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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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Entries by Mike Rohde (870)


Hello iBox!

iBoxWired is now featuring a new Cult of Mac story about John Fraser, a Minnesota guy who's developing the iBox(or whatever it might be called), a low-cost, pizza box Macintosh for $250-350. The final product is still 4 months away from production, and may face various legal problems.

The pizza box shape was last used by Apple in the 1990s, on their LC, Performa and Centris product lines. The low-profile shape works great for many users, because it takes so little vertical space on a desk and can be easily toted around by those who do not need something as ultra-portable as a PowerBook.

My guess is Fraser will be forced to sell just the basic box with RAM, hard drive and whatever else he can legally install, leaving buyers to locate, buy and drop in their own motherboard. Maybe Fraser can sell all the parts in a kit and provide easy-to-follow instructions. This might make the process a little less painful for the less technical.

Whatever Apple does legally, it's still a very slick idea: build a basic flat pizza box that can house a standard Apple Macintosh G3 or G4 motherboard, hard drive, RAM and other parts, letting buyers provide their own operating system. For a few hundred bucks, it should offer many budget-conscious users a perfect desktop Mac, now that the CRT-based iMac is no longer sold by Apple.

Go iBox! :-)


Palm OS on Pocket PC

Pal OS 5.5According to some of my sources in the PDA industry, I've learned that PalmSource is planning on releasing Palm OS 5.5 late in 2003, though they will show a demo at the PalmSource Developer Seminar, May 6-7 in San Mateo, CA. What makes the new OS release groundbreaking is that it upgrades current OS 5 devices like the Palm Tungsten T, and XScale based Pocket PC devices!

The 5.5 upgrade should be available in retail stores in both CD, and SD formats (no Memory Stick version has yet been announced) and for direct secure purchase and download from PalmSource's website. The $59.95 SD version will be an especially a good deal, as the 128MB cards the upgrade will come on can be erased after installation of the upgrade and used as normal removable media. The CD version and web download are to be priced at $29.95.

As for other details, I'm told Palm OS 5.5 will run on any Pocket PC that uses an XScale processor but unfortunately there will be no StrongARM processor support for various technical reasons. The upgrade is said to use only 8MB of ROM and includes a new memory management utility to add other applications to ROM (similar to JackFlash).

From what I've learned, the Palm OS 5.5 Flasher will check the device you own and upgrade Palm ARM devices directly. Pocket PC devices on which the update is run have two options: completely removing the Pocket PC 2002 OS or a dual boot feature. However, it's made clear before choosing dual-boot option that the Pocket PC 2002 OS takes approximately 32MB ROM which could be used for other applications bundled with the update.

Aside from the ROM image and special Flasher Utility, the rest of the card includes a variety of applications, including the latest versions of QuickOffice Premier with native file support and SnapperMail along with the latest Palm Desktop installers for both Macintosh and Windows.

As for performance -- I'm told that OS 5.5 runs incredibly quickly on Pocket PC XScale devices, providing tangible proof of just how lethargic Pocket PC 2002 is in comparison to Palm OS 5.5 on the very same chips. Pocket PC devices are said to run the new OS "Amazingly fast" and my sources call the visible difference in performance compared to Pocket PC 2002 OS "A real eye-opener".

It should be interesting to see how Microsoft reacts to PalmSource's alternate OS option on their own PocketPC devices. To even mention the upgrade would give it added notice, while not mentioning the alternate OS option might indicate Microsoft greatly fears what Palm OS on Pocket PCs represents.

Get more info here...


Down and Out in the Magic Kingdom

I've found a great little science fiction ebook to recommend called Down and Out in the Magic Kingdom. It's written by Cory Doctorow, a writer, blogger and Outreach Coordinator for the Electronic Frontier Foundation.

The story is interesting because it combines recent technological breakthroughs and potential technological discoveries, then extrapolates how they might find practical application in the future. The story's setting is a future where cloning and brain backup are commonplace, direct wireless connections to the Internet are installed in people's brains and where ad-hoc groups working for Whuffie, a type of peer recognition, have supplanted corporations.

Disneyworld (The Magic Kingdom) is the backdrop in which we find two ad-hoc groups battling for control of the park. The narrator tells the story of this epic battle from his own perspective, revealing the history of the world he's in bit by bit. To me it seemed to have the humor and feel of writing by Douglas Coupland (Microserfs) and Carl Hiassen (Lucky You), two of my favorite writers.

Even cooler, Doctorow has decided to offer his ebook as a free download in a multitude of formats for desktops (ASCII text, PDF, HTML, etc.) and for PDAs too (Palm Doc, PalmReader, iSilo, Mobipocket, etc.). Apparently this idea of sharing his work electronically has been a very popular option. Of course, the paperback book is available for purchase if you prefer that format.


Silicon Boys Follow-Up

Silicon Valley BoysWell, I've completed The Silicon Boys and Their Valley of Dreams this week and am pleased to report it was a good read. I got a little glassy-eyed in the 'Profits' chapter about venture capital, which was not terribly interesting to me, other than describing how venture capital works. But then I'm not an accountant either. :-)

The Epilogue chapter provided an interesting contrast to the prologue, though it didn't really cover the change in a post Internet-boom Silicon Valley as I'd hoped it might. I suppose I'll have to find another book to learn more about that phase of life in Silicon Valley. If you can suggest a good book on this, let me know.

One thing is sure -- Silicon Valley has more than its share of wacky people. But maybe that's why they're willing to take the risks and start companies... they're just crazy enough to think their ideas will work!

Verdict: If you're interested in a good general history of Silicon Valley peppered with some funny stories and insights on what life is like there, I can heartily recommend The Silicon Boys and Their Valley of Dreams.

Enjoy your weekend!


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 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.