Monday, April 28, 2014

Using Old Devices

As people who read this blog, I am sure you have the same fascination with older devices as I do. If not then you are probably on the wrong blog. I will assume though that you came here for the old toys we have to tell you about though! One thing people often wonder about me is what do I use these things for? Why would I rather use an old PDA instead of a shiny new smartphone? Why do I collect old laptops even though I have my Surface Pro or Lenovo G500s? Well then keep reading.

I am typing this on the Pre 3, to prove a point as well as because I genuinely love using it. I have mentioned before that I am working on a novel. The Pre 3 was something that I wanted as part of a never-ending quest to achieve true writing nirvana. Well, really it was because I have been trying to find something with a physical keyboard that I really liked. The previous one I had felt this way about was a Treo 700p which didn't have WiFi, so its use was limited. There have been many devices I have tried but I mentioned that in the Pre Impressions post the other day.

Now, one of the things that I use the Pre for is writing. I know that I can use a laptop, or even a tablet, or a newer phone. The problem for me is that the newer phones lack a keyboard. That can be blamed on Apple since when they introduced the iPhone, all of the smartphones had keyboards. Steve Jobs said the iPhone was better without one since it could change based on the application. This is fine for sending a quick text or email, but write a few thousand words on it and see how you feel about it! I am not sure how many but I'd say that I probably did a good 5000 words on the Pre between posting here, my own blog, my book, and chatting with people.

Now, why would I want to do so much work on here? It's simple really. I can drop it in my pocket and go. I can take it out anytime I want and write down an idea or even a few paragraphs. Unlike a laptop, which would need to start up, all I do is slide it open and start typing. It also gets a lot better battery life as well. I can charge it off the micro USB port. I have a small battery pack that I use, or even one that takes 4 AA batteries. There are times where my Surface would work well but there is nowhere to plug it in.

There are also times where I don't have the room to set up the Surface and keyboard. I don't need a table or anything to use the Pre. It is nice when I go somewhere and I don't need to find a spot with a table and an outlet. It helps to be able to work without worry that if you get up to get some more coffee someone will steal your seat. I can however always pair up a Bluetooth keyboard and use that when needed.

There are many reasons I can give but I want to keep this short. Maybe I will post more as a Random Thoughts post...

By Mikey Pizano

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Pre 3 ImPREssions

The other day, specifically April 10, I got a new toy. If you didn't get the idea of what I got from the title of this post, then I suggest reading it over again. This is of course my first impressions of the HP Pre 3. I keep wanting to call it the Palm Pre 3, but HP bought Palm which is of course a different story.

As I am writing this on the Pre, it is worth noting that this isn't the first time I started righting this. First time I tried I was using the memo app, and when trying to mess around with how things such as "select all" shortcuts work, I ended up deleting all I had written. The second time was using a different program, which didn't want to save the file which is quite a problem for a text editor. This is one of the issues with using older technology today. Anyway, that isn't quite that important yet.

I thought about skipping the first impressions since I have had this for aabout 2 weeks now. I think I have given it enough use for a full review, but considered this one a little different as the Pre 3 isn't really the same as something with Android. The phone is a completely different experience for me, so I really rather not rush it too fast. It is worth noting that WebOS is based mostly on gestures, which does take some getting used to really. Join me for an adventure in discontinued technology!

The one thing worth noting is that the Pre 3 isn't very common device, and I am not sure the version that I have was ever officially released. I have a Verizon model, which if I so desired I could activate and use as a phone. I still use and love a basic flip phone, since I don't feel like paying for data. I also don't need any more distractions when mowing lawns. I admit that it would come in handy, but that is another story for another day. This is supposed to be about the Pre 3 not my flip phone use.

I was doing a little research, and while mine did come in an actual retail box for Verizon, as far as I could tell it was never officially released, though I see them on Ebay so I could be wrong about that. I know it was out in Europe at least, and this is a World version so it could have been released on Verizon somewhere else for all I know. Just wanted to mention the fact that I am not using it as a phone since it meant extra steps for me to be able to actually use the device properly. This is of course where I intend to start off these imPREssions!

First, I got the phone from a friend, who had gotten it off Ebay pre-setup, so he didn't change anything, I didn't mind that but had some issues so I reset it. This was a big mistake since I didn't know at the time the server for Preware had gone down! I had to find a package called Impostah, which is needed to fix the issues when you enter the code to enable Devmode, like not being able to use the store. You need an account, which needs to be created, or if you have one, to log in, on cell service!

So you see my first issue. I downloaded WebOS QuickInstall, clicked the feeds button, and the feeds are down! Now, I later found out there was a mirror feed, but at the time I was frantically searching online for the .IPK file! You have to love how the ONLY place to find this folder is from Preware! So, finally found the mirror, and sent it over using QuickInstall. I created an account and logged in. All is now good! Except the fact I accidentally deleted the work I had done on this post. I mentioned that at the beginning of this post.

Now that I have stuff configured as I want, it is time to get this underway if anyone is still reading. There are 2 reasons I got the Pre really. The first is because my friend didn't really want to keep it and needed a screen from a laptop I had that needed a new motherboard. So we traded the broken laptop for the Pre. The second reason is part of an ongoing quest of mine to find a perfect device for writing on. This is important to mention is that is the first thing I wanted to mention was the keyboard.

If anyone knows me, I was a big fan of the Palm Treo keyboards such as the Treo 650. Now, I had high expectations of the Pre for this reason alone! I think it is safe to say they nailed this one really well! I am not sure, but I think it would be closer to a Centro or even the later Windows Mobile 800w model since it has rubber keys instead of hard plastic on the Treos I have used. It still an awesome feeling keyboard and one of the things I love is that it has word correction. My friend didn't like that but it helps me maintain my focus when I make a mistake. It isn't always right but usually it is very close.

Since getting the Pre, I have written well over several thousand words using the keyboard between posts for my own blog, working on my book, this post, and using IRC. This means a lot since I often found myself not really using the Droid 2 I have for writing as much since the keyboard on it is pretty stiff. It is also worth noting I have the Sharp IS01 Tsubasa sent me for Christmas. The problem there is the keys aren't lighted and I often do this in the dark. That is one thing I am picky about. I love to write in bed because it is when I get ideas a lot of the time.

Now, the Pre 3 didn't officially come with this as it was an optional accessory, but has been included with previous models in the Plus package. My friend happened to include two of this amazing little accessory as well which really helps my bed writing ways! Now, this isn't really something too Pre specific, since it has been catching on in more phones using a different standard. The accessory in question is the Touchstone, a wireless magnetic induction charger. Newer phones are using Qi, pronounced "chee" now. This is really nice since you could charge different phones on the same charger without needing any special accessory. This was a big deal when the Pre originally came out though.

The Touchstone sticks to the desk using an adhesive called gecko feet. This is reusable and all you need to do is clean it with some water and let it dry. I can say this stuff really sticks too! I keep one on desk next to my bed. When on the Touchstone, the Pre enters exhibition mode, which can display the time or if an applications has support for this, you can use that application. One I had seen was a Pandora radio app that would play music when on Touchstone. You can still use the device by pressing the power button or tapping the gesture area. Kind of neat but I may install some software to turn off the screen so I can sleep easier as I already have a clock.
It does have a standard Micro USB port, but it doesn't have a Micro SD slot so lucky I got the 16GB model. It has 512MB of RAM as well. I believe it is a 1.4GHZ dual core, but since I am writing this on the Pre I could be wrong of course. The important part is the device hasn't felt slow to me at all yet. Multitasking, while I haven't really pushed it to far seems to work great as well.

That is the next part I wanted to get into. The way the multitasking works on this device is quite awesome to me. Under the screen is the gesture area. To access the cards, you swipe up from under the screen. You get a list of cards that you can swipe between, and cards from the same app will stack themselves. For example, I will use an app I use a lot, wIRC. When I open it, it defaults to my friends server so it will pop up the server status window in a card. Next, any channel I join will be a new card as well as any private message windows I open. These are stacked and I can switch between them.

Want to close a card or program? Flick up and they will close. Not to say companies copied thus but this was a major feature of WebOS on release before certain other companies used the idea on their own OS. There are other gestures such as swiping from right to left is the back gesture. If you tap the center of the gesture area, it will also bring up the cards. Swipe up twice and you go to the launcher. Hold and swipe up and it brings up the quick launch. Hold and press a key, such as a, and you select all the text. It is really nice when you get used to it.

This is what made WebOS special. Palm always made a nice mobile OS that was simple and worked well, until later on when they started adding too many features in, and the perfection that made the Pilot a hit was lost. The simplicity is what put Palm on the map, but again that is a different story really. You could argue that WebOS was too late, since Palm was supposed to be working on it for some time, or that the original Pre was too low end, or that selling to HP killed Palm, but the past is the past.

(C) Mikey Pizano 2014