- The Washington Times - Monday, March 6, 2000

Being old enough to remember when television at least the one in our home was only black and white, I can

recall the feeling when our first color set arrived. Getting the new, "colorized" version of the Palm handheld computer, I had a sense of deja vu.

The new Palm IIIc, available for $449, offers the things that have made the entire Palm platform great: an easy-to-use interface; applications for tracking contacts, appointments and expenses and a way to synchronize that information with a desktop PC. And, like the current Palm III, you can "beam" information from one device to another using an infrared communications option (exchanging electronic business cards this way is a popular pastime at some conventions these days).

But the difference is that all this is done in color. Instead of a greenish background on which darker greenish lettering appears, text is black on white, and highlighting, instead of reverse lettering, shows up as a yellow highlight just as you get on paper.

Many of the 5,000 or so Palm-compatible applications aren't yet color-conscious, but some are and soon you'll be able to see a color road map along with your driving directions. Already on the Palm IIIc I was able to download some JPEG photos from my computer, being able to show off Tony, one of our cats, to all. (The images are about 30 kilobytes each, small enough to not crowd things on this device.)

The company, which last week held its initial public stock offering as it spins off from 3Com Corp., credits the bright display to technological advancements such as an active matrix thin film transistor (TFT) display. It does seem brighter and better than the color screen I've seen on Hewlett Packard Co.'s Jornada 430se handheld. Until now, the Jornada and some other devices running Microsoft Windows CE were the only ones to offer a color display.

Another nice feature of the Palm IIIc is the 8 megabytes of memory, which is more than enough for a large address database and calendar, along with other programs and data. While the Palm platform lacks the expansion slot of the Handspring Visor (a monochrome device which also runs the Palm operating system), a variety of tools can clip on, including a digital camera from Kodak, a global positioning satellite receiver and a couple of keyboards.

Is this a device worth buying? I think so, and not just because its list price is $50 less than the HP Jornada's. The Palm platform simply works better than Windows CE, and the market seems to have ratified this perspective, since far more people own Palm devices than any other handheld. More information on the product can be found at www.palm.com/home.html.

Plugs for hotels

Check into a Marriott hotel, Courtyard inn or several Ritz-Carlton properties, and you may find a nice little box on your desk, with several wire connections. One is for a traditional modem's phone line, the other a Universal Serial Bus, or USB, cable, and the third is for Ethernet.

Hook up your laptop computer to one of the latter two, and you can sign on to a high-speed Internet connection which is up to 50 times faster than a traditional dial-up link. I found this nice little service price, $9.95 per day, plus tax during a recent stay in the Marriott hotel in Santa Clara, Calif.

After getting the needed Ethernet cable, I plugged in an Apple Computer iBook and fired the system up. It took a couple of seconds to properly configure the computer's Internet access software and it was then off to the races.

Having this access does several nice things. It eliminates the worry about finding a local dial-up access number for your Internet provider. The speed was really fast: I could download a 4 megabyte file in a few minutes. And the service was, like a cable modem or DSL line, "always on." I could have had the computer running all the time, downloading e-mail and the like, if I needed to do so.

Information about the service is available at www.stsn.com; it's worth checking out before your next trip, especially if access back to your company's network is essential.

cWrite to Mark Kellner in care of The Washington Times, Business Desk, 3600 New York Ave. NE, Washington, D.C. 20002, send e-mail to MarkKel@aol.com, or visit the writer's Web page (www.markkellner.com).

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