Going Mobile

Being somewhat of a computer junkie (and not quite a 'tech head'), it was only natural that I was going to get into mobile computing at some stage.  My very first mobile 'computer' was a Casio, which really was a computer.  It had programs built in for an address book and diary, calculator etc, and it also had a programming language - so you could make your own programs.  I remember spending hours typing in a really strange Golf program - Golf on a two line text only LCD.  Bizarre.

The next step up was a Psion Organiser.  This was one of those odd ball things with a 4 line LCD text display, and a quirky (not qwerty) keyboard layout.  It was reasonably powerful though, and it travelled the country with me for a week in 1990.

Psion Series 5

Wow.  This was my first real portable computer.  It had a proper graphical LCD display, a real graphical user interface, and some wonderful programs.  I was amazed at the power of this portable beast - you could even get a ZX Spectrum emulator!  Which, by the way, was stunning.

Word processing, spreadsheets, games, databases, route finders - it had it all.  And, a real Qwerty keyboard which was pretty usable, although a little cramped.  The Series 5 was nearly everything you could want from a handheld, it was big (it has a real keyboard, what do you expect?), and it was also heavy - fine for a briefcase or even a coat pocket - but a jacket?  No sir.  A shirt pocket - not on your life.

Sony Vaio

Ah, the lovely Sony Vaio notebooks.  I came upon this machine something by chance (read: I got it cheap) in 2000.  A mobile Intel Celeron running at 466MHz, 64MB PC-100 RAM, 2.5MB video ram, 800 x 600 HPA display, 6GB hard drive, and a CD-ROM and floppy built in - and a pretty good battery life, typically 2.5 to 3 hours.  This was awesome, and it was nearly as powerful as my desktop when I got it, and it ran nearly everything my desktop would too.  Windows, Office, lovely.  It's come in pretty useful for my University work - particularly when we meet up in a pub to do group work!  I even gave it 256MB RAM before it was 'retired' a few months ago.

Note: My only real annoyance with this machine was that Sony chose not to release XP drivers - which is pretty shitty considering the machine ain't that old, and can run XP.

Palm Vx

This wasn't my fault.  I was visiting a friend in 2000 (www.defocus.demon.co.uk), and he showed me one of his newest toys - a Palm III organiser, and I was rather impressed with this little machine that did all sorts of really neat things.  Less than a month later, I had my own Palm - not a III, but a rather snazzy Palm Vx (see it here).  

This was probably the most impressive computer I had ever seen.  A 160x160 LCD screen, 8MB RAM, a marvellous OS that did most things I needed right out of the box.  Most of all was the size - this thing was smaller than my scientific calculator that was only 3 years old although a little bit heavier.  And it would fit in my shirt pocket - hurrah!  Okay, it couldn't run a Spectrum emulator, but you could get decent games for it.  But what you did get was superb synchronisation with Windows/Office, a huge base of programs, and some really cool programs at that - see Palm m505 for more details.

I really did like the Vx, as well as looking the business, it really was useful.  It went just about everywhere with me, and I used to call it my 'memory' because it really was that - I put in reminders, appointments, things to do and it didn't let me forget.

Palm m505

Thank you Palm. :-)

This machine has it's critics - no doubt about that.  Some say it's not as good looking as the Vx (I disagree), some moan because it's heavier (only just) and a little bit thicker (again, only just).  And some moan about the new style slot on the back which isn't compatible with the V and Vx - valid point.

BUT - it's got a colour screen for goodness sakes.  It's got a faster Dragonball processor, a new version of the OS, some new and updated software, an SD/MMC expansion slot, and it's got a 65,000+ colour screen for goodness sake.

I admit, the move from Vx to m505 isn't as significant or as impressive as say the move from a Psion brick to a Vx.  But it is still impressive.  The colour adds a new dimension, and it doesn't have too much of an impact on battery life if you dock it every few days.  The speed increase is notable when doing intensive tasks such as searching address lists.  And the new/updated software is pretty good too.  I particularly like the addition of Documents to Go which allows you to view and edit Word documents and Excel spreadsheets on the palm (obviously with limitations).

I use this machine daily, and it goes most places with me.  Like the Vx before it, this machine acts as my memory and also helps to keep me organised and focused.

Some recommended programs:

Datebook 4 which replaces the inbuilt Datebook application.

AvantGo.  A superb web-clipping application that allows you to grab information from websites when you hot sync with your PC.  (www.avantgo.com).  Lots of good content providers supply great content - the BBC, The Guardian, Football365, ZDNet and lots more.

F1 Sprint.  A Super Sprint type game on your Palm!  Fantastic.  (users.erols.com/thomasmk/)

ZioGolf.  Great golf game for the Palm, particularly good in colour but also playable on mono devices.

Nokia 8210

Yes, I know it's not a computer - no where near it in fact.  I actually don't really like Nokia phones.  The user interface is a nightmare, my old Philips C12 was much easier to use.  The games are pants - and pants with skidmarks at that.  So, you may well be asking - why has he got one?  Well, for one reason and one reason only - IrDA, infra-red communication.  With this little beasty, and the lovely palm m505, I can access my email from anywhere I can get a Vodafone signal, and surf the net. 

Compaq Presario

This little beasty has replaced my lovely Sony Vaio.  It's not too bad, but I have got a couple of gripes.  First a quick outline of the spec - AMD Duron 900, 20GB Hard Drive, 128 MB RAM, built-in ethernet and modem, gorgeous 14" TFT display.  Gripe 1 - No IrDA port!!!  In fact, this seems to be an increasingly common omission on laptops these days.  It's not really acceptable is it?  And, just to annoy me even more, the bloody thing comes pre-loaded with WinXP Home Edition - which is nice, but it won't log on to a Windows 2000 domain - ARGHHHH!!!!  So, I thought I'd put Windows 2000 Pro on it.  No go, no drivers.  How crap is that?

Palm Tungsten T (m550)

The very latest handheld from Palm, and perhaps the best yet.  Go to Palm's website to see pictures of this snazzy little machine... http://www.palm.com/tungstent.  It's the newest form factor from Palm since the launch of the V and Vx (which was my first palm), and it's sliding design is 'interesting' to say the least.  It does make it smaller than the m505 in height, but it can be annoying at times to have to slide it open - and the machine is quite a bit thicker than my m505.  And, unfortunately, some bright spark at Palm decided to change the excellent flip covers from earlier palms, to a clip on transparent plastic lid - not much better than a joke, although you can 'use' the Palm with the cover on by using the all new 5-way navigator...

It's got a new generation TI OMAP processor which makes the machine significantly faster than previous m500 series machines, and gives it the power to run Palm's new OS5, and do resource hungry tasks like play MP3s.  The screen is a huge huge improvement on the m505, for a start it's brighter, clearer, and with better contrast, and it's Hi-Res - yes, 320 x 320 pixels.

Sony Vaio PCG GRS 614MP

So, my new laptop - and back to Sony.  But why?  Well, it's a nice spec machine - a Pentium 4 Mobile processor @ 1.8 GHz, 256 MB DDR RAM, 30GB Hard Drive, and Radeon Mobility 7500 Graphics.  It also comes preloaded with XP Pro - super!  I don't think it's as nice and stylish as my old Vaio, however, the screen is gorgeous at 1024 x 768, and it's brilliantly quick - still a laptop though of course.  My mine criticism is that it's quite noisy, fan and HD.  No IrDA either!