Palm Pre – Best Smartphone ever?

Ah, the Palm Pre… someone finally came up with a True Color SmartPhone that has a camera with a flash that syncs with Microsoft Exchange Server. While for many the thought of this had been a dream for so long, Palm finally delivered. The question is, did they deliver on all of people’s expectations. So let’s first talk about what ideally a business device, which is what the Pre is marketed as, should offer a consumer to woo their business.

Palm Pre closed and open with keyboard view

Expectations – I expect a business device to do many things. First and foremost I expect a no-frills interface for sending and receiving e-mail. I feel that WebOS (the operating system that Palm designed and the Pre uses) does this quite well. There is the ability to access any one of your inboxes separately or see a consolidated view of all of your inboxes. You probably just said “I can do what?” Well, Palm designed the e-mail app or “card” so that you can access multiple e-mail accounts from this single device. The only complaint I have is that there seems to be no way to automatically sync any folders other than your inbox. This means if you have Exchange rules setup to auto-filter incoming e-mail you won’t know you’ve received anything that was re-directed to a folder other than your inbox until you take it upon yourself to go to that folder and tell your Pre to sync it.

Apps – The Pre and WebOS in general is falling far short of the iPhone here. I don’t think this surprises many, as the iPhone has been out substantially longer. Also unfortunately more people, to this point, have purchased an iPhone. Palm also for some reason has not allowed but a few development teams the same access to the actual hardware components of the Pre as Apple did by default in their SDK (application development platform) for the iPhone. The disadvantage here is that many applications require more low-level access to the hardware and therefore won’t be able to be written in some cases or in other cases the apps won’t be as robust as their iPhone counterparts. Examples of these types of apps are games or other sophisticated third-party apps.

Web-Browsing – The web browser app is clean. It offers users the ability to enlarge specific portions of pages that aren’t designed specifically for mobile devices. My one frustration is that if you are on the phone you can’t use the web browser simultaneously.

Multimedia – At 3.2 MP’s, the Palm Pre camera, takes decent quality pictures. It has an integrated LED flash, something that most devices in it’s class sorely lack. Also when you take a picture all processing of the image are done in the background. The net result of this is that you can snap another picture almost instantly. The music player is easy to use, and has an appealing interface.

Multi-Tasking – This is where the Palm Pre destroys all of it’s competitors. Essentially no other device offers the robust functionality of simultaneously doing multiple things. Ever been on a phone call and wanted to look up a webpage? Maybe you’re talking to your buddy and you want to pick a restaurant that’s nearby to grab some grub at. Well with WebOS (the Pre’s operating system) you could open Yelp and figure out what suits your fancy while not having to hang up.

Battery Life – Battery life is extremely important for any mobile device. Unfortunately I don’t have anything stellar to say about battery life when it comes to the Pre. There are many things that can increase it’s battery life: Lowering screen brightness, decreasing the time of inactivity before the screen turns off, disabling wifi, not keeping multiple cards/apps open when not in use, and there are several others. I frankly don’t find it to be a killer personally since I plug it in in my car, to my laptop, or to a outlet as needed to ensure I never run out of battery.

Summarization – The Pre excels where no other device does. This core area is multitasking, consolidation of key “messaging” types, a physical keyboard, and all while still having a small footprint. Overall I recommend the device, although hopefully soon Palm will be working with more service providers.

Routers, Firewalls, and Network Address Translation (NAT)… uh, I’m confused

Routers, firewalls, and NAT are key devices and/or technologies to help ensure that your home and work are as secure as they can be. Let’s step back a minute and Computer Hackerfirst talk about what is a “reasonable amount of security” one needs to not get “hacked”. Well, first off most people that throw around the term “hacking” or “hacker” wouldn’t have the first clue how to exploit a security hole in Windows, design a ping flood script, or issue a denial of service attack (DOS). These things are relatively complicated to do. Yeah, if one were so inclined you could, after a little digging, find some pre-made scripts on the internet to do several of the aforementioned things. However even if somebody were to find these scripts they would still have to find a target of their maliciousness, and then tailor the script to execute against this target. Computer security was once best described to me by a co-worker of mine in stating: “Security is really the level of inconvenience that you wish a potential attacker to go through to achieve their goal.” This is absolutely true. For the really “gifted” hackers out their the reality is that, there isn’t much that will stop them. These are also the same types of people or groups that are more likely to target an insurance company or a bank than they are a small business or individual.

Now let’s get back on track. Let’s define each of these things: router, firewall, and NAT. A router is a NAT diagram examplesoftware or hardware device that works like a traffic cop. It takes packets of data and ensures that they are directed to the correct part of a network. A router for home users frequently connects a users local network to the internet. A firewall is a device, once again that can be software or hardware, that offers security options and in some instances packet filtering. It’s goal is to allow a user to define what type of traffic to allow on a network. Network address translation (or NAT) is a technology that is typically available on most routers. It’s goal is to obfuscate (hide/disguise) network devices on one side of a network with another network that a router is connecting to. See the diagram for an example.

Bottom line, most home network devices these days provide more than adequate security for your computers and data. Typically a wireless router that you can purchase at your favorite online or local retailer will be a router, firewall, and offer NAT all in one.