HPLX.NET EDITORIALS [Rants?] 1-27-1999

[Originally posted to HPLX-L in two parts.]

NOTE: It's late at night, I'm tired, I'm grumpy, and this is what came out. If you don't want to hear about my wireless dilemma and the plague that IS Windows CE, then don't read this message.

*** [Part 1]

Sometimes I wonder if we 200LX users are the only sane people left in the world. Before I explore that statement too much further, I'd better explain what's going on. Until December 31, I was signed up for a service (for the past two years) with RadioMail. I have a 3Com Allpoints card that I can put in the 200LX and, by running the RadioMail client software, I can receive e-mail most anywhere right to the palmtop. I used this because I'm the system administrator for a plumbing and air conditioning service company and I also attend school at the local university. When I'm at school, if there's a problem, they need a way to contact me. Paging and cell phone are out because A) it would create some disturbance in the classroom, B) there would be no way for me to respond instantly to a page and no realistic way to take a cell phone call in the middle of a class, and C) for a pager, I would have to find a phone to call them back... no easy task. So wireless e-mail is ideal: I can receive mail at my desk without disturbing anybody, and type in detailed instructions on how to fix whatever problems they're having. (Interestingly, e-mail almost never goes out, because it's on a Linux machine; file services off of the NetWare and Windows boxes are continually going down, however.) Because it would allow handy communication, we decided wireless e-mail was the best way to go, and it has served quite well for the past two years. It was pretty limited on the amount of data or the number of messages you could send and receive each month, but that was fine. I heard about services that allowed you to run web browsers and e-mail applications on the Allpoints for wireless 9600bps access almost anywhere in any major city in the US (with no roaming charges and no charges for time) but I didn't need any of that. It was fine the way it was. Okay, I admit, if I
really believed I could have gotten unlimited web and e-mail access for the same price ($59.95 a month) I would have gone for it in a second... but I was skeptical, so I figured "Don't make waves." Things were doing well the way they were.

Unfortunately, as of December 31, 1998, RadioMail discontinued their traditional e-mail service, essentially just cutting me off. (And without informing me, I might add. But that's a separate issue.) Well, no problem, I thought-- I'd been meaning to switch over to WyndMail anyway, because they offer four times the number of messages per month for the same price. So I called them up, and... they've discontinued WyndMail and moved everything over to their new WyndTell handheld pager. Well, great. Now I'm stuck with NO wireless e-mail service at all.

"BUT WAIT," they tell me. "If you really need to use your stupid ol' Allpoints card, contact GoAmerica at www.goamerica.net. They still provide service." Okay, fine. Go America, incidentally, is the company that bought out the Zap-It wireless mail service provider in July. So I visit their web site, and it's great! They offer a plan for $59.95 with UNLIMITED data per month (not the 100K-or-100-messages per month plan of RadioMail, or the 400K-per-month plan of WyndMail, both also $59.95 per month). In addition, GoAmerica also lets you do web browsing, and they do support the Allpoints card. Great! This was going to be fine.

UNFORTUNATELY... in order to use their service, you have to have a Windows CE device, or a Win95/98 laptop. No exceptions. No room for discussion. They only support "new" machines.

*** [Part 2]

And if, by some miracle, all of my needs CAN be met by Windows CE programs... can I fit them all on the machine at the same time? How's the internal memory? How's support for a huge flash card?

And if, by some other miracle, I DO get all of the things I need on the handheld and am ready to go somewhere... can I fit it in my pocket? Will the batteries still be any good by the time I get where I'm going?

And finally, even if all of the above issues were resolved... I can't type worth a sack of beans on any of the WinCE machines. The 200LX's keyboard, strange and chiclet-like though it is, has allowed me to achieve speeds of up to 70WPM. All of my short stories, school reports, and partially-completed novels have been written on the 200LX since I started using it over four years ago. What would I have gotten done with Windows CE? Hard to say, but not as much.

I just don't see Windows CE being an alternative to my 200LX. And yet I'm forced to get one. Why? Because I want to do something difficult? Because I want to do something that requires so much power, so much advanced technology, that the 200LX simply doesn't have the horsepower for it? The fearsome task for which I need a massive RISC CPU and a pocket-splitting size size is... e-mail. Sending and receiving simple, ASCII messages. Small ones, too. Nothing big. Nothing fancy. Just enough to avoid infuriating my boss and forcing me to choose betweenschool and my job.

So today I went to look for a Windows CE machine, kicking myself all the way, and what did I find? Nothing. Well, that's not entirely accurate. What I found was:

  1. A whole lot of Palm"PC" devices designed to compete with the PalmPilot. No keyboard. Extremely expensive toys.
  2. Quite a few 660LX palmtops for $900. WAY out of my price range, and way too bulky.
  3. A 620LX on clearance for $588. Still WAY out of my price range.
  4. A fair number of Jornada 800 series machines. I won't even comment.

So, after all this, nobody even sells a regular Windows CE machine anymore. It's either a hulking behemoth (Jornada), a massively overpriced slightly-less-hulking behemoth (620/660LX), or a ridiculously overpriced GameBoy ripoff (Palm"PC" machines).

Do they actually sell these things? Who BUYS them?

This has gone on a lot longer than I originally planned, and I fear that it will be rejected by Al's line-length filters (and, since this message was rejected, I'd say I had reason to fear), so I'd better wrap it up. Let me just say: What is wrong with the world? Why would a useless product like WinCE and the like replace something with some actual usability, like the 200LX? What do we need to do to grab the world by the collar, shake it viciously, slap it around a little, and shout "COME TO YOUR SENSES ALREADY!" ? I say we should all send bulk e-mail to the presidents of the companies that manufacture WinCE devices, and also Microsoft, and urge them to come back down to earth until the barrage of messages either causes them to comply or to go insane (which would serve them right, if only for what they've put me through.)

Okay. I think I'm done. If anybody knows of any wireless e-mail solutions that can be done with the Allpoints card, the 200LX, any combination of the two, or any other wireless solution for the 200LX that doesn't involve a cellular phone, I'd appreciate hearing about it. If somebody wants to volunteer to write GoAmerica some software that will run on the 200LX, even better. Thanks.

I think I'll post that last paragraph in a separate message as well... just in case people don't read this far.


Copyright 1999, David Sargeant.
Last Updated 1-27-1999