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Tuesday
Nov042003

The Era of the Tungsten E Begins

Tungten EFor a rainy, cold and cloudy day, Monday turned out to be pretty good in the Rohde household. Our Tungsten E handhelds arrived late in the afternoon, and were immediately plugged in for the 3 hour initial charge up. By 8pm, my wife and I had finished our dinner and were in the basement, setting up our freshly unwrapped PDAs.

My first impressions: the TE is thin, light and has a gorgeous screen! However, I do see that its shiny metal case collects fingerprints like a freshly polished brass doorknob at the Ritz-Carlton. I think the next revision should be more matte or brushed to solve this. Fortunately, once I have the TE in a leather case, fingerprints shouldn't be an issue.

The width of the device good, edges are smooth and it fits in my hand quite nicely. The stylus is nearly identical to that in the Tungsten C and is certainly 'the business'. It has good weight, balance and a soft, rubbery tip. I think the only thing I will miss from my Clie's Pilot Pentopia stylus is the integrated ink pen.

Initially, I'm not terribly impressed with the D-pad, especially after using the Clie's up/down buttons. But, I'll give that time to settle in. Also, while I like the slide rail to hold in the flip cover (included with the TE), the cover itself is a bit cheap and not very protective. I won't feel comfortable carrying the TE around until it's safely in a leather case.

I do see changes on the TE screen as well: a Clock icon has been added to the Graffiti area (top left) and brightness is top right. The Calculator icon is now replaced with the Star icon, which is set by default for HotSync (nice) or can be changed to any app you like.

I liked the Tungsten E's introductory screens, which seemed like they'd be helpful for new users, specifically. The first screen mentions the 3 hour charge-up before proceeding, which amazingly made me feel like it was quite important. Later I learned that I could have bypassed the screen and played while the TE was charging. So, I think that small user-interface detail was a good idea by whomever came up with it.

The initial Tungsten E tour is well done, with a nice design and good categories. Compared to the tours on earlier devices, this is a nice addition, and will be appreciated by first-time PDA users (who the TE is aimed at).

Now, we wanted to take the switch from our Sony Clie N610s carefully, particularly myself, since I had heard of some issues between Palm Desktop 4.1 and Mac OS X 10.2.8 (which I run currently). My research indicated that setting permissions with Apple's Disk Utility would solve the problem, so I did that while helping Gail setup her Tungsten E on the Windows PC. Next I did a final HotSync with the Clie and my Mac.

The Palm Desktop 4.1 install went well (a good sign) and I was able to get the TE to start the sync operation, but I then had a "Conduit Manager, Volume is Locked" error on the new Calendar, Contacts, Tasks and Memos conduits. I manually changed permissions on all of the potentially locked items and directories in the Palm folder and that solved the problem.

With PIM data installed, I began the slow task of re-installing my main applications from fresh downloads. In a few cases I beamed a document or app, and had no problems. I'm sure that this process of tweaking the new Tungsten Es will take a few weeks. I've decided to install as few items as I can get away with, and only add them as I find I need them. So far that approach is working well.

So, overall, the Tungsten E era is a giant, positive leap forward for us. It has amazed both Gail and I how much nicer the TE screen is than those of our old Clie PDAs, which only a year and a half ago were so amazing compared to our Visors. Funny how things change.

I'll keep posting tidbits on our Tungsten E experiences here and will eventually write a full-blown article on the switch, similar to the Palm Tipsheet article written last year, when I switched from the Visor to the Clie. Again, if you have any suggestions for us, Tungsten E-specific items to investigate or new OS 5 apps we should check out, drop me a line.

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