Tuesday 22 April 2008

Ghetto Psion 5 email & web

So here we have my walkthrough guide to help you to get email & web browsing set up on an old Psion 5 series using a cell phone with an infra-red (irda) connection. It's ghetto.

I bought a Psion 5 on ebay to enable me to write travel Blogs when I go bike touring. It uses simple AA size batteries, which last forever, yet you can touch type using the great keyboard and word application on it. It has a B&W screen which will put many off. But, the battery life using this type of screen is better for my needs, as I can't just recharge the device anywhere when out on the road. Six weeks of battery power on a standard Laptop? Forget it!

I was just going to type all my thoughts on the Psion and then take it home to edit & publish.
However, I have learned that it has greater possibilities than that. I can take out the compact flash card put it in a mini USB flash reader and upload the documents to my blog from any internet cafe wherever I end up.

I thought that was that until I learned that the Psion 5 can in fact send email and browse the web using a cell phone. This is a great thing for me, as it enables me to publish directly to my travel blog when I am pretty much anywhere. Of course, the call costs will differ depending on what country I am in, but I gather I can purchase a SIM card for each country I'm currently at, for very little.

Perhaps someone can create a list of dial-up ISPs for around the world, and the connection information for each one? That would be great! Also a list of SIM providers around the world would be great too. Roaming on your home SIM network costs quite a lot no matter what phone you use generally.

First of all, the hardware you will need:
1 x Psion series 5 pda (Bought from ebay for £20/$40)
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1 x cell phone with Irda (bought from ebay for £10/$20)
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1 x Pay-as-you-go sim card (O2 p.a.y.g sim = £2 from the ghetto market man)
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The phone I chose to use was an old second hand Nokia 8210, as it has an irda transmitter, and internal modem. Other, old phones you can use include: Nokia 7210, 8810, Siemens S25, Ericsson T28 and probably all others if you mess around a bit. There is a list of other compatible phones here.

I installed an O2 pay-as-you-go sim card because I tried an Orange sim which didn't work, and heard that the O2 sim allows data transfer without having to spend all day on the phone to some Indian dude trying to get him to send you the update settings for you phone. Boring!

software & sevices you need to be aware of:
Message suite for Psion 5 series - It puts a web browser & pop3 email utility on the PDA.

Mega Dial - It is an ISP which allows you to dial up to the internet using your cell phone.
In the UK, which is where I am writing this Blog from, there are several no-contract dial-up ISPs. Other services include: Adial, Free-Dialup, WebandMail and many many others. They're pretty much all the same.
They generally only charge a 'penny a minute' using landline modems. However, using a cell phone generally costs £1 to download your daily news information & emails. But, if you're going to be in a non-Wifi area in the middle of nowhere then you're going to have to dial-up anyway.

Next, you need an Email account like Gmail - you're going to enable mail forwarding to another mail service called bluebottle which you can then connect to using the Psion to read your email. A word of note, Gmail uses Java. If you try to use the series 5 browser to read messages, it won't work. You also need to enable POP3 email in gmail's settings tab. It's a bit of a pain in the ass, but this is the way to do it.

Bluebottle Email registration - It's free, and doesn't use SSL or TLS security which your Psion 5 will have problems with.

On with the show...
You need to learn about POP3 mail, and setting up an email client like Outlook or Thunderbird to download your mesages. It makes setting up any mail client on your Psion 5 easier to understand in future.

Firstly, I installed the message suite software update on my Psion, and added the following Nokia 8210 configuration settings:
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Then I added the Internet settings for the 'Mega dial ISP' as follows:
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To view the Internet, all you need to do now is:
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Enable irda on your cell phone.

Then open the 'Web' icon under 'extras' on your psion, and connect by typing in your preferred web page. In this example, I typed www.google.co.uk and the connection screen opened on the Psion. Just click 'OK'.

Then, wait for approximately 45 seconds for the phone to connect to the ISP, and your page should download...
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For my first test, I searched for 'Calzaghe' on Google.
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As you can see, you can download images and news articles for Google pages. A result!!!

In reality, I have learned that for faster & cheaper downloads, I should use 'mobile optimised' web pages like this BBC news page to keep costs down, and speed up transfer times.

Also, you can't open media rich web pages like myspace using a Psion 5, as it doesn't have Java or Flash player. I guess the Psion 5 is limited to sending/receiving email, reading news webpages, and basic information services. So poops to you...

But, that is adequate for my travel writing needs. I don't want a hefty Laptop, even the cool Asus eee PC isn't usable for my needs as the battery life isn't anything near the Psion.

The only near options I have considered are:

The Apple iPhone - Which has Wifi, Modem, and longer battery life than most UMPC laptops. Only, it doesn't have as typeable usability as the Psion 5's keyboard, or still as long a battery life. The iPhone is also currently only available on phone contract... And it currently costs...Um...£329...without phone contract charges included. Compare that to the Psion 5 I bought for just over £20 on ebay.

The Sharp Zaurus - Oh man. One day i'll leave the Ghetto, and own one of these Linux bad-boys. It cost's just a little too much for my pocket. But, ebay are doing nice deals if you can afford it.

Blackberry - Available on pay-as-you use contract. but still too costly for me. Yikes! I'm poor! haha. Also, the keyboard isn't as useable as the Psion.

The Psion really is king when it comes to pocket sized typing.

Now, on to email...


Sally Harris said...

This is the power of devices with ISIM and iUCC. The application and uses for and of mobiles is game changing for us all.

Tracy Stover said...

Trying to set up my Diamond Mako/Psion Revo Plus to get email and finding It may be too outdated! 23 years and it still works, just wish I had kept my 3a and all the accessories I had for it. Makes me a little ill thinking about that, best damn PDA I ever owned.