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Old 02-24-2005, 11:19 AM   #1
Bob Russell
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Editorial: Do You Need "Zippiness" in Your PDA?

Let me start with a bottom line observation... I love a fast computer and I love a fast PDA. And it's not just a matter of wanting the "best", or being worried that my task will take a total of a few seconds more. Those waits really add up.

How many times have you been doing software upgrades or trying to make some software work on your PC or PDA, and you find the whole day is gone because of all the resets and reboots and even waiting on the user interface to go from step to step? I, for one, see precious time slipping out of my grasp because of that sort of thing. If computers were truly "zippy" it would be a lot quicker to get stuff done. And isn't that the bottom line? I'd be willing to even give up a lot of functionality.

I was working with some text files using Notepad on my Windows desktop PC and I realized that I generally use Notepad instead of MS Word whenever possible, despite the lack of features. In fact, there's a huge difference in capabilities, but I prefer Notepad. It's easy, fast, snappy and the text files are compatible anywhere.

That example explains much of what I like about PDAs (aside from the obvious -- portability.) More true of Palm PDAs than PPC, but they are generally quick and snappy and the apps are relatively simple to learn and use even if they have a lot of capabilities. I like the Zen of Palm that remembers to make the user experience more important than the feature set. Most of the time I can use a PDA (like Notepad), and sometimes I need the full blown PC (like MS Word.)

But with the growth in feature sets and the market demands, is simplicity and zippy response time going to be a casualty in the portable electronics wars? Might be my imagination, but it seems like hardware sped up during the "Clie age" and things went better for the user. But now software is starting to outpace hardware again. I hope not. I don't even like that 1/2 second wait for a response! It may not seem like a big deal, but it takes your mind off of what you were doing and puts your attention on the device instead.

And I don't want to have to buy the fastest PDA out there to get a responsive user experience. Let's face it, there are a lot of things that are slower on a PDA than a desktop even if you aren't talking about a lack of keyboard or the small screen.

The good news is that when battery/fuel cell technology improves, a lot of the hardward constraints may start to disappear also. You just might be forced to hold your pda with a glove so you don't burn yourself on all the heat put out by tiny devices with big power requirements. There are already warnings not to use laptops in your lap if you're a male who wants to procreate!
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Old 02-24-2005, 02:09 PM   #2
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I wish "zippiness" was my issue. If I were a PC/PPC guy, then I'd have all these models to choose from and I could look at zippiness as a decision maker-or-breaker. Being a Mac/Palm OS guy, I feel like my options are more limited. I'm happy that Tapwave and it's Zodiac2 were there when my T|3's digitizer stopped functioning. I wish that the processor was as fast as the T|3, but that only bothers me during really intensive games (the graphics processor that's supposed to handle the slack for gaming, I think, only works for Tapwave optimized games and not for all the emulators and ROM's I use.)

Either way, I think that PDA-ing is faster than the previous methods of data management. I agree that it sucks to spend countless hours re-installing softwares and Hard Reseting and Soft Reseting and backing up and restoring from backups when things aren't happy and when I'm trying to troubleshoot the issues (like right now, I'm recovering all 45GB of music from my iPod to an external hard drive that crashed and had to be re-formatted andbecause I didn't make backups to DVD I can only get my music back, no photos or movies). Still, the efficiency of using a sparkling PDA or other gadget FAR outweighs the previous methods of rolodex and dayplanners and business cards and photo albums and cassettes and CD/DVD's all over the place. My mom sometimes gets overwhelmed with trying to keep all of her digital devices in sync and she says how peoplle spend all these hours trying to keep these devices in perfect order, devices that are meant to speed up things. Still, compared to the previous methods of doing everything just cannot compare to what we can do now.

Do I want blazing fast everything? No, I'll settle for decently fast. I'm not that impatient. I'll be happy if Tapwave doesn't go under and makes a Wi-Fi PDA with a hard drive.
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Old 02-24-2005, 08:02 PM   #3
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Here is my simple math. I had:

BEFORE: a Clie 760CD with a 33mhz Motorola Dragonball CPU.
NOW: a Dell Axim X50v with a 624mhz Intel XScale PXA270 CPU, the fastest on the market these days.

You should expect lightning-fast zippy responses from a today's high-end PDA when you compare it to a 3 years old oldtimer Clie. But you know what? My Dell doesn't seem to be any faster than the Clie in standard situations such as when using standard PIM functionalities to enter new contact or todo items. Other applications, admittedly, run smoother, such as Plucker or Replico, both which require more CPU power when processing a document's rich content (images, tables, etc.). But let's be honest. Does a speed difference of a few milliseconds per page-turn really justify the big gap in CPU power?
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Old 02-24-2005, 08:47 PM   #4
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My first PDA was a Clie T615C with the same processor as your 760, Alexander. Programs like Repligo were almost unusable on it, even though it _was_ pretty. My ipaq, with it's 200MHz processor is still blindingly faster in applications like that, not just a small time difference, and that isimportant to me, so I guess I do like zippiness.

Having said that, a 600MHz+ processors and VGA screen would be even better.... drool....

Craig.
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Old 02-25-2005, 10:16 AM   #5
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I can admit, I prefer it SIMPLE and fast.

I'm happy for the better speed of the TH55 (120MHz) vs my first PalmIIIx (16MHz). I'm not purging the datebook database as frequently anymore, since it is fast to scan the whole database. On the IIIx, I purged all events older than 2 months!

But, I don't need it faster any more. I'll keep my TH55 until it breaks. Then the simple factor will help me decide for the new model.
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Old 02-25-2005, 10:22 AM   #6
Alexander Turcic
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Craig, you're right Repligo is actually a good example for when CPU speed matters. My point is that standard PIM applications do not seem any more zippy on the Dell than on the Clie, despite the stark contrast in CPU power. On the contrary, as a long-time fan of DateBk, I find PIM applications such as Pocket Informant and Agenda Fusion embarrassingly slow.
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