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Do you use PDA's?

Joel,

The debate between paper notepads and PDA's has flared up on the forum a couple times, and I don't think I've seen you chime in.  So how do you stay organized?  Do you use Excel on a PocketPC?  Got a notepad you whip out of your back pocket?  Do you have a photographic memory?  Tablet PC?  Newton?  Strings on your fingers?

nathan
Monday, February 23, 2004

Nope. Never once saw the point in those things.

Joel Spolsky
Fog Creek Software
Monday, February 23, 2004

_Any_ of those things, or just the PDAs?  How do you keep track of stuff you have to get done (including life outside of work)?

Kyralessa
Monday, February 23, 2004

Maybe he just remembers?  It's not that uncommon.

Roose
Tuesday, February 24, 2004

Joel mentions elsewhere adding list-keeping functions to Excel since that's what most people used it for. I would guess that he too keeps his lists in Excel.

There's an old software saying, "All software expands until it can read news." Maybe Excel is actually not the awk but the Emacs of Windows.

Dennis Atkins
Tuesday, February 24, 2004

*Email*, man--until it can read *email*!

At least that's how I heard it.

Rich
Tuesday, February 24, 2004

Hmm, FogBUGZ is a pretty good email client.

It doesn't have a half-assed implementation of Common Lisp baked in it, though.

Joel Spolsky
Fog Creek Software
Tuesday, February 24, 2004

I worked for Psion Software, which mutated into Symbian while I was there, for a long time, during and after the launch of the Series 5, and was about the only developer who didn't carry the one I got for free. It just sat at home and every now and then I would realise the batteries had run out and waste two more AAs.

Not carrying a series 5 wasn't really a career-limiting move but I was thought eccentric. And when we changed into Symbian I was developing a mobile phone OS for two years before I had a mobile phone, which was even weirder.

I told everybody I could do anything I wanted on my old black plastic Casio watch, which stores phone numbers and alarms. And if I had a mobile my wife would call me in the pub.

Now, however - why have a PDA (silly abbreviation) when you can have a real computer that is also a phone? I now have a Sony Ericsson P900, which I use for application development, but I also use it for real.

So - PDAs are dead, but pretty soon we will all have a powerful box in our pockets that does anything we want and synchs to the home box.

Graham Asher
Tuesday, February 24, 2004

Joel,
You have to try Treo 600. Just try it. You will love it. :)

Anon
Tuesday, February 24, 2004

Erm a P900 and/or a WinXP box you can put in your pocket could still reasonably described as a "PDA"...

Anyhow the key point is that there is no ideal solution, finding an organiser that works is a highly subjective process - what's good for me may well be awful for you.

Murph
Tuesday, February 24, 2004

I have a top line iPaq from work, which can do lots of amazing things to organize my life... except I don't bother to use it.

Many sales people here us it to syncronize with exchange and access their emails when off site, but for me as a developer, my mobile phone (not even smart phone) can hold all the contact details I need, with a lot less fuss.

Also, I don't have to worry about the batteries in my paper notebook running out :)

Andrew75
Tuesday, February 24, 2004

I use an old Palm m125, as a catchall for watch/alarm clock, notepad, and address book, but only occasionally, not really for everyday stuff.

On trips, I'll take it, as my phone/address list is pretty lengthy.  I also have a foldout keyboard that lets me type journal entries/story notes, etc.

But the biggest boon of all, the reason why it's been worth every penny of the 130 or so I bought it for, is for game playing during "all-hands" meetings.

van pelt
Tuesday, February 24, 2004

"I now have a Sony Ericsson P900, which I use for application development, but I also use it for real."

Picturing you editing C code using your phone's number pad, instant text message style :).

Jim Rankin
Tuesday, February 24, 2004

The debate between paper notepads and PDA's - both and none.

pda's are great for storing and finding. lousy for using as a design tool compared to a note pad and bic pen.

simplicity is best in pda. for this reason I have yet to upgrade my palm III. It's old, monochrome but it does the job - remembering dates, names, addresses, read books, code for it, connect online etc and it still runs on 2AAA for about a month.

The only thing I hate is the volatile RAM. Protection with a a titanium case (rhinoskin) saves the machine but the jolts if you drop it kills the  memory.

peter renshaw
Tuesday, February 24, 2004

..... Now, however - why have a PDA (silly abbreviation) when you can have a real computer that is also a phone? .....

very poor usability.  http://www.useit.com/alertbox/20010107.html

but granted a real computer with some industrial/clever hardware design. I was truely impressed with psions - cousin had one with 64Mb addon card lots of mature software.

peter renshaw
Tuesday, February 24, 2004

From that link: "American cellular network is a national disgrace"

That's great and all when comparing the US network to that of a European country. Ummm... the US is a very large geography compared to France and it is no trivial thing to upgrade a nation-wide cellular network when people have not be showing interest in current implementations of enhanced functionality.

Oh yea, people will come up with "but the cell carriers in the US are charging too much for internet access" - true, but look at their balance sheets, they are bleeding money.

m
Tuesday, February 24, 2004

My phone will work (allow me to make and recieve calls, send and recieve text messages) in just about every country in Europe, certainly all the pre-expansion EU countries.

And a great many others in the world.

And parts of the US.

And with all with my current provider (albeit at a premium when abroad).

So yes, the US notwork is a mess.

Murph
Wednesday, February 25, 2004

Ive had a PDA for 5 years (well 2 in that time actually) and I use it daily and go nowhere without it. (And I'm a desk-bound developer - not a road warrior)

Here's what I use it for:

Daily: To Read.
To read the news. I live in a country where reading the newspapers I like would cost a fortune in international subscription fees so I use a program called sitescooper (AvantGo and Plucker do the same) to grab the Guardian, Wired News, Dilbert and News Scientist News off the web. Of course I could read them on the web, but this way I can read them over my coffee in a cafe after dropping my kids off.

To read novels. I've discovered that ebooks are actually a good idea. I can read them at night and they bother my wife much less than the itty bitty book light. The problem is that I like owning physical books. So I either scan them myself or find some pirate version of a book I happen to own in print form.

Now I am never without something to read. Never board while my wife is shopping, or sitting in the doctor's waiting room.

Less frequently: For notes.
I have everything in my PDA that  I would usually write down on a piece of paper and lose.  I want to remember the number and price that apartment I saw for rent at the beach 2 years ago: search in the memopad. I'm shopping for furniture, I take notes on the prices. I'm not ordinarily organized at all, but the fact of always having on my person this store of 5 years worth of quick notes has often proved invaluable

Less frequently still: As an adress book. Obviously

Once or twice a year: to show people photos of my family when they ask (okay totally unnecessary for this purpose - but given I have a digital camera this is actually easier than printing them)

Almost never: to use the MS-compatible word processer, spreadsheet, slideshow thing etc etc

rhubarb
Thursday, February 26, 2004

I had an iPaq, but I only used it for contacts, calendar, and one playlist worth of music.  Sold it.  Got an iPod.  I use the Outpod program to get my contacts and calendar into it from Outlook.  Now I use the iPod for the exact same thing as I used the iPaq for, but I have 20GB of music instead of 128MB...

NPW, NYC
Friday, February 27, 2004

I would sooner be waltzing around with a USB hard drive or USB memory stick I think. PCs with Windows or Linux is what I have access to all day (they are never far from arm's reach).

Li-fan Chen
Friday, March 05, 2004

"Picturing you editing C code using your phone's number pad, instant text message style :). "

Well... the funniest thing is the assumption that I use C. Wouldn't touch it. Symbian OS is best attacked using the C++ SDK, and there's also Java if you like that sort of thing, which I don't.

I use CodeWarrior for Symbian OS, running on my ordinary boring beige PC on my desk. It has a rather horrible IDE compared to MSVC++ but can build a .SIS file directly that I can install on the phone.

Graham Asher
Tuesday, March 09, 2004

"
..... Now, however - why have a PDA (silly abbreviation) when you can have a real computer that is also a phone? .....

very poor usability.  http://www.useit.com/alertbox/20010107.html
"

I've just had a look at that article and about the only way to defend it is to note that it was written over three years ago. It makes quite a lot out of a completely false dichotomy between PDAs and phones. It assumes, for instance, that a phone, or perhaps a European phone - there seems to be some anti-European prejudice here, or perhaps I'm reading too much into sheer ignorance - has to be 'brick-like' and have a keyboard (which he calls contemptuously a 'keypad'). He then makes the rather obvious suggestion that it would be nice to be able to 'tap the person's contact card to initiate the call'. Duh... that feature is so obvious that it has been available on Symbian-OS mobile phones since before the article was written.

I have a foot in both camps - I work both for RIM and on the Symbian OS - and I think the telephony and PDA aspects will just go on converging. Nobody will win because their device was originally called a PDA, or lose because it was originally called a phone.

Graham Asher
Tuesday, March 09, 2004

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