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Mike Rohde (Color - Square)

ROHDESIGN is the website of designer Mike Rohde, who writes on design, sketching, drawing, sketchnotes, technology, travel, cycling, books & coffee.
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Clie Surgery: Successful!

Happy CliéAnd there was much rejoicing.

As you may recall from my May 30th weblog post, Killing My Clié, that I'd managed to do some serious damage to my beloved Sony Clié N610.

Well, I have some very, very good news: Dr. Dan Royea, Palm OS Hardware Wizard Extraordinaire has shown his quality! He has successfully merged my old Clié N610's screen with the working guts of Craig Froehle's wife's Clié N610 (which had a busted screen). Dr. Dan emailed me this morning with the good news, from the recovery ward at St. Royea's Hospital for Wayward Handhelds.

There are however, two very minor caveats:

1. The Windex spot of residue will remain under the touch screen, but this should be no problem as it doesn't effect the touch screen's operation. In fact, this little spot should act as a good reminder to not to mess around with miniature hardware and of Dan's wizardry.

2. I'll lose my 16MB RAM upgrade, performed late last year by STNE Corp. I can certainly live with 8MB for now, but that extra 8MB will be missed. It'll be something to look forward to in the next handheld, whenever that comes. Still this is a very minor point.

So, this is very good news!! The operation will save money, important now that we're feeding a very hungry little 7 month old boy. My eternal gratitude goes to Dan Royea for his work. I know he'll be pleased knowing another of his 'patients' will live happily ever after. :-)


Palm + Handspring = PalmSpring?

I heard the news today, oh boy...

At Brighthand, c|net, InfoSync World, and at The Register. As always, there's excellent commentary on the announced merger from Craig Froehle at GearBits too.

What an interesting turn. Hawkins and Dubinsky head back to Palm. My gut impression: this is a good move. Might be just what both companies needed about now.

More commentary after I've brewed on this for a while...

Well, after some thought and a little discussion with fellow Palm users here's a little commentary on the proposed Palm-Handspring merger:

I think it's a good thing in general, from the point of view that it's better to have Palm and Handspring merge than to see Handspring go under. I believe Handspring is in a tough spot financially and seems to be "betting the farm" more or less on their Treo line.

Handhelds became a commodity, so they've moved away from that space and into the more lucrative and more difficult path of communicators. The Treo is a fine machine with great PDA/Phone integration, but with competitors like Nokia, Motorola, Samsung, Kyocera and Microsoft, they do have some serious competition.

I think the merger of Palm and Handspring makes them a more well-rounded company, better able to deal with both Sony and Microsoft. The coming new name is probably something they will wish wasn't part of the deal. I'd bet the Palm name and image around the world is worth quite alot.

The Register story suggests that the deal is a Handspring bail-out effort. Handspring does have to pay down a big lease on a building, signed back in the Internet boom days. The Palm deal will help with this for sure.

The worst part of the deal will be the layoffs. It'll be too bad that some overlap of staff will have to be trimmed.

Might have more tomorrow... or maybe not. I'm sure this deal has been analyzed to death by now. :-)


In Praise of Shaun McGill

I've long been a fan of Shaun McGill's excellent CliePlanet website... so I thought it was high time to make a mention here on my own weblog, praising all of Shaun's hard work and dedication to the Palm community.

I visit the CliePlanet site at least daily, and without fail I always come away with a great Palm app or bit of PDA news. Somehow, Shaun manages to out-post Palm Infocenter on the average day with many very interesting Palm-oriented tidbits. Even more amazingly, Shaun maintains a full-time day job and a growing family!

Because I'm a big fan of CliePlanet, I was naturally interested in a new site Shaun has begun called PDAThoughts. This is more of Shaun's personal weblog, which he updates periodically with mainly PDA and a few non-PDA related posts.

Again, Shaun manages to post very interesting articles on PDAThoughts, like his latest post about a harrowing experience on eBay with an international buyer. Other posts have covered Shaun's quirky habit of saving useless information on his handheld and commentary on recently announced Clié models from Sony he humorously calls 'Phony Cliés.

So, if you're looking for high-quality content that's frequently updated, look no further than the great stuff Shaun McGill has been cranking out at CliéPlanet and now at PDAThoughts too.

Keep up the brilliant work Shaun! :-)


iPAQ h5450: Wi-Fi Use Causes 'Regular' Resets?

HP iPAQ h5450I saw this review of the new iPAQ h5450 by Hahn Choi on TechTV's site (via Gizmodo) on Friday, and being interested in Wi-Fi technology and handhelds, I had a look. The HP iPAQ 5450 is a groundbreaking Pocket PC device (or Palm OS device for that matter) in that it's the the first with both Wi-Fi and Bluetooth both built-in.

While reading along, I came across a quote that nearly caused me to snort the coffee I was enjoying, out of my nose:

Having both wireless technologies, while fun, also presents some issues. With Wi-Fi, an insufficient driver memory error occurred on a regular basis. I was regularly performing soft resets in order to access the Wi-Fi capabilities. The h5450 clearly comes with memory management issues even with the latest ROM update.

Yikes! "I was regularly performing soft resets" doesn't sound like loads of fun to me! And the reviewer doesn't mention how often these resets occurred. Were they every 5 minutes? 15 minutes? 30 minutes? It seems odd that their regularity in terms of minutes or hours is not mentioned, which could either mean crashes maybe weren't that regular (every hour or two) or worse yet, it was really regular to the point of uselessness.

But think about this further -- the iPAQ doesn't have the longest battery life of the PDAs currently on the market, so I'd suspect a Wi-Fi session was maybe 2-4 hours, right? In that context, regularly in a 2-4 span to me means resets may have occurred every 15-30 minutes. Of course this is speculation, but it does make me wonder. What does regular really mean in this context?

Here are a few relevant definitions of regular from

Customary, usual, or normal: the train's regular schedule.

Occurring at fixed intervals; periodic: regular payments.

Occurring with normal or healthy frequency.

Not varying; constant.

How often resets occurred aside, the fact that regular resets are common makes the iPAQ h5450 pretty unattractive as a Wi-Fi device, especially if that's supposed to be one of the two or three biggest selling points of this $700 PDA. If I were considering this device for my own Wi-Fi use, I'd be packing it up for a return pretty quickly if I had to deal with regular resets.

Okay, so Palm made two big boo-boos with the mono headset jack and lack of Bluetooth support on the Tungsten C, but at least the device works without 'regular' crashes and lasts up to 8 hours on a single charge. That's my idea of a useable handheld with Wi-Fi built in. :-)


Killing My Clié

You may have noticed I've been linda post-free here at the Rohdesign Weblog for a few days... that's because my lunch-breaks and evenings have been spent trying in futility to repair my little Clié N610. The story is a bit embarrassing, but I've decided to come clean and share it here as a sort of penance. :-)

It all began when I decided to replace the Scotch Magic Tape on the Graffiti area of my Sony Clié N610C, which works very well to protect against stylus wear. Tape came off fine, but when I sprayed Windex glass cleaner on the rag I was using to clear off tape residue, some of the liquid managed to get on the screen... and to my horror crept under the touch screen and formed a shifting amoeba of Windex! This effectively killed the touch screen. Aghh!

Thinking I could expel the liquid, I opened my Clié up and found that the liquid was very securely trapped behind the touch screen. I queried a few Palm-using friends, who suggested I just might be able to dry out the liquid by putting the Clié in a Ziploc bag with a silica gel module (I got one from an Excedrin bottle) and move the package to a warm place.

I thought the space between my Powerbook G4 and it's RoadTools Podium Coolpad would be perfect spot. I placed the the Clié-in-Bag there and left it overnight to dry out. To my surprise, the Windex amoeba was gone the next morning, but for a small stain, which disappeared with the backlight on. Better yet, the touch screen worked! Woo hoo!

But my trials and tribulations had not ended. I tried to HotSync the Clié and it was dead. No response even with my Stowaway keyboard. I realized that I must have loosened or broken contact of the serial ribbon cable inside the case, when I first opened it up. Ugh.

I opened the Clié again and found it very difficult to work with the ribbon cables and connectors. The situation spiraled out of control and I ended up somewhat damaging the serial connector and possibly shorting the motherboard, as the Clié was stuck in a startup screen loop until the battery died completely a few hours later. Not good.

So, I now have a completely useless Clié. On of my fellow Palm User Council members, Dan Royea has offered to merge my Clié N610 with another he has with a busted screen, bought from Craig Froehle (another fellow User Council member). So, today my Clié goes in the post to Canada and maybe a new life. I'll keep you all posted on the operation.

Meanwhile, my father graciously loaned me his Sony Clié N710C, so I can continue tracking my time with Agendus. The N710 has been working OK, though I've had a little trouble getting it configured. Further, because of OS 3.5.2 it runs, USB HotSync won't work, so I must sync via InfraRed. It's slow and workable but not perfect.

Once I know if my Clié is either fixable or beyond repair, I'll have to decide what to do. Buy another 610, which I know works well and fits my needs and low budget? If I upgrade to something else, like a Zire 71 or Clié T615, then I must get new peripherals, a case and deal with possible Mac sync issues (with a Sony).

However, I always come back to a great thing my father always did while growing up. After something I (or we) had done went badly, my dad always used to ask "So, Mike, what have we learned from this?" This was his way of making sure we didn't wallow in self-pity, but always sought to take away something of value and learning from even bad experiences. I'm very happy to have learned this approach.

So, what's the moral of this cautionary tale? One: be careful with Windex or any other liquids you may be handling near your PDA. That was my first mistake. Two: don't crack open your handheld unless you really know what you're doing. I had no idea how fragile and difficult ribbon cables would be to work with. Can you see "Loser" imprinted on my forehead? :-)

Of course, I feel badly about my Clié's death, but I know it's only a machine and it might yet come back to life in the hands of Dan the Wizard. I've also learned some valuable lessons and have been given a reality check: I do not know everything and that everyone makes mistakes and has bad days. Get over it. :-)