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I’ve been writing about very portable e-mail for a couple of years. I began with a telephone-based, pocket-sized portable electronic organizer with a built-in acoustic coupler, and last year I investigated the Motorola PageWriter 2000X with service through Skytel, all connected to a very limited wireless Westlaw project, and a RIM (Research in Motion) 950 through GoAmerica, that have very basic Lexis service. This week I examine wireless service on bigger handheld personal digital assistants — the wireless Palm VIIx and the RIM 957. Both units use BellSouth’s Mobitex wireless communications network, but they don’t work quite the same way. RIM 957 The RIM 957 fits in the palm of one hand and is about 3 1/2 inches by 5 inches, with a thickness of between 1/4 inch and 1/2 inch. The unit has a 33-key keyboard, a little smaller and more crowded than the RIM 950 previously reviewed in these columns, and comes with a cradle that connects both to the serial port of a desktop PC and an electric outlet. This lets the unit synchronize its data and charge its batteries at the same time. The 957 is powered by an Intel 386 microprocessor and has five megabytes of memory. The screen is approximately 2 1/4 inches high by 2 inches wide and can display 15 lines of 32 characters each in “large” font and 19 lines of 33 characters each in “small” font. I preferred the large, but even the small font was readable. The 957 uses the same roller device as the 950 to scroll through screens, as needed. The Blackberry version of the 957 comes with software to send and receive wireless e-mail, an address book, calendar, notepad and task list. The Blackberry software comes in two different flavors — one that operates through your local area network with the Microsoft Exchange server and a second that runs through a wireless Internet service provider such as GoAmerica. In the Microsoft Exchange server configuration, e-mail sent to your LAN mailbox is automatically forwarded via the Internet to BellSouth’s wireless network and then to your handheld. Messages from your handheld takes the wireless route to your LAN’s Microsoft Exchange server and is then sent as mail from your desktop. When you synchronize the PDA with your desktop machine using the cradle, the software automatically synchronizes your mail list. The Internet edition dispenses with the Microsoft Exchange server but provides a new mailbox such as [email protected] E-mail goes to and from the handheld independent of your regular e-mail. The Blackberry software seems to maintain a FIFO message buffer; if you don’t specifically delete messages, older messages are deleted to make room for newer messages. In either case, calendar and address information can be synchronized between Microsoft Outlook on your desktop computer and your handheld, using a serial port cradle between desktop and handheld. PALM VIIX The Palm VII is more or less the same size as the Palm III series but has a small hump on the back of the unit near the top. The hump houses a rechargeable NiCad battery that runs the wireless aspects of the unit. The NiCad is recharged, when needed, from the two AAA batteries that run the regular Palm functions. (If you use a lot of wireless airtime, you’ll use a lot of AAA batteries.) A thin appendage on the side of the unit swivels into an upright position to activate the wireless functions and presumably acts as a radio antenna. Otherwise, the unit is a standard Palm with eight megabytes of memory and the usual Palm buttons, switches, screen and basic software. Palm sells unlimited wireless Palm.net e-mail and Web service for VII users for about $45 per month. (We don’t recommend the more limited options that Palm offers.) The e-mail can be accessed with the vendor’s iMessenger program that comes with the VII. The VII can’t access the Web directly, requiring either a Web-clipping application designed for a particular Web site, or a WCA for a mini-portal that permits access of any URL. There are hundreds of WCAs designed by individual Web-site creators available for free download. E-MAIL The biggest difference between Palm and RIM e-mail is that Palm e-mail is received when it is sent to the Palm.net mailbox. When e-mail comes in, the RIM beeps or vibrates depending on user settings. The RIM initially receives 2.5 kilobytes of the message; a “more” command gets the next 2.5 kilobytes, but the user must ask for Palm VII e-mail. To do that, just launch the iMessenger application, raise the antenna and click on the “check & send” button and the VII will download 500 characters of the first 10 messages in the Palm.net mailbox and notify the user if there are more messages waiting. The program will permit the user to download the next 500 characters or the entire balance of the message. Click “check & send” to get the next 10 messages. Neither RIM nor Palm e-mail deals with attachments or HTML formatting. Both the RIM and Palm e-mail applications send e-mail looking up addresses in an address book, permit e-mail forwarding and reply. The biggest problem with sending e-mail from either system is entering the text to be sent; although I’ve been told that Palm Graffiti experts and expert RIM typists can enter information accurately and quickly; I get along slowly with both systems. The RIM software lets the user save messages even if they’re deleted from the in box and permits mass deletions; iMessenger messages must be deleted one at a time. WIRELESS WEB Rather than site-specific WCAs, the RIM 957 with GoAmerica’s Go.Web provides a limited HTML browser that can be used to access a variety of content providers — from MapBlast travel directions to the Sporting News and the Motley Fool — that have developed material specifically formatted for Go.Web. RIM users can access any URL but will have difficulty with complex pages with frames, Java and other fancy Web techniques. Pages composed largely of plain-vanilla HTML work reasonably well. We’ve previously reported on the WestGroup WCA available for Palm users, which provides case pulls and KeyCite services, and a “find a lawyer” service. WestGroup now provides a similar service for RIM and Windows CE devices at wireless.westlaw.com. As with the Palm WCA, the case pulls and KeyCite require a valid Westlaw login, while “find a lawyer” is free. CONSIDERATIONS The RIM 957 and Palm VIIx units are similarly priced and have similar coverage areas. Combined unlimited Web/e-mail service is more expensive with the RIM. I was able to test both units by forwarding hundreds of e-mail messages as they came in. While both units had problems with fancy junk e-mail, I was able to review most of my practice-related e-mail without a problem, although I had to go to my desktop computer to read the Word and PDF attachments that are common these days. I particularly miss the ability to send e-mail to a group with one addressbook entry. Of course, Microsoft Exchange-server users should be able to do that through their configurations. I’m told that Blackberry e-mail, unlike Palm e-mail, is sent using so-called triple DES encryption. Wireless Web with either unit is convenient and workable. Checking the www.barnesandnoble.comprice while holiday shopping in a traditional bricks-and-mortar bookstore brings a whole new dimension to price-efficient shopping, and checking for driving directions while already in the car can also be very useful. But the major use I made of wireless Westlaw was to find the Bush-related law firms populated by children of Justice Antonin Scalia. I prefer the RIM “push” technology of sending messages to the PDA when they come in and found the one-handed operation possible with the RIM to be convenient. But I liked the non-wireless features of the Palm better than the RIM. A choice between the two is difficult and depends more on personal taste than anything else. You may not need wireless e-mail if you spend all of your time in the office. But if you depend on your Internet connection to do your work and keep in contact with your clients and colleagues, you’ll find wireless e-mail and wireless Web close to priceless. SUMMARY Wireless e-mail and wireless Web on the Palm VII or RIM Blackberry don’t come cheap, but lawyers who must stay in touch, wherever they roam, will either service very useful. L PALM VIIX Price: $449. Palm.Net Wireless E-mail and Web Service: $44.95 per month. Palm Inc. 5470 Great America Parkway Santa Clara, Calif. 95052 Phone: 800-881-7256 or 408-326-9000 Fax: 408-326-5009 Web: www.palm.com L RIM 957 WITH BLACKBERRY SOFTWARE Price: $499.00. Wireless E-mail Service: $39.95 per month. GoAmerica Wireless Web and E-mail Service: $59.95 per month. Research in Motion 295 Phillip St. Waterloo ON CAN N2L 3W8 Phone: 877-355-2377 Fax: 519-888-7465 Web: www.rim.net E-mail: [email protected] Barry D. Bayer practices law and writes about computers from his office in Homewood, Ill. You may send comments or questions to his e-mail address bayerlawtechreview.comor write c/oLaw Office Technology Review , P.O. Box 2577, Homewood, Ill. 60430.

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