Technology: October 2005 Archives

The sound of silence

11 October 2005

Whereas the Palm LifeDrive is burdened by its own complexity, the same cannot be said for the breathtakingly expensive E4c earphones made by Shure. But they really do work. Shure didn't bother with all that active noise cancelling malarky in making the E4c arguably one of the best earphones for wearing in an airplane: they just took the concept behind sound-isolating earplugs and added speakers.

Having a lot of experience with producing in-ear monitors for stage work helped a lot. Despite being severely wallet-lightening compared with most high-street earphones, they are still a lot cheaper than the pro versions and manage to avoid having to have a cast made of your lugholes. But they succeed in wiping out most of the noise from an aircraft cabin. If you can stretch to buying them, get some and you need not worry about the imminent introduction of cellphone services on commercial services, crying babies or engine noise. Just don't wear them on the street: they greatly increase the risk of getting run over.


11 October 2005

I had a rush of blood to the head on a recent trip to Boston and picked up a Palm LifeDrive on the way out at the Duty Free store. This is one of those products that looks a lot better on paper than it really works in real life. In making their machines take up more PC-like functions, Palm seems to be giving their PDAs all of the PC's niggles as well.

Hardware-wise, I don't think there is all that much wrong with the LifeDrive but this beast is seriously in need of a software update. I've never seen a PDA crash so often. Even after installing the WiFi update, the network at MIT made the thing freak out so badly that it rebooted itself when it tried to log on. And it refused to do anything useful with the WiFi at the Cambridge Galleria, although the hotel network (at the Tria near Alewife) worked just fine. OmniWeb on the Powerbook gave a clue as to why the MIT network tripped it up - a strange security certificate - but that's no excuse for the PDA equivalent of a Blue Screen of Death. And that was not the only thing to make it crash.