Thursday, January 10, 2008

Palm versus Blackberry

You don't have to know me for long to find out what a gadget-fiend I am. I always have to wear pants with lots of pockets to accomodate the gadgets, especially when I go out geocaching - the wallet, the palm pilot, the cell phone, the GPS receiver, the camera...

I've been through four generations of Palm Pilots now. I can still remember the first time I saw the original Palm Pilot in a magazine ad and then the first time I saw one in a store at the Crystal Mall in New London, CT. I needed to hold a cup under my chin for the drool.

That original Palm Pilot Professional carried me through my JO tour out of Groton and our time in Monterey. Then, when I went to SOAC, that was back in the days when they ISSUED all of us SOAC students a Palm Vx. I used that for most of my department head tour.

During my pre-deployment shopping spree to get everything-I-never- knew-I-needed-but-you-never-know-what-you-might-need-thousands- of-miles-from-nowhere, I decided I really wanted a Palm Pilot with a COLOR screen and some more memory. I went browsing through Best Buy, and they had JUST received and put up the display for the NEW Palm Zire 71. It had a color screen, an SD memory card slot, it could play audio music files, and it had a built in camera! SWEET! I bought it, and we headed off for WESTPAC.

WARNING: Tangent Ahead - one quick sea story to tell...

Two weeks into deployment, we had our first port call in Chin Hae, Korea. I had that awesome Palm Zire in my back pocket. (Note, for those of you non-literary types, that is called foreshadowing). It had been raining topside. I don't remember why I was topside, but I came down the ladder (this one was an actual straight-up-and-down ladder) through the Weapons Shipping Hatch (the one forward of the sail that puts you into the Command Passageway between the CO and XO's staterooms), and turned to go down the "ladder" (a steep set of stairs) from the Command Passageway to the Forward Compartment Middle Level (FCML) passageway. As I started to put my foot out to take the first step, BOTH of my feet went FLYING out in front of me. I felt like Wile E. Coyote in that moment between running off the edge of a cliff and plunging to his demise. Why is it time seems to slow down in those terrible instances? During those long moments that seemed like hours as I tumbled down the steps of the ladder into FCML, I had a conversation with myself that went something like, "Self, is this the end? I wonder if you'll break your neck and this'll be "the end." Or, if not, I wonder which bones will be broken and which hospital they will take you to? That medical clinic on the American section of the base looked pretty darn small, and your injuries are bound to be more than they can handle... I wonder what South Korean hospitals are like. I hope they're not like the karaoke bars..." and then I landed - OOF! MUCH to my surprise, it WASN'T my demise and I DIDN'T even break any bones. I was battered and bruised and really sore for a while, but the only irreparable damage was that darn Palm Pilot that was in my back pocket. It shattered the screen, KAPUT!

While thankful for my health and lack of serious injuries, I was devastated without my Palm Pilot. I quickly went to the internet cafe and wrote LW to ask her to get me a replacement Palm Pilot as fast as humanly possible. I forget the exact logistics of it, but LW and my stepmom teamed up to get me a replacement in the mail that same week.

We had subsequent port calls in Chin Hae, Okinawa, Guam, Yokosuka, Guam, Brisbane, Guam, Saipan, Guam... mmmm... I think we might have gone to Guam once or twice in the middle there, too. Each port call, I got mail and care packages from my family, and almost always about one week after they had been mailed, but no sign of the package with the replacement Palm Pilot. After about two or three months, I gave up hope and assumed some postal worker in Guam had himself a new palm pilot.

Two weeks before we returned home from deployment, we had our final port call in... can you guess? GUAM! After running some errands around the island, I came back to the boat and found a package waiting on my rack. It was my replacement Palm Pilot!!! It only took 5 MONTHS and missed all but the transit over and the transit back, but it made it.

Picture taken with my NEW replacement
Palm Pilot on the day we returned from
deployment in 2003.

Anyway, whether it was my original Palm Pilot, my Palm Vx, or my Palm Zire, I always had my Palm Pilot. If my CO wanted to know what the tides and currents would be in the channel if we delayed our underway by 4 or 6 hours, I would whip out my Palm and with a few taps tell him the answer. I used my Planetarium program to predict when we would spot the Southern Cross on our way south to Australia, and by golly I found it with the periscope that night on the midwatch. When it came time for me to transfer, my CO wanted me to include the Palm Pilot as part of the turnover process. How could my relief POSSIBLY function without the Nav's Palm Pilot???

During my last tour in DC, I discovered geocaching, and I started doing a juggling act with all my electronic gadgets. I had to carry the GPS receiver to find the geocache. I had to carry the cell phone in case of emergency. I had to carry the palm pilot for the geocache description and hints. If I wanted good pictures, I had to carry the camera, too (the Zire camera was only 0.3 megapixels). So I decided to upgrade to my fourth Palm: a Palm Treo 700p.

The Palm Treo 700p wrapped my cell phone, palm pilot, and a 1.3 megapixel camera into ONE device, and it enabled me to check my email or search the internet on the fly. I chose the 700p (Palm O/S) over the 700w (Windows Mobile) because I was so familiar with the Palm O/S, and the Windows Mobile version came with a lower-resolution screen.

So you're saying to yourself, "Self, why doesn't he get to the POINT already?"

My point in telling you all this is that I want to set the stage by explaining my long history with Palm Pilots. I have been very pleased with them overall.

Having said that, I have not been very happy with the Palm Treo. It's slow. It frequently locks-up. The BlueTooth didn't work. The email was difficult to set up and frustrating to use. The thing that really drove me nuts was whenever it lost the Verizon signal and regained the signal, then it had to stop everything and do this lengthy process of logging back onto the Verizon network, and it wouldn't let me do ANYTHING ELSE while it was doing that. So I couldn't use the Palm side of the device as a Palm Pilot and write appointments on my calendar and I couldn't use the camera side of the device to take a picture of a fleeting moment if it was in the process of logging back onto the network. Whenever I tried to make an urgent or just a QUICK phone call, I NEVER could. Inevitably, the phone would lock up then. I was convinced that if I was ever in a car accident or needed to make a life-and-death emergency phone call, the Treo would lock up and I'd have to remove the battery, put the battery back in, wait for it to start up, wait for it to log onto the network, and finally dial 911 ten minutes later.

My first Treo died on me and I had to get a replacement from Verizon under warranty, and I have had the same problems with the second Treo.
It's like in the process of cramming three gadgets into one, they gave up a lot of the functionality and robustness of those individual components, so all three suffer.

Enter the BlackBerry.

Well, I continued using the Palm Treo anyway, until we entered the shipyard and I couldn't take it to work with me because it has a camera in it and cameras aren't allowed in the shipyard.

Aside: One of the paradoxes of the submarine force is that everyone on the submarine has a siprnet computer right at their desk (secure classified military internet). The detailers at Navy Personnel Command (NPC) in Millington, Tennessee, don't have access to siprnet. The detailers have to use the regular unclassified internet (a.k.a. "niprnet"). On the boats, we have limited access to internet email. We can send and receive emails, but no forwards and no file attachments. The "Sailor Mail" we use for unclas email is sort of like a webmail program on the siprnet. It takes a few days for the emails to go through, and sometimes they get lost in the cyberspace shuffle and never show up. It's neither reliable nor fast to communicate via Sailor Mail.

Between the need for email access (without a built-in camera) and the desire for a local Hawaii cell phone number, I picked up a BlackBerry 8830.

Being such a long-time user of Palm Pilots, it took me a while to get used to the user interface and nuances of how the BlackBerry works. Setting up the email was not-at-all intuitive nor explained adequately in any of the documentation that came with it.

However, I have quickly grown to REALLY like this BlackBerry A LOT. It has MUCH better functionality and ease of use than the Palm Treo had. The device is about the same size, but they keys feel bigger and it's easier for me to type messages using the keypad on the BlackBerry. It hasn't locked up on me at all yet. Once I got the email set up, it has worked like a champ and is much easier to use than the Treo. The BlueTooth works GREAT in my car. It doesn't prevent me from using the date-book or the task list when it's lost or regaining the network. There are a lot of little things that just make me say to myself, "Self, why didn't the Treo designers think of that? (or just copy it?)"

I was worried that going from the Palm Treo with the touch screen to the BlackBerry with NO touch screen that I would lose functionality and it would be difficult to move from one display to the next without being able to just point-and-tap. The little roller-ball in the middle of the BlackBerry keyboard is AWESOME. It's VERY easy to switch from one application to another, to make new entries, or to switch between the day, week, or month view. I'm curious to see how long the little roller-ball thing will last before it needs to be replaced, but for now, I REALLY like it. How did I ever survive without a BlackBerry before this??? Why did I put up with that darn pain in the butt Treo for so long???



Anonymous said...

*envious* I have no need for such gadgets since I work from home...and I ashamedly admit that I have a very bare bones Tungsten e2 that I use for organizational purposes. But it must be cool to get online, anywhere, anytime!

Love the blast from the past pic!

RIP old palm.

All Ahead Full said...

(sigh) oh where to begin...

First....since my husband is deployed it is great to read a funny underway story like the many I have heard him tell.

Second...I also am a gadget lover. In fact, my husband is tired of being disappointed when he buys me jewelry that he thinks will get the "awe factor" only to discover it comes from the "gadget gift".

Third...We were just having this discussion about me getting a Blackberry. Ive just started a new job and feel "the need" to upgrade.

The husband's only request about me getting a blackberry.....that he gets one too as soon as he gets home. ha!

Thanks for the laughs! :)

Arfi Binsted said...

Hi! Just stumble upon you rblog and saw this post. Uhm... I am still using the standard Windows Mobile 500v. I quite like the wide screen and to me it is quite easy to operate. My email is just coming on click. I used Sony Ericsson K770i before and I do love their soft keys, better than the QWERTY pad this Palm has. I have been thinking to convert to Blackberry, but not too urgent, really as I am self-employed. Palm will do just good to me at the moment. I am just curious all the things you've compared on this post on Blackberry and Palm.