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« Notes on Going Retro with a Clié N610C | Main | Jason Santa Maria & Greg Storey on The Web 2.0 Show »

Back to the Future: from Zire to Clié

transition.jpgI'm apparently on a "losing" streak the past 2 months: first I lost my Moleskine sketchbook back in February and about a week and a half ago, I lost my Zire 72s. Like the Moleskine, I thought it was secure in my jacket pocket — I knew I had it before I'd left church on Wednesday, but somewhere between church and the van and home, it went missing, and it has been ever since. Needless to say, I've been extra-careful with everything I own since last week!

The odd thing about losing something like a Palm is, you hope it will turn up before deciding to move either to a new device or something else, such as paper. So for the first week I simply lived in limbo, relying on iCal on the Mac for my appointments. I realized that eventually I'd have to choose how to handle mobile appointment management.

Enter the Moleskine Weekly Planner
First, I looked into a 2006 Pocket Moleskine Weekly Planner, but they're very scarce. The few I could locate were running in the $30 range. So, I decided to try creating a weekly format structure in my ruled pocket Moleskine for a week. I found reference photos at the Ninth Wave Designs Weblog for the weekly (1 week across 2 pages), and recreated it on a spread of my Moleskine.

Last week I used this modified Moleskine exclusively for mobile appointments and some tasks, and actually, I found it worked quite well. I really do like seeing my entire week at a glance, which is possible on a Palm, but not with the detail I could achieve with the Moleskine. I found myself writing a bit more in the Moleskine as well, capturing tasks on the week view and other thoughts on the back pages.

However, the Moleskine has some limitations, such as the width. While I love how thin the Pocket sized Moleskine is, the width is just a tad too wide to fit comfortably in my front jeans pocket, compared to the Zire 72. Carrying it in in my back pocket would mean bending it out of shape over time. As summer comes around, I need something less bulky in a pair of shorts.

Secondly, I have concerns about losing the Moleskine and my information, with no easy way for backup. I would of course be using iCal for storing some of the same information, using the Moleskine for capture and review. Still, with my current losing streak, this was something to consider.

Finally, the Moleskine has no alarms, so I can't easily be reminded of an appointment or task while mobile. I could certainly live with all these limitations, but after considering them, my mind started leaning back toward a simple Palm PDA that's small and easy to use, but has sync, backup and alarms.

Which Palm?
So, I began considering Palm devices. In the last several months I've realized the Zire 72 was not being used as much as it, or prior PDAs had been. Mainly it was my source for contacts, a few appointments, a few to-dos, managing my secured Splash ID data, reading weblogs in iSilo, studying the Bible in MyBible and taking an occasional picture with the built-in camera. Beyond these tasks, I realized the Zire 72 was being under-utilized.

I didn't want to invest too much in a PDA, since I still had a faint hope the Zire would turn up, and my usage doesn't justify a $100-200 PDA. As I checked what was available on eBay, I remembered that my father still had an old Sony Clié PDA around, so I gave him a ring. Sure enough, dad had my wife's old N610C, and wasn't using it much anymore, so he dropped it off at the house today.

Back to the Clié N610C
I'd always loved my old Clié, because it, like my other PDAs was so well-balanced. It had a color screen, was small, light and pocketable, ran a long time on a charge and had excellent Classic Graffiti implementation. Compared to newer Palm PDAs, I've noticed that the Clié has a much dimmer screen and slower processor, though I'll gain days or even weeks of battery life in exchange.

cahier.jpgTonight I was able to get my much-loved brown Vaja case for the Clie from the friend I'd sold it to, and bought a Pocket Squared Moleskine Cahier notebook for mobile note-taking. The Cahiers are the same width and height as regular Pocket Moleskines, but have only 64 pages wrapped in thick, black cover stock, for easier storage in my shorts or jeans pockets.

The Clié immediately recognized by The Missing Sync on the Mac, and was very shortly filled with all of my contacts, calendars, to-dos and notes, along with a few critical applications. Now I have a system in place like the one I used before the Tungsten E and Zire 72s. I'm back in business!

I find it fascinating that on the 10th anniversary of the original Pilot, and after several years spent in the modern Palm world, I'm stepping back to an older Clié. In fact, I very nearly abandoned the Palm for a Moleskine, which is amazing, considering how much of a PDA advocate I've been over the past 10 years!

Yet, in many ways this decision process syncs with my beliefs on technology: that each person's solution should be based on what really works for their needs, rather than how cool the solution is, how "advanced" it might appear, or how one might rationalize the decision.

Fancy features and glitzy possibilities will fade over time, but practical, usable solutions will always stand the test of time.

UPDATE 2006-04-18: Jim Barr at Jim's Tips has done something similar to my Zire72 to Clié simplification by reverting from a Palm T3 to a Zire 22, and finds he too likes the simplicity. The Zire 22 was in fact one of the models I'd considered before moving back to the Clié N610, and is still IMO a very nice little PDA for the money.

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Reader Comments (6)

That old N610 of yours is still better than the 'new' Zires! Amazing.When I need to change my PDA, I'll likely also 'downgrade' to a simpler device.I really like my NX70 - but the truth is that I don't use any of the fancy features. The only advantages it has over my N610 are that is has a larger screen and it doesn't need a case.
April 19, 2006 | Unregistered CommenterBoomer
Boomer, thanks for your comments!

I don't know if I'd say "better" as much as "different" than the Zire and TE. Both the Palms had very nice screens and were quick in comparision... while the Cli� has a long lasting battery as its strong point. Of course all of the devices have some flaws, they're just a little different.

I do have to say digging up old apps in my archives and online has been a blast from the past, with good memories atatched. I never thought I'd be installing a hack manager or FontHack123 again! :-)
April 19, 2006 | Unregistered CommenterMike Rohde
Astonishingly how many articles are written lately about reverting to simpler PDAs.I changed from my first Visor PDA to a Clie NX70 and was pleased about all the stuff but also recognised the distraction from all the fancy stuff. Lately I dropped working with a PDA at all and used it only as a small database for contacts and agenda. Then I am using it really often (with external keyboard)for datainput on my projects. I like the sturdy feel of the casing.But eversince regretted not having my Handsrping anymore. It was simply simple. Had not to worry about battery life, screen was perfectly readable. And is was everytime with me in my pocket.

If we are lucky, we will see a small lightweight PDA with monochrome display long batterylife and all PIM functions integrated with no need for configuration- we all remember spending worthless time on configuring the PDA to our needs..
April 20, 2006 | Unregistered CommenterNX70
And I've gone completely back to paper. If I still had an old Sony knocking around I might have gone down that route, but I sold off all my old PDAs long ago.
April 23, 2006 | Unregistered Commenterfiat lux
I'm glad to see I'm not alone in "going back" I just seem to get sucked into the whole escalating "must keep up up with the latest technology" fever. I have just dumped my MDA Compact and Lifedrive and I'm now scooting along quite nicely with my �8 Palm Vx and �5 Nokia 8310 both courtesy of eBay. Ah the simple life and not worrying about losing something that cost far too much in the first place.
April 25, 2006 | Unregistered CommenterThudd
NX70, I loved my old Visor as well. One of the PDAs I looked at was either a Visor Deluxe or maybe a Visor Edge, until I found I could get an old Cli� back. I always have liked the m5XX line too.

Fiat Lux, I nearly went to paper but for the contacts I've collected. I could have carried those in the iPod nano I suppose, but then the Moleskine hardcover books were just a tad too wide for easy pocketing.

Thudd, I know exactly what you mean about the escalating trend of being on the bleeding edge. Oddly enough, I find that when I settle in for the right solution and forget maintaining rat race, I'm generally happier and have less issues with my devices.
April 25, 2006 | Unregistered CommenterMike Rohde

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