Lured by the Dark Side
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When last we left our hero (me), the decision had been made to stay with my Palm IIIc because my brief encounter with Pocket PC's was less than what I thought it should be (Pocket PC - Not Quite There). However, I was intrigued by some of their features, so I jumped at the chance to use one for an extended period. Now, you have to understand that I am a Mac man by choice and do not enjoy having to deal with the Dark Side (Microsoft)...no flames please. Of course, recently it seems the Evil Empire has been defeated by the Clinton-Borg (You will be disassembled) so things are not always as they seem. Anyway, I could not resist the lure of the Pocket PC's.
The sexiest new machine is the HP 545. But, given my advancing age (40+), the old eyes need all the help they can get and the Passive Matrix screen with only 12 bit color (I thought it looked funny) didn't help. So I looked again at the Casio E-115. The screen was gorgeous and it was faster than the HP (I know, a subjective call, but I tried several and my opinion held up).
Handwriting Recognition (HWR)
So, the screen is great. But what about data input. I'm a old Newton user from way back. It has probably the best HWR in the world. That was one thing that always bugged me about the Palm--Graffiti. It was not that it was hard to use. I got up to about 30 wpm on it. It was just annoying. Why, in the year 2000, should we have to use some quasi-cryptic mode of entering data in our computers (pocket or otherwise)? BTW, Graffiti is not HWR, it's typing with a gesture. Anyway, I was enticed by the fact that the Pocket PC also has Transcriber (alias Calligrapher). Which is pretty much the same as the Newton cursive HWR. But it had always been slow on WinCE 2.11. I tried it on my Casio and it worked great. There is almost none of the jerkiness associate with the old OS. I can also write anywhere on the screen. It has a built in dictionary, just like a Newton. I did have to get use to waiting for the recognizer to work but at least it's better than Jot. Of course I like the Casio pen much better the HP's popsicle stick.
The standard Calendar, Address book, and Tasks are, IMHO, better than the standard Palm ones. If you include the Casio Mobile Address Book and Mobile Calendar, they are much better. Why there is no Mobile Tasks is beyond me but the standard one works for me. Now when you start adding things like Action Names or Datebook 4 to the Palm, you get much more connectivity, although, to tell the truth, after having not used DB4 for a few weeks, I really stopped missing it.
The big plus, I found, on the Pocket PC is the inclusion of Pocket Word, Excel, Internet Explorer, Streets, MS Money and Reader. Some of these can be added to the Palm. Some can't. I especially like the ability to actually write in Pocket Word, save it in either Word or Rich Text format and then either email it back to my Desktop or transfer it over when I sync.
Of course I have begun to enjoy taking a collection of MP3's with me to use either when I work or am just out relaxing. The MS Reader also is getting more and more texts that I enjoy reading.
Pocket PC vs Palm IIIc
So, after all this time, using a Pocket PC, I have come to a conclusion about my IIIc. I WAS WRONG. (Please don't tell any of my close friends I said that. The shock might be too much;-)) I have begun to really enjoy using my Pocket PC (Yes, I bought one before they all went out of stock). The display is great, the speed is darn close to the IIIc, the HWR works very well, and I like all the rest of the extra stuff you get with one.
I've though a lot about the difference between the Palm and the Pocket PC's. Basically, the Palm OS, even with color, is the same as it was back in 1996. Back then, our Desktop computers were much slower, less graphically oriented, and only occasionally connected each other or a phone line. The Palm, actually then it was the Pilot, was a way to carry basic schedule and address data away from your desk in a small form. Computer geeks being the kind of people they are, immediately begin to find ways to have fun with the little organizers: playing games, adding new features, called Hacks, and other stuff to them. But they still remained the same, simple machines.
Someone has said it takes Microsoft at least three times to get anything right. I think Windows still has a way to go, but that's just my opinion. But, when it comes to the Pocket PC, the third time may be the charm. The name really does say a lot about the machines. In your pocket, or your hand, you can carry a machine that will keep up with your personal info, let you view and edit documents from your office, do small color presentations, listen to your favorite music or books, read books, check directions on a multi-level map, and even play some dynamite games (especially those by jimmysoftware.com), etc. There are even a couple of programs that allow you to beam data back and forth between a Palm and your Pocket PC. Sure, it has its limitations but I really think in this we are seeing much of the next level in PDA's.
One final note. Since I am a Mac user, some are probably wondering how I connect my Pocket PC to my Mac. Well, it's not a walk in the park but it's not impossible. For several years there have been Windows emulation programs for the Mac. I use one called Virtual PC, which works really well on the fast G3 and G4 Macs. I use it as my "Pocket PC Desktop". Right now, I run a 500 MB partition for Windows with IE 5.0, Outlook 2000 and Active Sync 3.1 running. The PC part is mostly just to keep a backup of my stuff and to install programs and it works really well...most of the time. Actually Virtual PC works well all the time, but sometimes Windows and ActiveSync act funny...but then you PC people know what I'm talking about. Sorry, couldn't resist:-) So, I confess that I like the Pocket PC and I use it, a lot. And I don't care who designed it. I highly recommend it for use with Windows or a Mac.
Discuss Pocket PCs at Pocket PC FAQ Forums.
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