Burney’s Legal Tech Reviews – Express Yourself on Your PDA

It makes me sad when I see someone with a Treo or a BlackBerry that never uses it to surf the Web. Receiving and reading e-mail is great, but that expensive data plan can do so much more.

On the other hand, surfing the Web on these devices isn’t always easy. Many still only work on the slower data networks which are equivalent to dial-up speeds. By the time you finally download a Website, you could have driven down to your office and pulled it up on your desktop PC.

The newer Treo 700 models (along with other devices like the Motorola Q) work on the faster data networks that provide the equivalent of broadband speeds. This makes the possibility of surfing on a Treo much more appealing.

Even with the slower speeds, one company that has always provided a unique and useful interface to the mobile Web has been Handmark with their Pocket Express application.

The Handmark company is a well-respected name online where you can purchase just about any software for any mobile device. But one product that they develop and offer exclusively from their site is Pocket Express.

Pocket Express doesn’t really do anything you couldn’t do on your own – it just does it ten times better. You could laboriously surf to individual Websites on your Treo to check news, sports scores, stocks, and the weather, but you would literally be wasting your time. Pocket Express brings all of these services to you through an intuitive front end and an efficient delivery method.

Pocket Express can run on a ton of mobile devices. And as you can see from the list, it’s not just all wireless network carrier devices – Pocket Express will run on devices that get online via a Wi-Fi connection.

Huge kudos to Handmark for providing an incredibly easy method for installing the software on your device. In the old days, you would’ve had to synchronize your phone with your computer to install software. Pocket Express can be downloaded directly to your phone by simply inserting your phone number on Handmark’s Webpage (on an actual, full-size computer) and selecting your wireless carrier. Soon you’ll receive a text message on your phone with a link that starts the download process for you. It really couldn’t get any easier.

Once it’s installed on your device and you launch the application, you see what Handmark calls “PageOne.” This page contains the main navigational icons such as News, Sports, Weather, Stocks, etc. Clicking on each icon takes you to a separate page with more detailed information.

At one time, the entire Pocket Express service required a subscription fee. Today, you’ll still need to pay $6.99/month or $69.90/year to access all 14 subscription services, but you can now get the core services of news, weather, and sports at no charge. That’s wonderful, and Handmark will still let you try all of the services free for two weeks.

Again, when I want to read news I could simply surf to a Website on my Treo. But Pocket Express brings it to me, and much faster. The news section is fairly standard, and Pocket Express provides several sub-categories to choose from.

The weather section is very impressive even providing a glance at a radar picture. Similarly, the maps/driving directions (a paid service) are incredible and in my mind worth the cost of the subscription. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve tried to use my Treo to get directions, navigating around a tiny screen on Mapquest or Google Maps. But Pocket Express quickly provides an address for me, and easy to follow driving directions.

Other channels/services include Showbiz (including movie times), 411 Info, and Dictionary.

If you have a Treo or a BlackBerry or an iPAQ or an MDA, then do yourself a favor and download Pocket Express – you owe it to your expensive data plan to at least try out the services for a while and keep the free ones.

Have a Memory Card, Mate!

There are so many types of memory cards these days it’s ridiculous – you have Compact Flash (type I and II), SD, MMC, miniSD, and Sony’s Memory Stick, just to name a few.

Some MP3 players use one type, digital cameras use another, and your new phone or PDA may yet use another kind. The real challenge comes in trying to get the information off a card on to your computer. Sure you could hook up your PDA or digital camera to your PC, but that takes too long and sometimes requires additional software.

I needed a good, comprehensive card reader and elected to go with the top-of-the-line (but inexpensive) SanDisk ImageMate 12-in-1 Reader/Writer. Granted I don’t always need access to 12 types of memory cards, but I feel better knowing that the slots are there if I ever need them.

I was also drawn to the small form factor and nice stand for the ImageMate. I could set it down on its side connected via the USB 2.0 cord to my PC, or I could prop it up in its handy stand.

The ImageMate also comes with some innovative software that will allow you to transfer files with a simple click of the button on the unit. I elected not to install this software and relied instead on the good ol’ drag-and-drop method.

When you plug the ImageMate into a Windows PC, the unit appears as 4 separate drives which translate to the 4 different slots on the unit. When I put a Compact Flash card into the appropriate slot on the ImageMate, it immediately appeared on My Computer, and I was able to move, copy, or delete files as necessary.

The ImageMate is completely compatible with both Windows and Mac. I was able to plug the ImageMate into my iMac without a problem and the Compact Flash card immediately appeared on my desktop.

The SanDisk ImageMate runs entirely off the power from the USB plug and so it doesn’t need an additional power cord.

If you regularly find yourself transferring files back and forth to your computer and portable device, than do yourself a favor and add an stylish and functional SanDisk ImageMate to your desk.

Posted in: Burney's Legal Tech Reviews, Gadgets, Gadgets/Gizmos, Web Accessibility, WiFi