Tag Archives: Palm

Getting Your Treo in Sync via USB

Here’s another one of those public service announcements for a very specific problem. Skip it if you haven’t had problems not being able to synchronize your Treo with a PC. In some cases an error message will appear “USB device not recognized” or somesuch. Here’s what worked for my Treo 650, after lots of messing about with more complicated solutions that didn’t (thanks to Palm for some of these, as well as some forums here and here):

  • First off, try removing the USB cable and sticking it back in again.
  • Try sticking the cable in a different port.
  • Try a different cable. The cable that comes with the Treo is notoriously unreliable.
  • Soft reset the Treo and try again. (Worked for me.)
  • Take battery out of Treo and leave for a few minutes.
  • Try synchronizing via Infrared. If this works, at least you’ve got a backup and you know the problem  is not terminal.
  • Reboot your PC and try again.
  • Try cleaning the connector on your Treo. This can get dirty. Be careful. Use an eraser or a soft cloth. Or lick it.
  • Reinstall your Palm Deskop (rebooting after uninstalling before reinstalling.)
  • Hard reset the Treo.

My rule of thumb with fixing things like this. Try the simplest first. Don’t follow radical advice of people on forums (reinstalling Windows XP, drivers for your motherboard, replacing parents) unless you’ve tried every possible simpler solution first. Remember the simplest answer is probably the right one.

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The Failure of the Smartphone Interface

I still don’t understand why people think that a stylus is a good thing, or that mimicking a Windows environment — designed for navigation by mice and other pointy things — is regarded as a worthy goal for mobile devices.

Take what Walt Mossberg, who has emerged as something of an expert on the new Treos, has to say about them in his mailbag (the URL isn’t a permalink, so don’t know how long it’s good for):

I have reviewed both devices, and I find that the Windows Mobile software on the 700w is considerably inferior to the Palm operating system software on the 700p. Too many common actions in the Windows version take more steps than the same actions on the Palm OS version, and often require navigating menus. You are likely to use the stylus more often in the Windows version as well.

I think in the near future we’ll wonder what the hell we were doing with our mobile interfaces. Why is it harder to answer a smartphone than it is to answer a normal mobile phone? Stylii were designed for sitting in restaurants and at desks, not when you’re standing in heavy pedestrian traffic outside Leicester Square tube trying to find someone’s phone number. Windows was designed for laptops, desktops, more or less anything with a flat surface and a mouse nearby, not for navigating on crowded trains or in fast-moving cars (especially when you’re driving).

Palm still looks good because it’s relatively simple as an interface. But it’s still looking dated, even while we’re still waiting for something better to come along.

The Demise of the Handheld Interface

Am I the only person depressed by the idea that Treos are now going to be Windows Mobile-powered? (It remains to be seen whether there’ll be Palm versions too; it would make sense, at least for a while.)

First off, feel sorry for all the third party developers who came up with great Palm software over the years. Mourn the small file sizes. Mourn the simple interface.

For sure, Palm and the OS had their weaknesses. They never seemed to really improve on the software that was in the Palm IIIs except add some colour. They missed more opportunities than your average Premier League club. And my Treeo 650 still crashes on a regular basis. But Windows? Why has nobody ever questioned the wisdom of mimicking a Windows environment and GUI on a screen the size of a cigarette box? The whole idea of Windows is to have lots of programs open that you can see on your screen and move stuff between. When did anybody ever do that on a Pocket PC?

I hate everything about Pocket PC Windows. I really do. There’s no style, no grace to it. Too many unnecessary lines. Big clunky scroll bars. Silly start menus that are at the bottom or top of screens, making for awkward stylus (or finger nail gestures.) Why is the only serious innovation in this field done by outsiders such as the great University of Maryland-developed Datelens? And what’s so Windowsy about Pocket PC Windows anyway? Why, for example, has Microsoft (nor Palm, for this matter) not figured out how to throw up status messages that don’t take up the whole screen?

Sorry, I’m cranky today. But while I long ago lost hope in Palm turning its software into more than a colour version of its mid 1990s original, I have never been a convert to Windows on a handheld. Is there no vision out there about how we use our portable devices that isn’t just an ugly, stripped down and clunky version of what we have to put up with on our desktop? Why haven’t these wonderfully simple new ideas about interfaces from, say, 37signals spread to the handheld? Or is the future Apple shaped and we haven’t seen it yet?

The Moleskine Without The Skine (Or The Mole, For That Matter)

From Jason Kottke, a simpler version of the Moleskine: My analog Palm Pilot, a piece of 8.5×11 paper, folded twice.

That way, when I need to look up a phone number or jot down an address, I don’t have to get out a notebook, my computer, or hunt around for a piece of scrap paper. And it won’t ever get stolen like a cell phone or handheld might.

Whatever Happened To Downloadable Calendars?

Whatever happened to those downloadable diary items for Palm and other handhelds? I’m pretty sure I recall a time when you could visit a site, see a schedule you wanted in your Palm and download it with one click.

I guess it might have been vCalendar but that seems to be dead as a dodo. I notice some people still offer this kind of service, but using CSV files, which can’t be that graceful. I notice that Palm offer DualDate, which allows you to share and compare your calendar with someone else. Some worthy folks would offer this kind of thing a few years back as freeware, but I can’t see anything updated in the past couple of years.

But it seems to be me a trick has been missed by Palm and others over this kind of thing. I would like to be able to visit a website, say, of my favourite soccer team and download their whole fixture list into my Treo. Is there no easy way to do this? It should be like RSS: a recognisable button on every site that allows downloading in Palm content straight into a calendar, or address book, or whatever. Looking back, this kind of thing might have saved Palm.

Or am I missing something?

How To Hoover Up Addresses

Maybe it’s just the summer heat but I get the feeling that, finally, people are focusing on software tools that really make working on a computer easier. Sure this has been the case for a while, but these companies seem to actually stick around long enough to make some money. So they have to be doing something right.

Take saving addresses, for example. It’s a simple concept: See a guy’s name and address in an email, on a website or in a document you’d like to save, and what do you have to do? Fiddly copying the text, and then, line by line, pasting it into Outlook or whatever. Yuck. It’s faster to go round to the guy’s house with your laptop, knock on his door and ask him to type in the details himself.

A few years’ back there was a great little company called Cognitive Root which had a program called Syncplicity, which tried to figure out from any text you copied what was the name, the address, the phone number etc, and copy it all into the right fields in your Palm Desktop. I raved about the product back in January 2001, which seems to have been enough to ensure it was consigned to the dot.com bin, since I can find no trace of the company or the product on any recent website. Sorry about that, guys.

Still, don’t despair: other companies have since taken up the banner. And they look like they’ll be around for a while. There’s Anagram, which does pretty much the same thing for Palm and Outlook, and, more importantly, has on its website a photo of a left-handed businesswoman not using a mousepad, chewing her glasses and staring wistfully into the middle distance having saved herself oodles of time using the product.

Then there’s AddressGrabber, which does something similar but also works with ACT!, GoldMine and stuff like that. I’ve fiddled with both AddressGrabber and Anagram and for my needs the latter works ($20) fine. But if you’re a serious address grabbing kind of dude, maybe you want to splash out ($70 to $250) for the former. Both work with salesforce.com.

Is It Back To Basics For The PDA?

What do you want in a PDA? The Register carries a story that seems to belie the conventional wisdom that folk want everything in one device. It quotes Jupiter Research as saying that vendors are getting it wrong by focusing on the high-end, convergent devices, when actually they should be looking at the low-end, just-give-me the basics, market. “The adoption of portable devices increases as their size and complexity of use decreases,” the Jupiter report says.

But on closer inspection the report’s not just saying that folk want a basic PDA. It’s saying that basic PDAs will remain the core of sales, but will gradually be taken over by phones that offer those same functions. This is the market’s “sweet spot for handhelds”, it says, where untis offer voice (read telephone), personal information management, or a combination of the two, ditching other integrated functions. By other integrated functions it means game play, playing music, that kind of stuff.

The figures seem to back this up: They show pretty low — 7% — penetration of the U.S. market. Jupiter forecasts a U.S. installed base of handheld PDAs will number just over 14 million at the end of 2003 and will only grow to 20 million by 2008.

I think on the whole they’re probably right. Extra bits and pieces just tend to make things go wrong, and if the machine goes wrong, and you have to send it off for repairs, you’re stumped. On the other hand, no mention is made of cameras, an area where I do think both PDAs and phones are going to see strong growth (see my column in FEER — subscription required). But I also believe there are other add-ons which are useful: Good voice recording — not just short memos, but a proper voice recorder that can store several hours of conversation — is useful for your modern thrusting exec (or journalist like moi).

Still, I think Jupiter have a point. Most folk I know just want something they can store their stuff on, and maybe check email in the office. Bluetooth, Wi-Fi etc: They’re all nice to have, but let’s face it, most people won’t use them. And given that ordinary PDAs are getting cheaper by the minute — fellow Jupiter analyst Avi Greenhart recently spotted the Palm basic Zire model for $43 at Best Buy — why bother going for the high-end stuff?

Palm Cradle Or Orthotic Pregnancy Band?

Palm, or palmOne to be precise, have just come out with the new Mini Cradle, “perfect for holiday gift-giving”. So what’s different about the Mini Cradle and your normal cradle?

It has, according to the press release, “a unique, modern design complete with built-in lighting and a silver metallic base. The illumination provides users with positive confirmation that all cables are connected and the handheld is properly attached.” It sell for $50, and should be in shops in the next few days.

It recharges and synchronizes data through the USB port of a PC or Mac. It is compatible with any palmOne handheld with the Universal Connector, or specifically: the Tungsten C, Tungsten T series, Tungsten W, Zire 71, i705, m500 series and m130 handhelds. And no, it’s not to be confused with the Prenatal Mini Cradle, which is a single orthotic band for abdominal support and easing of back pain during pregnancy, and therefore completely different:

News: Palm’s New Wireless Keyboard

 On the heels of its launch of fresh handhelds, Palm has launched some new accessories, including a wireless keyboard, multifunction stylus, six cases, a camera card, handheld device protection units and complete accessory kits.
According to UK PR firm M2 Communications the wireless keyboard lets users type using a QWERTY key layout without the need to connect the device to the main unit with wires. Pricing starts at GBP59.99. The stylus costs GBP9.99 and can be used as a writing pen, a laser pointer, a torch and a stylus.

Update: The New Palms. They’re Out

 As threatened, Palm have released new models: the Tungsten T3 handheld, “for the most demanding professionals who need a best-in-class colour and wireless handheld”, the Palm Tungsten E handheld, for “cost-conscious professionals who need premium power and performance”.
The Tungsten T3 handheld is Palm?s first device that supports a ultra high-resolution colour screen in landscape, as well as the typical portrait mode. The screen display is 50 percent larger than on any previous Palm branded device, and the new soft input screen area provides a virtual Graffiti 2 writing area. Palm claim “faster Bluetooth setup embedded in the handheld, a wireless communications suite, fast 400MHz XScale processor, 64MB of RAM1 and superior office and multimedia capabilities”.
The Tungsten E handheld features 32MB of RAM2, a crisp high-resolution colour display, updated core applications, multimedia software and expandability through cards or add-on accessories. It retains the classic Tungsten appearance, with its compact, leek modern form and improved 5-way navigator for one-handed navigation.