Windows Mobile… tablet or not?

The thrill of having a TABLET has kind of worn off. I guess it’s because I’m a faster typist than a writer, and with my horrible handwriting the system has mucho trouble converting to text, as well as searching my ink. Don’t ask for me to post samples of my script. I’m very embarrassed by it. I looked through my journals of twenty years ago and my penmanship was to die for. I even lettered comic books with my incredibly precise block notation. Nowadays I have to hire an interpreter for my interpreter to read my chickenscratches.

That said, I’m still having fun using pen-based systems. The next item on the agenda: my Toshiba E830 pocket pc. Yes, it’s old. Yes, Toshiba no longer sells Pocket PC devices. I don’t know why. This thing is a skookum piece of gear, albeit in desperate need of a software update to Windows Mobile 5. Still, I’m getting tons of mileage out of it, with the only drawback being that it doesn’t have a cell phone built in.

When I bought my M200 the E830 came as part of the package. I was at first unsure that I would even use it. But it grew on me. It’s a little bigger than a Palm or an iPAQ device, but this makes for a very readable screen. Plus, it’s smaller than my Tablet, so I can truly take it anywhere. It connects to my PC using a cradle that has a blue neon band around the base remniscient of Close Encounters of the Third Kind. Very cool to look at, but not so cool when I’m trying to sleep. With a built-in 128MB memory, both SD AND CompactFlash slots, WiFi 802.11b, and bluetooth 1.1, this thing packs a punch. I’m so spoiled by this puppy that I can’t find a Windows Mobile Phone Edition device that even remotely compares to these specs. Often TelCo carriers avoid giving WiFi, forcing one to use their data network (and pay more money for it). The most comparable processor on the market, made by Samsung, is a lousy cell phone. I want it all.

Last month I finally got ActiveSync to work using a bluetooth serial port. I knew it should have been possible, and with the help of a website found by a Google search it’s done. I’ve always used combinations of WiFi and bluetooth to transfer files between devices (and my cell phone) and update my AvantGo reader content. I’ve also created a bluetooth serial connection to use my cell phone as a modem to send a quick email from the E830. Now, with ActiveSync working wirelessly, I don’t need the UFO cradle to sync to Outlook on the Tablet. And this makes for some really peaceful sleeps.

Things I use my pocket pc for (and would love to merge with a cell phone in future):

  • At the gym: I store my music on an SD card, and track my workouts using an Excel spreadsheet; I’ve also just found a workout tracking program to try
  • At church: Pocket E-Sword (also available for Palm devices) with a collection of Bibles, a Strong’s concordance, an International Standard Bible Encyclopedia, Devotional, and an editor to write notes
  • Songwriting: I can record audio notes through a built-in microphone, and store the files as audio or as part of a text note
  • On the buses: I keep up with the news downloaded into AvantGo. One of these days I’ll think to add my own channels. Right now my favourite channel is Hubblesite Mini: great pictures from the Hubble telescope, scientific reports on recent NASA news, and quizzes for the novice and the learned alike
  • At coffee shops: I can connect to any WiFi network (unless their authentication isn’t built to handle handheld devices) and check email, surf the web, and download files
  • Entertain the kids: My eldest son (5) loves “jawbreaker”. As an aside, I also found a version for the PC that sets up a network where users can share high scores over the Internet and peer-to-peer chat. Kind of spooky
  • More entertainment: My son also likes to draw in the notepad, and use the multiple coloured crayon-app “PencilBox”. For just a few bucks I can upgrade the program into a full-function drawing app
  • Out and about: My contacts and appointments are synched up with Outlook on my Tablet. Eventually I would like to set up an Exchange server (or something compatible) so that my wife and I can have separate calendars, but can still see each others’ availability
  • Picture Perfect: The SD card slot is great for pulling pictures off my camera to take to the photo lab. Why upload when you’re already in the neighbourhood? Guaranteed 1-hour service. Yeah baby

The handwriting recognition on the Pocket PC is worse than the Tablet. However, I am getting better. As practice on the Pocket PC improves my handwriting, the Tablet will finally be able to guess the right words every time! I’ll be sure to keep this blog updated with more experiences consolidating my two handwriting-based toys.

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