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Wednesday
Apr232003

Palm Tungsten C: Perfect Timing for a Wi-Fi Handheld

Tungsten CToday Palm, Inc. has announced the new Tungsten C and Zire 71. While I think the $300 Zire 71 is a solid handheld with many features that will give the Sony Clie SJ33 a run for its money, I'm even more excited about the $500 Tungsten C because it further emphasizes Wi-Fi networks.

Just imagine a small, handheld device with built-in Wi-Fi -- the Tungsten C has the potential to work as the perfect device for anyone working in a Wi-Fi environment at their business, school or at home. The Tungsten C comes with a proxy-less web browser (for direct web browsing) and the VersaMail email client (though I think SnapperMail is a better choice for email), VPN (Virtual Private Network) capabilities for secure, private connections over the net and even Colligo Meeting for scheduling group meetings over Wi-Fi.

What really amazes me is the battery life of the Tungsten C, considering it's running a 400MHz ARM chip. Palm claims "An internal rechargeable 1500mAh battery provides a full work day of consistent Wi-Fi connectivity, or a full work week of normal handheld use." -- not bad at all! Of course, as real-world users test the C, we'll see if that's an optimistic or realistic estimate.

The one drawback with the Tungsten C is the lack of Bluetooth, which makes the device much less useful for mobile wireless access via a Bluetooth phone when not around a Wi-Fi network (maybe there was no room inside the case). A Bluetooth SD card can be used, but built-in is better -- especially if you need the SD slot for storing data. Hopefully built-in Bluetooth can be added to the next version of the Tungsten C.

I see the Tungsten C as the perfect Wi-Fi device when a laptop is too much to haul around, yet you want to check email, surf the web or performing network operations wirelessly. Hopefully it'll do well and further strengthen Wi-Fi as a mainstream thing.

Tuesday
Apr222003

BusinessWeek's Wi-Fi Special Edition

BusinessWeekJust stumbled across an excellent special section on Wi-Fi over at BusinessWeek magazine online, with several very interesting articles on the Wi-Fi revolution as it relates to business.

Articles include an interview with Nicholas Negroponte (former director of MIT's Media Lab) and another article on going wireless called A Year of Living Wirelessly, among others. It's encouraging to see a mainstream publication like BusinessWeek covering Wi-Fi so thoroughly, since to me it further indicates Wi-Fi gaining critical mass and becoming more commonplace in daily life.

Monday
Apr212003

The Old Patagonian Express

The Old Patagonian ExpressI love travel writing. I thoroughly enjoy learning about far flung places in the world, their cultures, history, and people. For me it's a real treat to settle into a comfortable chair and experience the travels of a travel writer. It's also an educational experience for an amatuer travel writer, like me.

So what makes a great travel writer? In my opinion, it's primarily the writer's awareness of their surroundings and the ability to express their observations of places, people and events in a way that makes the reader feel as though they are right there, along for the ride.

One travel writer whom I feel has these abilities is Paul Theroux. I've read nearly all of his travel books and have enjoyed each one, though my absolute favorite is The Old Patagonian Express.

The concept of The Old Patagonian Express is quite simple: can someone take a metro Boston commuter train from North America, all the way down to Patagonia on the southern tip of South America? Theroux manages to pull off his goal (sans a few dangerous parts of Central America) while weaving a great yarn about train travel, interesting people and the colorful places he experiences along the way.

What I especially enjoy are Theroux's detailed character descriptions of the people he meets on and off the train, like the Raw Foodist on an Amtrak train in the US Midwest and Thornberry, a fellow American traveller Theroux bumps into while wandering in Central America. The book is filled with many interesting characters that greatly enhance Theroux's story of train travel in Latin America.

I should also warn you that Paul Theroux is often a bit grumpy on his travels, which sometimes gets him into trouble. However I find this gruffness part of his charm. I also like that Theroux bares his grumpy side for the reader, because it shows that a travel writer's life is not always sunshine and ice cream.

So, If you have any interest in trains, travel to South America, or travel adventures but just can't strike our on your own at the moment, I highly recommend The Old Patagonian Express. If you've never read a travelogue before, I encourage you to find a good one and give it a try. Reading about travels makes for interesting reading and can even teach the worldly traveler a thing or two.

Friday
Apr182003

One-Hundred-and-Twenty-GIGABYTES!

Firewire DriveToday, I received a nice box from the UPS man. Inside was an external FireWire drive with a 120GB hard drive inside. One-Hundred-and-Twenty Gig-a-Bytes! Think about how much space that is! How much? $236. That's incredibly cheap!

If you're a technology old-timer like me, then 120GB really is a massive amount for a portable drive at that price. I come from the days of 500k and 1.4MB floppies, days when 8MB of RAM was alot of space and where a 10MB hard drive once cost thousands of dollars! Some of the earliest computers didn't even have hard drives. If you're a young tech whippersnapper, well, you probably won't understand my perspective. :-)

What's cool about this new Other World Computing Mercury Drive is how quick it is due to FireWire (or 1394 to be precise). This afternoon I copied 5.9GB of imported DV camera movies from my iMovies folder and it took 5 minutes. That's 2GB more than the entire contents of my old Powerbook G3's hard drive in 5 minutes!

While it's wonderful that these huge hard drives are now commonplace, it also creates some problems -- like backing up all those Gigs. Getting a 120GB FireWire drive was a real necessity in order to backup all the work I save on my Powerbook G4's 45GB internal hard drive. My old 4GB DAT drive I had used for backup just couldn't cut the mustard -- it would take 11 tapes (and me there changing them) to fully backup that 45GB drive. Let's not even talk about how long a tape backup would take.

And at what point will we have enough? Right now Gigabyte drives can handle hours of digital video, thousands of MP3 encoded tunes, goodness knows how many plain text documents. It runs along with the idea about processor speeds -- exactly how fast does your computer need to be to type an email or surf the web?

But I'm not complaining... having all this space is wonderful, especially since I have peace of mind knowing my Powerbook is backed up and I've got the space to store raw DV video, iMovie projects and final movies of my son Nathan.

Maybe at some point Megahertz and Gigabytes will be so incredibly cheap nobody will even stop to think how much space or speed they have. You'll have a 3000Mhz computer with 120 Terabytes of storage and you know what -- it will still take just as long to type that email or for that webpage to load. :-)

Wishing you a great Easter weekend!

Thursday
Apr172003

Microsoft Smart Display = Apple iScreen?

Smart ScreenI've just learned today (thanks to Craig!) that Microsoft has already created a spec for with a Wi-Fi wireless Smart Display very much like the rumored Apple iScreen I mentioned on Tuesday! These Smart Display products are already available from Philips, ViewSonic, Fujitsu, NEC and TG. Smart Screens start at around $1000 and are available in 10" and 15" screen sizes.

So, it should be interesting to see if Apple really does follow through with the iScreen idea or not. If so, they already have competition, though some of the other tidbits I've read at O'Grady's PowerPage and Mac Whispers since Tuesday seem to suggest an iScreen may be more like an iPod with color 8" screen than a larger 15" monitor. We shall see!