New Palm TX Forced Me to Address Mac Sync Optionsby Giles Turnbull
The Palm LifeDrive has earned a lot of press, which is not surprising given its radical new architecture that incorporates a hard disk instead of solid-state memory.
But there's been less coverage of Palm's other recent product release, the TX model.
In this article, we'll take a look at the TX as a Palm device, and conduct an overview of the state of Palm/Mac compatibility. Is Palm still a good choice of handheld OS for Mac users?
I Was a Teenage Palm Addict
OK, I wasn't a teenager, but I like to think that I was something of an early adopter. I purchased my first Palm in 1997, a Palm Pilot Professional. I still have it somewhere, lurking in a drawer getting dusty.
I also purchased a cell phone with a built-in modem and IR port (the Ericsson SH888, a great phone for its time--I gave it to my dad and he still uses it) and later upgraded the Palm to a IIIx model, and bought myself a GoType fold-up keyboard.
Without wishing to blow my own trumpet too loudly, I set myself up with everything I needed to be a wireless roving reporter, in a time when very few people were doing this kind of thing. At the time, I was an internet correspondent for the U.K.'s Press Association, and with my little bag of gadgets I could attend any press event or conference, sit with the Palm on my lap typing notes, then wirelessly email them directly to my editors.
No one else at the company was doing this. Few others on Fleet Street were doing it, except a few other technology specialists.
The point of this self-indulgent trip down memory lane is to demonstrate how far ahead Palm's devices and software were. Now, with modern cell phones and BlackBerries in every other pocket, wireless pocket-sized email is nothing to brag about. Back in those days, it was only possible for an ignoramus like me to accomplish it because the simplicity of the Palm-based setup.
The Palm OS has always been a perfect example of simplicity. Some apps might have only one button to tap, such as the single New button in the built-in Memo application. The Palm OS makes no demands on users to understand any aspect of the OS itself; you don't need to save files, or use a hierarchy of folders. You just use single-purpose apps to do a job, and in almost every case, your work is saved automatically. You don't save a file, you just move to a different task, or switch off. Next time you return, your work will still be there, just as you left it. If only desktop computers had developed this way.
Over the years, Palm has been through plenty of changes, including the change from Palm to PalmOne and back to Palm again.
The products have, of course, advanced a long way from my antique IIIx. I happily confess to being completely out of the loop as far as Palm products are concerned, but my memories of easy simplicity are strong. I have high expectations. So what's the new TX like?
The Palm TX actually reminds me of the older models that I used to use in the mid-to-late 1990s. The shape, size, and even the color are much more like the IIIx that I used to use than the silvery LifeDrive or the curvy m- series from a few years back.
It feels sturdy enough in the hand, solid and with no sign of flimsiness. The supplied stylus is metal and is a good weight. The large TFT screen (16-bit color, 320 by 480 pixels) is very nice to use, and does a pretty good job of handling photos and short video clips. It's no iPod video, but it performs adequately.
On the downside, the USB connector cable that came with the Palm TX is difficult to plug into the Palm--it almost feels like you've got the wrong cable. It's more a case of jamming it into place, rather than it plugging in neatly with a satisfying click.
What Do You Get for Your Money?
You get the computer, a USB cable, a power cable with a selection of power plug adapters, a CD with outdated software (more on that in a moment), and a plastic cover you can optionally put over the front of the device. Inside, there's an Intel XScale ARM 312MHz processor, 128MB of memory (only 100MB of which is usable), WiFi and Bluetooth networking, and Palm OS 5.4.9.
Having unpacked and given the device an initial charge, the first nice thing about using it is the instant and hassle-free connection to my home wireless network. I'm on the Web in a few seconds. The supplied browser, Blazer, seems to work well enough. It can get me pretty much everywhere I need to go online, including Gmail and Flickr, so I'm a happy surfer.
I can't say the same for the supplied email client, VersaMail. Setting up accounts causes it to crash the Palm, every time. Getting it to sync with Mail is equally frustrating and fruitless.
I can already see that things are a little more complex than they were in 1999.