Believe in the Network

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A new cell phone? What a surprise… 😉

I took advantage of a Fido fire sale this past week and got myself a hiptop handheld on a fifteen-day trial. And despite some severe limitations with the device, I just may keep it…

The hiptop is equal parts PIM, phone, and data device. It’s about as big and ungainly as a your typical DingleBerry or Treo, but any similarity ends there.

Like the Treo, the hiptop has its own operating system. Unlike the Treo, the hiptop OS is, as we would say back in nerd school, a “walled garden”. Software can only be installed on the hiptop by direct download to the device itself, and beyond games and ringtones, there isn’t much else available. This isn’t entirely a bad thing—because the device is locked up the hiptop has no reason to crash like so many Treos do, although there is a reset button on the hiptop just in case.

The DingleBerry is sold through carriers with an unlimited data plan. This is a necessity for “push email”, the feature that makes DingleBerries so attractive to business users. Basically, the device is constantly in contact with mail servers so it can deliver email in more or less real time. DingleBerry email also travels back and forth through a hack-proof VPN, so nobody but your intended recipient will be able to read that important message: “Hey, this meeting sure is boring, eh?”.

For this dubious feature DingleBerry users—in reality, the ignorant companies that buy them by the truckload for their employees—pay as much as ninety dollars per month for the persistent data connections that get them their precious emails on their tiny screens. Danger meanwhile, has cleverly built marketed their hiptop as a DingleBerry for civilians. The transparent scroll-wheel on my hiptop flashes multiple colours to the accompaniment of pulsing vibrations and synth swirls—and that’s just when the phone rings! More importantly, Fido has a special unlimited data plan solely for their hiptop users, for a mere twenty bones/month—take that, you DingleBerry dumb-asses!

Now here’s what I wasn’t prepared for… Everything on my hiptop travels through Danger’s own servers. This makes browsing on the hiptop a bit of a drag; that big (by PDA standards) landscape screen is perfectly suited for full web pages with graphics, but it takes forever for a graphics-laden page to go through Danger and get re-formatted to fit the hiptop screen. Thankfully, there’s an option to turn graphics off, which makes pages load about three times as fast, though still only on par with a 56K dial-up modem.

And the real shocker… All of my calendar and contact info is now sitting on the Danger servers as well! To get my info on the hiptop I exported my calendars and address books into a suitable file, then uploaded all of it to my Fido hiptop Jump Page.

I don’t really have any concerns about privacy or security with Danger or Fido, just a vague uneasiness about entrusting critical information to the internet itself. The nice thing about this setup is that any information changed on either the hiptop or my Jump Page is synchronized immediately with the other. The fear of corrupted data and/or syncs going wrong is completely out of my hands, which is actually a huge relief. The not so nice thing is there’s now no easy way to export my data; the only way I can back it up for myself is to print or save a whack of web pages.

I remember reading this article in WIRED magazine many years ago, predicting that the future of computing would have all critical applications and data on the network, accessible from any device. Danger and their hiptop are helping to make this a reality, and two days in, that reality is both scary and tempting…

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3 Responses to “Believe in the Network”

  1. Ed Miller says:

    AC:
    There was a flap amongst Blackberry users last week when it was revealed that all messages from Blackberries are stored on servers, even those that go not by e-mail but Blackberry to Blackberry via a proprietary mode (can’t remember the name). Apparently, the Bay St set thought these direct messages were more secure from bosses’ eyes, but these messages also end up on a server.
    Big Brother’s here, especially if he’s paying for your PDA!

    Ed

  2. As you can probably tell from my post I have a bit of a bias against DingleBerries and their users…

    My justifications are thus: Because DingleBerries are bought in bulk and set up by IT departments, most of their users have no idea how exorbitantly overpriced they are. Also, I take issue with this whole idea of “secure email”. The internet itself is pretty damn secure, with all data including emails being broken down and transmitted by packets of data. And guess what? Those “secure” VPNs can be hacked into, just like anything else:

    http://www.etla.net/~willey/projects/vpn/

    Of the DingleBerry users I personally know, one brings hers to class, reads scripts and takes notes on it (impressive), two got theirs from their employers, who chose not to include text messaging in the bundled software (bewildering) and one doesn’t know how to sync his contact and calendar info with his computer (moronic).

    As a fellow Mac fanboy you may be interested in this report on the slightly less-hideous DingleBerry 7100t.

    http://tinyurl.com/6xo38

    The guy who posted this apparently got the thing to work with iSync, but has to install third-party software from a pee-cee… No thanks!

  3. Good thing I’m no longer famous; someone in the States has apparently been charged with hacking into T-Mobile’s servers and lifting, amongst other sensitive data, candid photos of Demi Moore, Ashton Kutcher and Paris Hilton, from their Sidekick (hiptop) accounts:

    http://www.securityfocus.com/news/10271