Archive for August, 2005

Handspring Visor Deluxe and KPilot

When it was first released, I almost literally drooled over Handspring’s Palm Pilot “killer,” the Visor Deluxe. All that Palm goodness, but in a better designed package. How could it not be goodness? Unfortunately, it’s price tag of $250 was too rich for me back in 1999/2000. So I had to pass.

Of the years, my desire to own one of these continued, though it dwindled a bit. Every now and then, I’d tell myself that I was just being silly to continue to want one. After all, Handspring folded and many other PDA manufacturers rose up to take their place. Who wants a bulky Visor when one can have a small, sleek and sexy PocketPC?

Well, I did. And I finally nabbed an original Visor Deluxe off of eBay for the grand price of $17. But many years later, would this device still be useful? Could I make any use out of it?

The answer is a big-time yes. The Visor Deluxe runs PalmOS, and Palm had some damned good productivity apps, even way back then. My favorite app so far is the To Do List. I find myself continually jotting down tasks as they come to me throughout the day. Normally, I would’ve just forgotten about the task before. Now, I capture it, prioritize it, and then complete the task. Instant rise in productivity!

So the only other question was how I’d do a hotsync with my computer. I’m a Linux guy, and wasn’t in a big hurry to boot into Windows just to sync up a PDA. So I did a little research, and found out a few things that totally failed to surprise me. First of all, there’s a kernel module built specifically for Handspring’s USB-to-Serial connectors on their Visor line. So I knew then that my Debian box would recognize that there was a Visor there. But what to sync with?

And that’s where I found KPilot. To quote from the website:

KPilot is a replacement for the Palm Desktop software from PalmSource Inc., which makes your PalmOS powered handheld (e.g., a Palm Zire 31) capable of exchanging information with your KDE powered computer. [...]
KPilot has plugins that can exchange information between your Palm and other applications like KOrganizer, KNotes and KMail. In KPilot you can display and edit your contacts, write notes or install new programs on your Palm.

Which is probably more than I needed to quote. The short version is that KPilot allows integration with all the pieces of the Kontact PIM suite. KOrganizer syncs with the Visor’s To Do and Calendar apps. KNotes syncs with the Visor’s Memo Pad. KAddressbook syncs with the Visor’s Address Book. And etc.

Syncing itself was almost pathetically easy. I hooked up the Visor’s USB cradle to a spare USB port. Then I put the Visor into it’s cradle and hit the hotsync button. Finally, I fired up KPilot and told it to auto-detect the PDA. The Visor beeped, and then the sync started. I actually thought something had gone wrong, ‘cuz the sync took less than 10 seconds. But I pulled the Visor out of its cradle, turned it on, went to the address book, and there were all of my Kaddressbook contacts! Ditto for my notes, calendar appointments, and tasks.

This is the way that I wish everything worked in Linux. You plug it in, you press a button, and it Just Works. There’s nothing to think about (indeed, I over-thought the whole thing, thinking I needed to convert my system to UDEV to make this work), nothing to configure, no new programs to learn. Press a button, Just Works.

Muy bueno!

Technorati tags: kde, pda

Goodbye Comcast, hello Qwest!

We have officially made a total switch from Comcast to Qwest for voice and video. Qwest is testing their new Qwest Choice TV & OnLine VDSL service here in Highlands Ranch. They’re able to pump a couple hundred channels of digital cable tv plus up to 3mbps broadband internet over their DSL system. The result is basically the same exact package that Comcast offers, but for quite a bit less money.

To put this into perspective: we were paying Comcast $130 a month for digital cable, an HDTV converter, and 6mbps internet. We then had to pay another company for phone and long distance. Total price per month: approximately $185 or more, depending on how many long distance calls we placed.

Now, with Qwest, we get the following for $135 a month: local phon service, unlimited long distance, digital cable, and 3mbps internet. That’s a $50 a month saving. And only one bill to pay each month, too!

The one thing I was worried about was video quality. After all, we’re talking about pure digital television service over DSL lines. It could’ve been messy. But it isn’t. There’s no obvious difference in video quality between Comcast and Qwest. Hooking up the Qwest box to our TiVo was the same. Everything is the same, except for the channel lineup and the fact that the Qwest box can drive a total of three tvs. Qwest even has the Music Choice digital music channels!

Our internet connection has had two problems, both lasting for an hour or so. Compared with how much I use the ‘net, this isn’t bad at all. I do hope it becomes a little more stable, though.

All in all? Excellent switch, one of the best decisions I’ve made in a while.

gtkpod – a GUI for Apple’s iPod using GTK2

Yay! I’ve finally succeeded in copying songs to my iPod Shuffle in Debian! The latest version of gtkpod in Etch fully supports the Shuffle. I just deleted all of the songs currently on the Shuffle, then copied over a mix of songs and podcasts. The transfer went flawlessly!

Goodbye, iTunes! Goodbye booting into Windows to swap songs out onto the Shuffle.

Now if someone would just update the iPod kio_slave so that amaroK could write to/from the Shuffle directly…

Profile picI am a 40-ish uber-geek, Daoist and family man. Blessed to have one incredible wife and three wonderful kiddos. Dao has been kind to me.

August 2005
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