Palm Qool….odd device but very likeable

You probably saw the brief video review that Shaun did at pda24/7 a week or so ago of this 2004 vintage device and like me thought it looked a bit odd. I bought it from Shaun as it was a device I really wanted to buy at the time but could certainly not have afforded or justified the rather high price. The obvious thing is to compare it to the Treo 600/650 which were out at the same time and if memory serves me correctly, would have been the only other palm smartphone competition at that time…or any time really.

Some things strike me as being obvious, the Qool has a 1.3 megapixel camera which Palm has only recently managed to equal and has no qwerty keypad. Form factor wise, the flip style is nice and it has a very pleasnat almost rubbery matt black back, this makes it feel quite good in the hand and expensive. It also has something that I'd forgotten about which was not an attractive or sensible feature in older phones….the battery is like stuck to the back cover so if it packs up not only do you need a new battery, you also need a new back cover. The flip cover is activated by a nicely weighted button press on the top right of the cover which raises the lid in a precise manner and is indicative of the excellent build quality and quality feel.

The whole thing feels substantial without being too weighty and it's not that much bigger or heavier than a Treo 600 or 650. You get the impression it was marketed as a premium product, it certainly had a premium price which killed it almost from day one. There is a choice of palm launcher, Qool's own one which has an almost Today-like page as an option or the trad palm one. The screen is not as clear as that on todays's Centro's and looks lightly pixelly (240×320) but that would have been the norm back then. It does however cause problems with newer versions of palm software apps which are formulated for newer and better resolutions.

There are things you take for granted now and have almost forgotten about…such as low memory capacity of older palm devices. There is only about 12mb free on this one…yikes but it seems quite zippy. As mentioned before you have to compare it to a 2004 vintage Treo and overall I would say it has some features that are better than Treo and some that are not quite so good…no qwerty keypad being an obvious shortcoming for some. It was odd having to use graffiti and the small on-screen keyboard again. Nonetheless, the bigger screen is quite nice, if only it was as clear and crisp as that on the Centro. The little pointy jog thing in the centre is useable but not as nice to use as the classic treo d-pad, in my view.

Another unpleasant throwback is the odd proprietary charge and sync thing. The charger has a huge long cable and has that old palm thing whereby it sort of splits in two at the end and you then have two plug things, one for charging and one for syncing…yuk. I don't miss that arrangement on any device.

Here's a review from Brighthand from 2005 which sums it up very nicely.

Posted in palm. 2 Comments »

Who has pinched the zen of Palm?

Isn't it odd that people still talk about the zen of Palm as if it were something they had just brought out a year or two ago? Rather, I can remember it from years back when the o/s was way out in front and you could genuinely say that Palm knew what they were doing. Sure, the o/s has not been revamped for goodness knows how long but it is still simple and easy to use it's just that the hardware specs are very much firmly rooted back in early 2000's. What a bummer. Using the Treo Pro has the unfortunate side effect of reminding you where Palm should be in terms of palm o/s devices, if this were such a treo it would be wonderful.

So, if you are still using the palm o/s but wish to make the jump to a better specced device to take advantage of all those modern goodies such as 3g and wifi, what other platform should you be looking at? None, you should of course just be a bit more patient and wait for Nova but that would spoil the point of this post.

What about Blackberry? I remember saying when I had the Curve over a year ago that the style and interface of RIM reminded me of the palm o/s as it looked a bit lacking in eye candy but was simple and easy to use. The Bold looks to have taken it up a notch or two since then graphically but the underlying ease of use is still there no doubt. If only the bold wasn't so darn wide and so expensive unlocked then it would be a definite contender.

Windows Mobile? Yeah right. This is the anti-Palm o/s, the very anthesis of all that is nice and easy about it. Super powerful and customisable and super-hard to both get to grips with and ultimately like. This is probably the o/s that I want to like most as the 3rd party apps are superb and the wide choice of devices hugely appealing but it remains a hard beast to like with multitudes of menus tucked away hindering its ease of set up and use for the more casual smartphone person. It's still a missed opportunity and the downside of having that super-power is the very obvious clunkiness of having a desktop o/s stuffed into a device a tenth of its size. My Treo Pro is already doing my head in and is on the verge of being consigned to ebay already.

Win Mob is for people who need all that power stuff and don't mind the ease of use trade off, they have made a pact with the Devil when using it…..give me eternal life and power and I accept the fact it is a turd to use. It shocks me that folk rave about the Treo Pro, lots of things about it make me think…this is NOT a palm device, it may have one or two nice touches from Palm but the rest feels distinctly un-Palm like.

Symbian? Hmmmmm…not sure about this one either, too menu driven for my liking. I think the symbian boffins could really improve this one but seem to care not a jot about making it easier to use or improving the interface, without a touchscreen to make moving around easier it remains zen-less. Loads of power things going on there but in a fairly random, vaguely incomprehensible sort of manner to the newbie. All my previous Nokia phones have been flogged off fairly quickly as I found them too hard to use…too many key presses throughout the menus. Symbian surprises and disappoints me as I expect more from it but ultimately feel a bit short changed…I always end up thinking…this should be like Palm but isn't but it would not take much for it to be so….devices that are so menu driven desperately need touchscreens.

Google Androdd? No idea as I haven't used one yet but I think with these guys background it should be up there. Google appear to have an ease of use mantra thing going on and you would hope this will be reflected via Andriod. It just needs desktop syncing and some good 3rd party support to be a viable contender. It appeals to me, probably mainly because it's not win mob. The videos I have seen on youtube of it in action make it look like a very promising o/s. I'd love to have a proper play with the device itself.

Last but not least, the iPhone. I hate to be predictable here but I think there is a lot of the palm ethos built in. The vast majority of the applications are basic-ish but do the job and are easy to get to grips with quickly. The menu system is simple too and you find things where you expect them to be. It's easy to get from point A to point B as it is with the palm o/s. I think this is the reason why a lot of palm deserters have embraced this device. It certainly seems the most palm-like to this user. No, it does not have the "power" of windows mobile but for less power-user orientated people that is a bonus, not a hindrance. I'd love to have a weeks try of the Blackberry Bold as I suspect it is a similar beast. 

After nearly a week of solid Treo Pro use I finally fired back up the iPhone and Centro and the difference was instant and hugely pleasurable, no more spinning beach balls, no more 6 deep menus, no more silly whopping big top and bottom menu bars (it is a reflection on win mob that these are sadly still needed) and instead a couple of zippy devices with that warm glow of familiarity of old apps and knowing that nothing can go wrong that cannot be fixed, even by a relatively un-tech savy user like me.

Styletap on the Treo Pro

StyleTap has breathed some fresh life into my Treo Pro since I installed it at the end of last week. The 320×320 screen is of course ideal for displaying palm applications, they look a heck of a lot better than they did when I tried it on the 750, much less blocky and clearer. Oddly enough, looking through my palm apps I couldn't really muster up much enthusiasm for transferring most of them as the win mob equivalents are generally at least the equal of the vast majority of them. I did however port two of my favourites, SnapperMail and TMP calendar applications. The former might seem a bit strange bearing in mind that most would say that win mob has a better email client but I find it slow compared to Snapper. You have to see how quick Snapper is on wifi and it makes me pine even more for a wifi enabled palm treo.

I have always liked TMP by lilredspider as it has a lovely clean interface and you can add in untimed events as tasks into the calendar view. It looks pretty decent too on the Pro.

A couple of things need to be said about StyleTap. You can now assign apps to the hard buttons so for example, I have assigned Snapper to the "email" hard button and TMP to the "calendar" button. This avoids having to open the apps via the Styletap launcher and is obviously much quicker. However some of the palm functionality of apps is lost. For example, on a Treo 680 pressing the hard key automatically downloads email in Snapper but does not work here. In general then don't expect them to work in exactly the same way as they do on a palm o/s. In addition, the useful "card backup" feature available on palm versions does not seem to work either.

I have gone back to using GooSync for my calendar work in order to reduce my reliance on Outlook syncing as I don't want to have private entries showing up on my work PC calendar. Unfortunately, for some reason the Google calendar entries are not showing up in TMP but do show up in the native win mob calendar app. There must be some sort of sandboxing thing going on whereby styletap apps do not get access to some parts of the o/s. If anyone knows a way around this please let me know. 

I also downloaded Phone Technician by Hobbysist software as it is a great palm app for controlling phone stuff on a treo. I was hoping the "phone on/off" at set times settings would work but it does not, not so far anyway. I wish I could find an equivalent win mob to cover this useful function as I like to not have to turn on/off the radio connection but instead have it done automatically.

Overall then the Styletap application is a lot more useable on devices with the 320×320 screen set up and is now worth recommending if you are a die-hard palm user who wishes to make the break to windows mobile. There are still a few minor drawbacks, as mentioned above, but these are fewer than they were a year ago and it's great to have some of your favourite palm apps functioning well on a different platform. However, you really need to try out the demo first and make sure that your favourite palm apps retain a useful and necessary degree of functionality in the styletap environment.

Greedy developers

Read this post from xbox360 fanboy website and see what you think. This guy laments that the second hand gaming market impacts on sales of new games…no way, really? Instead of bleating about it perhaps the developers should reduce the price of their games so that they are more affordable, that would help things for starters.

He then goes on to infer that developers should also get a slice of the income pie from the 2nd hand games market. Can you believe that? Let me put it this way. I own a VW car and when I sell it to either the garage as a trade-in or to a private buyer I wouldn't expect, and neither would the law, that I would have to pass a slice of that sale price back to VW. They already made their profit on day one.

What a cheek these people have. They seem to think that after you have paid your hard earned dosh for a game they still have some sort of right of ownership to it and would then try and dictate what you can and cannot do with your property. Well, luckily the law thinks different chaps at the moment.

iBlogger for iPhone

image906796528.jpgThis supports a wide range of blogging services including Typepad which I use. It costs £5.99 and obviously has to be good/a heck of a lot better than the free Typepad iphone application to justify that expense.
Entering text is easier than the Typepad version as you get more screen space, I always find that with Typepad the text entering space is a bit cramped. Additional features include the ability to add links & pics.
This is actually a test post from the iPhone and I suppose the proof of the pudding is in the eating. Disappointingly there does not appear to be a save as draft feature…yet. UPDATED
The developer emailed to say that posts are automatically saved and a future feature will be to enable server saving.

Posted in iPhone. 1 Comment »

Highly customisable windows mobile

Good article here from pda 24/7 that raises a lot of very interesting points about how intuitive or not windows mobile is for the user, particularly for the novice user. Highly "customisable" to me means there's a lot that should have been done different in the first place as these days I'm not one for relishing the customisability of any given device on day one. In that respect I have become lazy and out of the box nearly ready to go is an enticing prospect for this lardy arsed gadget chap.

Actiove synce screenshot
Using the Treo Pro reminds me of how much time is taken up initially tinkering behind the scenes changing settings etc, getting rid of unwanted app shortcuts from the application launcher etc etc. You really do have to go from one menu to the next trying to find that elusive setting, why for example is "clear type" not automatically checked? On the Treo Pro it is which is the first win mob device I've used that has had that setting.

I still think that in many respects the o/s should be a largely irrelevant thing and that a truly great device should be one that you can pick up, get to grips with in a relatively short period of time and not have to make a hundred thousand system settings to get it working the way you want. There should be a decent selection too of 3rd party apps. I don't love the iPhone because I am some demented Apple fanboy, I love it because it is so darn easy to use and requires very little maintenance input on my part. It also now has all the apps I need and these apps are both good to use and good to look at…that is hardly a crime. If there was a win mob device as simple to set up and use and to sync with my stuff then I'd use that instead but if there is, I've yet to find it.

I get accused of being an Apple fanboy, mainly because I have the temerity to defend it against the hordes of baying win mob crews with their iPaqs and HTC's elsewhere. Having used all major o/s devices over the past couple of years I now know which I like and which I don't, but that is not "don't like" just because I dislike a particular company or brand. Nope that is "dislike" in the sense that I don't genuinely get on with that devices's platform as I find it difficult to use, it doesn't have the apps I need that look and feel good and I find it sluggish or buggy or cumbersome or sometimes all three.

Personally, I think that windows mobile is slipping behind every other platform at the moment and with WM7 being delayed until late 2009 at the earliest, in a years time it is going to be even further behind. I was genuinely surprised, having not used it for about 6 months, at how clunky and old fashioned feeling WM6 is compared to the iPhone o/s. RIM are obviously making big strides towards improving their o/s and devices to make them much more consumer orientated and by all accounts are doing this successfully. They may be over-sized but they are packing in a lot of useful stuff in there to broaden the appeal away from the perceived email focus. Symbian will always sell pots of phones, mainly because most people buy the Sony and Nokia stuff for their cameras and may have little idea of what the underlying o/s can do over and above that. Palm may or may not come good next year.

FunctionFlip for mac

Reclaim your function keys on your mac laptop. A nice little free application.

How To Use FunctionFlip

FunctionFlip's purpose is simply to disable the special features — rewind, play, mute, etc. — on the function keys. For example, if you "flip" F7, F8, and F9, those keys will revert back to normal F keys — without affecting the other functions. Press the fn key with the special key to get the special function back. That is, the "special" and "normal" functions are flipped.