On the Road, Again

What do you think about the combination of PDAs, phones and cameras in the same handheld?

Personally, I find them bulky and heavy, along with quite expensive. I like the concept, though, if they can get the bulk and weight down to something manageable, sort of like the PDA itself. Have you noticed that there’s usually no one particular manufacturer that make a device with the right combination, just the way you want it? You like this one’s phone but not their PDA, and the other one’s PDA and not their phone. Anyway, here’s another entry into the combo market. Sprint and Hitachi have teamed up to bring us the Hitachi G1000. Measuring 5.8 x 3.3 x 0.9 inches and weighing 8.4 ounces, this heavyweight has a VGA camera, a 3.5 inch TFT screen, an SD slot (that takes memory cards but not add-on cards) and a 37-key QWERTY keyboard. Also included is a headphone jack. The G1000 is powered by a 400 Megahertz Intel Xscale PXA 255 processor and has 32MB of RAM and ROM (which is a bit limited). The phone uses the Sprint PCS CDMA cellular network. This device sells for $649.99 (which does not include cellular service). You can check it out at 888-253-1315 or www.sprintpcs.com.

As you all probably know, I’m partial to the Palm handhelds. I’ve owned one since the very first Palm Pilot. I currently own a Palm m505. Now Palm has come out with the Tungsten T2 (they previously released the Tungsten T). Palm has come out with the Palm Pilot, the Palm III, the IIIc, the IIIxe, the V, the VII, the m125, the m500, etc. I may have forgotten one or two, or three. My gripe with Palm is that none of the hardware that you buy for a given series works on any of the other series. Sure, the software works across all of the series, which does no good without the hardware. I think that the problem is that Palm has changed the connection to the device on each series. I can’t say if this is done deliberately to generate more sales, however, I’ll bet it’s the reason. This doesn’t work with me. I still have a digital compass, a modem and a GPS for the Palm III that I can no longer use (my Palm III went belly-up). These items are not exactly cheap. The problem is, if I buy gadgets for the m505, I’ll be stuck with them not working in a future upgrade. The fact that add-ins are on media cards and do not use the cradle connection is no guarantee that future add-ins will work with this version. I think that Palm should reward its loyal users and make a connector for our older devices (this could be done via a media card). What do you think?

The November issue of Computer Shopper has their Top 5 desktop replacement notebooks. You can see how far behind I am on my reading. Their Top 5 includes: Dell’s Inspiron 8500 at $2,356; HP Compaq’s Presario X1000 at $2,274; Fujitsu’s LifeBook N Series at $1,895; HP Compaq’s Business Notebook NX7000 at $1,900; and Eurocom’s D470W Impressa at $3,275. The Dell Inspiron 8500 and the HP Compaq Presario X1000 are rated best by the Editor, with Dell barely edging out the HP Compaq. These manufacturers can be contacted at: Dell, www.dell.com; HP Compaq, www.hp.com; Fujitsu, www.fujitsupc.com; and Eurocom, www.eurocom.com.

Looking for storage on a tiny device? I know that everyone needs this kind of pocket product, right? Hitachi Global Storage Technologies has a 4 Gigabyte “Microdrive,” “considered a miniature version of a PC hard drive.” This device can be used to store data or digital camera images, etc. according to Hitachi. The drive uses a removable disk the size of a half-dollar (about 1.5 inches in diameter). The drive uses a Compact Flash Type II slot and can be used in devices that accept Memory Cards in this format. The Microdrive (4GB) sells for $499. Love the storage, but hate the price. You can reach Hitachi at www.hgst.com.

Now we may have reached an apex in the use of the term “Smart.” We are now using the term to describe future cars, i.e. “Smart Cars.” Just what are smart cars you may ask. I’m not quite sure at this point. I don’t know if they mean that they contain a lot of gadgets or that they can drive themselves. You can learn a little about the topic in an article by Elizabeth Pope in the AARP Bulletin for January 2004. That is, if you’re a member of AARP. For those of you who are not, the article references voice command responses (“Radio-on”), display of e-mail, sensors, video cameras (and other equipment that predict accidents before they happen), brake management, headlights that see around corners (yes, you saw that right) and windshields that display warning information if a collision is imminent. I would prefer that the windshield display information that will enable me to avoid a collision. I seem to remember, some years ago, reading about a windshield that displayed radar images to be used in fog or other limited visibility situations.

Elizabeth says that most of these systems are already standard or optional on some luxury vehicles in the $40,000 - $80,000 range. She figures that prices will fall in five years. Somehow I don’t believe that I’ll be able to afford them even then.