Clark Quinn's Learnings about Learning
(The Official Quinnovation blog)

27 October 2008

Mobile tools

Clark @ 11:07 AM

Ok, I’ve had my iPhone a bit now, and some things are very useful, some things are cool, some are way fun, and some things are still irritating.  Note that most of the apps I download are free; I’m cheap and there are great free apps (and games).  I regularly go off to the iTunes store and check out what’s new (particularly the top free apps list).

Let’s get the negative stuff out of the way quickly.  Naturally, my pet peeves haven’t changed (because they haven’t fixed them, ahem): no cut/copy/paste drives me nuts.  For example, I put an address in my calendar, and then can’t cut and paste it into Google Maps to look it up when I’m on the go.  It’s there, but I can’t just carry it across!?!  Frustrating.  Similar with notes and todos.  As I’ve mentioned, if I promise something and it doesn’t get into my phone, we never had the conversation.  However, that’s much harder to do on the iPhone, because I have to email a message to myself!  Frustrating.  Similarly with memos. There already have been times I wanted to put things into a memo to take with me (e.g. a meeting agenda), and I can’t.  Sure, I could use EverNote, but then I’d have to have connectivity, and thanks to ATT’s coverage and hotel policies on wireless, that’s not always the case.

OK, the useful: Google Maps, Yelp, and now UrbanSpoon (finally covers Walnut Creek, my corporate headquarters) are very useful when I’m out and about and need to find some location, or a restaurant, or store, or…  I use them quite a lot, actually.  UrbanSpoon’s interface method of choosing at random is fun enought that it’s almost a ‘cool’.  Weather has been useful when travelling, as is Clock (not least for timing my tea :). Also, I’m all over references. I use the Wikipanion and the Google App.  Occasionally, the various unit converters, calculators, and the like are handy.  I expect to use the translator on occasion as well.  Hey, that’s why we have digital devices, to offload those things our brain’s aren’t great at, like remembering arbitrary data, and leave us to do the strategic and pattern-matching stuff.  The camera’s handy as well.  I haven’t used the voice recorder, though I’m ready.  And a secure password storage app, SplashID. And I got a first-aid reference, a Bart schedule, even the constitution (relevant in several ways).

The fun are the games I’m playing.  I used to play a lot of Risk in college, and then Lux on the computer.  Now there’s a somewhat abbreviated version of Lux on the iPhone.  That, along with Solitaire and Mahjonng are fun.  And of course, the LightSaber app.  Great for entertaining the kids when we’ve got to wait.  I play games for research reasons, er yeah, that’s it…. Oh, and books.  I’ve read a couple including James Fenimore Cooper’s “Pathfinder”, Edgar Rice Burrough’s “Tarzan” (I read as a kid, was re-reading to see if my lad’s ready), and Rudyard Kipling’s “Jungle Book” (hadn’t ever read, amazingly). Lots of free classics available and worth reading.

Finally, the cool.  I just got Google Earth, and that’s way cool.  Just amazing to have it running in the palm of your hand!  Went over and looked at our old house in Australia; they’ve put a tree in the front yard, it appears.  Twittelator lets me tweet and keep up with others’.  I have LinkedIn and FaceBook, though I haven’t used them much.  Midomi will let me hear a song, capture 10 seconds of it, and tell me what it is. Amazing.

By the way, many of these were available on the Palm, and some version of the above may be available on Windows Mobile, RIM’s Blackberry, or forthcoming on Android.  Anyway, it’s about extending your brain, and these apps do it in various ways.  So, what are you finding useful, and what am I missing?


  1. I upgraded to a Palm Centro about 6 months ago. I had owned a Palm Handspring several years ago and loved it, so there was no learning curve for the OS.
    Gripes: The browser is anemic. It gives me basic access, which I fully take advantage, but I cannot view anything other than basic sites, meaning no Flash content. I find this hard to believe, but true. And the control options are very limited. I wish Firefox would create a browser for Palm, but don’t foresee that happening. Even the Google mobile OS looks sweet, but is not available for Palm. However, I am able to get mobile access to all of my social networking and 2.0 tools, including all of my Google apps, so I can’t complain too much.
    Another gripe is the clipboard. While I am thankful to have one (unlike iPhone users), it has a very limited capacity (I’m guessing around 200 characters) and there does not seem to be any way to increase the size.
    Finally, the Kinoma Player (for video) has NEVER successfully downloaded a complete video from any site…always times out, no matter how strong my signal.
    Cool: A complete PIM (Cal, Contacts, eMail, Tasks, Memos, Alarm and Messaging)…love it. Cool Apps (Diddlebug for drawing, Bible Reader with complete OT & NT text plus other neat stuff, Google Maps, Mundu Radio).
    I also like the built-in Bluetooth (my wife and I have the same phone and can beam items back-n-forth) and some of the card games (Pyramid and Spider are my favs). All of the assumed features (Camcorder, Camera, Sound Recorder, MP3 Player, etc.) are also present.
    All said, I really love my Centro and would not switch to iPhone at this point even if it were a free upgrade.

    Comment by Eric Wilbanks — 27 October 2008 @ 12:13 PM

  2. Eric, I seriously considered the Centro. Yes, the *full* PIM. Doesn’t it have *stereo* bluetooth? iPhone has bluetooth, but not stereo. No Wi-Fi or GPS on the Centro, however. The Treo Pro seems good in these ways, too bad about Windows Mobile. And I like that Treos have video cameras, which iPhone does not. However, the GPS, WiFi, Safari browser won, along with the release of the information that hooks were there for cut/copy/paste, and obviously Notes/ToDos. Too bad they haven’t implemented them.

    I’d recommend the Opera Mini-browser, BTW, beats Blazer in so many ways. Note that the iPhone doesn’t have Flash either. An inside source told me the reason Palm doesn’t have Flash is they won’t pay for it, that it’s in Adobe’s interest, and Adobe feels otherwise. I’ve also heard Adobe claimed that Flash on PalmOS would take too much grunt, but that’s proven bogus by the fact that it ran on the Clie.. Sony paid for Flash on the Clie, though, and neither Palm nor Adobe has blinked on paying for the Palm port of Flash.

    Comment by Clark — 27 October 2008 @ 1:50 PM

  3. Thanks so much for the tip on the Opera Mini. Unfortunately, there has apparently been some sort of rift, because Palm no longer offers the Java ME, which is required to run the Opera browser.

    I actually found a site that linked to a download of the Java, but still could not get Opera to work on my phone. It kept insisting that I needed Java. Probably a version/compatibility issue. And though I’ve been called many things, a software programmer is not one of them. :-) So I suppose I am stuck with Blazer until some crafty individual comes up with a solution.

    Oh, and NO on the stereo bluetooth support.

    Comment by Eric Wilbanks — 28 October 2008 @ 3:23 PM

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