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December 31, 2002

Sidekick resolution and bug

So I went back to the very same T-Mobile location this afternoon. I noticed the woman who was little help last night, but managed to avoid her. To review, my Sidekick would sometimes (twice, so far) appear completely dead when I came out in the morning to take it off the charger and go to work. No button pressing or plugging/unplugging would bring it back.

The guy who took my case was the model of customer service. I was amazed, because my expectations were so low. He took me back to the office, and borrowed a charger for the Sidekick, which had no effect. He said they wouldn't have a battery there, but started to order a new unit for delivery to my house, even thought I bought it through Amazon.

As he was entering my information, he saw a note and started fiddling with my reset button (which is notably absent from the documentation). On the second try, my scroll wheel lit up, and everything was back to normal.

Turns out, there's a known bug, where the unit will fall into a 'deep sleep' mode (intended for shipping purposes) while on the charger. The solution is to hold down the reset button (under the edge of the screen when it's deployed) while powering up the unit with the power button (remember to press it for 3 seconds).

December 31, 2002 in Sidekickin' | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Hog heaven

I had a pretty good Christmas. When you throw in my birthday, I pulled in all the books pictured below (click for more detail):

And that's not to mention the gift certificates to bookstores, convertible into even more pulp, glorious pulp!

Update: I've added the titles to my book queue at lower right for easier browsing; Amazon suggests I have 5,660 pages to go (although I'm about 300 pages into "Live from New York", so make it 5,400).

December 31, 2002 in Books | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Sidekick update update

Thursday night, T-Mobile phone support suggested I take the errant Sidekick to a T-Mobile retailer, so they could try an alternate charger or battery, and just replace the bad part, instead of the whole shebang. I didn't get there on Friday, and on Saturday, the device had a miraculous third-day resurrection, so I didn't go. It charged Saturday night, worked all day Sunday, charged last night, and was dead this morning.

I dropped by T-Mobile on the way home and the helpful sales lady said they wouldn't open a box to test my unit ("No one will want to buy a used phone," she said). And they're not really technical at the store -- "we used to have somebody like that, but now they're all in LaGrange" (Georgia, where Powertel, later VoiceStream, now, with Deutsche Telekom, T-Mobile, got started). Fortunately, I have a friend of a friend who's a VP at T-Mobile, and he says the retail manager should definitely open a box for quality assurance, if necessary. Guess we'll find out tomorrow.

Caveat emptor.

December 31, 2002 in Sidekickin' | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack

December 30, 2002

Latest reclamation project

So I saved another machine from the Dumpster, and am entering this very entry through it.

It's an IBM ThinkPad 560x (model 2640-60U), from way back in February of 1998. I think I'm bonding with it because it reminds me so much of my late, lamented PowerBook 2400c.

It's got no CD-ROM or floppy drive, but has a port for a floppy, dual PC Card slots, and 96 megs of RAM. The keyboard is fantastic, particularly for a sub-4 pound machine. Unfortunately, my particular example has an HPA screen (not an active-matrix TFT), which has some discoloration where the TrackPoint (IBM's tiny red joystick) has pressed against the screen over the years. IBM sold some versions of the same machine with an active-matrix screen, so I may try a retrofit for fun.

It's a 200-megahertz Pentium MMX, which would be adequate on Windows '98, but I wanted to run Linux on it, so I borrowed a PC Card CD-ROM, and took the plunge. Turns out it's a pain to install Windows '98 on the 560x, because the Windows installer assumes a built-in CD-ROM will be available throughout the installation process -- the workaround is to copy many of the Windows files to the hard drive.

There's a handy reference on Linux on the 560x here, but many of the issues he discusses have been ironed out since he wrote it. The only problems I still have are getting 'neat', the RedHat network configuration wizard, to configure my wireless card (bug reported), and getting sound to work (may just be a broken speaker; it's really tiny).

It's no iBook, but it's close.

December 30, 2002 in General computing | Permalink | Comments (7) | TrackBack

December 28, 2002

Sidekick update

Called T-Mobile service, which directed me to one of their retail stores to test a) the charger, and b) the battery. Couldn't go yesterday, so before I left for there today, I plugged in the Sidekick, and voila! it was back to normal.

I'm at a loss to explain it, so I'll be keeping a very close eye on it for a week or two.

December 28, 2002 in Sidekickin' | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

December 27, 2002

What was your "what were they thinking?" gift?

So, I had a great Christmas. Got a lot of things off my Amazon list, a FireWire card for my PowerBook, so I can liberate the rest of my MP3s from Christy's iMac, and a Simpsons desk calendar.

My parents sometimes come up with gifts that are a little "out there:" a couple of years ago, for example, I got one of those lighted towers of bubbling water. This year, they actually hit way more than they missed: I got a few books off the wish list. But they also win the prize for this year's "What were they thinking?" gift.

I think they suspected this, since they explained the gift as soon as I opened it. "Your uncle Mike loved his..." Mom said. "And we remembered how much you used to love the Three Stooges."

That's right, the Stooges. It's an animatronic Three Stooges scene, but even better, it's one where they're golfing.

No one is more passionate than me about golfing, but my passion is directed toward what a colossal waste of time, land, and resources it is.

I suppose I'm going to have to build a bar in the basement, so I'll have someplace to display it.

Anybody else with a "What were they thinking?" gift to share?

December 27, 2002 | Permalink | Comments (2) | TrackBack

As if I needed more proof

I hooked up with someone at O'Reilly about being an irregular. They send out inventory sheets every couple of months to readers around the country, and ask them to verify the stock at one or more local bookstores. For each store you check, you can pick two books from the O'Reilly list.


December 27, 2002 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Sidekick honeymoon over?

So I've had my Sidekick for exactly a week. I typically charge it overnight, and use it all day. Last night, I forgot to charge it, and the battery was nearly dead this morning. The unit coached me to plug it in, and it would turn on "in a few minutes", so I did. I left it plugged in for a couple of hours this morning at work, and used it at lunch, and maybe once after lunch.

When I went to call home that I was heading out of the office, the screen was blank. Plugging it in didn't make any difference. T-Mobile's support number suggests that I drop by one of their retail stores and try a different charger or battery before trying to send it back to Amazon (which I can do within the first 14 days for a new replacement; outside of 14 days, I have to deal with T-Mobile and am likely to get a refurb).

More as it happens.

December 27, 2002 in Sidekickin' | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

December 23, 2002

Sidekick review 1

I've added a category for Sidekick stories (Sidekickin').

I've been using my new Sidekick (design by Danger, wireless by T-Mobile) for four days now, and I'm quite impressed.

The Sidekick is an answer to the Research in Motion "crackberry" pagers, which have led to pager addiction among a segment of self-obsessed executives everywhere. Danger's goal is to bring equivalent technology to the mass market, including kids who IM more than they telephone, people who rely on electronic calendaring and address books, and anyone who wants to surf the web wirelessly (via T-Mobile's GPRS network, part of their GSM service), and to add telephone capabilities, which are only recently available with the Blackberry.

A size comparison: (left to right) Motorola TimePort, iPod, Sidekick, Palm V, GameBoy, Palm VIIx, Newton MessagePad.

The size of the Sidekick is manageable; it fits in a front or jacket pocket without jamming, but it's big enough to be comfortable when thumb-typing. The OS, developed by Danger, looks reminiscent of the Newton more than the Palm, but doesn't allow you to change the display size, which is on the small side to maximize information on a single screen.

The device also takes a somewhat different approach than the Palm wireless PDAs. Where the Palm VII and 705 are essentially PDAs with wireless capabilites added, the Sidekick is like a thin client you can put in your pocket. Any content coming from or going to the Sidekick gets there through the web. If you take a picture with the built-in camera, it's automatically duplicated to T-Mobile's servers, where you can view it on your personal page. Likewise, to import contacts to your Sidekick, you upload them through a web page.

Danger's servers do some smart things to improvve the service they provide, as well. The Sidekick can display the text of email-attached Word and PDF files, as well as displaying JPEGs and GIFs.

Danger has promised a developer program, but not yet delivered. This means there are essentially zero programs for download. For me, this is a bit of a problem, since I have a small library of programs I use for everything from tracking passwords to finding subway stations in unfamiliar cities (which, of course, I can now do with the web browser on the Sidekick, but not underground). That points to the solution for one-off programs, as well: Converting the application to a web app, accessible through the browser, makes it available to the Sidekick.

It's a lot of fun; more over the next few days.

December 23, 2002 in Sidekickin' | Permalink | Comments (2) | TrackBack

December 22, 2002

Blog like a Pro

Ranchero Software: NetNewsWire Pro 1.0b1

Brent Simmons has released the first beta of the new pro version of NetNewsWire, his fantastic RSS browser. The Pro version includes weblog editing, offline browsing, a notepad, AppleScript support, and a find command.

All the cool kids are downloading it right now....

December 22, 2002 in Apple - Software | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack