A new toy, and blaming Vinge
So I finally broke down and bought a new gadget. My phone was 5 years old and losing its antenna, and my Handspring Visor Deluxe (pre-ordered the day of introduction!) was showing its age. I was thinking that, for the phone, I'd get something small and sleek. Something that would likely fall through the little hole I inevitably have in every pocket of every jacket and overcoat I own. And I was thinking that eventually, I'd procure a Sharp Zaurus to replace my PDA. I would miss the Palm OS platform, it having done alright by me for about 6 years now, but I wanted excitement! and adventure! and modernity!
Well, after long deliberation, I saw that ?CompUSA was having an 18-months same-as-cash promotion, so I finally dragged myself in there and purchased... A Treo Communicator 300.
What can I say? I had a service contract with Sprint yet to expire, and had heard decent things about the device. And it turned out that I just didn't want to give up Palm OS quite yet, and all the other powerful phone-and-PDA combos were so hideously brick-like. (I know, let's take a standard Pocket PC, and Krazy-Glue a speaker and a stubby antenna on top! It'll look brilliant!) And along the BlogWalking theme, among other things, it does wireless internet admirably well and for a price that I'm not sweating too hard to pay. The HipTop might've done me better, but like I said: contract I'm still stuck in, and Palm OS that I know how to hack.
Before I'd gotten it, I obsessively poured over reviews. One of the biggest horror story themes I caught was with getting the thing activated on Sprint's network, back in August. Well, no sweat for me there. I called up the activation number and was walked through the process by a very polite gentleman with a pleasant Indian accent whose phrases and reponses were so identically spoken that I thought I was speaking with a machine. (Am I looney, or had I read somewhere that many call centers were being outsourced to India and lands abroad via some nice WAN technologies?) The new Treo was ringing and hitting Google within 10 minutes after I got off the call, despite his cautioning me that it might take upwards of 6 hours to get processed.
Once working, the earbud/mic supplied with the device worked very well. Holding the thing up to my ear is nicer than one might expect when pressing a small slab to the side of one's face, but I'll probably use the earbud more. Now if I only had an elegant way to stow and fetch the earbud on my person while I'm out and about. Unspooling that tangle is no way to quickly answer the phone.
As for applications, I had everything from my old Visor transferred in short order, including my body of data whose history went all the way back to my first blocky Palm Pilot. After that, I went out and snagged a large blob of net apps and synced them up. AIM, SMS, IRC, SSH, VNC, ICQ, email (via IMAP!), and most importantly Google via Blazer all worked great. (Although, you have to watch AIM. It does nasty things occasionally and seems to corrupt its databases, requiring a warm reboot, deletion, and reenabling of all your hacks and extensions.)
So, shortly I'll be looking for a way to combine AmphetaDesk or ?OffNews with ?Plucker to give me a way to package up and slurp down a day's reading like I used to do with ?AvantGo. The funny thing, though, is I don't know whether a single package-and-sync of reading is enough in a day. It used to be - I would slurp down News.com, Wired News, Slashdot, and a smattering of other sites and be set for the day. But now, I check my AmphetaDesk at least 6-10 times a day. Given that, and the fact that I do have a decent allowance for data per month, I may look at putting AmphetaDesk out on my JohnCompanies server and whip up a Blazer-friendly skin for it using some ideas from AmphetaOutlines to hide redundant items and save me some bytes.
It's such a difference now, using the Sprint data network with this slim and elegant little Treo, versus when I first bought a Novatel Minstrel for my Palm III and used it to vaguely, slowly, gradually poke around on the web with that solid brick of magic stuff. I can't wait until all of this finally converges with affordable, socially inobtrusive wearables.
I also just got done reading another VernorVinge story, Fast Times at Fairmont High. I blame him for this. I want display contact lenses, ubiquitous networking via computing clothes, consensual imagery overlayed across all I see. I want twitch-speed access to searches so that I can pick up on the song or poem someone starts quoting, and complete the line for them. I want to ping objects around me and have them respond with self-identification. I want to live-by-wire. But until then, I have a wireless net connection on my Treo with a keyboard that makes me look only slightly geeky when I type. That, and a desire to get my butt back into school so that maybe I can get the credentials to climb my way into research with tech like this.