Thursday, August 10, 2006

Palm OS Flaws

I've been using the PalmOS since about 1999. It's amazing how much it's stayed the same in the past 7 years. In some ways, this is a good thing. Conceptually, PalmOS is very well designed for the target device. For its original PIM tasks, it's quite well designed. But 7 years later, I expect to see notable improvements, and I just haven't. So here's the run down, in no particular order:

1. The UI appearance is outdated. Many people will argue that this is irrelevant. These are the people that use TWM and Ratpoison as Window Managers in Linux. I whole-heartedly disagree that a nice, pleasant appearance is not an important part of a computing experience. It is possible to make something aesthetically pleasing without hurting performance. It was one thing when the Palm screens had a 2-bit depth, but with 16-bit color, I really expect a bit more.

2. Unevolved PIM features. Is this a business move, so that companies like DateBk? or Iambic can stay in business? The Palm PIM features have not changed _at all_, for the most part. Functionality like hierarchy in Todo Lists, linking of items, and better per-diem planning should be *integrated parts* of the system.

3. A horribly crappy syncing system. At one point, this was OK. When my palm connected via serial port, the behavior was more understandable. But now, 7 years later, they still essentially simulate that same protocol over a USB port. The whole point of USB is to make devices smarter, and allow the computer to automatically detect them. It is INEXCUSABLE that I still have to press a button on my palm in order to sync it. Really, people. Come on. Furthermore, network syncs simply don't work. The protocol is closed source, so Linux support is slow to come, and buggy. The only saving grace is that I still prefer this to a Windows CE device.

4. The ability to crash the system hard. I've already experienced this a few times. It's one thing to install a program that makes the palm behave poorly, or that causes it to reboot. However it's poor design for an operating system to be irreversibly put out of commission due to an installation. I've experienced the "reboot-loop" problem, where the device just reboots before it comes back into function fully. At the very least, Palm should include a FAILSAFE mode that allows you to delete certain items or at least back up your data before doing a hard reset. This feature combined with the inability for automatic un-monitored syncing (as mentioned in 3) really put a damper on my excitement about the device.