Don’t buy a Treo 700w

You would think Palm’s first phone that uses Windows and EVDO would be a big deal. Yes, you read that right — Palm has joined the Borg. Their latest SmartPhone is packed with a ton of features, but one thing missing is the Palm OS. I think it is mostly a bad decision.

Overall, the Treo isn’t as cool as the Sidekick, doesn’t do iTunes like the Rokr, and isn’t as addicting as a CrackBerry, although just about as big and with an even smaller micro-QWERTY keyboard. Call it a phone designed by committee, and subject to many compromises.

It sits squarely in the middle of the Rokr-kick-berry axes. It has the cumbersome duo of Windows Pocket Media and Microsoft Synch (rather than the elegant iTunes) to manage your music, should you have enough room to store any number of tunes to your phone, for example. The first thing you’ll want to do is boost its internal storage with a SD card.

The synch program is annoying in what it does: you can view the filesystem on the phone, sort of. You can move programs and data back and forth from phone to PC and from phone main memory to phone SD card — if you can find where Windows puts things. This can make a Unix admin grin with sympathy. And while you can synch via Bluetooth rather than the supplied USB cable, I couldn’t get it to work with my HP dv5000z notebook. That USB cable is good for charging the phone, but you have to turn the phone feature off (what Palm calls “flight mode” — meaning that you can’t get calls).

Next, the Treo doesn’t do email as well as the Berries: if you want to synch up with a POP mailbox on the Internet, you’ll need to download some software and spend some time messing around with the configuration. On the other hand, if the DOJ shutters RIM next month, Treo does have a viable solution. In the device’s defense, it did allow me to grab my email from my IMAP server without doing much more than entering the account information. And you can grab emails from multiple accounts, something the Blackberry doesn’t do.

Finally, the range of communications applications isn’t as rich as with the Sidekick: there is no AOL IM and the support for SMS is a bit cumbersome. There is just their stripped down Windows counterparts including Explorer for the Web, Pocket Word, Excel and PowerPoint, and Pocket MSN Messenger. If you want to spend a lot of time scrolling down to view your documents, then you’ll like this. Otherwise, it will drive you crazy.

For a $400 fancy phone ($500 minus $100 rebate), I would have liked a few more things. For example, the ability to use it as my EVDO broadband connection for my laptop (what Palm calls Dial up networking via USB): it hogs the broadband for its own pocket apps, although Verizon might add this feature eventually. In the meantime, buy PDA.net and you can get around this limitation.

Another thing missing is the ability to stream my music to my Bluetooth headset: nope, that’s just for the voice calls. And it would be nice to have a little bit more internal memory, or a way to manage it better: when I tried to download all 6000-some contacts into it, it rightly complained. The only way I could clear them out was to delete them over on the PC side, and then synch up.

Come Fly With Me

As a frequent flyer, I used to have these rules. Like, never take the last connecting flight out of a hub. Or don’t connect unless you are prepared to spend the night. And always keep moving when your flight is cancelled — getting closer to home is far better than standing still.

One of my rules was to never fly any airline that was ever in chapter 11. Well, that limits me to Jet Blue and Southwest, not that I mind taking them.

Anyway, enough about me. I just came across a wonderful airline blog called Enplaned that is well worth your reading. He (or she, not clear who the author is, don’t you just hate that) has some great content on the evolution of airline reservation systems, the differences between the major carriers in terms of “scope clauses” that determine the size of their planes that their own pilots must fly, the whole debacle of Independence Air (which had the most temporary of terminals in the eternal construction zone otherwise known as Dulles airport), the relationship between regional and national flag carriers, and so much more. For people who fly because they have to, this is one educational read.

And while we are flying around the blogosphere, the “Fly With Me” podcasts from a real airline pilot Joe d’Eon is a wonderful collection of audio interviews, commentary, and insights from people who serve us every day.

Small Business Summit in NYC Feb 10

Ramon Ray is offering to Web Informant readers a real deal. You are invited to attend the Small Business Summit 2006, February 10, 2006 in New York City for free. Read on for details.

The conference is for small business owners seeking growth through the marriage of best business practices and technology. It is a full day conference. You’ll learn from small business owners who have achieved exceptional growth through an effective marriage of business savvy and technology, exchange ideas, and hear from such speakers as:

Charles Hand, President, New York Metro Region, Verizon Wireless
Scott Vacaro, Regional VP, Enterprise Rent-A-Car, NYC
Lisa McCarthy, Intuit Professional Advisor and Accounting Resource LLC
Harry Brelsford, President, SMB Nation
Jeff Barr, Web services evangelist, Amazon.com
Adrian Miller, Adrian Miller Sales Training
Rex Hammock, Founder, Hammock Publishing, Smallbusiness.com
Dan Hoffman, President/CEO of M5 Networks
Robert Levin, New York Enterprise Report
Steve Rubel, VP Client Services, Cooper Katz PR; Micropersuasion blog

If you want to attend, use the code “David” when you register and you will receive a complementary pass.

Tracking your favorite author

Meryl Evans and I were talking the other day about the relationships between readers and authors. I came across AuthorTracker from publisher HarperCollins. It’s an email notification service that notifies you when your favorite authors release new books, go on tour, and when excerpts are available. It’s a great marketing tool for publishers while it gives fans easy access to their fave authors. Why don’t more publishers have something like this? Amazon for many years has had the ability to notify customers when they stock a new book by an author or subject.

You can read more on Meryl’s blog here about other tools and authors who have joined the wired generation.

Speaking of enlightened publishers, sci-fi fans probably know about Baen. They have taken the open distribution model to heart and over the past several years have put a wonderful number of books online, free for the downloading. Too bad the music industry doesn’t get this model: the more of a back catalog you have for free, the more people will pay for the stuff. It is all about developing the relationship with the reader.

This is such a bad idea for blocking Internet porn I am nearly speechless

Go take a look at http://www.cp80.org/ and see if you can collect the numerous technical reasons that assigning Internet port numbers for particular content (meaning porn and other things that kids shouldn’t see) is such a bad idea. Silly wabbit, ports are for protocols, and last time I checked, protocols don’t care about content and shouldn’t. Not only is it too much work to completely redesign TCP/IP to address this hairbrained scheme, but it is doomed to fail even if you could.

And too bad port 69 is already taken for something really ironically useful (you get extra points if you know off the top of your head what it is).

Let’s get that .xxx TLD going, not that that is much of a solution, either. Any solution is going to be more parental than technological, anyway.

Favorite comment from Annalee Newitz: The group “sadly isn’t a phalanx of uptight androids who enjoy mysteriously homoerotic relationships with mailbox-shaped companions.” Doesn’t that bring something to mind? What a wasted effort.

HP’s latest notebook — the dv5000z

The HP Pavilion dv5000z is the latest in their line of multi-media friendly notebooks. It isn’t the lightest, but could be one of the best screens that I’ve seen in a while, and in that nice widescreen 1280x 800 format too.

The issue I have is price. The base model on HP’s site goes for $749. But the model that I got was selling for more than $1800. By the time you add a better CPU, more RAM and disk, and upgrade various other components, you are spending real money.

The key takeaway on the 5000z is that it isn’t as heavy or as pricey as the larger dv8000z model, but still has some of the nicer features of the 8000 models. The 5000 comes with ATI Radeon video cards that can contain up to 128 MB of video memory and built-in Altec Lansing stereo speakers on the front panel. While not astounding for the true gamers, they deliver better video and audio performance for watching movies than the lower end models of the dv4000 and dv1000.

Steer clear of the dv4000 series — for not much more money you get a better CPU and 802.11 a/b/g networking, better graphics, better sound and a larger hard drive.

One downside is that the 5000 isn’t as media center capable as, say, the Toshiba Qosmio. HP didn’t do more than add a few bits of software to manage your media files.

Overall, this notebook is a nice compromise between the Big Bertha weight of the Qosmio and having enough features to make a $1400 (which is about where you should end up on the options when you are done configuring it) notebook worthwhile.

Things to read this weekend, 2: The year’s stories in review

Everyone has their top ten lists about this time. My former Tom’s Hardware news hound colleagues, Wolfgang Gruener and Scott M. Fulton, have put together what I think is one of the best collections on the year’s top stories in review.

From the revival of Apple, the mis-steps of Sony BMG, the rise of the Xbox 360, and the fight over HD DVD formats, this piece makes for a compelling review of where we have been over the past year.

Things to read this weekend, 1: The open source “tree museum”

Rich Mironov, who like me has found himself “between engagements” over the holidays, has written a very insightful analysis of where open source is going. Even if you don’t recall the Joni Mitchell “Big Yellow Taxi” lyrics, it is worthwhile reading here.

As Rich says in his essay, it is only a matter of time before open source becomes another opportunity for “turning into another IPO-driven, VC-backed, competitively focused economic model.”

The skinny on SSL VPNs

I recently did a survey of the major SSL Virtual Private Networking vendors for an upcoming article in CDW’s inhouse publication. That got me looking at all of the comparative hands-on reviews recently done by Network World and others. So I put together a page of links. You’ll notice that all of the hands-on reviews omit the Symantec and Cisco products — they don’t seem to find the “right” time to get their products in front of the reviewers at the leading IT publications.

Nevertheless, you can find my SSL VPN page here along with links to the vendor’s own sites and my own brief commentary on their positioning.