By Catherine Wagley
By Channing Sargent
By L.A. Weekly critics
By Amanda Lewis
By Catherine Wagley
By Carol Cheh
By Keegan Hamilton
By Bill Raden
Not everything I coveted was re-purposed Webbery. How about a wireless-only service that recommends restaurants, shops and theaters, and includes directions? That’s Vindigo, one of my fashion-victim friend‘s favorite apps. Cool for New York, but it won’t help you here; there‘s no Los Angeles version available. Go west, young service, go west!
Of course there’s more to Net life than surfing; I could live Webless, but e-mail is essential. Would a wireless connection let me rejoin the world or cut me off from my e-mail roots?
I get 300 to 500 e-mails per day; I figured I could read one-tenth of those on tiny, battery-hungry screens before I went blind or mad. I chose three key mailboxes to monitor, letting my other ones slide -- not because I didn‘t care, but because the others handle my newsletter and mailing-list traffic (that is, most of the mail). For a week, I kept on top of events -- barely -- without my usual feeds, getting news through those abridged Web sites (as well as the newspapers). Beyond one week? It would have killed me.
On the other hand, wireless access to important messages was nice -- stress relief, and not just for me. I like to take my work now and then to a coffee shop that dislikes cell phones. Keeping an eye but not an ear on the office was easy and unobtrusive -- and for once my editor didn’t have to wonder if I was dodging him on deadline day. And I felt so industrious! Delayed at the airport? Check e-mail! Cooling my heels in a waiting room? Check e-mail! Want dinner with friends, but still have business? Check . . . oops. The wireless lifestyle was fun for me, but not for onlookers. My friends, initially amused, began to loathe my jones for instant data. I hit a low at one dinner when every 10 minutes I sent more mail about a meeting I‘d scheduled for the next day. I pissed off my friends; they told me so.
Fine. I have lots of new friends: other Palm owners, eager to beam and be beamed -- to share data and apps. (I’m not saying that Jornada owners aren‘t friendly; they’re just hard to find. In theory, the Jornada can exchange contact-type data with Palms, but my VII was having none of that.) I had a true Palm bonding moment when a woman asked me where to find the nearest Starbucks -- instead of trying to explain, I beamed the ‘Bucks auto-finder to her boyfriend’s Palm clone. Geek out!
By Day Seven I was enjoying my toys but ready to return to Laptop Land -- and when Judge Jackson‘s final ruling in the Microsoft case turned up unexpectedly, I gave myself a gold star for effort and gave up a few hours early. I knew the unmonitored mailbox would be swelling rapidly; also, the allure of being able to maybe pull down the legal documents from the espresso bar was more than offset by the necessity to get them immediately and to not fuss with coffee when all hell was breaking loose.
I was also feeling cramped -- not just onscreen, but in memory. We’re accustomed to plentiful, cheap data storage, but storage on mobile devices is limited. I used Xdrive.com to handle my overflow, but still, the more I depended on my PDAs, the more stuff I needed on them, and the more juggling I had to do. How . . . retro.
Worse, I missed some of the stuff I didn‘t “need.” MP3s? The Jornada plays them, but I couldn’t just slap in a CD and rip some fresh tunes. I have a stereo, but I wanted my MP3 and RealAudio. The engine of the Net‘s pervasiveness is not the practical tasks it lets us do, but the quality of life it lets us take for granted. Got that, DotComGuy?
Information at my fingertips? Sure, it’s available, the same way the currently all-inclusive, overdeveloped, very nearly ubiquitous Web was available in 1996: in utero. I was at the last revolution and expect this one to go quickly but differently -- the Palm platform is the sexy Netscape of the wireless world, but CE doesn‘t come from the same all-powerful Microsoft that brought us Internet Explorer. I suspect that doing this experiment in 12 months, I’d still want to have both PDAs; that‘s encouraging. And I don’t think there‘s any going back for me; I can’t manage all my e-mail with a PDA, but I can‘t manage some of it without.
It’s no trick to be DotComGuy in the year 2000. Lots of us worked hard to make it so, though I don‘t think we intended such nonsense as a result. The state of the wireless world is much like the early days of the Web, and that’s really refreshing, but I‘m not willing to give up my current level of Web dependence. I want it all and I want it now, and for now I’ll have to tilt my shoulders to get it.