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On The Net - Issue 03

On The Net is a regular Internet column for handheld computing magazine Palmtop User. The column is put together by the FileSaveAs team, and we'd like to thank Palmtop User for allowing us to include back issues on our site.


Focus on...

We all know that the built-in applications on our handheld devices are good enough to do the job - managing our address books, checking messages and making sure we don't miss important appointments, but experimenting with new software is what really brings the machine to life, allowing you to use the machine your way, and make it do what you want. So, where do you find the right piece of software? Judging by the feedback we've received in our first online survey, the answer is Tucows. There are popular software sites dedicated to certain operating systems, such as PalmGear and PocketGear, but Tucows comes top of the poll due to it's cross-platform policy, handling downloads for Palm OS, Pocket PC, Symbian OS, as well as Blackberry and Newton devices.

To find software, you select your machine type, then browse through the categories presented. You're then presented with a list of programs, complete with filesize, software type (freeware, demo, shareware or commercial), and a cow rating. Ratings are not based on the number of downloads, as with other download sites (unfortunately download information isn't provided), but are awarded based on documentation, support, quality, ease of use, features and software design. Software with five cows can be regarded as well worth downloading. Program listings carry additional information, such as price, links to the author's website, screenshots as well as the actual download link.

The Tucows site contains several other goodies, such as ‘Program of the week', listings of the latest software releases, plus newsletters and frequently-asked-questions for each machine type. There's also a powerful ‘supersearch' to help you track down the application you're looking for.

If you happen to be a program author, you can register at the Author Resource Centre for access to your program listings and to release new versions of your products.

The site has a large collection of software (although there are larger ones out there), and the careful vetting/reviewing process helps to ensure that the site doesn't contain ‘dead' links or poor software, and as the voting shows, this is often first-stop for most software seekers.

Recent sightings

Formerly known as Clieworld, the UK-based CliePlanet is packed with useful content, including a very busy news section, a forum where nearly 300 Clie owners get talking, an Interviews section (including a head-to-head with Palmtop User's Editor), information on which applications support Hi Res+ and Palm OS 5, plus software and hardware reviews. A mobile version of the site that can be used with AvantGo and iSilo is available, you can sign up to an email newsletter, and the weekly competition should keep you coming back. You can also email your problems to SyncronizedQueen, Clie Planet's resident PDA agony aunt, and download wallpapers and skins to customise your device . If you're a Clie owner, this should be your premier site, and there's something for non-Clie Palm OS owners too.

It's not often we report on a site before it's launched, but in this case, we'll make an exception - The Series 60-powered Nokia 3650, with it's unique dial-shaped keypad, is due for launch in the early part of 2003, and looks set to become the resource for this new smartphone. As well as promising the normal site content: news, reviews and downloads, the site will also reportedly be offering WAP access to their content (including ring tones), plus photo and file storage space space. To get the ball rolling, their discussion forum is already live, and is already up to 1000 posts - not bad considering both the site, and the phone, are "coming soon"

I would like to introduce five-alive, the handheld optimized portal for Palm, Pocket PC, Psion, Nokia Communicator etc.. five-alive is a private project and contains currently around 200 links to PDA friendly sites, the site is adjustable to several screen sizes. The portal has just one scroll bar, the links are described, so the mobile user will know what is expecting him. Above all, the user can create his own mobile portal through a free registration at "my five-alive".

An interest debate broke out in one of the newsgroups at the start of the year... there are hundreds of shareware applications available for download. These are often written by one individual. If you find the perfect piece of software for your PDA, but can't then contact the author to make a payment or get a registration code, what should you do? What responsibilities does a shareware author have to make registration possible after they've given up on the product?

"A while back, we had a discussion where I said that software authors have a moral responsibility to keep making their applications available even after they have lost personal or commercial interest in them. People told me that since it's their program they do what they want. Of course this is true, but the problems remains -- do we make do without useful applications just because the author is pig-headed, or do we take matters into our own hands? I personally believe that authors should make their apps available for free download if they decide they no longer wish to charge for/support/develop them." (Erik Sandblom)

"I would add that if they can't be bothered to maintain & update them, they should release the source too, so that someone else can." (hognoxious)

"By all means, DO take matters into your own hands - write the program you need and release it to the public". (withheld )

"Speaking personally, I honestly believe that stealing software is wrong, but that software that has been truly abandoned should be made available somehow. I'd even support hacking
registration codes under these circumstances (abandoned software only) as long as there was no intent to steal." (Phil)

"People are free to offer services or to stop offering such services. If you don't want to do something anymore, you are free to stop at all times. What you cannot do is breach a contract, but as long as there is no contract, simply stop offering your services can be done at all times. If you think this is daft, consider what the results would be if this freedom did not exists. Shop keepers would be unable to retire, for instance, or book authors would be unable too stop writing books, musicians would be unable to stop writing or playing music." (Sander van der Wal)

"But it's not a service, it's a registration key to be able to use a program.
The author can accept the money and send the registration key, or just put
up a registration key on his site. There need be no further effort made or
services rendered." (Erik Sandblom)

To see the results of the poll on this subject, go to



Article from Palmtop User Issue 03. Click here for Issue 4's article


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