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ROHDESIGN is the website of designer Mike Rohde, who writes on design, sketching, drawing, sketchnotes, technology, travel, cycling, books & coffee.
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Weblog Updates: New Mobile Edition & RSS Link

I have a few weblog updates to report, before this long Memorial Day holiday weekend in the US. Most notably, I've added a mobile edition of the weblog main page for use with AvantGo, iSilo, Plucker or any other mobile-sized online or offline web browser. Here's the full URL:

The mobile edition uses a greatly simplified template that ought to work much better with handheld tools as it doesn't feature any links on the left or complex tables. The mobile template also has the added benefit of taking less space on your handheld.

I've also simplified my RSS 1.0 news feed URL from rohdesign_rss.xml to a much simpler and easier to guesstimate rss.xml and/or rss.rdf. Here are the full URLs:

I've kept the old RSS feed in place for those who don't want to change the link in their news aggregator... and just because it seems like a nice thing to do. Eventually I will post a note on that version to switch to the new file.

Hey, if you have a long US Memorial Day weekend coming up, enjoy the day. If you're a tech person I challenge you to break away from the computer and your gadgetry for a while and enjoy the sunshine. It'll do you a world of good. :-)


Mobile Phone Tidbits

Nokia 3360I'm not exactly the poster boy for mobile phone use, at least as the mobile phone companies probably look at it. I have a Nokia 3360 on Cingular and I like it, more or less. The truth is, I hardly use the thing. Of course it's handy when traveling, but on a daily basis it's turned off, since I'm generally near a stationery phone at home or the office.

For a little while I used the mobile package on my Nokia, to connect my Clié via InfraRed but because I am always near an Internet cable connection, I didn't find it a great value for the additional $5 per month it cost me. However, for travel, the mobile phone is invaluable, since I can call my wife and have her return the call on her Nokia for free (her plan includes free long distance). On my Palm DevCon California trip, our bill for a few hours of talk time was a measly $1.50!

Even with travel usage figured in, I hardly use my mobile phone. I've decided that I'm just not a typical mobile phone user.

Still, I am a mobile-oriented person, so I am interested in the role mobile phones play in our culture, even if I don't use mine very much. Over the past few weeks I've gathered a few interesting articles on mobile phones to share with you:

Mobile Phones Enslave Brits
First is the article Britons are enslaved by the mobile telephone from the Times Online (UK) about studies done in Britain showing everyday Britons are enslaved by their mobile phones, rather than freed by them. I found it interesting to read that dependence on the mobile phone was extrapolated as a form of control, and gave users a sense of power over situations. Some respondents even felt their mobile improved their self identity. Older users felt some of this but it seems that the younger generation say their mobile phones are "an extension of their physical being". Wow.

Kids Need SMS for Self Esteem
Related to the Times article was this one from NewMediaAge, suggesting that school kids get self esteem boosts from receiving SMS messages. Key quote:

"Children are so obsessed that they are unable to communicate verbally uninterrupted, are constantly checking their phones for messages, and become irritable if they have to be away from their phone for any period of time."

Yikes! I don't know about you, but this sounds a little disturbing.

Mobiles vs. Non-Mobiles
Here's another story along the same lines from Wired, which reports that kids are now breaking into two social groups: mobiles and non-mobiles. The article describes the "mobiles" group this way:

"The people who had become a part of the mobiles group had a hard time doing deprivation at all," Blinkoff said. "They couldn't do it at all."

Whoa. This is sounding more and more like addiction, eh?

I should be clear that I'm not against the mobile phone, but as with all technology, I do think we must be aware of how mobile phones integrate into our lives. I think it's wise to set boundaries to make sure our technology (in this case the mobile phone) doesn't control us, but that we maintain control over it.

To avoid ending this post on a down note, I must share this hilarious James Lileks response to the idea of un-inventing mobile phones:

"I have one. It's always off. If you turn it on, people call you, and there's really only one message you need to know right away: I am a trucker in the car behind you and there is an axe murderer hiding in your back seat. And you would, of course, say "how did you know my number?" Followed by "AAAAIIEEEE!"

Hee hee. Exactly! :-)


Would You Go Back in Time?

This morning I was listening to a radio talk show, where the following question was posed:

If you could go back in time to your twenties, would you do it?

Of course the question was clearly aimed at those not in their twenties. In fact, the show is probably aimed at 30 and 40 year olds, a group of which I'm a member. I pondered the question for a little while and came to the conclusion that no, I wouldn't want to go back to those years again. Here's why:

I generally enjoyed my life in my twenties, so that's not really the reason. I enjoyed the freedom of being single, my life heading off in the horizon before me. However, I do think that as we grow older our memory of the past changes. I think we as humans have a tendency to romanticize the past -- recalling all of the great times and memories we had, while filtering out most of the bad times, lonely times and the boring times.

As an example: I can recall many fond memories of the past almost immediately, but if I stop and dwell on the past, I begin to recall the not-so-memorable moments. Like Friday nights spent at home watching bad made-for-TV movies. Or long nights at the office crunching for a deadline. And a particular favorite: cold winter evenings waiting for busses. And, I mustn't forget all of the lonely times that I wished for a girlfriend or wife to call my very own. While life was generally pretty good, it certainly wasn't fun 24/7. :-)

But the larger reason I wouldn't want to go back to my twenties is, I'd miss my wife and new son Nathan terribly. It's amazing how difficult it is to imagine how much a wife and children will one day mean to you when you're a single guy. Only now, as a husband and father, do I understand just know how valuable my family is to me. I think that's a very good reason to stay right here.

At face value, going back in time twenty years sounds like loads of fun, but after a little introspection, I'll pass. Even though my life now certainly isn't perfect, I like where I am. Someone else can step in to the time machine.

The next question is -- would you go back?


Palm's Tungsten Series Fares Well against iPAQ

Tungsten vs. iPAQInteresting article was posted today at Palm Infocenter about recent tests that show the Palm Tungsten T and Tungsten C faring quite well compared to the Pocket PC iPAQ h1910 and h5450 in several critical areas.

Specifically, battery life was significantly better on the Tungsten C, which pulled off eight hours at full screen brightness. The Tungsten C with Wi-Fi active ran 3:45 vs. the 5450's 2:10; over an hour and a half longer. The Tungsten C's 1800mAh battery certainly shines here.

If you look at the VeriTest PDF document (72k), you'll see that battery life was about equal between the Tungsten T and iPAQ h1910: both were at 4:15 with screen on full brightness. When playing MP3s, the TT came in at 4:30 and the h1910 clocked 4:32. The h5450 came in at only 2:27 with the screen on full brightness and at 3:40 playing MP3s -- battery life a bit more equivalent to a notebook than a PDA.

Days until data loss was another interesting section -- both TC and TT last about 20 days on 'standby' mode, where all battery life is focused on maintaining data to the point of deactivating the screen completely. The h1910 comes in 3rd at 10 days and the h5450 only offers 4 days. Better not forget the 5450's power charger on a long business trip!

Lastly, I found it interesting that identical information took more space on Pocket PC OS than on Palm OS. This included datebook, contact and address databases as well as Word and Excel files converted/stored in Documents To Go vs. Pocket Word and Excel. While the difference is subtle, I think this test indicates Pocket PC is a bit less efficient in file storage than Palm OS.

These tests got me thinking about comparisons between Pocket PC and Palm OS devices and how they're starting to match up in specs and pricing quite nicely. I think Palm OS has the advantage of a much simpler to use and faster operating system that's more efficient in both the number of taps to do things and in power consumption. Further, the Palm OS platform offers many more software titles and a wide array of physically different devices.

Yes, Palm OS still has the 4k memo limitation among other well-known problems carried over from the days of the Pilot 1000. However, when Palm OS 6 arrives, the playing field will shift even further -- Palm OS licensees will have the same hardware and in many cases better specs (320 x 320 hi-res for instance), integrated security, multimedia, XML extensibility, and efficient code that takes less space, runs more quickly and efficiently than Pocket PC.

That's when things will get interesting -- you'll have two platforms that are equal in megahertz and chips, that will probably be similarly priced and will most likely integrate Wi-Fi, Bluetooth or both. However, the Palm OS devices will come in many different shapes and sizes, have higher resolution screens, run faster and more efficiently, have better battery life and have some 17,000+ available apps to choose from.

Some PDA commentators suggested that PalmSource ought not try and beat Microsoft at its own game by matching specs... I never agreed with that reasoning. When I look at where Palm OS is going, the spec match game benefits Palm OS much more than Pocket PC, especially considering screen resolution and battery life. Palm OS seems to be catching up and aiming to pass by a stagnating Pocket PC OS especially if the upcoming PPC OS update is more of a bug fix than a significant leap.

I'm getting the feeling Palm OS might just be sneaking up on Pocket PC. Surprising, eh?


Post-Bubble Silicon Valley

This weekend I came across a great Po Bronson article called Life in the Bust Belt from latest issue of Wired Magazine. The article describes life in Silicon Valley now that the Internet bubble has burst, comparing it to Detroit of all places.

If you recall, I'd longed for a description of present day life in the Valley after reading Silicon Valley Boys -- I think Bronson's 'Life in the Bust Belt' article fits the bill quite well. As I suspected, everyone is a little closer to earth these days -- preferring a stable but less exciting job to living on the edge.

For the most part, workers are happy to have a life back. "It's just a paycheck now," said one woman I rode Caltrain with. "I'm all right with that." At San Jose's Tech Museum of Innovation, I got into a conversation with a former headhunter, now doing HR. "The subsector of the industry that profited from chaos isn't counting on a recovery. Ever." She used to eat at trendy restaurants; now the highlights of her week are a regular dinner with friends (alternating among their apartments) and the volunteer tutoring she does at an elementary school. She says, "The question 'What do you do?' now refers more to 'How do you pay the bills?' than 'What is your purpose?'"

I'm not suggesting this article as a way to experience schadenfreude (finding malicious joy in others' pain). Rather, I think it's a way to get truer sense of how things have changed in Silicon Valley, for those who don't live there.

I actually disagree with Po Bronson on his view that the Silicon Valley is no longer an icon. Silicon Valley will always be an icon -- it just won't ever be the same icon of endless growth and prosperity it was in 1999. But who knows... nobody predicted what happened in the 1990s! ;-)