Wednesday began with a breakfast meeting with my friends Bryan and George at Natara, and my partner in crime, Michael Ashby. I'd been looking forward to introducing the Natara boys to Michael, who I think may be the world's biggest Bonsai and DayNotez fan.
Over freshly brewed coffee, the four of us discussed the conference, PalmSource's direction with Linux, Natara products, blogging and more. Bryan has been a reader of my blog for a while now, often leaving comments here. He's also a bit of pen freak like me, and begged that I not mention any more pens on the blog, because he feels compelled to try anything I suggest. Bwahahaha! :-)
I also had a chance to get to know George a little better, and ask some detailed questions about his baby, Bonsai. As a former Brainforest and current ShadowPlan user, I was curious to see the benefits of Bonsai on the Palm. George was kind enough to do an on-site demo, and I was duly impressed. I especially like the clean user interface and several features of the app.
Of course Michael and I gently hammered on both guys about Mac sync, though I do know they have limited resources for this. Bryan is actually a Mac user, so our pleas were not lost on them. in fact they hear the same request from Mac users all the time. I know they'd love to support a Mac outliner like OmniOutliner, so we talked a bit about how Michael and I might help move that forward. The most promising solution would be a conduit, working in conjunction with The Missing Sync. We'll have to see what we can do to keep the dream alive.
i was very excited about the keynote for Wednesday with Don Norman of the Nielsen Norman Group. Norman's talk centered on how emotions play a part in our reactions to the things we work with, even at the lowest levels. He touched on the importance of design, especially with the mobile devices people will carry in the future. It was an excellent talk.
I was very pleased to see a design talk integrated into the conference, especially for developers who might have the tendency to place design last in their list of tasks. I informally polled the developers and friends I spoke with about the Norman session and they all enjoyed it thoroughly — a good sign. In fact, the most impressed of my contacts were those who had low expectations for Norman's session!
The Rome Project
Larry Slotnick spoke after Don Norman, and presented the 'Rome' project from PalmSource — more or less a spec that's aimed at so-called "Feature Phones" with small screens and more phone-oriented options (d-pads, buttons and phone keys). It was good to see PalmSource embracing this space, and I do hope they can bring some of their UI expertise to this new OS variation.
LifeDrive Hands-On Experience
During Slotnick's talk, I had a chance to play around with a Life Drive owned by two of the people seated at my table, one of which was Justine Pratt of Creative Algorithms. My first concern about the LifeDrive is the size, and happily it's much less of a brick than I first feared. The shaped back of the device helps with this, though I still have to say, the size, especially the length is right at the edge of pocket-ability.
Construction of the device seemed solid, with metal case, and a nice overall tactile feel. The screen is gorgeous and the buttons and D-Pad very nicely designed. I did notice a bit of an OS lag however, as reported by others who have reviewed the device. It was pretty minimal, but noticeable, especially after coming from my speedy Zire 72.
I've heard reports of around 2.5 hours battery life at fill tilt (watching movies off the drive), longer with MP3 play and even longer for regular use. I suppose this is an achievement considering the hard drive, big screen and stagnation of battery technology in general. I think there's a built-in expectation of old Palm users that the battery should last weeks, as it used to in Palm Pilots of years ago. While I'm sure that would be wonderful, I think we old-timers need to accept that where we're going (at least for LifeDrive-like products) is going to be more laptop than a handheld-oriented in power. I wish it were otherwise, but that's the reality, at least today.
Overall, I was impressed with the LifeDrive. I think despite its imperfections, LifeDrive represents a decent first step into a space that will exist along side phone-oriented devices. While I'm still very pleased with the balanced features of my Zire 72, I could see myself enjoying a LifeDrive.
Expert Guides Luncheon
Following more User Council meetings, Jen Edwards and I met up with Eric Cloninger and Ivan Dwyer of PalmSource and Michael Yokoyama author for a lunch together. Jen, Michael and I are 3 of the many PalmSource Expert Guide authors attending DevCon, so we were invited to a lunch on PalmSource for our efforts in this area. Expert Guides are web resources at the PalmSource site aimed at helping Palm OS users find applications to achieve certain tasks, in my case, writing with a Palm-powered device.
We had a very tasty lunch at a local Thai restaurant a few blocks from the Fairmont, talking Palm-stuff (of course) and other things as well. Near the end of lunch Michael Mace stopped over and chatted with us a while. He updated us on the state of Expert Guides and his desire to continue their expansion into new areas. So, if you have a unique idea for an Expert Guide, please apply!
Meeting The Etherfarmer
Between User Council meetings, I had the pleasure of meeting fellow designer and Etherfarm blogger, Narayan Nayar. He and I have had email exchanges and have worked on a project together, so we decided to try and meet briefly in person. Using my mobile phone's SMS and voice services, Narayan and I were able to coordinate a meet up in the hotel lobby. We were able to talk about DevCon, Treos, Palm on Linux, design and Narayan's cool new corporate job in Silicon Valley. Unfortunately, he had to head back to beat traffic, but I still very much enjoyed the quality time had. Thanks Narayan!
USB Drive Burners
After the User Council meetings were finished for the day, the Council was tasked with copying PDFs of the session presentations onto 350-some 128MB USB drives. The group established a little assembly line process and within 40 minutes we had the job nearly completed. We had only a minor error at the end, finding 3 USB drive caps separated from their drives. We dug through nearly every closed box to locate the 3 cap-less drives, but did complete our mission successfully. :-)
Our timing was perfect, as the DevCon party began minutes after we'd finished our work for the day. In a private room in the hotel, a band was set to play on stage. Food and drink of all sorts was set out for the attendees, so our crew showed our DevCon badges and walked in to enjoy the fun. The food was very tasty, and the band was OK, but not spectacular.
Craig of our group was on a mission to win a new Treo 650 in the SplashBlog contest, by shooting the most photos and posting them with SplashBlog. You can check out the DevCon group SplashBlog here to see some of his shots.
Walgreens Run, Thwarted
Michael Ashby, his wife Holly and I decided to leave the party a little early to hit the local Walgreens. It was good to leave the hotel confines and get outside. Within a few minutes we'd arrived at Walgreens, which had closed at 9pm. Bummer. In fact, I think Michael and I tried this same run in 2004 to find the place closed at 9. I need to make a note to get over there earlier in 2006.
Hanging with Kerry Woo & Dave David Kendall
I grabbed by Powerbook and headed to the lobby to write and catch up on email, but ran into one of my blogkids, Kerry Woo, some folks from Motricity (PalmGear.com) and Dave Kendall chatting. Kerry convinced me to skip the laptop time for chatting (and I agreed), so we hung out for a while.
I learned more about Kerry's work and his commuting lifestyle between Nashville, Tennessee and Durham, North Carolina. Wow, what a life the guy leads, living in North Carolina and flying home every 6 weeks or so for long weekends. I don't think I could do it.
Dave Kendall leads an interesting work life at UltraSoft, working very much as I do, from home and in collaboration with others around the world. His company, UltraSoft, develops UltraSoft Money, DataShield and one of my old-time faves, Brainforest.
Both guys were very fun to talk with, each sharing great stories about their lives and Palm-related experiences. Even though we were all night owls, the fatigue of the long DevCon day set in. We called it a night around 1am (I think), to get a little sleep before getting up to do DevCon again on Thursday.
I was pleased to experience another fun, busy day. As the DevCon progressed into day 2, I sensed that energy and excitement levels were rising. The addition of Linux under the hood seemed to offer developers a gleam of hope for the future that just wasn't there in 2004. We'll see of that sense of hope continues Thursday and on into the following months.
And with that, I'll wrap up Wednesday's entry. Until next time...