Firepad palms graphics, movies

If your agency employs a mobile workforce that needs real-time access to large graphics files such as maps, architectural diagrams and more, you might want to consider Firepad Inc.'s new Mobile Application Platform 2.0.

Announced on May 29, the package is compatible with Palm Inc.'s Palm OS Version 3.0 or higher and includes FirePublisher Enterprise Server and the FireViewer client suite.

FirePublisher enables users in the field to access their agency's intranet with Palm personal digital assistants. The software translates and compresses standard HTML and image content from a Web server and converts it to formats optimized for handheld devices. It sends the resulting data via TCP/IP to the handheld either wirelessly or during HotSync with a desktop computer.

The FireViewer client suite includes FireConverter, which converts files to a PDA-compatible format, and FireViewer, which is installed on the Palm and used to view the content.

FireConverter consists of three programs: One converts most graphic file types into color and grayscale FireViewer images, another converts .avi and .mov video files to FireViewer videos, and the third converts Web pages to PDA-viewable files. In all, the program can convert more than 22 file types.

FireViewer is an easy-to-use application that enables you to view PDA-formatted graphic and video files on the Palm. You can pan, zoom in and out, attach notes to each still image (you can't do this with movie files) and place the files in user-defined categories. You can also beam images or video clips to another PDA.

The amazing thing about the Firepad platform is its compression, coding and decoding capabilities. FirePublisher handles the heavy processing load on the back end rather than pushing it to the handheld client. Therefore, images as large as 44 feet by 44 feet can be displayed in less than one-fourth of a second, according to Firepad.

Additionally, Firepad is compatible with removable storage media such as Secure Digital cards, Memory Stick cards and all other cards with Virtual File System formatting. It supports any network or wireless connection, including 802.11 and Bluetooth.

We took a quick look at the FireViewer Suite 6.0, which is available as shareware for $30 at PalmGear.com. The software is extremely intuitive, and it really works!

We didn't have any 44-foot images to test, so we used more average-size JPEG images of 39K and 18K. FireConverter converted the files almost instantaneously and they quickly transferred to the Palm during HotSync.

On the handheld device, the images were reproduced faithfully and could be panned in real time with no image degradation while in motion. A couple of sample movie clips were included with FireViewer, and they also played smoothly and in real time.

The zoom feature is helpful, but users can't set the zoom level. Instead, the image zooms to one or more preset levels. Also, when you've zoomed in, the images do experience some degradation during panning, but they remain clear when the image is still.

Firepad is, in short, the kind of product that can make your fleet of handhelds as functional as desktop systems for certain uses.

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Firepad Mobile Application Platform 2.0

Firepad Inc.
(650) 937-1115
www.firepad.com

Price and availability: Available directly from Firepad, from integration partners and from value-added resellers such as Handango Inc. Pricing is based on per-user licenses starting at $3,000 for a 10-user license.

Technical requirements: Palm OS 3.0 or higher; Windows 98, 2000 or NT 4.0 on the desktop; Windows 2000 or NT 4.0 on the server. Integrates with most popular Web servers.


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"Software offers help for handhelds" [FCW.com, June 20, 2001]


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