The Palm Pre: 8 GB Must Be Nice

I’ve just realized that the Palm Pre, with 8 GB memory, has 25,500% more memory than my Treo 650. That’s the actual math; I’m not kidding.

[My 2005-era Treo 650 — which I still use — has 32 MB memory, of which 24 MB of which is user-accessible.]

(For those curious, AppleInsider has a pretty good roundup of the major Palm Pre reviews that are already out. The reviews from Engadget and Pre Central are two of my favorites so far.)

Is This What RSI Feels Like?

Is this what RSI feels like?

As someone who types for a living, I’ve always kept in the back of my mind that I didn’t want to lose the use of those appendages. Back in college, before I really started thinking about this, I noticed some of the early signs of carpal tunnel and, after stopping by the campus health center, they did also confirm that I was seeing those types of symptoms.

After doing a bit of research on the matter, I then bought a Kinesis keyboard (video example) and, since then, I haven’t had any problems; I could type all day and my wrists felt as good at the end of the day as they did at the beginning.

Over about the past week, though, I’ve noticed a bit of an ache at the base of my pinkie finger in my mousing hand, right around that finger’s knuckle area. (I’ve also added a Note to that Flickr image outlining the general area.) At first, I wondered a bit if I had broken it, but after thinking about it, I realized that the ache was coming and going—which I presume wouldn’t happen if it had actually been broken.

I wasn’t quite sure how I’d describe the ache/pain, but I’ll give it a shot. It doesn’t hurt enough that it stops me from sleeping. And, if I’m watching tv or otherwise pleasantly distracted, I can usually ignore it. Every now and then, the pain does occasionally reach to the level where I have to let go of my mouse for a minute and let my hand rest. Or, to put it another way, if you’ve ever punched a wall or otherwise slammed your knuckle into a hard surface (by accident or otherwise), it kinda feels like that sort of pain.

So, what now? Well, if I have any say in the matter, I still plan on typing for the rest of my professional career. And one might think, “Well, let's just add some ergonomics in there.” All of that makes sense, I think, but what I'm finding to me the tough part is separating the ergonomic myths from the legitimate guidelines. Let’s take a wrist rest, for example—I honestly don’t know if that would help or hinder. On top of that, I’m not entirely certain how I would figure that out.

For instance, this page at suggests:

“Use a wrist rest to maintain straight wrist postures and to minimize contact stress during typing and mousing tasks.”

On the other hand, this page from the “Cornell University Ergonomics Web” says:

Don’t use a Wrist Rest — research has shown that using a wrist rest doubles the pressure inside the carpal tunnel, because the floor of the tunnel is a more flexible ligament that transmits external pressure changes directly into the carpal tunnel (the roof of the tunnel is bone so the pressure doesn’t get transmitted on through the hand). […] ”

Now, I’d usually be more inclined to believe something if it’s posted at a .gov address (especially, at that), but this case, it does seem that the Cornell page cites more evidence for its case. Come to think of it, after reading over that Cornell University Ergonomics Web page a bit more, it does appear that they know what they're talking about. I mean, when the footer of your page includes a link for “More information on our Mouse research studies”, that seems like a pretty good sign, no?

One way or another, I’ll need to take care of this. If you have any suggestions—even if they’re suggestions on how to tell the good ergonomics info from the old wives’ tales—I’d be open to them.

Memorex’s Useless FlashDisc USB Drives

I was reading through EverythingUSB when I came across a news item on the introduction of the FlashDisc from Memorex. Flash drives can be handy little devices, but these FlashDiscs come in capacities of 16 MB or up to 32 MB. The non-usefulness of of a flash drive that small was well summarized by the blurb on EverythingUSB:

If you are not excited by the prospect of a flash based USB drive sporting 32 MB of data storage, then you are like me and actually expect a flash drive to hold some data. 32 MB?! That's like spending $3 to buy the winning lotto ticket and then finding out the jackpot was only $5. […]

I've been pondering buying a flash drive — I’d probably buy a Lexar JumpDrive Mercury if they were selling them yet — but I’m not sure what good a 32 MB drive would be. (At that size, the files would be small enough to transfer quickly of ftp, eh?)

Preventing AIM Disconnects with DD-WRT

If you have a Linksys WRT54G router, then you may be familiar with the DD-WRT firmware. Or, in case not, here's a quick recap — the Linksys WRT54G runs Linux and, by its GPL nature, they’ve released the source code for their firmware; building upon that, many others have created firmwares with extra features.

The real deal is what the WRT54G can do, with the right replacement firmware, that you’d only expect to find on a commercial-grade router costing several times as much.

You could use the WRT54G as a repeater or a bridge. Create a wireless distribution system (WDS) or a mesh network. Run a VPN server. Or a VoIP server. Or a managed hotspot with a RADIUS server. Manage bandwidth use per protocol. Control traffic shaping. Support IPv6. Boost antenna power. Remotely access router logs. Operate the router as a miniature low-power PC, running a variety of Linux applications.


In any case, I’ve been running DD-WRT for several months now and it’s been working great. My favorite feature may be the static DHCP set up — you can define a MAC address for which it will alway receive the same ip address. (That can be pretty handy to ensure that port forwarding always works as intended.)

While the firmware is well coded, there are some circumstances where the stock configuration runs into trouble. The first major one is Bittorrent; apparently, the high number of connections can overwhelm its poor little mind. However, if you set “Maximum Ports” to 4096 and both “TCP Timeout” and “UDP Timeout” to “120 seconds”, Bittorrent should be back on track. (All of these options are under Administration → Management.)

However, I found that AIM still became disconnected from time to time. Well, to say that it was “disconnected” probably isn’t fair; rather, it would occasionally have a connection blip where it’d disconnect and then immediately reconnect. It was mostly only an annoyance, but I had wanted to get to the bottom of it.

As a first step, I installed the beta of v23 SP1 as I had recalled reading on the forums that a few connection-related bugs had been squashed since the v23 release. I followed the upgrade steps on the wiki, but I’d still occasionally see AIM disconnects.

After some further reading on the forums, though I read a recommendation for setting both “TCP Timeout” and “UDP Timeout” to “600 seconds” to remedy AIM disconnects. I gave it a shot and, sure enough, it worked. I’ve not had any AIM disconnects since then — and Bittorrent has continued working fine as well :).

Heat Insulators for Laptops: LapPads

This was mentioned earlier in the week on Slashdot, but I thought it was interesting enough to mention here as well. A company called LapLogic has come up with some heat insulators for laptops which they call the LapPad. The idea is that they reduce heat transfer from your laptop to your lap (as much as 57 degrees, apparently).

The Gadgeteer has a review and it confirms that the LapPads actually work, though the reviewer didn’t check CPU temperatures in the test laptop. Some of the armchair quarterbacks on Slashdot expressed concerns along those lines, saying that the heat would just be reflected back into the laptop; I’ll wait for actual measurements before I make up my mind about that.

Reading over of The Gadgeteer’s forum thread on the topic, a couple other products came up. One was the CoolPad, which seems interesting at first — especially since it can swivel — but the “stackable risers” seem like one more thing to lose (the tilt can be adjusted by stacking multiple rubber widgets).

Another interesting product is the KoolSink which is really just a piece of Aluminum bent into a wedge (it cools passively through convection). The wedge is even wide enough so that the laptop can be nested inside the KoolSink for traveling (there’re pictures of this in the “bonus” section at the bottom of their details page).

With the heat that my PowerBook gives off, I can rarely make it past 45 minutes on my lap; so, I’ll be buying one of these. The LapPads look tempting, especially since they’re foldable for traveling. And, the original reviewer mentioned in the forums that she’s found a CPU temperature app and she’ll be updating the review once she completes her measurements. That may be the deciding factor in what laptop-cooling device I’ll buy.