Saturday, January 24, 2009

Palm Pilot problems

So among the assignments I have in distance learning is to submit study notes for review, sort of as proof that the wheels in my head really are turning. So any notes that I take have to end up in electronic format one way or another. Since I've been studying while on break at work the easiest way to do this has been to use the keyboard/palm pilot combination. Its been working great, until just yesterday evening.

The problem is actually getting any of these documents onto my computer. I figured, no big deal just install the sync software onto the new computer and you'll be in business. But then I find out, the special palm pilot word processor I've been using is no longer compatible with the latest version of Mac OS X. It literally won't even install. So I thought, no big deal I'll just boot my computer in windows and install the software on that side. It installs just fine, but then I find out that for some strange reason even though BootCamp can use the USB ports it can't make the USB port act as a "COM1" port and therefore I cannot syncronize the palm through my windows side. Then, after a serious bout of frustration I give in an just figure I'll sync it to my wife's computer. All the software is already there I should just have to push the button... right?

Wrong. The M515 is specially known for having a problem where if a static shock is delivered to the sync port (if I recall this exactly) it will permanently stop being able to syncronize with a computer until the battery is drained all the way down and up again, a process that takes 10 hours to complete. On my old computer dat a corruption during hotsyncing was so common that I never bothered to perform them anyways and so this wasn't a problem. But now that I'm trying to hotsync my study notes over to my computer its a very large one. As far as I knew at that time I was going to be meeting with the teacher the very next day and if they don't get study notes within 24 hours notice they are allowed to cancel on you. So 10 hours isn't good enough, I need these files now.

So, I install a demo copy of my word processor on my wife's palm, beam her ever document that I need transferd, sync her palm and lo and behold I have documents.

In the process of this I discover the windows version of this palm word processor is much fuller featured than the mac version. Grrrrrrrr...

This is starting to be a problem. As mentioned before I don't syncronize often, and I think the last 3 times I have I had to run that 10 hour routine first. But when I do sync I'd like to do it to my own computer. Unfortunately the word processor stopped being developed about 5-6 years ago so there's no hope of an update fixing that problem. I took a look at documents-to-go, one of the major palm word processors, and find that my handheld is old enough that I can only get version 8 instead of version 11 and lose who knows how many features (documents to go used to only allow you to view, not edit or create documents so an old version isn't necissarily any good). Not to mention I'd still have to pay them 50$ just for an old version. Granted it would allow me to sync excel docmuments, which I've been wanting for a long time now, but that's a limited benefit. It just doesn't feel right to pay money to get outdated software to install on an outdated palm pilot because my outdated palm word processor doesn't work on mac anymore. To top it off running this 10 hour routine to restore syncronizing ability seems almost a normal part of the device's use now in days. Perhaps that's because I only sync about once every 3 months but still, this is getting crazy. I couldn't even remember if the 10 hour thing had fixed it last time I tried, it had been so long. I'd take a look at a new palm, but they only make them with phone combos right now. Given that I'd need the palm on me at all times, that would force us to get a second phone line that we don't need just to start with, so this is a major problem. And palm doesn't make keyboards anymore so I can't even tell if my current palmpilot keyboard would work. My wife suggested I get an Ipaq. My first reaction was no, Windows Mobile won't sync to mac. But, surprise surprise, there's software that will make it work for 40$. With a keyboard purchase, the sync software, device, and possibly a carry case it would cost me over $400. With a price tag like that, replacing my palm pilot setup goes back down to the bottom of the priority list. Especially since the 10 hour routine for fixing the syncing actually worked this time.

This wasn't the end of my fun yesterday either. All documents submitted for school need a certain cover letter that includes a picture of the school logo. When you copy paste this coversheet which is only an 86kb document and add a few pages of formatted text, Word 2003 magically transforms the 86kb school logo file into a 20MB file. Took me probably 15 minutes to figure out what was going wrong before I compressed the picture in the file down to 96 DPI which dropped the file size down to 193 kb. I just couldn't believe word would come up with 19.8MB of data out of nowhere just for the privilege of performing a copy paste. Can't you tell I love computers?

Monday, January 12, 2009

Finally, I am a student again

Not that my brain is ever really ready to shut down learning, but I am now starting a distance learning semester at my school again. Or at least, I hope I am.

You know things are off to a great start when day one of everything is marked by the schools online learning center for distance studies being closed with the notice "This account has been suspended, please contact your support administrator as soon as possible" and a mass email gets sent out saying "We're restructuring, please wait another week to find out who your teachers are".

Some things still haven't changed. Hectic last minute changes almost make me feel at home. Just so long as they get the online learning center back up and running fast enough for me to submit my assignments I'll be fine.

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

2001, a Space Odyssey

So I just finished reading the book based off the screen play of A Space Odyssey 2001. I remember seeing the end of the movie and thinking something along the lines of "and we now interrupt this story line for a demonstration in abstract art and special effects." I figured the book might make more sense. Who knows maybe I could make sense of the movie if I watched it now that I'm older.

In any case, it seems to me if the book was a faithful representation of the movie, it was a classic movie not because of itself but because of its release in the context of the space race. The idea of finding alien artifacts upon the start of any real new wave of space travel leading to a breakthrough in technology is a well trodden path. But the entire spirit transformation quasi god thing going on was just a little bit over the top. Why pray tell would any such advanced race of beings care to automatically transform a newcomer into one of themselves and then unleash him on the world? Its not as if they bestowed him with any special level of wisdom that made his new found powers good for him to have. But in the context of the space race the message is "We'd better be first because the growth of technology, specifically space technology, is the path to godhood. And if we aren't first, we won't be omnipotent" Blah blah blah... I don't care how classic the presentation is I have no inclination to believe the increase of technology is going to cause any intrinsic moral good for anybody. Just makes the fabric of society through which good and evil play out richer textured, more frenetic, and more powerful for whatever a good organizer can do with it. All in all the book bored me.

To add to my boredom is a knowledge of how little military significance the space race actually held. It was a big public relations event to showcase the technical achievements of different economic systems. But as far as anything practical goes?... who cares if the soviets can build bigger rockets if they built bombs so huge it took a bigger rocker to carry essentially the same destructive power we could already do with a smaller rocket. Not that I'm complaining too harshly... I like microchip computers. And I prefer a science competition to a heap of politically necissary murders called war anyday.

Contrast the Space Odyssey with my other current read "The Never Ending Story." I'm finding the book and the movie have little similarity in their symbolic content. The movie is a Freudian story of creation with a crisis involving unbalanced male and female elements and a end of creation from a lack of imagination. The book is a rich allegory of how our beliefs and myths can change. It may not be the greatest book ever written, but it has a lot to say about how our beliefs influence who we are, and how we grant new meaning to old beliefs as time passes, and how beliefs change in turn influencing who we are. I come away with something I didn't have before in reading it.

I love a good sci fi story, but I'm afraid I won't be picking up the sequal to the Space Odyssey.