Two geeks on a train

I’m on the way home from Manhattan yesterday and the guy sitting next to me first spends some time on his Blackberry, then I notice out of the corner of my eye that he’s online with his Sprint PPC-6700, which under the hood is similar to my Cingular 8125 (they’re both HTC devices). I was using my phone to catch up on email.

He noticed my Today screen and started asking me questions about some of the plug-ins I had (notably Resco Today and spb Diary). That launched us into a 30 minute geek-out about the phones…he reads all the same websites I do, tries all different applications, hates Palm OS and has been a Pocket PC devotee for years. We both hate ActiveSync 4.x compared to version 3.8.

He gave me a quick demo of the new 2007 version of Pocket Informant that he’s beta testing (didn’t see all that much different). I showed him why I thought spb Diary was better than Pocket Breeze (which he had). He thought it cool that the Cingular 8125 has a better built-in dialer than the Sprint version. I liked that his device had Start and OK hard buttons so he didn’t have to hack it like I do. We both complained about how buggy and underpowered the HTC phones are, but both thought it’s worth it in the end. We didn’t even exchange names or business cards, and I don’t want to think of what the guy sitting in front of us thought overhearing our conversation.

Months ago I played with PhoneAlarm, a handy way of displaying alarms and configuring profiles from the Today screen. I uninstalled it because it slowed the phone down too much. The guy on the phone showed me his device running PhoneAlarm Lite, a much lighter version with the main features but not all the bells & whistles.

I installed it this morning and it’s perfect…I can have the phone tell me when I have voicemail or a missed call, but not bother me about email. And it’s a quick way to switch between home and meeting settings, as well a flight mode. Best yet, it takes very little resources…under 500 kb of RAM.

Here’s what my Today screen looks like now. As you can see, I keep it simple and clean.


I’ve had this phone for 4 months, and truth is I rarely see another one in my daily life. Same with the T-Mobile or Sprint versions. I think it’s because it’s aimed at the business user, but corporations aren’t adopting them like Blackberrys. So they tend to go with folks like me and my anonymous buddy from the train who read computer magazines for fun. Too bad. Despite the bugs (and there are plenty…not recommended for the non-tech type who isn’t ready for under-the-hood troubleshooting), it’s a fantastic little device. I went to this conference and I was able to take notes on the sessions, check my email, look up references, check my train schedule home, text message with Eric about an issue with the kids and read a bit of a novel all with one little machine that fits in the side of my purse and I still had 30% of the battery life when I got home. Mind you, I wasn’t actually talking on the phone that much, which helped.