Most of us in the IT business like gadgets and I'm no exception. For years I've been looking for that perfect gadget that would combine a diary, address book, memo pad and a few other useful applications in a handy, pocket-sized thingummy.
Over the years I've tried several organisers. None of them have made it past the first test -- to survive long enough to reach the first change of batteries. They were clumsy. Synchronising the data they stored with that on the desktop PC was also clumsy.
After a few weeks experimentation, they ended up in the bottom drawer of the desk.
Some were presents. Others were hand-me-downs from friends who had, "upgraded to a more powerful organiser".
Then about a year or so back along came the latest generation of organisers. More user-friendly and very easy to synchronise with the desktop PC, I eagerly accepted one for a long-distance test. It didn't last the distance. It just stopped working.
Luckily I kept backup copies of the diary and address book files so I didn't loose part of my life.
A replacement model -- the latest -- arrived. To the continuing annoyance of my wife, I would whip out the gadget with a flourish whenever asked what I was doing next Wednesday, or for the phone number of a friend.
The trick to all these gadgets is that they are supposed to make life less complicated. They don't. They make it more complicated.
When another company asked if I'd like to test its latest handheld gadget, I quickly agreed. This was slightly bulkier than the one I was already testing but it had a colour screen.
The problem with it was that the software was overly complicated. I reckon that with all these gadgets, you should not need more than 20 minutes to get the whole system up and running. The colour gadget took most of one Saturday morning. I soon agreed to send the whole shooting match back.
Then disaster struck the other test model. I had installed it in the cradle attached to the desktop to synchronise data between the two. With no hint of warning, my PC said the synchronisation program had performed an illegal operation and would be closed.
What dastardly deed had it done to warrant this action? Well I was blowed if I knew.
No problem. I uninstalled and then reloaded the desktop program. I got the same result -- an illegal operation on trying to synchronise the gadget and the desktop. I knew how to fix this.
I would install the desktop program on the PC at home. I figured that as long as one PC had the backup copies of what was in the portable gadget, it didn't matter where it was -- home or office. The home PC refuses to talk to the gadget. I've tried everything -- switching COM ports around, uninstalling, re-installing -- I've got better things to do. So I'm now at the stage where if I want to keep the system going then I have to enter data twice -- in the gadget and the PC to keep the two synchronised.
Enough is enough. Life is already too complicated. I'm going back to a little pocket diary and a black book. That is, until the next super-duper gadget comes past for a road test.
John Costello, editor