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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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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. :-)


Mac OS X vs. Linux Hotrodder Analogy

Mac OS XThis weekend an analogy came to me related to Mac OS X users and Linux users [1] that I wanted to mention here to see if I'm on the mark or way out there. Here is is:

I think Mac OS X and Linux users are kinda like two first cousins who happen to both love hot rod cars, but love them in slightly different ways.

A Mac OS X user is the cousin who loves to drive really cool cars; loves cruising and being seen in a really slick ride. This cousin may even enjoy tweaking the appearance of the car by adding a custom paint job, spoilers, ground effects, or other easy to moderately difficult mechanical additions. The Mac OS X user also uses the car in practical ways -- to pick up groceries, drive to work, take road trips and the like. Driving the car is the most important thing to the Mac OS X user.

A Linux user is the cousin who loves to tear apart and rebuld cars. Dropping in a new engines, grinding valves, adding high performance engine and transmission parts, tweaking the engine until it runs perfectly. Wanting to know every part intimately. This cousin is less concerned for the car's appearance -- primer, missing body parts, mismatched wheels or missing lights are not as important as having a perfectly running car. This cousin might also cruise the strip or run errands, but would much rather spend time working in the garage. Working on the car is the most important thing to the Linux user.

Now of course there are variations on this theme and some crossover. I'm sure that some OS X users lean more toward under-the-hood stuff and some Linux users are more interested in getting stuff done than making system modifications. I suppose there are even users from either side whom look down on the other. However, for the most part I think each side views the other in a positive light, since both share the a Unix kernel, which I think is kinda cool.

Any thoughts or comments?

UPDATE: After some refelction on the comments and my initial analogy, I've changed the word 'tinker' to 'tear apart and rebuld' and 'system modifications' to get across my real intent -- that Linux users want to know every part of their OS, inside and out. I felt 'tinker' may have been too casual of a term, when I really intended it to mean something more serious.

[1] Apple's latest operating system, Mac OS X, has Berkeley Systems Distribution (BSD) Unix, running underneath that 'lickable' Aqua Graphical User Interface. Linux is another Unix-like operating system created by Linus Torvalds and modified and tweaked by software engineers worldwide for years, following the open source development model.


Palm Powered Software Championing

PalmSourceHey Palm OS fans, if you're looking for an opportunity to share your knowledge in a particular topic with other Palm handheld users, check out PalmSource's Palm Powered Software Champion program.

It's all volunteer, though those who apply and are selected will get fame and recognition when their Champion pages appear on the PalmSource site. According to the application, writing a Champion page should take 10-20 hours up front and will require updates several times per year. In return, you'll get direct access inside PalmSource and you'll receive $200 in gift certificates to boot.

I was fortunate enough to get the Champion page for Writing, Text Editing & Word Processing -- something I love to do with my Clié and Stowaway keyboard. I figured all this experience I have using a handheld for writing ought to be put to some good use. :-)

Check it out!