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REPOST: PocketMail OR - Rick

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  • rick@backpackgeartest.org
    REPOST: PocketMail OR - Rick Hi Jim, Thanks for your thoughtful edit. All edits taken on board. I added considerable additional information at your request.
    Message 1 of 5 , Jul 1, 2004
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      REPOST: PocketMail OR - Rick

      Hi Jim,

      Thanks for your thoughtful edit. All edits taken on board. I added
      considerable additional information at your request. Because of the additional
      typing, I would appreciate your eye on all those words to make sure I did not
      introduce a new gramatical bug.

      The new and improved version can be viewed in its glory in tests/owner reviews
      or here:

      http://www.backpackgeartest.org/reviews/test/OWNER%20REVIEWS/PocketMail%20Repost7%20-%20Rick/

      Rick

      ************

      PocketMail Composer
      Owner Review by Rick Allnutt

      "It is easy to type with the Composer in my lap
      at the end of a long day of hiking"

      Risk

      PERSONAL BIOGRAPHICAL INFORMATION
      Rick Allnutt
      51 Year old male
      6' 0'' (183 cm) in height
      190 lbs (86 kg) in weight
      Email address: rick (at) BackpackGearTest (dot) org
      I live in Dayton, Ohio

      BACKPACKING BACKGROUND
      Over the last several years, I have become an ultralight camper with a
      three-season base pack weight of about 11 lb (5 kg) and skin out weight of 20
      lb (9 kg). I have completed many section hikes on the Appalachian Trail (AT) in
      all four seasons, with a total mileage of nearly 450 miles (725 km). I am a
      gearhead, a hammock camper, and make much of my own equipment.

      PRODUCT INFORMATION
      Manufacturer: PocketMail
      Year Manufactured: 2004
      Manufacturer's Link: http://www.pocketmail.com/us/
      MSRP: $99 US (Composer device)
      $9.95 to $16.95 US per month of service
      Listed Weight: 8.2 oz (232 g)
      Measured Weight: 8.3 oz (235 g) including 2 AA batteries
      Size: 6.4" x 3.2" x 0.9" (16.3cm x 8.1cm x 2.3cm)
      Memory: 1 megabyte on device, 12 megabytes on service
      Review Date: 1 July 2004

      TEST CONDITIONS
      I have used the PocketMail Composer on a two week section hike on the AT. In
      addition I have used it nearly every day for writing about an hour at lunch
      time for 3 months. It continues to function well and has given me no problems
      at all. It has required changing the batteries twice. A fresh set of batteries
      lasts nearly a month with daily use, when the backlight is not used.
      Temperatures have ranged from below freezing to about 90 F (32 C).

      REVIEW
      I love to tell stories, setting the introduction, supplying the details and
      bringing the story to a memorable conclusion. I also love to write a daily
      journal and then mine that journal for story ideas and insights.

      I enjoy the relaxed nature of mail, keeping up with pen pals, family, and
      friends all over. Going on a long hike has always meant giving up much of that
      communication, going cold turkey. This has especially been true since I have
      gotten used to worldwide communication through email.

      I also like to write when I am hiking. I have put many words on paper while in
      the out-of-doors, but it always seems like a boring chore to transpose that
      writing to a computer so it can be shared. I was therefore very interested when
      I discovered a group of Appalachian Trail journals written while the journalist
      was on the trail. Often, that hiker referred to using a device called
      PocketMail. Being an electronic device junkie, I knew I had to have one and see
      if all the good news about it was true.

      Cometh PocketMail!

      PocketMail is a portable e-mail system. The personal hardware of the system is
      the small and light PocketMail Composer device. With a small black and
      gray/green text display and a miniature keyboard, I am able to sit in a shelter
      or sit on a rock and touch type with the Composer on my knees. In the photo at
      the top of the page, I am working on this review.

      The system also includes a proprietary email service provider. A service package
      must be purchased to use this part of the system. The service costs about the
      same amount per year as the purchase price of the Composer hardware. With the
      service comes a single email address.

      The connection between the device and the email server is through an acoustic
      telephone modem. A ?what? you say?

      History Lesson: In the early days of personal computers, acoustic modems were
      common. An acoustic modem was usually a box next to the computer with a
      "cradle" into which a phone hand set was stuffed, and which made communication
      through the microphone and speaker of the handset.

      The PocketMail device has a little fold-out acoustic modem which works much like
      those acoustic modems of old. This is both good and bad.

      The downside of the acoustic modem connection is that communication speed is
      slow. It is somewhat improved with a modern digital signal processing (DSP)
      algorithm, but it is still not fast. It takes a minute to transmit each of my
      roughly page long compositions. (Printed page of about 500 words or 3500
      characters.) Receive speed is the same.

      The other restriction brought by the slow speed is that email is restricted to
      text only. No pictures, no attachments, no graphics, no fonts.

      However, the good side of this use of an acoustic modem is that almost any phone
      can be used as a link to send and receive email. For the United States and
      other countries with a toll free 1-800 system, the call is to a 1-800 number.
      For most European countries, an in country number is set up for the system. For
      the globetrotting hiker, there is no additional charge for using any of these
      in country systems, and they are all interconnected. The service allows an
      unlimited number of emails, both sent and received at no additional cost.

      But the really good news is that any pay phone, hotel phone, grocery store
      phone, or residential phone near the AT can be used to send and receive email.
      Some cell telephones work with the PocketMail system. My cell phone does not
      work well with it, and I do not try to make connections through the cell phone.

      It works like this:
      -call 1-800 number
      -put phone handset up to the back of the PocketMail device
      -press button on front of PocketMail box
      -Wait a half minute to several minutes until a three tone signal is made by the
      PocketMail device.

      I find the system is really useful on the trail and off. I am writing this
      report right now on the device, enjoying the summer sun in a park during a
      lunch break. I am also able to use the device in the library, at my kid's
      soccer games, and at meetings. I have small to medium sized hands (US size 7
      1/2) and I have no difficulty touch typing just like with a computer keyboard.
      The keys are closer together, but an hour of typing is enough to get used to
      the small size of the keyboard. I also can type with both thumbs when I am
      standing or lying down and have nothing to rest the keyboard on.

      The system shines best in the setting of long distance hiking, especially on the
      AT, with its road crossings and re-supply points every few days. While out on a
      recent two week section hike on the AT, I spent time every evening writing
      daily journals, gear reports, and essays to describe and record my experience.
      I was able to upload my writing and receive email from my family every 2-4 days
      during the hike. This contact kept me feeling better about my family contact
      and was a great release for recording the thinking I was engaged in on the long
      daily walks.

      DETAILS

      Screen: The black on grey/green screen has 40 characters by 8 lines. There is no
      provision for user graphics, though the system uses a small number of graphic
      icons on the Main Menu. The screen is easy to read in all daytime lighting
      conditions without any distraction from glare or wash-out. The backlight is
      quite functional, but I have used it very little. Trail reports of very fast
      battery consumption using the backlight urged me to use am LED headlamp instead
      of the internal backlight. PocketMail is easy to read with the headlamp. I have
      not needed to make any adjustment in brightness or contrast since opening the
      box. This is the beauty of a pure black on "white" character set.

      Batteries: In more than 3 months of daily use, I have replaced the two AA
      batteries once. There was no loss of information when I did so. The battery
      compartment also serves as the hinge to open the device, and it has proved to
      be quite robust. The battery compartment has a locking switch which keeps the
      case closed. In all my travels, I have never had the compartment open
      accidentally.

      Water and Electrons: There is no implied warranty about any water protection. I
      have used the device several times in dense fog (with condensing moisture on
      the keyboard) without failure. I have given this device the same sorts of
      protection from rain that I normally give to other electronics. I have a very
      water resistant sanctuary in my pack for electronic devices: Inside the pack
      cover, inside a pack made of waterproof material, inside the waterproof foam
      sleeping pad, inside my rolled-up Pocket Bucket. With this multiple layer
      protection system, the device has never been doused with water, even in hours
      long rain. I do not use the device in rain and have not spilled any water on
      the keyboard.

      Message integrity: The DSP works very well! In these several months of use, I
      have never received a message with garbled characters and have not seen any
      garbled characters sent from the device. On occasion, I have seen that several
      punctuation marks are incorrectly coded to the appropriate character by some
      email systems by other users. My emails have not suffered this problem, but I
      have seen email from at least one other PocketMail user with this problem.
      This seems to especially be true with the " and ' characters.

      Physical Box: The integrity of the device is quite sturdy. I built a small pouch
      for it after a few cosmetic scratches appeared after I had carried the
      PocketMail Composer in the outside pocket of my pack and it had rubbed against
      a camera and tent stakes. Similar pouches are available from suppliers,
      including the PocketMail people. Mechanically, operation of the Composer is
      intuitive. <On> turns it on, almost instantaneously (no boot up delay). There
      are no motors, beeps, clicks, or other noises. It is completely silent.

      Keyboard: The keyboard is composed of surface mounted click buttons instead of
      keys. This takes some getting used to. In general, the Composer works just
      like any other keyboard device with one exception. Each time a button such as
      the shift or <cntl> keys are pressed they change state. I do have trouble when
      I press the shift key to begin a sentence, and then automatically press <shift>
      <I> to begin that sentence. The system takes the first shift as a command to
      make the next letter a capital, and then gets a reversal to that command just
      before I press the <I> key. "i" ends up being typed. Several commonly used
      punctuation marks can only be typed with the <cntl> key. They include: /, \,
      ", and '. The comma, period and dash can all be typed with a single key. All
      numbers are available with a single key click as are all letters. Capital
      letters require <shift> but a string of capital letters can be typed with
      <shift> continuously pressed. The punctuation marks above the numbers are
      standard and can be accessed with either <shift> or <cntl>.

      Memory: The device is reported to have 1 megabyte of on-board memory. With
      10-15 received, sent, and ready to send emails on the device, I have never
      exceeded 3 percent of the memory. Text messages just do not occupy much space
      for me while backpacking. I do not have large numbers of emails delivered to me
      while on the trail and this constraint of the system is well beyond anything I
      will ever need. The practical constraint is the time it would take to download
      a hundred messages from a list server. Since I do not anticipate spending 20
      minutes with the Composer up to the phone, I will never get to the point that
      my memory ever gets near to being full. The server side email holds 12
      megabytes of mail - text only. For me, that equates to more than a year's
      worth of personal email, with none of it deleted.

      Connection: Other than the obvious connection with the service through the
      Composer, the email on the service provider's server can also be accessed from
      any Internet connection. The email can be accessed through a user password.
      The provided Internet features include "message filtering, customizeable
      auto-signature, maximum message length of up to 60K, attachment handling,
      folders, and group address handling." Automatic address consolidation can
      retrieve email from other services and relay them to the PocketMail device.
      Attachments that are not text based are saved on the server and can be accessed
      from an Internet connection. The normal maximum length of an email message is
      limited to 6K characters (approximately two typed pages of text on paper) but
      longer messages can be divided up automatically by the server into a series of
      messages for a total capacity of 60K (or 12 pages of text). I have not
      discovered a way to access my PocketMail account via a POP3 account, though the
      product's internet site implies this can be done.

      I respect the chronic risk of an email address being "spammed" - receiving
      multiple unwanted messages a day. To protect my @... address, I use
      a forwarding email address outside the PocketMail system. I have set my
      device to show this email address as the "from" line. To the outside reader of
      my email, they respond to that address, not the actual PocketMail address. If
      the forwarding email ever gets "spammed" I will simply choose another
      forwarding email address and abandon the first.

      While the Composer has the ability to link directly with a computer, that
      feature has little backpacking use for me. I have never needed or wanted to do
      so in the first three months of using PocketMail. A review of that feature will
      need to wait for someone who finds a use for it.

      What I really like about PocketMail
      - lightweight
      - long battery life
      - easy to transfer electronic writing to the Internet or email pen pals

      What I don't like:
      - expensive service for a single email account
    • colonelcorn76
      Rick, Excellent job. A couple of very minor things to fix and then you can upload it to BGT at this url:
      Message 2 of 5 , Jul 1, 2004
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        Rick,
        Excellent job. A couple of very minor things to fix and then you can
        upload it to BGT at this url:
        http://www.backpackgeartest.org/reviews/Communication_Gear/PocketMail%20e-mail%20Composer/
        or
        http://tinyurl.com/2hmlh
        <<<<<Use either link>>>>>

        When uploading your Owner Review, please ensure you select the button
        marked Owner Review.

        Thanks again for the very good work.
        Jim
        Edit Moderator


        --- In BackpackGearTest@yahoogroups.com, rick@b... wrote:

        > The connection between the device and the email server is through an
        acoustic
        > telephone modem. A ?what? you say?

        ### You'll want to fix the "what" above. It displays with the ? marks
        in your test folder version too.

        > battery consumption using the backlight urged me to use am LED
        headlamp instead

        ### "an LED"
      • Rick Allnutt
        Jim, Thanks for your look through the revised text. Those typos that end up being words are particularly difficult for me to find, especially when the number
        Message 3 of 5 , Jul 1, 2004
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          Jim,

          Thanks for your look through the revised text. Those typos that end up
          being words are particularly difficult for me to find, especially when
          the number of letters in both words is the same. I am glad you found
          that one.

          colonelcorn76 wrote:

          >
          >
          > > The connection between the device and the email server is through an
          > acoustic
          > > telephone modem. A ?what? you say?
          >
          > ### You'll want to fix the "what" above. It displays with the ? marks
          > in your test folder version too.
          >
          The question marks and color are there on purpose as an informal
          stylistic device to give emphasis. If for some reason this style is
          forbidden I will remove it. Uploading now.

          Rick
        • Rick Allnutt
          ... you wrote ... I wrote ... And then I thought about it again... Changed my mind. If it irritated you, it may irritate others. Like any good editor, you
          Message 4 of 5 , Jul 1, 2004
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            Rick Allnutt wrote:

            > Second go round....

            I wrote:

            > >
            > > > The connection between the device and the email server is through an
            > > acoustic
            > > > telephone modem. A ?what? you say?
            > >

            you wrote

            > > ### You'll want to fix the "what" above. It displays with the ? marks
            > > in your test folder version too.
            > >

            I wrote

            > The question marks and color are there on purpose as an informal
            > stylistic device to give emphasis. If for some reason this style is
            > forbidden I will remove it. Uploading now.
            >
            And then I thought about it again...

            Changed my mind. If it irritated you, it may irritate others. Like any
            good editor, you simply pointed out what was wrong. Like many writers, I
            was hung up on ego. I decided that your point of view is more like that
            of the readers I hope the review helps. So I changed my mind and have
            now taken both your edits on board without quibble. I kept the color
            and changed it to italics. That accomplishes my purpose without
            inventing new devices.

            Rick
          • colonelcorn76
            ... writers, I ... Sorry about the confusion. I got the color OK. I just thought the ? marks were a Yahooism that escaped into your HTML. Didn t ever occur to
            Message 5 of 5 , Jul 2, 2004
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              --- In BackpackGearTest@yahoogroups.com, Rick Allnutt <rick@b...> wrote:

              > > The question marks and color are there on purpose as an informal
              > > stylistic device to give emphasis. If for some reason this style is
              > > forbidden I will remove it. Uploading now.
              > >
              > And then I thought about it again...
              >
              > Changed my mind. If it irritated you, it may irritate others. Like any
              > good editor, you simply pointed out what was wrong. Like many
              writers, I
              > was hung up on ego. I decided that your point of view is more like that
              > of the readers I hope the review helps. So I changed my mind and have
              > now taken both your edits on board without quibble. I kept the color
              > and changed it to italics. That accomplishes my purpose without
              > inventing new devices.
              >

              Sorry about the confusion. I got the color OK. I just thought the ?
              marks were a Yahooism that escaped into your HTML. Didn't ever occur
              to me that you meant them to be there. Style is all yours so you can
              certainly put them back.

              Jim
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