Omir the Storyteller

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Saturday, March 24, 2007

In Which Omir Gets A New Toy


About five months ago my trusty UED started falling apart. What is a UED? I asked my friend Nathan that same question one time when he said I had a nice UED. I looked a bit puzzled and asked him, "What's a UED?"

He pointed to my Tungsten E handheld computer. "Useless Electronic Device," he replied.

I'd had it for about three or four years. I'm not sure how many, but I have a backup I made in 2005. Before that I had a very nice Handspring Visor that I bought because it had an expansion slot you could plug gadgets into. I bought that in about 2000 or so. It met its end one day at Toys 'r' Us when I dropped it on the floor and it went into a permanent black-screen sulk. The Tungsten was nicer in many ways -- faster, color screen, more memory, built-in SD card slot -- and I got very used to it. In fact I wrote a program for my Linux box that would timeshift some of my favorite radio shows, like Global Griot, Wait Wait Don't Tell Me, Says You and Music With Moskowitz, and let me download them onto an SD card so I could listen to the shows on my weekday commute rather than having to be tied to the radio all weekend, which never happened anyway.

I liked it enough that I bought one for my wife and helped my mother-in-law set up one for herself.

About six months ago, though, it started falling apart. First it wouldn't hold a charge quite as well as it used to. Lithium-ion batteries apparently are good for about 500-800 charges before they start not holding their charge as well. I compensated for this by buying an external, high-capacity battery that also had attachments for my camera and my ham radio handheld, neither of which I can find at the moment. Then the charging connection started getting wongy, requiring me to hold the charger plug at odd angles so the little "charging" icon at the top of the screen would come on. Finally, headphone jack lost one of the channels at the same time the speaker quit working, meaning I couldn't listen to anything, anywhere, or get any kind of audio feedback, including alarms. If I wanted to do anything on the bus I had to hold the Tungsten just so, so the battery would engage, and play games or whatever.

It was a bit frustrating, but I wanted a better model and honestly at the time I couldn't reallly afford to replace the Tungsten E, either with a new E or its successor the E2. The E2 has Bluetooth, which is one of the things I wanted, but I was really looking at either a Lifedrive or a T/X.

Last week I ended up with a little extra cash and the determination to do something useful with it, so I got myself a new Palm T/X and a 4 GB SD card. The T/X has both built-in Bluetooth (which I am still trying to figure out how to use) and built-in Wi-Fi (which I am also still trying to figure out how to use, as far as the T/X is concerned). It's about twice as fast as the Tungsten E, the colors look better (although it could just be my imagination), and the charger and headphone jacks both work as advertised. It took me about a day to set it up the way I want, and there are still some things about it I haven't figured out yet, like how to get an alternate keyboard layout to replace the built-in QWERTY keyboard that pops up at the bottom of the screen, but all in all I'm a happy boy. Yesterday I was listening to a broadcast of Says You from last October, just before the old headphone jack gave it up, as I snoozed on the bus.

This will most likely be the last handheld I buy, or at least the last Palm brand. The world is moving toward the convergence of phones and PIMs. My current phone has a calendar on it, the ability to upload MP3s (although only 10 MB worth, so it's only suitable for ringtones) and of course it functions as an address book and plays games. As people write more Java and Windows Mobile apps with phones in mind the need for a separate UED will become less and less. That's actually a good thing. When I bought that first Handspring the idea was to fill the expansion slot with a diabetic blood tester so I would have one less thing to lose somewhere. Someday my phone will interrupt me listening to my tunes so I can answer a call while I'm solving a sudoku puzzle, and no other devices will be involved.

But not yet.


At 5:39 PM, Blogger FARfetched said...

I'm already there, sad to say. My current UED (love the name, I'm gonna use it) is a Samsung Sync. It's a decent cellphone in its own right, but has a microSD slot (it's more a chip than a card, about the size of my thumbnail) currently stuffed with a 1GB chip. Card. Whatever. So it can store a fair amount of music, photos, or text.

What I use most, after the phone, is the sudoku game I bought for it. Third in line is the audio recorder, which can record up to an hour at a time. There's also a camera (video & still), but cellphone camera optics stink. LG has the least stinky camera that I've seen so far.

The final frontier, I think, will be voice recognition software. Moto phones already have a primitive form, which they call "voice dialing" (speak a name, the phone dials the number). What I'm waiting for is the ability to say, "Reminder: call Joe at 2:30 p.m. tomorrow" or "To do: change oil" and have the phone do the right thing.

At 1:24 PM, Blogger Omir the Storyteller said...

What a small world, the first accesssory my brand new phone got was a copy of Platinum Sudoku. It's an imperfect implementation of sudoku -- I find it a bit hard to read and it doesn't generate symmetric layouts -- but it's better than no electronic toys at all.

The second was a better ringtone. None of the ones that came with it were satisfactory (a version of Mozart's Rondo alla Turca came close) so I uploaded a copy of Brave Combo's version of Musetta's Waltz from their Box of Ghosts album. Mrs. Omir's is cooler, though. My son set her up with a copy of the Imperial March from The Empire Strikes Back. Every time her phone rings my 5-year-old grandson thinks his grandma has the coolest phone in the world.

At 9:53 PM, Blogger Family Man said...

Hey Omir.

I haven't been over here in a long time. Glad to see you're posting new stuff. If you don't mind I'd like to add you to my blog roll.


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