No Matter Where You Go, You’re Somewhere Else

March 10th, 2006  |  Published in old and busted  |  3 Comments

The Palm TX I bought with the proceeds from a few auctions is now safely back at BestBuy after about a week of ownership. In its place is a Palm Z22, which is to the TX as a Ford Escort is to … something shinier and nicer with more features and cup holders.

The TX had Bluetooth, which allowed me to hotsync it from the futon downstairs, invisible bluetooth rays penetrating the ceiling to reach the iMac. It had WiFi, and that was probably the real issue with it; the feature that caused the whole house of PDA cards to collapse.

The first day I had the thing, it was cool. Probably the second, third and fourth, too. It was like this whole bounty of connectedness opened in front of me. Every coffee shop, store and downtown gathering place became two places: The place itself, and a place defined by the possibility that it might be a giant goodie bag of unsecured bandwidth I could leach with my tiny browser and IMAP client.

Al and I parked in a hotel lobby and used it to find a restaurant. It made standing in line somewhere a chance to find The Goods and exploit them for a quick peek at Google News Mobile or whatever.

I kind of bottomed out on Sunday, barely a week after buying it. A few things had slowly dawned on me.

PalmPilot Personal & Palm Z22For one, there was a new perceptual overlay to deal with. I started thinking in terms of cataloging my bandwidth finds. What I’d do with the data, I have no idea. It merely seemed like it might prove useful some day … like if the terrorists were going to blow up downtown Portland if I were out from under the cloud for more than three minutes.

Then I got sick of pulling it out to see if it could find a signal all the time. Then I started wondering why it mattered so much. Then I started thinking that I was carrying around a portal not only to the interweb, but possibly work in the form of some emergency I wouldn’t, in good conscience, be able to say I hadn’t known about because I was somewhere disconnected. That kind of circumstance has only happened a few times in the last several years, but it isn’t unheard of.

Perhaps most jarring, though, was the sense I had that when the Palm was on and I was surfing with it, I was most definitely not where I happened to be at the moment. Some places, like a JiffyLube, waiting room, or coffee shop with no personality, that’s not such a terrible thing. Other times, including in my own home, or when Ben or Alison are around, it’s kind of bad to not be there. And to circle back to the list of undesirable places, like the JiffyLube or the coffee shop with bad art on the walls, it’s still kind of bad based solely on my subjective hierarchy of environmental objects and a small nudge from Thich Nhat Hanh.

I chatted about the whole thing with Amy, who got what I was saying but seemed to wonder at what took me so long to figure it all out. All I can say is that it was one of those things where I thought I wanted one thing, and suddenly realized I was maybe getting another.

So I bundled it back up, took advantage of the fact that the device has some other deficiencies owing to bugs in the way it switches into its “full screen” mode to bolster my case for bringing it back to BestBuy, and left it with them in exchange for a Palm Z22, which has only a serial and infrared port, and no way to jimmy any sort of ‘net connectivity into it, except maybe with a modem, which would be much like donning a hairshirt at this point.

You could argue that a broader character deficiency is revealed with all this. Having sort of figured out the issue, I could have merely resolved to keep the damn thing in my pocket except when I needed to connect to something, which I certainly considered. But at that point, it occurred to me that I never really need to find a hotspot and use it ever, and that establishing the capability to do so as a habit would probably slowly cause me to create needs. It just started seeming wasteful and pointless.

So back it went and in came the Z22 which has these things going for it:

  • tiny — It can fit in a hip pocket comfortably. The first PDA I’ve ever had that came close.

  • efficient — 8 hours on a charge

  • color display — can play Astraware’s Sudoku game

  • nifty silicone “PDA condom” case which keeps it tiny and accessible.

  • Splash Shopper came in the box, replacing the “business apps” they stick in the higher end units with something I can actually use without feeling like my job is in my pocket.

That picture up there links to a commented flickr photo of the Z22 next to one of the ca. 1998 Palm Pilot Personals (which I had in a drawer). That’s the Palm that helped launch my Linux writing career, back when it was possible to write things like this with a straight face:

> If kpilot is installed, you’ll be able to find it under KDE’s “Utilities” menu. Run it by selecting it from the menu, or typing kpilot from the command line. One gotcha you may encounter on starting kpilot is the kpilotDaemon program complaining about being unable to “bind to a socket”. If that’s the case, check the file /etc/hosts to make sure it has a line that looks like this:

> localhost.localdomain localhost

World domination was mere months away, once we could convince the world to periodically recheck /etc/hosts to keep its Palms working.

Leave a Response

© Michael Hall, licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 United States license.