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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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Thursday
Mar272003

PalmGear's New Download Policy

Just today I've come across a tidbit on CliePlanet about PalmGear now requiring visitors to become "members" via a free sign-in screen, in order to download software from their website. I suspect as this new policy becomes widely known in the Palm community there are going to be many unhappy campers.

I suspect some of the reasons behind this policy change at PalmGear may be related to high bandwidth costs (related to all the downloads they serve), a desire to pinpoint who is downloading software and as a way to build up an opt-in email database for promotional mailings.

I think this is a mistake. I believe the all-or-nothing membership requirement is not the right way to go about managing bandwidth, tracking downloads, building mailing lists or whatever PalmGear is aiming for. Requiring visitors to become a member is a hassle, and one that many will avoid unless it is shown to be truly beneficial to them, especially since downloads did not require membership last week.

I would have rather seen PalmGear use a positive approach. Why not make membership an option that's so attractive, frequent visitors would immediately want to join? Attractions might include chances to win cool software or hardware, access to members-only promotions and discounts, and access to a MyPalmGear feature with custom app lists and other exclusive features. Make membership a special privilege rather an obstacle for your visitors to overcome.

In fact, Handango, PalmGear's rival software site, already tried this approach a few years ago, only to make membership an option a short time later. I guess we will see how things go for PalmGear.

Meanwhile, if you want to get software from PalmGear but do not want to become a member to do so, I've found a nice workaround posted at CliePlanet by a reader named Brian:

"You can still download items from palmgear.com without having to register with the site. If the item you want to download can be StreamLync'ed, just right click on the StreamLync icon, select 'Save Target As...' (In IE), and change the file extension from *.pgz to *.zip in the resulting dialog box before pressing enter. It will download without requiring you to register, and the resulting file is a valid *.zip archive. Enjoy."

Be aware that this workaround might soon disappear.

Here are some alternate Palm software sites: VersionTracker, EuroCool and FreewarePalm. I also like to use Google once I know what an app's name is. I just enter the criteria "app name+palm" in the Google search field to locate the developer's website directly. Works great.

Wednesday
Mar262003

Modular PDA Sync and Charger

HotSync Cable & ChargerI really like modular design solutions, so this HotSync and charger cable suite caught my eye. At the center of the system is a small, light USB HotSync cable for traveling. However, when you add the optional AC wall and DC car charger adapters (which connect directly to the USB end of the HotSync cable) you can also charge your PDA at home, in the office or in a car. This makes for a perfect travel system, since it's much smaller, lighter and more flexible than my OEM cradle and charger cable... and it works in the car.

I found the cable, AC wall and DC car adapters that work with my Clie N610C at Proporta, however my father located a similar suite for his N710C at CompUSA, so I suspect these can be found in many places if you look for them.

Tuesday
Mar252003

One View On The Future of Technology

Last week, a good friend sent me a link to a very comprehensive article written by tech consultant Andrew Grygus. The article discusses technology trends of 2003 and beyond, with analysis and references that provide a view of what the future for technology might be. Grygus' piece specifically addresses Microsoft's role in the future, because they are now so deeply intertwined with the technology industry.

Now, I admit I'm a Mac user and have always been a little suspicious of Microsoft's plans for the future, just based on how they've dealt with competitors and their users in the past. I do realize that there are many Windows users out there and that Windows does a fine job for many people and businesses, which is great. Further, I use some of Microsoft's products on my Mac and really like them.

However, after looking at this in-depth overview of where Microsoft is headed, I must say I'm very happy that I'm a Mac user with an alternative to Windows and Microsoft applications. I had always felt Microsoft's general approach tended toward restrictiveness and exclusivity. The facts presented in the Grygus article really made clear what could happen if Microsoft were left unchecked.

Now whether you love or hate Microsoft (or are ambivalent), I strongly suggest you take the time to read through this article. I was a bit surprised to see what amounted to Microsoft moving completely to a forced subscription system of dealing with Windows and Office that could require users to get on an upgrade treadmill like nothing ever seen before.

It's possible that these predictions are not what will exactly happen, especially since there are alternative options like Linux and Mac OS X and those who would challenge Microsoft. Whatever the case, I always think it's wise to be fully informed. In this case it seems especially critical if you're a Windows user contemplating what the future may hold for your computing needs.

Monday
Mar242003

The Joy of Digital Cameras

Canon A20
In the fall of 2002 my wife and I decided that it would be a good idea to look into a digital camera as we prepared for the birth of our son. I had until then been only semi-interested in digicams until last fall thinking they were unnecessary for my needs since I already had my flatbed scanner for getting photo prints into my Mac.

Well, sometimes I think it takes physically having a bit of new technology to really realize how useful it is. It wasn't until I had my Canon A20 in hand to shoot with that I understood just why digital cameras are so wonderful. Let me share some of the things I've discovered in case you're a stick in the mud about digital cameras like I once was.

Creative freedom. Not having to deal with film is incredibly freeing. With my Canon and a 128MB CF card, I just shoot what I want and whenever I want to, without worrying how much film I might be wasting in the process. I just shoot -- good, bad whatever and it's cool. I feel free to explore things that would restrict me with a film camera, which often leads to unexpectedly fun shots. I feel like I'm having fun with my camera again, which makes me want to shoot all the time!

Endless Film. I can wade through my shots in the camera and delete bad attempts immediately, or I can suck all of the images off the camera to my Mac via USB cable or CF card reader and weed through them there. This also means my CF card is essentially an endless roll of digital film as long as I clear it of shots now and then. If I'm away from my Mac the CF card acts as a 120 shot roll of digital film -- not bad. And if that's not enough, I can pick up even larger CF cards to store my shots, though 128MB seems perfect so far.

Selective Printing. One bummer of regular film cameras is getting prints back and finding images you'd have preferred not to have prints of. With digital cameras you can select the images you want to print beforehand and have them turned into film-based prints from online services or from your CF card at your local Walgreens (24 prints for about $7). You can even print shots on your ink jet with amazing quality, though these prints are not of archival quality and may fade over time.

Less Long-Term Expense. Another bummer of print photography are the costs involved. Yes, a film camera is cheaper up front than a digital camera, but as time goes on, the cost (and hassle) of buying film adds up compared to the initial digital camera and CF card investment.

Instant Gratification. Man, it's great to see your shots immediately! Better yet to get them posted on a website (via iPhoto on the Mac) for everyone to see, or emailed if you like. This also means an end to those waits for prints and trips to the drug store to get your prints back. Even using my old scanner to get prints into my Mac seemed archaic and cumbersome after using a digital camera and iPhoto.

I think you really do need a Mac or PC to effectively use a digital camera. There are stand alone printers which can generate 4x6 prints from CF cards or from your camera, but these have limits. They also cannot help you manage the contents on your removable card or store your pictures on a hard drive or burn them to a CD like a Mac or PC can.

So, if you're at all considering a digital camera, right now is a great time to dive in. Digital cameras have reached very reasonable prices as well as the removable media you'll need for digital film. I suggest at least a 2 megapixel camera, good enough to handle 4x6 quality prints, though more megapixels mean better image quality.

Size is another consideration. Make sure the camera you choose is small enough to take anywhere, since big, clunky cameras will tend to be left behind. Camera manufacturers have very small, capable cameras on the market that can easily fit in your pocket.

Where should do you begin looking? Check out these excellent resources to help in your search for a good quality digital camera: Imaging Resource, Digital Camera Views, Digital Camera Resource, Digital Photography Reviews, Megapixel.net and Steve's Digicams. They all have very in depth reviews and great info to help you along. Make sure you visit stores and handle cameras you're considering as a good feel is as critical in your decision as the specs are.

Finally, if you have a friend with a digital camera, see if they'll let you borrow it for a weekend so you can give it a whirl -- you might get hooked like I did! ;-)

Friday
Mar212003

The Elusive Dick Tracy Watch

Wrist PDAIf you're at all interested in Fossil, the popular fashion watch company who's also preparing the release of the Wrist PDA, have a look at this Wired Magazine article Wrist Top Revolution by Josh McHugh. The article covers Fossil's roots, the Palm OS Wrist PDA and Microsoft SPOT watch (which uses FM radio channels to receive wireless data).

What I found most intriguing was the background history of Fossil and their attention to design. Here's a great quote about Fossil's commitment to design details:

"A few of the design guys we met at Fossil had come in on a couple of weekends and varnished that stairway themselves," he says. "Just because they wanted that look."

As a designer, it's always great to hear of companies which feel the design of their products is of high importance. It's also interesting to learn of the many obstacles Fossil has overcome to get a handheld device equal to the Palm Zire, squashed into a watch body.

It should be interesting to see just how the Wrist PDAs do in the marketplace. I have a good friend who just loves his Casio calculator watch -- I can easily see him picking up one of these Wrist PDAs -- for the right price. We'll see what happens this summer...

Have a great weekend all!