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Thursday
May082003

Palm DevCon: Day Two

First day of the DevCon and it was off to David Nagel's (PalmSource CEO) opening keynote speech. It was an upbeat and positive presentation, covering the current state and future aims of PalmSource. David mentioned two staggering stats: there are now about 260,000 Palm OS developers and 17,000 Palm OS applications out there. Pretty significant and important for PalmSource and Palm OS users alike.

Nagel also suggested the coming availability of ubiquitous wireless in the next few years and PalmSource's desire to have an impact in this area with the Palm OS. I'm all for that!

Following David Nagel's keynote intro, the group I'm a member of -- Palm OS User Council (PUC) -- departed to prep for our day-long meetings. In a nutshell, our group of 10 Palm community leaders distill and share feedback from the Palm community with both PalmSource and Palm OS licensees, to help improve Palm handheld devices and the Palm OS.

The PUC represents the voice of Palm handheld users, making sure the user perspective is heard clearly. While details of our meetings are all under NDA, I'm pleased to report we had very productive meetings with PalmSource and several licensees.

At lunch, one of the PUC members, Dan Royea, did a Bluetooth test at the Sony booth. While holding a Clié TG-50 he walked nearly 30 feet from a Bluetooth controlled DV video camera and was able to activate panning, zooming and other functions -- all from the Clié. Impressive!

Lunch itself was eaten in the hotel courtyard under overcast skies. I was surprised at how chilly San Mateo was in May. However, I did remember I was in the San Francisco area, which has the reputation as a cool and foggy place.

Our PUC meetings continued productively after lunch break. I was grateful when our meetings finally ended at 5pm, mainly because I'm the group secretary. My tired fingers and brain needed the break after hours of processing and typing.

On my call home, I learned my wife and 6 month old son were both battling terrible colds. l felt a bit guilty for having such a great day. But we both felt badly for our little boy's sickness, even though we know colds help build his immune system.

Next, it was off to the seminar reception for great Chinese dim-sum and conversation with Palm developers. I met Brian Oldham and Dale Walker of Farwalker.com, who help small companies integrate Palm devices into Mac networks. We actually talked more about Macs than Palms, as we were all Mac fans.

The reception was interrupted by a power outage in the hotel, lasting over an hour. It's apparently become a tradition at PalmSource events (February '02 conference in San Jose had a power cut too). The hotel staff even broke out the green light sticks as night fell.

A small group of people, including the PUC group and others escaped the hotel for the Prince of Wales Pub in downtown San Mateo. The pub was quite unique, with a comfortably shabby ambiance one member of the group described as "The kind of atmosphere you can't buy". We managed to acquire the private upper room of the place, complete with recently patched kick-holes in the wall, legless, gaudy and torn couch, a table and mixed chairs.

Four of us began a game of Cricket with darts and a board we found while the rest of the group chatted. For the record, Hal and I beat Craig and Dan by a single bulls eye. Greg from the PUC tried the pub's famous Habenero Burger, which helped warm the room. I think Greg's ears were smoking, but he ate it all.

Back at the hotel, I posted my first DevCon entry on the blog. It was good to test out my WordSmith blogging solution and to see how well remote posting to a blog is. Most definitely easier than manually editing and posting files via FTP.

I can also tell you that using a broadband cable connection has a way of amplifying the pain of using a 56k dialup connection in a hotel room. It works, but I fear cable has spoiled me.

So that's the story for Tuesday. Look for the remaining DevCon entries to appear here in the next few days.

Until my next post...

Tuesday
May062003

Palm DevCon: Day One

Sorry I've been mostly quiet this past week -- I'd been preparing for my trip to California for the PalmSource Developer's Conference. I left today (Monday) on my journey. Yes, I know it's Tuesday... more on that later.

It was hard to say goodbye to Gail and Nathan this morning. I'm going to miss them the next few days. But traveling is in my blood and I know this little getaway will be very good for me. Time to venture out and explore. The good thing about travel, in my opinion, is knowing I have someone and somewhere I can return to. As enjoyable as travel is to me, coming back home is always the sweetest feeling.

I just witnessed a sadly funny scene here at the terminal. An older, cranky lady who looked a bit like Georgia O'Keefe was sitting near the departure door, hassling the United woman at the desk about getting on her flight to Denver waiting just outside. She needed a wheelchair to board and had apparently been waiting a while. "I'm frustrated! Been here an hour and a half! Arggh!" At one point an Asian man walked past her, with a wheelchair and she snapped at him with a gruff "Hey you!" The guy threw her a dismissive wave and said "Not for you! Another one coming. You wait! " and kept rolling down the terminal.

Finally Georgia's ride arrived, but not before she had a little verbal tussle with the United attendant. It wasn't pretty.

Whew, almost missed the flight! Sitting in terminal D at gate 35... Realized nobody else was sitting around me. Took a brief walk, and found the flight had moved to gate 33. That was close.

Saw that our pilot was scribbling in an old Palm III, which I spotted while embarking. There is still hope for old tech! :-)

In Chicago, I heard a funny announcement in the men's room between flights: "Please present all electronic devices to security personnel before entering the magnometer..." This announcement made me wonder just what would happen if electronic devices were accidentally or intentionally run through the magnometer? Would the offending bag launch itself against the magnometer's wall and stick like a wet jello square? Funny how seeing a film like X-Men 2 with a bad guy like Magneto, alters the imagination.

Spent time after a little lunch scoping out power outlets, so I could use my Powerbook without killing off the battery. found several, but always in awkward locations or next to occupied seats. At the moment I'm contemplating stringing my power cable from my seat to the outlet across from me or sitting against the wall. Pretty pathetic, eh? Maybe I'm better off reading my paperback book or listening to music than becoming an electro-vampire geekazoid.

Amazing how many people are on mobile phones at the airport. There was a guy in Milwaukee making call after call, like the president lining up votes. Here in Chicago there's a woman to my right, stretched across three seats, working the phone. This struck me as both admirable and disturbing. Admirable in that these two business people were utterly dedicated to not wasting a precious moment of down time. Disturbing for the very same reason.

I mean, isn't travel stressful enough? I just want to relax. However, I see this tendancy popping up in myself as well, as I seek to plug in my laptop to read email or write this account on my handheld. The question is, why are we so driven to fill every second of our lives with activity? Are we modern people unable to be loafers once and a while?

Which reminds me of a valuable lesson I've learned from several of my European friends: the art of doing nothing. Don't get me wrong, I don't mean doing nothing all the time, but occasionally and intentionally. Martin, Matthias, Andreas, Mysan and Andy all taught me the art of finding a nice spot to let the world pass by. Normally it was a cafe (accompanied by a tasty coffee) but was often a roadside or park. Hmmm... in light of my observations today, I think I need to practice the art of doing nothing a bit more often.

The rest of my trip was uneventful. Waited a long time for the free hotel shuttle, but it was such a nice cool spring afternoon, I didn't mind at all.

Met my fellow Palm-friends at the hotel and we trekked over to the Metreon, a Sony-sponsored store inside the Moscone center in San Francisco. It was a little underwhelming and overpriced, though some of the tech they showcased was very cool, like tiny Vaio notebooks and large flat screens.

We settled on dinner at the Moscone, which for me consisted of a pudd thai-like noodle dish at a noodle joint. Not bad.

Our final destination for the evening was the launch of a new Palm OS product from Tapwave, a new Palm OS licensee. The event was held in a snowboard club in the industrial part of San Francisco. After 30 minutes of mingling, the presentation began with heads of the company sharing their process of developing a new multi-purpose gaming/multimedia device, culminating with an actual viewing of prototype devices. Can't say much more than this device they're developing is very, very cool. Good industrial design and top-notch specs to match. Keep your eye on Tapwave.

The remainder of the evening was spent back at the hotel, settling into my room and calling my wife. Not a bad first day in California.

So, as you can see it's actually Tuesday and I've had another full day here. I'm going to be a bit delayed in posting here because Wednesday is going to be jam-packed full too. I'll probably be writing posts on the flight home, so keep popping back here for more entries.

Until next time...

Thursday
May012003

Matrix Reloaded

NeoI'm a big fan of The Matrix, the 1999 sci-fi movie from the Wachowski brothers which depicts the life in a computer generated world called The Matrix. This movie showcased extreme comic-book like camera angles, strangely shifted color hues and groundbreaking special effects like Bullet Time which allowed the film makers to stop action at any point and rotate around an object, then resume full speed action. Now it seems every new sci-fi movie has copied this effect.

The latest issue of Wired magazine has an excellent 5 page article about John Gaeta, the special effects wiz behind other effects in the first Matrix film. It's very interesting because it chronicles Gaeta's path from apprentice effects man to his work as effects director for The Matrix. It also discusses the new techniques and approaches Gaeta is taking in Reloaded, like using bits of actors faces grafted onto computer generated, body-mapped digital actors to create physically impossible action scenes.

One of the problems a special effects innovators face, is the challenge of topping your last miracle. In the Matrix Reloaded, Gaeta has his hands full, since Matrix fans will expect the effects of the film to top those of the original Matrix. So the question is, can the effects of the original Matrix be topped?

I think it can and will be done, judging by Matrix Reloaded trailers, and scenes like the affectionately named "Burly Brawl" where hundreds of Agent Smith clones attack Neo (armed with only a playground sign post). When I looked critically at this scene on a 23" Apple HD Cinema Display on the weekend, there were only the smallest tidbits and artifacts that looked even slightly unreal or computer generated. Even this stylized computer-generated look works for me, since The Matrix is intended to be a computer generated environment.

So, we'll all have to wait until May 15th to see what the Wachowski brothers and John Gaeta have in store for us with Matrix Reloaded. I can't wait!

Tuesday
Apr292003

Tungsten C Reviews Surface

Tungsten CThe Pam Tungsten C has gained two very good in-depth reviews online.

First, we have a great in-depth review from Kenneth Rhee, a long time Sony Cli� user and contributor to his own Palm Corner column at MemoWare. Ken seems to really like the T|C, giving it a 4.8 of 5, with a 0.2% off mainly because of the mono headset jack and lack of built-in microphone.

The other review of note is by Judie Hughes at The Gadgeteer, an always a trusted source for hard-core, well-informed and unbiased reviews. Judie likes the T|C as well, calling the screen one of the best she's seen on a PDA. She also mentions the mono headset, lack of built-in mic and lacking support for Mac users.

I'm really quite excited about the Tungsten C and hope to check one out in person next week, as I travel out to the Palm Developer's Conference in San Francisco, CA. If I'm able to wrangle one and test it out, I'll be sure to post some kind of commentary or review of it here.

Monday
Apr282003

Moveable Type

MTIt was time to move on up to Moveable Type. I think in general the weblog should work the same way, if not better than the Blogger version as MT has many, many more features that suit my current blogging needs. That's not to say Blogger isn't a great system -- it's awesome for those getting started or those who want a simple blog and blogs with specific features (like email posting found in Blogger Pro).

Anyway, if you see any wierdness, let me know. Meanwhile I'll be working to improve the weblog as I learn more about ol' MT. :-)