Turn that PDA into a news-gathering digital assistant
By JIM BROOKS
who has seen an episode of the various "Star Trek" series
is familiar with some of the neat technology that Gene Roddenbery's
view of the future holds.
sci-fi tech stuff -- dubbed "treknology" by Star Trek
fans -- includes spacecraft that can travel faster than light, voice-commanded
computers and other gadgets.
nearly every episode you'll notice that the space explorers of the
future no longer use pen and paper. They use neat little electronic
devices called Personal Access Display Devices, or PADDs.
already have a version of the PADD in widespread use here on 21st-Century
Earth -- in the form of the Personal Digital Assistant, or PDA.
PDAs use one of three operating systems: Palm, Windows CE or Pocket
PC. There are many different brands of PDAs manufactured, but they
all share similar features. The latest ones include higher resolution
color LCD displays, wireless capability and GPS (global positioning)
a recent conversation with my brother (a fellow PDA user), we agreed
that PDA owners don't always take advantage of the power these little
handheld computers offers.
of the latest applications I've adopted on my PDA is AvantGo, a
service that offers Web-based content that is downloaded to your
PDA or Internet-enabled cellular phone.
beauty of AvantGo is that you don't need to have the latest high-tech
wireless PDA to use it. AvantGo downloads the latest news, stock
market data, and weather -- or whatever you data wish -- from the
Web to your PDA every time you sync it. For readers who don't own
a PDA, syncing is what you do to transfer data from your home PC
to your PDA and vice versa.
service is incredibly simple to use. I drop my Palm PDA into its
cradle and press the "Sync" button a few minutes before
I leave the house. By the time I get coat and shoes on, the update
(or "sync") is done. AvantGo downloads the content from
the Web (your computer must be online) quickly and without a hitch.
possibly is worth downloading to read on a PDA?" you ask? There's
plenty of stuff available to suit a wide range of interests.
starters, you can get the latest news, weather, sports and business
information via Reuters, CNN, The New York Times, USA Today and
much more. In addition to these, I also subscribe to tech updates
from CNet, PCWorld, and Yahoo.
plenty of other information available too, depending on your interests.
Additional categories include entertainment, health news, shopping,
sports, and travel, with content provided by GM, Golf Digest magazine,
Sports Illustrated and more.
a news junkie like me, I suddenly have the latest national news
from several sources right at my fingertips. When I'm taking a breather
from my exercise workout, I can pop out my PDA and read news that's
as up-to-date as broadcast news with much greater depth and detail.
feature I enjoy are the weather forecasts, which include current
conditions, weather radar images, satellite photos and five-day
MapQuest.com Web site offers maps and travel directions that can
be downloaded to your PDA using the AvantGo service. Having traveled
with maps and Web site map printouts in the past, the PDA version
will be easier to use and less trouble to fold.
basic service is free. That's right, free. Users have complete access
to the AvantGo's 960-plus information channels. Free users are limited
by the total amount of information they can download during each
update. Free users have a 2-megabyte download limit. This doesn't
sound like much, but the truth is this is much more information
than you think.
pay service simply bumps the download limit to a hefty 8 megabytes.
If you don't need to subscribe to more than 2 megabytes of information
with each update, you won't need to pay the subscription fee --
which is a bargain anyway at just $19.95 per year.
PDA can be a useful resource to any professional's business toolbox.
Better yet, you don't need to wait for the 24th-century before you
can put one to good use.
is compatible with PDAs and Web-enabled devices that use the Palm,
Windows CE or Pocket PC operating systems. For more information,
THE WORM TURNS. Symantec, the company that sells the popular
Norton Anti-Virus software program, is being criticized for keeping
silent about a recent virus infection that attacked thousands of
computers around the world.
was apparently the first security firm to identify the Slammer worm,
the self-replicating virus that hit the Internet the last weekend
of January. The Slammer worm spread rapidly and created so much
Internet traffic that it slowed the Internet and actually overwhelmed
thousands of servers, particularly in Asia.
took advantage of a previously identified weakness in Microsoft
SQL (pronounced "see-quill") server software. Slammer
crashed telecommunications systems in Asia and parts of Europe.
In North America, some ATM machines were reportedly unable to dispense
cash because of Slammer, and a number of airlines' reservation systems
were knocked out of commission.
spotted Slammer and sent warnings to customers who subscribed to
its DeepSight Threat Management System, a service that offers early
warnings about cybersecurity threats. DeepSight subscribers had
two hours warning before Slammer began its race around the globe.
say Symantec should have issued a public alert at the time. Had
it done so, system administrators around the world could have had
a chance to protect their computer systems and head-off the worm's
did issue an advisory about Slammer a few hours later, though critics
say it was too late to help stop the rapidly advancing bug. In its
own press release, Symantec points out its early warning of Slammer
and other threats as a reason to become part of its early-warning
network. Despite the company's critics, this issue boils down to
one simple business issue: Should a company give away its competitive
advantage in its marketplace? In this case, I don't believe Symantec
should be faulted for what it did, though those who were affected
by the Slammer worm will likely disagree.
PROBLEMS. Readers who downloaded Microsoft's recently released
critical update for the Internet Explorer Web browser may have downloaded
a flawed version of the update.
said that some users who downloaded and installed the update are
having trouble accessing Web sites requiring authentication after
installing the update.
recent update was termed "critical" because it fixed some
security holes in Internet Explorer 5.01, 5.5 and 6.0. The update
indeed fixed the security problems, but Microsoft found that some
users who used subscription-based Web sites -- and even MSN e-mail
-- had trouble getting logged into these sites.
just-released "hot fix" is necessary only if you installed
the earlier update and have had problems with logging in to password-protected
sites. Not all users who installed the first critical update have
had problems, a Microsoft press release stated.
more information, visit Microsoft's Web site at www.microsoft.com
and search for security bulletin MS03-004.