Saturday, October 07, 2006

What's on my Treo 650

One of Russ best post I remember was his "What's on my Nokia". I think I got more applications to download for my Nokia from that post than from any possible visit to any off-deck site or any Google search.

After so many years spent using a Palm OS, I am about to give up my Treo 650 for good. At Funambol, I had to make the sad choice to bet on different operating systems (as did PalmSource, now moving into my own space with
Access Linux Platform --> that's mobile open source ;-) In all these years, I collected a number of applications. I used some for few days and a small subset every day. Those few represent for me the minimum toolkit for anybody using a Palm OS device. Here they are.

1. A PIM sync client
First of all, a smartphone without PIM sync is useless. You need your contacts, calendar, task and notes from your standard email reader (mine is Outlook). There are many choices in this space. First of all, you can sync over cable or bluetooth. That's suboptimal if you have a Treo, but the only choice if you have an old PDA (what for? Get a smartphone! ;-). I have been using Chapura PocketMirror Professional and it never let me down. I use subfolders in Outlook to separate contacts and it worked great on that. If you want over-the-air (OTA) sync, SyncML is your best choice. I know I am biased. You should use the Funambol free portal and a SyncML client. There are many out there. Beside ours, I would recommend the Synthesis SyncML Palm Client.

2. A mobile email client
Once you have synched your address book, you are ready to send emails. As I wrote before, do not attempt to use mobile email without an address book or you will give up fast. Once again, there are many email clients for Palm. Some feel Versamail (which is usually preinstalled) is good enough. I don't. SnapperMail does it for me. I like how you can configure how to get mail. When I am in the US and I have a flat data plan, I do it every 20 mins and I download the entire message (but no attachments). When I am in Europe, I do it manually, I download just 12k and I set "disconnect afterwards". I save money. I like the ability to clean up my folder at night, since my email would fill up my Treo in three days. IMAP support is nice and support for multiple accounts is key for me.

3. A directory assistant
I have to thank Matt for this, since I can't live without this application. Alone, it gives me a reason to defend my Treo with my wife (who is always about to throw it in the toilet, since it takes a bit too much of my attention). Directory Assistant is a beautiful tool, that allows you to search for a restaurant or a shop (or even one of your friends, since it searches for Residential numbers as well), get the result via the web (fast), call with one click and reserve your table or get directions. It is a beautiful simple application, which uses data from the Yellow Pages web site. Thanks Rick Whitt for saving my day many times.

4. A converter
Ok, this might look a bit too high in the list, but I am a European and I will never ever get used to inches and feet, or fluid ounces. Who is the genius that invented the US standards? How can you create a system where there are a bunch of inches in a feet, a bunch of feet in a yard, a bunch of yards in a mile? None with the same metric? How can you possibly know how long is 3 inches and 5 eights? Sorry for the rant... Kilos, meters and liters are so easy to understand that it kills me on a daily basis (and BTW, zero is freezing, 100 is boiling. It is that simple, I swear). Anyway, I use Matt Marsh's Converter. Easy, simple, free. You can customize it for the units you use more often. This one saved my brain many times, at Home Depot in particular. On a similar note, sometimes I use a stupid app I wrote long time ago, called Spell It!, which converts a word to its NATO alphabet representation. That is: Fabrizio to foxtrot-alfa-bravo-... If you have my first and last name and live in the US, you might see why it could be helpful, in particular opening accounts on the phone.

5. A mobile phone calls redirector
Most likely another one that would not make the top list for many normal people. But I do not like to speak on my cell phone when I am home or in the office. I have a normal phone there (cordless, btw). The quality of the line is much better and it does not get hot while I talk. I use Call Director because you can set phone numbers (such as Home and Office) and it gets activated automatically when you plug your Treo. I come back home, plug the Treo and my mobile calls are redirected to my home phone. I unplug it to go out and my mobile calls are back on my mobile. You can even set times for office vs. home vs. anything else. When I am flying outside the US, I forward it to my SkypeIn. I know, I am weird.

6. An instant messaging client
I know, this should be much higher in the list but I do not use it as often as the converter... VeriChat is a fantastic tool. It supports Yahoo!, ICQ, MSN & AOL chat (I am on YM). It works like a charm. It allows you to transfer files (I used to send pictures taken on the phone in real time). It is full of Bots, small apps that can get interesting data for you, like weather forecast, stocks and so on. What I call mobile widgets. If I could choose, I would not put them inside an IM client, but on the top menu of my device. However, the idea is the same and it works. Highly recommended.

7. A tool to receive up-to-date sport results
If you do not like soccer, you can substitute it with baseball or whatever sport you like. There are few important things in life: sport is one of them. When four years ago I had to choose the first application to use the Funambol server on, I chose the World Cup (there is only one, it is soccer, it is the most viewed event in history, stop asking "of what?"). We had 20,000 downloads in two weeks. Not because I wrote the Palm client, but because the sync capability was a killer. This year (man, what a year!!!) we left someone else write it and Tiny Stocks got money from Palm to do it. Football 2006 (I guess they could not say "World Cup" or FIFA would have called them ;-) was just perfect. Over-the-air updates. Dynamic charts. I would love to have the same for the Italian league, but this year I am on soccer sabbatical. Some biased judge took soccer away from me. I am going to watch the World Cup games over and over, for 12 months. No soccer for me. Just Formula 1 and MotoGP.

8. Some games
I never have time to play games because I am a CEO of a startup and I work very hard (yeah, right). However, sometimes during my long travels for work (yeah, right) I have some spare time and I fill a very limited amount of minutes with games. I am not big on mobile games (this is true) because I feel the limitation of the keyboard and the screen. However, there are some classics that I always have on my Palm, to kill the minutes before boarding on a plane. Minesweeper, tetris, chess, backgammon, pac-man and galaga make my short list. If I just could have some more spare time... Yeah, right.

9. Some random geeky tools
There are some tools on Palm I could not live without. One is FileZ, an open source application to manage files and databases on your Palm. It is a must, if you know what you are trying to accomplish. If you don't, just do not try or you are going to screw up your Palm forever. Another must for me (I would say until I hired a Director Operations) was TuSSH, an SSH client. I was able to jump on any of our machines from my Treo and fix stuff. Not something you do every day but you are really thankful that moment when you really need it (and again, your wife will be chasing you trying to throw the damn thing in the toilet).

10. A way to use your phone as a modem
This should be very easy to do on a smartphone. It has bluetooth, so does your computer. It connects to the Internet, so you would think you can do it easily from your computer, pairing the two. Well, it ain't easy. But you can do it. I spent a few hours to find the right combination to use my Treo with Tmobile (in the US) as a modem for my laptop. I could not find anything online but I managed to make it work (btw, the phone number to dial is *99***1#) and I use my 4.99/month Tzone to download email on my laptop with the phone in my pocket (magic!). If you do not want to spend your life trying the right combination, I suggest PdaNet. No effort, it works really well. Your mobile operator might not like it, but do you really care?

That's it folks. I probably tried one hundred more but they did not manage to stick around and I cannot find them on my Palm anymore. There is usually a reason for that. As there is a reason for me letting Palm OS go. It breaks my heart, but when Palm runs Windows Mobile, Macs have Intel chips and Microsoft shares its source, you have to accept the world is changing and you should not look behind.