Lifedrivedoc.com began as a place to talk about the Lifedrive. It soon became apparent that it was much more than that. Since moving on from my Lifedrive, I am engaged in more avenues of technology. That technology has intersected with my professional life - Medicine as well as my social life.

As noted above, the blog is about a lot of things in relation to technology. If you are looking for Lifedrive related material, I am currently dividing the blog so that those searches will be easy for you to find. Most of them will be pre 2007, that should help. Additionally, if you are looking for the links that used to be on the left border. They will be back up in a different format soon. I do enjoy reading about new things to do with the Lifedrive, so you can feel free to let me know about those. I will also post those on the site.

If you are having trouble getting an RSS Feed, click on the feed link below or type this into your reader: http://feeds.feedburner.com/lifedrivedoccom


Sunday, July 23, 2006

Patriot Memory 4 gb SD Card. First Hand Account,

On friday I found an article in Palmaddicts on a new memory card released by this relatively obscure company. The company claimed to have a 4g SD card (not the new SDHC or USB 2.0 variety reported in my last article) that was capable of being used by just about any SD-available device.

Well, I was somewhat skeptical of course, but I am off on a family vacation this week and I will need all of the free memory that I can muster on layover flights. Last year the Lifedrive was very handy. I kept a series of movies that the kids could watch while at the airport or if they became unruly on the plane. Our usual DVD player had poor battery life and the Lifedrive was absolutely magnificent, especially when hooked up to a car stereo speaker or via joint headphones. However, the machine would need to be recharged constantly, particularly if I wanted to use it for web surfing.

Thus when I saw this article in Palmaddicts, I immediately remembered that during the year, after a few other plane rides, the battery life was magnificent if the movies were being played from an SD card, rather than the disk drive. 1 gigabyte was okay for podcasts and 2 movies, but 4 gigabytes could ensure very high quality playback and a very peaceful plane and car flight. The ability to watch a few movies and my DVD box sets of "24" , "House" and the first season of "Gray's Anatomy" was just too compelling (I do not watch television and I buy the box sets in the hope of watching these things eventually, based upon recommendations by my wife and friends).

I purchased the SD card yesterday for $85.00. I mention the price, because I paid $60.00 for the combo USB/SD Sandisk Ultra card 2 months ago and $80 for the original Sandisk 1gb SD Ultra card a year ago. The price of memory has declined substantially.

My first thoughts upon feeling the card was how thick and heavy it was, compared to the Sandisk cards. The workmanship appeared to be very good, with no dents, paint errors or sloppy misspellings of the labels. I thought it would be good to just place the blank card in the Lifedrive to see how it would respond. Immediately, the Lifedrive informed me that it could not open the card because it was not formatted. It did not offer formatting options. I branched out of this and discovered that the card did not show up in the right upper dropdown display. I then performed a soft reset, remembering that this tends to clear the memory. Not only did it clear the memory, but it formatted the card to FAT-32. I checked the memory of the card, using INFO and found that I had 3.8 gigabytes available. Sounds familiar !!!! I think the Lifedrive Disk had the same amount of available memory when it came out of the box.

I then placed the card in a card reader and began to use it as a regular computer directory, uploading my home movies and the aforementioned programs. I also downloaded a fresh copy of TCPMP and its associated AAC plug-in. I placed this in the already-provided Palm/Launcher directory (appeared after the lifedrive formatted the disc) . If you look at my previous post, you will note that TCPMP tends to crash a lot less often - if at all - if it is run from the SD card.

Voila !!! Success. The SD card runs perfectly on the Palm Lifedrive. There is almost no delay in access times. I can fast forward, reverse, enlarge, rotate and skip as with the Sandisk 1g cards and faster than if I used the harddrive. Access times appear to be comparable to the Sandisk, although I did not do a formal study to test this.

The SD card is a winner in my book. I am thinking of picking up another one to emulate the Ipod nano. Having a full 8 gigabytes of memory at my disposal is very nice. Infact, if you told me that I would have 8 gigabytes of memory on a Palm 5 years ago, I would have asked "what for?" Today, we have programs and files that can access and make useful this type of memory. The new SDHC cards that will be released this year will add even more capacity to these incredible tools of ours. If the Patriot Memory card is a peek at what is to come, hang on to your hats.

In the medical field, I think that the time has come for on-demand medical video. Medical videos are just as tedious to watch for those of us in the medical profession as it is for the layperson. Condensing these down to our small mpeg player formats would be beneficial. Additionally with the increase in memory size, Podcasts should be used instead of CD's. While on the plane, I will actually be listening to and watching 2 medically relevant programs. Something that I could not bring myself to do at home. Both files took up collectively 128mb of the 4 gig space.

Again, the Patriot Memory Card 4g appears to be flawless on the Lifedrive in this initial test. Although a word of caution is needed. I will not place any mission critical information on the device until I have used it for over a month. So for now, I will only place multimedia files on the SD card. I will keep you informed.


Monday, July 17, 2006

Is the Lifedrive relevant with the Sandisk and Panasonic 4g SDHC announcements?

Technology stands at the wake of no one. Today, Sandisk joined the SDHC party by joining Panasonic and releasing a 4 gigabyte SD card. The new SD 2.0 cards are designated somewhat differently with the SDHC moniker due to the fact that most SD cards run to a maximum of 2 gigabytes of storage due to FAT-16 limitations. The new SDHC cards look the same, but run on a FAT-32 protocol, driving their potential storage to 32 gigabytes. Additionally, the new classification system further breaks down the cards by classes:

Class 2 2mb/sec*
Class 4 4mb/sec
Class 6 6mb/sec

*Where mb/sec is the minimum sustained data transfer speed. Somewhat better than what preceded it.

What is not known is whether the Lifedrive will run the 4 gigabyte SDHC cards or if other Palms will run them. But more importantly, the question now arises: If there are 4,8,16,32 gigabyte SDHC cards available and are compatible with a powerful handheld such as the TUNGSTEN X, will the Lifedrive be relevant?

Unless Palm comes out with an equivocal Lifedrive, sans the drive, we could be seeing the end of the Lifedrive as we know it. But as I see it, one loss is a gain in another department. This new release of increased memory begs to have Palm deliver on the ultimate experience in my book:

500mb to 1 gigabyte of onboard memory.
4-8 gigabyte Card, interchangeable SDHC format.
Built-in camera.
Built in voice recorder.
Possible attached or retractable keyboard.
Excellent Battery Life.
And of course, a new operating system with multitasking capabilities.

SDHC USB 2.0 may do to the Palm Lifedrive what Google has done to Yahoo and Microsoft: Force Innovation!


Thursday, July 13, 2006

Lifedrive Essentials: Bluetooth -- The Other Broadband (The Axis 9010)

A year ago when I bought my Lifedrive, I tinkered around with at least two broadband devices for wifi access. I already had a hardwire router and did not want to change over to a wireless router since I did so very little wireless computing to begin with. I picked up a D-Link router (purchased at a store opening for $10) and tried to use it as an Access Point. This was just plain stupidity and led to a few wasted hours trying to do configurations which would just end up in the router trying to be ...well, a router instead of an Access Point. I then picked up a Linksys Access Point and this, for the most part, worked very well. However, it was not without its own problems. The Lifedrive was very finnicky and crashed on several occasions. Yes it was very fast downloading files and webpages in what appeared to be no-time flat. But along with this wonderful speed came a few problems:

1. The Link was essentially always on.
2. Always on would lead to about a 15-30 minute battery life.
3. Security was a major issue. I found a few names accessing the Access Point that were not mine. A problem resolved when I changed to WPA instead of WEP.
4. The Lifedrive (1.0 OS) was essentially unstable after leaving Versamail and Blazer.

Then, the Access Point would run into other problems. For some unknown reason once I changed the encryption from WEP to WPA for greater security, the Lifedrive would tend to crash or slow down considerably. The longer the WPA key string was, the longer my download times and the greater the connection issues decreasing the battery life.

One solution that cropped up over this time frame was a wireless solution that I had used with my old Tungsten T -- Bluetooth! Just about all advanced Palms link up well with bluetooth phones so I took the logical step of having the machine link with an Access point through a network to print out documents. This was relatively advanced at the time and worked extremely well with the Tungsten T. The device, the Axis 9010 pictured above was originally listed at $400, but I was able to buy one from an auction site for about $40.00. It runs on Linux and is extremely easy to program. The one thing that I liked about it was the fact that its range was supposed to be about 50 feet, but you could get it to about 100 feet and surf without worrying about anyone attaching to the network. Most Wardrivers are not really looking for a bluetooth Lan connection. Additionally the Axis uses RADIUS which is relatively more secure than even a regular WEP or WPA secure connection.

Thus when my Linksys started acting strangely I took out the Axis 9010 Access Point and put it back to work with my Lifedrive. It has been flawless. Infact, although it works at only 1/10th the speed of the Linksys, it provides a consistent and constant data transfer rate. One of my favorite things about the bluetooth access point is the fact that the Lifedrive and the access point stop communicating with each other once the files have been downloaded or the webpage completed. Thus, downloading a 10mb podcast for example will take about 5 minutes, but once it is done, the transmitter for the Access point stops as does the Lifedrive. The Lifedrive will shut off 3 minutes after the completion of the download, but not during it. Thus battery life is conserved rather nicely.

The throughput speeds are not amenable to access SKYPE or anything like that. But if you download, surf or print intermittently the access point is something that you should look at very closely, particularly if you are having problems with WEP/WPA or the 802.x solution. I keep it as a backup, but for the last few months I have been using bluetooth exclusively.

My take on the bluetooth functionality working better on the Lifedrive than on the 802.x solution is that I believe that Palm has been working with IR (Infrared) longer than just about anyone. Additionally, with the introduction of the Tungsten T, Palm became increasingly resilient and aggressive in regards to having communications transmitted over both IR and Bluetooth. I think that the European market, which at the time was very involved in Bluetooth communications, became a major target for Palm. Ericsson and Nokia were phenomenal in this and the ability to communicate with the Palm was instrumental in the success of the early Tungsten products. With Palm continuing to produce three different versions of the Tungsten, bluetooth became perfected over time. Add to this the fact that many, including myself, became increasingly bothered by the hotsync process, the ability to do this via wifi was very appealing. While their competitors concentrated on the 802.x position for wifi access, Palm chose Bluetooth. Hindsight would dictate that the 802.x position won this battle, but in terms of battery preservation and security I believe that Palm was right.

802.x on the other hand, seems to be something of a thorn in the side of Palm for the past few years and a much newer technology to Palm. None of the current Treos, including the new 700 series have native 802.x wireless lan with the Palm OS. The Lifedrive was one of the first products in the Palm line to come out with dual Bluetooth/802.x Lan support. In other words, up to and including the release of the Lifedrive, wireless lan in the form of 802.x is still a work in progress.

The plus for us "old guys" is that if the Wifi link is broken or there are problems with the conventional access points then Bluetooth from home is still an option. With the preservation of battery life one can have a rewarding experience with a bluetooth Access Point. The downloading of web pages is a little slower but reliable.

Setting up the Bluetooth Lan for the Lifedrive is very easy. Just open the bluetooth connection screen and have the machine search for the Bluetooth Lan Access Point (Axis 9010) while it is on. The Lifedrive's software takes care of the set up.

One of the nice things about this set up is that if you have a bluetooth telephone, all you have to do when you want to switch from one to the other is choose (See diagram). In addition, if you can get more than one Axis Access Point, the two can be linked together to produce a relay access point. I have used this once or twice, but there is an obvious delay with response times trying to do this. But again, if you are just accessing small files or doing IM, the delay is not that noticeable. For the most part, for small solutions one Axis 9010 is sufficient. Note that the Axis 9010 as with other bluetooth access points essentially works with any networkable bluetooth device. This means that you can use it with just about any Palm device that has bluetooth Lan, that includes the entire Tungsten line, including the Tungsten T (my favorite device for form factor). It also means that it will work with all other non-palm bluetooth network devices. The device is also very much compatible with up to 5 simultaneous connections. The official document states 6, but your connection speed tends to be untenable with 6 and I have found 5 to be compatible with no appreciable delay in either upload or download times.


The Axis 9010 has the following:

1. Axis ETRAX 100 LX, 32 bit RISC, 100 MIPS CPU. With relatively excellent parallel computing and no appreciable degradation in signal with 5 simultaneous connections per my observation.

2. 16 Mbyte DRAM, 4 Mbyte Flash.

3. RADIUS authentication protocol. Of note, Linksys actually charges extra for RADIUS support with its 802.xx products. With the Axis, this is free.

4. Full Spec Sheet

5. Software: Embedded Linux.

Alas, the Axis 9010 is currently unavailable, having been discontinued by Axis, but a used machine can be found with due diligence and I would say that if you are looking for a relatively stable and low-battery consuming access to the internet with your Lifedrive or Bluetooth-Lan device, this product should receive your attention.


Tuesday, July 11, 2006

NEWS: Is This The End Of the Road......?

The Palm Papperazzi is all over the place on this one. Brighthand reports that the Palm Lifedrive 1 may be at the end of its cycle, but the official word is "no." While PalmAddicts is reporting that it may be just dead, with no replacement in site.

Brighthand's Ed Hardy

Palm Addict's Joshua Burdick

Sentiment running high

If it is the end, then this will be a sad day indeed. I have enjoyed and continue to enjoy the overall product, despite its shortcomings. Might we see a solid state version of this device in the wings? - LDD.

Sunday, July 02, 2006

Lifedrive Essentials -- Which Memory Do You Serve?

I have owned the Lifedrive for almost a year now and I must say that I am pleased with it over the past 6 months, mainly because I have not put a lot of software on the device and because I have not hotsynced the device in almostthe same length of time. However, this weekend, I am going to have to bite the bullet and go through the hotsyncing process again. Why? Well, I have just discovered that all that glitters is not Gold.

One of my favorite applications, SplashID has its main data file stored in the Lifedrive's memory. Essentially, I usually store and run the program from an SD card. Since it is encrypted, I felt that it would be safer to have it on the card than on the machine. Well, I copied the sd card to my regular Tungsten T and found that all of my entries were not listed and that when I removed the sd card, the icon and the program were still on the lifedrive. Perhaps a sophomoric error - and I can just about hear the jeers and snide elements of the Palm Programming community having a jolly good laugh - but I was able to do this with another program, TCPMP. This program is an open source project ( a brilliant program by the way, as is SplashID), that is used to watch videos on the Lifedrive. Once stored on the SD card, it can be run directly from the card. I decided to test out my theory that I have been deluding myself all of this time by thinking that the program was self-contained on the SD card and not in the Lifedrive. I downloaded an addition to the program that allows you to view files stored in the .MP4 format and placed it in the same SD directory as TCPMP. I then clicked on the SD stored icon and I was able to watch the .MP4 video without a problem. However, when I shut down the machine and hit the icon in the Lifedrive's main memory, I could not watch the .MP4 file. Thus the question, was the Palm running directly from the SD card or was it running from the Lifedrive main memory when the icons were clicked?

Why is this so important? Well, if you are like me, your world on the Lifedrive has changed dramatically if you directly upload your .PRC files directly to a directory called /LAUNCHER on an SD card as opposed to using the hotsync or Lifedrive docking pathway. The former is an exercise in patience while the latter is an exercise in forgiveness. The latter tends to crash your Lifedrive's hard-drive more frequently, while using the ubiquitous hotsyncing tends to take longer than anticipated and can be brought to a dead stop if it finds an error. But all of this may be irrelevant if the Lifedrive is actually storing the data in the main memory - particularly for SplashID. As the saying goes, as the Lifedrive goes, so does my peripheral brain. Thus tonight I will have to back up everything so that I can preserve all of the passwords that I cannot possibly memorize.

Another reason for backing up the old machine is the fact that it is begining to slow down and the On/Off switch is doing a few fancy tricks that it has not done in over 6 months. All of these little things spell HARD RESET coming down the pike. Although some of this derision may have been self inflicted. Upon perusing the Palmaddict site I ran into a few programs that I thought would be brilliant to have in my mobile brain. Medical essentials such as FIFA FOOTBALL and PAC-MAN, along with a memory game all enticed me to the download front. Again, applying my /Launcher direct insertion on the SD card, the programs ran flawlessly. I could not see any remnants of them after I finished using them (Zfile and other scouring programs), but a funny thing started happening a few days later. Soft-Resets started occurring with a few. So I began deleting all except FIFA and that appears to have stopped the carnage. However, there is still a little sluggishness to the machine that I believe would be remedied with a hot sync. Additionally, it would seem appropriate to finally upgrade the operating system to v 2.0 as others are begining to find it a bit more stable.

If anyone has any insights into this dilemma, I would be very much appreciative. Below is a list of some memory insights that I have found over the past year and a few suggestions:

1. Splash ID - Possibility to run from the SD card, but uncertain if the data is stored only on the Lifedrive memory or the SD card.

Addendum: A thread on the Splashdata message boards on Yahoo seems to address this very problem. The data is stored in the Lifedrive main memory, but you can backup the main data file to an SD card, but it will not run from there. Check out the Yahoo Message board for more details.

2. TCPMP - I think it runs directly from the SD Card. The two versions that I have on the machine and the SD card appear to act differently. I used to have this in the main memory only, but I found that it kept on crashing after exiting. When I moved to storing it strictly on the SD card, the load times were a little slower (proof that it was running directly from the card?) but there were no crashes and the program ran smoothly.

3. pTunes - A very interesting discovery on the podcast trail. If you listen to a podcast or a song from the Lifedrive itself, you cannot fast-forward to skip from ie. 00:20:00 to 00:25:00 for example ( I think that this is better explained as intrasong / intrapodcast/ intrafile fastforwarding) , pressing the circular key forward will send you to a different file/song/podcast. However, if you store the files on an SD card and run them from there, there is an increase in speed by almost 50% and interfile fastforwarding is simple, fast and accurate.

4. MobiOffice - Storing a copy of all data files on an SD card (found in the directory /Programs) will thwart the need to hotsync your data and provides a good backup source that is accomplished in seconds rather than minutes. Additionally, you have the freedom of updating or not updating the files which can take a long time if you hotsync.

5. Printboy - I have not been able to get this to work with the Lifedrive, regardless of where I load the file. Even with hotsyncing, this thing just crashes.

6. Lifedrive drive memory - Probably best served by not using any more than 80% of its 3.8 gigabyte capacity. More than that and I have found sluggishness. Additionally, I have not found this to be a very good place to store files or to run programs from. It is what it is! A multimedia storage center. You can apparently upload gigabytes of photos, videos and sound files and address them using TCPMP or pTUNES without much of a problem, ie crashing. But running software from the area is like flying across the Bermuda Triangle in a Cessna.

7. MobiDatabase - Storing all files in the Lifedrives' main memory is your best bet. Storing them on the SD card is another exercise in patience when the program addresses the database. The beautiful, yet feared sound of ker-clink is met if you try to store your file on the 3.8 gigabyte space, rendering your database dead! Ker-Clink - the sound of a soft reset - is not readily found if the files are stored in the main memory however. Thus backing them up to the SD card is probably best.

8. Control -- The act of waiting for others to try out a piece of software before deciding to jump into the waters and loading it up on your Lifedrive.

I hope this helps. I am thinking about putting up a few basic Lifedrive survival tips, since I think that I can now help a few people from falling into despair when the Ker-Clink monster eventually arrives.


PS. Thanks to those of you who have written to me in regards to the Lifedrivedoc.com beta site. As you can see I took the site down although I liked the design of it and spent a long time trying to get it perfected. The problem was not with the website, which was a beta - (the final site WOULD not have had that bawdy flyer) - but I ran into some issues with the ISP that could not be resolved easily. As soon as it is completed, I will let everyone know. Again thanks for your support.


Addendum2: A brief note about some communication I had with Michael Verive, he is the author of NSBASIC for Palm OS. According to Mike, all of the Palm software is loaded into the main memory of the Lifedrive before it is run. Some apps which are written in NSBASIC will look for a file that is installed into the main memory of the Lifedrive called Runtime. If the file is absent then the program and usually the Lifedrive crashes. Many applications are now being written as FAT APPS, containing their own runtime program. This makes some programs run better than others, mainly because they do not have to look for the NSRUNTIME program of which there are many versions. Thanks Mike.