Shoe Money Tonight

Occasional ramblings by an anesthesiologist/mother (and sometimes her husband).

Monday, June 16, 2008

Jettisoning the Past

Back when I was in high school, I loved my old calendar program, Claris Organizer. Since it was abandonware, however, I knew I was going to need a replacement. The entire Claris name had been abandoned by Apple. ClarisWorks became (or changed back into) AppleWorks. FileMaker Pro got its own company. Claris Home Page and the others were abandoned.

I discovered, happily, that Palm's free Palm Desktop software was, in fact, an updated version of Claris Organizer. Once I had Palm desktop, I decided to invest in a Palm organizer.

I have been through several models of Palm Organizer. I started with a Palm m105. I later moved to my dad's old Vx. From there, I purchased a discontinued Tungsten T2. When ES1's m515's battery was dying, I traded mine for hers. With a new battery, I happily used this device until ES1 & I switched our cell phone service and picked up a pair of Treo 650s.

I have essentially been syncing the same set of data through 2 different OSs, 5 different PDAs, 3 different computers using 3 different input methods for the last 6 years.

On January 9, 2007, I knew my days with the Palm OS were numbered.

It was that day that his Steveness officially announced the iPhone. For a year and a half, ES1 & I have drooled over them, but decided that we couldn't justify the expenditure on them yet. We figured it would be about another year and a half before we picked up whatever the current model of iPhone was then.

All that changed when Steve announced the price drop. Yes, it's more expensive in the long run. Changing, however, was going to involve greater expense for us at any rate. This just happens to be a lot less out of pocket immediately. That's a huge difference.

Why am I so interested in the iPhone?

Well, put simply: I have had enough of using technologies that almost work.

Synchronization has always been clunky. My first setup was syncing my m105 with my PDQ 266 via serial. I thought the idea of syncing was so cool that I could overlook the time it took. What always frustrated me, however, was the sheer number of cables for power and data, and the clunkiness of the setup. Leaving the cradle on the desk lessened this, however, and I lived with it.

Now, using bluetoothe, I am free of the mess of cables. I simply have the one small cable for power. Being able to sync wirelessly is a great benefit. I bought the Treo for myself, specifically because I wanted my phone to have a copy of my read address book and real calendar. For the most part, it has served well. Unfortunately, however, more hassles have crept in.

To start with, Palm Desktop for Mac has become abandonware. In order to sync my palm with my MacBook Pro and not have a rosetta program running in the background, I have had to purchase a copy of The Missing Sync for Palm OS. I appreciate this software, but the little quirks it has just seem to highlight the problems with syncing.

HotSyncs always take several minutes. The address book and calendar applications don't quite match up, so there are all sorts of little niggling issues with how data is displayed.

Every now and then, if you have to reset something, or if something else happens, you end up with a large number of duplicates in your calendar or address book. In my address book, for example, I have 3 people with the same first and last names. Two have different middle names, one has no middle name. Every now and then a sync will end up mixing up their data or duplicating them.

The Palm OS itself has had no real advances in usability in the entire time I've known it. From the Vx to the Treo 650, the basic functionality has remained the same. It has added color, but that's pretty much it. My Treo actually removes functionality by forgoing graphiti in favor of the pathetic keyboard.

The keyboard is another issue I have. My keyboard has what it calls a "key guard". When you turn on the phone, you have to immediately press the middle button to confirm that, yes, you did actually want to turn the phone on. It always gives me hassles. When my phone is in my pocket, however, and my pen or usb flash drive feel the overwhelming urge to add a dozen occurrences of "Eeool" or "BluFee3" into my calendar, key guard says "Go ahead!"

The bottom line is that Palm has had no direction for years. The early versions told you that people were trying very hard to make something usable. They succeeded. Since then, however, they have done nothing.

When Steve showed off the iPhone and its functionality, he did what Apple always does. They show you a completely different way of doing things which, in retrospect, is so obvious you wonder what idiots we all were for not seeing it before.

ES1 & I already share a .Mac Account. Our calendars and address books are synced automatically. In order for our Treos to see the changes, however, we have to perform a HotSync. The iPhone, however, will automatically see changes anytime it is on a network- cellular or WiFi.

This just seems like the way things should be. In those, and so many other ways, the iPhone just seems like the phone I should have now.

When I was a bachelor, I didn't mind the extra time it took to do things. I enjoyed tinkering. Simply the fact that I could make it could work at all seemed like a great thing.

This is akin to the differences between OS 9 & OS X. In OS 9, a lot of the functionality I had came from tinkering. Some things needed tinkering to work. Other things I did just for fun. In fact, back in the System 7 days, I actually used ResEdit to change nearly every dialog box the system could put up, as well as lot of the icons. What can I say? I had a lot of time on my hands.

Now, however, I have a wife, a house, a job, a hyperactive beagle, and a kid on the way. I don't have time for things that need to be fiddled with. OS X allows me to tinker if I want, but really works best if you leave it alone.

This is what I need from a phone now. I no longer have time for things that almost work.

Yes, it's still $200 out of pocket. Yes, the monthly bills will be higher. Time, however, is money. It is worth it to me to not have to spend, in some cases hours, diagnosing sync errors and re-syncing. I want everything to just work at once.

Hence, the iPhone. Especially when money is tight, there's no point in spending any of it on something that doesn't work like it should. ES1 is planning on waiting in line for ours. We'll blog about them when we get them.

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