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Entries from November 1, 2003 - November 30, 2003


Nathan Turns One

Nathan's BirthdayFor our family, today is a special day: our first son Nathan, turned one year old! You can see a photo of Nathan digging into his Personal Birthday Cupcake©, lips first, at his Big Birthday Bash™ on Saturday. :-)

I'm amazed that a year has already gone by and even more amazed at how much Nathan has grown in that year. He came home as a shrively little dude who was completely reliant on us for everything, to a little boy who can cruise on the furniture, can stand up by himself (can't quite walk yet though), knows several sign-language signs like milk, all done, eat, and more and knows how to bite the heads off of Goldfish crackers like a pro.

I suppose other parents will tell me that this "wondering where the years went" feeling is going to be the norm now and for the years to come. That's ok though, because I get to enjoy seeing my son grow and learn while being a part of that process. Cool.

Happy Birthday Nathan! :-)


Thoughts on Wireless Lifestyles

My friend Lorenz Szabo sent along an interesting essay on his wireless adventures in Austria, which he wrote and posted last weekend. Lo has been influenced by several other webloggers like Jeffery Belk, Om Malik, Steve Patriquen and Phillip Torrone, who have all written about their use and experiences with both WiFi and cellular wireless networks. Lo doesn't really use WiFi at all, preferring UMTS, GPRS and Bluetooth connections for his link to the Internet, via phone and PC card to his Tungsten T and Windows laptop.

His article got me to thinking about wireless use and how each person's environment and lifestyle influences their wireless choices, which is why I believe many wireless options are better than fewer, or just a single option (like WiFi vs. GPRS).

As an example, Lo has a very mobile lifestyle and his environment changes quite a bit over the course of an average day. He might spend time in his flat, on the train to work, in the office, at the gym, at Starbucks or many other places around Vienna in his daily routine. Lo carries a mobile phone and a Tungsten T, which he connections via Bluetooth. He can also connect his laptop to the Internet via GPRS data card if he needs more 'full-featured' Net access. Lo says he wouldn't want to live without Bluetooth, GPRS or UMTS, but has no real interest in always-on broadband, as he spends very little time at his apartment and has no interest in streaming music or other high-bandwidth activities.

Meanwhile, I spend most of my day in my home office and only a small percentage of my time being mobile. Because I'm not very mobile during an average day, I have no real need for a mobile phone or Bluetooth for that matter. However, the broadband connection and the WiFi network here are very well used on a daily basis. I'm required to be online during my workday and while working I'll often listen to streamed music or might have an IRC discussion with a work colleague. Meanwhile, my wife uses a Mac Powerbook with a WiFi card to check her email and surf the web.

So, my conclusion is that your environment and lifestyle really drive your needs for wireless access. I have no need for Bluetooth or a mobile phone because my environment is generally a single location and my lifestyle is not very mobile. Lo on the other hand, has a very mobile lifestyle and spends his days in multi-environments. Others, I'm sure, have mixed needs in between these two extremes.

Therefore, I hope that Bluetooth, WiFi, GPRS and a wide mix of standard ways to access the Net remain available so we can all choose the way we want to reach the Net. I have never understood the WiFi vs. Bluetooth or WiFi vs. GPRS battles I've come across, because to my mind, those are all complimentary rather than competing technologies.

In the end, my hope is that PDAs, notebooks, PCs and other electronic items which can take advantage of wireless connections, will begin including multiple options as standard features. At least offer SDIO slots or add-on features so that these technologies can be tacked on to our devices as we see fit.

What you think about wireless access? I'd love to hear your thoughts.


An Interview with Palm Addict's Sammy McLoughlin

SammyOne of the things I've dearly missed from my Palm Tipsheet days have been the interviews I used to do with regular ol' Palm handheld users from around the world. A few weeks back I had the idea to ask a few friends who run websites in the Palm community to answer a few questions, so that visitors to their sites could get a better idea who they were.

Actually, Shaun McGill at PDA 24/7 had done this before on his site (Shaun, you're next to be interviewed buddy!) but I've not seen one for a while now. Anyway, I really like his approach, and I miss seeing it, so I've decided to do a little interviewing myself.

Update: Looks like I was wrong about Shaun McGill's 24/7 interviews (which I love reading). Shaun mentions on his site today, that his last interview was 11 days ago... oops! Well, I missed that. Sorry Shaun, my apologies. :-)

I chose Sammual McLoughlin of PalmAddict, because he runs one of the sites I visit daily for the latest news in the Palm and PDA industry. We've also shared a few chats and are both Mac fans, so Sammy seemed like the perfect guy to begin with. So, for your reading pleasure, I am happy to present my interview with Sammy:

Sammy, thanks for volunteering to be interviewed. I'm curious to hear how you began the Palm Addict and why. Did you feel a lack of that particular niche being filled in the Palm community, or did your web experiment just happen to grow up into what it is now?

We started the site back in December 1999, it was then called the Online Palm User Club - I am glad to say we have only had two site name's during that time, I was lucky and got the name right. I personally was looking for a site that many users dedicated their time and shared their Palm experiences. I could not find such a site and turned to creating one myself on the same lines as my other site Handheld Addict which again shared the user experiences of those who own a Handheld clamshell PDA. Again running since 1999. The site grew from there.

We changed names in what I think had to be 2002. An Online Palm User Club was what we were, a club to talk daily about what software we all used, what we were finding on the net and also websites that caught our eye. I knew the site was taking off when I had been invited to PCEXPO in New York. I thought, mmm someone is reading my site. I have visited for the last three years.

Can you share a little about how you first came across Palm handhelds and what your experience was? Do you see something now in that first experience that maybe you didn't at the time?

I was always a Psion user. Palm Addict nearly became Psion Addict, however a good friend of mine was using a Palm IIIx and I thought to myself, "Mmm, I like the size, but where is the keyboard?" I had a Psion 5mx and I thought I would be crazy to give it up. I did and I then went for the IIIx and I loved it. I fell in love with the green screen to be honest (especially when backlit). It's amazing and still is. I still have my Palm IIIx to this day. I never get rid of my old Palm devices unless I have two of the same device.

Tell me which handheld you consider your "daily driver" and why you chose this particular model. How does it help you in your daily routine?

My Tungsten C is my favorite device because of the built in keyboard. It allows me to type wherever I am. WiFi access is also a great advantage and because I frequent New York City, there are never a shortage of wireless access hotspots so I can update the sight wherever I am, this is ideal.

Tell me a little about your history with Palm OS devices... Did you have any old favorites? Any flirtations with the "Dark Side" and Pocket PC?

Yes I have tried and tested the Pocket PC and 'wash my mouth out' it's not a bad platform. Regular readers to Palm Addict know that I hate flaming wars on my site. I'm Irish and a man of peace ;-) The Windows Mobile platform has some great potential but I could not get used to the fact that my Pocket PC crashed a number of times and I could not rely on this. I need a sturdy PDA platform with a mass of software titles to suit my needs and the Palm platform never let me down.

I hear you're a Mac guy like me. How did you get involved the Mac world? What machine are you using now, and why did you choose that machine?

Yes it was simply a case of I needed a sturdy OS that was reliable Mike, and the Mac OS was the one. At present I am using a G4 15 inch Powerbook (Aluminum) and it is just divine. I also DJ on a part time basis and use iTunes to combine my music whilst keeping a log of my playlists on my Tungsten C. The Powerbook is a lovely design and the illuminated back lit keyboard is just great especially when I am in poor lighting.

I understand you're Irish. How'd you end up living in Manchester, UK? :-)

It was a case of being the victim of a broken family but we are fine now and I visit home on a more than regular basis.

Tell me something unique about Manchester that someone not living there might not know (like a special shop, club, fact, etc.)

Well everyone knows that Manchester United are the best football club in the world. The city also hosted the Commonwealth Games last year.

You also call New York City a partial home... How did you come to be such a frequent visitor there?

Two things really I have a number of friends who are from the US and I also run a PR firm. We set up clients in NYC and have to visit on a regular basis, the clients I have our clubs and the art scene rather than being large corporations so I have made a lot of friends in NYC and obviously I am over there every three weeks or so.

New York City is my second home, a friend and I have an apartment over there down in Tribeca close to SoHo and it's such a great place. I also think Italian food in New York is the best especially with having Irish and Italian parents. You learn what is good Italian food.

Tell me something unique about NYC that someone not living there might not know (like a special shop, club, fact, etc.)

Gosh we all know about the Shopping, the Apple Store is my favourite store in the world, it's amazing, it's in SoHo. Palm products such as Hardware etc are less expensive in NYC than in the UK. Bus Stop Cafe on the corner of Hudson Street and Bleecker Street is my favorite hang out place.

What you do when not running the Palm Addict? What business are you in and what sorts of things do you do?

I have a PR business which involves the arts and a law consultancy here in the UK. I can update Palm Addict from my office so there is never a big problem and I have a great team of associate writers who spend their free time updating the site. So its updated 18 hours (minimum) a day. My hobbies also include doing part time DJ work for a friends club both in Manchester and in New York.

Can you share your top 5 albums with us?

All of them are burnt on my Mac and they are all in mp3 format from various albums however I will tell you my favorite artists and they are: Coldplay, David Gray, BT, Pet Shop Boys, Madonna, the list goes on and on....

Can you share your top 5 books with us?

To be honest I do not read books (not even ebooks), however I do read books on how to get the most out of my Mac.

[Okay fellow book readers, we have to get on Sammy's case about reading some good books and expanding his horizons! : ) - Mike]

Can you share your top 5 movies with us?

I love the Star Trek Movies, (sad that it may seem), Mission Impossible, The Matrix, I love to watch The West Wing on DVD, although it's not a movie it's just as gripping. Oh yes, The Godfather.

Ok, tell me a funny story related to your Palm handheld... :-)

Today and this is the truth, my Tungsten C nearly fell down the toilet, I caught it in time. At the time it was not funny but I have to laugh now.

Sammual, Thanks for your time and honest answers. Hopefully your fans will have a clearer picture of you, following this interview. If you're not aware of Sammy's website, please visit PalmAddict.


What Is The Matrix?

NeoWell, I've finally gone to see the Matrix Revolutions on Sunday afternoon and I thought it only fair after posting about the second film Matrix Reloaded, that I share my thoughts on the third film in the trilogy.

I loved the original film, and have always said that it for me was enough. I didn't need any follow-ups, because I thought that The Matrix was done pretty well.

I was a bit worried after seeing Reloaded for many reasons, mentioned in my review of that film. I had concerns with the direction it took in a few areas (all mentioned in that review) and while I felt it was a decent sequel, it wasn't something that could easily stand alone.

Still, I decided to give the Wachowski brothers the benefit of the doubt and see the final installment before coming to judgment on the entire trilogy. In this post I'll tell you my impressions of the last film and the trilogy as a whole.

Spoiler Warning: Since I imagine there are those of you who have not yet seen the film, I will invoke Moveable Type's extended entry option. Enter into further comments at your own peril. :-)
Matrix revolutions, ah well, sorry, as much as I want to love it, didn't cut it for me. I think while much better than Reloaded, it still felt empty, like everyone was just going through the motions, sticking to their scripts, acting in character to the last dotted i. Revolutions didn't feel as if it were 'alive' the way the first Matrix film was. Maybe that's because the Matrix was such a departure that it shocked me, while the sequels were always fighting against familiarity, trying to live up to the first film.

The computer graphics were stunning to say the least. Technical limits were certainly pushed forward in this film. But effects do not a movie make. In fact, while the effects were stunning, I felt as if the directors were just throwing gratuitous effects at me, but the effects didn't particularly forward the story.

The end result was, I didn't feel as if I should really care what would happen to Neo, Trinity, Morpheous, Zion, the machines or anyone else... which is kind of the point of the film, right? I was surprised by my feelings after the credits rolled.

After further reflection, I think I now know what bothered me about Revolutions and Reloaded: In my opinion they were "overshare".

Let me try and describe what I mean:
As far as I'm concerned, Matrix was the best of the 3 films. I would have lived happily just having the good ol' Matrix and no other sequels, because the Matrix captured the story so well and ended with the idea that a fight was coming and Neo & Co. were on the attack.

But then the news of sequels surfaced. I was worried that success went to the heads of the Wachowski brothers and they were just cashing in on the success of the Matrix. Now that I've seen Reloaded and Revolutions, I'm pretty sure caching in was not the primary reason for doing films 2 and 3. But I do think that in their attempt to share their excitement and vision of the Matrix world, the Wachowski brothers have over-explained the story.

Best way I can describe it is in the form of an analogy. Let's say I have a friend who takes 30 minutes to tell me an incredible story. I hang on every word and turn of phrase. By the time the story is finished I'm very pleased because the story was compelling, exciting, thought-provoking and utterly catches me by surprise. Wow!

Now, a few days later I run into that same friend again, and they seem unsatisfied with the initial telling of their story, insisting that there is more to tell. I'm not convinced, but since this is a friend, I give them the benefit of the doubt. My friend then spends another hour describing the rest of the story in vivid, technical detail, including the ending. Except by then, my initial excitement and the story's soul and surprise have been diluted by over-explanation and too much detail.
For me, the Matrix was like the well-told and satisfying 30 minute story, while the two final installments of the Matrix are like the second, over-explanation of the story. The Matrix had everything necessary to setup and tell the story, so why go into minute technical detail in two following films? I dunno.

All I can say is this: Matrix Reloaded and Revolutions didn't add anything significant to the first classic Matrix for me. Yeah, there were lots of really cool scenes, wild CGI animation and visually interesting shots. Technically those two movies have quite alot going for them. But as expansion of the core story, they fail to do it for me. In my view, these sequels are merely over-explanation of a well told story.

I could go on and pick apart scenes, but there seems to be no point in that. There were certainly some minor surprises here and there, and some very pat plot devices being used as well (Neo's follower-dood saving the day for instance). But in the end, Revolutions is a decent action flick with lots of cool effects and some love scenes that try to wrap up what Reloaded began... but for me it just wasn't compelling. I just kept thinking "So, exactly what did this do to add to the first film?"

Sorry Matrix trilogy fans. Maybe you disagree with me, and that's fine. Me, I'm happy with my copy of the classic Matrix and am not going to buy copies of the others. Maybe at some future point I'll order them from the library and watch again.

Oh well, at least I do know that the Lord of the Rings, Return of the King won't disappoint... :-)


Tungsten E as an MP3 Machine

Tungsten E MP3 PlayerOne of the things I've been pleasantly surprised by with my new Tungsten E are its music-playing capabilities. With the old Clie N610, it was never an issue, since the 610 couldn't play MP3 files. Besides, back when I chose the Clie, I felt I really didn't need MP3 capabilities in a handheld, since I'd invested in a SONICBlue RioVolt MP3 CD player.

Now, don't get me wrong -- the RioVolt is an excellent piece of kit, especially for airline traveling or long road trips in the car. I can get 10-11 hours of music on a single CD-R disc. This is perfect for a long road trip, as I can set the RioVolt to play and I don't have to fiddle with anything, or constantly swap CDs. It even has a wired remote, so flipping songs and increasing/decreasing sound levels is convenient to do without looking down.

However, last night, while playing around with RealPlayer on the Tungsten E, I realized that this little handheld would be a perfect music playing device for short spans of time. Things such as half hour to one hour errands in the car, or visits to the café where I want to pack light: like sketching concepts or reading for an hour or two.

The big eureka moment on using the TE as a gap-filling music player came during in an IRC chat with Hal Schechner (PalmStation). During our chat, Hal mentioned the CNET story Five reasons not to buy an iPod and we discussed it a bit. As we talked, I came to realize that the TE could replace the old mix tapes I used to love making in my college days quite nicely. Funny that I hadn't considered it before.

A quick calculation shows that a 128MB card could hold maybe 20-21 songs at about 6MB average size (128-bit VBR); a 256MB SD about 40-42 songs and a 512MB SD maybe 80-84 songs. That's not bad, especially compared to the 15-20 songs I used to pack onto an average 90 minute mix tape.

Of course, I'd need to pick up a dedicated SD card for this, as the 64MB card I have now is already well-stocked with e-books, photos and applications. The good news is, SD cards are dropping in price rapidly, since the SD format is being adopted for digital cameras over the older CF (well, except for Sony anyway). I can't wait until SD cards are cheap enough that I could have 10 of them, each with a dedicated mix and maybe one SD for 'du jour' mixes I might make on a whim. Now that would be really cool.

Readers who've been using handhelds as music players for years might snicker at my post. Yep, it took me this long to "get it" I admit. Still, I'm still very happy to have arrived in the present day, so even a little mocking won't bring me down. And every now and then it's nice to be pleasantly surprised when you least expect it. :-)

Have a wonderful weekend!