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These days, I'm the director of the American Library Association' s Office for Intellectual Freedom. I'm also executive director and secretary of the Freedom to Read Foundation. See "About Me" for contact information.

Saturday, June 19, 2010

Cell phones

Recently, my library's IT staff tried to link my cell phone, the Palm Centro smartphone, running the now abandoned Palm OS, to our Exchange Server. It was an experiment fraught with danger.

One problem: my current data plan (paid by me, not the library) really doesn't cover that. (I didn't find that out till later.)

Another problem: The wireless sync program represented a different kind of work flow.

Another problem: my own incompetence. I didn't read the instructions for synching very carefully. When it did sync, it wiped out my entire calendar, then wouldn't sync the old way with my Palm. At this point, I'm not sure if I ever tried to sync wirelessly again to restore the settings from the Exchange Server, or if it would have worked.

Instead, I went through a round of reformatting, restoring key files, hopping across a Windows NT machine, my home PC running Ubuntu, and my netbook. Then, trying to figure out how to restore the simple email to my own domain. In the process, I discovered that I'd gummed up my Palm with all kinds of files and utilities I didn't need, and probably conflicted with each other.

And in these couple of days, I was unhappy. I have been using a Palm for over a decade, and it has worked its way into my life. Having it compromised -- not being able to transfer text files and calendar items among my various devices, in particular -- made me exceedingly cranky.

But it also got me thinking about what I actually need. Mainly, I use the basic Palm apps (Datebook, To Do, Memo, Addresses). They are fine, and the outliner Brainforest is a particularly good tool for thinking, storing big blocks of text (mostly columns, journals, and poetry), and tracking a host of work projects. The phone is quite good, I use texting, and mostly, I just monitor email rather than try to actively manage it, which is far more easily done on a PC. Web browsing on the old Palm is lousy. I take a picture every now and then. I do a couple of Sudoku every day. Although I play a lot of music myself in a week (piano, guitar, banjo, ukulele), I don't use my phone or my PC to run playlists.

When it comes right down to it, having been able to use a single platform (the Palm) more or less continuously over just three devices (the original Palm Pilot, an upgrade PDA, and a smartphone) is probably the exception rather the rule.

At any rate, I got things set back in order, understand Palm utilities and Linux transfer tools better than I used to, and got the idea that it won't be long before I'll have to adopt a different approach. Meanwhile, I'm more like my 16 year old son, looking at reports on cell phones. Android? iPhone? Will HP do anything with their WebOS purchase?

Change, change, change.

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