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Week six finds Tanker Bob cruising comfortably on the Dell Axim X50v. Daily use has brought a level of comfort with the interface. I don’t have to search for how to do something, my stylus just does the walking without conscious intervention. Instincts have been carefully honed.

Display your stuff…

Three Pocket PC devices (Dell Axim X50v, HP iPAQ hx4700, and Asus A730) and Windows 2003SE support a 640x480 pixel VGA display in both portrait and landscape modes. That’s the highest resolution of any handheld device of which I’m personally aware. Windows 2003SE supports two implementation modes of VGA. The default, Standard SE VGA, leverages the higher pixel density to produce a beautiful and highly readable display. Although the fonts, icons, and controls remain the same size as a QVGA display, no one would mistake the resultant screen for the lesser QVGA.

 

 

The second mode displays a full 640x480 screen with accompanying super-tiny text. The OS won’t do this natively. Two primary third-party applications, both free, activate the true VGA mode after a soft reset. Both SE_VGA Lite and ozVGA perform the necessary task, but ozVGA has more configuration options for text and control sizes. The true VGA screen holds considerably more information, but you almost need a magnifying glass to read some of the text. Text sizes may be adjusted globally or in many individual programs. Browsing the web in true VGA is awesome. Only Win2003SE supports full VGA, and not every program is compatible with it. The illustration shows Olive Tree’s Bible Reader in true VGA mode, which it fully supports.

 

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Individual programs can leverage the higher pixel density to produce stunning displays that present lots of readable information on the screen. These programs are usually clearly labeled as supporting VGA. Examples of applications that natively and fully support VGA to put more useful data on the screen include Pocket Informant 2005 (Notes list shown with preview), Agenda Fusion 7, TextMaker, and iSilo.

VGA Hacking

 

One can force individual apps to display in true VGA that don’t natively support that scheme without putting the entire device in true VGA. Several web sites explain the procedure, but the best I’ve found is here. This procedure disables the “pixel doubling” feature in Win2003SE that creates the Standard SE VGA display, essentially imitating a true VGA screen. This procedure has some drawbacks, including some inappropriately sized controls in many apps. However, programs like Acrobat Reader 2.0 and NetFront 3.1 work very well in this mode. The screen shots compare NetFront 3.1 “hacked” to VGA and Pocket Explorer in Standard SE VGA. You can see that NetFront shows much more of the web page, but the address-input box doesn’t scale properly.

Getting a charge out of you…

Tanker Bob noticed from day one that the Axim seemed to charge much slower than the Palm Tungsten T3. No benchmarks were timed precisely, but the T3 goes from 70% to full charge in about 10-15 minutes. The X50v takes around 30-40 minutes or so with the standard battery. I don’t know of any particular reason for this, but the difference has remained consistent. Both use LiIon batteries, which require a pretty strict charging protocol. The T3’s battery carries a 900 mAH rating and the X50v an 1100 mAH one. The small difference in capacity doesn’t account for the time difference. Not a huge deal, but curious and somewhat annoying at times.

Hangouts

Everyone has their share of favorite sites to seek and exchange information. Many lasting web friendships develop from interactions on the forums. Tanker Bob prefers forums characterized by a friendly spirit of helpfulness, and where incivility and inappropriate language won’t be tolerated. He also checks the news around the PDA world virtually every morning. Of course, MobileTechReview stands as the best source of both news and friendly, helpful forums.

In the Palm world, I primarily hang out on 1Src forums, and check Palm247 and PalmAddict for news every day. I occasionally stop into their forums as well. I also check MobileRead’s RSS feeds for PalmGear software updates here and new software here. Brighthand and PalmInfoCenter also have news content and forums, although the decorum at both these sites isn’t characterized by the same civility as 1Src under Joel and Reggie’s oversight.

Tanker Bob adopted Aximsite as his Pocket PC forum home, and also visits PocketPCThoughts forums from time to time but checks it for news every day. I also check Pocket PC Addict and WindowsMobile247 for daily news, but PPC Addict’s coverage of the PPC scene isn’t as complete as Palm Addict’s of the Palm community.

Covering both worlds certainly keeps one off the streets at night…

Wrap-up

After six weeks of experimenting, Tanker Bob has reached a stable software setup on the Dell. Well, as stable as Tanker Bob’s PDAs ever get. Although I certainly didn’t expect this outcome at the beginning, the Axim X50v has replaced my Tungsten T3 as my primary PDA for daily use. The seamless networking, fast WiFi, dual card slots, speed, and VGA display all packed into a tiny platform won me over to the dark side...or is that the light side? Assimilation is complete. In the end, PDAs are simply computing and organizing tools, not religions. Perhaps as a classic rock album ended: “There is no dark side of the moon…”

Next time Tanker Bob will wrap up this series with a quick summary of the major differences between the Palm OS and Pocket PC worlds as he sees them. Get your stake, sticks and gasoline ready!

 

CONTINUED...

Last week: Part V of the Palm to Pocket PC Journey

First installment: Tanker Bob Took a Hard Look at the Palm and Pocket PC Platforms and Evolution

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