Palm Pilot Utilities
New Treo 600
I like my little geek box.
It's just small enough that I always have it with me. That makes it incredibly
convenient for phone lists, grocery lists, to-dos, etc.
I started with a Palm 1000 in about 1996, upgraded to a 5000, then upgraded to
1Mb. But it didn't have backlighting. Also, my roomie wanted a geek box, so in
1998 I got myself a new Palm III and she got my old one. That lasted a few years,
until early 2001 when the Palm III started to crash often.
So I splurged and got a Visor Prizm. About six months later I got the Visorphone
for it. That lasted until Jan 2004. By this time, the antenna was broken on
the phone, and it was hard to adjust it properly to get an electrical connection so it
would hold a cell connection. The earphone jack didn't work, anymore. And it
would often only charge to half full and would only hold the charge for a couple of days.
Sometimes only a few hours. And the phone would only work for a few minutes
before it started to complain about a low battery.
When I finally got a job I splurged again and got the Treo 600. This is almost
exactly what I wanted.
- Palm OS. Transferring everything to the new box was simply a matter of installing
the latest software and synching.
- Holds a charge. :-)
- Thumb keyboard. I think the character recognition of old Palms is geeky-cool.
But I can type pretty fast on these keyboards.
- It's significantly smaller than my old geek box.
- Flat-rate internet access.
- Nifty shortcuts to common functions.
- Memory card.
- MP3 capability.
- The camera wasn't a selling point for me, but since it's on there I expect I'll come
across situations where I'll be able to make use of it.
- Antenna. Units without an external antenna capture about 15% less signal. I
live in a big city, so I can live with that 15% degradation. Alternatively, I could
live with a pull-out antenna with only a 1/2 centimeter nub poking up.
- It's significantly smaller than my old geek box. I wish the screen were a little
larger. And the keyboard is a bit tight compared to the other models I tried a few
months before getting this one.
- In addition to the keys being a bit close together, they're a bit stiff. But I'm
getting used to it.
- Doesn't have removable batteries. I very much prefer to have a standalone battery
charger, so that if I notice the power is low when I'm walking out the door it's only a
five second operation to swap the charged battery for the dead one.
- Need a little adapter to play MP3s over a standard headphone. I don't know how I'm
going to keep up with that.
- Can't find a case for it, yet. I want something that'll provide at least a teeny
bit of protection if I drop it. When sliding it into the orginal case while it's in
my pocket, it's very easy to inadvertantly push on the memory card, which ejects it.
Speaking of which, it would be nice if the new case had a pocket that could hold
two or three memory cards. Update: I think I'm going to order a vaja 797. It looks like exactly
what I'm looking for.
Update Nov '04:
- Overall, I still like my geek box a great deal.
- The buttons are still a pretty stiff. I was hoping they'd loosen up by now.
- I just saw an ad saying that the new Treo 650 has a
quick-change battery. Also, Bluetooth.
- I got earphones
that switch between phone and music. Unfortunately, they didn't have the retractible
cord version when I got mine. Because of that, it's a pain to have to wrap them up
and use a twist tie to keep them from getting tangled. Even with the twist tie it's
hard to keep the earbuds from wrapping around the rest of the cord when I'm trying to get
- The vaja was waaaay too expensive, about $90. I ended up getting a Bellagia for less
than half that. It's okay, but it doesn't fit quite perfectly. I have to
adjust it a little to plug in the earphone and the synch cable.
- Even with the new case, it's very easy to push the memory card enough to pop it out.
If I'm sitting down when I try to put the phone in my pocket I often do that.
- Interesting behavior. I find that I almost always pull out the stylus even though
I need it less than half the time.
- Took me forever to find the system Find. Alt+Shift.
- The A Number One must-have addition to any geek box. If you're using a geek box
with character recognition you can't do without these. A teeny piece of grit on the
stylus will scratch the surface, which makes the character recognition much more
error-prone. Even without character recognition, they're just too cheap to not use
to protect the screen.
- This works. I had a set of batteries that apparently weren't secure in the
recharger. I tried to keep an eye on the power level but missed it when it went
dead. Change the batteries again, hotsynch, and BackupBuddy automagically restored
everything. That's the way it should be.
- Pops up your to-do list and datebook every time you turn it on. I used to pretty
much ignore my to-dos until this. Now, they're in my face all the time.
- Obviously, I like TealPoint software :-) This program can lock the Pilot,
requiring a password. I don't use it that way. I simply use it to throw up a
screen that has my name, address, and my picture in case I ever lose my geek box. It
comes up first thing. You can set how long the Pilot is off before it brings up this
- A simple grocery list program, including a PC app. I used to try to use the to-do
for grocery, but that didn't work very well. This program an unlimited number of
different stores. I have grocery, Home Labyrinth, computer supplies, Radio Shack,
etc. Stuff that otherwise I'd likely forget. Since I always have my Pilot with
me, when I think of it I write it down.
- A password-protected program to store passwords, PIN numbers, logins, etc. Easy to
use, and has several templates for common accounts. Icons could conceivably make it
easier to spot the account you're looking for, but almost all of mine are website logins,
so they're identical.
- A PC calendar program that synchs with the Palm Datebook+ app. In addition, it can
easily produce an HTML calendar to drop into your website.
A benefit I didn't expect is a robust CSV import. When putting dates, times etc for
30 games into the program, a text file is much, much more convenient that going through
the GUI over and over.
- Pocket Tunes
- MP3 player. It just works right out of the box.
- Decent reports and graphs. I wish it had a desktop component.
- An addictive puzzle game. Really sucks battery power.
- Nice, simple game to pass the time with a friend while standing in line or something.
- A decent Yahtzee. One or two player.
The Handspring Mobil Portal, one of the default links, has some good ones. Here
are some more that I use:
- I don't know if this site is sanctioned, but it works great.
- MSNBC News
- Just the first of the big news sites I've found that has a mobile version. I used
to use CNN with Avantgo, but CNN killed it before its replacement was ready.
- Movie Times
- Look up movies in your area. Don't save this link. Set your zip code and
then save the bookmark. (I wish the list was sorted by distance, rather than
- Small Sites
- Dunno what the deal is with the url, but it seems to work. Collection of sites.
- Another collection of mobile sites.
Sites I wish had mobile interfaces: Netflix, CNN. Amazon looks like it has
a mobile interface, but everytime I tried to log in and look at my shopping cart it told
me it was empty.
- The A Number One most useful utility for the Palm Pilot. It draws digital ink on the
screen while you're drawing your Graffiti character. My consistency went way up when I
started using this
- Good Enough, except that it doesn't have a PC app to update your grocery list.
- Account Manager aka MobileSafe
- Kept having trouble with the PC app.
- Rechargable batteries
- The original Pilot ate batteries about every two weeks. Now, I think I get a
couple of months out of each set. So they wouldn't be as expensive today.
Still, I find swapping them out of the recharger to be much more convenient than trying to
remember to keep a stock of disposables.
Update: Many of the new geek boxes have built-in batteries, so this obviously
doesn't apply to those models.
07/MAR/02 - Changed from JShopper to SplashShopper and MobileSafe to SplashID
02/FEB/04 - Updated for my Treo 600. Moved TealEcho to old recommendations, since
this doesn't have character recognition. Added Calendarscope, TealAuto, and Pocket
07/FEB/04 - Added interesting mobile website links. Added link to case I'm prolly
08/NOV/04 - Added Nov '04 updates.
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Last modified: November 09, 2004