is most important to you, and leave those in your Projects Category in the Memo application. Create another category called Someday/Maybe, and file all the others you have chosen not to pursue in that category. At the end of your Weekly reviews, look over the list of items in the Someday/Maybe category, and decide if you want to work on them now, in which case you move it to the Projects category.

DayNotez and Don’t break the ChainTo track your progress, you should consider using Jerry Seinfeld’s “Don’t break the chain” approach. I while back I detailed how to use DayNotez 3 to implement that approach, but you could do the same thing in the Palm Calendar using a Category like Goals or Habits, and assigning it a colour for the Month view. DayNotez 3 has has more features which make it easier to use Seinfeld’s approach for a multitude of habit development, where the Palm calendar is a bit more limiting (but otherwise free!). The first is “tags”; tags can be keywords, habits to develop, or indicators. They can be global, or specific to a single category, and they can include an icon. You can use multiple tags for each entry you make in DayNotez. Categories are a means of viewing a subset of your entries, or for grouping related things together, and they can also have an icon. The second new feature of DayNotez is a monthy view which can be set in the “Preferences -> Calendar” tab to show Tag/Category icons, allowing you to see if you have broken the chain or not. Those two new features will allow you to use Sienfeld’s approach to create (or break) habits. You may be able to use the same techniques with an advanced calendar application like DateBk6 or Agendus, if you already own one of those.

The important thing to remember is that goals/habits/resoutions are more important than the tools. Don’t run out and buy any software that I or others recommend solely because we’re recommending it. No software is going to change your life for you. Start with the built-in applications first (or ones you may already own), and get started with those. Give it a go for a month, then start a new project (if necessary) titled “Am I productive with the tools I have?”. If the answer is No, then you’ll have to ask yourself “why not?”. Clearly identify what’s not working for you, keeping in mind that no application is going to be perfect or do things for you. Look for tools that address those difficulties and fit your lifestyle. Try freeware applications and trial software, and give them a try for a month before you make any changes to your routines or commit to buying something. The siren song of the perfect application or combination of applications can lure you down the wrong path, away from your goals. Keep focused on what you want to achieve, and make sure the tools you choose help you get to your goals. Best Wishes for a Happy, Healthy and Productive 2008!

Posted in Habits, Palm, PalmAddicts, Productivity, Time & Task Management | Tagged: , , | Leave a Comment »

Is there a virtual Palm in your Future?

Posted by Michael Brown on January 2, 2008


First there was virtual pets, now there is virtual Palms. With the recent release of the Garnet Virtual Machine for the Nokia Internet tablets, it now joins StyleTap as another contender for virtualizing your Palm device on different portable hardware. The real benefit of the Palm OS platform has always been the abundance of third-party applications which can personalize your handheld for your lifestyle. Many people get hooked on a particular application, which may not have a counterpart on another platform, and that confines them to staying on the same platform. Virtualization technologies like StyleTap and the Garnet VM allow you to run your favourite applications on a different hardware/OS platform, which means you can choose new hardware which has the features you want, while still being able to run your favourite applications. For those people who tire of dealing with the limitations of the existing Palm OS or hardware, you now have the freedom to choose something more to your liking.

As for the timing of this release, it’s definately a shot across Palm’s bow, and will hurt Palm’s handheld sales to some degree this holiday season. Nokia has recently released it’s N810 Internet Tablet, and the N800’s are still selling strong, priced around $260 CDN, compared to the Palm Tungsten TX priced around $280 CDN. So, for $20 less, you get 2 memory slots, a webcam, stereo speakers and headphones, and a 800×480 screen, along with Wi-Fi and Bluetooth and a Linux-based OS. Up till now, the Internet tablet was really only lacking a viable PIM suite; with the release of the Garnet VM, you can now have all your old favourites for free, and HotSync too! It also benefits Access in promoting it’s ALP product to potential clients, and by building in feedback tools to the Garnet VM, they can benefit from the “testing” by a large userbase.

So, Palm, I’ll say it again; it’s time to swallow your pride and look long and hard at licensing ALP, since your home-grown OS won’t be out ’till late 2008, or the next virtual Palm we see may be a virtual Palm Inc., as seen in the Wayback Machine.

Originally posted to Palm Addicts here.

Posted in Linux, Open Source Software, Palm, PalmAddicts, Technology | Tagged: , , | 1 Comment »

Get Multi-tasking with your Palm

Posted by Michael Brown on January 2, 2008

Detractors of the Palm platform have long complained about the lack of multi-tasking in the OS. Palm hasn’t done it in the past because the Palm has been designed to do what it’s doing well, without being bogged down by other things running in the background (unlike Windows Mobile). Creative Palm OS programmers have created something called Desk Accessories or DA’s, which pop-up over your currently running application, giving you some of the benefits of multi-tasking on your existing device. DA’s were usually written as little single-purpose programs, but a brillant programmer named Alexander Pruss has upped the ante for DA’s. He’s created “the Accessorizer”, allowing you to generate a DA from most programs. This gives you the ability to pop-up one of the other built-ins (for example, Memos) over top of say VersaMail, allowing you to copy from one application into another. Then you simply hit the Launcher button (the house icon) to return to the previous application.

You can only pop-up one DA at a time, then you have to return to the previous (normal) application. Trying to pop-up one one DA over another DA will crash and reset your Palm device. Alexander recommends backing up to a memory card before generating DA’s; Accessorizer is Beta software, meaning it is under active development and is not necessarily stable. So, there are no guarantees that it won’t eat your Palm, your cat, or your spouse. However, in my preliminary testing, I’ve found that it does what it advertises, and very well at that! I’ve replaced daMemoPad and it’s 4K limit with a DA of psMemo, so I get the full 32K of Memos in a pop-up fashion. Accessorizer can be found at 1src.com here.

Originally posted to Palm Addicts here.

Posted in Palm, PalmAddicts, Productivity | Tagged: , , | Leave a Comment »

Time to Reboot my life

Posted by Michael Brown on October 20, 2007

Six loooong months of losing sleep to a teething toddler has taken it’s toll on me. The human body – or at least my body – isn’t meant to run on 2-5 hours a sleep a night, or waking up every 1-2 hours, for long periods of time. I’m tired, run down, and have lacked energy for a while now, which has resulted in overflowing personal in-boxes and a general dissatisfaction with where my life is presently standing. Now that the little one is starting to sleep through the night again, my batteries are starting to recharge and I figure it’s about time I rebooted my life.

Rebooting a long-running computer has the benefit of clearing out memory, getting rid of errant and “zombie” processes, and starting up fresh and clean. So, I’m going to do the same thing for my life. Clear out my head with a GTD mind dump, get rid of bad habits that have developed over the last few months, and focus on developing better and healthier habits. So, basically, a regrouping and “fresh start”, and a chance to clean up some things I’m not happy with right now. And my Treo will play a major part in that effort.

I capture a lot of incoming “stuff” into Memos and Voice recordings, both of which need to be processed. Some of those will get converted into Tasks or appointments, while others are filed away in Memos for reference or as project support. DayNotez will play a major role in breaking old habits and forming new ones, by using Jerry Seinfelds’s Don’t break the chain approach.

DayNotez and Don’t break the ChainDayNotez 3 has some nice new features that make it easy to use Seinfeld’s approach for a multitude of habit development, as well as being an excellent journal and “right hand page”. The first is “tags”; tags can be keywords, habits to develop, or indicators. They can be global, or specific to a single category, and they can include an icon. You can use multiple tags for each entry you make in DayNotez. Categories are a means of viewing a subset of your entries, or for grouping related things together, and they can also have an icon. The second new feature of DayNotez is a monthy view which can be set in the “Preferences -> Calendar” tab to show Tag/Category icons, allowing you to see if you have broken the chain or not. Those two new features will allow you to use Sienfeld’s approach to create (or break) habits.

DayNotez TagsSo, you could create a category of Exercise and give it an icon, and tags (with no icons) for types of exercises. This way, every time you make an entry in the Exercise category, you can see every day that you exercised, and thus, did not break the chain. You could do the same with personal development; create a category for it with an icon, and tags for things you want to develop. If you give a tag an icon, and then tag an entry with it, that day will show the tag’s icon, and not the category’s; basically, tag icons will override category icons.

Templates can make the whole process smooth and consistant. You can pre-fill template text, tags, links to a person, duration, and follow-up status to ensure everything you need is captured. When you create a new entry, you can select a template and simply fill in the the extras. You can even add a photo or take a voice recording and make them part of the entry.
DayNotez Details

You can also use DayNotez to chart energy levels or moods (or even the weather) by creating tags, and giving them icons. The Month view can then show you trends. DayNotez 3 also has filters that allow you to “slice and dice” your entries as needed, so you can see the information or trends that can help you refocus your efforts or gain insight into your daily life.

A Palm device paired with DayNotez 3 makes for an effective means of tracking your progress towards goals using the “Don’t break the chain” method, and you don’t lose any wallspace in the process! Because DayNotez works with the built-in PIM databases and hardware features, you can use other tools like DateBk6, PSLink, MemoLeaf, or anything else you like to help you accomplish your tasks and manage your commitments. Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’m heading off to reboot.

Originally posted to PalmAddicts here.

Posted in Habits, Palm, PalmAddicts, Productivity, Time & Task Management, Treo | 1 Comment »

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.

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?

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