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6/30/2004
04:16 PM
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The Privacy Lawyer: In Search Of The Perfect Gadget

There are PDAs, cell phones, and all sorts of other gadgets out there--is it too much to ask for something that could combine the best of them into one manageable device?

I'm going to be in Alaska for a few days on nonprofit matters. I'll bring all three of my cell phones (Verizon, AT&T, and Nextel), my laptop, and my BlackBerry. Odds are that none will work very well. While they work nicely in urban areas, once you're out of the cities, communication becomes much harder. (I've been to Alaska before.)

I expect that I will be out of reach for a few days, except for Internet access from my hotel room. So many devices and we still can't successfully communicate. Sad, isn't it?

When I was in Singapore a few months ago, I was interviewed by Computer Times as their first cybercelebrity feature. The journalist looked at the assortment of devices spilling out of my purse and asked to photograph me with them. In addition to my U.S. cell phones, I had my Palm, my U.K. phone, and my international BlackBerry.

I also had extra batteries for each, as well as plug-in chargers and adapters--and since I was in Asia, I had my power converters and adapter plugs, too. Of course, I also had my little Vaio, with its plugs and wires and wireless card. I was a mess.

Amy Harmon, a writer for The New York Times, did a recent review of the Treo 600. She loved it, but thought it was a bit pricey. When Amy recommends something, I listen. So, I've been looking around for a Treo, and was determined to get a good price. I did find some pretty good prices--as low as $375--if I were willing to sign up for a new cell phone plan. I wasn't. Verizon doesn't have the Treo yet, and that was the only plan I could renew. So it was back to the drawing board.

I was amazed at how few devices there are out there--and how badly they seem to function. Most of my friends have complained about having to replace them several times in a few months when the headset or flip front breaks, or the device stops working. My son is on his fourth in as many months.

Yet, the newest hot topic among us road warriors is how to combine cell phone, PDA, and BlackBerry functions into one manageable device that doesn't break down, isn't the size of a breadbox, and works. The device would have to be Palm-compatible for all the software I already have and would want to use. But it also must have E-mail capability that's as easy as a BlackBerry. It needs a keyboard function that works for those with big fingers and small fingers alike. And better Web-surfing functions than BlackBerry has, with attachment capability. I'd also like an expansion card. And international bands would be great!

All that--and, maybe it could look good, too?

Am I asking for too much? Let me know what you're using and what you're looking for. How do you juggle the devices and access? You can E-mail me at parry@aftab.com.

Parry Aftab is a cyberspace lawyer, specializing in online privacy and security law, and she's also executive director of WiredSafety.


To discuss this column with other readers, please visit the Talk Shop.

To find out more about Parry Aftab, please visit her page on the Listening Post.

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