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LifeDrive: Yeas and nays for a 4GB PDA's Gary Krakow answers reader mail about his review on PalmOne's newest PDA and questions about analog and digital television.
The LifeDrive PDA has an optional keyboard, but one reader wants more.
The LifeDrive PDA has an optional keyboard, but one reader wants more.PalmOne
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Recently, I’ve received an enormous amount of reader feedback about my review of PalmOne’s newest PDA, the LifeDrive, which is the company's first with a 4GB built-in hard drive. Some people are intrigued by the idea of a super-storage hand-held device — others, less so.

Lon C. Lundgren wrote:

“I wanted to write you about your recent article on the PalmOne LifeDrive.  In short, this very attractive PDA is missing one very important feature, a slide-out keyboard.  I use a HipTop II (T-Mobile SideKick II), and although it is regarded as a toy for hipsters and teens, it is the most intuitive and functional device (almost) on the market mostly because it has the flip-out keypad.

The LifeDrive missing CDMA or GSM phone functionality is something that I can live with, however not having a keypad? We are long past the point of accepting this as a viable replacement for any convergent device. Writing with a stylus is so passé, slow, useless, pointless.... well you get the point.

You can pass on to our buddies at PalmOne that I will not be buying a LifeDrive.”

Randy Griffin disagreed with my opinion that a built-in cellular phone would make the LifeDrive even better: 

“Nice review, except the finale.  I don’t want a PDA phone.  Too big.  Look at those poor Trio 650 geeks.  Even with a Bluetooth headset the 650 would strain belt loops.  Remember the slide rule?”

John Inman, though, agreed with me: 

“The last sentence of your article about Palm Live Drive is exactly what I want to know.  Is there another model coming that will also be a phone?  And if so, what is the time horizon?   I want to get one but if a second phone model is coming out in 6 months, I will wait.”

John, Palm makes a wonderful PDA/cell phone called the Treo 650. There’s no hard drive built into the 650, but thousands of happy users will tell you they don’t need 4GB of storage at all.

Which brings us to Antons Fomishkins’ two questions about my personal preferences: 

“After I have read your 18th May review I have written out two questions:

a)   What kind of mobile device are you using in normal time?

b)   Would you recommend PalmOne’s ‘Life Drive’ to the student that is learning in school?"

First of all, answering your first question is difficult because I get to test lots of different devices. I carry at least one cell phone and one Smartphone with me at all times. It could be a plain cell phone, or one with a camera or even a handset with built-in TV video features.  As for a Smartphone/portable e-mail device, I’ll carry a Blackberry, Windows Mobile, Palm, Symbian or Linux-based device. Brands names don’t matter since they change so often. What matters is that they connect easily and do what I want them to.

Which brings me to the second part. You should check out the LifeDrive’s features and see if it does what you want it to.  It’s a top-of-the-line device and it comes with a top-of-the-line price tag.  I would check out the entire PalmOne line to see which one fits your needs.

Kimberly Dunbar asked:

“Hi, I was wondering if you might answer a question for me, when they shut off analog, and switch over to digital, does that mean that people who have cable, will switch over to digital cable?  See in my State we have Cable and Digital Cable, is that what it means? Or will we still have the same cable with a converter box?”

Let me see if I can simplify. Analog TV is what has always been broadcast over the air. That is going to change at some future date when broadcasts switch to digital, meaning viewers will be required to have different kinds of tuners or new fangled TV sets for those who don’t have cable or satellite service. 

There is also analog and digital cable. Older systems are analog and offer a small number of stations. Newer digital cable offers more channels and better TV signals. 

Whatever happens to broadcast TV, you should be fine with your current cable service, whether it’s analog or digital, because your cable box is actually your tuner. Cable companies usually get their feeds directly from broadcasters. They don’t depend on over-the-air signals.

Barbara Morrison wrote:

“Regarding your online article referencing RCA’s new 27 inch SDTV:  If I have a regular TV (Magnavox 32” 1994 TV) hooked to satellite dish I wonder what you mean by direct TV.  Isn’t a satellite connection direct TV?  What do you mean by ‘rabbit ears’?  If I had one of these new TV would it mean I don’t need my satellite provider (contract)?”

Barbara, you subscribe to DirecTV (capital letters) satellite service. That is a brand name.  There are other satellite services available as well. 

TVs with picture tubes are now called "direct-view" (small letters) sets. You can use your DirecTV service on a "direct-view" TV, LCD, plasma or projector TV. 

Rabbit ears are what indoor antennas used to be called a thousand years ago. That’s because they have two long "ears" that reminded some people of a small, furry animal. Rabbit ears are used to receive an over-the-air TV signal, which is what people used to do before cable and satellite service.

If you had one of those new TVs I wrote about, you could still use your DirecTV and a pair of rabbit ears to receive the new, over-the-air HDTV broadcast signals.

Kyser Thompson wanted to know:

“Still not clear on something - why are some shows in HD on HD-compatible channels and others not?   i.e. I can watch the Elvis flick in HD, but not Craig Ferguson later on.  I don’t even have an HDTV, but still curious.”

The simple answer is that some shows are recorded in HD (mostly prime-time offerings) and others are not. I’m guessing that it’s more expensive to shoot in HD, which is why many shows don’t. In a few years, virtually all shows will be recorded in wide-screen, 16:9 HD format because more people will own TVs that are capable of showing them.

On the other hand, that brings up another annoying HDTV problem. It's my pet peeve. When some HDTV cable channels, like TNT, artificially stretch the picture to make it seem like it was shot in 16:9 format. It looks horrible. Actors on either side of the screen look like their heads are 6 feet wide. I think 4:3 shows should be viewed in the old-fashioned 4:3 screen format and 16:9 shows should be seen in 16:9. 

Finally, an important correction from Mitch Zeissler:

“Umm, hate to break your hologram bubble, but the “hologram” you saw in the first Star Wars (episode IV) wasn’t really a hologram at all, it was just an optical effect crafted to look that way.  As far as I know, the first “real” hologram captured on film in a major theatrical release, was in the sci-fi film Logan’s Run (1976), towards the ¾ mark as I recall.  Logan is sitting in a chair, being interrogated, and is surrounded by several small holograms of himself rotating in little wall enclosures.”

Mitch, I’ll tell the Litholo Hologram kit people that they’re wrong.