December 13, 2003
It must sting like a bitch to design an elegant piece of technology, and then see it be intentionally crippled.
Such is the Toshiba e800/e805 (same beast, different software packages).
A Windows Mobile 2003 Pocket PC, with 400 MHz X-Scale processor, and a four inch, honest-to-God 640×480 display. Okay, 480×640 if you hold it right side up.
A handheld PDA with a display good enough to view real websites on. To read an e-book much like (or at least much more like) a paperback. To actually be able to use Terminal Services on.
Like many nifty pieces of hardware before it, the niftiest aspects were corrected in software.
First, it was made so that you could only launch a small handful of programs in VGA mode (the ClearVue apps suite).
Second, if you got around that, the area around the start button was “dead” to stylus presses.
Why did Constantinople get the works? It’s nobody’s business but the Turks.
Similarly, only Toshiba could tell for certain us why the e-80x got neutered before being released to the public.
Speculation is that since a fair number of programs work a little oddly in full VGA mode (many running in the upper-left quarter screen), Toshiba decided to save themselves a tech support headache and go out of their way to make sure it wasn’t used with programs other than the handful they are willing to support.
The ‘net is full of curious monkeys, however, and there are still more than a few who have a pocket full of tools and like a challenge.
The “only launch our programs” problem fell in the first few weeks of the device’s release, complements of a program called ResFix by a gentleman who goes by the handle of Deez.
The “Dead Zone” fell this afternoon (6 – 7 weeks after the e80x hit the streets) to WPdaPet’s “UnDead Hack”.
I won’t link the specific fixes, since both are being re-refined constantly, but a visit to Brighthand’s e800 forum will turn them up quite quickly (Brighthand being the epicenter of all things e800 at the moment).
Thanks Deez & WPdaPet—my current favorite toy now works as some engineer undoubtedly originally intended.
Lest I give the impression that I think what Toshiba did was all bad, I actually don’t. I think that when there is a substantial chance of the unsavvy painting themselves into a corner, there’s a certain elegent grace in setting the bar high enough that those who get out on the edge aren’t likely to bitch about the problems that still live there.
Once upon a time, the ‘net was like that too—getting online (mostly to Usenet in those days) was something like a geek’s IQ test. As the barriers to entry got lowered, so did the level of discourse, at least to some degree…