~ Archive for August 7, 2003 ~

Life with PocketPC


A slightly built female engineer is walking through the San Jose airport, lugging two enormous suitcases that appear to be extremely heavy.  A businessman in a suit comes over and asks the lady if he can assist her with her bags.  While reaching for one of the suitcases he notices the watch on her wrist.

“Say, that’s an unusual looking watch,” he observes as they walk out to the engineer’s car.  “Thanks,” she replies, “I made it myself.”  What does it do? the businessman wonders.   “Oh, it runs a stripped down version of Linux, connects via Bluetooth and 802.11g, sends and receives FAXes, lets me work through email on an eyeglass LCD display, holds current digitized VFR and IFR charts for my Cirrus airplane, plus a lot more.”

“Wow!” says the businessman, “Can I buy it off you?  I’ll give you $3000.”  The engineer thinks for a minute and then says “Sure, I can always build myself another one.”  She hands over the watch and the businessman starts to walk away.  She holds up the two suitcases and calls out after him “Hey, don’t you want the batteries?”

After two weeks with a Compaq iPAQ 3765 PocketPC, very kindly loaned by Andrew Grumet, here’s what I’ve learned…

  • the batteries go dead after looking up 10 addresses over a period of 3 days (by contrast on one charge my old Handspring Treo would last for a couple of days as a phone and then at least 2 weeks as a Palm)
  • there is no battery level display (takes about 8 stylus strokes to find the current battery level)
  • handwriting recognition doesn’t work for me
  • it was a lot easier to enter text on the Treo’s thumb keyboard than using the stylus/screen keyboard on the PocketPC
  • carrying a separate phone and PDA is painful
  • I couldn’t get the iPAQ to sync with a laptop via IR, only with a desktop via USB

Reno: A lame version of Las Vegas?


“You’re going to stop in Reno?” Faith asked incredulously.  “It’s a hole, a lame version of Las Vegas.”

Reno has virtues beyond a big airport, cheap downtown casino hotels, cheap retirement homes for Californians who’ve come to enjoy Nevada’s income tax-free environment, and lack of traffic jams.

Up on a hill to the north of town is the Wilbur D. May Center.  Wilbur’s dad was a poor hardworking Jewish boy from Leadville, Colorado who started the May Department Stores chain in 1887.  The son, however, found that work wasn’t to his taste.  He got his pilot’s license and a series of airplanes, learned to paint and compose music, bought a ranch in Nevada, and traveled around the world shooting animals and collecting trinkets.  The trinkets and animal heads are on display in Reno.  Wilbur May went around the world 40 times before his death in 1982 at the age of 84.

Smack downtown is the National Automobile Museum, mostly the collection of Bill Harrah, the founder of the Harrah’s casino chain.  These are the most beautiful cars that you’ll ever see, with a lot of fantastic examples of custom coachwork from 1910-1935.  A car back then was sort of like an airplane today:  handmade in small quantities and priced between 1X and 3X the cost of a nice house.

As it happened the arrival of Diamond Star N505WT coincided with “Hot August Nights” and 5000 classic cars cruising around town, mostly street rods and 1960s muscle cars.  After going to the gym and watching the cars roll past, I had dinner in the Eldorado’s Italian restaurant.  An accordian player filled the room with the theme from The Godfather movie.

The 8:00 am trip over the Sierra at Donner Pass was smooth and uneventful at 10,500′.  “Welcome to the West Coast,” said the friendly woman at Travis (Air Force Base) Approach before handing me off to the Napa airport tower.

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