Mission Critical Tools Require External Storage: A Polemic

Treo 755w - memory polemic I had just ended a telephone call on my Palm Treo 755p. I had been on a Bluetooth earpiece because I was driving. I looked at the Treo and the standard buttons that appear during a call were still visible (hang up, headset, etc.). The call was over. The call had been over for two to three minutes and still the Treo acted as though it were still going on. Obviously, it had crashed. I handed the phone to my passenger and explained how to remove the battery, then reinsert it. When the battery was reinserted I got the dreaded "English or Spanish" screen, obviously indicating that a hard reset had taken place.

Let's forget about the fact that a handset shouldn't do stupid tricks like this, because all handsets incessantly do stupid tricks like this, and we users say, "Thank you very much, please kick me again, because I love my shiny object anyway." My son has a Blackberry which he has reported resetting on occasion. I know iPhones can do it. The manufacturers tell us "well, that's the price of the technology." I don't know when the 'price of technology' became tolerating mediocrity or at least institutionalizing it, but what became glaringly obvious to me was that every one of these manufacturers who do not provide for external storage are sending us the message: "Don't run these things in mission critical environments because we cannot guaranty they will always function."

And so let it be said at last: this is totally unacceptable.

I am a lawyer. My Treo has my clients, my opponents, my judges, my vendors, my prospective clients, my colleagues, my case information, my tasklist, several Shadow and other format documents critical to the performance of my profession. I cannot be in a courtroom at a scheduling conference and explain to a Judge that I can't discuss scheduling a trial because my phone has as it does occasionally merely when I try to access Agendus Professional to get to my calendar. I cannot be jotting down a prospective client's information when my Treo locks up. I cannot be unable to get a phone call that a jury is in because my Treo is in a reset loop and Safeguard hasn't picked it up yet. And I cannot worry that some fickle lousy coding is going to trash every bit of information on my Treo because it's Tuesday.

generic SD card large

So I backup. Religiously. Yes, I even say a blessing. Okay, maybe that's overkill, but I do backup. I backup to one SDHC card daily after synchronizing with the desktop. I synchronize with the desktop twice each day, once in the morning, once at the end of the day. I also backup to a different SDHC card every night at 2 a.m. (using BackupMan) and 3 a.m. (using NVBackup). So I am never more than a few hours away from the ability to completely restore my Treo.

And that's what I did when my Treo hard reset this morning, but that's still not good enough.

webos classic hotsyncAnd now Palm and Apple and others offer us handsets with no external backup. What are we supposed to trust in, the cloud? And when this happens out of cellular service range? What do I do then?

I'm sorry, but if I were a surgeon these would be my scalpel and my bovie, and my other mission critical tools to keep patients alive on the operating room table. If you cannot give me bulletproof performance, then I don't need you, and I won't pay for you.

If Palm, Apple, or, for that matter, any handset manufacturer wants to be serious about providing mission critical, reliable hardware, it needs to realize that: (1) external storage is essential; and (2) it's not okay to be mediocre.

My Treo is about 6 months old; my contract is up; I have a spare Treo in a drawer. Some time next month Verizon is going to offer a new Pre. No external storage? Thanks anyway, I need something I can rely upon. I don't want my surgeon using blunt scalpels, and I am sure my clients expect me to use reliable hardware.

Nothing less is acceptable.

We are in the very early stage of these handsets, really. Today's tools are way beyond what was out even 5 years ago. These things we have available to us now are stone tools compared to what will be out there in 10 years.

Manufacturers - pay attention, or you will all be selling horseshoes. And for goodness' sake, put an SDHC slot in your horseshoe.

This guest post was written by Harold Goldner. Harold has been using PDA's since the late '80's. His first Palm was a Palm III in 1998. He is an employment lawyer who practices in Suburban Philadelphia and he blogs about employment law matters at humanracehorses.com and can be followed on Twitter as @HumanRacehorses.

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LiveFaith @ 12/7/2009 5:29:25 PM # Q
Ditto. All we have to do is just say "no" to anything without expansion slots. One more reason why the WebOS devices are falling off my radar screen for my next gen device.
Unfortunately, pop culture rules the "fat middle", so don't get your hopes up for "expansion" in the future.
Pat Horne
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time to let go of the past

Gekko @ 12/7/2009 5:29:54 PM # Q

out of cellular service range? come on. it's almost 2010.

you're worrying about a perfect storm of events that are no more likely to happen than is simultaneously losing your phone and backup files.

when you're data is synced with the cloud you never have to worry about backups or losing your device - you can access the data from any phone or PC in the world via WIFI or cellular and your data is always immediately and automatically backed up.

it's time for you to let go of the past and the old ways of thinking. dinosaurs are extinct for a reason.

RE: time to let go of the past
Gekko @ 12/7/2009 5:31:29 PM # Q

sorry for the typos - long day and no edit feature!

RE: time to let go of the past
abosco @ 12/7/2009 7:45:13 PM # M Q
Point taken, but consider this. Most offices are still running XP and Office 2003. Sure the newer versions offer enhanced graphics and new features, but they've got the old hardware and software finally running well. They're not about to scrap it and do an upgrade if it's not absolutely necessary.

Personally, my data isn't so critical that I can't be without it for an hour. On the plus side, in the 2.5 years of owning this phone, I have never experienced a hard reset. At least the new products are GETTING more stable, even if they're not 100% there.

RE: time to let go of the past
DarthRepublican @ 12/7/2009 7:45:59 PM # Q
Gekko wrote:

out of cellular service range? come on. it's almost 2010.

And yet there are still primitive countries like Zambia and Kansas without 3G service.....

when you're data is synced with the cloud you never have to worry about backups or losing your device - you can access the data from any phone or PC in the world via WIFI or cellular and your data is always immediately and automatically backed up.

So confident. Why I'll bet you don't even have a stash of shotguns and ammunition in your basement in the event of a zombie invasion....

In theory you are correct about cloud computing but in practice it is not yet robust enough to totally replace local backups and in fact it may never be. While there is no immediate concern that Google or Yahoo will go out of business, you never know which direction either company will take in the future and whether or not they will abuse the trust you place in them by keeping your data on their servers.

A good example is the recent case of EtherPad, the cloud based collaborative tool which was initially shut down when it was purchased by Google. While service was eventually restored when its users protested, a less progressive company than Google might not have listened to user complaints and users would have lost a great deal of data. http://mashable.com/2009/12/05/etherpad-user-victory/

And Google is not always so responsive. The Google cloud is littered with services which have been allowed to wither and die or exist in a vegetative state -- Google Notebook, Google Groups, Jaiku -- all are Google properties which have been largely neglected by their corporate parent.

While the free market can protect us to a certain extent by giving us choices, the rise of real or defacto monopolies can blunt the market's effect and make it a far less effective security blanket. Such a state of affairs invites government intervention and we all know what that does to efficiency....

I'm exaggerating a bit for effect. I love Google to death but to pretend that any company has the cloud figured out can be dangerous to your data.

it's time for you to let go of the past and the old ways of thinking. dinosaurs are extinct for a reason.

Yes because they failed to plan for the perfect storm of disasters which would drive them to extinction.

Palm Apologist
Shouting down the PIC Faithful Since 2009
Screw convergence
Palm III->Visor Deluxe->Visor Platinum->Visor Prism->Tungsten E->Palm LifeDrive->Palm TX->Palm Pre
Visor Pro+VisorPhone->Treo 180g->Treo 270->Treo 600->Treo 680->T-Mobile G1->Palm Pre

RE: time to let go of the past
abosco @ 12/7/2009 7:47:16 PM # M Q
By the way, good editorial.
RE: time to let go of the past
Gekko @ 12/7/2009 8:23:18 PM # Q

a copy of my data on my device and a synced copy on the Cloud is good enough for me. i have enough redundancy of data there to protect me in the event of failure. would i like an SD card too? it would be a nice to have but not critical. if my device fails and i lose my data, i simply reboot and sync to the Cloud wirelessly. if the Cloud server fails i simply resync my device to another Cloud option.

1. PIM Data - 1 copy on device and 1 copy on Cloud (Gmail) synced automagically via EAS.
2. Word/Excel/Misc Files - 1 copy on PC and 1 copy on Cloud Storage (ISP or DriveHQ) synced/accessed via Filezilla FTP and accessed via Wifile FTP from smartphone.

lose your device? break your device? no worries - your data is safe on the Cloud and accessible from any device anywhere in the world. security? no worries - just change your FTP password. no files on the device to worry about.

it's almost 2010. hotsyncing and cables is so 1996!!!!!!!!!!!

RE: time to let go of the past
Gekko @ 12/7/2009 8:38:33 PM # Q

p.s. i do not like palm's implementation of the cloud - ie synergy. i don't like my data trapped in locked proprietary silos. give me true open standard flexible sync like true EAS.

RE: time to let go of the past
technical1 @ 12/10/2009 5:32:48 AM # Q
gekko, you are kidding about 2010, right? Have you seen the Verizon commercial w/guys sitting in front of the tube watching a football game, & the cell network map is overlayed on top of the screen. Even mighty Verizon Wireless has many spots throughout the nation that have no coverage.

As others have also said, what about when you are in an area that prevents reception, like when a techie goes into a server room?, or an elevator? or the subway?

My wonderful Centro, which I will keep using, ignoring the Pre, b/c it has an SDHC slot will not work as well as a phone when I am working at my desktop; & w/the Pre, if you have no signal, you don't have your data.

Lack of backup of 3d party apps & data is just an inexcusable omission on Palm's part. The Sidekick problems should teach us all a lesson.

When my contract is up, I'll likely get another Centro, just to be sure I have the same features & capabilities; it is an overall great device & the storage slot is just one of the features that makes it so - just that internal storage is a deal breaker for me & many others. Crash, no biggie! I have NVBackup & Resco Backup, which provide w/discrete & diff capabilities for backup strategies & internal redundancy just in case the backup software, or backup sets become corrupted....
Using Centro, Apt, Accessorizer, Initiate, Butler, Datebk6, Bonsai, DayNotez, MemoLeaf, Resco Backup+Explorer+Viewer, SplashID+Money, TAKEphONE, Palmary Clock, & more & loving

RE: time to let go of the past
Gekko @ 12/10/2009 6:05:11 AM # Q

you always have a copy on your device. and don't forget about WIFI.

now stop being silly. welcome to 2010.

RE: time to let go of the past
technical1 @ 12/14/2009 7:10:36 AM # Q

We were talking about what happens when your device goes south... so the copy on your device is not worth squat. As to wifi, that is very nice, but not nearly all devices have it, esp. those fm isp's that want to sell you their internet connectivity option - they makes tons of $$$$ fm internet plans, so not having wifi is not unexpected.

I have the Centro, so there is no wifi on my device. Posted today on PIC was the news that wifi was just approved by FCC for one of the latest devices...

Also, wifi is not as available as you'd like. I made a service call to a client who had wifi problems in a hotel that was supposed to provide wifi. He paid for the service, but guess what? It turned out to be a weak signal problem. Moving rooms did not help. So wifi is just as much of an answer as the cloud. Not gonna work when there is no connectivity. BTW, which device do you have that doesn't allow editing? It is almost 2010 after all.

Related point, a friend w/a Pre told me that when there is no connectivity, the only thing you have is your PIM data on the phone, & since the whole purpose of a smartphone is to give you the added functionality that only 3d party apps can give, then the value of PIM only data is called into serious question; even if you are not a lawyer w/client & judge lists & notes on their device. If a person depends on their device to store knowledge - it better be there when they need it - not just when there is enough signal.

Hence the importance of an sdhc, or similar slot. If your device goes south... as the OP mentioned, you need your data back NOW, not just when you have signal, or when you can get back to your computer.

You keep mentioning 'it is almost 2010' as if it is a curative mantra that will solve all problems. It won't solve the issues that I & others have mentioned.
Not even Verizon Wireless has coverage in all cities in the US, leave alone elsewhere & even in NYC which has massive coverage, if you are a techie in a server room - you ain't gonna get signal....

Using Centro, Apt, Accessorizer, Initiate, Butler, Datebk6, Bonsai, DayNotez, MemoLeaf, Resco Backup+Explorer+Viewer, SplashID+Money, TAKEphONE, Palmary Clock, & more & loving

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What we probably really need is some kind of memory card RAID.

pmjoe @ 12/7/2009 6:33:29 PM # Q
I certainly miss the ease of backing up my HandEra 330, but that was just a few megabytes of data, not the gigabytes I have on my device today. What we likely need is a mirrored SDHC backup where you can swap out a card as desired after shutting down the device.

I know the iPhone does some kind of backup on most syncs. It's not clear how one would recover from said backup though.

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External backup is a must have.

espc31 @ 12/7/2009 7:41:34 PM # Q
I work in places where the structure blocks cellar service. Backup in "the cloud"?! yeah right, dare I mention the Sidekick incident. I thing the manufactures are becoming confused about the difference between space to store data and storage capacity. A 32 gig iphone with a 2gig file on it that needs to be transfered to a clients laptop . On a cruise ship with expensive access be it celluar or wifi. or just eject your SD card and insert it into their card reader.
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The cloud profile only contains your PIM data.

gabvoice2 @ 12/7/2009 7:55:48 PM # Q
Things are even wurst.

On my Treo 755P I kept personal and client notes collected over more than a decade. These notes were so numerous and complex that I used Bonsai, an outline app, to organize and update them.

Then I switched to the Pre, only to find out that the cloud profile only concerns itself with the PIM fluffs. If you carry lots of important notes on your Treo, the Pre is definitely not for you. It does not backup added programs' data. Even its virtual SD card is useless for anything other than entertainment media.

Yap, Palm has sold out to the "Fat Middle".

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PDA vs entertainment device

HorseFeathers @ 12/14/2009 5:26:16 AM # Q
I have been using Palms since my IIIx the 90s. I see two general sorts of devices out there today: PDAs and entertainment devices. While PDAs can be pressed into duty as entertainment devices and entertainment devices can be pressed into duty as PDAs, they are not the same. Prior to the Pre, Palms were definately PDAs. They dealt well with scheduling, organization and information. The offline backup capability is just one of the essential charaistics that make them suitable for the kind of uses the PDA crowd put them to. The Pre is the first Palm clearly in the entertainment device category. I was excited to hear about it initially but as more details were published, it became clear that it would not be an adequate replacement for my TX or 755p. There is nothing wrong with it as an entertainment device and those who want something like that are welcome to it. I have different requirements. The Pre does not meet my requirements.
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