Toshiba e330 PDA

I have officially become mobile. Today, I picked up the keyboard for my PDA, and am able to create my log entries wherever I am on the planet.

And have an electrical socket to recharge the batteries. (Minor detail.)

Wait a second … you probably have no idea that I have a PDA. Actually, I’ve had a PDA since 1996 — an Apple Newton. It was given to me by my boss when I worked at Arkipelago in Toronto. When I left, my boss told me to keep the Newton.

I used it for a couple of more years, but it slowly fell out of favour with me, mostly because it wasn’t as convenient as I would have liked. The major issue was size — the Newton is a size of a thinnish brick. Weighs about as much, too.

I did without a PDA for years. For the last three, most of my notes were written just like everyone else’s — on notepaper. The more notes I wrote, though, the more likely I was to forget things. Finally, upon taking over the Web Development team on Mercedes-Benz, things finally got too much.

I take a lot of notes, and can sometimes get lost in details — no different than anyone else. I can’t allow myself to forget too much, though, lest it impede my job. I finally decided a PDA which could sync itself with my daily schedule was what I really needed.

Research. Anything that’s gonna cost me more than $100 requires research. I had a set of requirements that I needed to fulfill. One was the need for handwriting recognition. I didn’t want to learn a new alphabet — like the Palm systems force you to do. I also wanted something that would synchronize with my calendar. That brought me to looking mostly at Pocket PCs.

These things run on Microsoft software. That I’m not particularly thrilled about, but I have to accept the fact that to get what I need, I sometimes have to make sacrifices.

After about three months of research (periodic, not continuous), I came to rest on two models: the Dell Axim X5, and the Toshiba e330. The Dell was the superior model for functionality and expandability, but was quite a bit larger. The Toshiba was smaller, but more limited. About equal price.

It finally came down basically to a coin toss. The coin was tossed the night I replaced my watch battery — the store (Battery Plus) had a Toshiba. I nearly closed the store from all the humming and hawing. It came down to a demonstration period.

According to the clerk, I had two weeks in which to decide if the PDA was what I needed. During that time, I could do whatever I wanted. So long as I didn’t damage the unit, I could bring it back for a full refund if I felt it wasn’t for me. It hasn’t been two weeks yet, and I’m sold.

As the saying goes: so far, so good. Well, almost. When I first picked up the keyboard today, I couldn’t get it to work properly. Naturally, my first impression was that it was defective. Not wanting to retain a defective piece of equipment, I decided to pay Staples a visit (that’s where I bought it).

I didn’t immediately ask to return it. My first initial thought was to check and see if, just perhaps, I wasn’t using it correctly. (Hey, it’s possible.) I got the feeling the clerk had been through this before, and promptly asked if I’d installed the software.

I wasn’t even aware the keyboard had additional software. It stood to reason, though, that if the appropriate driver wasn’t installed, some of the more advanced functions of a keyboard might not work.

Frankly, I don’t consider the enter key to be an advanced function, but I had to give it a shot.

Whipping off to the office, I pulled in the PDA and inserted the CD into my desktop computer. A moment later, the software was installed. A test of the keyboard revealed that nothing had changed. A little puzzled, I hunted for some setting that might shed a little light on the problem.

It turns out you have to enable the keyboard before you can use it. Doesn’t really make sense to me, but hey — if it works, then great!

So I now have an almost completely portable website content-creation machine. Now if I can just figure out how to hook my camera into this thing…

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