elf's Sony SJ33 Clié Journal

Your SJ33 website is a riot.
A stream-of-consciousness usability test
that every PDA designer should be forced to read.

—Viewer mail from Marc Spiegler

This page is a journal of my experiences using the Sony SJ33 Clié beginning with the day I purchased it. This page exists to provide helpful information (if you excuse the editorials and the sometimes pretentious writing) to new (or potential) SJ33 users and those, who like me, migrated from a Handspring (or other Palm device), in the hopes that various issues I faced, will have a ready answer here.


Closeup of my SJ33.
Note the Scotch #811 tape
covering the Graffiti area.

First Impressions

[Tue Mar 04 19:02:40 2003]

I dropped by the SonyStore in downtown Toronto today and picked up a Sony SJ33. I asked about the blue-case SJ33 but was told it was not available in Canada (oh well).

My SJ33 finished charging about an hour ago (it took 4h:40m to charge only because I couldn't resist playing with it while it was charging-- hehe).

I've been playing Bejewled (which comes bundled with the SJ33) for the past 15 minutes before I decided to create this webpage and post my first impressions...

I'm generally pleased with it; it's nice; it's OK; it's color. It's not mind-bendingly WOW! or anything. Overall, it's a very feminine piece of electronics (not meant as an insult-- perhaps "sexy" would be a better word than "feminine"). It has a nice feel to it-- finger prints galore! Buttons and sliders are naturally small (it's a Sony, after all).

The built-in speaker has a nice sound to it (I ran the Clié demo and listened to the default Alarms in the Sound Tool [Update, Apr 1, 2003: I renamed "Alarm2" to "Music Box" and made it my default DateBk5 alarm]).

Migrating Apps from the Visor

Beam me up, Scotty.
— James T. Kirk

Beamed over DateBk+ (using ZCatalog) and my Datebook database from my Visor to the SJ33; they beamed over fine but weren't installed/recognized (!!?!?!?) [Update, Mar 13 2003: DateBk+ was programmed to only run on a Handspring so it won't run on another type of device. The DateBook database has to be installed via Hotsync, it cannot be beamed. See below for tips on doing this.]

Pocket Chess [Update, Apr. 1 2003: Chess Tiger is a nice replacement], Soroban (an abacus), Runtime, Patience and Hackmaster all beamed over and ran fine. I couldn't figure out how to beam over the hacks so it'll have to wait for the sync. We have Sun and GNU/Linux workstations at work (and a Plan9 box) so the Desktop will have to wait till I get home to my Vaio laptop.

My first raised eyebrow: I had trouble figuring out how to shut it off via the slider (yes, I read the entire manual while it was charging and the explanation for shutting it off is unclear-- I kept toggling the backlight). I finally figured it out after several failed attempts. ;) Each application has "Power Off" in the menu-- a nice touch.

I have a question about the wrist-strap: Does the wrist-strap come with a sliding nubbin to tighten the the strap once it's around your wrist? It seems to be missing from this strap thus making the strap pointless (my Canon S30 camera has the exact type of wrist-strap and it has a sliding nubbin).

Memory Sticks

I use Sony Megawafers, each good for half a million words,
each two centimeters wide, three millimeters thick,
with information packed so densely that it doesn't bear thinking about.

— Robert Heinlein,
The Cat Who Walks Through Walls

I wanted to purchase a 128Mb MS but the store didn't have any "White Memory Sticks" which is what the sales droid wanted to sell me-- I didn't know there were two kinds. The droid said that the White MS allow both data and MP3 storage while the Purple allow just MP3 (or just data, but not both). I posted a question to comp.sys.palmtops.pilot asking this and Craig Bowers that, contrary to the sales droid's statements, the Purple MS can do everything; the White MS (a.k.a. MagicGate) has additional Digital Rights Management capabilites for ATRAC3 (proprietary Sony Encoder) encoded audio files.

Center-button LED

[Wed Mar 05 07:14:37 2003]

All the lights that light the way, are blinding
—Oasis, Wonderwall

Second raised eyebrow: playing Bejeweled just before going to bed with the backlight turned all the way down, I found the green LED in the center button to be shining a piercing, uncomfortably bright light right into my eyes. I resorted to using my finger and/or blanket to cover it up. Perhaps in future models, the brightness slider could also modulate the brightness of the LED. [Update: see below for a solution to this problem.]

I'll try syncing on a GNU/Linux box at work today, before installing the Windows Desktop software on my laptop. [Update: No luck with sync'ing on the GNU/Linux box. The USB ports on the box were not co-operating with me. I couldn't be bothered to fight with the hardware.]

[Thu Mar 06 2003 ]

Dropped by the Sonystore and bought a purple 128MB (the largest capacity) Memory Stick. The sales droid who had sold me the Clié was busy, but when I was paying for the Stick he came by and again asked me if I wanted to buy a White stick. I said the Purple one was OK, and he walked away.

The Desktop

[Fri Mar 07 10:13:59 2003]

I installed the Clié Desktop on my Vaio last night. It recognized the existence of the Handspring Desktop and saved my old profile.

I installed FlipHack and FlipGraffiti hack (copied from my Visor backup) via the Desktop. I ran them and clicked through the dialogs telling me that FlipHack had a 70% chance of working on my Palm and that the CPU ID was unknown and it flipped the screen OK until I hit "Home" whereupon I was looking at a 2/3s white screen with a 1/3 interlaced portion showing the Launcher--oh well--*sigh*.

I promptly reset and and deleted the hacks.

Wide shot showing MP3 player VU-meter screen.

First HotSync

[Sat Mar 08 10:49:26 2003]

After installing the desktop, I proceeded to perform a HotSync. Since the Clié does not come with a cradle, the sync must be initiated from the HotSync application on the Clié [Update: See below for a tip that makes it painless to HotSync without a cradle]. Everything worked as expected.

I then proceeded to look around the files what were installed and found the PDF manuals and proceeded to read certain sections in detail, beginning with the section on using the MemoryStick.

Playing MP3s from the MemorySticks

There was nothing there about playing music from the memory stick. I then loaded the other PDF document-- a FAQ-- which had the answers to my questions. I remembered reading on one of the posts here, that the MP3 files had to be in a particular directory for the AudioPlayer to find them: /PALM/PROGRAMS/MSAUDIO. I loaded the MS into my Vaio MS-slot, created this directory, and copied MP3s of Stokowski's transcription of Bach's Little Fugue; Flora's Secret and Lazy Days from Enya's "A Day without Rain" album, Scarborough Fair by Simon and Garfunkel and the Introit and Kyrie from Palestrina's Missa Pro Defunctis performed by Chanticleer.

Closeup of the AudioPlayer VU meter screen.
For an explanation of the 3 black dots
along the botton of the screen, read
"Graffiti Maneuvers in the Dark", below.
I set the AudioPlayer option to allow playing in the background and switched to BeJeweled while the MP3s continued playing-- it was magnificient.

The next day, I went to work with those songs in my pocket and played them the entire day.

I listened to MP3s on the train and about half-way on the walk from the station up to work-- the noise of the traffic was drowning out the soft parts of the music at medium volume. The ear-bud headphones that are bundled with the Clié are not usable in environments with ambient noise; the sound reproduction for classical music is acceptable but not exceptional. For pop-music, the reproduction is excellent.

Aside: Is there a point, if your intent is to attract women, in showing off cool toys if you look utterly and completely like a nerd? Suffice it to say, using the Clié in public will definitely will get you glances from women (hehe).

At work, there were numerous demonstrations of the Clié for colleagues.

VBR Encoded MP3s Don't Play

[Sun Mar 09 11:51:12 2003]

Before going to bed, I loaded a few more MP3s onto the MS and fired-up AudioPlayer. After playing the first few new MP3s, the AudioPlayer popped-up a "Fatal Exception--Reset" dialog as I scrolled down the list of MP3s.

It was just a matter finding out which MP3 was causing the problem. So, I deleted all the new MP3s and loaded each new MP3 individually and tried playing it and finally found the one causing the problem. Now, to find what was different about this one (Lobo's Versa est in luctum sung by the Tallis Scholars) specifically.

[Update: Sep 19 2003 , A recent discussion on ClieSource SJ33 Forums disputes the claim that VBR encoded MP#s cannot be played. I will have to investigate this when I have more time. Nevertheless, AudioPlayer should be more a more robust player; it should be more forgiving; it should be able to play everything WinAmp can play. I just found the whole MP3 experience frustrating. Just having this discussion is evidence that there are some issues with the SJ33 Audioplayer.]

Using Winamp, I spent about 10 minutes looking at the ID-tag of the the dozen MP3s I had on the MS; the only difference was that the Lobo MP3 was encoded with a variable bit-rate (VBR) (all other differences being equal). So, it seems that AudioPlayer has a bug where VBR-encoded MP3s cause it to crash the Palm completely when using the List-view. It should gracefully refuse to play the file as it (unfortunately) does OGG-encoded files. [Update: AudioPlayer refuses to play any MP3s whose ID-tags have been modified by Winamp (!?!?!?). MP3s generated using dBpowerAMP have the correct tags and play fine. Also, mono MP3s are flagged as bad (I think! Or maybe it was the 176kbit sampling rate-- I really should look up the sampling-rate limitations) ].

It was now 2:00AM and time to put the Clié to bed.

Kinoma Player showing the Matrix Reloaded trailer
(obligatory kissing scene); the stylus and headphones.

Migrating Addressbook, Datebook and Memopad

[Mon Mar 10 15:05:21 2003]

The weekend offered an extended opportunity to use the SJ33. I copied the .dat and UIprefs files from the addressbook, datebook and memopad directories from my Handspring Desktop into my Clié Desktop (I created a different user for the SJ33) and configured the respective conduits for "Desktop Overwrites Handheld" and performed a Hotsync.

Any category that was not default on the Handheld was deleted leaving most of my DateBook, Memopad and Addressbook entries "Unfiled" [Update: read below for the trick that prevents this from happening.]

DateBk5-- Don't Leave Home Without It

[Tue Mar 11 18:43:11 2003]

I purchased a copy of DateBk5, the all-singing, all-dancing replacement for plain ol' DateBook yesterday. I still had 40 days remaining in my free-trial period but I loved its features so much I just ordered it-- I especially love the sheer configurability of DateBk5.

I joined the Clié Source Forums this morning after I read some useful advice on not losing the Categories when migrating to a new device; the trick is to manually create the Categories on the new Palm prior to Sync'ing the databases.

More Clié demonstrations at work today-- this time it was the departmental secretaries. Lots of giggles and screams when I showed them the Memory Stick.

I invigilated the Artificial Intelligence mid-term today and the MP3s kept me company during the two hours of pacing.

I downloaded X-Master (having deleted Hackmaster) and McPhling and will be installing both tonight.

The last remaining application, is CryptoPad and the migration from my Visor to my Clié will be complete.

All You Need is Love

[Wed Mar 12 19:27:08 2003]

A picture of my beloved;
(CRS-i JPEG viewer).
Today, I fell in love with my Clié (I actually said, "I love my Clié"; my colleagues gave me strange looks).

Colorize, developed by Christopher Antos, is a really neat application. It allows you to define different colour schemes for the Clié. The colour scheme applies to the Launcher, the menus and the buttons. It comes with lots of built-in colour-schemes, if you don't feel like defining your own.

Since the Clié does not come with a cradle, I configured the Todolist hardware button to run the Hotsync application. I connect the Clié to the cable, hit the Todo hardware button and then tap the icon to begin the hotsync. (Since I can access the Todolist via the DateBk5 split-screen, I am free to map the functionality of the Todo hardware button to another application. On my Visor, I had programmed the Todolist button to pop-up a clock.)

Hotsync Without a Cradle? It's Easy!

[Fri Mar 14 18:30:39 2003]

Yesterday, I read a message from PaulNB on the Clié Source Forums telling about EasyLaunch. It is a hack that allowed me to map the Todolist hardware button to perform a Hotsync without further interaction and to map a Graffiti stroke (Calculator-to-Find) to shutdown the Clié. [Update, Mar. 29, 2003: I have also mapped a Find-to-Calculator Graffiti stroke to run the AudioPlayer and the Back button to pop-up the Brightness slider (see "Graffiti Maneuvers In The Dark", below).]

Also read some tips on viewing JPEG image files on the Clié. I'll be trying out the various alternatives over the weekend.

[Sat Mar 15 13:22:53 2003]

Today, I transferred my CryptoPad memos from the Visor to the Clié using the following procedure: on the Clié I setup a global password. Then, on the Visor, I decrypted all the encrypted memos and beamed them over to the Clié. Then, I re-encrypted the memos on both PDAs.

Viewing JPEG Images Natively

After suggestions from readers on the Clié Source Forums, I have installed 2 freeware JPEG image-viewers (CRS-i and VFSi) and AcidImage (30-day trial shareware). [Update: Mar. 29, 2003: I have deleted AcidImage (needing to view JPGs occasionally, the program was not worth the price); but have not decided between CRS-i and VFSi though they seem remarkably similar in the lack of features: viewing thumbnails and zooming in/out.]

[Update: Apr. 6, 2003: The Clié comes bundled with PictureGear 4.6Lite (viewer/manager/converter for PC) and PhotoStand (viewer on Palm) but the images have to be converted into PDBs before they can be viewed. That's too much trouble, for me. Using CRS-i or VFSi, the JPEGs can be copied onto the MS and viewed with conversion.]

The Numbers Game

[Tue Mar 18 10:42:15 2003]

It takes 10 seconds to copy a 5 MB MP3 from the VAIO hard-disk to the MemoryStick plugged into the MS slot, giving a transfer rate of approximately 500KB/s (also reported using the MS Import utility via the USB cradle).

Night Light

[Wed Mar 19 23:12:38 2003]

As mentioned previously, the green LED on the SJ33 is rather annoying when using the Clié in the dark, requiring it to be covered by one's thumb or bed-sheet.

You will be pleased to know that 4 tiny squares of #811 Scotch tape (usually used on the Graffiti area to prevent scratching) stacked over the LED are enough to diffuse the blinding light into a pleasant glow and still leave it bright enough to be seen in daytime. [Update, Mar. 30, 2003: see picture below.]

Documents To Go

[Thu Mar 20 23:04:10 2003]

Just before heading off to work, this morning, I loaded "Sheets to Go" part of the DataViz suite of tools for viewing and editing Office and Excel documents on the Palm.

I keep a log of hard-disk failures throughout the year to be able to analyze trends. I used to just enter the data (date, drive size and manufacturer, reason for failure and replacement drive) into a Memopad memo. Yesterday, a colleague suggested that a spreadsheet may be a better tool for the job and since the Clié is bundled with the DataViz tools, I decided to install "Sheets to Go". Having played with it for all of 5 minutes I decided it would be better to input the current data into a spreadsheet on my laptop and then sync the spreadsheet to the Palm-- Graffiti is not conducive to large data-entry operations in a spreadsheet.

Ideally, a database program should be used for something like this.

[Sun Mar 23 11:16:21 2003]

The only problem I've had with the spreadsheet was that the date-field is getting converted into a date-and-time format during the conversion to Excel (I am creating the spreadsheet using StarOffice 5.2 and saving it as an Excel 97 sheet). I'm going to try to save it as a different Excel format (perhaps '95 or plain) and see if the conversion happens properly. Perhaps upgrading to StarOffice 6.x will fix this.


[Mon Mar 24 10:20:16 2003]

I loaded FontHack123 and Lubak's OS5 fonts are a absolutely GREAT replacement for the default Clié waifish-looking font. I have replaced the Launcher, DateBook5 and BibleReader's HrStandard font with Lubak's fonts. Until you see the replacement font, you don't realize how craptastic the default Sony font is.


[Wed Mar 26 00:30:33 2003]

Palmgear now requires registration/login before it permits downloads-- AARGH!.

SJ33 Graffiti Woes

[Wed Mar 26 23:23:34 2003]

A lot of users have noticed a high error-rate with Graffiti on the SJ33. It has been suggested that it helps to write "small" Graffiti symbols (contrary to what was suggested when using the Visor) because the Graffiti area was compressed to accommodate the compact size of the SJ33. This suggestion does seem to help but I'm used to writing "big", so it will take some time to adapt to writing "small".

Graffiti Maneuvers In The Dark

[Sat Mar 29 12:12:23 2003]

My Clié with Scotch#811 tape over Graffiti area;
3 dots on the tape area that overlaps the LCD and
diffuser patches of #811 tape over the LED.
The problem with using the SJ33 in the dark is difficulty in finding the various buttons and Grafitti areas. I accidently stumbled upon a low-tech solution to this problem.

When I placed the Scotch#811 tape on the Graffiti area, I noticed that about a millimeter of the tape extended onto the bottom of the LCD. I considered trimming the tape to fit the Graffiti area exactly but I found a use for the bit that sticks out-- using a fine-tipped marker, I placed 3 dots on the tape at the place where the "Home" button ends and the Alpha-Graffiti area begins; where the Alpha-Graffiti area ends and the Numeric-Graffiti area begins; and where the Numeric-Graffiti area ends and the Calculator button begins (see photo at right and also VU meter photo, above).

As these 3 dots are illuminated by the LCD, and I can locate the specific Graffiti areas with greater ease, in the dark. An illuminated Graffiti area (just the borders) or a virtual Graffiti area would solve this problem. [Update, Apr. 29, 2003: See below for a high-tech version of this hack.]

Viewer Mail

[Sat Mar 29 23:23:42 2003]

I have received several complimentary emails from fellow SJ33 owners and one soon-to-be SJ33 owner. Thank you for your kind words and comments.

MP3 Playlist

[Sun Mar 30 01:06:07 2003]

Audio Player Nits

[Tue Apr 01 23:22:09 2003]

A few items that could stand improving with the AudioPlayer (is anyone from Sony reading this?):

  1. Support for Ogg Vorbis codec.
  2. Files that cannot be played (bad sampling rate, corrupted, copyrighted, etc.) should not appear in the playlist. I only want to see files that can be played.
  3. The "Shuffle" algorithim should check if the song it selects next is the same as the one it just played. I should not have to listen to the same song twice in a row.
  4. Need a way to tell the Audio player to refresh the list of songs (clicking on the image of the MS along the top (see photo, above), sounds intuitive). For example, if I delete a song via MSGate and switch back to the AudioPlayer, the song still appears in the playlist. I have to eject and insert the MS for the list to refresh.
  5. A skins editor: I would like to try my hand at developing a skin. The default skin is so very bland and of all the additional skins (from the Add-Ons CD) I found the "Red-on-Black" to be the most pleasing.

AJVMP3, Aquarium and Daylight Saving Time

[Thu Apr 03 13:37:42 2003]

AJVMP3 is an (alpha-quality) alternate MP3 player for the N series of Cliés-- it didn't blow-up my SJ33 despite the ominous warning on the page. Since AJVMP3 assumes a 320x480 (QVGA) screen, the bottom third of the screen is cut-off on the SJ33 (320x320). The authors claim that it plays VBR MP3s-- the SJ33 reset when I loaded the same VBR MP3 that crashed the Audioplayer. One nice feature of AJVMP3 is that it groups related tracks together; e.g. the 3 movements of the "Emperor" concerto will be grouped together and the tracks will play in the correct sequence.

Aquarium is lovely eye-candy that shows-off the SJ33 and DSTHack is a Hack that automatically switches to/from Daylight Saving Time (next Sunday).

Battery Usage

Battery usage Mar.4 - Apr.4 sampled once per day.
Graphed by Runtime; captured with HRCaptDA
[Fri Apr 04 22:37:29 2003]

During this past month, my daily usage of the Clié would typically be as follows:

When I get home, my battery meter reads anywhere from 65% to 77% and I usually charge it back up to 100% (~4.1V) before I go to bed. Looking at the graph, it looks like I didn't charge up to 100% for a few days.

DST Hack

[Mon Apr 07 18:01:18 2003]

Woke-up Sunday morning and checked the time on my Palm and it was correct. DSTHack did its thing.

I posted an excerpt about battery life to ClieSource Forums and found out from a follow-up that there was a newer version (mine was 2 years old) of Runtime which I downloaded and will be trying in the next few days.

F=m*a (Newton's Second Law of Motion)

Better safe than sorry: I slip my palm through the
SJ33 strap (with a knot tied for added safety)
everytime I pick up my Clié.
[Thu Apr 10 00:10:47 2003]

I decided to showcase my (preemptive) solution after reading a story on the ClieSource Forums about a member dropping his Clié onto concrete (it survived).

Whenever I pick-up my Clié and use it, I loop my fingers through the wrist-strap (standard SJ33 accessory); the knot in the strap is for added security. Since the strap stretches a bit, it is possible for me to wiggle my hand completely through the loop so that I can let go of the Clié and have it dangle on my wrist.

Reading E-books

[Fri Apr 11 14:16:48 2003]

Distributed Proofreaders is a collaborative project in support of Project Gutenberg that uses the distributed nature of the Internet to allow many people to separately proofread individual scanned pages of a book and speed-up the digitizing of books.

Having taken advantage of several Project Gutenberg books (I started when I got my Visor, two years ago: Mozart: The Man and the Artist, as Revealed in His Own Words, Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire, Vol.1, Sun-Tzu's The Art of War, The: Mysterious Affair at Styles, Poirot's First Case, etc.; I wrote gut to convert text files to HTML and then used Plucker to read them) I feel somewhat indebted to Project Gutenberg and so contribute to the Distributed Proofreaders project.

I took the opportunity of the DP member-forums to ask how people read E-books; the results (and discussion) are interesting:

Results of a "Distributed Proofreaders" Poll.


[Fri Apr 11 19:56:37 2003]

Today, a colleague needed to print out an A4 sized document. A4 paper is widely available in Europe but only a few stores have it (and this only recently) in North America where paper is sized "Letter", "Legal", "Tabloid", etc.

The interesting thing about A4 paper is that it is ISO metric. A1 paper has an area of 1 square meter with a height-to-width ratio of square-root of two; A2 paper is A1 paper cut in half; A3 paper is an A2 sheet, cut in half and an A4 sheet is an A3 sheet cut in half. This is a brilliant concept.

Now, what does all this have to do with calculators? Well, he wanted to know what 210mm x 297mm (the dimensions of an A4 sheet) was in inches because North American paper is measured in inches. The default calculator for the Clié is wholly inadequate for such conversions. My Visor Deluxe had a really nice engineering calculator that included various modes for conversions-- alas it only runs on the Visor.

Today I saw an announcement for a HP48 calculator emulator. I have just downloaded it and will be trying it over the weekend. I have an HP15C and a HP48 both engineering calculators and am quite comfortable using Reverse Polish Notation so I look forward to having one builtin to my Clié.

MP3 Playlist

[Sun Apr 13 11:28:26 2003]

There a two reasons for posting my playlists,
  1. I'm trying to get you to listen to music you wouldn't normally encounter. How many people do you know who appreciate the musical intricacies of, and are comfortable listening to, Steve Miller, Herp Albert and Palestrina? Hmmmm...? Two different women I know, never having met each other to compare notes, said the same thing about me: that I have an excellent taste in books and music. What you see is a product of musical training that began with violin lessons at age 5.

  2. I'm also trying to show that I'm not totally a gadget-freak-- my love for computers is plainly evident, while my love for the human aspect may not be.

Just wanted to say "Hello" to an anonymous fan of my Journal, connecting from the University of California at Irvine (please forgive my vanity which compels me to go through the web-server logs to gauge reader interest).

Power48 Calculator

[Mon Apr 14 09:27:26 2003]

Power48 is 3 HP calculators in one. It is a free, superb and very faithful emulation of the HP48SX, 48GX and 49G calculators. After briefly trying it out, all that remains is for me to decide which of the 3 calculators I prefer. [Update, Apr. 17, 2003: I have decided on the HP48SX]. The emulation is somewhat laggy (but bearable) on the 66MHz SJ33. It definitely helps to have a HiRes+ (320x480) screen because the developers had to compromise the layout and size of the calculator LCD and soft-buttons to make it fit on a HiRes (320x320) screen.

Even more AudioPlayer Nits

[Thu Apr 17 00:57:17 2003]

It's just before 1:00 in the morning and before going to bed, I thought I'd mention a few more things that bother me about the AudioPlayer:

Why Sony?

Why do I buy Sony products? 2 reasons:

  1. Aesthetics: Sony stuff looks cool (we'll conveniently ignore that monstrous silver JogDial below the TouchPad, on my Vaio laptop);
  2. Engineering: Sony engineering is neat (I absolutely refuse to tolerate Third-World craptacular technology).

Timeline of PalmOS Devices

[Thu Apr 17 23:27:16 2003]

A member of ClieSource Forums created a timeline of PalmOS devices (it has a few inaccuracies and is incomplete; e.g. it's missing the Qualcomm PQA, but it's a good start).

Yet Even More AudioPlayer Nits

[Fri Apr 18 21:43:13 2003]

Tiresome and annoying AudioPlayer dialog.
On Thursday, I ripped Simon Preston's recording of J.S. Bach's Orgelbüchlein (Deutsche Grammaphone, 1988) using dbPowerAMP and loaded it onto my memory stick. For some very obscure and vague reasons, some tracks refuse to play and cause the dialog on the right to pop-up.

What I don't understand is why some tracks play and other tracks don't play when all the tracks were ripped in the same session, using the same settings and the same ripper. Winamp, on the other hand, plays all the tracks.

I noticed that dBPowerAMP doesn't fill-in the contents of the ID3v1 fields (title, artist, name, genre, etc) and AudioPlayer doesn't read ID3v2 tags. So, using Winamp, I have to copy (by selecting the track and pressing 1 button) the contents of the ID3v2 tracks into the ID3v1 fields so the AudioPlayer recognizes the tracks (because otherwise they show-up as having no title) [Update, Apr. Jun 15, 2003: More information below].

It is also annoying that this dialog has to be manually dismissed rather than automatically disappearing after 5 seconds (especially if the SJ33 is in hold-mode) and letting the AudioPlayer continue with the next track. Imagine me walking home on a very cold and windy night and reaching into my pocket about 6 times to dismiss this dialog everytime a bad track was sequenced.

I was wearing a Columbia Keene Valley Jacket which has an zippered inner pocket designed for a portable audio device and a loop just above the right breast to manage the headphone wire/volume-control.

AudioPlayer JogDial Tricks

[Sat Apr 19 11:29:10 2003]

After all the negative posts about the AudioPlayer, something positive. I discovered this really cool feature last night while playing with the JogDial (an overlooked feature on the SJ33). The JogDial is a clickable wheel on the top-left edge of the SJ33. For those applications that support it, it allows one-handed operation and navigation eschewing the need for the stylus.

Holding and releasing the JogDial cycles through the 3 views: playlist, VU meter and details. Scrolling the JogDial in the playlist allows you to select a song and pressing the JogDial allows you to play it. Scrolling the JogDial in the VU meter screen allows you to increase/decrease the volume. This is cool for 2 reasons: 1) I don't have to pull-out the stylus to make changes and 2) I can interact with the AudioPlayer while keeping the flip-cover closed. It should also be noted that I have mapped the "Back" button (below the JogDial) to pop-up McPhiling which supports the JogDial and I can switch apps without opening the flip-cover.

MP3 Playlist

[Sat Apr 19 11:57:16 2003]


[Thu Apr 24 23:11:39 2003]

DeepReader is a Palm DOC-format ebook reader. What distinguishes this particular reader from the one that I have been using, namely Plucker, is the exquisite looking (anti-aliased) fonts that make reading text on the Clié such a great pleasure.

Opening chapter of Robinson Crusoe
viewed with Plucker.
Opening chapter of Robinson Crusoe
viewed with DeepReader.

I found out about DeepReader from a discussion about ebooks on the ClieSource Forums. After downloading and installing it I decided to use Project Gutenberg's version of Robinson Crusoe by Daniel Defoe as my testbed for comparing the two readers. I already had Crusoe "plucked", so all I had to do to test DeepReader, was to take the Gutenberg Etext and convert it to a PDB file.

Medium serif font in DeepReader.
Having loaded DeepReader onto my Clié the night before, I got to work the next day and started looking for a converter to convert a text file into a PDB DOC file. A Google search for "convert text to pdb" proved fruitless (it tried to correct "pdb" to "pdf")-- I'm sure there are converters out there but Google does not know about them. Then, I remembered that I had installed a text-to-pdb converter (txt2pdbdoc) on our Solaris system, so I used that.

Now, I needed a way to load the document onto my Clié, but my HotSync cable was at home, connected to my Vaio. So, I emailed the Crusoe PDB to a colleague who has a Visor Platinum and a HotSync cradle connected to his GNU/Linux workstation (an 800 MHz PIII IBM Intellistation; he uses JPilot as his desktop and the pilot-xfer utilities). I then beamed my copy of DeepReader to him, he HotSync'd the PDB and then he beamed the PDB to my Clié.

It should be noted that DeepReader is shareware (it becomes nagware after 25 uses unless you pay $US12) while Plucker is free and is a full HTML reader. DeepReader is text-only with some built-in heuristics-- it renders text marked-up with asteriskses as bold, and mark-up with underscores as italics; it would also help if it bolded or enlarged chapter beginnings. Deepreader is bundled with 2 fonts at 3 different sizes each; the displayed font in the comparison photos is the "small" serif font.

[Update, Apr. 26, 2003: DeepReader overrides the "Back" button, which prevents me from popping-up the McPhling menu. This becomes irriating when I want to operate the Clié without flipping open the cover (e.g. switch to AudioPlayer to fiddle with the playlist) if the last application used was DeepReader.]

MP3 Playlist

[Sat Apr 26 21:11:16 2003]

The fugue of the 4th Brandenburg (BWV 1049) is my absolute favourite. It begins with the violas, then the 2nd violins enter, followed by the 1st violins, and the basso continuo and finally, at long last, the solo instrument. Sublime.

I have found that a lot of Pop music does not bear repeated listening and you can tell that from the pieces that consistently remain on the Memorystick. I'm surprised that Kansas is still there. It also surprises me that BWV 605 is all that remains of the Orgelbüchlein.

Graffiti Maneuvers in the Dark Redux

[Tue Apr 29 23:47:05 2003]

John Holcomb emailed me news of a high-tech version of my low-tech three-dots-on-the-tape hack. It's called Graffiti Here Hack. I will be trying this (and also another JPEG viewer) sometime later this week and as always, recording my experiences.

Graffiti Night Vision

[Tue Apr 29 23:47:05 2003]

From a posting on the ClieSource Forums, the Lumitector is the ultimate in high-tech for illuminating the Graffiti area in the dark. [Update, Apr. 30, 2003: Unfortunately, it seems there are issues with this company not shipping products that were ordered and a few people requesting refunds from the credit-card company. Caveat emptor. Sigh.]

Graffiti Here Hack

[Sat May 03 00:46:54 2003]

As mentioned earlier, Graffiti Here Hack displays 3 pixels to demarcate the Graffiti area in the dark. It works as advertized-- no complaints so far. One can even customize the locations of the 3 dots based on pixel coordinates. Very well thought out.


News of the Graffiti Here Hack was particularly timely because a couple of weeks ago, out of sheer frustration with the poor Graffiti recognition, I had removed the Scotch #811 tape from the Graffiti area in the hopes of improving recognition. I even went so far as to try a program called Newpen, that converts the entire screen into a Graffiti area. I didn't try it for very long for fear of scratching the screen. I would never use Newpen as a substitute for Graffiti without first cleaning the screen completely (certainly inconvenient for daily use) or without a screen protector (the prefered medium). As a rule, I never drag my stylus across the screen for fear of scratching it. My old Visor (which I have given to my brother and which he uses to read Project Gutenberg books-- a couple by Marcus Aurelius and one by Seneca) screen is in pristine condition after 2 years of use because of my strict adherence to the no-dragging rule.

This week was a very busy week for me as the Electrical Engineering Department hosted the annual Open House and the preparations occupied most of my time. So, there weren't as many entries as I would have hoped for but by some bizzare coincidence, all the entries were Graffiti related.

On the Go

[Thu May 08 08:46:16 2003]

Music on the go: SJ33 in my jacket.
As noted earlier, my Columbia Keene Valley Jacket has an zippered inner pocket, designed for a portable audio device, with a slit for the headphone wire, and a loop just above the right breast to manage the headphone wire/volume-control. I carry the SJ33 in the original yellow baggie to prevent scratches.

On the Floor!!!!!

After I took the jacket photo, I picked up my jacket without zippering the pocket (i just slid the Clié back in) and as I went to put on the jacket the Clié fell out and landed on the floor!!!!!!! The MemoryStick popped out!!!!!

The amazing thing is that it has not a scratch or a dent and it works perfectly!!!!! Whew!

JPGview: A Better JPEG Viewer

[Sun May 11 10:42:09 2003]

JPGview (nagware) is by far the best native JPEG image viewer for the Palm. The image directory listing supports thumbnails, there is a slideshow feature and various levels of zoom available. This is my recommended image viewer.

Tracking DVDs

[Mon May 12 15:08:36 2003]

I now track DVD prices (my wishlist) for 3 different stores using a Documents To Go spreadsheet. I tried using Handy Shopper but i found the interface unintuitive and unduly complex when setting up a database with multiple stores per item (i.e. the availability of the same item in different stores at different prices). There are people who are Handy Shopper fanatics (there is even a Yahoo Forum dedicated to this software), but I am not one of them. The spreadsheet is very convenient because the prices are listed side-by-side, making comparisons very easy.

A Rule of Thumb

[Fri May 16 16:42:38 2003]

A good rule-of-thumb I have is for determining how long a selection of MP3s will play for, based on the total size they occupy on the MS, is that each MP3 encoded at 128kbits at 44.1kHz is roughly 1MB/minute. So 88MB of MP3s will play for roughly 88 (let's say 90) minutes; the entire 128MB MemoryStick will hold approximately 120 minutes of music encoded at the aforementioned bit-rate and frequency.

Play Time

[Thu May 22 21:03:38 2003]

I've played MP3s for a total of 8 hours over 2 days (without re-charging the SJ33) and the battery was at 30% at the end of the 2nd day. It is the lowest I've had the battery drop to, since I re-charge the SJ33 to 100%, nightly.

8 hours of play-time over 2 days was as follows:

Day 1: 2hrs play + 8 hrs break + 2 hrs play (unit was in "Hold" during playback)

Day 2: Repeat

MP3 Playlist

[Sun May 25 12:38:53 2003]

Discoveries: Gizmodo

[Wed May 28 01:20:05 2003]

The greatest obstacle to discovery is not ignorance—
it is the illusion of knowledge.

—Daniel J. Boorstin

Gizmodo, a wonderful compendium of the latest gadgets. This temple of technology merits frequent pilgrimages from the faithful.


[Wed Jun 04 09:11:04 2003]

Today it was announced that Palm is merging with Handspring. Palm is keeping Handspring alive with $10M cash.

Audioplayer/dbPowerAMP/ID3v1 Tag Discovery

[Sun Jun 15 11:18:43 2003]

The problem I've been having with corrupt tracks, as reported unplayable by Audioplayer, is an ID3v1 v.s. ID3v2 tags issue. The ID tags are structures embedded inside an MP3 that contain information like the title, the composer, the duration, the year, the genre, the track number, etc. ID3v1 tags have smaller space compared to ID3v2 tags which also include space for the composer, a comment, etc.

I recently ripped Handel's Messiah and instead of letting dbPowerAMP retrieve track name and information via FreeDB, I manually filled-in the fields and let the track names read "Track1" "Track2", etc.

All the tracks loaded and played perfectly. So the key, is to make sure that the text in the fields does not exceed a certain size, which forces dbPowerAMP to switch to ID3v2 tags (which Audioplayer CANNOT handle).

Re-encoding Oggs

Most of my music collection is encoded using the Ogg Vorbis codec (which is superior to the MP3 codec for the same bitrates). This required me to encode any Ogg tracks again, from the CD to MP3, before being able to play the track on the Clié. Being lazy, I decided to re-encode an Ogg to MP3 and see what it sounds like. I was suprised how good the track sounded. The Oggs, encoded at 143Kbits (VBR) at 44.1KHz are re-encoded to 128Kbit, 44.1KHz MP3 with imperceptible loss of quality.

PEG-UX50 (image from the
Clie Club, Japan).

PEG-UX50 Clié Announced

[Thu Jul 17 15:44:33 2003]

The latest and greatest and coolest Clié to date: the PEG-UX50. More pictures at the Clié User Club.

I have the greatest expectations for this device. My hope at this time is that it is light enough and small enough to fit into a shirt pocket as that is where i carry my SJ33. Also, decent battery life (similar to that of the SJ33) is important.

If one of these was available here in Canada and it met the requirements, I would consider buying it.

[Update, Jul. 18, 2003: Sonystyle USA is taking pre-orders of the UX-40 (without WiFi) and UX-50.]

[Update, Jul. 21, 2003: Sonystyle Canada is now taking pre-orders of the UX-50 priced at CND$1,200.]

[Update, Jul. 20, 2003:] Alright, the hype has died down now. So, would I still buy one today? Unfortunately, no. My reasons are as follows:

I must say I am quite impressed with the ARM-based Sony chip called the HandHeld Engine used on the UX. Very impressive battery life because of the variable CPU speed (as low as 8MHz all the way up to 123MHz)!

Using polyphonic MIDI ring tones as alarms

[Sun Jul 20 11:15:57 2003]

An adventurous fellow on the Cliesource Forums discovered that MIDI ringtones can be used as alarms (DateBk, etc.) on the Cliés. The only caveat is that the SJ33 supports Format 0 MIDI files, so all other format MIDI files must be converted to Format 0 before being converted into an alarm.

Here are the steps:

  1. Download a MIDI sound file you like (e.g. SonyEricsson)
  2. Download and install the MIDIConverter Utility (don't forget the DLL)
  3. Convert the MIDI file to Format 0
  4. Run the SoundConverter (install it from your Clié CD if you haven't done so) and convert the MIDI to an alarm
  5. Sync

Tanker Bob's Software Collection

[Fri Jul 25 00:20:21 2003]

Tanker Bob (a regular on the Forums) has a nicely annotated collection of useful software (commercial, free and shareware) on his personal page.

DateBk5 Updated

There is an updated version of DateBk5 which now supports Hires icons and a year-view with actual numbers, among other updates.

Crash hack

[Fri Jul 25 10:11:06 2003]

I just realized that I've never mentioned Crash hack, an extremely useful hack which automatically resets your Palm after a Fatal Exception. No more reaching for the stylus reset-pin (especially in the dark). I have used this hack since my Visor days with Edvard Munch's "The Scream" as my crash image. That image has since been replaced by a colour nuclear mushroom cloud on my Clié.

Hires Icons

[Mon Jul 28 23:31:18 2003]

...the essence of revelation is dealt with via simple formulae
and sumptuous icons. Everyone has a right to salvation.

—Umberto Eco

After installing the DateBk5 upgrade I went on a quest for a set of free Hires Icons-- I found a set by Simon Jamie, on PalmGrrr unfortunately. Since I did not agree with PalmGrrr's recent change in privacy policy, I was unable to download the icons since I did not register.

I emailed Jamie a brief note suggesting that he may wish to choose another distributor for his library of icons and he kindly attached his icon library to his email reply.

Price-drop for UX-50 in Canada

[Fri Aug 08 12:13:26 2003]

The UX-50 is now $200 cheaper in Canada; it will cost $999.99 to own one.

TJ-35 Released

[Thu Oct 02 19:58:02 2003]

Sony releases a new hand-held PDA, TJ-35. Its remarkable features are a 200MHz XScale CPU and an aluminum body. It also supports Decuma; the natural writing system alternative to Graffiti.

No Charge

[Wed Oct 15 08:16:21 2003]

When I plug my SJ33 into the sync/charge connector, the orange light does not come on. When I switch the SJ33 on, the green light (normal) comes on and when I switch it off, the orange (charging) light comes on and only then does it begins to charge.

I noticed that on the weekend, when I went to play MP3s, a few minutes after I started playing, the music stopped. I turned it on (from Hold) and the battery-low dialog had popped-up! It had been in the charger all night, but now I realize that, of course, it never charged while in the charger!

I didn't notice this until the past week when I turned on my Clie one day and a DateBk5 alarm that should have gone off the previous day went off and I noticed that it had lost a day!


[Sun Nov 09 10:37:34 2003]

A helpful Cliesource member known as "Aces", suggested a warm-reset (hold down the Page-Up key, press the reset button and then let-go of the Page-Up key) as a fix for my charging problem. It worked!

A few other people reported this same problem on the discussion forum and it seems that the Clié does not begin re-charging the battery until is below some set value; e.g. if the battery level is above 80% it won't charge it up to 100%. So what I have begun doing it charging it every other day and I have had no problems whatsoever. There is no explanation for the lost day, however.

TH55 Datebook interface.

TH55 Released in Japan

[Sun Feb 08 01:34:58 2004]

The TH55's most innovative feature is the re-designed Datebook, written to mimic a real datebook with PostIts and scraps of paper and photos slipped between the page. It remains to be seen whether copying a chaotic metaphor is such a great idea.

I have been reading the stories about the design of the Apple MacIntosh computer on Folklore.org, a wonderful site created by Andy Hertzfeld and I came across a paper about the design considerations for a computer Mac, written by Jef Raskin, the father, if not the grandfather of the Mac.


luis fernandes, elf@ee.ryerson.ca