Monday, 30 June 2008

The end of the PDA

I first got a Sony Clie - which in 2003 was a Big Deal. Everyone had a PDA. If you went to a meeting, people pulled them out and coordinated their meetings - beaming their details where once they would have swapped cards. One keener had a little kid's lunch box in which he kept his fold out keyboard, and he plugged that in to his Palm and started tapping away at every meeting. The first one got lifted from my pocket in Green Bay WI, and was promptly replaced - and of course the new one was even better. But Sony could not stand the pace of competition and pulled out of the North American market - so when the second one fell from a table on a train - face down onto a metal bracket, cracking the screen (Nottingham May 2006) it could not be replaced like for like so I got a Palm Tungsten - mainly because it came with a hard metal case. I even got the fold out keyboard, but I must confess I did not use it very much. And I tried wireless network cards in its expansion slot, but they never worked very well. (And anyway most places now use 8012.11G: Palm doesn't.) And the screen is far too small for most web pages not optimised for a PDA. There are some very useful applications - maps and passwords being the most useful - Freecell the one most used, I confess.

But the hard metal case is not all metal and the critical bits are in a type of plastic that gets brittle with age. So two years on and the case is literally falling apart. The metal body is fine of course. But tiny bits of the critical hinges have come off.

Retailers no longer have displays of PDAs like they once did. London Drugs has a few in a back room - and even fewer accessories. BestBuy has one PDA. And Staples has a few - but no accessories at all other than those which could also be used with a GPS or similar box.

What really gets up my nose is that Palm still sell the case - but twenty dollars extra here compared to the US, even though the dollar is at par. And you have to order through the Canadian site even though I am sure it uses the US inventory and database. And with shipping the cost comes to a cool $80 - compared to an advertised US price of just under $40.

The death of the PDA is because phones have become smarter. Once you have a Blackberry or an iPhone a PDA seems quaint. And it is not the utility that matters - it is being at the leading edge.

I had a similar experience back in the 1980s with the Microwriter - which had a really neat 5 finger keyboard - the only one I have ever mastered for touch typing. Sadly the UK company that made it never survived the head to head with Sharp. But it was a lot easier to learn than Graffiti - and you never needed to go hunting for a store with the right size of stylus (a whole lunch hour in Calgary, July 2005 was wasted on that). You can still buy the 5 finger keyboard from CyKey

I am not yet ready to give up my PDA. It is easier to use on a plane than my EeePC - and its battery lasts longer. Its cards switch with the EeePC and my camera too. I suppose one day I will have camera, PDA and phone all in one. But just for now I will buy another case. Familiarity being a comfort. But I do not expect to find anything more in a real store and I am going to boycott Palm's on line store and hang around EBay or Craig's list if I need any other bits and pieces before then

Monday, 23 June 2008

Tuesday, 17 June 2008


There is a short and very even tempered piece by Mr Arar in today's Globe and Mail.

The American government is now in full "cover your ass" mode. It knows that what it did was indefensible and totally unjustified. The grounds for suspecting Mr Arar were "nonsense". The process he was subjected to was illegal, and should never even have been contemplated in a country that claims to be a bastion of liberty. There was no reason to detain him in the first place since he was merely passing through New York on his way home. There was no risk of any kind.

The Canadian government has now investigated and apologized for its own disgraceful role and given Mr Arar some money - though no amount could be enough to repair the dreadful treatment he received.

The Bush administration in continuing to stonewall is simply confirming the view that it is incompetent, stupid and guilty as hell.

Saturday, 14 June 2008

Worse Than Fascists: Christian Political Group 'The Family'

Jeff Sharlet's new book, "The Family: The Secret Fundamentalism at the Heart of American Power," offers a rare glimpse of this remarkable network, which is known variously as the Family, the Fellowship and the International Foundation.
Apparently to get the Kingdom of Heaven on earth it is no good dealing with the poor and the hungry. What you really need to do is get the rich and powerful on your side.

I have never liked the right wing "christian" fundamentalist point of view. And now it turns out that all that stuff some Jewish carpenter 2000 years ago was spouting was wrong and what God really means was the you should be anti trade union. Someone in Seattle had vision in the thirties.

This is my problem with religion. All of them. You have to take someone's word that the voices they hear are to be trusted. Now we tend to regard people who hear voices as at best eccentric or at worst dangerously psychotic. Quite why the Norwegian evangelist does not fit that role is hard to say. I suppose you have to buy the book. Or maybe he was just another skillful marketer identifying what his target market segment wanted to buy.

Equally, people who keep digging up conspiracies tend to be regarded as paranoid. But just because you are paranoid does not mean there are no conspiracies.

And that APA book that comes out at regular intervals with newly discovered mental illnesses will have all of us pigeonholed and medicated soon.

But I still refuse to believe anything that cannot stand up to rigorous intellectual and scientific investigation. If there is a Creator he endowed me with commonsense and a capacity for critical thinking and I do not see why He would want me to abandon them as a condition for everlasting life - which is something I think I would rather do without, thank you very much.

Tuesday, 3 June 2008

German tabloid mocks UK tourists

Actually this is useful information for others. Becuase what they are pointing to is the archetypal package deal tourist who just wants sun, sand, beer and fish & chips. The sort so ably defined by Eric Idle.

"Yes, I quite agree with you, I mean, what's the point of being treated like a sheep? I mean I'm fed up going abroad and being treated like sheep. What's the point of being carted around in buses, surrounded by sweaty mindless oafs from Kettering and Boventry in their cloth caps and their cardigans and their transistor radios and their Sunday Mirrors, complaining about the tea, 'Oh, they don't make it properly here, do they, not like at home', stopping at Majorcan bodegas, selling fish and chips and Watney's Red Barrel and calamares and two veg and sitting in cotton sun frocks squirting Timothy White's suncream all over their puffy, raw, swollen, purulent flesh 'cause they 'overdid it on the first day', and being herded into endless Hotel Miramars and Bellvueses and Bontinentals with their international luxury modern roomettes and their Watney's Red Barrel and their swimming pools full of fat German businessmen pretending to be acrobats and forming pyramids and frightening the children and barging into the queues and, if you're not at your table, spot on seven you miss your bowl of Campbell's Cream of Mushroom soup, the first item on the menu of International Cuisine, and every Thursday night there's bloody cabaret in the bar featuring some tiny emaciated dago with nine-inch hips and some big, fat, bloated tart with her hair Brylcreemed down and a big arse presenting Flamenco for Foreigners, and then some adenoidal typists from Birmingham with diarrhea and flabby white legs and hairy bandy-legged wop waiters called Manuel, and then, once a week, there's an excursion to the local Roman Ruins where you can buy cherryade and melted ice cream and bleedin' Watney's Red Barrel, and then one night they take you to a local restaurant with local colour and colouring and they show you there and you sit next to a party of people from Rhyl who keeps singing 'Torremolinos, Torremolinos' and complaining about the food, 'Oh, it's so greasy, isn't it?', and then you get cornered by some drunken greengrocer from Luton with an Instamatic and Dr. Scholl sandals and Tuesday's 'Daily Express' and he drones on and on and on about how Mr. Smith should be running this country and how many languages Enoch Powell can speak and then he throws up all over the Cuba Libres, ...

One of my coworkers once described how he chose where to spend his holiday. "We get off the plane in Athens and take the first ferry - no matter where it is going to. We then repeat the random ferry selection process until we stop hearing English spoken."

I would also try to avoid organised groups of any nationality. Not because of any xenophobia but because I do not want to be herded about, nor subject to those who like that sort of thing.

But of course anyone who has taken a cheap package tour always complains about how the Germans always claim the best spots on the beach, or the most favoured sun loungers, by getting up early and leaving their towels on them before they go and line up for breakfast. They still are determjed to claim their place in the sun. And the sight of gaggle of fat naked hausfraus slowly frying themselves on a concrete slab is one that I have no wish to see again.

"Don't mention the war!"

Monday, 2 June 2008

Activia and the probiotics scam

To help further their health claims, the marketing team at Dannon, which makes Activia, took things a step further. Banking on the power of suggestion, they came up with new names for two strains of bacteria found in their yogurt: bifidus regularis, which supposedly helps regulate your digestive system and L. casei immunitas, which, you guessed it, supposedly strengthens your immune system. Probiotics may have some benefits, but most yogurts contain them—the reason why there is a class action lawsuit accusing Dannon of a false advertising campaign promoting the benefits of their yogurt over others. The suit charges that the claims merely convince consumers to pay more.

I pass this along so that you do not get taken in - as I admit I was.

Sunday, 1 June 2008

A New Declaration of Independence

As a Canadian I cannot sign this. If I were an American I would follow the example of John Hancock and write my name as big as possible.

It is a long document but worth reading - here is a sample
We hold these truths to be self-evident, that the entirety of humanity, the entire creation, constitutes one family in which no individual has been given the right to hoard wealth while the remainder of the family dies for lack of a handful of grain; in which no individual has been given the right to mass murder, in the name of perverse patriotism, for a small piece of this planet; in which no individual has been given the right to exterminate countless animal and plant species in the pursuit of profit. Rather, we affirm our commitment to fulfill our responsibility to every member of our family as part of our human family values.