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.)

PowerBook Internet Access with Bluetooth Through a Treo

Well, now that my mobile provider supports EDGE (whee!), I’ve been wondering whether I could put that to use for more than just my Treo. And, since my Treo 650 has Bluetooth, I went searching to see if I could use that to feed Internet access to other devices (like my PowerBook). Apparently, that's possible — Captn Swing figured out the steps to set up Bluetooth on a Treo and have OS X treat it as a Bluetooth modem.

I wouldn’t go so far as to say the prerequisites are steep, but they’re not a shoo-in for everyone. Among other things, the author only tested the sequence on OSX Tiger (10.4) and it needs an unlocked Treo 650. Fortunately, I have both of those :). Basically, it’s a matter of installing scripts (on the Mac) for a generic GPRS modem), pairing the Treo with the Mac, and then configuring the network on the Mac. Of course, there’re a few sub-steps to each of those, but the article includes plenty of screenshots as well.

I have WiFi set up at my apartment, so I wouldn’t often need to use this, but this could be particularly useful for places like airports or coffee shops. Sure, there’s often WiFi there, but not the free kind ;). And, with my unlimited data plan, it doesn’t cost me anything extra to siphon some TCP/IP from my phone to my laptop.

All the same, if my speed tests from yesterday are any guide, I’m in for about 12 KB/sec with that kind of setup. On the bright side, that shouldn’t be straining the Bluetooth connection (which can apparently handle 721 kbit/sec or 90 KB/sec), but I’m not exactly going to be steaming XviD over that kind of connection either ;).

Treo 650 On Its Way

PalmOne Treo 650

I’ve been looking for a new cell phone for some time now. I currently have a Nokia 3650 which looks pretty good on paper — color screen, Bluetooth and polyphonic ringtones — but it sucks a bit in real life. You see, the clowns who designed this thing thought it'd be Super Cute(tm) to put the keypad in a circle. That’s right — the numbers run counter-clockwise in a circle on the face of the phone. And, it's hard enough to dial on the thing (my fingers have twenty+ years of muscle memory with grid-layout phones), but trying to enter SMSes is even worse. Trying to make use of T9 text messaging with the keys in a circle is like someone secretly replacing your keyboard at work with one of those Dvorak jobbies.

I bought the 3650 about two years ago, IIRC in summer of 2003. And, really, it's worked out fine for the most part. It places calls; it receives calls. What’s not to like? ;) And, the Bluetooth has been handy for transferring contact-information with my friends and shuffling my contacts to my PowerBook when I had to replace the handset (broken phone’s contacts -> PowerBook -> new phone). Still, even though it was a Symbian phone and I could theoretically run apps on it, the screen was too small to much useful. (Not that this last aspect was the phone’s fault — most phone’s screens are too small for web browsing, e-mail, and the like.)

I’m also a bit of a connectivity nut. I’ve often thought that it could be rather convenient to be able to update my Netflix queue from my phone after having watched a preview or get directions for a spur-of-the-moment dinner at a restaurant. Or if I forget to print out my Fangando-like movie ticket confirmation number but only realize it after driving to the theater, I could check my e-mail and retrieve it from there (a “wink, wink, nudge, nudge” goes out to someone in particular on that last one).

So, if I’m looking for an Internet-capable phone, I only have a handful of options (literally, I could count them on one hand). There’s the Sidekick II which looks pretty snazzy — my brother has one — but it’s missing Bluetooth and the Sidekick II is, erm, getting a bit long in the tooth as well; I could just see the Sidekick III coming out as soon as I were to buy one ;). There’re also several Pocket PC-based phones, making use of Microsoft’s miniature Windows version. However, considering the distaste that I have for the full-sized version of Windows, the last thing I want is a scrunched version of the Windows UI in my pocket.

Handspring, one of the Palm OS licensees, has come out with a few Palm-based phones over the years. But, I’ve just largely ignored those as they've consistently fallen behind the curve. Not that I blame them — I can understand that it can take many months to receive an OS from Palm and then build a phone around it (or into it, as the case may be). When the latest Palm PDAs had color screens, the Treo was still black-and-white; when the latest Palm PDAs had high-resolution (320 x 320) screens, the Treos remained at low resolutions (160 x 160). Until now.

By some freak of nature, Treo has caught up to Palm. And, in fact, “Treo” is now a Palm brand after Palm reacquired Handspring. Ok, back to the freak-of-nature thing for a moment. Is it that Treo found its second wind, or is Palm's PDA division slacking? Well, I’ll say this much: PalmSource (the spin-off OS division from Palm) shipped their next-generation OS (v6) to licensees over a year and half ago (January 2004). No OS 6 devices yet. They’ve even shipped an interim version (6.1) in September. Still no OS 6 devices. Either OS 6 isn’t quite ready for production or the licensees (including Palm Inc proper) are just sitting on their hands.

Anyway, back to the Treo. Up until recently, the Treo 600 was their latest model, complete with 160 x 160 screen. Granted that resolution is certainly usable — I made of that on both my Palm Pro and Palm Vx. However, I’ve had a Palm Tungsten C (with a 320 x 320 screen and WiFi) for a couple years now and a resolution downgrade wasn’t really what I had in mind. On top of that, the Treo 600 didn’t have Bluetooth either. However, late last year, Palm released the Treo 650 which fixed much of the Treo 600’s shortcomings. (Well, “released” may be a bit of strong word ;). It was mostly a paper launch and then only to Sprint customers. The full scale launch was a few months later.)

The Treo 650 has a 320 x 320 screen and Bluetooth. I gotta hand it to Palm on this one — it’s as if the muckety-mucks at Palm read the Treo 600 reviews, noticed how journalists were pointing out its low resolution and missing Bluetooth, and directed their electrical engineers to concentrate on implementing those. (Were the Treo made my Microsoft, I could just see their developers being directed to add talking paper clips and new wallpaper tiles rather than toiling away with Bluetooth.) The Treo 650 also has a 312 MHz processor compared with the 144 MHz chip in the Treo 600. The 32 MB RAM isn't too bad either (by PDA standards), though that much was unchanged from the Treo 600.

The one thing that was holding me back for a little while was the upgrade-doh!-upgrade scenario — you know, you upgrade, the next model comes out a month later (d’oh!), and you either have to upgrade or look stupid while all your friends buy the latest model and you're stuck with the old one. I mean, I remember reading the news at the time when PalmSource released OS 6 to its licensees back in January ’04. At the time, I thought that licensees might have some applicable hardware out in 8-12 months (which was just conjecture on my part, but it seemed like a reasonable guess). So, even when I learned about the Treo 650 (which runs Palm OS 5.4), I thought for sure that a PDA/phone with Palm OS 6 would be coming out “any day now”

I later researched the goings-on about OS 6 and, of course, learned that an interim update (6.1) was even released back in September but new OS 6-based PDAs were still nowhere in sight. I then read a rumor on Engadget that the next Treo might only come out in Q1 2006. And, knowing Palm, even if their internal goal really was Q1 2006, it wouldn’t be much of a surprise to me if it ended coming out a quarter or two after that. The upshot of all this? The current Treo is capable — high resolution screen & Bluetooth — and there probably won’t be a new one coming out for at least the next six months.

You may already see where this is going. I’ve ordered an unlocked Treo 650 from Newegg and it should be here shortly :). For what it’s worth, I went with an unlocked phone since my carrier, T-Mobile, doesn’t offer a carrier-branded version of the phone (which might present a cost savings if that were an option). That aside, though, an unlocked phone also has the additional benefit that I can pop in a foreign SIM card if I visit overseas and choose to rent a prepaid SIM from a local telco (rather than suffering through $1+/minute roaming charges if I were to make foreign calls with my native T-Mobile service).

Update — June 3rd: FedEx was scheduled to deliver the phone on Friday. Their tracking system asserts that the phone was “delivered”, but there was no package waiting for me when I got home from work. While I have a waiver release on file with FedEx indicating that they can leave packages without my signature, my release specifies that FedEx may leave packages at my back door — a fenced-in patio area (with a minimal chance for theft).

In this case, the driver acknowledged that he left the package at the front door. It looks like a claim will have to be filed with FedEx either way, but it appears FedEx is taking responsibility for this since the driver disregarded the release waver. All the same, I’ve ordered another Treo to replace the one that went missing and I’m sans Treo in the meantime. Argh.

Update — June 7th: The new phone is here and it works great! Whee! Now I just need to install all the handy apps that were mentioned in the comments :).

Plucker 1.6 Released

Earlier this month, the Plucker project released Plucker 1.6. I've written about Plucker before and, for those not aware, Plucker is an offline web browser for Palm. The package includes the Plucker Desktop for your PC which can be set to run on a schedule to download web pages during the day which are are installed onto your Palm during your next Hotsync.

In addition to support for anti-aliased fonts and experimental support for tables, I consider this to be a really solid release — while earlier releases had a few quirks, those have all been fixed in this release. In particular, has much lower CPU usage than older versions (which tends to help on an Athlon 700).

Plucker is available for Windows, Linux and Mac OSX. All you need to download is the Plucker Desktop. And, though I’m fairly sure that the Plucker Desktop includes the Plucker Viewer (the application that runs on your Palm), you can always download that separately if you need to (from that same page). And, as always, feel free to make use of Plucker on this page.

MegaWiki for Palm

I recently ran across MegaWiki for Palm, linked from For those not aware, a Wiki basically is a collaborative hyperlinked forum. If that doesn’t make sense yet, browsing around the StartingPoints page at the C2 Wiki may clear things up.

In the case the Palm, MegaWiki links between applications instead of web pages:

Put a name on a To Do List item, and then just tap to jump to the Address Book entry for that name. Manage a project from a memo page with links to bunches of To Do items. Have a list of important dates? Just tap one to go to that date in the Date Book. […]

That alone interested me, but their implementation is also very easy to use. Here’s an example from the MegaWiki QuickStart page:

  • Activate the Palm Memo Pad application — either by choosing it from the Palm application icon or by pressing the physical Memo button (if you find yourself editing an existing memo, tap the 'Done' button)
  • Tap the ‘New’ button to create a new, empty memo
  • Give this new memo a name of OneMegaWiki by entering that text on the first line (note that text case is important — stringing together capitalized words creates a WikiWord)
  • Tap the ‘Done’ button and create another new, empty memo by tapping the ‘New’ button
  • Name this memo TwoMegaWiki by entering that text on the first line
  • Move down a line or two and enter the text OneMegaWiki
  • Now tap the word OneMegaWiki with your stylus and you will find that you have jumped from the TwoMegaWiki memo to the OneMegaWiki memo!

I could see myself getting some real use out of this. For instance, I could have a general memo for SXSW which then linked to more detailed descriptions for various panels. Or, I could have a shopping-list memo linking to other memos with store specials

MegaWiki is freeware, but I’m still not sure I want to try it ;). The only downside is that the authors are not optimistic on whether MegaWiki can bre successfully ported to Palm OS5. And, since I plan on upgrading my PDA to a Palm OS5 device once my employment situation improves, I wouldn’t want to beceome engrossed in an application only to not be able to use it after the upgrade.