I’m Obsessed with the Palm Pre Smartphone

May 30, 2009

palm_preMan, I’ve got a bit of Obsessive Complusive Disorder in me or something. I’m just obsessed with the new Palm Pre smartphone that Sprint will be releasing on Saturday, June 6th. I’ve been reading three different forums several times a day trying to get information such as how many units will be available at the Sprint stores on “Launch Day”, the quality of the hardware, features, etc. And I’m not alone, since there’s many others obsessing over the phone and posting their thoughts and comments on these forums.

It’s turning out like deja-vu for me when the Android Google G1 phone came out. I was all psyched about getting one so I could write software applications for it, but it turned out to be a very difficult device to write for since Google provided an incomplete SDK (along with very limited documentation and examples). So, I decided to forget about developing for the Android OS and stick with what I already know (the Windows Mobile OS). Now, I’m getting the same feelings and ideas for the Palm Pre phone.

Like the Android OS, the Palm Pre’s apps are based on Javascript and HTML (which are basic web-page development tools). However, it appears from what I’ve read online that Palm Pre app development will be much simpiler than for the Android device. Since Palm has yet to release the Mojo SDK for the Palm Pre, I really don’t know if this is true or not. But, I do have a feeling that what Palm is saying is true, and it will be an easy platform for developing apps.

The one downside I can see in using basic web tools for the application coding, is that you are very limited to what Palm decides to expose through the SDK. So, depending on what Palm has decided to expose with the SDK 1.0 release, you may not see those great and wonderful apps you do find for the more mature Apple iPhone device (since it’s been out for a while). Also, the iPhone’s apps can be written in the Objective-C language which can give it speed and power that a HTML/Javascript can’t always do.

So to prepare for the Palm Pre, I’ve been brushing up on Javascript, AJAX, and HTML 5 programming. As it turns out, HTML 5 is very, very new and most web browsers can’t support its new features (such as the SQLite database option for client-side storage of data). Internet Explorer and FireFox (Mozilla) do not currently support it, with the only browser that does being Apple Safari.

So, will I be one of the first people to get a Palm Pre on the initial launch day? Probably not, since I’m not positive I can write good apps without seeing the official Mojo SDK. If I can’t write apps (and sell them on the Internet to generate some needed revenue), then it’s not worth the investment. Besides, when the G1 Android Phone was first released numerous owners found many different problems (hardware and software) that made it an unusable device for my needs. So, sometimes it’s good to wait and see what others flush out with new technology. 🙂

Palm Pre… soup of the day for me?

May 26, 2009

palm_preI seem to get all worked up and excited when new products are introduced, especially tech devices. For example, when T-Mobile was about to release the G1 Android OS phone, I scoured the Internet reading any online article, review, or posting on the subject. I also dived in to see how difficult it would be to write applications for the Android OS, and find sample codes and descriptions on the net. After the G1 was finally released, I continued reading articles and forum postings to determine how well the phone lived up to the hype as the next “iPhone Killer”.

I also seriously considered dropping my Moto-Q phone and getting a G1 phone on the T-Mobile network, however, a few things stopped me from doing so:

  1. My company (which provides me with a phone and service through Verizon) would not reimburse my phone charges if I switched off of Verizon.
  2. T-Mobile coverage in the Seattle area seemed ok, but it was marginal in the area of my home. Also, I travel a lot around the country and I was a bit worried about having good coverage.
  3. The G1 phone wasn’t the most stylish phone, so the handset attractiveness wasn’t very compelling.

I also began reading numerous postings by G1 owners complaining about poor battery life, sqeaky hinges, etc. which turned me off. It seems that lots of them were exchanging their G1 phones for new ones. Another complaint was the reliability of the alarm notifications, along with delayed email and SMS delivery. And lastly, the G1 didn’t have support for Microsoft Exchange Server which was a must if I were to use this phone for my business work. As such, I made the decision to hold off getting the G1.

It feels like deja-vu to me with the upcoming release of the Palm Pre. I’m once again reading online articles and forum postings trying to get as much info as possible with regards to the Pre. It’s to the point of being a bit obsessed, where I constantly scan the net for new articles and news. It will probably get worst after June 6th when they release the Pre.

I have a gut feeling that the Palm Pre will be a much better handset than the G1 Google phone right from the start. Palm had full control over the hardware design and development and OS, so they can’t blame HTC or any other company for poor design. Palm certainly has experience in making smartphone devices, so I’m sure the Palm Pre is a solid device. Nevertheless, WebOS is an untested entity which actual users will need to pound a bit to see if it’s truly as stable as it seems.

If the Pre does pan out as being a superior device, I will most likely dump my company-paid Moto-Q phone and Verizon paid service and go with the Palm Pre. It will cost me $200 out of my pocket for the Pre and I’ll have to start paying $99 monthly for the everything plan (which I’ll need if I use the Pre for work), so I hope I don’t get huge buyer’s remorse over this!

Whatever the case, I have no compelling rush to be the first to own a Pre. I can sit back and watch the early adopters snatch up the Pres and report back on how well they work.

My Windows Media Center Remote Arrived Today!

May 23, 2009

tv_setIt looks like my Windows Media Center Remote arrived earlier than expected, so I spent some time this afternoon hooking up my new set of hardware components. As you may have read in a previous posting, Comcast in the Seattle area will be switching  some of their “premium” channels from analog to digital signal. As such, I will need to use a Comcast Set Top Box (STB) which will convert these digital signals to analog for the TV Tuner Card inside my Desktop PC system. Unfortunately, I can’t control the STB directly using the Vista Media Center (VMC) software (which I use to schedule recordings, watch live TV, etc.) so I needed to purchase a Windows Media Center Remote (with Infrared Emitter) to do the channel changing.

Basically, I connect the IR receiver for the Windows Media Center Remote to my Desktop PC via a USB cable. Once I do that, the VMC software has the ability to interface with it. The IR receiver also has a jack for a IR emitter, which VMC will use to send IR signals to the STB to change its channel. So, I then connect the STB, with the Cable TV line connecting to it, and second connection between it and my TV Tuner card.

Once everything was connected up, I followed the installation guide on this web page. It was very helpful in explaining how to hook up the hardware and what the setup steps were with the VMC software. After following this guide, it appears that the entire setup is working as expected. No hangs or snags as of yet. Whew! 🙂

It seems so primitive to have to use IR emitters taped to the front of a STB, etc. to get all this to work, but I really have no choice since there isn’t a reasonable alterative. I’ll just have to keep an eye on the whole McGyvered system and will let you know if I have any issues. So for now, I’m back in business with recording TV shows on the Comcast Cable Network!

NOTE: If the audio volume for your recordings seem very low, try increasing the volume of the STB by using the remote control that came with it. I noticed that my recordings were really low in volume, and jacking up the STB volume resolved the issue.

Comcast Set Top Boxes Arrived

May 22, 2009

digital_cableI received both Comcast Set Top Boxes (STB) to be used with my and my wife’s PC Tuner cards, and have gone through the process of hooking them up and activating them. I simply hooked the cable line to the STB and then connect a TV to the STB, and finally connected up the power adapter. I did this for both STBs (on separate TVs) since the install instructions stated that both STBs needed to be connected before doing the activation. I then went to the Comcast web site (www.comcast.com/digitalnow) and entered my unique customer ID number, and then checked off my two STB devices on their list and clicked the “Activate” button. After about 60 seconds, one of the boxes came to life and display a TV image on the screen, but the other box didn’t. I had to wait about 45 minutes before the Comcast web site allowed me to try the activation again. This time, it worked fine. So, I’ve got both STBs activated and working.

Note, that these STBs are no-frill, so they only have Coaxial Cable output jack for the TV. It would be nicer if they had S-Video or RCA outputs, but not on this STB.

From what I can tell, I can get channels 1 through 99, and also a few other channels above 99. So, I can’t get every channel above 99, but most of the good ones. I now have to wait for my Vista Media Center Remote to arrive in the mail so I can hook the STB to my PC’s TV Tuner card and have the Remote’s IR Emitters change the channels on the STB via Vista Media Center. Hopefully, that won’t be too much hassle to get working…. 🙂

Palm Pre Release on June 6th

May 19, 2009

palm_preI just got an email notice from Palm.com stating that the long awaited Palm Pre phone will be available on June 6th. From all preview reports, it seems that this “iPhone killer” device may be a big hit for Palm. It will be priced at $199.99 after the $100 mail-in rebate and qualifying 2-year service activation. Like the Apple iPhone and T-Mobile G1 (Android OS) phone, the Palm Pre is highly dependent on having an active Internet connection so you’ll definitely need a reasonable data plan to use it effectively.

I would love to get one, but I’m currently using a company provided phone (through Verizon) and as such, I don’t want to carry around two different phones. If they do turn out to be a smash hit, I may end up getting one for developing applications and just bite the bullet and use it for my daily work activities.

Update: Here’s a link to a nice comparison between the Palm Pre and the Apple iPhone.

Comcast Set Top Boxes On Their Way…

May 17, 2009

digital_cableI really didn’t want to do it, but I had no choice but to order a Set Top Box (STB) for use with my Desktop PC’s TV Tuner card. Luckily it was free from Comcast (my cable TV provider), but adding in a STB will just introducing another possible point of failure in my TV recording procedure. For more details on why I need to get a STB, you can read my previous posting.

Along with the STB, I also ordered an MCE Remote Control (with IR emitters) from Amazon.com to work in conjunction with Vista Media Center for changing the channels on the STB for scheduled recordings. I found a web site the explains a step-by-step procedure on how to do this, so once all my hardware arrive I’ll give it a shot and will report back on my success or failure… wish me luck!

Installing Windows 7 on My Dell Laptop

May 10, 2009

win7For that last few months I’ve been running the Beta version of Windows 7 (the next release of the Microsoft Windows Operating System), on my Dell D610 laptop. I found that the beta version was quite stable, and ran quite well for me on my Dell laptop. Unfortunately, this beta version will expire soon (within the next few months), so Idecided to download the recently released “Release Candidate” of Windows 7 and reinstall it on my Dell D610.

The basic installation went pretty smoothly, however, I had to hunt around on the Internet for the correct drivers for my D610 running on the new Win 7 OS. Luckily, I found a nifty utility called DriverMax which will scan your system and tell you if your current drivers are up-to-date with what is recorded in its online database. Running DriverMax allowed me to identify more current drivers, download them, and install them. Everything seemed to be working correctly, except the installed video driver didn’t have a setting for the 1400×1050 native resolution of my Dell D610 laptop.

After searching around again, I found a posting by someone who had the exact same issue with his D610. He suggested the following:

  1. Go to the downloadcenter.intel.com and download the latest Windows XP drivers for the Intel 915GM/GMS 910GML Express Chipset Family.
  2. Install this driver by running it in “Windows XP Service Pack 2 Compatibility-Mode”. To do so, right click on the downloaded driver file and select “Properties”. Then, select the Tab labeled “Compatibility” and “Run this program in compatibility mode for: (Windows XP Service Pack 2)”

After doing this an re-booting, you should be able to set the screen resolution to 1400×1050. Once I did this, my 3-year old Dell D610 Laptop was running pretty quickly with the installed 2 GB of RAM. This Candidate Release will expire in June 2010, so I’ve got about one year to use this seemingly stable software until I need to go back to Windows XP, or get the official release of Windows 7.

If you want to test it out, you can download the RC release from this link.