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Jack of All Trades

(reworked slightly from a piece I wrote for PDA Essentials magazine in the UK, back in 2002)

History of versatility

Over the last ten years, I've been amazed at the vesatility of Psion and Symbian palmtops. To take just one example, back in 1996, a friend was having problems with a corrupt Quattro Pro spreadsheet, which just would not open on his PC. My Psion 3a turned out to be the solution, with PsiWin converting the file successfully. We then viewed the data on the Psion screen and even did a printout, direct from the palmtop. I'm sure you have your own testimonies.

The modern equivalent of the Psion 3a is probably the Nokia 9210, 9300 or 9500 communicators, which I'll use as the basis for the musings below. It's just so incredibly useful. And of course, the same also goes to a lesser extent for the older Psion palmtops and for the modern UIQ devices like the Sony Ericsson P800/P900.

The 9210

The universal translator

In a work environment, with a multitude of different phones, smartphones, handhelds and desktop computers, the Nokia Communicator makes a pretty good universal translator, with its infrared capabilities and MMC expansion slot. Here are three examples that might spark your imagination.

So your colleague has a top digital camera and is talking about all the pictures he took over the weekend. "Can you give them to us now?" "Oh, the cable's at home…" 15 minutes later and he's tried beaming to everything he can see in your office with an infrared port, with no luck. "What about my communicator?" you pipe up, opening 'Imaging' on your Communicator and pressing 'Images via infrared'. A minute or two later and the pictures are on the device's MMC expansion card, courtesy of the communicator understanding the camera's IrTran language. You hand the MMC to a couple of Palm and Pocket PC owners, for them to copy the JPG pictures, and then pop it back into your Communicator in order to copy the files directly onto your desktop. Your workmates are impressed by the photos, but even more impressed by the versatility of your palmtop.

Your boss has a Nokia 7650 smartphone and can't get it talking to his PC via infrared. He's off to the USA on business and wants a new game to while away the journey. Not a very worthwhile cause, but it'll get you lots of brownie points, so your Communicator becomes the go between. The boss's PC beams the new game to your communicator as an IrOBEX object, you save it and beam it on to his 7650, Nokia to Nokia. A few button taps on the latter and he's racing pandas and firing rockets. Job done.

Down the pub after hours, your girlfriend is trying to get to grips with her new Palm Tungsten T2 and struggling. Being a knowledgeable person, you suggest looking for a few utilities to help out. To her amazement, you go online immediately on your Communicator, find two or three programs that should help, and download their ZIP files there and then. You both look inside the ZIP archives and read the documentation files and decide which program is most suitable. You extract the native Palm OS .prc file and beam it straight to your friend's Palm (you could also have copied it straight onto her own MMC card if she had one). All she has to do is tap the screen once, to accept the program.

An essential part of your computing toolkit

Like the Psion Series 5mx before them, the Nokia 9210, 9300 and 9500 are well specified to bridge the gap between other consumer and computing devices. With connectivity via infrared, MMC, cable and GSM phone (plus Bluetooth, Wi-Fi and GPRS for the later models), plus support for Symbian and native Microsoft Office file formats, there's little that can't be attempted with a Nokia Communicator in your toolkit.