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Techtalk - September 1999

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Dave Moss
looks at the Psion 5mx and the Windows NT 4.0 Resource Kit.

Welcome to TechTalk, a new column that will be keeping you abreast of all that’s both hot and new, but not necessarily both, in the IT world. I’ll be covering both hardware and software, so plenty of scope for expression, and I won’t be afraid to tell you what’s hot, and also what actually is a little more on the on the lukewarm side.

My first contender for scrutiny is the Psion 5 looking remarkably similar to the original Psion 5, but sporting a new colour scheme, and some letters after its name.

Say hello to the Psion 5mx, and to its latest upgrade, the introduction of Java, which appears to be de rigeur this month, given Sun’s announcement at JavaOne, that it has managed to persuade 3Com to plant yet another miniaturised version of it on its PalmPilot. I’m starting to lose count of the number of Java variants out there now.

Back to the item in hand however, the Psion 5mx, and indeed it is remarkably easy to slot into the hand, however, you always feel in danger of dropping it. You can also, as my wife discovered, easily trap your fingers between the screen and the lid as it opens. Once open however, you can settle down to enjoy the usual plethora of applications and utilities that have combined to help keep the Psion in its position as a market leader in the small computer market.

I say small computer because there are so many different sized devices out there these days, it’s difficult to slot each one into any particular niche, so I’ll settle for small computer. Typing with the Psion is an acquired art. Some love it; others loathe it. Some are unimpressed with the lack of key marks that a touch typist would expect to find on the <F> and <J>, as that makes playing the keyboard more difficult than it needs be. So, what’s new, apart from the Java? Well, there’s a new 36MHz ARM170T processor, and there’s 16MB RAM as standard, so no more worries about running out of space for all those addresses you have been storing. However, if by chance you did run out of space, there’s space for a Psion Memory Disk to augment it, up to the tune of about 96MB.

Naturally, you might just fancy the idea of swapping data with your desktop system. No problem here, just install PsiWin, and away you go. The best thing you can do is nip down to your local retailer and ask to have a look at the new Psion. If roaming connectivity is your thing, make sure you find out if your mobile is supported as well, and what extras you might need in order to make that connection. Of course, if you have the right mobile, you can take advantage of the IrDa-compliant Infrared port for your connections. The same port can of course be used to fire data at similarly equipped printers, and of course other Psions, in much the same way as CE devices and Palms can exchange data.

The 5mx will set you back about 429.95, but bear in mind that you’ll need to pay out another 19.95 or so for an AC adapter, which you’ll want to have in order to augment the admittedly impressive month-long battery life offered by the two AAs fitted as standard.

I’ve always been torn over systems the size of the Psion, and I still am. I see them as great information stores with lots of extras, but try as I might, I’ve never been happy trying to do any sustained work on one. For that, I’d prefer to step up a level to something like Hewlett Packard’s Jornada 820, an item that I’ll be looking at next month, alongside its baby brother, the 256-colour Jornada 420, and the CapShare 910. (I’ll be testing all of these on the road at Microsoft’s Tech Ed ’99 in Amsterdam.) Naturally, there are those who swear by the amount of work they can do, and I am happy to say that I think it’s a wonderful example of its genre, so why not try one out.

On the software side this month, I’d just like to remind everyone who had forgotten about it, and those who were not aware of its existence, of the Windows NT 4.0 Resource Kit. I know it has been around a bit, but it does keep getting updated, and some of the tools are extremely handy beasts to have at your side.

A mix of command line and GUI applets, there’s something in the Resource Kit for everyone. A bit of advice for the bolder among you: If you decide to use MS Desktops (the multiple desktop utility) do not make the mistake of trying to put a different Desktop Theme (yes, they come with the Resource Kit too) onto each desktop you create.

You might fancy a challenge, but unless you want to spend some time trying to fix stuff by touch (all the text vanished completely as I added the sixth Theme), and prove how well you know the menus without actually seeing the contents, restrict yourselves to different wallpaper as a simpler identifier of the desktop you happen to be on.

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