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This chapter is from the book

This chapter is from the book

PDA and SmartPhone Tips

  • Get out of a meeting or other such uncomfortable situations with FakeCall 1.1.

  • Use LightWav on your PDA to provide "atmosphere" noise in the background while you're on the phone with your boss or a nosy cube-dweller.

  • Watch your favorite DVD on your PDA instead of watching all those PowerPoint slides go by when you have to be stuck in that boring meeting.

  • Switch over to playing games on your PDA if you've worn out your cell phone battery.

Mobile professionals often rely on a personal digital assistant, or PDA, or one of those fan-danged SmartPhones. As the name suggests, a SmartPhone is a, well, smart phone—a device that offers more functionality than a regular ol' cell phone.

Naturally, there are ways to slack off using PDAs and SmartPhones—everything from listening to MP3s with an earpiece (who would suspect it as it's not an iPod?), to playing games and a handful of applications that can be used and abused in order to slack off.

Let's start with a really sneaky product: Fake Call.

Wanna Get Out of a Meeting?

We've all been there—sitting in a boardroom at a long, drawn-out meeting. It's so boring that you'd rather stick pins in your eyes, and— to make matters worse—it's one of those "mandatory" meetings that doesn't involve you in any which way.

How convenient would it be if you received an "emergency" phone call just as the meeting was about to go into its third agonizing hour. If you own a Treo handset, or any other palmOne-based smart phone or Internet-enabled PDA, you can pull this off with a little help from FakeCall 1.1 (http://www.toysoft.ca/fakecall.html).

This application from Toysoft, Inc. gives you the excuse you need to duck out of a meeting prematurely. Simply hold down a predetermined key on your handset and within seconds that "call" will come to your rescue!

Better yet—FakeCall lets you even preset a time when the call will come.

The call can even play one of four different "hellos" when you answer, so someone sitting beside you won't suspect a damn thing. You can also set it up to play virtually any audio ringtone, be it a MIDI, wav, mp3, ogg, or wma file.

See Figure 4.9 for a peek at what FakeCall looks like.

Figure 4.9

Figure 4.9 Owners of palmOne-based SmartPhones, such as the popular Treo, can fake an emergency phone call during a business meeting (or an awkward blind date) by setting these easy-to-follow parameters. The last image on the right is what it looks like when the phone is ringing.

Requirements include a PalmOS 5.0 operating system and higher and about 250KB of free memory.

FakeCall is free to download and try for 14 days, after that it costs $10.95. But then again, money is no object when you've got slacking to do, right?

Get Your PDA in on the Slacking

Speaking of Toysoft, Inc., the Calgary-based company has another clever slacking tool that is similar to the SounderCover app mentioned earlier in the chapter—but this one is for PDAs.

Owners of palmOne-based personal digital assistants can play sound effects while on the phone to trick the person on the other end into thinking they're in one place when they are not.

LightWav (version 3; $16.95) lets users play a sound effect while on the phone. So if you want to tell your boss you can't make it in because your baby is quite ill, be sure to have that crying baby noise in the background (that sound is sure to get anyone off the phone in a jiffy). Oh, to make sure this works, remember you really do need to have a baby at home or your boss might be just a tad suspicious.

Another great sound effect is plain ol' static. "Sorry, boss, I can't hear you—I'm entering that tunnel near the freeway! Gotta go. See you soon!" Ahem. Time to get your butt in the shower.

LightWav, which is free to try, allows you to associate any uncompressed wave file, mp3, ogg, or wma file to any application (see Figure 4.10). Simply press the corresponding button and the person on the receiving end will be none the wiser.

Figure 4.10

Figure 4.10 Toysoft's LightWav can play sound effects such as a traffic jam, annoying static, or a baby crying—whatever you need to get out of a sticky situation! Simply associate the sound file to a given application.

In order to get the sound effects onto your PDA's external card (such as a SD card), you'll need to find sound effects online (make sure they're not copy protected) or you can create your own sound effects with your PDA's microphone or a digital recorder.

LightWav requirements are as follows:

  • PalmOS 5.0 and higher with Sound Manager

  • SonyClie PalmOS 5.2.1 with Sound Manager

  • 190KB of free memory

  • External card such as SD/MMC, Compact Flash, or Memory Stick

  • Uncompressed wave files

An optional program is PocketTunes 2.1 or higher to play mp3, wma, and ogg files.

This product is compatible with the Palm Tungsten T/T2/T3/E/C and Palm Zire 31/71/72; Treo 600 series; Sony Clie with Palm o/s 5.2.1 and higher; Garmin or Tapwave Zodiac.

Read more about the product at http://www.toysoft.ca/lightwav.html.

DVDs in the Palm of Your Hand?

How cool would it be to be sitting in on a meeting, and while all the other white-collar zombies are staring at the stupid spreadsheet projected on the wall, you've got Spider-Man 2 playing on your PDA?

Believe it or not, a Dutch software company, Makayama Software (http://www.makayama.com), has a number of products that let you watch DVD movies on your Pocket PC/Windows Mobile-based personal digital assistant (see Figure 4.12). In fact, the software lets you rip a DVD movie on your computer and shrink it down small enough to fit that full-length feature film on a 128MB memory card!

Figure 4.12

Figure 4.12 Talk about a fun way to slack—you can watch your favorite movies on your PDA with this funky tool from Makayama Software. You can lug around four full-length films on a single 512MB memory card. Now that is bloody cool.

While similar products have existed in the past, DVD to Pocket PC does not require any special software to be installed on the PDA itself, plus the end result is a high-quality video experience that is viewed sideways on the PDA for that "widescreen" landscape mode.

All you need is

  • A PC with Windows XP and built-in DVD-player.

  • One gigabyte of free hard drive space to store a temporary file.

  • Pocket PC with Windows Mobile 2003.

  • A memory card (Compact Flash, SD or MMC, and so on) with at least 128MB of space. (If the movie runs longer than 100 minutes, or for better picture quality, a 256MB card is required.)

DVD to Pocket PC is free to try, but $27.95 to buy.

A version for the Palm was in the works at the time of writing this book, so be sure to check http://www.makayama.com to see if it's available.

Here's a quick guide on how to do it:

  1. Pop a DVD in your Windows XP-based PC, click Open, and select the Title (the one with the longest duration), as shown in Figure 4.13.

    Figure 4.13

    Figure 4.13 The first step in copying the movie to the hard drive is choosing the Title with the longest duration.

  2. You'll now see the DVD start playing in the Preview window. Choose between normal quality (128MB card) or high quality (256MB or higher).

  3. Click Action and the PC will start copying the movie. This is performed in two stages. First, the video and audio from the DVD will be "ripped" or extracted to a temp file on your hard drive.

  4. When the conversion is finished, you'll see a file called DVD.wmv on your desktop. Simply rename it to the movie (for example, Shrek 2.wmv) and now you're ready to copy it over to your PDA's memory card. If the PDA is connected to the PC in its cradle, you can cut and paste it into the memory card directory on your Pocket PC; a 100-minute movie should copy over in about two minutes. You might also use Active Sync, and click Explore and Copy to Storage Card.

  5. On your PDA, open Windows Media Player and click Playlist. You will see your file (for example, Shrek 2.wmv) and you can tap it to play.

Play around with the various settings to tweak the audio and video (see Figure 4.14).

Figure 4.14

Figure 4.14 Once the movie is on you can adjust various settings such as audio options, subtitles, and zoom modes.

That's it! Neat, huh?

PDA Games Galore!

What chapter on mobile slacking would be complete without a look at some of the hottest games for your palmOne- or Pocket PC-based PDA?

Owners of PDAs need not lug around a Game Boy as there are thousands of downloadable diversions available for your pocket computer instead. The following are just a small handful of recommended picks, each tested rigorously for a high "fun factor." Hey, it's a tough job, but someone's gotta do it. Happy tapping!

Candy Cruncher

Playing with food has never been this much fun. In Candy Cruncher, gamers must line up similar sweets to create columns or rows. This is achieved by dragging adjacent candy types using the stylus pen. After a complete row of jellies, jawbreakers, or candy watermelon slices are aligned, they disappear; a predetermined number of rows or columns must be completed before the clock runs out. In total, there are 15 candy types, with new ones revealed every few levels or so. The dreaded black hole means that space cannot be swapped with other candies, and will prevent a row or column from being completed. Candy Cruncher is extremely addictive—without the calories.

(Astraware; for palmOne- and Pocket PC-based PDAs; free to try, $14.95 to buy; http://www.astraware.com.)

AntHill

Many gamers might recall dumping quarter after quarter in the '80s arcade game, Ms. Pac-Man. Well, the world's first digital heroine (sorry, Lara Croft) is back again—in spirit anyway—with this clever clone, dubbed AntHill. You know the rules: munch as many dots (er, ant eggs) on the board as possible while avoiding the subterranean creepy crawlies. But eating one of the four power pellets reverses the chase. Then players have a limited amount of time to snack on the monsters. This remake features colorful graphics, multiple levels of game play, fun sound effects, a High Score board, and the ability to control the game either by the Pocket PC's buttons or a stylus pen.

(BallShooter Games; for Pocket PC; free to try, $9.95 to buy; http://www.ballshooter.com.)

Dope Wars

While selling drugs might get you 5 to 10, if you're plugging away at the ol' 9-to-5 and need a coffee break, pull out this fun, adult business simulation. The goal of the controversial Dope Wars is to buy and sell a number of narcotics while avoiding cops, thieves, rival gangs, and so forth. Players start off with a limited amount of cash and a sizeable debt before tackling one of six locations to push their wares. The game isn't much to look at—it's primarily text-based—but mature gamers looking for a challenging biz sim will have fun tapping away at this digital (and legal!) addiction. And hey, because the game is grayscale and only 14KB, it's perfect for older Palm PDAs.

(Matthew Lee, for palmOne PDAs; free; http://www.download.com.)

Scrabble®

Word game fanatics, rejoice! The world's most popular word game can now be played in the palm of your hand for one to four opponents (see Figure 4.16). That is, gamers can play solo against the computer or challenge up to three human opponents. Features include the ability to save a game in progress, a "friendly" mode (whereby the computer can suggest a next move), support for two Palms to play wirelessly, and a built-in 100,000+ word Official Scrabble Player's Dictionary.

Figure 4.16

Figure 4.16 The classic Scrabble board game has gone mobile—this PDA version can be played against the smart computer AI or against a friend on the same PDA or another one, wirelessly. Can you spell C – O – O – L ?

(For palmOne- and Pocket PC-based PDAs; free to try, $19.99 to buy; http://www.handmark.com.)

Hyperspace Delivery Boy!

In this adventure game, players become Guy Carrington, fresh on the job as a courier for the Hyperspace Delivery Service. It's your job to deliver important parcels throughout the known universe—even if it means crossing paths with deadly robots and devious aliens. The full version of the game includes 30 levels, a choice between puzzle or action modes, plenty of secrets to uncover, and impressive graphics.

(For Pocket PC-based PDAs; free to try, $19.99 to buy; http://www.monkeystone.com.)

Bejeweled/Diamond Mine

Bejeweled for the palmOne or Diamond Mine for the Pocket PC is the same game—and proves to be one of those rare puzzle diversions that's easy to pick up but impossible to put down. Simply use the stylus pen to drag and drop adjacent jewels so that three or more of the same form a vertical or horizontal line (see Figure 4.17). When this happens, they disappear, causing more colored crystals to drop onto the screen. Top scorers can post their best performance on the Internet for all the world to see—and beat.

Figure 4.17

Figure 4.17 Tap n' go! Bejeweled is as much fun on a portable digital assistant as it is on your PC. Drag and drop same-colored jewels so that three or more are aligned vertically or horizontally.

(For palmOne- and Pocket PC-based PDAs; free to try, $14.95 to buy; http://www.astraware.com.)

Text Twist

Easily one of the most addictive word games is Astraware's Text Twist for color or grayscale PDAs. In this timed game, six scrambled letters appear on the screen and it's the player's job to see how many three-, four-, five-, or six-letter words they can make within two-and-a-half minutes. If a six-letter word is made, the player automatically advances to the next level. In total, there are 10,000 words in the game's database so don't expect to see the same words over and over.

(For palmOne- and Pocket PC-based PDAs; free to try, $14.95 to buy; http://www.astraware.com.)

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