What’s it like traveling with a PDA? How can it add to your experience? Over the next few days while I am traveling in Maine, USA I will be posting my experiences and observations. I am using a Palm Zire 72. My original idea was to connect to my blog using my bluetooth Ericsson phone but I had some problems with setting up GPS with AT&T. I am switching to Cingular in a few months as they claim this will resolve my problems. I am optimistic that it will. In the mean time I am posting using my laptop using my travel cable that I purchased for the trip.

If you have not used a travel cable before I highly recommend trying one out. Not only does it connect my Zire to my computer but it also uses the USB port to charge it, making one less charger to pack. It has worked flawlessly. You can buy some pretty nice retractable versions from companies like Proporta.

Daryl Seager wrote an engaging booklet on the history of Dice and Farkle. It’s a fascinating read that takes the reader around the world and through time. It starts with the Romans and their knuckle bones and takes the reader to Greece, Persia, Korea, and China where “21 individual domino pieces represent the possible throws with 2 dice”. I love the list she provides of other names Farkle is known as. Farkle is odd enough, but “Pass the Pig” is even better. Download this fascinating and well worth the time booklet. In addition to the history, it thoroughly covers all the rules plus several variations. Download here.

As a software designer at Smart Box Design I use a lot of software. Some of it is very inexpensive and others more that I want to admit paying, but if it does the job, then it was worth every penny. The internet and mobile connectivity has made purchasing software quick and easy and receiving updates even easier.

There are several mechanisms to learn about updates of which I use them all.

  • News Sites
  • Subscriptions Services
  • Newsletters
  • RSS Feeds

News Sites
We all have our favorite news sites to read about the mobile industry. A few of my favorites are Palm Addicts, PDArcade, and WindowsMobile24/7. Palm Addict does an incredible job posting update notices they find during their daily trolling of other web sites or posting updates sent by developers. What is great about Palm Addicts is they usually have a comment or two about the update or where to get more information. PDArcade specializing in games, and Windows24/7 posts without all the Microsoft marketing hype.

Subscription Services
A great site to subscribe for updates is versiontracker.
In addition to covering Palm updates, they also send out update notices on Windows and Macintosh software. Subscribing is easy, give them you email, tell how often you want update notices and voila, you’re done. Every major developer I know uses versiontracker to post update notices including my company.

I am a big fan of newsletters, as long as they do not come more than once a month. I love hearing about new features, tips, and maybe a way to save on my next purchase. My web site has a newsletter and I enjoy writing it. New subscribers receive a coupon off their next purchase, I get to point out some really cool features in our games and I announce all new upgrades. Our newsletter uses a third party system that guarantees we are adhering to all spam laws. If you have not already signed up for your favorite company’s newsletter I highly recommend that you do. You can always unsubscribe if you find yourself not reading it.

RSS Feeds
Many sites now include an RSS feed. My site includes one, Palm Addicts I mentioned above has one, Time magazine has one, etc. The nice part of about RSS feeds is you can customize what you see. You can set your reader to just see the headline, or headlines and the synopses, or the entire article. I typically just read the headline and if I want more information, I click the headline to read the full article. Setting up a reader can still feel a bit clunky, but once you have it done for one site it is easy to add more. I use Yahoo news when online. I paste in the URL to the RSS feed and Yahoo takes care of all the rest. This is all done in the MyYahoo section. There are also many fine RSS readers for the Palm and Pocket PC.

A nice trend is having the software check for updates when connected to the web then informing the owner. This is not practical on my phone or my PDA as I don’t like my connection fees being used in this way, but as connectivity prices fall and more devices have Wi-Fi I can see this method becoming very popular.

All in all, I love getting updates. The new features are fun to try, it reminds me to see if my favorite developer has anything new, and when the upgrade is free, I really fell like my initial investment is paying off. If you have any sites you use to keep your software up to date, please let me know.

Los Angeles experienced a rather large black out yesterday.

The power outage got me thinking about how helpful a PDA would be during a blackout.

If you were in Los Angeles during the blackout with your PDA you would have access to a host of data.

  • Phone numbers to call and let everyone know about the black out or numbers for your spouse’s work to make sure all is well.
  • You could still work on documents while your computer is down.
  • You could listen to music while waiting for the bus that will be very late, especially with traffic signals not working.
  • You could become a photojournalist and take pictures with your Treo 600 or 650 and email them to the news agencies or your blog.
  • You could catch up on that book you downloaded last week or listen to Palm Addicts latest Podcast.
  • You could review emergency procedures you downloaded to your PDA.
  • You could review the list of emergency supplies you inventoried and added to your PDA.
  • You could keep a journal on how to be better prepared for the next time this happens.
  • You could play games to relax.

All in all, the power might be down, but with your PDA you are still up and running (at least until the battery dies).

I started to think about the Palm and how much it has changed my life. For 13 years I created educational software, six years at The Learning Company then seven years at Edmark which was purchased by an Irish company named Riverdeep. Working for Riverdeep was a challenge because of all the time zones involved and the amount of coordination required between offices, especially meetings. It became clear that all the senior staff was having difficulty keeping up with constant meeting changes from the Dublin, Ireland and Boston, Mass. offices. I would awake in the morning to find a dozen meeting invites in Outlook. Half of them would be rescheduling or change of location or a new dial in number. It was considerable work just opening the invite reading it agreeing to it, writing down the meeting location and topic, then opening the next invite, etc. There had to be a better way and there was.

I came across a half dozen Palm Vs in the IT department, turned in by the sales staff. I borrowed one and started to experiment with it. I research its ability to synchronize with Outlook when an idea hit me. I hooked the Palm up to my PC and the next morning I quickly opened each meeting invite and agreed to the change. When finished I synchronized the Palm, and behold, all the meetings I needed to attend were on the Palm. This was huge. I just saved at least 15 to 20 minutes of reading and rescheduling. I got into the habit of returning to my desk between meetings and syncing my Palm, then going where the Palm told me to go. It was only a matter of days before I learned how to adjust the notes settings so now the meeting agenda was showing up on the Palm too. Then later I figured out how to add the contact list. I would now show up in meetings with the agenda. If someone wasn’t there and we needed to call them, I had their number. I was hooked on the Palm. Several weeks later I presented to management on the Palm and the other five Palm V’s were quickly appropriated.

In 2002 Edmark was closed, all 250 plus employees let go. I was asked to stay for another four months, which I did. With that chapter over I started to think about the future; what to do with myself. When thinking about my future and what I was passionate about, the Palm rose to the top of the list. I started Smart Box Design in February of 2003 and I have been making PDA software ever since.