Tim Hillebrand's blog

The UMPC Evolution: Samsung’s Q1 Ultra

Two years ago a cover story in Smartphone and Pocket PC magazine introduced the UMPC, and Samsung’s Q1 was the first to make it to market. At the end of the article, I asked if the new UMPC would replace the Pocket PC, or whether it would even survive as a platform. Samsung’s second generation device shows that the developers have been paying attention to user feedback. The new Q1 has impressive improvements that make it an attractive computing choice. Recently, at the Consumer Electronics Show, I observed several second generation entries and that more manufacturers were coming out with new models. Apparently the UMPC is gaining a significant foothold as a viable platform and computing alternative.

Outside: first impressions

First impressions and appearances reveal significant differences in the new Q1 compared to the original version. Perhaps most noticeable immediately is the QWERTY keyboard split on either side of the screen near the top. On the left is a joystick with mouse and Internet control buttons. On the right, is the navigation panel with an enter button, and below that are left and right mouse button keys.

Viewing the same seven inch screen is a more pleasurable experience now because instead of the 800 x 600 resolution, it has been bumped up to 1024 x 600 eliminating most sideways scrolling.

Another new feature is the fingerprint scanner on the lower left corner of the front panel. Instead of no camera on the first Q1, there are now two cameras, one in front, one in back.

Along the top, above the screen to the left are a series of indicators for power, battery, and wireless connections. On the left is a bank of four buttons for volume, and a menu for various system controls, and a handy UDF or user defined button. There are dual microphone pinholes at the bottom of the screen. A button that activates the camera is on the top right.

Gone is the CF port replaced by a standard SD card slot on the top of the unit accompanied by a 3.5 mm earphone jack and USB port. On the left is a lanyard connector, an AV Station button, and a locking power slider.

On the right side is the power input and a removable cover housing LAN, USB, and VGA ports. On the bottom right corner you will find the stylus silo. On the backside, there is a battery cover latch and a foldout stand.


SMS-Chat Revisited

When I first tried SMS-Chat I was enthusiastic about it because it was fun, flashy, and new. I also liked the finger scrollable screens. But, after having used it now for a while, I am beginning to develop a wish list for the next version.


To Plus or Shell: that is the question

Spb Software has two excellent Today screen launcher type programs with a great deal of overlap. Which should you choose to enhance your pocket pal?

Clearly, Pocket Plus is the more robust in features, but Mobile Shell is prettier and combines fun with function.

Pocket Plus Features

In my quest to make this evaluation and come to some conclusion, the moment I installed Pocket Plus I remembered why I stopped using it some time ago even before the advent of Mobile Shell. The reason was simple. It requires that you install it to main memory, and that real estate is just too valuable in my estimation. However, I must say that the latest iteration uses a much smaller footprint, so I thought I’d give it another try.


SPB Weather Release 1.7.4

Spb Weather is clearly one of the top weather programs available for Windows Mobile devices. If you are already a user, you will want to take advantage of this free upgrade. Otherwise, you may wish to check it out and add it to your bag of tricks.

The main incentive for upgrading is that the new version integrates seamlessly with the new Spb Mobile Shell 2.0, as well as Spb Pocket Plus and Diary. For a review of Mobile Shell please visit http://www.smartphonemag.com/blogs/index.php?blog=9&p=2530&more=1&c=1&tb=1&pb=1#more2530

Let’s take a brief tour of this pocket weather station that can reside on your Today screen or a tap away nestled in Pocket Plus or Mobile Shell tab or icon if you want to conserve the limited display space available. It offers four views ranging from 4 to 7 days depending on the information you want to view at a glance. Tapping on a day’s icon will bring up the detailed forecast for that day to show weather for Morning, Day, Evening, Night, which is handy. If you want to compare your designated weather cities, you can display them in a multiline view. Otherwise, cities reside on tabs.


Ziff Davis files for bankruptcy

Ziff Davis Media Inc. filed for bankruptcy this week, citing a decrease in revenue from print advertising and subscriptions as the main reasons.


NEW AstroNavigator

What I would have given for AstroNavigator when I was earning my Boy Scout Astronomy Merit Badge. With Astronavigator on board and hooked up to a satellite feed, you just face in any direction, and a picture of the heavens will appear on your screen.

You just tap on any object, and a screen appears with information about it. You can search for and locate any star, planet, galaxy, or constellation.

Recently AstroNavigator acquired a new look with animated screens and finger-friendly screen flicking, inspired no doubt by iPhone. In fact, Vito Technology has created a whole family of finger-friendly applications for nose miners.

I was surprised to receive a notice yesterday that Vito Technology has released yet another version of AstroNavigator.

Some of the improvements include the following:


New SPB Mobile Shell 2.0

There’s a whole host of new features in the latest release of SPB Mobile Shell. It seemed to me that it hasn’t been that long since it first appeared on my Windows Mobile screen, but I guess it was actually a year ago this month. How time flies when you’re having fun with your pocket pals.

When you install the program, you have the choice between the Professional View or Classic View for the Now screen that appears when you first turn on your machine. Accustomed to the Professional View, that’s what I selected because it gives you a digital clock and a lot more information than the classic analog clock view.

The new Now screen in Professional View pops up with some striking innovations. From top to bottom there are several horizontal ribbons containing vital information. At the very top left, you will see a battery life display opposing a notation of your phone network and connectivity strength on the right. The next row of icons, from left to right displays the weather for your selected city, number of unread emails, text messages, and voice mails followed by the sound level and phone mode (normal, silent, or vibrate). Tapping this icon allows you to change the mode. Basically, SPB attempts to cluster the most important information for you on this screen all available in a glance.


New Radical Messenger Krusell Bags get straight "F"s

It’s not often that I give a product I review an “Fâ€. But, the newly released Krusell laptop bags get multiple “Fâ€s for the convergence of Fun, Fashion, and Function; they are clearly Fantastic.

In my workshops for lawyers called “How to be eLegal, eLiterate, and eMobile,†I often hear lady lawyers complain that most companies are fashion blind and should pay more attention to design for the feminine taste. I know one legal lady who has a multitude of laptop bags that she tries to color coordinate with her outfits. Another lady lawyer lamented that styli for Pocket PCs should double as lipsticks. Now here is a market that should not be overlooked.

Krusell must have had a spy in one of my workshops and has responded accordingly. The new Radical Messenger bag comes in a variety of designer colors and combinations that should compliment just about any outfit: dark blue/light blue, orange/white, black/white, black, white, pink, lime-green, and orange.


Super Micro-Charger

It seems that Proporta’s products keep getting smaller. I just received an amazing little charger that is about a third smaller than the last one I reviewed from Proporta. But then it only has about half the storage capacity.

Proporta is now offering a Mobile Device Charger-Micro that will charge from any USB port. It will store up to 1700 mAh, which is enough power to gas up almost any portable device such as an MP3 player, camera, phone, GPS receivers and more. It does it amazingly quickly too.

It comes with an assortment of eight different adapter tips to fit the most commonly used formats. I have to insert one of my pet peeves here, which is the non-standardization of connectors. Why not just make a mini-USB connection standard so you can use the same cables for all devices? Anyway, if you don’t find the connector you need for your device, ask Proporta, they may be able to supply the one you need. You get one free one with your order to fit your particular device.


iGo everywhere85

I may never forgive iGo for forsaking my absolutely favorite peripheral, the Stowaway Bluetooth Keyboard, and I hope they rethink their abandonment or that another company picks it up and perpetuates this great product.

However, that’s not what we’re here to talk about today. So, let’s shift to the newly released iGo everywhere85. I must admit that at first I was confused and just assumed that it was a battery type charger; it soon became apparent that it was not a charger at all but a super-duper power source. I scratched my head and wondered why it wasn’t a charger and why they would bother to produce a power source when every device comes with its own anyway.


An even smaller keychain GPS receiver

A while back I was awed and wrote about what I thought was a miniscule GPS receiver that fit on a keychain. Well, I just received a smaller one from Proporta.com that is even more awesome.

The Freedom Keychain GPS 2000 comes in black with a rubberized coating, weighs 0.77 ounces, and measures 1.81 x 1.26 x 0.58 inches with a swivel detachable hook on one end. On one side is a slider power switch and a mini-USB port for charging.

In the box, you get a power charger for your car and a USB cable for charging from a computer. There is also a small printed user’s manual with instructions offered in ten languages.


GoodWin Update

I just received notification from Vito Technology that a new release of GoodWin is available. GoodWin is a scrolling, finger-friendly launcher and task manager that also displays PIM info.

If you are a Today plugin fan, you will be pleased that the new GoodWin is now a plug-in and also supports FunContact and SMS-Chat. The new version is faster starting and switches quicker.

It’s a fun and fancy interface.


New SMS-Chat threads messages

If iPhone has proved anything, it’s that there are a lot of what Robin Williams would call nose miners out there who enjoy using their index fingers for navigation among other things. It’s what I’d call a picky bunch. If you are a Windows Mobile person who feels deprived, you will be glad to know that there is a whole suite of software introduced by Vito Technology that employs finger push navigation similar to the iPhone.

The latest release is SMS-Chat. If you are a Palm Treo packer, you already appreciate the virtues of threaded SMS messages and the convenience of having your messages all grouped together. That’s what SMS-Chat will do for you. It opens up a whole new world for SMS organization and manipulation. But threading is not the only feature of SMS-Chat.


How to upgrade a Pharos 600 from WM5 to WM6 for free

You won’t find it on the Pharos site and there hasn’t been a lot of attention focused on the fact that if you’re packing a Pharos 600 WM5, you can upgrade it to WM6 for free. It’s certainly a worthwhile thing to do, for it will enhance an already superb little pocket pal and bring it up to date. You’ll be saving yourself around $600 too, which is the price of a new one.

OK, let’s roll up our sleeves and get to work.


Pharos 600 GPS Phone Upgrades to WM6

The superb Pharos 600 GPS Windows Mobile Professional phone is now available with a Windows Mobile 6 operating system. It is virtually the same phone as the WM5 version with the only difference being the new operating system.

This upgrade makes the Pharos 600 all the more desirable, even though it was already a sweet unit. Basically, it will probably not win any design awards unless you admire its utter simplicity and economy of form as a basic rectangle with rounded corners, but its functionality is where it shines.

At first, I lamented its not having a built-in keyboard or keypad as I had grown used to one. But I soon got over it in favor of the relatively large screen in proportion to the snug body that fits nicely in your hand or in a window mount provided for navigation in your car.

With a built-in GPS receiver, you may begin navigating at the push of a button. You can also switch from portrait to landscape screen layout with the press of a button or take a photo with the 2 MPX camera.


Palm Treo 750 WM6 Free Update

Now you can have what I call the moldy green donut on your Treo 750--that new Microsoft symbol, which replaces the waving flag in the WM6 OS. Upgrade your Treo 750 Windows Mobile 5 system to Windows Mobile 6. It has been long promised and is finally available as a free download at http://www.palm.com/us/support/downloads/treo750update/att.html.

Actually, it has been available since December 2007, but I missed it and thought some of you would appreciate knowing about it. Or, you can simply purchase a new Treo 750 with WM6 pre-installed.
What are some of the advantages of upgrading?

There are many improvements over WM5, and there are many articles detailing the virtues of WM 6. A good please to start if you want to learn about WM6 features is with Rich Hall’s article in Smartphone and Pocket PC magazine: http://www.smartphonemag.com/_archives/jun07/wmsix.aspx. But let me gloss over some of the highlights to give you an incentive.


Can Raketu Replace a SIM Card?

I recently received a lovely new WMG Windows Mobile 6 Professional device that came unlocked without a SIM card, which limited some of its powerful capability. Without a SIM card, I could not use it to make phone calls, send text messages, or MMS messages. However, when I discovered the wireless communication possibilities of the newly released Raketu for Windows Mobile devices, I was eager to give it a try.

Raketu is a VoIP-based service that has been available for desktops, but is now offered for Windows Mobile devices as well. It is supposed to enable you to use your handset to make calls anywhere in the world free. You can send email, as well as SMS, and MMS messages.

With Raketu, you can also create your own radio show and even watch TV. However, it’s not like SlingPlayer that allows you to watch anything you can watch at home, for there will be only a few specified channels available. However, these features are not yet enabled.


My Best and Worst Mobile Device Experience

I think my finest moment with my pocket pal was when I realized there was such a thing as eBooks, and that I could read them in bed without disturbing my wife. I like to tell people that eBooks saved my marriage. My wife, who is normally a sweet and kind person, used to get very grumpy when I would turn on the light and start reading a book in bed in the middle of the night. But, my Pocket PC came to my rescue and solved the problem.

Actually, it was my wife who unwittingly gave me my first PDA as a Christmas present back in 1998.


Pharos Trips and Pics

Here’s a great combo application that has so many possible uses that it is only limited by your imagination. Have you ever wished that you could identify some of those pictures you took years ago and never got around to labeling? With Trips & Pics, you can snap away to your heart’s content and the device creates a GPS log and time stamp of your photos so that with supplied software you can pinpoint each shot on Google Maps or Microsoft Streets and Trips.


Pharos Trips & Pics

Here’s a great combo application that has so many possible uses that it is only limited by your imagination. Have you ever wished that you could identify some of those pictures you took years ago and never got around to labeling?

With Trips & Pics, you can snap away to your heart’s content and the device creates a GPS log and time stamp of your photos so that with supplied software you can pinpoint each shot on Google Maps or Microsoft Streets and Trips.


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