Getting my Palm Pixi ready for vacation

As I mentioned in my last posting, I’ll be driving down to Southern California for a 10 day vacation trip. As such, I’ve been downloading apps to make my trip easier to manage. Here are a few of the apps that I have loaded on my Palm Pixi:

TripAdvisor – This nifty client app is used in conjunction with the http://www.tripadvisor.com site where you can get detailed customer reviews about hotels and restaurants. I’ve used this web site in the past when making reservations for business trips, and it’s nice to have access to the reviews online at a moments notice when trying to decide which hotel to stay at, or restaurant to dine.

AccuWeather – This is a nice app which I can check for quick weather updates at various cities along our drive down to Anaheim and San Diego.

Poster - This is a cool app for monitoring my WordPress blog posts (like this one). I can check to see if there are any waiting comments in the queue for approval, or even post short blog postings directly from my Pixi. Really cool.

Tip Calculator – The obligatory tip calulator app. There seems to be hundred of them available, so I download the most basic one that meets my needs.

ZumoDrive – This was an app that I recently loaded on my Palm Pixi specifically for streaming music from online storage. I was using the DropBoxify client app (with http://www.dropbox.com) which works well for accessing documents and photos, but it doesn’t have music-streaming capability. You have to download your music file locally first, then you can listen to it. As such, I downloaded and installed the ZumoDrive client app (with http://www.zumodrive.com) that seems to work better for music streaming. In fact, I found that ZumoDrive to be a good app overall with very easy-to-use features. The only issue I have with the music streaming, is that it doesn’t seem to work right if I try to play music using their music player (the song stops prematurely after about 10 seconds). Instead, I need to open the music file directly which forces the Pixi’s built-in media player to play the song. It still streams from my online storage folder, but just takes an extra few steps. I hope ZumoDrive gets this fixed, as it would be great to use their dedicated music player for playing my music files.

And of course, I have bookmarked several links on my Pixi’s web browser for mobile sites such as m.disneyland.com, etc. for quick access.

It is simply amazing how powerful a tool the new smartphones are, with instant connection to the internet for online access. The only limiting factor seems to be battery life, so once hydrogen fuel cells are available for our phones, we’ll be all set!

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Going on vacation, and bringing the gadgets

The big family vacation trip this year is a drive down to Southern California, spending three days at Disneyland and 2 days in San Diego. We’re starting off from Seattle, so we have a 2-day drive down, and 2-days driving back. Since we’re your typical high-tech family, we’ll certainly be toting along lots of gadgets and gizmos. Among the three adults and four kids, we’ll have this assortment of hardware with us:

  • 4 laptops and 1 netbook
  • 5 smartphones
  • 3 iPod Touches and 1 Zune HD Media Player
  • Portable DVD Player
  • Apple iPad
  • 4 digital cameras

So for all these gadgets, we’ll also have the associated sync cables and power adapters. Thus, that’s a lot of powered hardware to keep track of and manage! Of course, during the 10 hour drive each day the passengers will no doubt become bored and will want to use their respective electronic devices, so keeping them powered up will be an issue. Our Ford Expedition has only three 12V charger ports, so I stopped by our local Target Store and bought some port splitters which will now give us a total of 6 ports along with 2 extra USB ports. Hopefully, that will be plenty to keep everybody happy. Personally, I want to keep my Palm Pixi smartphone fully charged during the drive, so I’ve got one 12V port dedicated for my lovely Touchstone charger! :)

My wife as a EVO Android smartphone on the Sprint Network, so she enabled the Mobile Hotspot feature which will allow multiple devices to connect to it for wireless Internet access. I’m not sure how well it will working while we’re driving down Interstate 5 in the middle-of-nowhere, but we’ll see.

Since we’ll be so “mobile” during this trip, I’ve decided to upload some important documents to Google Docs for online access. Information such as hotel itineraries, Disneyland Park Info, etc. should be accessible from my Pixi’s web browser.

So we’ll see how my high-tech family fares during our big vacation trip for the year. I suspect everything will go well, but we might have a few glitches here and there. No big deal, as our major destination is the Happiest Place on Earth!

Posted in Off Topic | 3 Comments

When is an App too expensive?

Arguably, it was Palm who successfully introduced the first mobile device called the Palm Pilot. It was the hottest thing to replace the Day Planners that most people carried around with them for managing their schedules. Palm went on to create other handheld devices such as the Palm III,  Palm V, etc. as well as the forerunner to the smartphones with their Treo Series.

Following the PDA bandwagon was of course, Microsoft, with their Palm PC and later Pocket PC devices. I began developing apps for the Pocket PCs back in circa 2002, and successfully sold apps on my web site for about 6 years. At that time, the prices for my apps ranged from $9.95 to $19.95 and people were willing to pay those prices.

Moving forward in time, Apple comes along with their highly successful iPod digital music player and begins selling music titles for an amazing 99 cents per song on their iTunes online store. That seemed to set a precedence for the price of downloadable media and apps, as Apple began selling iPhone and iPod Touch apps also for around 99 cents.

As such, it seems that the general public feels entitled to very low priced apps. Even at a mere 99 cents, I’ve read forum posters complaining that this app or that app is a ripoff and they want their money back for particular purchases.

Aside from the principal of getting a refund for defective software, why would anyone think 99 cents is too much for an app? Or even $5.00 for an app? I can easily spend $1.50 on a small cup of coffee at Starbucks which is a non-reusable product (coffee beverage). In most cases, you can’t purchase a small lunch for less than $10. So why do people complain about the high price of a $2.00 app but spend 5 times that on a lunch meal with no problem? It just doesn’t make sense to me.

As a developer, I will occasionally get emails from people stating that my software prices are a “ripoff” and I should be providing it for free. For some reason these people need my particular app and feel entitled to having it at no-cost to them. That sense of entitlement is just baffling to me. I guess some people are so dense to not understand the time and effort it takes to gain the knowledge and actually create working applications for the PC or any mobile device. Personally, I’ve spent a good deal of my evenings and weekends learning and writing apps and my time is worth something to me.

So, if you feel a 99 cent app is too rich for your blood, don’t buy it. Stick with the homebrew and freeware apps currently available on the net. If you find an app that you really want, just buy it knowing that you’re supporting a developer who will most likely create more similar apps in the future.

Posted in WebOS | 1 Comment

What Apps Did You Snag During the Half-Off Sale?

The 50% off sale on the Palm App Catalog was absolutely great for consumers and developers. Palm Pre and Pixi owners were able to buy apps at half off prices, and the developers were paid the full price due to a subsidy by Palm. Sweet!

So what apps did you pick up during the sale? Here’s a short list of what I bought for my Pixi:

  • SimpleWeather
  • FlightPredictor
  • FlightView
  • WeatherIcon
  • Dropboxify
  • Done!
  • What’s For Dinner?
  • Poster

At prices of $1 or even 50 cents, you really can’t go wrong. Poster seems to be a nice app, allowing me to make posts to this WordPress blog. Now, I’ve gotta figure out how to use all of them! :)

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Palm’s Half-Off App Catalog Sale Ends Today

Today is the last day for the Palm App Catalog’s 50% off sale, so if you’ve been procrastinating on taking advantage of this offer, now’s the time to act!

Personally, I’ve been going through the catalog picking out some nice apps to purchase (especially the pricey ones). Lots of apps to choose from, do I wouldn’t delay.

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The Swiftness of Creating WebOS Apps

Last Sunday I headed out for a 3-day business trip to Southern California. So as any good Palm Pre/Pixi owner would do, I checked out the travel apps available on the Palm App Catalog as well as the Homebrew apps on PreCentral.net.

With the half-price sale on the App Catalog, I just couldn’t turn down buying and testing out a few of the available apps (such as FlightPredictor and FlightView). One app that I couldn’t find, was one that would tell me how much longer it would be before I’d arrive at my destination while in flight. Of course, I can’t use Google maps or any of the other navigation apps since I’m not suppose to have the cellular signal on my phone turned on (and thus can’t make an Internet connection to download maps). What I wanted was an app that would take my current GPS coordinates from my phone and calculate the remaining distance to my destination coordinates, and also roughly tell me how longer it would be before landing.

So I decided to create one myself! I started up the Eclipse IDE on my Windows 7 machine and created a new project, then proceeded to build up my new app. It was very simple to create, as it only contained a single page (scene) with one button labeled “Update Data”. I then tied the click event to that button to a function that called the GPS Service API to get some GPS data (velocity, coordinates, time) and display the data on the screen. Very simple, and easy to create.

To test it, I hard-coded the coordinates of my destination airport and drove around in my car to view the output. I also turned on “Airplane Mode” on my phone just to make sure the GPS data wasn’t coming through the cellular connection. Sure enough, it seemed to calculate my speed and distance accurately. Cool!

However, during the real test on the airplane it didn’t perform so well. It seemed that even though I was in the air, my Pixi’s GPS receiver couldn’t pick up any GPS signals raining down from the satellites above. I suppose the plane may be shielded enough from the GPS signals for my Pixi to read (it would be an interesting test to take a real GPS navigation device on the plane and see if it can receive the GPS signals).

So, my grand plan of using a simple WebOS app for tracking my flight location was a bust. But that’s ok, as I’m sure I’ll find other possible uses for the Pixi’s GPS receiver… :)

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Removed my screen protector and got a new phone!

After dropping my Palm Pixi smartphone three times on the asphalt street, I decided it was time to get a screen protector. I was lucky, in that after all those impacts the main screen surface was completely undamaged. So not to push my luck, I decided to get a Smartphone Experts plastic screen cover from PreCentral.net and place it on my Pixi for added protection from future drops.

But of course, since putting on the screen protector I haven’t dropped my Pixi once. But I did notice that the clarity of the screen was a bit muted now, having to view through the not-so-transparent plastic cover. So after using this protector for a few months, I decided to pull it off and low-and-behold the vibrant clear colors of the screen just popped out! It was like I just got a new phone– the matte screen finish that I was using for months now has changed to a clear, shiny surface. The screen is now very bright and full of colors.

As such, I’ve decided to leave off the screen protector so I can enjoy the screen as-is. If I drop it and damage the screen, I’ll just use my insurance to get a new one (after paying the deductible).

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