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Entries in Palm (128)

Tuesday
Sep122006

iGo Pitch Duo Review

by Steve Rohde

pd1.jpgI'm a pastor and a Treo evangelist and user, who makes good use of my Treo for basic tasks: voice calls, SMS to-do lists, managing my calendar, taking pictures for my blog and editing Word and Excel spreadsheets.

Very often I use PowerPoint in my presentations, so the idea of using my Treo to operate PowerPoint, without the need for a laptop is quite attractive. When I saw the iGo Pitch Duo advertised on the Palm website, I was very interested in finding out if it might work for my presentation needs.

I have several Pastor Friends who are always are asking what's up with my Treo 650... I have a reputation to live up to! But beyond being a cutting edge Treo guy, I really wanted to use my Treo and the iGo Pitch Duo at church — for presentations, playing videos or showing pictures.

What's the iGo Pitch Duo?
The iGo Pitch Duo is a presentation device for use with the Treo 650, built to replace a laptop for presenting PowerPoint slideshows. The iGo Pitch Duo can be connected via Bluetooth or Sync cable, depending upon your needs. My main requirement for the Pitch Duo was presentation of PowerPoint slides, video and screen shots of the Treo. I also wanted to connect it directly to RCA or SVideo inputs, which it does quite well.

Package: It comes in a cool nylon and mesh bag, nice and neat with a place for everything. It Easily fits in a bag and is much lighter than a laptop. The Items included with the package are: The iGo Pitch Duo machine, a Power cord with adapter (for some reason there's a little connector that attaches to the power plug for foreign power sources), a Belkin Bluetooth adapter, and an instruction booklet.

Software: Through a download on the Mobility Electronics website, you get the latest software package. There is no disk, so you must get it online.

The software package includes: iPresent Desktop software, a PowerPoint converter which makes files that iPresent can read. You can't just drop a PowerPoint on an SD card and go — presentations must be converted and compressed. iPresent, the Palm OS application that reads the converted files. iDisplay, another Palm OS program that sends screenshots to the Pitch Duo and Quick Display, and a Quick Connect program for Palm OS that sends screen shots to projector via the Pitch Duo.

Hardware: Pitch Duo is the heart of the package, with a power input port, two USB inputs a mouse and Keyboard input used for controlling the handheld, but only the mouse pointer worked for my Treo.

Ease of connection: It was Pretty easy to connect. The manual gave information, but it took me a few minutes to figure out that you had to connect the Treo to the Duo Pitch either through a sync cable or Bluetooth connection. The Bluetooth setup is only done through the iPresent, iDisplay or Quick Display programs. If you do the connection through the Bluetooth setup you have to enter a password.

How the Pitch Duo Lined up to my hopes and expectations
The PowerPoint feature worked great! The Bluetooth connection was fabulous using PowerPoint! You can really move around the room and still be connected. You have to make sure your Treo is set to stay on all the time or it will disconnect.

The cool part was that iPresent has several different views that you can use on the Treo, very similar to what you see on the Microsoft PowerPoint. You can see the slide, view the notes or view the list of slides. During the program you can switch between any of those views.

My favorite was the note view. This allows you to see your notes so you can read your notes while you give your presentation. If you wanted to skip to a different slide you can just change the view to list and use your stylus and click on the slide you want. You can also move slides around if need be, but you cannot edit the slides.

Now you may be able to edit it through QuickOffice's QuickPoint, but I did not test this, since I don't have a copy of QuickPoint on my Treo. One last word to note is that this will not do any transitions, embedded video or music. It is just a basic “click the next slide” kind of functionality.

iGo and Other Pitch Duo users say the product works with QuickOffice's QuickPoint, including editing of slides but doesn't work with Documents to Go. I only have Docs to Go on the Treo, so I'd really like to see support added for this other popular application.

I'd also like to see a few changes made to the desktop converter program. There isn't any option to select a destination for converted files — the application automatically sends converted files to the Palm Quick Install program. From there you can choose to send the file via HotSync to the Palm device itself or an SD card. I would prefer to send the file directly to the SD card without using the Palm HotSync program.

iDisplay and Quick Display program on Palm
The Bluetooth connection did not work well — It was slow and quite delayed — though the connection through the HotSync USB cable was excellent. When I used the sync cable the response was fast. Don’t even try to view video or even pictures from the Treo directly. Video is too slow and massively delayed. The serial connection cannot keep up with the data required to send video.

Picture display is also slow. For the first few times that I attempted to view a picture, my Treo Crashed. When I did get it to work the display took 10-15 seconds to display.

One of the most disappointing parts of the iDisplay was that the Display is not full screen. It shows a generic Palm device and the Pitch logo is displayed on the screen the whole time. I'd prefer to see the Palm screen only displayed, like a laptop screen is displayed on a projector.

The keyboard and mouse connections only seem to run through the iDisplay or QuickDisplay. You cannot run the converted PowerPoint via a mouse or keyboard. In iDisplay you can only use the mouse as a pointing device to run your Palm handheld — the keyboard was not supported on the Treo.

Since the screen shows a generic Palm you cannot click on the home button with your mouse and get to the home screen. I would have lived with the generic screen if the home button and drop down menu buttons worked properly.

Things I'd like to see work with the Treo 650:
1. Powerpoint slides
2. Transitions on PP
3. Screenshots
4. Video to the projector

Other Issues The Case is pretty nice to carry, but the power cable has to be tied every time you pack up because the wire does not fit into the mesh bag.

The design of the Pitch Duo is cool looking, but there are some problems. Without cables connected to it, the device will not stand upright like it's designed to. The projector VGA cable is the prop to stand it up, kind of goofy, but it does work.

The power cord and one of USB connectors are too close and may cause problems connecting a USB device to it. For me I had to turn the power cable sideways to make my USB cord fit. It just seems that there is plenty of space on the box to place the power cord farther away.

There is a IR connection option, but as with all IR connections it is slow and you must be in the line of sight and pretty close to the device's IR receiver port. I'd stick with the Bluetooth.

You may not have the laptop but cords and cables — those you can't so easily eliminate. There is of course the AC power cord, the HotSync cable and or a mouse cable. Best case scenario for traveling light would be using the power cable with a Bluetooth connection, to limit cords and cables to haul along.

Conclusion
Overall, the product works pretty well. The PowerPoint is a basic presenter and does not work with transitions, video or music. The Bluetooth connection with the presenter program was cool and worked very well. The views on iPresent worked well too, I liked the note view so you can read notes and use your handheld as a clicker.

The Palm OS view program (iDisplay) worked okay. The connection was too slow to show video, picture viewing and camera use. It is limited to the standard serial cable connection, this isn't actually the Pitch Duo’s problem, but is is limiting nonetheless.

If you want a good presentation device that works with your Palm or Pocket PC handheld — this is it. If you need to edit PowerPoint on the fly you will need QuickPoint or your laptop to edit the original PowerPoint slideshows. If you want to project video or pictures from your Treo 650, this is probably not the device for you.

The price for the iGo Pitch Duo is $279 directly from the company, though I found it for $252 at Amazon, with free shipping. Both prices are a little high for my limited budget, though I think this is a decently priced tool for road warriors who make a living using PowerPoint presentations and want to eliminate their laptop as much as possible.

Thanks to Mobility Electronics for allowing me to review their product, and to my brother Mike for hosting this review of the iGo Pitch Duo on his weblog!


This is my little brother Steve's second review of Treo 650 compatible gear; he also reviewed the Brando Treo 650 Music Dock back in January. Feel free to send Steve comments or feedback via his blog at Real Life Community Church. Thanks Steve for taking the time to write this up!

Tuesday
Aug222006

Innersafe for Palm Desktop

InnersafeIt's funny how old articles can have an impact on people many years later.

About month or so ago I received a very nice email from Richard Amacker, CEO of Innersafe Corporation, a data security company. Richard emailed that he had been inspired to create Innersafe for Palm Desktop partly because of an article from The Palm Tipsheet issue 5, February 2000, called Palm Security.

Here was the paragraph that inspired Richard:

Another problem with the standard Palm security feature is that your user files — while marked private — can be accessed and read if copied from your Mac or PC. While the files marked 'private' are not visible in your desktop application, they can be accessed via your user data files. This data can be viewed with any text editor.

Richard says this flaw I'd mentioned about the stock Palm Desktop, encouraged him to develop Innersafe for Palm Desktop an add-on module that secures Palm Desktop data files (Datebook, Address Book, To-Dos, Memos) on Windows PCs.

I was amazed that an old article from an obscure e-zine could have such an impact 6 years later. I'm very pleased to have helped encourage the development of this critical Windows security tool.

To learn more about Innersafe for Palm Desktop, be sure to check out the videos Richard has created, showing just how insecure the standard Palm Desktop is, and how much more secure Innersafe can make Palm Desktop files for Windows PC users.

If you're a Palm user who syncs to a Windows machine, this $40 add-on could save your bacon, especially if you use Windows and Palm Desktop on a notebook PC.

Now I need to convince Richard to create Innersafe for Mac Palm Desktop! :-)

Sunday
Jun252006

Boston Globe: PDA buffs go back to basics

Custom Moleskine PlannerThis Sunday, the Rohdesign Weblog was featured in the business section of the Boston Globe, in the story PDA buffs go back to basics. The Globe piece discusses back to paper movement Douglas Johnston wrote about in 2005.

Last week I was able to talk at length with Kim-Mai Cutler about my Custom Moleskine Hack, using a Palm, the Palm Tipsheet, the analog movement, and more. It seems I've made the first several paragraphs of the piece:

Web designer Mike Rohde was a certifiable Palm fanatic. He had the original PalmPilot 1000, then a Sony Clié, then a Tungsten E, and several more all the way up to the Zire 72. His monthly newsletter vetting the newest models went out to 10,000 subscribers. But when his PDA turned up missing two months ago, Rohde's quick fix wasn't the latest Treo.

He picked up a notebook and drew a calendar.

"The Palm started to become a creature. It demanded things from me. It demanded me to recharge it every couple days or I'd have to make back ups," he said. "I wanted to see what it would be like if I went to paper."

That sums up my thoughts pretty well. It's compressed from what Kim and I discussed over the phone, as reporters are very limited in the space they have. However, it's quite nice to be featured in the opening with that much copy.

The story also features analog fans Chad Adams of PocketMod, Armand Frasco of Moleskinerie, Merlin Mann of 43 Folders, Douglas Johnston of DIYPlanner. I'm honored to be in such great company.

The only unfortunate detail was the lack of link to my weblog , which I'm working on having added. We'll see how many readers Google and find me from the article.

I'd like to mention for the record that I'm not anti-technology. I use technology every day as a designer with MakaluMedia, who works remotely with international colleagues and clients and I see its value and power.

Neither am I anti-Palm or anti-PDA. I've used a Palm handheld for almost 10 years, and believe these devices are excellent tools. However, In my own life I've found paper made more sense for my personal schedule (work stuff is handled on the Mac).

I hope article challenges readers to consider their tools, whether digital or analog. For me it's less about which tool you choose and much more about making sure that tool suits your needs.

Update 2006-06-26: Thanks to reader Ryan Wolf of Variance Art, who nabbed a copy of the Globe for me!

I've also learned from reader Maureen, that the article appeared on the front page of the Boston Globe (bottom center) of at least some editions... how cool is that?! Here's a black and white scan:

globe-scan.gif

Update 2006-07-01: Looks like the article remained in 5th position on the Globe's Most Emailed Articles with 479 emailings one week after it was featured on Boston.com:

boston-emailed.gif

Monday
May152006

Back to Paper: Should I Ditch My PDA?

Last week my old Clié ran out of battery power, resulting in a blank Clié. I didn't lose any data, as I'd been syncing regularly. However, it became a bit of a hassle restoring the PDA this weekend, because one of my restored preferences seemed to hang the Clié at startup. I wiped out the Saved Preferences file, solved the hang and then spent time finding and re-entering many of my software serial numbers.

Time-management software -- offline version

I like my Clié, yet it suffers from one problem — the need for constant care and feeding. In this case, keeping the battery charged and after failing this requirement, steps necessary to bring it back from the dead.

Analog Option
On Saturday night, I came across a very slick example of a paper based task management system on Dave Gray's Flickr collection. It was a paper-based system created by Bill Westerman, a consultant and former Palm fanatic. Bill uses a large Miquelrius squared notebook, and has developed a unique symbolic system for managing his tasks. I love the compact and simple symbols he's developed, and his use of a chart to plan out his day (see the image above).

I began a discussion with Bill and other readers in the comments, asking about details of Bill's system. I was struck by something Bill said in his reply, about using a Palm vs. his current system:

I was an absolute Palm fanatic for about five years (even wrote the original "Palm Mirror" application ... see utilware.com/mirror.html for details), but got tired of scratching away with the stylus all the time. Pen + paper is so much more gratifying.

Wow. I was amazed to see a Palm fanatic like Bill moving back to paper. Part of my hesitance has been my nearly 9 years as a Palm user, Palm advocate and fanatic. Last month, I came very close to ditching the Palm for schedule management, in favor of a Moleskine, but stopped short and have been using a Clié ever since.

The Back To Paper Movement

Today I came across another related piece called Why techies are leading the back-to-paper movement on Dave Gray's Communication Nation blog. The piece was written last November by Douglas Johnston, the creator of the DIY Planner. Doug talks about his addiction to technical systems and how he's found paper more effective for his needs. He talked specifically about this "Care and feeding" issue I've been reminded of with my wiped and restored Clié:

While I would carefully set up my list of 50-odd next actions, prioritising them, categorising them, setting alarms, and syncing between all the technology tools I had at my fingertips, Bettina would just glance at her book and get things done. This is not to say I was a slacker — on the contrary, I did manage to plough through an extraordinary amount of work and training — but a certain needless percentage of my time was spent tweaking my productivity system and trying to make it all work smoothly as a whole, mostly after-hours.

Amen brother! I know I have fiddled away countless hours tweaking my Palm or restoring it, or whatever the issue of the moment was. Now I start to wonder... was all of the tweaking and fiddling worth it? Even if that invested time was warranted, do I really want to continue caring for and feeding my PDA?

Doug continues:

Not only does using paper planners, storyboards, index cards, whiteboards and flip charts allow us to see and experience things from entirely new vantage points, they force us to re-examine the execution and importance of the task at hand. It's the break from the worn-out tech-centred paradigm, with no restrictions to hinder you, not even battery life.

While we're on the topic of focus, paper does help slow down the world, if only for a mere moment, and collect your thoughts. Free from the white noise of websites, the endless pinging of the email inbox, the 120 menu items per mouse click, and the average of one thousand significant chunks of information per hour, we can devote the entirety of one instance to one topic. Clarity of thought, anyone?

This sounds so attractive. Taking the time to separate myself from tech solutions and getting back to a more tactile approach — maybe this is something to consider. Already I'm very analog with my logo, icon and web design sketches, why not try it for scheduling my personal life?

Then I wonder, what would life on paper look like? I tried paper for a few weeks, after losing the Zire 72. I truly enjoyed using paper. I appreciated seeing an entire week at a glance. I found myself writing thoughts in the Moleskine, something I'd never have bothered doing on the Palm.

I'm very close to trying a paper Moleskine Weekly planner for 6 months to see how I like it. While the flexible cover of the new 18 Month Moleskine is attractive, the 1 week per page format seems too cramped for my needs. I much prefer 1 week across 2 pages, like the traditional Moleskine Weekly Pocket planner. Since 2006 Weekly planners are hard to get or costly, I'd make my own Weekly planner out of a ruled Pocket Moleskine.

What About the Palm?

What about my large collection of contacts on the Palm? Well, my iPod nano could work reasonably well as an address book, as it syncs via iSync to the address book on the Mac. 90% of the time I'm reading contact information, so the loss of data entry isn't a huge deal. Besides, I can capture contact information on the Moleskine and enter it on the Mac when I get home.

I would still make good use of the Clié for reading blogs and emails away from the Mac, since this lets me read blogs and email, and respond to an occasional email. I'd probably still use My Bible, and Noah Pro, though maybe not. I'd need to think through what role the Clié might play in everyday life a little bit more.

Should I do It?

This week I'm going to think about a move back to paper. I want to make sure it's reasonable, practical and that the system will work the way I need it to. I'm 95% sure it will work well, but I want to brew on the idea a few more days.

What do you think? Please leave your comments, suggestions or ideas. I know others must have made the move to paper themselves, so I'm very keen to hear about your experiences and tips.

Related Links:

The back story by Bill Westerman
The Notebook by Bill Westerman
The GSD system by Bill Westerman
Bill Westerman's Miquelrius Planner
Why techies are leading the back-to-paper movement by Doug Johnston

Update: I've moved to paper. Check out my next post: Creating a Custom Moleskine Planner, in which I describe the home-made planner I made from a regular ol' Pocket Moleskine Ruled notebook.

Wednesday
Apr192006

Notes on Going Retro with a Clié N610C

I've successfully made the move from a "Modern" Zire 72s back to a "Retro" Clié N610CS this week, and through this process have observed some interesting things I wanted to record and share.

Good Memories
Wow, I wasn't prepared for the pleasant memories of the "good old days" of using a Clié for almost 1.5 years (June 2002 through October 2003). It's been quite fun setting up the same old reliable system I loved back then: looking through my old archives and on the net for software and hacks, and scrounging old cables and cradles from old boxes of stuff, digging into the recesses of my brain for setup steps and tricks.

Font Issues
One of my pet peeves about with the Sony Clié are the thin, cheesy-looking hi-res fonts, built into the system. The first thing I installed after syncing my data and apps was X-Master and FontHack 123. I was happy to improve the fonts at low-res, but at high res the bad Arial-clone fonts wouldn't go away.

49540.gifI tried locating a high-res OS5 font clone created by developer Lubomir 'lubak' Veselovsky that I'd loved so much called "OS5 Fonts" which included HrStandard, HrBold, HrLarge, and HrLargeBold in a file named OS5.pdb. I found references and links to the file, but all of the links to Lubak's old site were dead. So, I emailed Lubak directly to request these 4 hi-res fonts, which he graciously emailed back to me, and has given me permission to host them on my site:

Download Lubak's OS5 Hi-Res fonts (16k Zip file)

In the process of font-replacement searches, I came across a nice little $8 app Lubak has created for Sony Cliés that eliminates the need for FontHack123 and his OS5 font set, called Fonts4OS4. This nifty utility lets you select 1 of 7 fonts, which are replaced (after soft reset) to the entire system. Lubak also offers a more extensive $12.90 tool called Fonts4OS5, which applies up to 26 different font sets to most Palm OS 5 devices. Thanks Lubak!

Datebook Tweaks
ksdatebook.gifI also wanted to try and retrieve the week view I've lost from the Moleskine. First I installed an old copy of Agendus v5, but found it a little too large and slow for my liking on the Clié. I considered Datebk 3 or 4, but felt those too would be overkill for my agenda needs and the 8MB of RAM I have available.

So I started checking out FreewarePalm.com, and found a pretty amazing, free Datebook replacement called KsDatebook. It can do much more than just show a week view, including displaying of datebook and to-do items and access to categories. I like that the application is small, yet reasonably powerful for my needs.

VFS Issues
I'd forgotten how much of a hassle using external Memory Sticks was just 4 years ago. When I fired up the Clié I couldn't access my Memory Stick at all, which was important for storing MyBible and Noah Pro databases on the stick. I dug up a copy of the free MSMount utility at PalmGear, set it up, and was good to go. MSMount adds a drop-down item for setup and activation in the built-in Prefs tool and can even restart itself on reset and shut itself off during HotSync.

Great Graffiti
Wow! After fighting to get Graffiti "Classic" installed on my Tungsten E and then Zire 72, coming back to a native Graffiti 1 device is like heaven. I make very few mistakes now, and often when I half-expect an error on a correctly drawn letter (the Zire and TE did that all the time) I find the Clié has interpreted my strokes perfectly. For someone like me, who has invested serious time learning Graffiti 1, the Clié is wonderful. This feature alone makes me want to use the Clié.

Lots of Dead Links
One thing I've discovered in my searching this week has been the number of dead links and discontinued applications on the web. I was able to find references to all of the apps I was looking for, yet in several cases the referring websites were either completely gone, and none of the Palm software sites seemed to have old copies of those files.

This is to be expected, I suppose, yet it reminded me that with the web we so often assume sites and the files they offer will be out there for ever, when the reality is, they may not. Word to the wise: keep copies of the apps, files and information you use locally, because there is no guarantee that the web will offer them forever.

Final Observations
Overall, my experience moving back to a retro Clié has been very positive. I've successfully setup a nice little system which suits my needs quite well. I'm very pleased to learn that in a world of PDAs with 200MHz processors, blindingly-bright screens and 30 minute battery lives, retro PDAs are still a very usable and reasonably-priced alternative.