Friday, October 21, 2005

My Palm Tungsten 2 is dead

So, that monstrous little beast from Palm has finally died. After a few weeks of keeping a charge for all of four hours, the screen stopped working. If I smack it I can get half the screen to display, but generally it just comes up white with a few pale vertical streaks of color.

This is my second Palm Pilot, and given the way my IIIxe died, I'm concluding that the entire product line is flawed. My horrific experiences with Palm's tech support further cemented my distaste for the company. A flaky piece of hardware I can forgive, but keeping me running in tech support circles until my warranty expires I can't.

So now that the sucker is dead and gone, I find myself contemplating a replacement.

Naturally, anything Palm related is out of the question.

Whuffle offered to let me have her old Handspring so she could get a newer entry level Palm Pilot. While the idea appeals, it would mean she would be stuck not with a Handspring that she's been using reliably for years, but with one of the new Palms, which are running what appears to be a buggy, cobbled together OS in desperate need of replacement.

So I started thinking, what do I REALLY need a PDA for?

Games: Nope. That was true at one point, but I don't really play that many computer games anymore, and the ones I do like tend to not be available for the Palm Pilot. Aside from Solar Trader, The only Palm game that really stuck with me was Bejeweled, but I have that on my cell phone. Nethack runs on Pocket PC though...

Addresses: Yes, but my Palm Pilots have frozen and crashed during hot sync so often, that it's been years since I actually updated records on the PDA. I generally took notes on a slip of paper, made the changes on my computer and began the "Will it sync or crash" dance. I could accomplish the same thing by printing my addresses, putting them in a day planner, and periodically updating the printout. Hell, I can put my addresses on my iPod in a read only mode.

Memos / Notes: Only in theory. The Palm Desktop has become a convenient place to toss recipes and notes on my trips, but there are so many other options for that it's silly. If I'm on a trip, a piece of paper with my itinerary is more convenient than a PDA anyway.

Writing on the Road: While this is something I always thought I would do, the fragile nature of most Palm keyboards, combined with the 4k limit on Memos and the lack of a decent and reliable Palm text editor or word processor renders the idea moot. I've gotten more actual writing done in the last year using a travel notebook and a cheap pen than I did on both Palm Pilots combined.

Ebooks: This was the major use my Palm Pilots ever got. After getting an iPod and moving my audio books to it, I still found Plucker and Adobe Reader for Palm to be the major applications that I actually used on the Palm Pilot. A cheap e-book reader or something that integrated Plucker with the GameBoy ebook reader may very well be all I need for that. It would also be cheaper and more durable than a PDA.

Encrypting your address book, in case it's stolen: Cute in theory, the lack of a decent way to keep the addresses updated while still being able to sync them makes it, once again, impractical.

An Alternative Comes to Mind.

Then I remembered a very nice leather day planner I got as a high school graduation gift and used throughout college. All I really need is a way to easily print my address book so I can just put it in the binder. I'll make any changes I want to by hand, and then copy them to the CSV file containing the addresses later. Every few weeks / months I'll print a new copy if necessary.

Then again, I might just get generic memo pages for the planner and a package of mailing labels. Microsoft Word already has templates for printing on mailing labels. Of course that would be far more time consuming than I would like.

Assuming I resolve the printing issue, my old analog planner takes care of my addresses and a few pieces of notebook paper. iPod and Cell Phone take care of audio books and random games respectively, and the Game Boy takes care of "Driving cross country or flying for several hours" gaming.

So one question remains. What would you, my dear friends, recommend for an inexpensive, portable, non-Palm platform for reading ebooks, preferably with Plucker support?

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