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Palm Pilot 5x Notes

I finally did it. Mr. Tech Lawyer here finally broke down and bought a Palm. Not having one was bad for my image in a pathetic sort of way - like an astronaut not having a spaceship.

While in about 1989, I think I was among the first, if not the first lawyer, to regularly lug a notebook computer to court, it seems that I'm among the last techno-savvy lawyers to start using a Palm. I suppose the difference between 1989 and today is age and experience.

In 1989, I was still nave enough to think that technology would work as advertised. Now, I know that no computer technology, especially new technology, works as advertised. I've learned to become the last kid on the block with a new version of the software.

My philosophy is to let some 20- or 30-something be the one to call tech support and hear the magic words, ``You're the first one to report this problem and we don't have a fix yet.'' I've paid my dues and reported enough ``first'' problems. I've made my contribution to user society.

So I waited. Finally, when the price of the PalmVIIx plunged about 50 percent, I made the leap. (I bought mine for $189 delivered to my door. Today, you can get it for even less.)

The VIIx is the one with wireless built in. I can now do nifty things like check my e-mail, buy a book from Amazon.com or movie tickets from Moviefone as easily as popping up my antenna.

Then, I can synchronize all my essential data like my phone book and calendar to my desktop computer so that I have access to it there, too.

Indespensible?

I suppose that I knew it would happen once I bought a Palm and it did. It's just been a few weeks and I don't know how I lived without it. The instant access to my calendar, to-do list, phone book and notes, and wireless access to things like e-mail, news, stock market information and Travelocity are killer features. It's simply must-buy technology.

Still, as good as this stuff is, I thinks it's crude in some ways, like television circa 1952. I find this surprising since Palm has been around since 1992.

There are lots of little things that you would expect to be addressed by a version 4. For example, in Palm's desktop calendar software (the one you use on your computer and then sync your appointments with your hand-held), there's no snooze button. So, when your alarm for an appointment goes off, you can't press a button that says remind me again in 10 minutes. The feature exists on the hand-held.

Your life can continue without a snooze button, but it is a core feature for calendar software, and it's just an example of how surprisingly crude Palm's standard software can be.

It also points out the need to explore the huge marketplace of Palm software. There are thousands of programs for the Palm, and I may just find an improvement to Palm's own software.

Palm.Net

If you want the wireless features with the Palm VIIx, you have to subscribe to Palm.net. The monthly service starts at $9.99 per month for 50 kilobytes of data monthly and goes up to $44.95 per month for unlimited usage. The mid-level plan is $24.99 per month for up to 150 kilobytes of data.

Palm.net also offers a website service that lets you keep your Palm calendar, phone book and to-do list online. Theoretically, if the people you work with all use this service, it has what appears to be nifty group calendaring features.

With the web syncing software, you should be able to keep your computer, hand-held and website in perfect sync. The key phrase is ``should be able to.''

I've found error messages with the web service to be plentiful and tech support not very helpful. For the website service, the only way to get tech support is e-mail.

Palm bought this website service from AnyDay.com and you can tell that an unrelated development team created it. The feature sets between the Palm desktop and hand-held software don't overlap the feature set on the website enough to even dream of using the word ``integrated.''

Here's an example. Let's say I want to set up a group meeting with all the other lawyers in my Tech Law Department. If I'm using my hand-held, I must first input the appointment there, sync to the website, open the appointment on the website and then use the group calendaring feature, which exists on the website only. Of course, I have to remember to do this the next time I sync or I'll be the only one at the meeting.

With a wireless device like the Palm VIIx, I should be able to schedule that group meeting seamlessly and wirelessly. As they say, ``Maybe next version.''



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