A Pocket PC Weekend


Hot on the heels of my considerations regarding PDAs, I've spent an hour re-flashing our two older test iPAQs (3630s) to Pocket PC 2002 in order to make them a bit more useful (and make our lives easier in terms of UI versions, drivers, etc.)

The Tao of Opie

Mine had Opie installed, and even though I was impressed by some of the functionality available, after a couple of weeks of using it I still think Linux has no real place on a palmtop.

Why? Let's take basic setup as an example (there are many other issues, but this is the crux of the matter for me). Even though Opie does a marvellous job of hiding Linux's complexity, basic features (like international support, wireless networking, and so on) required a trip to the package manager. I can use it without flinching (because I'm used to dealing with such things), but no real user should have to even know it exists.

In fact, Opie suffers from the usual Linux Configuration-To-Death mania, with three ways to configure anything and a large number of GUI inconsistencies that stem from a touch of the "schizophrenic window manager syndrome" (with a lot of useless - and visually confusing - UI theming), not to mention a flaky pen recognizer and a few odd crashes.

It's slick, sure. It is extremely cool and makes better use of the underlying hardware than Pocket PC 2002.

But Pocket PC 2002 (despite a visually horrid UI and several examples of non-intuitive interaction models) is a lot less hassle.

The Reasonable Waiting Game

As part of a relaxation shopping spree (this was a particularly stressful week at work, with a few unforseen events and a lot I saw coming a mile away), I went around shops looking at the iPAQ 2215 (or 2210, its retail reference) and the Tungsten T2.

There is, of course, no way to actually test the things (i.e., switch them on and click around, compare lit screens, etc.) on Portuguese shops (people actually look at you funny if you ask), so I didn't bother.

The 2215 is indeed small, very neatly designed and something I wouldn't mind carrying around in a suit pocket. It is light (much lighter and compact than the 3630s I've been fiddling with today), but the rubber sides and the plastic casing made it look cheap alongside the solid, equally compact and much better looking Tungsten T2.

The Tungsten (like some of the Cliés I've seen) feels machined, solid and reliable. The iPAQs (2210, 1910 and even the bulky 5450) feel like cheap toys. And it's not a matter of weight - the Tungsten is hardly heavier. It's both good design and a metal casing.

As to purchasing one (of any), I've decided to wait until the Tungsten T3 shows up and see:

  • Its final specs (including whether or not it still includes the shitty WebPro browser or if it uses the Tungsten C's modified non-proxy version)
  • Its price
  • The Tungsten T2's new pricing (if any)
  • How long it will take for Portuguese retailers to actually have them in stock (I'm betting around a month, but I might be excessively optimistic. The original Zire was on the shelves here after one and a half, which I still regard a fluke).

The interesting bit was that at least part of this decision was based on having two iPAQs around to fiddle with. Even though Opie was a pain to use for simple things like note taking, Pocket PC 2002 can be a downright nuisance for even simpler things - like finding which note contains a specific string.

Like the Mac, Palm makes things simpler. Compared to the nuisance of constantly fighting against a badly designed UI, the lack of Wi-Fi is beginning to seem somewhat irrelevant.

Note To Readers

Thanks to everyone who's written regarding my earlier post. It's interesting to note that people are more easily motivated to write about PDAs than their desktops or laptops, and that my (admittedly small) readership ranges from Outlook to Thunderbird on Linux folk (yes, of course I read the X-Mailer header on your e-mails...).

I'm curious about the relative scarcity of Mac OS X users, though. I'm not a card-carrying member of the Portuguese Mac community (or a member at all, like many other Switchers that approached the Mac from the UNIX side of things), but you'd expect some feedback by now...

MNO Mini-Review

Oh well. In the relatively improbable case that you're both Portuguese and a Mac OS X user, the most ardent Portuguese Mac lobbyists have been fairly active recently, having launched a news site. My view is that anyone that runs NetNewsWire can get the news they publish just about anywhere else first and the "opinion" pieces are rather flimsy and naïve (one of the initial pieces sparked off a number of flame wars with the local Linux zealots), but I have some hope that both a coherent style and good local news items will eventually come along.

As with everything else, we'll see.


See Also:

Mac