When Technology and a 2 Year Old Collide

Never leave your 2 year old alone with a laptop. My son came upstairs and said: "I pushed all of mommy's buttons". We knew that couldn't be good.

It wasn't. I was able to get about 2/3 of the keys back on, but ended up ordering a replacement keyboard as he actually broke several of the plastic key mounts.

Luckily this was my wife's laptop, and not mine!

Treo 755 Initial Config and Must Haves

As I outlined in my previous post, I'm using a new 755p. To get my 755p in prime form, there are a bunch of tweaks and programs to install right out of the box.

First, there is some software that comes with the device but isn't shipped on the CD. It can be downloaded here. Some of the applications do require you to enter your serial number. The software I downloaded was:
  • Versamail - needed for Outlook ActiveSync
  • Voice Dialing - I have found this only marginally useful, especially with the Treo's ease of use and it's so-so accuracy
  • Bejeweled - addictive Game
  • Solitaire - obvious
  • Palm Files - So you can browse files on the SD card
After that, I grabbed:
  • IBM Java VM
  • Gmail Java Application - Google didn't see to want me to d/l it using the mobile apps page, so the link there is direct to the jar file. I also linked to 1.1.0 instead of 1.1.1 or 1.5.0 since 1.1.0 seemed to work the best.
  • Google Maps
There are several configuration changes that I make right out of the box as well.

Phone Display Preferences (General Preferences on older Treos):
  • Change 'Show DialPad' to 'Show Wallpaper' and select a background image.
  • Change 'Typing dials phone number' to 'Typing starts contact search'
  • I set the Favorites Buttons Rows to 1.
  • I turn off the 'Blink green LED when in coverage' on the 650, but the 755 doesn't seem to have that setting.
The 'Typing ...' setting is the key feature for the Treo in my eyes, and is what really makes it a great phone. I can't believe this setting is set to 'dial number' by default, as it really hides the usability. For the uninitiated, to call someone I turn the phone on, and then start typing their name on the keyboard. You can also mix first and last names, so to dial myself (hey, why not) I would turn the phone on and type 'ed'. If that doesn't narrow it down enough, you can keep typing, such as 'edau'. For me, 2-3 letters finds just about everyone.

New Phone

As some people have noted (and my previous posts suggest), I'm a little uptight about my mobile phone. I've been used a Palm device of some sort since 1998 and am a pretty big fan. I've used the Treo 270, 600, and 650 so far, and have had the 650 for a couple years now. However, due to some recent events, I had the opportunity to live in the Windows Mobile world for a while. Here is what happened, and my conclusions.

For various reasons, I ended up switching service from Sprint to Verizon. While Verizon has great coverage, their phone selection is much less impressive than Sprint's. Those two may be linked, but that's a post for another day. So, my choices where essentially, an outdated Treo (700p or wx), a WM device, or a Blackberry. There were rumors the 755p release was immanent, but after holding out a few weeks it sounded like it would be delayed a few months. So, I had to choose a backup. I didn't give the Blackberry much attention (we don't have a BB server setup at work) so I pretty much resolved myself to getting a Windows Mobile device. At the time, the only WM6 device Verizon offered was the Samsung i760. After becoming mostly accustomed to the i760, Verizon finally released the 755p. Luckily, I was still able to swap out the i760, so I made the choice to go back to my old friend. Here are the devices (From left to right: Treo 650, Samsung i760, Treo 755p):

Quick Summary

  • Mail Application (Exchange Integration in general)
  • Voice Commands
  • Interface Eye Candy
  • Form Factor (Mostly Button Placement, Slider Keyboard)
  • User Interface
  • Form Factor - The Keyboard and button layouts are vastly superior
  • User Interface - The small things that make navigation between tasks easy
  • Exchange Integration - Good enough, but not as 'cool' as WM
  • Voice Command - Included as an extra app that simply isn't worth installing
Detailed Version

The i760 was a big improvement over the Tre0 650 I had been using in a lot of ways. First, the 'push' Exchange integration of mail, calendar, tasks, and notes was great. I immediately felt much more connected. The mail client was also vastly superior to what I had been using on the Treo and provided great integration (you could move email to any folder in exchange). The data connection speed was also a big difference. The 1.3 megapixel camera was a moderate improvement over the Treo camera. I say moderate because a 1.3 megapixel phone camera is still only marginally useful. The Voice Command feature also worked surprisingly well. I almost never had issues and found it to be reasonably useful. However, this is were the positives end. As far as user interface goes, I was unimpressed. First, the button layout was simply tragic. The power button is on top of the device, there are buttons down the right side (Windows, OK, and Camera), and 3 'soft' keys, a dial pad, and a D pad on the front. The keyboard is accessible under the slider. I'm a huge fan of the Treo/Blackberry form factor. Having the keyboard available on the front at all times makes so many activities more accessible and faster to access. I found myself frustrated every time I had to open the keyboard slider. The bottom line is, I believe these phones should be nearly fully functional with single handed use. The Treos are made for this, and the slider form factor, or (to a lesser degree) the full touch screen (ala iPod and knockoffs) are simply not.

I was also frustrated by Windows Media Player. I use my mobile phone to listen to podcasts whlie I commute and WMP doesn't 'save' your place in an audio file between executions. After some searching I found MortPlayer which was serviceable, but not really clean. You couldn't turn off the device and have the player continue, but you could set it to automatically turn off the screen after a period of time. It worked, but wasn't 'natural' to me.

In the end, I'm glad I switched back to the Treo 755p, but there certainly pros and cons to the Treo 755p and Samsung i760. While the 755p also supports Exchange integration, there are a few minor shortcomings. It does not support syncing tasks, and it doesn't (by default at least) allow you to move mail into any of your exchange folders. However, it does the main functions just as well. It pushes email, calendar, and notes in real time, and you can handle calendar invites. Other than this, the 755p is superior. The form factor and user interface is simply easier and more intuitive (to me). While I like having a fully featured device, I use it as a phone and audio player 80% of the time. Dialing a phone number on the Treo is dead simple, and while the i760 isn't horrible, it just isn't as easy. A specific case, on the Treo you can dial the first letter of the first name and then the first letter (or couple) of the last name. You can kind of do this on WM, but you need to put a space between the letters. Not earth shattering, but an example of how the Treo is just 'easier'. The Treo home screen with the default 'speed dial' buttons that can be assigned to applications or contacts (or other choices as well) make every commonly used contact or application available via a few D Pad clicks.

In the end, I'm glad I ended up with the 755p, although it is clear that Palm needs to get its act together with the OS and come out with the next generation that will provide better support for advanced features (WiFi, better multitasking, sexier displays) without sacrificing the existing 3rd party application catalog or usability. But for now, I'm still on the Palm bandwagon.

See my next blog post for the Treo 755 Initial Config and Must Haves

Feed Bankrupcy

There have been a reasonable number of people around 'the net' claiming email bankruptcy. They simply get too much email and have fallen so far behind that they just delete it all and start over.

Well, luckily for me I'm not nearly popular enough to have that issue. However, I've created a similar issue for myself.

I checked my Google Reader earlier this week and it listed over 900 unread posts. While I was tempted to simply declare feed bankruptcy, I instead spent much of an evening powering through most of them. In the end, I'm pretty sure I'd have been better off just skipping them. Reading that many posts at once was very draining and I'm pretty sure my comprehension level was low by the end, but I didn't want to miss anything!

What I do need to to is continue to trim down my feeds. However, it's hard to prune them as each feed I added had some value (at least when I added it).

So for now I'm mostly caught up, but I know I need to do some pruning to avoid regular repeats.

This also explains why I haven't posted here for a couple weeks.

Wheels Coming off at Motorola?

Motorola has lost both their CEO and CTO recently. What is going on over there?

I recently had the privilege to hear Padmasree Warrior speak. She didn't spend of her talk on the PR prepared slides but instead had a conversational talk with the audience about the state of mobile technology and how she envisioned things developing. I thought she did a good job answering questions about the iPhone and the carrier dominated market here in the US.

I've been a long time fan (and brief employee) of Motorola, so I wish them the best. Hopefully they can find new leaders quickly who can help them focus.

Bubble 2.0

I don't usually propagate YouTube videos, but I think this one makes a solid point:

In all seriousness, I do think there is room to be concerned. In the first bubble, the big paydays were the IPO. Of course many who did IPO had only a brief success while many others never got there. There were other exits, but the IPO market was a huge propeller.

This time around it seems like there are almost no IPOs, and the major exits are the tech giants. Google, Microsoft, Yahoo, EBay, etc. are the main sources of the 'crazy' valuations. What is going to happen when these guys slow down their acquisition pace?

Either way, enjoy the video.

Rose Bowl Bound

Go Illini. After three horrendous seasons the Illinois football team has earned a trip to the Rose Bowl. And with a reasonably young team, and an amazing sophomore and freshmen quarterback/receiver combo, the next few years are looking up as well.