Digital fatigue and other stories.

Many of you who know me ‘in real life’ will know that I’m a sucker for little boxes full of transistors, the more LEDs the better; I think my heart perhaps pumps electrons around my body in preference to the more usual. I like my toys, I like them a lot.

But sometimes I wonder if there’s a better way (and here I am starting to feel like a geek-type Jerry Maguire)…

I have a drawer beside me that contains multiple PDAs. I went through several before I discovered the LOOX, and I stand by that discovery. That little box of tricks satisfied my every organisational need for longer than any gadget has a right to - I never felt the need to abandon it for a bigger, better, flashier model, and I maintain that, for me at least, it has the perfect mix of features well executed. But it’s still in the drawer.

These days, my diary and my address book are both made of dead trees rather than plastics and wires. Why? I don’t need to keep them charged, or synchronised. They won’t complain when I drop them. I don’t have to adjust my handwriting to use them. Cool. And - get this - I write in them with a real pen that I fill from an ink bottle. Yes, you can still buy such things!

And MS Outlook no longer runs my life. That feels good. And it’s also where this waffle started: since I am no longer bound to Outlook by my need for synchronisation, I decided a while back to try out the Thunderbird email client, and having spent some time with it I felt it was worthy of a quick plug.

It only does email (and Usenet), so if you use more of Outlook’s features then it won’t do the job, but for what it does, I’m very happy. The interface suits me better, and it has some nice features: the email tagging and grouping functions are handy, the preview pain is actually safe to use, email account structuring, grouping and sorting is easier to configure than Outlook’s, the newsreader is great, and I have found it to be much more stable than Outlook.

All is not rosy, however. When I first installed it, I tried to import everything from Outlook, and each time it just hung up on me. Eventually I gave up and started over in Thunderbird. This doesn’t bother me, as Outlook remains on my machine and I can still find old emails and things there. But it is potentially a problem for some. That said, that is the only problem I have had - not bad for 1.0!

Plus, it’s free. Give it a whirl, you might like it.

While I’m on the retro thing, you may be surprised to hear that all the photos from our holiday in Copenhagen were captured on film. Not a digital capture device in sight. Much more fun that way - like my ink pen, an all manual camera has a tactile appeal that my (still much used and enjoyed) flashy digital SLR cannot match. And I can use it without batteries if I need to.